Dear Dr. Yael:
I am writing to you about a problem in my marriage. Let me begin by saying that I try to be a loving and supportive husband. I help my wife with the children and around the house; I work very hard and, Baruch Hashem, have been blessed with a good parnassah. I surprise my wife with gifts, large and small – sometimes even bringing home her favorite salad or pastry. So what’s the problem, you ask?
I am a man of few words and my wife complains that I am not expressive enough. She often compliments me and tells me how much she loves me. She is very verbally affectionate and is very effusive in expressing her appreciation. I appreciate everything she does for our family – she is a wonderful wife and mother. She is an amazing cook, very organized and I am truly blessed to have her as a wife. She always looks great and the kids are always well taken care of.
As I said, she thanks me all the time for working hard and being so generous, but has made it clear that she craves my attention, compliments and loving words. I want to be more expressive, but as I grew up in a home where affection and compliments were rarely given, it is not something that comes easily to me. My parents expected us to work hard in all of our subjects, and, Baruch Hashem, my siblings and I did well in school, but we never heard a good word from either of our parents. They were very generous with us financially and did many things for us; however, they never told us how much they loved us. This is why I have a hard time speaking to my wife the way she wishes I would.
Dr. Respler, why can’t my wife just accept me the way that I am? I show her my love through my actions. Why does she need all the verbal attention and compliments? It is so hard for me to express the way I feel. It’s not just with her. Even on a business level, it is not easy for me to communicate with people. Baruch Hashem, I do not have to deal directly with my clients; I have salespeople to do that.
Please help me find a way to fix this so that my marriage does not suffer. I love my wife and I want her to be happy.
A Quiet Loving Husband
Dear Loving Husband:
Thank you for your refreshing letter! Kudos to you for trying so hard to be a good husband; that in itself is something to be proud of.
Gary Chapman, a well-known relationship counselor, has written a series of books on what he terms the “Five Love Languages.” They are: 1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Quality Time, 3) Acts of Service, 4) Gifts, 5) Physical Touch. These are the different ways people feel love and affection from others.
While understanding a person’s love language is important in any close relationship, it is crucial for a marriage. If you don’t know what makes your spouse feel loved and appreciated, you can be doing all the “right things” and still have marital issues.
From your description of yourself it appears that your love language is “Acts of Service.” You work hard, make a good parnassah, help with the kids and the shopping – you do things to show your wife and family how you feel about them. It seems this is the way your parents showed their love and so for you this is the most comfortable way to be.