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Dr. Gary Chapman
The 5 Love Languages
nothing more powerful you can do for anyone than to love them
unconditionally." - Dr. Gary Chapman
Gary Chapman, the highly regarded marriage counselor and author,
helps couples learn to work together intentionally by guiding them
through the languages of love and apology to reach the goals of
unconditional love and spreading love's impact in the world. In this
interview with Jeff McDonald and Elizabeth Hanley, the author of "The
5 Love Languages" (with more than 13 million copies in print)
reveals how young people can best prepare for marriage and how
couples can find ways for each to grow into the joy and purpose
which the love of God makes possible.
You point out in your book "Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got
Married" that we do little to prepare young people for marriage.
Do you know of cultures that could serve
as a model of preparation?
No modern culture really stands out as a model for marriage
preparation. I think it's weak in most cultures. We put far more
into preparing for our vocation than we do preparing for marriage.
Maybe that's why we're more successful in our vocations than we are
in our marriage. If you ever think you're going to get married, you
ought to be learning something about the dynamics of marriage.
I'm speaking from experience because my wife and I had one hour
with the pastor who married us. We didn't read any books, and it
showed up in our marriage because in the early years, we had lots
and lots of struggles. A lot of that could have been avoided if we
have had the proper preparation.
How do you define love particularly as it applies to dating and
There's really two kinds of love. There is the experience that
we call falling in love, which is very euphoric and doesn't require
a lot of effort. It just grabs you. It's romantic. The other person
seems to be the most wonderful person in the world. The average
lifespan of that euphoric experience is about two years.
Then we come down off the high and that's where love has to become
much more intentional. You do have to work it. It's intentional and
that's where the 5 love languages I talk about in my book become
very helpful. It lets you know how to express love in a way that's
meaningful to the other person emotionally.
I suppose it's a lot easier to start off with that at the beginning
of marriage rather than changing later in a marriage.
GC: It's ideal if before you get married, you understand each
other's love language - then when you come down off the high, you
hardly miss it because you are communicating love in a meaningful
way. But at whatever stage couples get the concept they can look
back and say, "Oh, now I see what happened. We had not been speaking
each other's love language. So let's give it a try," and emotional
love can be reborn. We all desperately need to feel loved then if
you're married the person you would most like to love you is your
Is it best for people dating or considering marriage to look for
shared interests and traits in common in a marriage partner?
GC: You know the old saying is, that opposites attract. The fact
is all of us are opposites. None of us are the same. What's
important is that we understand each other's traits so you're
prepared to handle those differences once you get married. I'm a
morning person, my wife's a night person. Before we got married, I
had this dream of we'll have breakfast together. We'll have
devotions together. We'll pray in the morning and we'll start our
day off together."
I got married and I found out she didn't wake up fully till 10. The more
we can understand what the implications are of personality
differences for our lifestyle, the better it's going to be. You want
to make those differences assets rather than liabilities.
The institution of marriage is changing,
given the number of children of divorce,
the changing roles of men and women, new attitudes towards gender
and childbearing. what are the problems that young people are facing
in terms of marriage today?
GC: With all of the diverse ideas related to marriage today, we
have not come up with a better plan than the biblical plan. Christ
died for us while we were still sinners. Okay, so you're married to
a sinner. You get the chance to love them like Christ loved us. One
man, one woman in a covenant relationship with each other for a
That provides the best possible environment in which to raise healthy
children. All the research indicates that. In homes where the mom
and dad are loving, supportive, caring for each other, it creates an
atmosphere where a child can grow up and be emotionally healthy. We
know that children whose parents divorce have emotional struggles.
This is not to put down people who are divorced. Wherever we are,
the more we come back to the biblical concept of marriage, the
better it's going to be...not only for us but for our culture and
for our children. That's why I have such a passion for helping
couples wherever they are so they can work together and accomplish
great things for God and good in the world.
How can someone deal with hurtful memories and how can couples avoid
well-worn habits and patterns of behavior?
GC: We will not have long-term healthy marriages without
apologizing and forgiving. None of us are perfect. You don't have to
be perfect to have a good marriage, but you do have to deal with
your failures. That means we had to be honest when we do fail,
apologize and then we choose to forgive.
Forgiveness, essentially, is lifting the penalty. I'm not going to make
you pay for what you did to me. It's removing the emotional barrier
between the two of us so that our relationship can go forward. It's
a choice. It's a decision we make. But offering forgiveness does not
destroy the memory. Everything we've ever experienced in life is
stored in the human brain and from time to time it jumps from the
subconscious mind to the conscious mind. When the hurt, the anger,
the disappointment comes back, what do you do with that? You take it
to God and you say, "Lord, you know what I'm remembering today and
you know what I'm feeling again but I thank you that I forgave that.
Now, help me to do something good today."
You don't allow the memory and the emotions to control your behavior
because, if you do, you will lash out at your spouse, you'll move
away from the pardon and you'll try to let them pay for what they
did. But if we do something positive then the emotions will subside
and the memory will fade. A memory and the emotions that come with
it don't have to control our behavior.
