Emotional Equilibrium

You know how we love to breakdown stereotypes here, especially gender stereotypes, so we were thrilled when Hollie sent in this post. It’s about having differing view points to your husband, and working on coming to a compromise and seeing things from his point of view. It’s about challenging your norms, and stepping outside of your comfort zone to do something that will make your relationship stronger. It’s about saying I love you.

As anyone who knows us will tell you, in our relationship the usual gender stereotypes don’t apply. I’m far more inhibited than my husband when it comes to expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions, whereas Bren is able to be completely open about these things. While I’m often envious of his ability to freely and easily articulate what’s going on inside his head, I’m also eternally grateful to have found a husband like this (ladies I do know how lucky I am!)

So with that in mind, I suppose it’s no surprise that Bren was the first one to utter ‘I love you’ first. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel it, it’s just that I couldn’t bring myself to put myself so fully out there in such a I’m-wearing-my-heart-on-my-sleeve-and-you-could-easily-break-it type way. Once I got over myself and stopped over-thinking EVERYTHING I realised that actually it’s worth taking that risk just to see someone light up when they hear that you do love them. If they’re the right person for you, they’ll realise that the heart that you just handed them from the end of your sleeve is in fact the most precious gift they will ever receive. And they’ll make it their life’s mission to nurture and protect it for the rest of their days.

I thought that once that first declaration was out of the way we were home and dry. Little did I know that that was in fact just the beginning of us navigating a pretty tricky emotional terrain. Given that we have very different ways of expressing ourselves, I probably should have been prepared for having different approaches to saying ‘I love you’ in day-to-day life.

Unsurprisingly my uninhibited husband is a frequent user of ‘I love you’. First thing in the morning, last thing at night, in texts, emails and phone calls, as a compliment, as a platitude, as an answer to a question. You name a situation and the chances are he could find a way to sneak in a ‘I love you’.

I, on the other hand am not a frequent user. I should point out that this does not mean that in any way, shape or form do I love my husband any less than he loves me. It’s just that I am not as emotionally articulate as he is and so I express my love for him in other ways – through things that I do for him and by trying as best I can to put him before myself.

And herein lies the problem.

There was a time when I would reply to each of his ‘I love you’s’ with one straight back, but over time I didn’t feel able to. Not only was the concept a little bit alien to me, but on my behalf it was forced – I felt like I was only saying it because I ought to. It got to the point where I wouldn’t always reply, which felt unbelievably cruel in a relationship where I was more in love than I ever thought possible.

My issue was that while I knew that Bren’s words and sentiment were totally genuine, I also knew that the meaning behind it would, for me at least, be lost

over time. I suppose I worried that the more I heard it I would build up an immunity until I wouldn’t even notice what he was saying. A bit like a verbal tic I would start blocking it out (or finding it really fecking irritating!) And that would be so sad don’t you think?

To be a better partner to him I also wanted (and needed) the opportunity to be the person to initiate those kinds of conversations and statements. That’s not my nature at all, but I knew that I needed to be given the chance to make it a part of me.

In the end it took a totally open conversation to make us understand each other’s point of view (a common theme in our relationship). I came to understand that Bren viewed such exclamations as being integral to a relationship and saw it as a way of emphasising how important I am to him. Likewise, he was able to take on board my fears about those all-important words losing their oh-so-special meaning.

It’s taken time, but we’re getting there. Bren makes a conscious effort to not overuse it or treat it as a go-to phrase and instead finds other ways of expressing how he feels about me. There’s no doubt that the meaning behind his compliments is always a big, fat ‘I love you’, but there’s no danger of it falling on deaf ears anymore. There’s no doubt that my self-confidence also loves hearing why he loves me and what it is about me that is most important to him. It reinforces who I am as a person, rather than just as a wife.

For my part, I’m trying my best to voice my love for him rather than just assuming that he knows how I feel. Yes I still express myself through the things I do for him and with him in mind (actions speak louder than words after all), but now I try to do this in conjunction with telling him too. He is a wonderful person and husband and deserves to hear that on a regular basis. It doesn’t come completely naturally, but give it time.

