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.