Intimate love — 28 October 2003
The powerful language of love

Words have great power. They are geared to connect people, communicate ideas, express feelings and describe beauty.
In relationships, words keep love alive. Not just any words but specific phrases. How we select our words and speak them – often makes or breaks our relationships.

In the romantic phase of love, couples find or create their own terms of endearment for each other. “Honey”, “Sweetheart”, “Baby”, are common names. Others are nicknames people create to punctuate the uniqueness of their bond. Very often these special names are reserved only to the couple and no one else. Some people even resort to meaningless sounds akin to baby talk to refer to each other.

Partners treasure the couple-given names and use them reverently. It is as though through their commitment to each other, they take on a new identity and a new love name.

Some couples comment in therapy about the frequency of their partners’ use of their love names. A reduction in frequency may be seen as a measure of a chilling in the relationship, or an unspoken withdrawal.

In our culture, the use of certain words is associated with specific intent. “I do”, is what people state publicly as a declaration of their pledge to marry their spouses. “I love you”, are the three precious little words everyone delights in hearing. Yet, some people find it difficult to articulate them often – or at all.

So why is it so hard to say certain words? Voicing certain thoughts transforms them from private to public, from idea to reality from an internal small voice to a widely heard expression. We can rarely take back our words and they may reveal our innermost emotions. Saying certain things obligates us to undertake the complimentary behaviors- or be challenged if we fail to do so.

“So if you love me, why do you say things that hurt my feelings?’ “If I am so important to you why do you withhold some essential information from me?” Not verbalizing emotional caring may free us from the obligation of loving acts.

Cervantes stated that: “An honest man’s word is as good as his bond.” We see verbal promises as morally binding. “But you told me you would always be honest with me.” Most people pride themselves as honorable people who keep their word. Though a verbal promise may not be legally binding, it is the currency of decent people.

Women are often given the privilege of changing their minds, but men are much stricter with themselves and others about verbally exchanged commitments.

It is therefore, not surprising that more men than women find it harder to speak about their love. This is only one of the many reasons men are more reserved in verbal love expressions. It is not only that men talk less, they also talk more cautiously.

Couple therapists recommend that mates exchange loving messages daily, compliment each other often, express appreciation for one another, keep the playful verbal exchanges alive and use love names and nicknames regularly. Fine advice, yet it is often hard to follow.

Life together demands a great deal from each partner. The expectations are many and the time is short. Many couples, even in good marriages, feel overburdened with the duties of family, finances and work, and under appreciated by each other.

So how do you free yourself from the daily stresses, demands, disappointments and frustration, to be able to keep the romantic language alive? – You decide to do it and succeed as you do with most other things you set your mind to do. It takes a little time and yields great rewards – a loving marriage.

  • First, realize that endearing terms and phrases are the catalysts for love.
  • You also may admit that hearing the loving language helps reduce your stress and invigorates you for other life tasks.
  • Saying “I love you” or “I’m so lucky you are mine” takes less than three seconds, which you can always find, regardless of how busy you are.
  • You also made a public promise “to love and to cherish”. As an honorable person, you owe it to yourself to keep the vow.
  • The joy you will give and receive from verbalizing your love– will make life even more worth living.
  • Take the time to say the loving words. People in affirming relationships are truly happy.

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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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