How Do You Say, “I Love You?”


Take a guess: What book by a Winston-Salem author has sold 12 million copies and been translated into 50 languages?

Give up? It’s The 5 Love Languages® by Pastor Dr. Gary Chapman! Even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve probably heard of the five love languages. It’s now been 27 years since the original five love languages book was published. Back then, no one, not even Dr. Chapman, ever imagined the book would become such a runaway best-seller.

Why does this book resonate so deeply with so many people? I decided to ask Dr. Chapman himself. He told me, “Our deepest emotional need is to feel loved by the significant people in our lives. If we feel loved by those people, life is beautiful. But if we feel, ‘my spouse doesn’t love me,’ or ‘my parents don’t love me,’ life begins to feel kind of dark.”

The five love languages were born when, after many years of marriage counseling, Dr. Chapman concluded that there are five ways people perceive emotional love. These five “love languages” are:

  • Quality Time: Giving someone your undivided attention.
  • Acts of Service: Doing things for another person to lighten their load, such as washing dishes or vacuuming.
  • Physical Touch: Deliberate touch such as a back rub or a kiss; incidental touch such as sitting close to a person on the sofa.
  • Words of Affirmation: Compliments or words of appreciation, kindness or encouragement.
  • Gifts: Giving a purchased, found or handmade tangible token of love, or the intangible gift of your time.

Dr. Chapman says that each of us has one primary love language, one channel through which we hear “I love you” best. But – here’s the thing, and it’s a big thing – almost always, the person you marry does not perceive love in the same way you do. So, the key to making your spouse feel loved is learning to express love to them in their love language, not yours. This does not come naturally; just as it takes some work to learn to speak French or Mandarin, it takes practice to become “fluent” in your spouse’s love language.

Learning to express love in each other’s love language is a critical component of a happy marriage. Says Dr. Chapman, “If the emotional need for love is met, it’s much easier to work through conflicts and solve them. If we don’t feel loved, we’re far more likely to end up in arguments rather than looking for solutions.” That’s why it’s wise to learn the love language concept – that what makes one person feel loved does not make another person feel loved – before you say, “I do.”

Many engaged couples don’t realize that they will eventually come down off the emotional high of the “in love” experience. Dr. Chapman explained, “Many people think that if they’ve got the real thing, those feelings are going to last forever. But, the research is clear – the average is two years till they come down from that euphoric state.” At that point, he said, “…love has to become far more intentional because we’re not pushed along by those heavy, euphoric feelings for each other. But, if you speak each other’s love language, when you come down off the high, you hardly miss it because you still feel loved. Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language, I believe that you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage.”

So, where do you start?

One option, of course, is to read The 5 Love Languages® book together and take the quiz that helps you identify your primary love language. You can also be among the first to check out the newly launched Love Nudge,app, “the official mobile app of the five love languages.” You can read more about Love Nudge at or download it from the App Store or Google Play. Dr. Chapman describes it as “…a digital way to stay connected and keep the need for emotional love on the front burner of the relationship.” You can further expand your understanding of the five love languages with another of Dr. Chapman’s books that has helped many couples get off to a good start: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married(Northfield Publishing, 2010).

So, what makes you feel loved? What makes your future husband or wife feel loved? Discovering the answers to those questions may be the most important investment you’ll ever make in your relationship!