Dr. Gary Chapman: The Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman, counselor and author of The Five Love Languages and other books, speaks with Michael Easley inContext.

About Gary

Dr. Gary Chapman seeks to fulfill his call to the ministry as a pastor, speaker, and author. He speaks extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally on marriage, family, and relationships. The government of Singapore invited him to present his marriage seminar there and the Chaplain’s Office of NATO issued a special invitation for Dr. Chapman to speak to the NATO forces in Germany. Other engagements have taken him to England, Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico and Hong Kong. Sales exceeding 5 million copies earned him the Platinum Book Award from the Evangelical Publishers Association for The Five Love Languages, which has been translated into over thirty-six languages. Twenty-seven other books and five video series are also among his publications.

Transcript

EASLEY:  Welcome to the program today and it’s my great privilege to have with us Dr. Gary Chapman. Gary is a full time pastor, speaker, author, extensively travels around the U.S. and abroad. Primarily known for his five languages of love. Gary, thanks for being with us today.

CHAPMAN: Well thank you ,Michael, it’s good to be with you.

EASLEY: It’s great to hear your voice. For those of you who don’t know, about your primary work, your five languages of love, talk to us about sort of the Genesis of the five languages and how that started in your practice and your writing. It’s kind of gone viral, I guess we’d say today, in ways you probably never intended.

CHAPMAN: Yeah, it’s been amazing the way God has used that book. You know, Michael, I’ve been counseling for probably about fifteen years and I knew I was hearing the same stories over and over in my office. One of them would say, “Well I just feel like he doesn’t love me, or she doesn’t’ love me,” and the other one would say, “I don’t understand that; I do this and this and this. Why wouldn’t you feel loved?” I knew there was a pattern to all of it but I didn’t know what it was. So what I did, I actually set down and read about 12 years of notes that I had made when i was counseling people and I asked myself the question, when someone said, “I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me, what did they want? What were they complaining about?” And there answers fell in the five categories, and I later called them the five love languages. So I started using this concept in my counseling, that people have different love languages and you have to learn to speak the language of your spouse if you want them to feel loved, and it was amazing. Couples would come back and say, “Hey, we been trying this. It’s been making a great difference.” And then I started using it in small groups and the same thing happened. So probably five years later, I thought, you know if I could put this concept in a book, write it in the language of the common person, I could help a lot of people that i would never have time to see in my office. That’s how it all started. The book’s been out over 20 years. Every year, it sells more than the year before. It’s sold over eight million copies in English, been translated now in 50 languages around the world. So never ever expected God would use it in that way. But I think, Michael, it speaks to the deep human need to feel loved and if you’re married, the person you would most like to love you is your spouse. So it helps couples do what many couples would like to do and that is meet each others need for love.

EASLEY: Interesting, you said, translated into more than 50 other languages. Yet these five, you call them languages, cross national ethnic lines?

 

CHAPMAN: You know, that’s what surprised me most, to be honest Michael, you know my academic background is anthropology, cultural anthropology. I have an undergrad and a masters degree in anthropology and I understand cultural differences, and when the first publisher came, who happen to be Spanish, and asked permission to publish this in Spanish, I said to Moody Publishers, who published my book,” I don’t know if this works in Spanish.” You know? I discovered this in Middle America. They said, “Well, they read it and they say it works.” “Ok, then lets’ go with it.” Well they did and it became their bestseller and has been their bestseller ever since, then came the French and the German and on down the line. So you know, I”m sure that the translators adapt to the culture, but the five basic languages seem to be fundamental to human nature.

EASLEY: Ok, now I read this 25, so I mean, Cindy and I are at 34 years of marriage almost so it’s been 20 plus years. And I haven’t brushed up for this so I’m going to go: so I know it’s act of service, nonsexual touch, gifts, words of affirmation,what did I leave out?

CHAPMAN: Quality time

EASLEY: Quality time.

CHAPMAN: Hey, that’s good Michael. That’s good.

EASLEY: I’ve done this to you before in public not in this situation, but when we’ve shared the platform, I told you, I read them and I  said, “Hey mine’s act of service, Cindy, love me like this and it’s all I need.” She said, “Well I like that one, that one, she likes all five.” She still won’t’ settle on a primary one, so just thank you very much, Dr. Chapman.

