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The need to love and be loved is one of our deepest psychological needs. And marriage is one institution within which many people expect this need to be met.

The need to love and be loved is one of our deepest psychological needs. And marriage is one institution within which many people expect this need to be met. However, after the tingly feelings and euphoria that characterise the experience of falling in love, we discover that keeping love alive after marriage is serious business. Citing many real examples and the works of psychologists who have done extensive research on the phenomenon of falling in love, Dr Gary Chapman explains that the average life span of a romantic obsession is two years. If it is a secretive affair, it may last a little longer but eventually, we all descend from the clouds and plant our feet on the earth again. At this point, our differences get illuminated and we may begin to wonder why we got married in the first place.

In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman posits that the key to understanding this seeming mystery is to understand the difference between the experience of falling in love which is largely instinctual, and “real” or volitional love which unites reason and emotion. Chapman points out that our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct. Unlike the in-love experience, volitional love is an act of the will. It requires discipline and recognises the need for personal growth. It is this kind of love that The Five Love Languages is all about. Chapman asserts that if we all learn and choose to meet each other’s deep emotional need as a couple, the love we share will be far more exciting beyond what we felt when we were infatuated.

The author explains that the key to this is to understand how one’s spouse wants love to be communicated and to communicate love that way. These ways of speaking and understanding emotional love are what Chapman calls the five basic emotional languages. He identifies them as words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Just like language in the field of linguistics, each of the five love languages has many dialects. The number of ways to express love within a particular love language is limitless. Also, it is possible to have a primary love language and a secondary love language. The important thing is to communicate love to your spouse the way she wants it communicated.

With his experience from many years of studying the concept of marriage and working with troubled couples, Chapman expounds on each of the love languages with relevant examples and case studies. The author also presents The Five Love Languages Profile which features 30 questions to help husbands and wives understand their individual and respective love languages. He believes that identifying and learning to speak the love language of one’s spouse is the key to filling our emotional love tank and having a long-lasting, loving marriage.

In addition to guiding couples on how to express love to each other in a way that will effectively meet their emotional needs, The Five Love Languages also offers insights on how to apply the principles in the context of loving children. The book submits that although most parents sincerely love their children, thousands of parents have failed to communicate love in the proper language and thousands of children are living with an empty emotional tank. This empty love tank has been linked to most misbehaviour in children and teenagers.

Packed with real life stories, scientific research and practical applications, The Five Love Languages is a book that should be read by every married couple and people who have experienced or are experiencing the euphoria of being in love. I agree with Gary Chapman on how he feels about the book and will like to end this review by letting him speak for himself: “If it were possible, I would hand this book personally to every married couple in this country and say, ‘I wrote this for you. I hope it changes your life. And if it does, be sure to give it to someone else.’ Since I cannot do that, I would be pleased if you would give a copy of this book to your family, to your brothers and sisters, to your married children, to your employees, to those in your civic club, church or synagogue. Who knows, together we may see our dreams come true.”

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