Two days ago I finished listening to Dr. Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages1. Oddly enough, I have used the love language phraseology for many months, ever since it surfaced in discussions that took place in my Captivating group. And, thinking back on those discussions (the ones that took place pre-Vance) I get the feeling that my love languages have shifted somewhat in priority since then.
Dr. Chapman asserts that we all receive love best in some particular way — physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, or acts of service. We all may receive love to some degree via all of the five languages, but our needs and desires tend to cluster around one or two of them.
When Vance and I started dating, and even a bit before, he began doing the strangest things — things no man I had ever dated ever offered or took action to do. He helped me prepare meals, do the dishes, walk the dog, and eventually he just started doing my laundry, cleaning up around the house, cleaning my car and scrubbing the tub. Ever since I had heard of the five love languages I was sure that my primary language was quality time, but suddenly in the midst of "inloveness" I found myself filled with joy over a man who would make my bed even though he didn't get to sleep in it. A man who would drive to my house once a week to walk the dog, just so I could spend more quality time with the women in my life.
As a child, I don't believe that my love language was the same as it is now. Dr. Chapman describes a very different picture of the child whose love language is acts of service. I don't remember regularly thanking my dad for doing my laundry or my mom for sewing on hundreds of pointe shoe ribbons. Instead I gave great thanks for the gifts I received, taking great care to provide my Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbies with a proper education.2 But now, gifts mean much less to me than the incredible act of love that serving really is.
Even still, I'm not convinced that I receive love from my parents via the same language that I received love from Vance. When I have the opportunity to spend time with my parents, I don't want them to go around doing things for me; I just want them to spend quality time with me. No television, no movies… Just good quality time.3 And so one of the questions I am still left with after listening to the book a second time over the past couple of days is: Can our love language differ from childhood to adulthood, or even from relationship to relationship at a single point in time?
Here's another thing that's been getting to me. In the book, Dr. Chapman states that the way we behave before marriage is "no indication of" the way we will behave after we are married. No indication? Is this even plausible?
I understand the natural high we experience at the height of the "in love experience," as he puts it. I also believe that given the events of the past few months and the deep relational, intellectual and spiritual growth that we have experienced as a result, that "the height of the in love experience" has almost certainly passed. Don't get me wrong — we are still very much in love — but the sense that the other person can do us no wrong, or that loving one another will always be natural and easy, has long since gone away. But here we are, still Jamie and Vance, and still very much ourselves. I remain feisty, strong, independent, a stickler for grammar, etc. And he remains incredibly loving and thoughtful, an artist, a servant, and even a bit of a nerd at heart. It's confusing to think that according to Dr. Chapman the two of us will suddenly morph into something else after we are married, when we have been through such highs and lows and managed to maintain our identities thus far.
I suppose those are the biggest philosophical questions I am left with after going through the book. My questions aside, The Five Love Languages has so much to offer for those who have no idea what love languages are or how an understanding of them could dramatically improve their relationship.