30 pages 1 hour read

Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1990

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Summary and Study Guide


Gary Chapman’s text on love and intimacy, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, was first published in 1992. Over the next three decades it would go on to be translated into dozens of different languages and sell more than 20 million copies worldwide. It is the first in what might be dubbed the “love language extended universe”; other titles by Chapman include The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages for Singles, among others. The Five Love Languages is one of the most popular books of the last 50 years to cover love and relationships. Stemming from his many years as a marriage and couples counselor, the text is based primarily in personal experience and case studies that bolster theoretical principles and suggestions. This study guide was written using the 2015 reprint edition by Northfield Publishing.


Throughout The Five Love Languages, Chapman aims to answer a single question: “why is it that so few couples seem to have found the secret to keeping love alive after the wedding?” (14). The book is divided into three major sections. The first three chapters make up the introduction, laying out fundamentals. The second section comprises the next five chapters, each of which discuss one of the five love languages in detail and use examples of real couples to illustrate practical implications of theoretical principles. The last five chapters make up the final section of the text, synthesizing the material that came before and addressing a number of obstacles that could occur within marriage. These problems could be solved (or at least softened) by employing the love languages with sincerity.

At the start, Chapman provides the working metaphor that will appear throughout the text: the emotional tank that we use to bank the love we receive from our spouse. The love languages are the means by which we fill our spouse’s emotional tank and assure them of our continued and lasting love. These languages are especially important when we move past the euphoric feelings of love that characterize the start of any romantic attachment.

The first love language is “words of affirmation,” using our words to regularly affirm and encourage our spouse in the things they are good at or for which they need support. The second is “quality time,” wherein one feels most loved by the simple act of spending time together. While some may feel that the act of being together is not enough, one’s time is invaluable and a commodity that can never be regained.

The third love language, “receiving gifts,” is the easiest to learn fluently. All love is essentially an act of gift-giving. Sometimes the easiest way to express this is with a physical gift that can act as a tangible symbol of love. The fourth is “acts of service,” by which we demonstrate our love by accomplishing tasks that we know will assist our partner and make their life easier or more enjoyable. The final language is “physical touch,” perhaps the most universal of the languages.

The final section of the book focuses on the reader’s ability to discover their own love language and the reality that love is always a choice. Discovering one’s own primary love language is necessary to effectively and tactfully communicate needs and desires to one’s partner. When love becomes difficult, the reminder that love is a choice is of the utmost importance. We can choose to love our spouse even when they are temporarily unlovable or when we do not have the euphoric “in love” feelings.

While the book may serve as an academic work for counselors, anthropologists, or sociologists—especially in its recounting of case studies and personal anecdotes—Chapman reiterates that he wrote the book with real married people in mind. The text is meant to be a practical guide to help relationships flourish, using the five love languages to communicate love. The book concludes with a series of answers to frequently asked questions and a double questionnaire for readers to learn their own love languages.