You’d be hard-pressed to find a discussion on social media about Christian relationships that doesn’t include a mention of the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Dr. Chapman’s ideas about the ways that couples give and receive love really seemed to revolutionize the Christian marriage counseling world. He hit on something true: we all feel and hear love in different ways.
But, I’ve noticed that, in typical wretched sinner fashion, we have taken this knowledge and used it to grow selfish and dissatisfied in otherwise peaceful marriages. Instead of learning what our spouse’s love language is and then trying with all our might to express love in the ways that we know he will feel the most cared-for, we spend time dwelling on all of the ways that he isn’t meeting our needs. We lament and get on Facebook threads and we decry an otherwise wonderful, godly, loving man because he isn’t good at expressing love in the one way that we have decided we need to receive it.
In truth, we have misused the great information that The Five Love Languages gave us. Instead of using the book as a tool to better understand our husband or wife, we have used it as a weapon to demand more and better and to be utterly dissatisfied with all of the expressions of love that are right in front of us.
As a concept, this book was meant to help us understand our spouse more. It’s meant to help us be better comminucators, more selfless, more focused on the needs of the one who pledged to give an entire life to us. But, we have taken this idea and twisted it into a way to despise the kind and generous and loving things that our husband or wife is doing day after day, all because they don’t fit into a very small mold of what we have convinced ourselves we need. And then we become obsessed with what we feel is lacking instead of grateful for what is really there.
The Five Love Languages can be a great way for us to learn about our spouse. It can be a wonderful tool in marriage. But, like all good things, when we allow our sinful and selfish tendencies to pervert it, the Love Languages can become a detriment to an otherwise happy and healthy marriage. The Bible teaches us that love is not envious, proud, or self-seeking. It isn’t easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. The last thing we should be doing is taking Dr. Chapman’s helpful concept and turning it into an excuse to sin against our spouse. Maybe what we should do instead is forget we ever learned what our own love language is and focus instead on how we can “speak” to our spouse in a way that makes him or her feel absolutely loved. And then we should “listen” to all of the ways that our spouse is speaking to us, refusing to reject acts of love just because they don’t fit into a category that is found nowhere in Scripture. We are wasting so much time trying to demand love in the way that we think we deserve it. If we will only open our hearts and minds and arms to the love that is already there, contentment and peace will follow.
Very insightful Melissa.
When this book came to prominence I saw in many cases two equally wrong responses to it.
On one hand you had some who acted like the bride of Christ had been entirely un or even ill equipped to deal with God’s ancient covenant of marriage until this book was written. On the other you had some who wrote it off as so much secularized psychobabbling emotionalism.
In my view the book has some value in gaining insight with regard to obeying God’s revealed will in scripture.
To speak directly to your point, nowhere in scripture does the Lord command or even condone the idea of one spouse enforcing His commands to the other.
His commands to the wife are between Himself and the wife with the results in the husband being left to Him. The same with the husband.
He doesn’t tell the wife to make sure her husband is loving her right or that the husband see to it that his wife be submissive.
In fact in verse 33 of the glorious marriage passage in Ephesians 5, he concludes that train of thought by saying : “33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
What you’re describing is the age old sin of viewing the marriage bond as a me centered instrument of self fulfillment rather than perhaps this life’s greatest opportunity to magnify our King and Creator through a life long campaign of giving and service.
Oh how opposed that is to the old man still dead in Adam.