When the bookThe Five Love Languageshit the shelves of American bookstores for the first time,in 1992,the world was different. In the United States,Bill Clintonand George W. Bush competed for the presidency of theRepublic, a contest that would mark the victory of the Democratic Party after years marked by republican governments. Around here, then President Fernando Collor faced the process that would result in impeachment. The internet would still take three years to reach the public, and the majority of millennials – who now dominate the job market – were school-age children.
Thirty years later, the theory developed by Baptist pastor Gary Chapman, based on his experience in pastoral counseling for couples,has already appeared several times on thebest-sellers list of The The New York Times,won reports in the largest international vehicles and won the public’s favor in the form of the infamous internet tests. “What is your partner’s love language?”, “What is your language?”, search internet users. As a result,“The Five Languages of Love”, translated into Portuguese by Mundo Cristão,reached the mark of 20 million copies sold worldwide. A rare editorial success to go far beyond the borders of time and the gospel market.
Presenter of the radio show AGrowingMarriage(“A marriage in development”, in free translation), played in hundreds of American radio stations, Chapman has already been received by the star ofshow businessOprah Winfrey and recommended by the winner of the last edition of Big Brother Brazil, the singer Juliette. What, after all, is so innovative in your work? In short, the pastor proposes that people tend to express and understand displays of affection in five different ways, with one as “dominant”. Maintaining a healthy relationship, therefore, implies recognizing your ownlanguage and that of the partner – the options are: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts and physical touch – and, thus, striving to “speak the language” of the other and shape their own expectations. His newest book, also about relationships, “Comunicação e Intimidade” (Editora Mundo Estranho), has just arrived in Brazilian bookstores. In this exclusive interview withGazeta do Povo, the author talks about the languages of affection in the internet age.
Three decades have passed since the release of “The Five Languages of Love” and the book remains a success, even outside of Christian environments. To what do you attribute this popularity?
I think it’s because one of our deepest emotional needs is to feel loved by the important people in our lives. If we are married, the most meaningful relationship is with our spouse. When couples read the book, take the test and learn each other’s love language and begin to express themselves through it, the spouse reports that they feel loved. So, they recommend the book to all their friends and talk about it. Basically, it was an international “word of mouth”.
It can be said that this book has passed through the hands of at least two generations: couples who have were adults in the decade of 30 when it was released,andthe “millennials”, who reach the 30 years with the book. Have you noticed any changes in the reception of the public? Are there differences in the questions and difficulties reported in relation to relationships?
The book sells more with each passing year, and that has been three decades. So obviously it’s still helping couples regardless of age. I revised it a bit along the way to include the increasing use of technology.
Is the prevalence of certain “love languages” generational?
I think not. I think whatever our age, we have a primary love language. It is neither generational nor gender specific.
To what extent has the internet impacted affective communication? I realize, for example, that it is common to measure the relationship of others by the number of photos posted on Instagram. What “love language” would that be?
I think the internet can be as useful as it is harmful for communication. Useful in that it allows us to easily arrive with an affirmative word or photos. It’s harmful if we spend all our time “online” playing video games or seeing what friends have posted, and we don’t pay enough attention to our spouse. When we’re apart,Facetime, for example,allows us to see each other while we talk. This is especially meaningful for someone who has ‘quality time’ as their love language.
As for your example of posting photos on Instagram – if it is meaningful to a spouse or close friend , my guess is that your love language would be receiving gifts. The photo reads: “They were thinking about me while we were apart.”
Research shows that Generation Z, the “digital natives” who are beginning to reach the adult stage, they are dating less and less: literally, they go out less, start dating later and have no intention of getting married. To what do you attribute this transformation?
I think this trend is that we are becoming more and more isolated from each other, whichis an indicatorof egocentrism . We are thinking more and more about what we want to do; what will make us happy, instead of seeking to love others.
As for living together before marriage– which,again,is rooted in selfishness -, it is aboutwanting to have sexual pleasure without commitment. All research indicates that this is ultimately not helpful. When these couplesdecideto get married, their divorce rate is higher than couples who did not cohabit. However, most of them do not marry and change from partner to partner, which makes them extremely lonely and often depressed. I think this self-centered lifestyle explains a lot of this generation’s loneliness and depression.
Is intimacy getting harder? Do you believe that the internet age makes it difficult to simply cultivate that particular interior space? How to get that back?
We have become“entertainment focused”. We spend our time online or watching television, movies, sports, etc., where we are observers of life, rather than looking to build meaningful relationships. When the focus of life is to be happy, we will only find momentary emotional highs, which leads to going from one peak after another, usually including the consumption of narcotics.
The way back is realize that the greatest meaning of life is not in the pursuit of pleasure, wealth or accumulation of things. It is found in relationships. (I believe first of all in a relationship with God. Then with others.) The answer lies in the option of acting out of love – seeking to enrich the lives of others; as opposed to selfishness. The most satisfied people in the world are those who invest their lives in loving – serving others.
Around the world, divorces have increased in the pandemic. Who survived this “wave”? Were marriages that bad?
My observation is that those who had a pretty healthy marriage actually thrived during the pandemic. Those who have already had a broken marriage got worse whenthey found themselves “stuck”at home. They never learned how to resolve conflicts or choose an attitude of love,how to learn to speak each other’s love language. So they take what seemed like the easiest step and get divorced. In reality, divorce creates a whole set of additional problems and solves nothing. The hard work ofself-examination, apologizing for our own shortcomings, and forgiving each other opens the door to positive change.
Love languages work for other forms of relationship? I ask because, in Brazil, we are about to start an election year and the dispute promises to be even more fierce than it was in the United States last year.
I think the concept of love languages works in all human relationships. I wrote a book: “The Five Languages of Personal Appreciation at Work”, which takes the concept of love languages to the work environment. I use the wordappreciationinstead of love, but it’s the same basic emotional need – to feel that my co-workers value me as a person. I’m not just a cog in a machine.
As for the election year. What happened in American culture is tragic. We have moved from trying to understand each other and working together to an attitude of seeking to destroy those with whom we have failed. It is the total absence of love. It is selfishness at its worst. It pits one group against the other. It’s actually a civil war, rather than looking for a way to make people rich. We are treating people as if we are all wild animals rather than humans made in the image of God. Selfishness will never build unity.
The most powerful force in the world for good is love. Love stimulates love. Someone must begin the process by loving those who are not loving them. When we do, we can rebuild civility. If we don’t, we will eventually destroy each one and thus self-destruct our civilization. I don’t believe this is what any of us really want for generations to come. So my challenge for all of us is to choose a lifestyle based on an attitude of love that asks every day, “What can I do today to make life better for someone else?” A life of love will bring light to darkness. Thus, I try to do my part in promoting love.
In “The Five Languages of Love”, I focus on the marital relationship. I believe that if we can help couples learn and speak each other’s love language, they can have the marriage they dreamed of. Every healthy marriage creates the best home for children. If we are going to change a nation forever, I believe that everything starts with learning to love in the family.