“Why Is It…?” was designed by Dr. Steiner to address readers’ questions about human behavior from a social psychological perspective in order to inform and stimulate dialogue about the ways in which our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are influenced by the presence of other people. Dr. Steiner holds a Ph.D. in Applied Social Psychology. In addition to working as a university professor over the last 15 years, she conducts individual and group consultations in matters of social relationships and behavior. Readers are invited to submit their questions anonymously in one paragraph or less to Dr. Steiner at [email protected].
Q: Why is it that my husband doesn’t tell me he loves me as much as I tell him? He comes home every night and does things for me, so I suppose he does love me. I just wonder why he rarely tells me in his own words.
A: Your question targets a frequently raised topic in the context of close relationships and has to do with how humans express love for one another. In part, the distinction in how frequently one says “I love you” to their intimate partner is a function of gender roles. On average, females feel far more comfortable than males using verbal expressions to communicate their love. However, just because males are less likely to say they love their partners does not mean that they feel less love than their female counterparts.
The fact is that humans communicate their love for one another in a variety of ways – with the statement “I love you” representing only one of many. In fact, according to some researchers, spoken expressions may represent only 20 percent of the methods used to communicate feelings of love. The remaining 80 percent may be implied non-verbally, by way of behaviors, as opposed to direct statements.
In a thoughtful analysis of this principle, Gary Chapman wrote a book, entitled “The Five Love Languages,” where he describes and gives examples of five essential languages (methods) we use to “tell” others that we love them. Perhaps the best way to address your question is to describe these five approaches with the realization that each constitutes a valid and sincere expression of love.
Some people will use words to communicate their love (as in your case), expressing love through spoken words of affirmation and affection. In addition to statements such as “I love you,” people may also say nice things such as, “you’re beautiful, wonderful, and I couldn’t live without you.” This direct and verbal approach clearly and explicitly lets us know how they feel.
Another form of communicating love comes in the form of gift-giving. These individuals show their love for others by offering symbols or tokens of their affection. They may surprise their loved ones with unexpected purchased or hand-made objects of their loved one’s desire. The expression comes in the form of “presents” rather than “words”– but the underlying intent is still an expression of love.
Others express affection by the allotment of quality-time spent with their loved ones. There’s a saying that goes, “you can tell what one’s priorities are by how they spend their time.” This sentiment exemplifies this method. When one devotes their time to your companionship – it’s an expression of love, devotion and commitment. I once had to wait one-hour for an appointment and asked a friend if she would like to hang-out with me just to “kill the time” – to which she replied, “with you, I live the time – not kill it.” This response warmed my heart beyond measure.
Still others express their love though acts of service by “doing things” for their loved ones as caring gestures. For example, my mother routinely bakes sweets for my husband or folds my laundry when I’m too busy – thereby showing us how much she cares. Perhaps your husband warms up your car and clears it of snow to make your day easier – all without being asked.
And finally, many communicate their love through expressions of touch. As a child, my grandmother always held my hand without saying a word. Now, if my husband holds my hand, I regard it as a welcome gesture of love because of the memories it triggers from my early childhood.
As you can see, there are many ways that we communicate love. However, it’s essential that we not only recognize what love language we speak and respond to – but perhaps more importantly – what language our loved ones speak and respond to. Too often, when we communicate in the language we speak ourselves, our partners do not respond as expected because they speak love in a different language.
In order to touch the heart of those we love, we must learn what resonates with our loved ones and aspire to become multi-lingual in the language of love. I suspect, that if you were to really think about it, you would find that your husband probably “tells” you that he loves you everyday.