In 1984, Stevie Wonder touched the hearts of the world with his award winning song “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Hearing the words “I love you” lifts the spirits and fuels the soul. I vividly remember the moment my husband first told me he loved me. My recently engaged daughter immediately told me the details when her fiancé first said it to her, and I’m sure there are many who have similar beautiful memories.
What happens, however, when someone isn’t so verbal and simply isn’t comfortable saying it? That doesn’t mean they don’t still deeply feel and show love. They just do it in different ways. You have to know what to look for. Sadly, many people don’t, and it causes internal strife for them as well as problems in their relationships.
I am a big fan of the Dr. Laura radio show. It is educational to me to hear the questions and problems suffered by people from all walks of life. One of the most common complaints is the one that goes, “If he loved me, he would…” or “If she loved me, she would….”
Spouses complain about the lack of attention from their partners…the expensive gifts they didn’t receive for that special occasion…the time-consuming and/or expensive hobbies their partners engage in…the lack of communication…the lack of romance. You know the drill.
Parents complain about not hearing from their adult children…youngsters who won’t follow the rules…who doesn’t show up for family events…the disrespect they feel from children of all ages…the lack of appreciation for all of their care and efforts, from time spent on sports sidelines to constant chauffeuring or creating special birthday celebrations.
Children of all ages have complaints, too. Adult children complain about the excessive unsolicited opinions they get, including from grandparents who want to butt into how they raise the grandchildren. Teens complain about how their parents won’t allow them to attend events that other friends/peers will be going to.
In the end, everyone—no matter what age or status of life—is looking for love but, as the saying goes, they’re looking for love in all the wrong places. Or as Dorothy learned when she awoke from her trip to Oz, all that love was already right there in front of her.
My husband is not the most chatty human, and he does tell me that he loves me…but more than announcing it, he shows me he loves me in his unique ways. He turns on my seat heater when we get in the car on a cold morning…he makes sure our home is in working order, constantly fixing things but never looking for credit—just making sure our home is safe and comfortable…he bought Christmas lights to brighten up the wreaths that I insisted on hanging on the front deck of our house even though he wasn’t in love with this project. He doesn’t make pronouncements…he just quietly makes my dreams come true.
As Dr. Laura points out to the complaining callers, love is shown in many ways that don’t include a small velvet box or dozens of roses. They are simple acts that may go totally unnoticed on a daily basis unless you understand the nonverbal language of love.
Subtle acts of love can include…
- Starting a spouse’s car on a cold morning
- Asking how your day was and really being interested
- Keeping the shared spaces of the home tidy…respecting that you are not the only one who lives in the space
- Being available for your child
- One spouse working long hard hours to allow the other to stay home and raise the children
- Making favorite meals…stocking the fridge with favorite foods
- Attending events that are not their first choice but doing it anyway…and with a smile. This is true for parents, spouses and children of all ages.
- Reading the same book over and over again to a child because it’s his favorite
- Helping an elderly parent with her groceries, technology or any other household chore
- Listening to what a loved one has to say without interruption or judgement
- Rubbing your partner’s back or massaging his feet at the end of a long day.
- Recording her favorite movie when you saw it was playing on television
A credit card buys that new X-Box, the sparkly jewelry or Nike’s latest collectible sneakers. That’s not love…that’s shopping. Similarly, people can say anything, but are their actions consistent with their words?
There is an endless list of small and large acts that show a family member’s love without them explicitly stating it. I’ve given some examples above to illustrate how they surround us. The love is out there, but it must be received…the signs must be recognized…and the perspective must be shifted to understand that these daily acts of respect and commitment are the true symbols of love.
I challenge you to open your eyes to the many messages of love that surround you. Take them in. Feel them deeply. And pass them along.