CHAPMAN: That does mean, that whatever you do, you get credit for it, Michael.

EASLEY: Well that’s, that’s…now you got me.

CHAPMAN: That’s the positive side.

EASLEY: Hey, you’ve been doing this along time. What trends are you seeing from, let’s say, forty-ish years ago to today, when you’re talking to couples, individuals? Obviously, the core hasn’t changed, but what are the nuances that have changed?

CHAPMAN: You know, it’s been very interesting. The basic concept is the same and we haven’t changed the book very much, to be honest with you, through the years. We’ve done a few little revisions here and there but we’ve basically kept it the same because it’s communicating so well  to people. Now one of the new things that we have just done is, to do a military edition of the five love languages. The last 10 years, I’ve been on a number of military bases and as you know,  Michael,  the divorce rate among military marriages is much higher than civilian marriages. Alot of it has to do with the stress and the deployment that just keeps coming.

 

EASLEY: Separation.

CHAPMAN: And so, one of the things this book does, of course, we use all military illustrations. It teaches them how to communicate any one of the five love languages while they are deployed.

EASLEY: Wow!

CHAPMAN: So that if they learn each others language when they’re together, they’re speaking it. They can continue speaking it while they’re deployed and stay emotionally connected with each other.

EASLEY: Interesting.

CHAPMAN: So when they do come back together, it’s much easier because they’ve stayed connected emotionally. I’m really excited about this book and it’s been received really well with the chaplains and others around the country. So very exciting.

EASLEY: That’s great to hear. You and I have a great love for our military and what these men and women do for so little pay, and so little attention. This will be a great resource for them. I’m thrilled to look forward to looking at that myself.

EASLEY: Let’s back up a little bit. You started your first publication in the 80’s?

CHAPMAN: I think the five love languages was first was published in ‘92.

EASLEY: ‘92, but you had a prior book to that.

CHAPMAN: Yes, I had two books before that. I had a book called, “Toward a Growing Marriage,” which is still in print, but it has a new title, called, “The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.”

EASLEY: Right.

CHAPMAN: Then I wrote a book called, “Hope for the Separated. Wounded Marriages can be Healed.” That book has been written to people who have been separated. Physically, one of them walked, out and I’m saying, “Ok, it means your marriage is in serious trouble, but it doesn’t necessarily mean divorce and I’m challenging them to think reconciliation and talking about how to go about seeking reconciliation. I make it very clear, I’m not talking about simply moving back in. I’m talking about dealing with the issues that lead to the separation. So there can be genuine reconciliation. So I’ve been very encouraged with that book. Almost, every seminar I lead around the country, I’ll have one or two couples come up and say,“You know we were separated 5 years ago or 3 years ago or 10 years ago, and somebody gave us your book “Hope for the

Separated” and God used it to help us to begin to think differently. We got back together, we

recommitted ourselves and we’re growing now. So that’s been very encouraging.

EASLEY: That’s great! That’s fantastic. So then the five love languages in ‘92,then you did an iteration for children.

CHAPMAN: Yes, we had one chapter in that original book about children, about how the concept applies to children and parents kept saying, “You know you gave us a little bit, can’t you give us more?” So I teamed up with Dr. Ross Campbell, who is a Christian psychiatrist, who incidentally just went on to heaven this past year.

EASLEY: Yeah, I heard that.

CHAPMAN: We teamed up. He had, had thirty years experience working with children and teenagers and wrote the five love languages of children. It’s the same five languages and how this influences and impacts the child’s anger, the child’s discipline or the parent’s discipline, and the child’s ability to learn or openness to learn. Michael, what really surprised us about this book, and we never anticipated this, because we wrote the book for parents. But a lot of public schools have been using the book in teacher workshops because teachers know that if a child feels loved by the teacher, the child’s going to learn more from that teacher. So that’s been very encouraging.

EASLEY: Interesting. And then you went on to adapt it for teens?

CHAPMAN: Yes, so many parents said to me, you know, we read your book on children. It really, really helped us, but now our child has become a teenager.

EASLEY: All bets are off.

