When Saying 'I Love You' Isn't Enough

Photo: weheartit
Relationship Coach: Expressing Love Through Actions

Last week I sat in a Verizon store with 50 million other people on iPhone Launch Day. Unlike everyone else, I was not looking for a fabulous upgrade. I was waiting in line to do something I had committed to do ... two weeks ago. It was time for a relationship reality check.

My husband had asked me to replace his decrepit, old phone because the account is in my name. I told him I would, but never got around to it. On iPhone Launch Day, in the middle of the afternoon, his phone literally broke in half.

And I confronted a simple truth: sometimes "I love you" isn’t enough. For healthy relationships, the magic words need to combine with practical action.    

How often do we say the magic words, "I love you" and then act in ways that communicate something else? Here are some examples to illustrate my point:

New Mom: While my partner goes to a daily job and interacts with the world, my big outings are to Costco and Safeway. For 10 months I consistently say, "I need a date" but you smile and reply, "I want to stay home with my two beauties because I love you." Really? Show me the love. Make a dinner reservation!

New Father: I change both diapers and engine oil, but I can't show up on your radar. We had tons of bedtime fun when our baby was a twinkle in my eye. But now, when I make a move, you say, "I love you, but not tonight" ... for 9 months. Really? Show me the love. Talk to me about a potential solution.

Husband: I've supported your eBay business and trusted you with using our joint credit card to fund it. But you charged twice the amount we agreed. Now, you blow off my concern with a flippant response that ends with, "I love you." Really? Show me the love. Keep our financial agreements.

Wife: We divided the household chores and you got the bathroom. We each agreed to do our cleaning chores weekly. But now I think things are growing in the toilet and the sink is taking on a new color. I fear contamination. You laugh and say you'll eventually get around to it because you love me. Really? Show me the love. Sanitize the bathroom.

Girlfriend: It was your week to pick up dry cleaning. I need my power suit for tomorrow's marketing meeting. You came home at 10 PM without the dry cleaning — for the second time in four weeks. You tell me I'll rock in whatever I wear. You know this because you love me. Really? Show me the love. Remember the dry cleaning.

Boyfriend: I'm running late for work. I feed the dog, but I ask you to let him out before you leave an hour later. You agree, but head out and forget about the dog. He's an 85-pound coonhound with a big bladder. I get home first and break out Nature's Miracle. You laugh it off and say, "But I love you." Really? Show me the love. Let the dog out.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned the immortal words, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." In a sonnet, she eloquently enumerates the many ways she loves an unnamed someone.

Who do we love? If actions speak louder than words, how will we show our love to spouses or partners today? Maybe it's time to fuel the magic words "I love you" with daily practical action.