For the life of me, I can’t remember why I agreed to review The 5 Love Languages. (I have an even stranger selection coming in a few weeks). Maybe it’s because it’s one of those books that you’re going to hear about in pastoral ministry. And, to be honest, it’s a concept that I’ve found useful when counseling some couples.
The idea is simple: people speak different love languages. As you may have guessed by the title, Gary Chapman identifies five of them: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The idea is to figure out your spouse’s love language – you can use the handy quiz at the back – and begin to communicate love to your spouse using his or her language rather than your own.
The languages come from personal observation rather than Biblical reflection or sociological study, but that’s okay. A lot of this book seems to follow Peter’s advice to husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7). It’s hard to argue with the idea that we should figure out what communicates love to our spouse, and act according to that knowledge.
Before I could review this book, my daughter snatched it and devoured it in a few hours. Later that day she asked me my love language. I told her that it’s acts of service. She began to do all kinds of acts of service for me over the next day or two. What a book!
Of course, it ended pretty quickly – a good reminder that the problem in relationships often isn’t knowing what to do. The problem goes a lot deeper, right to the heart. But, when the problem is ignorance, this book will be a big help.
So here are my criticisms: This is a book that could have been a long article without losing much. It promises “the secret to love that lasts,” which is typical marketing nonsense (although similar promises are made in the book). It is simply not the panacea for all that ails us in our love lives. And I’m afraid that it might imply that love is primarily about romantic feelings, which is an idea that’s more dangerous to marriages than many of the mistakes this book aims to correct. I don’t think Chapman wants to communicate this, but I wish he had been more careful.
I also don’t like when a good idea becomes an excuse to pump out product after product.
So, in summary, this should have been an article, not a book or series of books. It over-promises. It’s misleading when it comes to the definition of love. And it doesn’t really deal with the core issues of the heart. But it does provide some good advice if you have a hard time knowing how to communicate love to your spouse.
If you think I’m being hard, you should read David Powlison’s review (in PDF).
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This book was provided for review by Graf Martin