CHAPMAN: We are doing the same thing we’ve always done, but it’s not working. Does the love language change when they get to be teenagers? My short answer is, “no, it doesn’t change but you have to use different dialects, because whatever you’ve been doing, they consider childish and they’re not a child now.” So if physical touch is their language, you’ve been hugging and kissing, now you’re going to hug and kiss, they’re going to push you away. It doesn’t mean they don’t need to be touched;but you’ve got to use, more adult touches, you know, elbows, high fives, wrestle them to the floor.” But we deal in that book, all the changes that are taking place in the teenager’s life both physically and intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and how you get through all of that and make sure that teenager feels loved. Because you know, Michael, let’s face it, basically all parents love their children, love their teenagers, but there’s a lot of children and teenagers who do not feel loved, and that makes all the difference in the world.

EASLEY: From the pastoral vantage point, it seems like the teenagers are having a much more difficult time than even in the 70’s and 80’s?

CHAPMAN: I think they are and I think a lot of it has to do with the culture, where we are in the culture. There’s no boundaries, there’s no morals. Our Christian teenagers, even get caught up in all of that. They’re asking questions, “Why is this wrong, Why shouldn’t I do this, What’s wrong with this?” So I think it is much more difficult for teenagers in today’s world. And as parents, the first step is making sure they feel loved, and if they feel loved, they are more open to our instruction, they’re more likely to enter into serious discussion with us and we can have a greater influence on their lives. All the research, indicates, parent’s still have the greatest impact on the teenagers life. Sometimes, people say it’s the “peer pressure,” but parent’s still have the greatest impact. So we must accept that and utilize it.

EASLEY: When we were both in Chicago for a brief period of time, when I was in Chicago and you came out with the five  languages of apology. I remember talking to Greg Thornton, the senior vice president of publications there and asking him, “Is a book on apology going to work?” And this thing went crazy, Gary.

CHAPMAN: Yes, it did. We changed the title now. The newest title is, “When Sorry Isn’t Enough.” But it’s still the same concept; That there’s different ways to apologize. You know, Michael, that really shocked me. That book actually was born in the mind of a counselor here in town where I live . Dr. Jennifer Thomas, and she came to me with the idea. She said, “ You know I think just like people have different love languages, people have different apology languages. She explained that, “What one person considers to be an apology is not what another person considers to be an apology.” As soon as she said it, I resonated because they’ve been in my office for years, and the wife would say, “Well I would forgive him if he would just apologize.” He would say, “I did apologize.” She would say, “You didn’t apologize.” He would say, “I told you I was sorry.” Then she would say, “That’s not an apology.” So I felt like she had something. So we teamed up and did research for two years. We asked thousands of people two questions: “When someone apologizes to you, what do you expect to hear them say or do?” Second question: “When you apologize to someone, what do you typically say or do?” Their answers fell into five categories. I promise you, Michael, we weren’t looking for five, ok? I like five, but they fell into five categories and we called them the “Five Languages of Apology” And incidentally, when I looked at the Scriptures, all five of these are demonstrated throughout the Scriptures. So the basic idea there is that if you have a different idea of what it means to apologize and you simply share your idea, or you apologize in your way, the other person may well question your sincerity. And that’s the question in the back of our minds anyway, are they sincere? Or are they just trying to get this behind them? But we tend to judge sincerity, based on how they apologized. So this is helping a lot of people apologize more effectively, and also if you understand that there are five different ways, it should help you if your spouse or someone else is apologizing in any one of the five, to say, “Ok, that’s not what I prefer to hear, but at least they’re apologizing. They’re doing it their way.” So it should make it easier for people to forgive. Its’ been very encouraging to see the response to that book.

EASLEY: How do we keep from making that sort of  a conditional… forgiveness a conditional, acceptance of an apology?

CHAPMAN: Well, we shouldn’t. That’s one of the points we make in the book is that natural tendency,if they don’t apologize in your language is to question their sincerity.

EASLEY: Right.

CHAPMAN: But as Christians who have been forgiven, we choose to forgive them and give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re at least apologizing so lets give them the benefit, lets go ahead and forgive them and you know, we’ll see how it plays out. Forgiveness is the first step in rebuilding a relationship. The wall gets removed and now we can begin to love and serve and do other things to build a relationship.

EASLEY: We can’t measure someone elses sanctification, we can’t measure whether they are maturing or not in the Lord. We tend to take our, to use your vernacular, our love language, and project it. “Well, Cindy doesn’t love me that way; she doesn’t love me.”

