Years ago, at a marriage retreat we were attending, the couple leading the talk made reference to the hugely bestselling book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman. They listed off the love languages — words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch. Then they quickly added that neither of them had the love language of receiving gifts. As if that was a bad thing (to have that love language) and a good thing (to not have that love language).
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and glanced at my husband. Because … my name is Karen and receiving gifts is my love language.
I remember when we first completed the love language profile, the results rolled in and it felt like of all the love languages, I managed to get the most superficial, materialistic, greedy needy one. Of course, that is not how Gary Chapman intended it to be understood. He writes: “A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say ‘Look, he was thinking of me,’ or ‘She remembered me.’ The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is you thought of him.”
But still, it has always felt funny.
Today, I interviewed Gary Chapman about the 25th anniversary of The 5 Love Languages. The interview will appear in the May/June issue of Faith Today. And like any super-professional journalist, I smuggled in a question that would help me address the secret shame of being a person who speaks fluently the language of gifts.
I said: Are there any less “popular gifts?” For example, we’ve heard some people gently mock the love language of receiving gifts.
And then he said: With gifts, because the Christian faith has always frowned on materialism, there are some people who think that should not be their gift, but it’s the thought that counts, and so it can be a little thing. My wife, I happen to know she likes butternut candy bars, and so periodically I’ll be somewhere and see one and pick it up and bring it to her. It can be little things that you know are meaningful to them, and you drop them in on times other than birthdays or Christmas.
I think there’s nothing wrong with having the language of gifts, it’s not that you are materialistic and want to gather up all these things and find security in them. It’s the fact that the other person knows you well enough and when you are away from you, they are thinking of you.”
Thank you Gary Chapman! I felt so good after I heard that this that I remembered my runner-up love language was words of affirmation.
Do you want to know your love languages so you can communicate even better with your spouse? Tell us the sweetest thing your spouse has said to you lately and we will send a copy of The 5 Love Languages to our fave five stories. Post your entry on our Facebook page.
Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Watch for the Gary Chapman interview in the May/Jun issue of Canada’s Christian magazine. Subscribe today and never miss another issue.