Attention Tools for Couples Happiness — 31 December 2013
Do you love me?

The question “Do you love me?” is not infrequently exchanged between mates. Even in solid, well-bonded, long-term committed relationships, a partner may pop this question at an unexpected moment. The listener may be surprised, unprepared and even bewildered about how to best respond to this question – particularly when positive affirmations have been regularly expressed.

Why do some individuals ask this intimate question seemingly out of the blue, at times of ordinary life, or during a non-contested discussion? Why is the answer so haltingly provided even between loving mates who routinely express their love for each other in words and actions?

To answer these questions we must first understand the relationship between emotions and logic and appreciate the gender differences between men and women’s emotional expressiveness.

Though it is commonly believed that emotions are by-products of thoughts, Dr. Dan Stern reports that babies learn through their emotional “attunement” with their mothers/fathers. Affirmations and excitement given to the baby soothe and create joy, while being ignored causes severe agitation and withdrawal.

Similarly, in adulthood, knowing that one is loved allows him/her the safety to live more confidently and securely. We need the validation of a trusted, beloved individual to provide us with the courage and motivation to succeed in life.

In “Gender, Emotion and the Family” Leslie Brody found that men and women express their emotions differently. “Males are more intensely emotionally expressive through actions and behaviors than females, while women are more content restricting themselves to verbal expressions of emotions.”

In therapy, females are more likely to lament about not receiving verbal expressions of love from their male partner. Thus, they feel compelled to ask about it. Men are often perplexed by this question since they believe that their actions certainly demonstrate their deep love. Some men feel unfairly criticized and discounted by their women’s doubts. “Actions speak louder than words” may be their motto.

A partner who asks the mate “Do you love me?” needs to hear it to stabilize her confidence and wellbeing.

For those who feel put upon by the question, consider this inquiry as a request for a verbal affirmation of your love without assuming that your loving deeds have not been counted. Accept that this is one way that you can please your mate, provide reassurance and show your love for her in a pleasing manner. Respond with a calm and positive voice, “ Yes, I love you very much. I particularly love how you handled our unhappy child today in a way that was not natural for me.” Then ask: “What can I do right now to help you feel my love?”  Accommodate your beloved with kindness. This response and accommodation will reassure your partner and strengthen your loving bond.

Responding to “Do you love me? “:

  • Abstain from feeling indignant about being asked the obvious.
  • Respond in a calm and reassuring voice.
  • Add an example of what you particularly love about your mate.

 

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life.

Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions.

Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column “Relationship Matters” for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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