Thinking About Thinking

Why Do Some Relationships Fail?

Posted in Books, Pop Culture by larrycheng on March 13, 2010

I like to blog about different, random, more personal things on the weekends.  Hence, I’m starting a series on books that I think directly or indirectly answer an interesting question with an interesting point of view.  The first installment last weekend was Why Are 80% of Harvard Students First-Borns?.  Today is the second installment and is about one of my favorite relationship books – The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

If we look around – it’s pretty undeniable that there are broken relationships within marriages, families, and friends.  What’s underlying some of the challenged relationships between spouses, parent/children, etc.?  Clearly, there’s not one simple answer.  Yet, Gary Chapman lays out a relatively simple but profound theory based on a very straight forward framework that may have broad relevance.  First the framework:

He believes that there are 5 primary love languages and everybody has a primary (usually one, maybe two) love language which makes them feel loved.  Importantly, their primary love language is not necessarily the way they communicate love to others – but it’s how they feel loved by others.  The 5 languages are:

  1. Physical Touch – hugs, kisses, physical play, affection, etc.
  2. Words of Affirmation – words of praise, encouragement, adoration, admiration, etc.
  3. Quality Time – focused, attentive time in a joint activity, conversation, etc.
  4. Gifts – self explanatory: meaningful, thoughtful gifts
  5. Acts of Service – helping out with projects, responsibilities, homework, tasks, etc. 

So, that’s the framework.  The theory on why some relationships are strained is pretty straight forward: 

  • Everyone has a primary love language – which is how they receive love.
  • People tend to communicate love to others with their own primary love language.
  • But, if the other person has a different primary love language, they will not feel loved.

For example – your primary love language may be words of affirmation.  But, if your child’s love language is physical touch – no amount of verbal praise will replace your child’s need for hugs, physical play, and so forth.  Or your love language may be physical touch, but your spouse’s may be acts of service.  So, no amount of affection will replace the love communicated through service acts like cleaning up the house, cooking a meal, or taking out the garbage.  That’s why two people in a relationship can be trying hard but not communicating love to each other because they don’t recognize the distinction in each person’s primary love languages.

Though it’s a relatively simple framework – I recommend getting the book if it’s at all interesting to you.  The book gives more insight into how to determine someone’s primary love language, practical ideas around each love language, and more insight and detail on what each love language means.  OK, I never thought I’d write a blog post with the word “love” in it 25 times.  I think my next post will have to be about ultimate fighting or something.