What do you say to people who are beyond the point of wanting to
GC: Many times, when people decide to see a counselor, they are
looking for confirmation that they should go ahead and divorce. What
I ask is, "Will you work on your marriage? I can understand how you
get to that place where you don't want to work on the marriage, but
will you work on the marriage?" If they're willing, things can
happen. We are not slaves to our emotions. We can say "I'm going to
work on this even though I don't feel like working on this." If we
begin to change some things, the emotions catch up with the
What would you say is the biggest pitfall couples are making that
cause a relationship to suffer or fail?
If I had to summarize it in one word, it would be selfishness.
We are by nature, self-centered. Now, there's a good part to that.
That means we feed ourselves. We get sleep. We get exercise. We take
care of ourselves. But when that self-centeredness becomes
selfishness, I'm looking at this relationship in terms of what am I
getting out of it rather than how am I contributing to the
well-being of my spouse, which is love.
Love is the opposite of selfishness. It's the most powerful influencer in
the world for good. There's nothing more powerful you can do for
anyone than to love them unconditionally. In marriage, it's loving
them unconditionally no matter how they treat you, but you're also
loving them in their love language so that your love is getting
through to them emotionally. We can't change our spouse but we can
influence our spouse and love is the greatest positive influence we
On the flip side of that, what is the
best thing that someone can do
to help a relationship succeed?
GC: Three things are essential. One is keeping love alive in the
relationship. Keeping the emotional love alive and meeting the
emotional need for love. Another essential is dealing with our
failures. Being within an open and honest about our failures and
apologizing and then choosing to forgive. The third would be
learning to manage our anger in a positive way. All humans
experience anger. I believe it's because we're made in the image of
God. The Psalm 7:11 says "God is angry every day with the wicked."
our sense of right is violated, we feel angry. So the emotion of
anger is not a sin. That's why the Bible says, "When you are
angry, don't sin." It's easy to sin when you're angry. I think
mismanaged anger has destroyed thousands of marriages, hurt many
children and broken many friendships.
What would you say is the most common misconception about
GC: Probably that the euphoric feelings of being in love are
going to stay with us forever. We can hardly wait to be together.
When we're apart we're thinking about each other all the time. When
we do get married, we're both going to be happy forever. That's the
misconception we get from movies and novels.
The reality is that happiness is not something that we have always and
forever in a relationship. Some days we're happy and some days we're
not so happy. But the marriage from the biblical perspective is a
covenant. It's not a contract. It's not, "I'll do this, if you do
that." It's "I'm here to enrich your life. How can I help you? How
can I make your life easier? How can I be a better husband? How can
I be a better wife?" It's that attitude that makes a marriage not
only successful but makes it very, very satisfying to both of us.
Switching topics to what you talk about in your book, "When Sorry Is
Not Enough," what are the steps for getting a good apology?
People miss each other in their apologies, and they don't
perceive the other person's sincerity, because we have different
ideas on what it means to apologize. So we're trying to help people
learn how to apologize effectively by learning what the other person
considers to be a sincere apology, so you can express it in a way
that's meaningful to them.
Most of us learned how to apologize from our parents, or we learned not
to apologize from our parents. My research indicates that about 10%
of the general population almost never apologizes for anything, and
most of them are men. The fact is, real men, do apologize.
Little Johnny pushes sister down the stairs and his mother says, "Johnny,
don't do that to sister. Go, tell her you're sorry." So Johnny says,
"I'm sorry," even if he's not. He's 23 now. He's married. He hurts
his wife. He says "I'm sorry." But his wife had a different set of
parents. They showed her another way to apologize. So he's saying,
"I'm sorry," he thinks he's apologizing and she doesn't see that
that's sincere because in her mind, that's not the way you
We discovered in our research that there are fundamentally 5 ways that
people apologize. One of them is expressing regret, often with the
words "I'm sorry." We're trying to communicate "I feel badly about
what I did. I regret that. I wish I had not done that."
A second one is accepting responsibility. "I was wrong. I should not have
done that. No excuse. I accept responsibility." For some people,
this is what they consider to be a sincere apology.
A third way is offering to make restitution. "How can I make this right?
How can I make this up to you?" For some people, if you don't
express that, then in their mind you are not sincere.
Then there is what we call genuinely repenting. Which means we're
expressing the desire to change our behavior. "I don't like what I
did, I don't want to do that again. Can we get a plan so I won't do
For some people, if you don't offer this, you're not sincere. The fifth
way is actually requesting forgiveness. "Will you forgive me? I hope
you can find it in your heart to forgive me because I value our
relationship." Some people are waiting for you to ask forgiveness,
And of course, then, the apology doesn't restore the relationship.
Apology opens the door to the possibility, that the relationship can be
restored. There has to be a response to an apology, and that's where
forgiveness comes in. So when we choose to forgive, then we remove
the barrier and now the relationship can go forward.
Is it possible to apologize in the recipient's apology language
and then have them not forgive? And if so, what do you do?
Forgiveness is a choice. We cannot make someone forgive us. So I
say to people, "Don't try to force your spouse to forgive you."
