Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Love As A Way Of Life

July 28, 2008

Gary Chapman’s book, "Love as a Way of Life," is being released nationally. He is a popular writer and speaker whose book, "The Five Love Languages," has reached a wide audience nationally and internationally.

The Five Love Languages. In his book, Chapman describes the emotional needs for love people have in their lives and the various ways these needs can be met. The five love languages are: "Words of Affirmation," "Quality Time," "Acts of Service," "Gifts," and "Physical Touch."

Chapman’s main thesis is that we have a preferred way of expressing love and being loved. Our preferred love language speaks more deeply and directly than the others and is more satisfying. Chapman feels each partner in a relationship needs to learn and meet the love language of his or her mate in the way he or she wants it met.

For example, one partner may consider acts of service to be his way of feeling loved. He assumes that his partner feels the same way. He goes out of his way to meet her needs and show love through acts of service.

This effort falls flat because the love language of his wife is that of words of affirmation. Until he learns to express his love in a way that helps her feel loved with words of affirmation, his acts of service, though special, fall short of his goal of helping her feel loved. His wife, in turn, needs to learn his love language is "acts of service" and go out of her way in that arena to help him feel loved.

Chapman’s book guides couples through the thicket of deciphering and understanding each other’s love languages and helps them to connect by applying this understanding. When marital partners learn to speak each other’s love language, if not natural, it is even a greater expression of love.

Love As a Way of Life. Through his work with couples, Chapman learned that not all people, armed with this knowledge of what pleases their spouse, are willing to show an attitude of concern and care. In other words, they aren’t motivated to love. They know what to do but choose not to.

Chapman set about to understand the characteristics of loving people who have an attitude of care and concern for others. He drew upon his experience as a marriage and family counselor, interviewed people, read the available research, examined religious teachings and practice and observed others in daily life.

He defines seven traits of a loving person that are the foundation for every language of love. To love effectively in any relationship, these seven qualities are used habitually in ordinary interactions and experiences in daily life. The ability to love is within our capability, permeates our attitudes and culminates in actions. Love is primarily an action.

The seven qualities of a loving person are 1) kindness, 2) patience, 3) forgiveness, 4) courtesy, 5) humility, 6) generosity, and 7) honesty.

Chapman has a chapter on each one of these qualities and offers practical steps on how to cultivate them in daily living. He also describes the emotions, weaknesses, or attitudes that fight against each particular quality. For example, Chapman describes how pride and self-righteous anger are at the root of impatience.

Chapman gives an interesting discussion on the role of honesty and truth in loving relationships and how honesty is expressed relates to each of the other qualities of a loving person. The attribute of courtesy relates to fundamental respect of others and the willingness to treat others as if they were friends.

When we are deficient in one of these seven traits, the potential for unloving actions exists. The good news is that every quality is built on small actions that can grow and blossom into love.

Inauthentic love. It is in service to others that we find true satisfaction. Chapman does his best in the opening chapter to convince the readers that true happiness in life comes from building genuine loving relationships and living a life filled with loving actions.

Chapman believes that too many people are misguided in their quest for wealth, fame, self-promotion, accomplishment, beauty, status and other forms of self-centered behavior. Ultimately, these things will leave them alone and empty. Their approach to life is about getting instead of giving. They often come across to others as self-serving, negative, restless or ready to attack or defend.

Feelings of infatuation, obsession and desire that accompany the beginnings of a relationship are interpreted as love. The average time line for these feelings to last is about two years. Approaching love on the basis of receiving love and defining it as a feeling makes it unreliable and fleeting.

From this perspective, relationships are discarded when they aren’t felt as intensely as in the beginning. When love is built on a foundation of loving actions emanating from the seven traits, it lasts.

Inspiring book. After reading this book, I felt inspired in very specific ways to be more loving in my actions. For those who are living loving lives, this book gives practical pointers on how to do it better. For those who find too much pain, emptiness or conflict in their lives, this book may serve as a wake up call that their goals and priorities are misplaced and that there is a practical pathway to a different and more joyful way of life.