So recently I broke up with my boyfriend. After a couple of days discussing our issues (read crying and arguing) he came round, we talked at length, hugged, kissed, made up, he held my face in his hands and told me he loved me and off we went to bed. The next day he sent me an email (yes, an email – not quite as bad as a post-it but still pretty low) saying that he ‘just couldn’t do it’. That was the day I realised that saying ‘I love you’ means nothing unless it’s backed up with actions. And not the hiring of white vans and taking back the telly sort of actions.
Are you in a relationship where you hear your partner say ‘I love you’ so much that it’s more habit than heartfelt? And do you feel loved in other ways? Not necessarily with grand gestures and extravagant gifts but with the small stuff. The buying of your favourite chocolate bar, the cup of tea when you wake up, the text asking if they can bring anything home for dinner. It’s these little acts of intimacy that make you feel secure within a relationship. And it works both ways of course.
Relationship coach, Jackie Walker says, “If your partner isn’t feeling loved in the way that they want to feel loved, no amount of ‘I love yous’ will get through to them. If you don’t know what they need from you to feel loved, your job is to ask them and deliver it.”
This relates back to a piece of advice we learned while creating the 20 relationship rules to love by feature, and it’s that we all have a ‘love language’. This is how we best like to express our love and like it expressed back to us. For some, it’s touch. For others, words. Relationships survive when you work out each other’s language of choice. But just as never saying ‘I love you’ can undermine a relationship so can spouting it as an excuse for every mistake or misunderstanding you encounter together.
Sally Brampton, Psychologies writer, summed it up perfectly when she said, “Sometimes I think the phrase ‘I love you’ is no more than a get-out-of-jail-free card. In other words, I love you so just shut up about my obvious lack of commitment, my inability to anticipate your needs, my failure to give you my full attention. I’ve told you I love you so you can’t ask for anything more.”
Well, actually you can. As Jackie Walker says, “Love is a doing word not a passive one. Love doesn’t simply arrive and stay; it requires input, output and recharging. It needs an environment with respect, care and attention to thrive in.” If your partner behaves in a way that upsets you then you have a right to expect the person who says ‘I love you’, to put their money where their mouth is. Words are easy to mutter, but behaviour is harder to change. It’s this commitment to change however, that shows real love, intimacy and respect. And as we all know, respect the foundation of all happy relationships.