Dr. Gary Chapman has been helping couples communicate for nearly three decades. His unique approach to expressing and experiencing love, as outlined in The 5 Love Languages®, has strengthened countless relationships by identifying specific ways individuals feel cherished. After selling millions of copies worldwide, The 5 Love Languages® has become one of the premier books for couples, parents, and singles.
Now, amid drastic changes to the American family caused by rising divorce and remarriage rates, Chapman is teaming up with marriage and family therapist Ron L. Deal on a new book. Publishing on February 5, Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart makes essential adaptations to The 5 Love Languages® while incorporating key principles from Deal’s Smart Stepfamily series, which is geared toward successfully blending families.
“Family stability touches everything in our society,” Chapman says. “But most relationship resources still assume the reader lives in a traditional family. That is not the case.”
Chapman and Deal discovered that 40% of couples with children are step-couples, and more than 113 million Americans have a step-relationship of some kind. The scarcity of resources for blended families, which face unique problems as they strive for unity and harmony, is one reason the divorce rate for couples in blended families is 10% to 25% higher than for couples in first marriages.
“This book is needed now more than ever,” Chapman says. “It speaks to what already is—and will increasingly continue to be—the norm in American families, and it does so with great understanding and insight into what actually takes place within the modern home.”
In addition to helping families formed after a divorce and remarriage, Building Love Together in Blended Families addresses challenges facing families after the death of a spouse or parent, as well as other relationship dissolutions. The book highlights key differences between blended families and what the authors call first, or biological, families, as well as ways to overcome challenging family dynamics such as pain from the past and loyalty to biological family members.
“Efforts at communicating love can backfire in blended families when well-intended adults apply the love language principles to their blended families as if they were a biological family,” says Deal, noting that even when a stepparent speaks the primary love language of a stepchild, he or she may not communicate love. “Just like walking up to a stranger at work and giving them a hug—the love language of physical touch— might result in a negative response from the person, giving a hug to a new member of your stepfamily might result in them pushing you away instead of welcoming you closer.”
Building Love Together in Blended Families also demonstrates that the five ways to express and experience love— receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch—can help bring blended families together but at a pace individuals can manage. “We saw the wisdom of a book that could get underneath the unique dynamics of blended family relationships and help couples and families build the family they dream about,” Deal says. “It shows people how to find the preferred love language of their partner, child, or family member and speak it in such a way as to truly touch their heart and make them feel loved.”
With so many nontraditional families in the U.S., Deal and Chapman say the book’s most important message is one of hope in the face of rejection. “Ron and I believe that the high percentage of blended families that call it quits simply didn’t have the tools they needed to combine their family,” says Chapman, who emphasizes that while all blended families are different, stability can be achieved through patience and perseverance.