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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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Discussion (69)
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.
Anonymous
Arizona, USA
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.
Anonymous
Wisconsin
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.
Anonymous
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.
Abigalia Leah
New York City
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.
TT
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.
Anonymous
Clarksville, MD
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.
Dr. Harry Hamburger
Miami, Fl
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??!!
Anonymous
Clarksville, MD
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!
Anonymous
Cleveland, Oh
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.
Cat
Phoenix, AZ
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