Cultivating a Healthy Marriage | Advice from the author of The 5 Love Languages
Updated: Oct 13
The wedding is only the beginning; even better is the forever that follows. Marriage is a journey and understanding how to show love to your spouse is a crucial step. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the best seller, The 5 Love Languages® , graciously shared a few pieces of advice with us.
1. Tell us about you and your own love story!
I knew Karolyn for many years because we grew up in the same area, and attended the
same church. We were friends but not interested in dating. Then one day, while home from college for a semester break, we both saw each other and sparks began to fly. We had a long-distance relationship for a few years, and kept in touch by writing letters (a lost art today). After I finished school, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and she felt the same towards me. We married, and moved away from home so I could attend graduate school.
The first few years were rough because we didn’t have the benefits of pre-marital
counseling and had to work our way through many struggles. One thing that stood out
in my mind is that we were two selfish people trying to establish our marriage without
any understanding of what it takes to make a relationship work for each other. After a
while I became very frustrated with her, and she with me. I sat down one day with pen
and paper and started writing out all the things I liked about her and what I didn’t like,
and I could see that she was the one for me but I needed to find a way to get on the
right track. I decided to pray and ask the Lord to help me understand my role as a
husband and how I could improve our situation. His answer was simple and clear that
day as He gave me the image of Christ washing the feet of His disciples. Serving others.
Now I knew my wife wasn’t interested in me washing her feet, but I quickly realized from
that example that I needed to discover what she needed most from me. I began asking
her how I could make life better for her every day, and she began to tell me the things
that mattered most to her, and I did my best to do them. It wasn’t long after that I
noticed she was asking me the same things, and looking for ways to make my life
easier. Together we found that serving each other, putting each other’s needs before
our own, was what improved the emotional climate in our relationship.
Because of those difficult years that we experienced in our marriage, I began to invest
time in doing research on marriage and family relationships, and I’ve dedicated my life
to teaching others how they can have strong, healthy relationships.
2. What made you decide to write the book? How has it impacted your life?
I finished my degrees and began counseling couples who were struggling in their
marriage. After listening to them describe the issues they were having, I began to see a
pattern develop that revealed this: even though many couples were truly in love with
each other they were unable to communicate how to make the other partner feel loved.
Curious about what would make someone feel loved, I began to look at twelve years of
notes I had taken during counseling sessions. As I studied those notes I began to see
that there were five categories for expressing love that seemed to be the answer for
couples who were looking for ways to improve their relationship. I called them the five
love languages, and later wrote about them in the book, The 5 Love Languages.
My own marriage has been blessed in amazing ways over the past 50 years as my wife
and I have purposed to love each other by using the concept I discovered.
3. What are some ways that newlyweds can implement the principles in the book in
their new chapter together?
My first recommendation for newlyweds is to encourage them to take the quiz that I
developed that helps couples discover they own love languages. Everyone has a
primary love language, and then the rest follow in order of importance to them. After
taking the quiz, they should take time to share with their answers with each other and
discuss ways to live out what they’ve learned in sincere, everyday practices. They can
learn a deeper description of each love language, and examples from other couples by
reading The 5 Love Languages® as a couple, and discussing portions of it as they read
through the book.
4. What is your favorite piece of marriage advice?
My favorite piece of advice I give to couples is to be a life-long student of your spouse
and don’t ever stop looking for ways to make them feel loved. And it’s important for
them to express love in ways that clearly communicates they are loved, in their primary
5. Could you explain the book’s premise in a few words?
We all have a basic need to feel loved, and what we want most in life is to be loved by
the person we’re married to. The key to a happy, long-lasting marriage is discovering
each spouse’s primary love language and learning to speak it to them, and the rest of
them in order of importance. The book is meant to improve the emotional climate of a
marriage and help couples have a deeper, more meaningful love relationship.
6. Tell us about how you got to know Christ.
At the age of 12, I realized the message of the gospel was meant for me. I knew I was
a sinner and needed to surrender my life to Christ. I became a Christ follower that day.
7. How can our walk with Jesus affect our marriage and vice versa?
Our walk with Christ is first and foremost everyday. After that comes other
relationships, and for married couples, it is the relationship with their spouse. Knowing
Christ and following His example as a humble Servant, seeking to show His love and
grace, is what sets the standard for us to faithfully serve each other. When we surrender
our sinful hearts, and exchange it for His grace, goodness, etc., then we can give
ourselves fully to loving each other, in His strength. Loving our spouse unconditionally
just as He loves us is what makes our relationship with Him flourish.
– Dr. Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages® , www.5lovelanguages.com