Book Review: The 5 Love Languages. The Secret to Love that Lasts.


*** 3/3 ***

One day, while we conversed about love, Mistress mentioned to me that I might learn something by reading this book. She had not read it herself, but had watched several youtube talks by its author, and introduced me to the concept.

I went out and bought two copies, one for me, one for Her.

The book has an interesting thesis, and one which should be rather obvious, but sometimes it is having things made even more obvious that makes them understandable.  This book is consistent with that.

Below, I have highlighted what I found to be the most resonant messages, as well as a brief definition of what the 5 love languages are.  There is, however, one area which I find is a flaw in the book.  The book talks about what love language we need to hear from a partner in order for us to feel loved.  Everything is couched in our need to feel loved.  For many, that may be enough.  For me, that is all about receiving, and nothing about giving.  It feels narcissistic and needy. It is only half the story.

What is missing from the discussion for me is a discussion of how we express love.  How we give.  In my own life, what and how I give to those I love is as important if not more than what I get.  To leave that out, seems a major oversight.

Unless otherwise bracketed [ … ], the below is cribbed from the original.

Keeping the Love Tank Full

  • The need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need, 
  • This begins in childhood, with each child having needs to meet for s/he to grow up emotionally stable.  The need for love and affection, the sense that s/he belongs and is wanted are the most basic.  With this love, the child will grow into a well-adjusted adult, without it, will not.
  • When a child feels loved, s/he will develop “normally”, but when s/he does not feel secure with love, s/he will misbehave

Falling in Love

This is described thus…”when spending time together is like playing in the anteroom of heaven.

From “in love” to “real love”

We can recognise the in-love experience as a temporary emotional high (but one that may last a few years), and then move on to pursue “real love”.  This love is emotional in nature but not obsessive.  It is a love that is balanced between reason and emotion.  It involves the will and discipline, and recognizes the need for personal growth.

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.  [This is half the story.  Expressing love to a loved one is just as fulfilling if not more so].

The Five Love Languages Defined

  • I. Words of affirmation.  These are verbal compliments, best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
    • “You look good today”
    • “That suit looks nice, you wear it well”
    • “I really like how you’re always on time.”

Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop.  What holds us back is often courage.  Words of affirmation can provide that all-important catalyst.

We all make mistakes.  We all say and do hurtful things.  We cannot erase the past.  We can only confess it and agree that it was wrong.  We can ask for forgiveness and try to act differently in the future.  

Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a commitment.

Love makes requests, not demands.  When I make demands of my spouse I become the parent and the spouse the child.  Love is always a choice.  That is what gives it meaning.  To know that my spouse loves me enough to respond to one of my requests communicates emotionally that she cares about me, respects me, admires me, and wants to do something to please me.

One of our deepest and most fundamental needs is to feel appreciated.  Words of affirmation are what make that happen.

  • II. Quality Time.  This is to give someone your undivided attention. 
    • Focussed attention.  It isn’t enough to be in the same room together.  It means no distractions, total focus.
    • Quality conversation: as opposed to words of affirmation, what we are saying, quality conversation is focused on what we are hearing.  That means that I will focus on drawing you out, listing actively, asking thoughtful questions and waiting for you to answer fully without interruption.

Most of us have little training in listening.  We are all better and more efficient and thinking and speaking.  Learning to listen may be as hard as learning a foreign language, but learn we must, if we want to communicate love.  How to listen better:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Don’t do something else at the same time
  • Listen for feelings 
  • Observe body language
  • Refuse to interrupt

We can all learn to listen better, and can all listen to open up better.  We are influenced by our personality, but not controlled by it.  [This is personal growth.  Understanding yourself and where you are starting from, is the first step towards willingly pushing yourself to be a better, more effective, person].

  • III. Receiving Gifts.  Gifts, even small ones, can serve to remind of the lengths and creativity we travel to give love.

From an early age, children give gifts to their parents. Some developmental psychologists have even opined that babies regard wetting or messing as the giving of a gift.  If true, gift giving is an instinctual and fundamental act of love.

