Saying ‘I Love You’
When husbands and wives communicate their love for each other on a daily basis, they strengthen the foundation of their marriage.
The expression “I love you” contains only three words, but for some spouses, it is hard to articulate these words. One of my clients stated, “My spouse knows how I feel, why do I have to say it?”
Spouses are not mind readers and need to hear and be shown expressions of love. When I ask clients, “When was the last time you said, ‘I love you’ to your spouse?” some cannot remember.
Another client explained, “I don’t want to say “I love you” without meaning and feeling it, so if I don’t feel loving at that moment, then I will say nothing.” Since feelings can come and go based on our stress levels, busy lives, attention span, etc., I suggest to my clients that they express their love in some fashion on a daily basis.
Communicating our feelings is vital to marriage and relationships, but saying, “I love you” can be challenging for a variety of reasons. For example, sometimes we don’t say these three words because as children we didn’t hear them expressed in our home. If we didn’t hear “I love you” or other words of endearment aschildren, it is more difficult to say them as adults. Sometimes, we have been hurt by a past relationship and don’t want to risk being hurt again.
From a Kabbalistic perspective, women were given nine out of 10 measures of speech. Therefore, in general, it may be easier for women to verbalize their feelings.
Below are a few suggestions of expressions of love. I recommend picking one option and trying to perform the exercise at the end of the suggestion.
1. Expressing yourself nonverbally: Smile, hug or kiss. Today, I will _____ (fill in the blank) to demonstrate my loving feelings toward my spouse.
2. Performing actions: Helping your spouse with the children; calling (or texting) in the middle of the day statements such as “I love you,” “I miss you” or “I’m thinking of you”; making or buying his/her favorite food; writing your feelings in a card. Today, I will recognize _____ (one way) that my spouse expressed his/her love to me. Or, today, I will perform _____ (fill in the blank) to express my love toward my spouse.
3. Teaching by example: You verbalize to your spouse, “I love you,” which demonstrates how to communicate in a loving manner. Today, I will say _____ (fill in the blank) to express how I feel toward my spouse.
4. Listening without distractions: Turn off your cell phone when you are trying to have a conversation or spend time with your spouse. Today, I will listen and focus on my spouse for _____ (fill in the blank) (specify a certain amount of time, such as a half-hour).
5. Being appreciative: Recognizing one way your spouse has helped you or been thoughtful. Today, I will thank my spouse for _____ (fill in the blank).
6. Giving: Giving to a loved one promotes positive feelings. Giving does not necessarily mean a momentary gift, but giving of yourself or your time. Today, I will give to my spouse by _____ (fill in the blank).
If your spouse is not naturally verbally expressive, you may need to be patient and understanding as he/she discovers expressions of love. In the meantime, take the time to cultivate your marriage by saying “I love you” yourself.
Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and
exclude those in abusive relationships.