Dr. Chapman’s own life experiences, plus more than 35 years of pastoring and marriage counseling, led him to publish The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Many of the millions of readers credit this continual New York Times bestseller with saving their marriages by showing them simple and practical ways to communicate love. Dr. Chapman has expanded his 5 Love Languages series with special editions that reach out specifically to singles, men, and parents of teens and young children. He is the author of numerous other books including Anger, The Family You’ve Always Wanted, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted,and Desperate Marriages. Chapman also speaks to thousands of couples nationwide through his weekend marriage conferences.
Keeping the Love Tank FullAdapted excerpt from chapter 2 of The 5 Love Languages®
Love is the most important word in the English language—and the most confusing. Both secular and religious thinkers agree that love plays a central role in life. Love has a prominent role in thousands of books, songs, magazines, and movies. Numerous philosophical and theological systems have made a prominent place for love.
Psychologists have concluded that the need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. For love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, traverse desert sands, and endure untold hardships. Without love, mountains become unclimbable, seas uncrossable, deserts unbearable, and hardship our lot in life.
The purpose of this book is not to eliminate all confusion surrounding the word love but to focus on that kind of love that is essential to our emotional health. Child psychologists affirm that every child has certain basic emotional needs that must be met if he is to be emotionally stable. Among those emotional needs, none is more basic than the need for love and affection, the need to sense that he or she belongs and is wanted. With an adequate supply of affection, the child will likely develop into a responsible adult. Without that love, he or she will be emotionally and socially challenged.
I liked the metaphor the first time I heard it: “Inside every child is an ‘emotional tank’ waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank.’” I was listening to Dr. Ross Campbell, a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of children and adolescents.
As I listened, I thought of the hundreds of parents who had paraded the misdeeds of their children through my office. I had never visualized an empty love tank inside those children, but I had certainly seen the results of it. Their misbehavior was a misguided search for the love they did not feel. They were seeking love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways.
The emotional need for love, however, is not simply a childhood phenomenon. That need follows us into adulthood and into marriage. The “in-love” experience temporarily meets that need, but it is inevitably a quick fix and, as we shall learn later, has a limited and predictable life span.
After we come down from the high of the “in-love” obsession, the emotional need for love resurfaces because it is fundamental to our nature. It is at the center of our emotional desires. We needed love before we “fell in love,” and we will need it as long as we live.
The need to feel loved by one’s spouse is at the heart of marital desires. A man said to me recently, “What good is the house, the cars, the place at the beach, or any of the rest of it if your wife doesn’t love you?” Do you understand what he was really saying? “More than anything, I want to be loved by my wife.” Material things are no replacement for human, emotional love. A wife says, “He ignores me all day long and then wants to jump in bed with me. I hate it.” She is not a wife who hates sex; she is a wife desperately pleading for emotional love.
Our Cry for Love
Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments. At the heart of humankind’s existence is the desire to be intimate and to be loved by another. Marriage is designed to meet that need for intimacy and love. That is why the ancient biblical writings spoke of the husband and wife becoming “one flesh.” That did not mean that individuals would lose their identity; it meant that they would enter into each other’s lives in a deep and intimate way.
But if love is important, it is also elusive. I have listened to many married couples share their secret pain. Some came to me because the inner ache had become unbearable. Others came because they realized that their behavior patterns or the misbehavior of their spouse was destroying the marriage. Some came simply to inform me that they no longer wanted to be married. Their dreams of “living happily ever after” had been dashed against the hard walls of reality. Again and again I have heard the words “Our love is gone; our relationship is dead. We used to feel close, but not now. We no longer enjoy being with each other. We don’t meet each other’s needs.” Their stories bear testimony that adults as well as children have “love tanks.”
Could it be that deep inside hurting couples exists an invisible “emotional love tank” with its gauge on empty? Could the misbehavior, withdrawal, harsh words, and critical spirit occur because of that empty tank? If we could find a way to fill it, could the marriage be reborn?
With a full tank would couples be able to create an emotional climate where it is possible to discuss differences and resolve conflicts? Could that tank be the key that makes marriage work?
Those questions sent me on a long journey. Along the way, I discovered the simple yet powerful insights contained in this book. The journey has taken me not only through years of marriage counseling but into the hearts and minds of hundreds of couples throughout America. From Seattle to Miami, couples have invited me into the inner chamber of their marriages, and we have talked openly. The illustrations included in this book are cut from the fabric of real life. Only names and places are changed to protect the privacy of the individuals who have spoken so freely.
I am convinced that keeping the emotional love tank full is as important to a marriage as maintaining the proper oil level is to an automobile. Running your marriage on an empty “love tank” may cost you even more than trying to drive your car without oil. What you are about to read has the potential of saving thousands of marriages and can even enhance the emotional climate of a good marriage. Whatever the quality of your marriage now, it can always be better.
Book Title: The 5 Love Languages
Author: Gary Chapman
ISBN: 9780802412706 | $15.99 PB | Northfield Publishing
This excerpt adaptation from THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES (©2015) by Gary Chapman has been reprinted with permission of Northfield Publishing. All rights reserved.