There is an intangible gift that can speak more loudly than a physical gift, and that is the gift of self, or of physical presence.  Physical presence in a time of crisis can be the most powerful gift you can give a spouse whose primary love language is receiving gifts.  Your body and your mind, your presence, your emotional support, become the symbols of your love.

[I know this from my own life.  My SO’s primary love language is receiving gifts, especially when they are hard won.  Her close second is acts of service.  Giving of myself, physically, emotionally are things I can do for her which never fail to elicit a strong emotional response].

  • IV. Acts of Service.  Doing things that you know your spouse would like you to do.  You seek to please by serving your spouse, and express your love by doing things for them.

Love is a choice; it cannot be coerced.  

Making requests rather than demands is how to stay true to that philosophy.  To give service is not to be a doormat.  Service given out of fear, guilt, and resentment are not expressions of love.  When we treat our spouses as objects, we preclude the possibility of love.  Manipulation by guilt is not love (if you really loved me you would do X).  Coercion by fear is not love (you will do this or you will be sorry).  No person should allow themselves to ever be a doormat.

To allow ourselves to be used or manipulated is an act of treason to the self.  In so doing you allow your partner to develop inhumane habits.  Love says, “I love you too much to let you treat me this way.  It is not good for you or me.”

[This is what I call growing up].

Learning the love language of Acts of Service will require some of us to re-examine our stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives.  [This form of giving may require more of the giver emotionally in terms of their development because of this learning, and because the gifts of service are often the most difficult to give.]

  • V. Physical Touch.  Physical touch as a way of communicating emotional love.  Not to be confused with sexual appetite.  This is about what happens outside of the bedroom.
    • Babies who are held, stroked, and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact
    • Lovingly touching a spouse anywhere whose love language is physical touch will express love stronger than words

The body is for touching.  Physical touch may be as delicate as touching your spouse’s hand when you put down a cup of coffee for them.  It may also be a backrub that leads to a romp in bed.

If your spouse finds a massage is the best way to feel physical touch, then it is a wise partner who learns how to become a good masseuse/masseur.  If sexual intercourse is how your partner experiences the love language of physical touch, then learning how to appreciate his/her body will go a long way.

It can be difficult to learn this behaviour if you grew up in a family or culture that was not a touching one.  But finding ways to touch with thoughtfulness can be an important and fun way to grow with your spouse who needs this to feel loved.

Crises provide a unique opportunity for expressing your love.  Your tender touches will be remembered long after the crisis has passed.  Your failure to touch may never be forgotten.

Finding your primary love language

Many men assume that physical touch is their primary love language because they desire sexual intercourse so intensely.  According to the author, in a male, sexual desire is physical and is equated with a need for release.  In a female, sexual desire is more influenced by emotion.  If she feels loved and appreciated, then she has a desire for physical intimacy.  Her biological sex drive is closely tied to her emotional need for love.

[I am not sure I agree with this reductive point of view.  It certainly isn’t how I feel—and I don’t think this is because I am non-binary].

When you are trying to understand your love language, ask yourself what it is that you ask most of your spouse.  And if you can’t think of it, ask your spouse what s/he thinks you ask most for.  This is most likely your primary love language.  These things may have been interpreted as nagging, but they are efforts from your spouse to secure emotional love.

Think also about how you express your love to your spouse.  It is likely that how you are doing it, is how you like to receive it.  If you are constantly doing acts of service for your spouse, then that is probably your primary love language.

Finally, ask yourself about what your spouse fails to do for you that hurts you most deeply.  

That too, is a good indicator of what your primary love language is.

Love is a Choice

Love does not erase the past, but it makes the future different.  By choosing love and to communicate it, we create an emotional climate where we can deal with our past conflicts and failures.

When we tell ourselves that “I just don’t love” him/her anymore, we create in ourselves the emotional mindset to seek love with someone else.  Meeting your spouse’s need for love is a choice you make every day.  If you know your spouse’s primary love language and choose to speak it, your spouse’s deepest emotional needs will be met, and s/he will be secure in your love.  If your spouse does the same, then you will both find deep fulfilment from your marriage.  In this state of emotional contentment, you both will have the strength to give your creative energies to wholesome projects outside the marriage, while the marriage continues to be exciting and growing.

