One evening an older couple sat together in their living room watching TV. During the commercial break, the woman looked over at her husband, and asked, “Honey, why don’t you ever tell me that you love me anymore?”
Completely missing the earnest look in her eyes and her slightly quivering bottom lip, he replied without much thought, “Well, I told you the day I married you, and if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.”
That is a joke that I often share when I work with couples. Instead of laughing, the couples look at me and nod their heads in agreement.
“Yes! That’s exactly what my husband thinks!”
“FINALLY! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell my wife all of these years.“
Then I’m met with two eager faces who want me to explain their side so their partner finally gets it.
It always breaks my heart when this topic comes up and I sense how much pain a couple has been in, patiently waiting for their partner to show them that they love them. But I always feel relieved because there are so many ways that their spouse is showing that they care, once they learn how to see and decode their actions. And that’s what I’m going to touch on today with you. 🙂
When it comes to love, there actually is a science that tells us quite a bit of things. For something as ambiguous as love, that can seem like a stretch. But really, there are some fascinating studies that show how our brains are impacted by the one we love- through touch, through a glance, through some type of contact or thought. The dopamine levels in your brain rise when you see the one you love. (Dopamine is your body’s happy hormone.) The oxytocin center lights up. (That’s the bonding and connection hormone.) It’s truly amazing to me. I just love this stuff!
But I digress. At this point, you probably aren’t so interested in the science, as much as why your partner just doesn’t seem to get what you’re trying to say when it comes to “I love you’s.”
You’re always communicating- whether or not you’re talking
The answer lies in “love languages.” There are some books written about this if you’d like to go a bit deeper, but essentially we all communicate and share messages. All of us. All of the time. “One can not NOT communicate.” We’re constantly sending messages to the world around us.
That is, if we know how to look for it.
Enter the five love languages:
- physical touch
- quality time
- acts of service
- receiving and giving gifts
- words of affirmation
Thanks to the golden rule, you’ve been programmed to treat others the way you want to be treated. So if your love language is words of affirmation, that means you say “I love you” a lot.
- It’s your love language.
- It’s how you want your partner to tell you that he loves you.
- And if you treat him how you want to be treated, you’ll get back “I love you’s” from him.
That last one is where it gets complicated and it’s a case of how the golden rule works against you. (Shh! Don’t tell your Sunday School teacher I said that. It’s still a good rule to live by!)
When you are constantly waiting for your partner to tell you that he loves you, you can miss all of the ways that he is constantly telling you how he feels- all because you so busy listening for those words, that you don’t consider the countless other ways he does express his love.
For instance, I’ve had couples where someone may not say “I love you” every day (or even every week), but they:
- Wash and put away laundry because their wife doesn’t like to do it. Acts of service
- Leave cards and post-it notes all over the house (on the pillow, on the steering wheel, on the bag of bread). Words of affirmation/receiving and giving gifts
- Cook dinner each evening because their wife doesn’t like it. Acts of service
- Rub her back when she’s not feeling good. Acts of service/physical touch
- Make an effort to call or text every day (even on the really busy, stressful days). Quality time
- Never have the phone around when it’s just the two of them. Quality time
Over the coming days, take some time to reflect on what your preferred love language is: both how you show that you care and how you would like to receive love from your partner. It may or may not be the same thing.
Then, reflect on their love languages, both in terms of how they show it and what they like to get back from you.
Next, make an effort to identify the ways they show you that they care.
And for the gold star, acknowledge what you notice them doing. Even if they are a bit bashful and embarrassed when you bring it up, do it anyway. This is new for both of you. But it will bring you to a new and deeper level of connection.