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Gary Chapman


Gary Chapman started his ministry with his first book, Toward a Growing Marriage which helped launch Gary’s popular "Toward a Growing Marriage" seminar series. Gary also has written the New York Times best-seller, The Five Love Languages (Northfield Publishing, 1992, 1995). Gary continues to broadcast his radio show called, "A Growing Marriage" that can be heard on more than 100 radio stations across the United States.

In addition to his speaking and writing ministry, Gary Chapman serves as a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Gary Chapman and his wife, Karolyn, have been married for more than 35 years and have two adult children along with grandchildren.

Dr. Chapman is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in anthropology from Wheaton College and Wake Forest University, respectively. He received M.R.E. and Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


November 2003

In this interview with reviewer Sean Fowlds, Chapman discusses material from his latest book, COVENANT MARRIAGE: Building Communication & Intimacy. With its release, Chapman is striving to help turn the tide of divorce within the church by advocating a commitment to covenant matrimony rather than a contract mentality. He is on a mission to maximize marriages, maintaining that communication and intimacy are the means to achieving marital bliss.

FR: What is a contract marriage?

GC: All marriages are a type of contract, but with the advent of prenuptial contracts and the like, people are carrying too much of a contract mentality into their marriages and it is an unhealthy one. For example, contracts are made for a limited time, deal with specific actions, based on conditions, motivated by the desire to get and are unspoken and implicit --- all of which are contrary to the marriage relationship.

FR: What are the characteristics of a covenant marriage?

GC: A covenant marriage, on the other hand, is one that reflects the moral commitment of the couple, not simply the legal one. A marriage centered on covenant is initiated for the benefit of the other person, founded on unconditional promises, based on steadfast love, views commitment as permanent and requires confrontation and forgiveness --- all of which is conducive to a growing marriage.

FR: How does communication contribute to greater intimacy?

GC: If two indeed are to become one, communication is a must. Communication fosters intimacy through requiring self-revelation and listening on the parts of both parties. While nonverbal communication has its place, it is verbal language that helps people understand each other. It is not safe to operate on assumptions in relationships, and good communication makes couples come together by closing the gap between a message and its meaning.

FR: What are the types of unhealthy communication patterns people use?

GC: I call them the four "fowls." The dove says, "I want peace at any price." The hawk says, "It's your fault." The owl says, "Let's be reasonable." And the ostrich says, "Ignore it and it will go away." While the patterns develop from our innate need to feel good about ourselves, they are detrimental to marital intimacy.

FR: What are the five levels of communication?

GC: The first and lowest level of communication is "hallway talk," which is largely rote and superficial. The second level is "reporter talk," which focuses on facts and logistics. The third level is "intellectual talk," which involves the sharing of thoughts and opinions. The fourth level is "emotional talk," which is based on feelings and emotions. The fifth and highest level of communication is "truth talk," which deals with speaking the truth in love.

FR: What role does self-understanding play in marriage?

GC: You cannot share with your spouse what you are not aware of yourself. People need to get in touch with their personal needs and learn to articulate them. With greater self-awareness, we are more fully prepared to share our lives with our spouses, to our mutual benefit.

FR: Do opposites attract or attack?

GC: There is a debate about whether opposites attract or attack, but for better or for worse, people tend to be attracted to people unlike them. With that said, it is not God's intention that differences be divisive so we need to learn how to accentuate the positive. While differences can be deadly, they can also be delightful, as they allow couples to experience a side of life they may not be exposed to otherwise.

FR: How critical is oneness with God to a couple's level of intimacy?

GC: One's relationship to God is the fundamental relationship in life and until it is in its proper place all others will be lacking. The mistake that many people make is trying to get fulfillment and satisfaction from their spouse that only God can give. We need to learn to live and let live, as we're all in process. It is helpful to give each other space to grow in God's likeness, which ultimately draws couples closer and increases intimacy.

FR: What is sexual oneness in marriage and how can a couple attain it?

GC: Sexual intimacy is never isolated, as it is tied to other types of intimacy. Sex is meant to be a celebration of a couple's oneness in other areas of life, not simply an act in and of itself. The common misconception that couples have about sex is that it is the source of satisfaction for the overall marriage. Sexual oneness can only be experienced through deep commitment, communication that supersedes performance, love and privacy.

FR: What are the methods for developing spiritual intimacy in marriage?

GC: Spiritual intimacy is a lifelong process and it can be continually strengthened through conversation, praying together, studying the Scriptures, serving God together and dreaming together.

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