[Editor's note: It was his own marriage of 40+ years—plus 35 years of pastoring and marriage counseling—that led Dr. Gary Chapman to publish his first book, The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment To Your Mate. It went on to become a best seller, and as a widely-respected expert on love and relationships, he's sharing his relationship wisdom right here with YourTango.]
YourTango: What are you currently working on right now? Have any exciting news to share?
Dr. Chapman: My new book, The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, just released this month and I'm excited to share this message with military families. Sadly, the divorce rate among military couples is very high. My hope is that it will help strengthen good marriages, improve mediocre marriages, and redirect the ones that are fractured and struggling with issues that relate to their life as they serve our country.
YourTango: What was the last thing you did to show your wife that you love her?
Dr. Chapman: I was leaving for a business trip and would be gone for several days. Before I left, I made a point to take out the trash so my wife wouldn't have to do this in my absence. You say, "take out the trash, why is that a loving thing to do?" Well, my wife's love language is Acts of Service, and in her mind this is a very loving and thoughtful thing to do, and she appreciates me taking care of it for her. Making the effort to do this and other things that are important to her fills her love tank, and I leave for my trip knowing my wife is happy.
YourTango: What's the best love advice you ever heard?
Dr. Chapman: Before I discovered the concept of the 5 love languages, a bit of advice I was given was to become a student of my wife and to take time to learn what makes her feel loved. I soon learned that what makes her feel loved may not always be the thing I want to do because it may not come natural to me. But learning to love her in the way that makes her feel loved is a greater demonstration of my love for her, because I've chosen to do it with a goal of pleasing her.
YourTango: How do you keep your relationship solid and happy?
Dr. Chapman: Many years ago, my wife and I made a commitment to keep the love alive in our marriage and one of the things we do to make that happen is we invest in our lives as a couple and individually. Every year, we make plans to attend a marriage enrichment event and we also choose to read a book together on the topic. This gives both of us a time to learn new things, like how to deal with conflicts in a constructive way. It opens the door for discussions about deeper issues that are on our hearts, and I'm referring to things that go beyond what we face on a daily basis, as well as showing us what we're doing that's right for our relationship.
One other thing is my wife and I make a point to set a date night on the calendar once a month and we don't let anything interfere with those plans. We usually choose a special place where we like to go for dinner or an event in our area, and we look forward to enjoying our time together. We might enjoy just being quiet or we may pick a topic that we like to discuss and spend time interacting with each other; this is not a time for bringing up difficult issues or resolving conflict. Our commitment to keeping a date night has become a special time we thoroughly enjoy and encourage others to do the same.
YourTango: What's your most romantic memory?
Dr. Chapman: About two years ago, my wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and it rocked our world. She began a round of chemotherapy that left her very ill, weak, and eventually she lost all her hair. My wife is a beautiful woman who lives life to the fullest, loving and caring for people, and she is my very best friend in this world. Seeing her suffer was the hardest thing I've faced in life and there wasn't anything I could do to relieve her from the effects of the treatment she was receiving. One day, I came home from work and I walked in our bedroom and saw her laying on the bed, feeling poorly, and at that moment I realized, in a deeper way than any time before, how my life has been blessed because of her and I would not be the man I am today without her. Nothing has ever been more romantic to me than that day when I recognized I am truly and deeply loved by a wonderful woman. She has made a remarkable recovery and doing well. Together, we say every day is romantic because every day is a precious gift!
YourTango: What's your tango?
Dr. Chapman: What energizes me is working with people as I have done for over 40 years in my counseling office and at the marriage seminars where I teach principles that help create healthy, loving, long-lasting relationships. I consider it a privilege to help people understand the positives and negatives within their relationship, and I have dedicated my career to help them start where they are at and learn what steps they can take that will move them forward in all their relationships. Keep reading...
More juicy content from YourTango: