Backstory Book Review: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I was meeting with Nai at the MoJoe Lounge in the Short North to discuss some Spirit Syrup business. It was the weekend after The Kid’s 16th birthday weekend. Somehow I ended up telling her about the “incident” and how it changed how I looked at my son. Then she asked a serious question:

“Do you think he would really do that?”

Um… what? The question caught me by surprise. He deserved a crack upside the head with a broomstick, but in my compassion, I refrained. I was reveling in my mommy rightness and how he was being a teenaged jerk just because he could. I was wronged. Couldn’t she see that?

“I don’t think so, but it was the fact that he even said it, that he had to go to that length, while I was sitting there to try to be right,” I pleaded. “I’m his mother!”

She looked at me in that patient way and shook her head. She understood. Really she did, but some of this wasn’t even about The Kid. It was about me.

“It sounds like there’s something bigger going on than what he said,” she responded.

I had to sit with that for a minute and feel it. The truth came to me, but it was ugly and felt like sandpaper on my eyeballs.

“It made me feel like I failed as a mother in teaching him how to be compassionate and think about other people’s feelings sometimes, not just his,” I finally croaked. “It made me look at myself and wonder what I didn’t do or what I showed him over the years for him to think ‘win at all costs’.”

We talked some more and she suggested that I read Love Languages by Gary Chapman. She said it would help me identify how to understand and love The Kid and in other relationships as well.

“I’ll think about it,” I thought. In my mind I was grumbling because instead of “No he didn’t!”, I was forced to look at a truth that I honestly wasn’t ready to confront. But when are we ever ready to confront the moldy, smelly, Davey-Jones’-locker parts of our lives?

Some days later after I licked my wounds, I reserved the book and started reading.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman


First off, it was an easy read: 169 pages of text in a manageable font size for the sorta blind like me. Chapman gets right to the point. He briefly goes into how some marriages start to fall apart after the “I do” because we’ve left the in-love stage. Basically, we stop being the on-point living room versions of ourselves and fall back into the cozy kitchen versions. If our partners haven’t seen that aspect of us, it can wreck emotional havoc on them and us.

He moves right into the five love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, receiving gifts and quality time. Through couples he’s counseled over the years, he gives poignant examples of the different ways couples can learn to revitalize a marriage on the rocks. The end of the book has frequently asked questions and profiles for men and women to take to discover their primary love language and that of their partner.

I give the book 4.5 starts simply because all of the stories have a happy ending. Maybe I’m slightly cynical, but I’d like to know how someone fared who wasn’t able to necessarily save their marriage or relationship, but used these new language skills successfully in a new relationship.

Despite all the happy endings, I liked the book. It helped me understand some things about my relationship with The Hero and also how to determine the languages of The Kid and The Girl. If you’re struggling to love someone, I would suggest checking out one of the Love Language series books. Even if everything is rainbows and fairy dust, there’s valuable information that can help strengthen your current relationships.


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