Thursday, February 12, 2004

Other Ways to Say "I Love You"

There's a great article in the Wall Street Journal today about the use of the phrase "I Love You," and the ways people express love minus the words. I found this very interesting. Here's a few excerpts:

We've become a society that places great importance on saying "I love you," and in many matters of life and death, no other words are as comforting. Many children now hear the phrase daily, and people say it generously to friends. "I love you" is cooed to newborns, and whispered to those who are dying.
Still, as we fixate on those words, we can forget that love is sometimes even more powerful when left unsaid. While we wait (or demand) to hear "I love you" from people in our lives, we may not notice their loving acts, says Corinne Wilburne Barker, a psychologist at California State University, Northridge. In her research, she calls this "an adoration of verbal expression," and it worries her.
People who are adept at expressing love verbally often feel superior to loved ones who aren't good at it, says Dr. Barker. A husband might show love in subtle ways - by filling his wife's car with gas, or taking her hand when crossing the street - but she's unhappy that he's reticent about declaring his love. "It can lead to estrangement," says Dr. Barker, who warns against belittling less-expressive partners.
Some people feel panicked by their inability to articulate affection. Jane Bluestein, who teaches parenting courses nationwide, encourages people to coax the words out of their mouths. One recent seminar attendee confided that she told her dog "I love you" before mustering the nerve to say it to her kids.

America's love talk can be traced to the 1960s. Before then, people struggled through world wars and Depressions; they were less focused on emotional needs. But since then, "all you need is love" has been touted as a comprehensive cure-all. Even President Bush peppers his speeches by encouraging people to visit shut-ins" homes and say "I love you," or to hug paroled prisoners and say, "I love you, brother."
Valentine's Day is now just one of 365 days for loving language; Hallmark Cards says sales of its nonholiday "love" cards rose 555 percent in the past three decades.

I have always believed it's not the words spoken that are the true indicator of a person's love for you but the actions. It is nice to hear, but a baby feels safe not by the words, but that they are kept warm, safe, fed, hugged. It's the significant other who offers to shop for the other when the other is exhausted, getting up and cooking a special breakfast for their family when it isn't expected or giving a child limits and sticking to their guns about them.

So yes, telling those you love you love them is important, but don't forget your actions everyday are just as important.

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