Book: The 5 Love Languages Military Edition by Gary Chapman

Review: By Kristi Vega on 9/7/13

Note: Community Book Reviewers were supplied with a complimentary copy of the book for purposes of reviewing.

 

How full is your “love tank”?

I read the original version of Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts during my husband’s first deployment, more than 12 years ago. I remember that, for me, it was a lightbulb moment to compare “loving” to “language.” Everyone says marriage is about communicaton, and what could be more important to communicate to each other than our love?

The Military Edition definitely adds some useful and practical advice for military couples. Deployments and frequent moves add stress to our marriages, but most damaging is the emotional distance that results from living separate lives sometimes. Communication is not only long-distance, it is often less intimate, strained, and unreliable.

The main principle the book sets up is that we all have a “love tank,” an emotional well, which is a concrete term for the very real need we all have to be loved. If our love needs are being met, then our love tank is full, and we are likely to be generous about giving love. But if our tank is empty, it is hard to give love to others. In a marriage, if your spouse, the one person you chose to fill your love tank, consistently fails to fill it, there will be resentment and emotional withdrawal.

The next principal is that we all feel love and give love in our own way, and the “love languages” describe those different ways. It may be a big shift for us to think of “loving” someone as the things we do rather than something we feel. I can imagine Forrest Gump sitting on a bench saying, “Momma always said, Love is as love does.”

But if you want the person you love to feel loved, you have to express it, in the language that they understand it. The 5 different languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. It may be easy to imagine which language means the most to you, but it can be surprising. And yours might be very different from your spouse’s.

Chapman shares many stories of couples he’s counseled, to give examples of how learning to speak your spouse’s language can make such a difference. He advises couples to think about what they did for each other while they were dating. Chapman says that once the initial “in love” stage of a relationship ends, which he estimates to happen after 2 years, we often stop doing loving things so instinctively and generously. For a love to last, he says we have to consciously choose to do loving things for each other. And for that loving to be effectively felt, it should be in our spouse’s “language.”

There are some military couples in the examples, and there is a chapter specifically dealing with deployments, with suggestions on what you can do long-distance if your spouse’s language is Physical Touch, or Quality Time. There is also some great advice for reuniting after a homecoming, when it’s trickier than ever to communicate love to each other, because both spouses are feeling needy but distant at the same time.

There are profiles for husbands and wives to fill out, to figure out their love langugage, which might be more than one. Chapman points out that many men assume their love language is Physical Touch, but are surprised by the results of their profile. He also points out that there are dialects to each language. For instance, Physical Touch may be important to a wife, but her version is hand holding and cuddling, while his is sex. I was surprised to see “the gift of self” as a dialect of “Receiving Gifts.” It means making a gift of sacrificing something to be with your spouse at a time that’s important to them.

I think I may not be the only milspouse who gets emotional reading this book, thinking about the needs we have that we wish our husbands would fulfill. If we can get them to crack this book for 5 minutes, it really gives some clear terms to communicate those needs to each other. (My own tip–I recommend leaving it in the bathroom to increase the odds they might read it.)

 

Kristi is a book lover, a Navy wife of 16 years, and a mother of four. She lives in San Diego and blogs at www.BookishMom.com.

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