Don't even quote the scripture to them and say, "Well the Bible says
if you don't forgive me, God won't forgive you." Give them time to
work through their emotions. They're deeply hurt and if they're
deeply hurt, your apology doesn't take away that hurt. It may take a
day or two before they can honestly say, "Okay honey, I'm choosing
to forgive you."
You are best known for your book the 5 Love Languages with
over 13 million copies sold, how has the success of that book
impacted you and your career?
GC: It's been very satisfying to see the way God has used that
book to touch so many marriages. It's been translated and published
in over fifty languages around the world. Its because it helps us do
what we want to do and that is meets that deep emotional need to
You write that marriage is the foundation
of society. Are you discouraged by what
you see today?
GC: We are in a different place in our culture today and
marriage is fragile in our culture. At the same time, what I am
finding that the younger generations are far more open to prepare
for marriage, to read books, to go for counseling and after they're
married they're far more open to attend marriage conferences and to
go for marriage counseling than their parents were. Maybe because
they've seen their parents go through divorce and they don't want
We keep sharing the truth about how to have good marriage relationships
because deep down, when couples marry, they want to have a good
marriage. When I share all the practical things about marriage, I
also share that, "I'm giving you information, but I can't give you
motivation. I can tell you where I got my motivation, and that is
God changed my heart, gave me a desire to love my wife and serve my
wife, and help her become the person that she wants to become and
God wants her to become.
The spiritual aspect is extremely important in a marriage relationship.
We're not lovers by nature, but our nature can be changed. The Holy
Spirit can give us power to love the other person, which goes
against the human grain.
I do Saturday marriage seminars under the umbrella of Moody Publishers in
all kind of churches all over the country. And I always share the
spiritual dimension, I always share the Gospel. I always share what
it means to be a true Christian and how this impacts marriage and I
give my own testimony on that. And virtually every Saturday when I
do those seminars, I have people who receive Christ because I ask
them to come up and give me their name and address if they have
invited Christ to come in and take charge of their lives. Marriage
enrichment in the church can be the door which people come into that
ultimately leads them to a personal faith in Christ.
How did you come to know the Lord?
GC: I came to Christ really when I was about ten years old. I
grew up in the church but when I was ten, I was sitting in church
and realized I had never personally responded to Christ. A lot of
people have the idea that if you go to church, you're a Christian.
No, no, no. But at ten years of age, I had that deep sense that I
need to give my life to Christ. And I did, and it's the most
fundamental decision I ever made.
People who experience the love of Christ and allow Him to control their
lives are agents of love. What would happen in our culture, any
culture if a significant number of people became lovers. It would
revolutionize things. That's why I feel so strongly about the
spiritual nature of things. With the help of God, we can be lovers
and we can impact the world for good.
That kind of decision led to the release in January of a book for young
men ages eleven to eighteen called "Choose Greatness: 11 Wise
Decisions that Brave Young Men Make."
I wrote it with Clarence Schuler, an African-American. He
and I have been friends since he was sixteen years old, we're hoping
to get into the African American community with that, as well as the
Anglo and Hispanic communities, because we're losing far too many
young men before they get to be eighteen.
"The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love
Over 13 million copies sold #1 New York Times Bestseller for 8 years running. Words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touching - learning these love languages will get your marriage off to a great start or enhance a long-standing one! Chapman explains the purpose of each "language" and shows you how to identify the one that's meaningful to your spouse now. Updated to reflect the complexities of relationships in today's world, this new edition of The 5 Love Languages reveals intrinsic truths and provides action steps in each chapter that will help you on your way to a healthier relationship.
Also includes an updated
and Ron L. Deal
"Building Love Together In Blended Families:
The 5 Love Languages and Becoming Stepfamily Smart"
Create a Loving and Safe Environment for Your Blended Family. Blended families face unique challenges, and sadly, good intentions aren't always enough. With so many complex relationships involved, all the normal rules for family life change, even how you apply something as simple as the 5 love languages.
Gary Chapman, the bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages and national expert on stepfamilies,
Ron Deal, join together in this book to teach you how the 5 love languages can help your blended family.
They'll teach you:
* About the unique dynamics
* How to overcome fear and trust issues in marriage
* How to develop healthy parenting and step-parenting practices
* How the love languages should - and should not -
You're going to face many challenges, but with the right strategies and smart work,
your family can be stronger
and healthier together.
"The 5 Languages
in the Workplace:
repackaged: Empowering Organizations by
The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace will give you the tools to improve staff morale, create more positive relationships between managers and employees, and decrease burnout rate. How? By teaching you to effectively communicate authentic appreciation to employees, co-workers, and leaders. Ideal for both the profit and non-profit sectors, the principles presented in this book have a proven history of success in businesses, schools, medical offices, churches, and industry. Each book contains a free access code for taking the online Motivating By Appreciation (MBA). The assessment identifies a person's preferred languages of appreciation to help you
apply the book.
5 Love Languages of Children:
The Secret to Loving
Are you expressing your love in a way
your child understands? Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell help you discover your child's unique communication style, so you
can better meet his or her deepest emotional needs. From quality
time to physical touch, these 5 "love languages" hold the key to
your child's development and success.