CHAPMAN: Yeah

EASLEY: In all sorts of ways, Gary,we are faced with the same thing in a marriage, where people are, I wouldn’t say desperate, but they’ve given up to the point, “He’s not going to change,” She will never change.” And maybe it’s not tough love, where I need to move out or separate, but how do they live in, I call it, “parallel lives.” They come together for a meal, for a wedding, for some event but they live on those two parallel tracks. What do you say to that husband or wife who’s tried, so many times to break in, to reengage to come at a different angle, but again, again, and again, it just seems like the door is shut. What do you tell them?

CHAPMAN: Well you know I  think, Michael, many times people do feel like they have tried everything. I deal with that concept  in a book I wrote  a few years ago called, “Desperate Marriage.” You’re married to an alcoholic, you’re married to someone that won’t talk to you, you’re married to someone that won’t work, or someone that works all the time, and never ever engages with you, or verbally abuses you, you know, really, really tough stuff. I’m saying in that book,It is true that you cannot make your spouse change, but you can influence your spouse, as a matter of fact, we influence each other every single day by the things we do and the things we say. So the book is on how to be a positive change agent in a very very difficult marriage.  One of the approaches I take is, you make sure you know their primary love language. You start by giving heavy doses of it even though emotionally you’re not motivated to do that because you’re ready to give up.

EASLEY: Let me interrupt you for a minute there. This is something I think, for many couples-that concept is foreign to them, Gary. Yes, so unpack that a little bit more for us. Because what you’ve just said sounds like a baby step for some people, but for some that’s nuclear physics, you know.

CHAPMAN: No, you’re exactly right, because by nature, we love those who love us.”I’ll be kind to you if you be kind to me.” But Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Ok, that’s about as bad as it gets in a marriage. He’s your enemy. So, if I take that seriously, and I open my heart, the love of God remember is  “poured out on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Romans 5:8. Open my heart to God and say, “I want to be an agent, your agent, for expressing your love to my spouse. God pours His love into us. We don’t have the feelings, but we’re choosing to speak their language, words, or whatever their language is. We’re going to do it over a period of time, not for three weeks, and see what happens. We’re going to commit ourselves to loving them as God loves us,while we were still sinners. Then about two months into that you say to your spouse, “On a scale of 0-10, how much love do you feel coming from me?” If they say anything less than 10, you say, “You know, I really want to be a better husband, a better wife. Give me an idea of what I can do to make you feel more loved.” You let them give you an idea, and it will be in keeping with their love language.

EASLEY: You’ll have to have your armor on, right?

CHAPMAN: That’s right. That’s right. Be ready. But you do that until they give you a 9 or 10, and at that juncture you know that you’re getting through to them. They’re feeling your love even though they may know in their own mind, that they don’t deserve what you’ve been doing. That’s the juncture at which you make a request of them. You say to them, “ You know something that I would really like for you to do for me?” And because you have been loving them unconditionally over a period of time and they’ve affirmed that, they are very likely to respond to your request. When they do, you’re shocked and a week or two later, you make another request. You are essentially teaching them how to love you, even though they don’t know anything about the love language concept. Love stimulates love. You know, the Scripture says, “We love God, because God first loved us.” The same principle applies within human relationships. Somebody has to start the love process and I’ve seen that over and over again, where hard harsh people, who are unengaged do become engaged, whenever they start receiving love, in their language over a long period of time.

EASLEY: When you’re working on a project, like the five love languages of the military, how do you get to the point that you’re saying, “Ok, this is the next project, this is the where God is stirring my heart,” “or a need based.” How do you get there?

CHAPMAN: Well, you know, Michael, for me, it’s come in the normal flow of my life in ministry. Like that book for the military, so many chaplains said to me, “You know, Gary, we’ve used this original book, and God has really used it in the military.” They’ve bought hundreds of  thousands of copies and distributed them to  military. “But what would really be good, if you could do a military version and particularly focus on the deployment aspect.” So that’s what motivated me on that. It’s typical that people coming to me, from different places, saying similar things about something that’s needed. For example, we just finished a manuscript. I think maybe it’ll be out in September. I don’t even know what we’ll call it, but I wrote it with a gal in California, and did a lot of research on it. It’s called “How to Raise Relational Children in a  Digital Age.”

