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Husband Won't Say "I Love You"

Husband Won't Say "I Love You"

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Dear Rachel,

I have been married two years and my husband and I have a pretty good relationship but the one thing I find difficult is that he won’t tell me he loves me. He says he has a hard time saying it and it is just words, and that I should know he loves me without him needing to verbalize it. While I do know he loves me, I still feel the need to hear it, and it hurts that he can’t say it, even when it means so much to me. Am I making a big deal out of nothing or do I have the right to want my husband say that he loves me?

T.M.
NY, NY

Dear T.M.,

The situation you mention is unfortunately all too common. It is true that certain people have a hard time communicating in general, and this is especially so when it comes to stating words of love or endearment. However, it is simultaneously a very real need to hear such words. It is a great start that you know your husband loves you, but as you state, it is a different thing altogether to be told it and to hear the words spoken.

Now it is obviously important that one not just state such words, but actually mean them and show them. Clearly it is better to be shown love and witness acts of love rather than being told words of love that are empty. But that still does not take away the need or desire to hear the words along with witnessing their meaning in action.

The concept of needing to hear words of love is a legitimate and real need. And one that must be met. I've even heard it said that when a man says to a woman in Hebrew, “I love you,” Ani Ohev Otach, it is numerically equivalent to the phrase, Shechina Beineihem, that the Divine Presence dwells between them.

Chassidic philosophy teaches that it is considered more difficult for a man to state words of love than it is for a woman. Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean that all men have difficulty verbalizing their feelings and for all women it is easy. But from a Kabbalistic point of view, we are taught that of the ten measures of speech that were given, nine were given to women. This translates to the accepted belief that the male has a harder time verbalizing love. (And both men and women have both masculine and feminine traits, so a man who has the dominant feminine trait of communication will have an easier time sharing words of love, whereas a woman who has a more dominant masculine trait when it comes to communicating, will have a harder time stating such words…)

This being said, there is still no excuse for a man or woman to refuse to verbally share words of love. We see the importance of spoken communication while under the wedding canopy. When a couple is about to wed, the man must say, loud and clear, so that the witnesses may hear, Harei At Mekudeshet Li, “Behold you are betrothen unto me” which we are taught are considered words of love. The fact that he has to verbalize it, and the woman, for whom generally it is easier to speak, doesn’t say anything, teaches us that for a relationship to work, we must both be willing and able to do what does not come naturally to us, because it may be precisely what the other one needs.

In your particular situation, the lack of verbal reassurance of his love is something that the two of you should discuss, as he needs to be aware of how difficult it is for you when he won’t say “I love you.” Simultaneously, you should be sensitive to the fact that it is difficult for him to verbally express himself. Because of this, while it is important that he do so, you should be patient with him and appreciative when he does succeed. You should also try to find evidence of his love for you in his actions if not always in his words.

And do not wait for him to begin statements of love, but try to encourage him through telling him the very things you would like him to be able to reiterate. It is unfair to deny him words of love simply because he may not think to say them on his own. Hopefully by you saying them to him, it will remind and encourage him to share such words in return.

I wish you much luck in your situation and that you be blessed with a loving marriage in thought, speech and action!

Rachel

"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Anonymous Arizona, USA April 4, 2013

Husband Won't Say I Love you My dear people of this blog, for what I see and hear in the 65 years of my life, it seems very difficult for some people to say "I love you," with action nor words. Constantly we are told by the Word of G-d, how much He loves His children. We can see it in actions and in His Word. Do we tell Him how much we love Him? Although He might not be visible to us, He is very present in His Shekinah. Those who devotedly pray can have a testimony of this miracle. When we truly love G-d and show Him that we do, with words and actions, we will certainly have an answer. As per a man, if the man we love feels the same for us, he will show it and tell us, at least, once in a while. Do we behave the same way towards him? It would take someone very evil to just live with someone out of personal interest. This behavior is also very evident, unless one is on denial. Look at yourself inside, and relate your feelings to the Eternal G-d. He will help you deal with the matter. Reply

Anonymous Wisconsin April 4, 2013

Becoming whole through Torah study. Lack of Torah study has made so many Jewish couples to struggle in life. Unless you are continually studying Torah, the guide to life, so much will be missing. "Teach these things diligently to your children" - if you were not taught and are not continually learning (being reminded), how can you teach your children (or self). The answers are all there. While reading the comments, I was a little surprised that no one said, talk to your Rabbi, then I decided it must be because today, most Rabbis are struggleing themselves. The culture, the people among whom we live have influenced us more than the Torah, therefore we have their problems, not the Torah life. Programs like Hineni (Rebbitzin Esther Jungreis), the Shmuz and other out reach programs bring Jews back to Torah basics, back to "life". Chabad and Aish have marvelous resources, so make a commitment to return to Torah, EVERY DAY. Reply

