- posted by the Sous Blogger
It’s become apparent that it’s up to me to provide blog content this week.
I thought we’d talk about a book that’s become a pop standard in the world of relationship counseling. I heard about it originally from a client who’s a Christian counselor, which made me hesitate, but there’s a good central idea in it. It’s easy to teach, and the religion part didn’t whack me over the head.
Another part of my early bias against this book is that it was written by a man, and what on earth could a man say about relationships that would be useful? (OK, I have completely repented from my earlier sexist belief about that. For new readers, I am a second-wave feminist, left-of-liberal, straight psychologist. And I actually like men. A lot of men. OK, some men. Anyway, I’m not a man-bashing feminist.) (Moving on. . . )
The book has a cheesy title, in my opinion: “The Five Love Languages,” written by Gary Chapman. Since it was first published in 1992, Mr. Chapman has created a kind of Love Language/Chicken Soup franchise, and I can’t vouch for any of the subsequent iterations.
In the original book, there’s a very strong section on the nature of adult love (Chapter 3, right around page 30) which talks about loving vs. being “in love,” heat/romance/chemistry vs. partnership.
The premise of the book is that we all need to give and receive love in several ways, and it’s helpful to know what your own “love language” is (see, the words are kind of cringe-making). And, just as important, to know the love language of your partner, or your friends, or you kids, or your boss. (Thus the franchise, I guess.)
Chapman says there are five ways that we can show love, and perceive love. In a healthy relationship all five are happening, but we each have our own hierarchy of importance for them. We do better if we give and receive love according to what feels like love to the other person, and we have to know what that is in order to do it.
Here’s the list:
1. words of affirmation (saying I love you, saying thank you, speaking carefully in a hard conversation, giving compliments, verbalizing appreciation)
2. quality time (spending time together, shared activities, being mindfully engaged with the person and not just two lumps in front of the TV)
As an aside, there was a nice little piece in the NYTimes a few months ago about old relationships that have lost their energy. It said that people need to do *new* things together, and not always go back to the same old same old. Doing what we’ve always done, even in the name of tradition, is the stuff of staleness. Discovering new stuff together feels like dating.
3. gifts (we have a friend who swoons when she gets flowers. she calls herself a flower slut - flowers feel like love to her. on the other hand, i despise red roses delivered from the florist. i’ve seen too many relationships where the guy - yes, it’s usually the guy - behaves terribly, and then calls Bachman’s the next morning with a credit card number, thinking it’s all fixed now. fortunately, mr. sous knows this about me, and brings home flowers from the grocery store, along with the milk, bread and peanut butter.)
4. acts of service (my own personal favorite. make me a grilled cheese sandwich? Oh. My. God. that feels like love. be in charge of the recycling? I swoon. you are soooooo hot. finish painting the dining room? GASPING!! you’re like a god to me. OK, yes, I wish it hadn’t taken 15 months, but OMG that feels like love.)
5. physical touch (sexual and non-sexual)
I like that there’s only five on the list. It’s a manageable number. And it’s kind of a fun conversation to figure out the order of your list, and of a partner.
(This blog post was sponsored by my 11:00 patient, who blew me off, and will be billed for the time. And now, back to The Caring.)