How Do You Show Your Love?* by Jayne Gottschalk, MA, LMFT

This Valentine's Day give your loved one the gift of your love by asking the simple question: "How do you want me to show my love to you?" Guaranteed to be the best gift you ever gave your partner!

This Valentine’s Day: show your love in the way your partner wants to BE loved

Guaranteed to be the best gift you ever gave him or her! 

In several recent couple's sessions a curious thing happened -- the same exact pattern of miscommunication and misunderstanding between husband and wife occurred when the following question was asked:


The husband seemed startled by the question. At first he didn’t know how to respond but then quickly and confidently began to rattle off a few things having to do with fixing or repairing things around the house or in the yard.  He talked about bringing the trash out and going to the dump.

The wife listened and with a look of increasing surprise on her face said
incredulously and loudly "I didn't ask you to do those things for me. You
do those things -- because -- YOU do those things. But that's not how I want
YOU to show ME love. Far from it." The husband froze in surprise not
knowing what to say.

Then he sheepishly came back to life and seemed a bit embarrassed. He seemed
genuinely confused when he said "I thought you liked that I did chores
around the house and fixed things. Like I cleaned out the garage recently...l
thought that's what you wanted me to do." The wife responded with, “I'm
glad you do that stuff around the house but I never asked you to do those
things. That's just what you do. You don't do those things specifically for me."

With a little therapeutic guiding and prompting on my part the wife was finally
able to tell her husband how she wants to be shown love:

The wife’s list:

1) I want you to listen to me -- really listen -- not try to fix things but
listen to me...don't go off into a story about you. Stay focused on listening
to me. And don't try to talk me into or out of anything… just hear me. That's
what I need.

2) I'd like if you'd pay attention to me exclusively –look at me and see me --
don't treat me like I'm invisible or don't matter. Put your cell phone, ipad or
television remote down and look at ME.

3) It would be nice to be held or stroked sometimes without my asking or

4) Once in a while start dinner, or do the dishes – do something you normally don’t do – when I come home from a long day that means more to me than anything. I know you care.

5) When I come home say hello -- acknowledge that I'm there -- maybe give me a hug or kiss. It would be great if I thought you were happy to see me.

6) Surprise me once in a blue moon with something unexpected that tells me you
were thinking about me. It doesn’t have to be anything big or anything

7) Call me for absolutely no reason during the day -- just to say hello and check
on me because you miss me

8) Maybe tell me you love me once in a while. It's so nice to hear.

The wife seems sheepish and embarrassed now too. She's bared her soul. She's
raw and vulnerable. But she also seems relieved to have expressed her needs and
to have been heard.

The husband has been listening intently and with a shy smile of understanding
says, "I think I can do that.”

Now it's the wife's turn. The same question is posed. How do you show your
husband that you love him? The answer comes immediately. "Well I make him
things he likes to eat and I keep his clothes nice and....ah....I take real
good care of the house. And of course I take on the majority of care of the
kids. Running them around to activities, sports. Homework ...," she trails

"Wait a minute," the husband interrupts with a laugh and almost quotes
verbatim what his wife said to him moments before, "you don't do those
things for ME. You do those things because that’s what you do. What you always
do. That’s not what I want for ME. "

The wife weakly tries to put up a fight but she seems honestly surprised too.

So now with a little gentle questioning, reflecting and deepening on my part we
get the husband's list of how he wants and needs his wife to show him love:

The husband’s list:

1) It would be nice when I come home if you got up off the couch and greeted
me. Like maybe gave me a hug or a kiss.

2) It would be great if I felt you were happy to see me.  Sometimes
after a long day at work I feel like it doesn't matter that I've come home. It
would be nice if it mattered. If I mattered. If I felt like you missed me.

3) I'd definitely like to get some more attention. It seems like the kids or
the phone or your parents suck it all out of you and I get the bare bones. It
would be so nice if you focused more on me without all those other distractions
all the time. Sometimes I feel like we can barely even have a conversation. It
would be nice to feel like a priority to you.

4) It would be great if you could show some interest in my successes. What I do
all day is damn hard and it would be so nice to share it with you and to celebrate
with you.

5) I guess it would feel good if I thought you felt proud of me. If you thought
I was doing a good job for our family. Not that you have to say thank you – but
it would be great to know that you appreciated how hard I try.

6) It would be nice to be able to hold and kiss you more and yes it would be
great if we could have more sex too. But it doesn't have to be sex all the
ime. It would be nice to be closer. More intimate more frequently. Like
holding hands…we used to do that all the time. Remember?

The wife is getting emotional and teary now. The husband too.

"Of course I remember when we used to hold hands. We held hands all the time.  That was really nice." She reaches out and holds his hand and they sit looking at each other.Understanding each other. In resonance.

So I ask the wife if she's heard what her husband’s asked for and how she feels
after hearing his list.

She doesn't take her eyes off her husband’s and she says "yeah, I think I
could do that."

I know it sounds like a Hollywood ending --because it was -- they smile at each
other with love and hope plainly displayed on their faces and I think to myself
"boy there are times when I love this job!"




Guaranteed to be the best gift you ever gave him or her!

* This is a paraphrased and merged recap of several of my couple’s sessions where this question was asked.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Erica Feidner February 11, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Thank you for this piece. Says it all.
Glen K Dunbar February 11, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Thanks for the post. Right up my alley. I have NO love or friends or happiness at all in this miserable abyss of a town. Wife not work. Nobody will give/offer her work or hang out w/her. Everything falls on me. My wife and I are not close. Only somewhat friends I have are at the Diner and they only can be Diner buddies. I need a real friend who will agree w/me all the time and speak up for me. Mostly, I need love and TLC which I am doomed to never have. No disrespect. But, these rich and happy and succefull people in this town make me cringe. GLEN


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