A realistic scene last night on the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy, really caught my attention. In their Hope for the Hopeless show, a woman tells her boyfriend she loves him as she leaves. He kisses her. Then he says, “See ya.” His female friends chastise him saying he broke the rule: If someone says I love you, you must say I love you back.
My husband has always told me he loves me. For him, like the woman on Grey’s, he always ends our phone conversations with “I love you.” Sometimes I say it back and sometimes I don’t.
(After watching the show, I wondered if this was a real social norm. Like many people there was a fair amount of dysfunction in my family. My stoic German heritage is also suspect. Perhaps there is a learning here for me?)
When someone tells me they love me, automatically saying “I love you” in return feels devalued. The return response feels somewhat obligatory at the moment. Even though I love my husband now more than the day I married him (almost 22 years ago), it still feels odd. Does he feel like my lack of saying love you back is “unfeeling”?
So I asked my husband: Should someone say I love you after someone else says it first?
He said he wondered about it this too. (He is also German.) Then he asked me, “Do I tell you I love you too much? I know that I always say it when I say good-bye on the phone, but ever since your accident I realize I don’t know if I will get to say it to you again. So now I always say it.”
Immediately I felt so ungrateful for not ALWAYS saying I love you back to him. Okay, my eyes welled with tears. I share only a snippet of the 10 minute conversation with my husband on this topic. He never feels my response is insincere. (That’s good because it isn’t!)
I was not able to say I love you to my mother (I was 16) before she suddenly died. Did I tell her the day she died? Probably not. I have always regretted that I didn’t tell her more.
My husband can say it 50 times a day and I will never tire of it. Now that I know about the rule, I will abide by it too. Here’s my new rule for Valentine’s Day: Don’t wait for Valentine’s day to say you love someone, do it every day!
Are these social norms/rules you already follow? Or, do you think it’s all TV fantasy and Hallmark hype? Just an FYI, St. Valentine was real.
Happy Valentine’s Day and wishing you lots of love,
P.S. Valentine’s Day is my second favorite holiday because it’s close to my birthday and anniversary so it’s always incorporated in our special days. I believe in celebrating it!