Gifts Instead of Words? Different Ways of Expressing Your Love to Your Mate - Relationship Advice
I'm a big fan of your advice column. You're the Dear Abbey of the internet! I am hoping you will consider my question for your column. I am very frustrated and I need some help. My husband never tells me he loves me. He never says he's sorry. He is just a very poor communicator and I feel like I'm at my wits end with it.
If I tell him I want to have a conversation about something, he looks nervous and wants to avoid it. He would rather go do something with me like take a walk or watch a movie. If I say NO I want to talk, he agrees but basically he just listens. I know he's paying attention because I can see it in things he does later. However he just doesn't talk in return. I don't know how to get him to say what he's feeling.
I know one of the things you always say is if he was this way when you were dating then he will be this way and it shouldn't be a big surprise. He didn't talk when we dated either but I thought he just didn't feel close yet or that he didn't feel like he could open up. I thought as we got closer that would change. So that's my bad I guess. But he was always the type to bring me flowers for no reason. Even now, he will pick up a seashell on the beach and save it all day to give me at night at dinner. He buys me jewelry, sometimes it's not expensive but it's meaningful, like he knows I love ladybugs, and he will bring me little ladybug pins, or leave me cards with lady bugs on them. So I really feel I had reason to believe he was trying to get there and be able to say the words. I feel like that's a step toward communicating.
Just to give you some background we have been married 2 years. I am 28 and he is 31. We have a good relationship other than this. This is the only thing we fight about pretty much. Well it's not really fights, it's more like me getting upset and him just trying to get away from it. Also I want to give you some examples. When we were first dating we were both broke college students and neither of us could afford cable and we used to rent box sets of old tv shows because it was alot of hours for the least money. We watched Laverne and Shirley and we both thought they were hysterical. Fast forward years later we were having one of our fights. I was telling him you never tell me you love me, you never tell me how you feel about me and I was really upset. I reminded him of when we were dating and falling in love and how special that time was to me. Soon after he comes home with a big tall black stuffed cat with a long neck that looks like the one from the show and he puts a card on it that says Boo Boo Kitty. It looked like Shirley's Boo Boo Kitty from the show. So I know he is listening when I speak, but he just refuses to say anything back. Another example, in the middle of this long night we spent repairing a broken window in a storm, we were taping up plastic and cleaning up glass and mopping up water and I said just once I was in the mood for Snickers bar. The next night he left me one in my purse. He's always doing stuff like that. So I know he's listening and hearing me. He pays attention. He just doesn't TALK!!! It's like he's right there sometimes and I think he will actually finally tell me how he feels about me or about us, and then nothing!
How do I get him to communicate!!
Oh Honey. He's communicating loud and clear.
The problem here isn't his. It's yours. You want him to be able to find words to express how he feels and what he's thinking and remembering and cherishing. But the thing is, he doesn't use words. He's using every other way possible. Doing things for you, listening to you, giving you gifts where words have failed him but the sentiment is so strong it jumps out, clearly, for all to see. He listens and he responds and he makes everything obvious in such a beautiful way. Slipping a candy bar he knows you want into your purse. Hunting down a Boo Boo Kitty? Are you kidding me?
Kelly, I have a list a mile long of women that would absolutely shit themselves with glee to get their hands on a man that expressive.
Kelly, your email is written like you're speaking. There are alot of tells in that. It sounds like you are sitting right next to me and just chatting away. It is obvious that you are very good at it. You speak comfortably. Clearly. Easily. You find your words and you let them go. You sound as if you engage in some pretty deep conversations. You are able to verbalize your feelings, and encourage others to do the same. And that's awesome. That's a gift that you have.
Maybe you are a teacher. Or a speaker of some sort. Maybe you read a lot, or write a lot. Maybe you are a supervisor at work because you know how to speak to people. Maybe you're a counselor? Or some kind of receptionist, or even a sales person. You're probably that friend that others turn to when they need a good conversation. When they have something to say. Or when they want to hear what you have to say. Your ability to speak and to value other people's speaking is certainly a skill that will aid you in many ways as you build friendships and walk your career path.
But Kelly, this talent of yours has left you short sighted. There are other talents. There are other ways to express yourself. I'm a writer, I speak your language. But that doesn't mean Picasso said less, or Mozart wasn't expressing more.
Your dear husband is expressing wordless volumes to you. They are magnificent, and genuine, and very personal. He's not just throwing tokens at you to placate you. He's picking out lady bugs, and symbols of moments you've spent together. He pays attention, and he lets you see it and feel it in a tangible way.
You need to learn how to hear him. How to listen. And that means hearing him in his language, not just the lack of your own.
You kind of hit it when you said how you know I've written that you can't expect people to change for you: that the person they are is the person they are. That's either going to work for you or it's not. You said he was like this when you were dating. What you're missing is, he's been speaking this language all along. Instead of waiting for him to speak your language, you have to start hearing his.
He says so much with a seashell he carries all day so he can hand it to you later. God, are you kidding me? Don't you hear what that says? It says, "I held on to today. I carried it, close to me, this time that I spent with you. And I want to share that with you. And I want you to hold on to it too."
Now, here's a mind blowing thought for you. Is he somewhere right now, waiting for you to show him how you feel? Is he thinking to himself, she goes on and on and on, blah blah blah, words words words. But when will she SHOW me. With actions. With something I can see and touch. With something real.
When was the last time you slipped his favorite snack into his car so he'd find it the next day and know you thought of him, and that you listen, ... and that you know what he likes, ... and that you wanted him to be happy. When was the last time you gave him a card or flowers for no reason. When was the last time you gave him a "The Big Ragoo" coffee mug to celebrate falling in love and spending all that time with him. Have you ever held a pine cone all day long from a nice walk you shared, so you could give it to him later, to say thank you for this perfect day.
Kelly it's OK if you don't show your love in acts and gifts if that's not natural for you, the way your husband seems to have a knack for. Just as it's OK that your loving husband doesn't find words like you do. Listen to each other, and appreciate each other for expressing in your own unique ways the very special bond the two of you share. Namaste, you lucky lady.