(This is an example of the woman training the man to empower her).
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?
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!
“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.