EASLEY: Wow!

CHAPMAN: This is a huge thing in our culture. We’re saying, “Certainly, you don’t get rid of technology, but we have to make the most of technology, but we have to learn how to teach our children to relate to people, not simply to a machine. In fact, I walk down the aisle before church and I see people with their iphones out and I say, “If you get any good information, let me know, ok?”

EASLEY: I’ll need to try that.

CHAPMAN: I think with our children, one of the main issues, one of the key issues is balance. A particular age of the child is important. The parent is the one who is responsible for setting guidelines. There has to be balance. There has to be limits and if you expect that of children and you apply that and there are consequences if they don’t follow that. Children learn. Children learn what we teach them to do.

EASLEY: Well we’ve been talking to Gary Chapman. Gary is a author, a conference speaker, a counselor, a friend for many years. Gary, you and Carolyn, we’re going to fast forward. You are 85, 89, you’re 92, you’re sitting on your front porch, in the Carolina mountains, perhaps, looking over your life, your children, your grandchildren, your history, your legacy. What will you regret? What will you remember?

CHAPMAN: You know, what I think that I will remember is the time we invested with our children. They’re both grown now;our daughter has her own children, and our son and his wife don’t have children. They’ve tried, but can’t have children. But they still say to us, the memories we have of sitting around the table, talking after we had meals are still vivid positive memories we have of childhood. Then the time my son and I took trips because every summer he and I would take a trip together for two or three days to do something together. Those memories are there and the investment we made in their lives. I’m very grateful for that. I don’t know, in terms of regret, I don’t have any super regrets in my life, to be very honest with you. God’s been good to us and to our family. I think, my deepest desire, from this point going forward is that I can end well and continue to do whatever God has on the drawing board for me, and when it’s time to go, it’s time to go, whenever that is. But I do want to be faithful. I don’t have any desire to go to Florida and sit in a rocking chair and wait to die. People ask me, “What would I like to do if I retired?” Well, I’d like to do what I’m doing.

EASLEY:  Yes

CHAPMAN: As long as I have energy, I want to keep on counseling people, writing books, speaking, working here in the local church,ministering to people. As long as I have energy, that’s what I want to do. When God’s through with me, than I’m ready to go. That’s my prayer, is that I can look back and not have any deep regrets.

EASLEY: That’s wonderful Gary and it’s a privilege to call you, my friend. I appreciate your ministry in my life. Cindy and I have benefited from your friendship, from your labors, your books, your conferences. We love you and appreciate you Sir and give your wife greetings for us. Thanks for being on the broadcast with us today.

CHAPMAN: Thank you, Michael. Keep up the good work. I appreciate your ministry.

EASLEY: Blessings, Sir.

I was privileged to have two mentors, Floyd Sharp and Dr. Howard Hendricks. Floyd was a mentor for over 15 years and the prof for nearly 30 and to sum up what Floyd would say is, “Michael, make memories with your children, and make good memories when possible.” He was a folksy psychologist, who often underscored you were going to have regrets in life, but work to make some good memories, to build some intentional good memories in your kids lives. Just along the line Gary has said, in regards to the prof, he died doing what he loved doing best and that was spending time with his students. Even as his health was failing, he still enjoyed being around young minds asking good questions. The question haunts me, I don’t know if it haunts you. But I want to live with the minimal amount of regret, and too many of us have some dark regrets from our past life. Know this: God is a good God. He is kind. He forgives. Redeem the time that you have now. Don’t wait. Don’t live with the regret. Do something to change that. Make good memories with your spouse. Make good memories with your kids, even your adult kids. Try to make some new good memories. You’ll never regret that. This is Michael Easley inContext.

For more information go to Michael inContext.com.

  • jenniferthomas

    Michael, thank you for this interview and transcript. Nice job!

    I’m Jennifer Thomas, the co-author of Gary Chapman on When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I wanted to let your listeners know that I’m preparing a local TED talk about our book. The event will be in NC on May 7th and the link will be available here after that date: http://tedxgreensboro.com/2015-speakers/.

    Also, I have free resources such as an apology language quiz available on my blog: http://www.drjenniferthomas.com.

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