Anonymous April 4, 2013

Never heard & never doubted It's somewhat different, my father never once told me that he loved me. When he died, all of us, my mother and adult children sat with the rabbi to tell him about my father. When the rabbi spoke at the eulogy he said "no one once said the word love, but the room was filled with it." Until that moment I had never realized my father never said the actual words - but I knew in my heart each and every moment of my life - as we all did - that he loved us. There was never a moment of doubt. The words are nothing - If he makes you feel loved, it is everything. Reply

Abigalia Leah New York City April 4, 2013

Closed mind Dr Harry Hamberger must realize that this woman is not married to G-d, she is married to a man. Marriage is 50/50 and her husband's unwillingness to please his wife with a few loving words from time to time shows that he is not a partner in this marriage. When a bride of only two years says she and her husband have "a pretty good relationship" I find that sad, and a harbinger for failure. They need to get counseling with a rabbi or therapist who can help them communicate. Don't blame the woman by calling her needy or selfish. Reply

TT December 10, 2012

Take it or leave it "try to encourage him through telling him the very things you would like him to be able to reiterate"

Bad idea. If her husband is like me, he will really resent that.

He can't and won't change.
Accept that or look for someone else. Reply

Anonymous Clarksville, MD October 19, 2012

Reality Check Ahh but there's the rub- he was unfaithful and it would help me to hear the words. As I said, he acts like he loves me and the reality is that his affair was strangely one of the best things that could have ever happened to our marriage (a wake-up call to both of us)- BUT ever since, he struggles with saying the words. On the other hand I AM grateful for the relationship we now have but in my dark moments it would help me to hear the words and I wonder why he struggles. Reply

Dr. Harry Hamburger Miami, Fl October 19, 2012

Time for a reality check YOu know, I was thinking about this issue and realiized the following: "When was the last time that G-d actually spoke to me and told me He loves me...NEVER!" What He does do is give me life when I wake each morning, food, an earth that provides, health, and everything else that comes to me. Now ladies, if your husband goes to work each day, supports the house, helps with the kids, is faithful, kind, and understanding...I would venture to say he loves you very much. So, my advice is to stop being so introspective, and self centered and be happy for what you have...A HUSBAND. Many women cannot find one, or have lost theirs, so please be grateful. We don't always get what we want, but if we get what we need, it is time to be silent and be happy. Reply

Anonymous Clarksville, MD October 18, 2012

I would love to hear from the men- is this a control thing because I don't think it's that uncommon. My husband acts like he loves me and I FEEL that he loves me but has a very hard time saying it to me, but not the kids or his family. What gives??!! Reply

Anonymous Cleveland, Oh June 11, 2012

Hubby won't say I love you Im reading these posts and I'm glad that I am not alone, but sad that we are in this situation.
I've been married for almost 19 yrs and u can count in my hands the times my husband said "I love you" to me. The sad thing is he didn't say it before we married. We dated 3 years!
I've asked him early in our marriage about it and he said that I was tryin to control his behavior. He also said it has to be there for him to sy or express it!
Also in so many words that it has to be earned!
Fast forward to a month or so ago. In counseling I bring the subject up. He says it's not just something he's going to give away easily, and he won't have it demanded from him! Mind you I've given up, but since we are in counseling I wanted to see where he was at with it. After counseling a former classmate calls. She told him I love you before hanging up! He told her "I love you too!"! He can't tell his own wife who told him years ago that she need to hear it from his as his wife! Not good! I'm done! Reply

Cat Phoenix, AZ May 18, 2012

A longing continued Glad and sad to see that I am not the only woman in this boat.

My boyfriend of 2 years has only told me he loved me once, unprovoked. If I say "I love you" I get a mumbled "Love you too" (yes another one who can't say the "I" part). I stopped telling him I love him over a year ago.

He says actions speak louder than words, etc... b.s. He shows me he cares but even though I have asked him numerous times and pointed out to him how important (vital!) it is for me to hear him say it, he refuses. At this point I am losing my desire to be patient and give him his space or accept that that is the way he is. Considering how many times I have approached him about it, at this point it just appears he is being cruel.

I am so close to just walking away. I don't even think he loves me at this point. Not sure if he ever did. It's getting to the point of being a dealbreaker for me. And I am also left with the feeling that if he ever does say it, I will just end up slapping him. Reply

Dr. Harry Hamburger Miami, Fl April 22, 2012

Maybe you are not listening G-d speaks in a whisper, and if you are always talking, and your infernal, internal dialogue never stops, you will not hear Him telling you He loves you!

STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. Evidence of G-d's love is all around you, it is near to you, if you just open your eyes, ears, and heart.

Sometimes, G-d sends us a message through the people you are directed to. Maybe your spouse does not say he or she loves you, because you do not tell G-d you love Him. When you develop a greater love for Hashem, your spouse will notice, and develop a greater love for you. Reply

Anonymous katy, tx April 21, 2012

What if he never says I love you and never shows it? Never shows it! Reply

Dr. Harry Hamburger Miami, Fl April 7, 2012

Passover message Dayeinu. How much has G-d done for us. He free us from slavery, opened the sea, took us to the Land of Israel, gave us the Torah, and a lasting covenant to be His people.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOLD HIM THAT YOU LOVE AND APPRECIATE HIM!

