Gary Chapman on the history of The 5 Love Languages

By Gary Chapman

I have always liked wildflowers.  There is something exciting about scattering seed and waiting and watching to see what comes up.  However, through the years I have sometimes been disappointed when few seeds germinate.  My friend George, who has a “green thumb” told me, “It’s the soil.”  With a question mark in my eyes, I said, “I thought wildflowers grew every-where.”  “They do,” he replied, “but some flourish in one soil, but struggle in another.  It’s the soil,” he repeated.

As a marriage counselor, I discovered that the same principle is true in marriage.  Take love, for example.  I’ve seen husbands expend great energy and often lots of money to show their wives how much they love her.  Then, they step back to see their “love seeds” grow and produce a smile.  However, the wife doesn’t give any evidence that a seed has been planted.  The problem?  It’s the soil.

One wife considers flowers a huge expression of love, while another wife says, “Why did you spend money on flowers?  They will be dead in three days.”  Or, a wife may spend hours cleaning the house and is disappointed when her husband doesn’t even notice.  She was expecting accolades, but all she received was silence.

The reality is that what makes one person feel loved does not make another person feel loved.  We tend to think, “If I see it as an act of love, they will receive it as an act of love.”  That is a false assumption.  This explains why so many spouses are disappointed when they plant seeds of love that never germinate.

For many years, I have been helping couples discover what makes their spouse feel loved.  My research indicates that there are five fundamental ways to express love.  I call them the five love languages.  Or, you might call them the five “love seeds”.  When you plant the right seed, or speak the right language, you will see the smile and hear words of appreciation.

The key to seeing the flowers grow is to plant the “love seeds” that will flourish in the soil of your spouse’s heart; or, speak the love language that really communicates love to her/him.  By nature, we tend to speak our own love language.  That is, we do or say what we wish they would do or say to us.  We are sincere, but we are not connecting emotionally because we are not speaking their love language.

Hundreds of couples have sat in my office and said, “I just don’t feel any love coming from my spouse.”  The spouse is often defensive when they hear those words.  One husband said, “I don’t understand her.  I do everything I can to show her that I love her.  How can she sit there and say she doesn’t feel loved?”  I asked, “What do you do to show your love to her?”  He said, “Well, I get home from work before she does, so I start the evening meal.  Sometimes, I have it ready when she gets home.  If not, then she will help me.  After we eat, I wash the dishes.  Every Thursday evening, I vacuum the floors, and on Saturday I wash the car and mow the grass.  I also help her with the laundry.”

By this time, I am beginning to ask myself, “What does this woman do?”  It appeared to me that he was doing everything.  I looked back at her and she said, “He’s right.  He is a hard- working man.  But, we don’t ever talk.  We haven’t talked in twenty years.  He’s always washing the dishes, mowing the grass, doing the laundry; always doing something.”  Do you understand what is going on?  A hard working man who is doing everything he can think of to show his wife that he loves her and a wife who doesn’t get it.  Do you understand how we can be sincere, and still miss each other emotionally?  I believe many couples are sincere, but are not planting the right seeds.

When we got married we were “in love”.  We had euphoric feelings of love for each other.  But, no one told us that the emotional high has an average lifespan of two years.  So, we came down off the high and our differences emerged, and we find ourselves arguing.  We say hurtful things that create an emotional barrier between us.  Now we feel both unloved and hurt.

In marriages like this, we may try to do or say something positive, in an effort to make things better.  However, it does not seem to help.  That is when many couples give up and move toward divorce.  Others just settle into a working relationship. They live as roommates in the same house.

My job as a counselor has been to help couples learn how to apologize and forgive past failures, and learn how to restore emotional love by discovering and speaking each other’s love language.  In the book: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts®, I share the five fundamental ways to express love.  I help couples discover each other’s primary love language and encourage them to express love in a way that is meaningful to their spouse.  The results have been astounding.  So many couples have said, “This book saved our marriage.”  Others have said, “Our marriage is totally different now that we are keeping each other’s “love tank” full.

This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the publication of The 5 Love Languages®. The book has sold more than eleven million copies in English and has been translated into fifty languages around the world. If you are one of the millions who have read the book, I hope you will celebrate with me by giving the book to family members and friends.  If you have not yet read the book, I hope you will join the millions who have.  I believe it will enhance the emotional climate in your marriage.  I hope you will see flowers blooming in the countenance of your spouse because you planted the right “love seeds” in the garden of their heart.

Gary Chapman is the author of The 5 Love Languages, among many other titles. We interview him in the May/Jun Faith Today. Hey! Why not show someone you love them by giving them a gift subscription to Faith Today?




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