Love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself.  

Most of us do many things each day that may not come easily or run counter to what feels natural.  That is a choice.  It is being adult.  We do these things because it is worth it.  This is true of love.  We discover the love language of our spouse, and we speak it, whether it comes naturally or not.  We are doing this for his or her benefit.  Chances are your spouse will reciprocate.  Love is a choice.  It is never too late to start.

Love Makes the Difference

Love is not our only need.  We also need security, self-worth, and to feel significant.  Love, however, touches all of these and feeds them.  The need for significance is the emotional force behind much of our behaviour.

There is nothing more powerful that you can do than to love a spouse even when the spouse is not responding positively.  [This is also very consistent with the doctrine of many religions.  “Do unto others”…”Turn the other cheek”]

Personal Notes

I thank Mistress for suggesting that I look into this topic.  It is very relevant to my journey in D/s, and to our relationship with one another.  It has allowed me to articulate more clearly many things that were in my mind and heart.  In particular, because I associate submission so closely with love, it has been very important for me to understand how I express both, but also why and when doing “acts of love” have such a strong triggering effect on me.

I am increasingly struck by how similar my SO and Mistress are.  I guess we are attracted to certain things with consistency.  In my case, emotional strength, sense of self and self-knowledge, intelligence are the three most intoxicatingly erotic qualities I can imagine in a partner.  Their physical and cultural similarities are real.  

But I talked to my SO about love languages and she was mostly amused by my desire to be so introspective.  She was dismissive about the need to even think about it.  We discussed it while she sat in the kitchen and I cooked for her.  This is how we often spend time together.  She likes the act of service and the quality time we spend together when I cook for her and we sit down to eat and talk.  I like the words and deeds of affirmation that come from her enjoyment of what I serve her (affirmation is my primary love language, followed closely by acts of service).  We would have never married without this.  Her confidence and dismissiveness of introspection are supremely reassuring.  It is a big part of what I love about her.  She knows herself.  She demands that I do the same.  To be with her is to be grown up, to not shirk responsibility.

I am blessed because the way I most easily and happily express love happen to be the ways that both my SO and Mistress love to receive it.  But I am also in part perplexed.  When I do the self-assessments that come with this book and are found online, my need for physical touch is by far the least important to me.  Indeed, as I have expressed in one of my posts on ADD, I grew up averse to physical touch (interestingly, many ADD people are very touchy-feely, but others are averse to touch—it appears to be a tendency to either end of the spectrum which is common in ADD).  But one of the most important things I have begun to learn from Mistress is the importance of physical touch, of being present in my body, of feeling things.  And She is the only person who has ever touched me, including my SO, whose touch I really welcome at all times.  And when she touches me, puts a hand on me, just naturally, and not at all sexually, I am so glad for it to be there, whereas I might usually shudder and withdraw.  This is fascinating to me, and I yearn to watch it grow.

This is echoed in friendship and culture.  When I think of my closest male friend, so much of his energy is spent on physical touch.  He conveys warmth through touch and being with someone like that is wonderfully disarming.  Latin cultures, Mediterranean cultures, have similarly spoken to me for this kind of physical warmth.  It is so alien to me, so disarming, but is also where I feel most alive, and why I love going to and living in cultures that express themselves physically.  They melt me.  And feeling that way helps me to feel more alive.

In conclusion, I found this book a useful and inciteful read.  I would love, however, to see more attention paid towards giving of love than just receiving love…as both are equally important.

5 thoughts

  1. Great post, my friend! My sister-in-law gave me a copy of this book when I got married. It has been hands-down the most helpful book I have read in understanding love, myself, and my husband. I am so glad you shared this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My SO just poo-pooed it. She said, “I know why I love you and you know why you love me. Who needs a book? I see what you are doing right now as an act of love [I was cooking], I don’t need a book to tell me that.” Sigh. That’s why I love her so much.

    Like

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