At your Passover table this year, take a moment to tell G-d that you love Him.

If you do not, He will not divorce you, because He is not a self-centered needy human. He may turn His face from you if you continue to ignore Him.

Make this Passover special and show Him some love. Dayeinu Reply

Anonymous Baltimore, MD April 4, 2012

Lost and Lonely I've been married for 23 years to a husband who rarely wants to communicate, let alone say he loves me. We've had a lot of challenges and I've stuck by him even though many of the problems revolved around him. However, last December, I made a choice to move out as a last ditch effort to try to salvage the marriage. We had gotten to the point of being roomates--no physical contact, no talking about anything substantial. I explained during couples counseling that my leaving was only as a catalyst for change--I was no longer satisfied with the status quo and since he had refused to talk about anything, I didn't know what else to do. Now, he complains that I've left him struggling financially and he can't handle doing everything himself; yet, he has not once told me that he wants me to come home. I want to hear what he wants and his plans for working out issues with me--is that too much to ask at this point? Reply

Anonymous New Bedford, MA March 8, 2012

I've lost the joy of life My husband of 40+ years never liked the "L" word. Now it has been several decades since he said it on his own. For years I would bring up that discussion and he'd finally say it with an attitude. I would tell him I didn't want to hear it when I asked for it but at another time when he said it on his own. He tells his children and grandsons that he loves them. I have told him how important it is to me but in my opinion his STUBBORNNESS is more important than my feelings. I do not want a divorce at my age but you can be lonely in a marriage too. He says to buy anything I want but has never given me a surprise gift, flowers or jewelry on his own. Once the kids shamed him into flowers and he told me...in essense saying here they are , the kids made me get them. He is good to me otherwise. He's comfortable in his life and thinks all is well. From the outside everyone thinks he is wonderful but he has broken my heart since I have always loved him. Sadly I stopped saying it a few years ago. Reply

Anonymous Leola, Pa February 15, 2012

Married 12 years hubby won't say I love u any more 2 weeks ago my husband decides on his own that he can't ' do this anymore' and there was a big fight and I was sleeping on the floor in the living room and he had the bed I had no other place to go I had to stay here well he we told our kids we are working on our marriage he wants to go an bowl by himself and there has been alot of trust issues with him I have been with him since I was 14 and had a baby really young got married young and we split for a year but he won't say he misses me or I love u he says u kno I love u and before this he said it all the time ..... I do all the things I do normally and I have been inderstanding he tells me he needs time! I need some help here I am so upset all the time I see his love but I would live to hear him say it Reply

anonymous February 2, 2012

I have been married for almost three years, together for five. My husband tells me I should know, he can't even say the word love, but how am I suppose to know he loves me when I never heard it?! In my opinion I don't even see how I should know bc he doesn't show it. We have two children together and he can tell them back, but I have to tell him too! His words or actions don't show love. I'm at a dead end bc he says there's no problem. Reply

Anonymous Cortez , co January 23, 2012

the words "i love you I've been with my husband for 6years and he's said I love for 6yrs. We separated 6months ago n decided to work things out. I've loved this man for 6yrs even when we separated. But now he refuses to say I love you. And it hurts me so much when we fight over. He gets so mad when I bring it up. He said he's not going to define his marriage with me by a word. I know he loves me yes but I hold on to words and I need to hear it too. We fight over this all the time. Amd I've notice I've had a defense mode up with him and get angry and become mean at him cause I'm so hurt. He doesn't understand or see my pain. I'm scared this hole " its hard for me to say it now" is going to cause us to divorce. Why is it hard now but wasn't for 6years? Does he not wanna say it cause he doesn't love me? I'm so so confused with this. I want to tell him I love him and he saus OK then I feel stupid saying. Anyone have any advice? Reply

Anonymous Brunswick January 11, 2012

He won't tell me to my face We have been together over three years and engaged for two of them. He told me in the beginning, not always but a few times. Now, even when he goes away for a business trip he will not say it. He gets aggravated when I say it ashe leaves because he says that pressures him, but I thought it should be a pleasure to be in love with someone and have them reciprocate it. He will wait until he is away and text it, or just make a comment about it like "you know I love you" but with attitude. I guess I am different becuase I am a woman, but I want him to know because I don't want him to ever wonder. Is it so wrong? Am I the crazy, hormonal woman? I just don't understand. Reply

Dana Sarkawi Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei December 10, 2011

he doesn't say 'I love you' after we had a fight.. We had a fight due to small matters, he was distant for about 3 days...and after 3 days..his mood is going back to normal...however, after the fight, everytime he call me or text me up...he didn't say 'I love you'..and i was the one who always started to say it first, but he did replied and it worries me alot....at the same time...i keep thinking that he's changed...and it hurts me...:'(...

please advice me or tell me what is really happening..i need to know.. Reply

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