I read the original THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by Dr. Gary Chapman when I was a single freshman in college. I don't remember what inspired me to pick up the book, given that the tagline was "How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate," but I couldn't put it down. I read it in one all-night sitting, crying my way through the sections that illuminated and explained tension I'd had in specific relationships with family and friends. It was dark outside but light bulbs were going off inside my head all night.
"Aha! His primary love language is Acts of Service! No wonder he gets so frustrated when we kids don't help around the house."
"Quality time! That's what she values, not my professions of appreciation and friendship."
Based on its applicability to my own life, I immediately determined that Chapman's ideas about there being five love languages were spot-on. And so did about a zillion other people since he has sold approximately that number of books. If you're one of the few people who has no clue what I'm talking about when I say the five love languages, let me explain.
In Chapman's theory, there are five ways in which people express and understand love. These five "languages" are Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Chapman believes that while some people can often express and understand love in any number of these languages, we all have a primary love language through which we are most comfortable expressing and receiving love. He goes on to say that tension in relationships often stems from not understanding the other person's primary love language --- not understanding how the other person is communicating their love and how that person needs to be communicated to in order to understand they are loved.
Though Chapman originally framed his teaching on the love languages in the context of marriage, it quickly became clear that people in all stages of life were connecting with the concept of the languages. And over the last several years, he has tailored his message for different groups in books including THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES OF CHILDREN, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES OF TEENAGERS, THE LOVE LANGUAGES OF GOD, and now, THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES FOR SINGLES.
The United States has more singles that any other nation in the world except for India and China. Four out of every ten Americans are single, so it makes sense that Chapman would choose to address this large audience. In THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES FOR SINGLES the core teaching of the original book stays intact but he shapes his message for singles of all stripes --- never married, divorced, widowed, separated, and single parents --- by including anecdotes of the unmarried dealing with various relationship issues.
My one complaint about this book is that the bulk of the anecdotes still seem to revolve around romantic relationships and the looming specter of marriage. A couple of chapters are dedicated to the application of the love languages with roommates, co-workers, family members, etc., but in the chapters that deal with each of the love languages in detail, the illustrations revolve around dating relationships. That's not bad per se, but I would have liked to see more diversity in the types of relationships (i.e. best friends, classmates) that are addressed here.
Having said that, the five love languages themselves continue to ring true in my experience and their adaptation for the single audience is welcome. I highly recommend THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES FOR SINGLES to anyone who would like to improve communication with the people in his or her life. Chapman himself writes:
"My desire for the single who reads this book is that you will learn both to receive and find love in all five love languages. I am assuming that those who take time to read a book on love desire to become better persons, to have better relationships, and to reach their potential of leaving a positive impact on the world. It is my sincere belief that learning to speak and understand the five love languages will help you reach that objective."
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on September 1, 2004