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Marriage
10 interesting thoughts on this

9 Comments

  1. Liz
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Can so relate to this! Mark makes a point of telling me he loves me at least once a day, although most days its more than this. I can’t do this, as you have written, I feel if it gets said too often for me it becomes a throwaway comment. So many times I don’t say it back and save it for the moments which are extra special for me – these aren’t big events or anything, just when I feel there is a reason. We understand each others thoughts on this, and now I find him saying it reassuring and he really treasures the times that I say it!

  2. Steff
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Love this Hollie, I can totally relate to this. G keeps mumping about the fact that I love you feels like it’s lost a bit of it’s impact. In our wedding prep classes they talked about Agape which apparently a more serene kind of love (or something) but we decided that “I agape you” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…

    We also discovered (well laughed at) the fact that we’re polar opposites personality wise, I’m in the same boat as you in that he’s very open and honest and I like to be sure of things in my head before I voice them. Apart from the first I love you which came out after 2 weeks and too much red wine. Ah, those are the stories to be proud of!

    xx

  3. Kate S
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I can completely relate to this, although it’s the other way round for us. I don’t doubt my husband loves me every bit as much as I love him but he’s not big on verbalising it. I, on the other hand, do use it as a bit of a ‘go to’ phrase.

    I can see how you could think it might lose it’s meaning and, now that you’ve mentioned it, I think my husband probably feels the same way. He’s also not a fan of saying it straight back when it’s said to him as he finds it forced too.

    He often says that he feels he shows me how much he loves me in other ways and those three little words are not how he would often choose to express it.

    Interesting!

  4. Posted May 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Ah I’m so glad I’m not alone ladies. I always assumed it would be the female partner who would be more comfortable saying it – I always felt like a bit of a freak for being so inhibited about it!

    For me I think a lot of it is whether or not you’re brought up in an expressive kind of family or not. My family are much more of the ‘show people how you feel about them by what you do for them’ school of thought, so I guess until I met Bren that’s how I thought you expressed love. His family, on the other hand, are all about saying it all the time so it’s totally ingrained in him.

    Difficulties only seem arise if the person who says it a lot also needs to hear it a lot, but is with someone who doesn’t feels comfortable with that.

  5. Posted May 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Tom frequently reminds me that I love you is his ‘default position’ which makes me laugh

  6. Posted May 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I used to flat share with a friend who was really into relationship books & one of the things I liked from all our conversations were ‘Languages of love.’ For some it’s words, others actions, some gifts, & I can’t remember the other two. I think you can take a questionnaire to discover which is your prominent, to give and in receiving as they might be different. Good topic Hollie.

  7. Posted May 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post! I’ve always been one to blurt out whatever’s in my head, ‘I love you’ included. Luckily, although my husband has a different take on that phrase (it should be shown not simply said), he doesn’t mind me saying it often. For some reason, I’ve always had a slightly morbid bent, ever since childhood and as a result, I worry that the one time I don’t say ‘I love you’ will be the one time it matters – so the poor guy hears it around ten times a day.

  8. Posted May 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh I actually think this is very sweet! I love that you are working together to come together, even though deep down you know that you love each other.

    I used to be very frugal about my ‘I love you’s’ too. I didn’t say it to Chris for a long time, for fear of it not being taken seriously, and then when I did he wasn’t too keen to say it either. So, we stopped using it and instead of saying it just to hear it back in response – as you so often do in a new/young relationship – we let it come out organically.

    Now he probably says it more than me, but it is always at times when I’m least expecting it and when it feels genuine. I think this is best for us, it doesn’t feel forced or in response, and it is always when you just look at the other person and it comes pouring out before you think about it!

    xx

  9. Kate
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I was very cautious about first saying I Love You and remember worrying about it for months and going on about it constantly to my friends at the time because I knew I did love Tom but didn’t want to scare him off by saying it too soon. I eventually said it about 9-10 months into our relationship and he said it straight back and it was a great feeling. I only found out during his wedding speech 8 years later that actually he had loved me since our second date so I needn’t have worried!

    We both say I love you ALL THE TIME, I couldn’t count how many times I say it in a day and I wouldn’t end a phonecall without saying it (partly for the reason Fiona mentioned). But it feels genuine and real and not forced every single time for me, the overuse hasn’t happened for me at all and everytime I hear it back it takes me back to the first time when I was so happy Tom said it back.

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  • [...] weeks ago, following my post about what I’ve learnt in my first year of blogging, the lovely Hollie, the brains behind the brilliant blog Outside Office Hours (Go.  Read) emailed me to ask me about [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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