Interview: Famed Author Gary Chapman Talks Love, Marriage, Sex

NASHVILLE – Dr. Gary Chapman, senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a popular marriage and relationships counselor recently shared with The Christian Post his views on what bugs married couples today, how best to make others feel loved, and why pastors should be talking about sex openly.

Chapman is the author of 27 books and five video series, including the extremely popular book on relationships, The Five Love Languages, which has been translated into over 36 languages. The government of Singapore invited him to present his marriage seminar there and the Chaplain's Office of NATO issued a special invitation for the minister to speak to the NATO forces in Germany. Other engagements have taken him to England, Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mexico and Hong Kong, says the minister's website.

Chapman and his wife, Karolyn, have two adult children and two grandchildren. CP caught up with the popular pastor at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this week.

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CP: How did you manage to identify the five "love languages?" How do you identify relationship problems in couples you talk to? Is the theory contained in your books based on your personal experience as well as that of others?

Chapman: I have been doing marriage counseling for about 15 years and I realized that what makes one person feel loved, doesn't make another person feel loved. I would sit in my office and one of them would say "I feel like he doesn't love me," and he (the other person) would say "I don't know what else to do. I do everything I ought to do." So I knew there was a pattern, but I didn't know what the pattern was. So what I did was sit down and go through 12 years of notes that I have made when I was counseling people, and ask myself the question "When someone said, 'I feel like my spouse doesn't love me,' what do they want? What are they complaining about?" And their answers fell into five categories. And I later called them the "five love languages."

CP: Have you had a lot feedback from your congregation?

Chapman: Every week when I leave marriage seminars I have couples come up and say: "We were that close to a divorce, someone gave us a copy of your book, The Five Love Languages – absolutely saved our marriage." I think people desperately want to feel loved. When you're married, the person you would most like to love you is your spouse. And if you feel loved by your spouse, the world looks bright. But if the love tank is empty and you don't feel loved by your spouse, the world begins to look dark. And I think this book has helped couples to reconnect with each other and keep emotional love alive in a relationship.

CP: What are some of the main issues troubling couples nowadays that are just currently emerging, in your opinion?

Chapman: I think that in today's world, by nature, we are all self-centered. And that often leads to selfishness. And I have [encountered] relationships with the attitude "What am I going to get out of this?" and "If I'm not getting anything out of it, then I tend to let the relationship go."

In reality, relationships that are successful tend to take the attitude: "How can I help you?" "How can I enrich your life?" "How can I be a better husband to you," if it's a marriage. "How can I be a better wife to you?" And what we want to do is to enhance each other's lives. If you do that, you both become winners; you are both reaching out to each other. But if you demand something of the other person, they tend to draw back. And we tend to either expect or demand things of people. And people pull away from us, and that's why I think some of the relationships fail. It's because, essentially, they don't have the attitude of love. Love is reaching out to try to get to the other person.

CP: Mark Driscoll of Seattle-based Mars Hill church has recently joined the ranks of megachurch pastors who have written very honest, open books about sex. Do you think sex is a topic that is not talked about enough within churches and are books the best way to have this debate (which would seem a bit one-sided) with the congregation, or should pastors talk more openly about sex from the pulpit?

Chapman: Sex originated with God, not Hollywood. It was God's idea to make us male and female. And God's the one that instituted marriage. God also laid down the principles and guidelines for our sexuality and I think that's the problem. In our culture, when you walk away from God and you choose to believe that we are simply creatures of chance, [that] we just happened to come by evolution and there is no God, there is no standard. There is no right, there is no boundaries; everything goes. Then what happens is we pervert sex and it becomes painful and hurtful.

But if you understand that God made us sexual for two or three purposes – one, obviously, for reproduction. The human race could not go on without reproduction; and marriage creates the most secure environment in which to raise children. But the scriptures also indicate that the sexual part of the marriage is to be a pleasurable thing as well; not simply for reproduction. We are to pleasure each other. It is, in essence, another expression of love, a deep expression of love. And in fact the scriptures say that in the sexual act the husband and wife become one flesh – that's the biblical wording. It speaks of deep, deep intimacy. There is a bonding that takes place when a husband and wife have a sexual intercourse. And I think that's why God reserved it for marriage – it's a deep bonding experience.

Many researches are indicating that when we have multiple partners before marriage, and that bonding is broken and broken and broken, then we get into marriage, and we've created a pattern in our life, and we are far less likely to be committed to each other. So I think the whole pattern of sexual intimacy in marriage was God's idea, and the Bible has an awful lot to say about it.

Christian books have been out for years talking about this topic; many pastors might have not utilized those books or talked about these books, but Christian counselors have been talking about the sexual part of marriage for a long, long time.

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