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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 21, 2005

The languages of love

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Nikki Debebar enjoys getting a massage from her fiance, Shane Tam, as their 3-year-old daughter, Jazlynn Tam, plays in their home in Kapolei.

Andrew Shimabuku | The Honolulu Advertiser


The five ways people communicate and understand love, from "The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate" by Gary Chapman. The author has been a marriage counselor for more than three decades.

1. Words of affirmation

Some people appreciate words of affirmation such as compliments or encouraging messages. These could be spoken or written.

2. Quality time

Spending quality time with a loved one is important and effective when both give undivided attention to the other and engage in sympathetic dialogue.

3. Gifts

Gifts are visual symbols of love that can be store-bought or handmade. They never have to be expensive

4. Acts of service

Do something your loved one would appreciate as an act of service. This could be anything from cooking a meal to washing the dishes — a way to "serve" the other person.

5. Physical touch

For some, physical touch expresses love. These lovers enjoy hugging, snuggling, kissing and holding hands.

Ann and Peter Millard of Diamond Head were married for nearly 15 years before learning about the five love languages through Gary Chapman's book.

Shane Tam knows how much his fiancee, Nikki Debebar, loves to go out on dates.

So at least twice a month, they plan a night out, just the two of them. They find a baby sitter for their 3-year-old daughter and head to the movies or to dinner for some quality couple time.

It's one way Tam shows Debebar how much he loves and appreciates her.

"She works full time, and she's always doing something around the house," said Tam, 24, an electrician apprentice. "So a little break for her is always nice."

Tam has found a way to speak Debebar's "love language." It's a way of communicating that helps them give and receive love.

The concept that everyone speaks different emotional love languages comes from the best-selling book "The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate" by Gary Chapman.

A marriage counselor for more than three decades, Chapman has concluded that basically, there are five ways people communicate and understand love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

For Debebar, togetherness is tops on her list.

"It's so important," said Debebar, a 22-year-old operations manager at Pacific Marketing Corp. "Seriously, a lot of times you get caught up in the day-to-day routine ... Sometimes you just need to break it, to go out and talk about the last two weeks. We can have a four-hour conversation over cocktails."

Identifying and learning how to speak your mate's primary love language is one key to sustaining a long-lasting, loving marriage, Chapman writes.

According to the book, each person has a primary love language. This is how that person wants to be and feel loved.

Tam, for example, appreciates words of affirmation. He feels loved whenever Debebar leaves love notes that say "Have a nice day" or "I love you" on the bathroom mirror in the morning.

Knowing how to speak each other's primary love language is one way to keep the "love tank" full, Chapman writes: "Keeping the emotional love tank full is as important to a marriage as maintaining the proper oil level is to an automobile."


Peter and Ann Millard of Diamond Head were married for nearly 15 years before learning about the five love languages.

They came across Chapman's book when they owned a Christian bookstore on Orcas Island, Wash., before moving back to Hawai'i.

And though the Millards already had a loving relationship, realizing the importance of speaking their mate's love language only made their marriage — for both, a second one — stronger.

"It's made us more aware of the fact that the other person has different needs or ways of expressing love," said Ann Millard, 66, retired teacher. "We found it enlightening."

"We had a fine marriage anyway," added Peter Millard, 72, a retired teacher. "But this was revolutionary to us."

So revolutionary, in fact, the couple had to pass it on.

They bought copies of Chapman's book and gave it to family and friends. They taught the relationship benefits to their two sons and daughters, both from previous marriages. Then they took it public.


For eight years, they ran free workshops based on the concept for Youth With a Mission in Kona. They've also taught the course in schools, at churches and at camps.

That's when they realized that the concept of love languages wasn't exclusive to couples. It could be applied to any relationship: parent to child, sibling to sibling, friend to friend, boss to employee.

And your love languages can also change as you progress through life.

A teenager might value gifts. But as she gets older and acquires more responsibilities, she might begin to appreciate quality time instead.


Soon after Eric and Dalene Stasak were married, the couple signed up for one of the Millards' sessions in Kona.

What they learned in class — and about each other — completely changed their relationship.

"It was a heads-up for us," said Eric Stasak, 42, a money manager now living in Vancouver, Wash. "And it was just really, really powerful."

His primary love language is acts of service; hers is receiving gifts.

And because gifts are low on his list, he never bothered with them. And that frustrated his wife.

"When we were first married, I knew he wasn't into gifts that much," said Dalene Stasak, an at-home mother of two. "For me, it's the little things that are really important. In the beginning even birthday presents were a stretch (for him). Now he does really sweet things."

Like when he went to Germany, leaving her home alone with their two kids, and planned an itinerary for the 12 days he would be gone.

One day her girlfriend would pick her up for lunch. Another day he provided tickets to a play. Another day a massage therapist came over to give her a rub-down while the kids were asleep. Baby sitters were all planned in advance.

"That was so over-the-top," gushed Dalene Stasak. "That was really, really cool."

But for Eric Stasak, it's the simple, daily things his wife does that makes him feel loved. Like when she brings him coffee in the morning to his office above the garage.

He sees the concept of love languages as the Golden Rule in reverse.

"It's not 'do unto others as you would want them to do unto you,'" Eric Stasak said. "It's 'Do unto others as they would want you to do unto them.' I can do acts of service all day for Dalene and she won't get it. I needed to find out what works for her ... It's become a very strong tool in our toolbox for our relationship."

Correction: Comments about togetherness made by Nikki Debebar in a previous version of this story were incorrectly attributed to her fiance, Shane Tam. Debebar is a 22-year-old operations manager at Pacific Marketing Corp., not Tam.