When I was younger, I always used to hate it when my dad called me “honey” or “sweetie.” It’s not that I minded the words themselves. It’s just that every time, the words would be connected to a request. “Honey, could you please put the dishes in the dishwasher?” or “Sweetie, can you please be nicer to your brother?” After a while, I started tensing up whenever I heard him use those words. I never quite understood why I disliked the words so much, but this week strategy made it very clear for me. This week’s strategy is about not qualifying your “I love you.” The specific example that Carlson uses is saying, “I love you, but…” While thinking about this topic, though, I realized that there are several ways of qualifying your “I love you” and connecting endearments to criticisms and requests is one of them.
The reason that qualifying your love is so damaging is that, as Carlson puts it, “doing so turns a statement of innocence and respect into a manipulative and self-serving lecture.” This is certainly not a way that any of us want to use our endearments, but we don’t always realize its negative effects.
Reasons Not To Say, “I Love You, But…”
You shouldn’t say, “I love you, but,” or its variants because:
1. It is an attempt to make you the “good guy”
Although your intention might be to remind your partner about your affection before bringing up something that might be upsetting, in reality, what this type of behavior communicates to your partner is that you are a thoughtful and reasonable person, and therefore if he gets upset about what you say, he is not as good of a person as you are.
2. It comes across as fake
If your intention in qualifying your affection is to prevent the other person from getting angry at you or to get them to do what you want, your discomfort is likely to come across as a lack of genuineness. Your expressions of affection should come from a place of caring, not from an attempt to get something or to prevent problems for yourself.
3. It makes an unkind assumption about your partner
When you use an endearment to introduce a concern, it insinuates that you think the endearment is necessary to prevent your partner from overreacting with anger or forgetting that you love them. Trust that your partner is adult enough and intelligent enough to hear what you have to say without manipulation.
4. It connects two things that don’t belong together
It is important to express your needs in your relationship and to let your partner know when you are upset. It is also important to express appreciation and affection to your spouse. Just because both are important, though, doesn’t mean you should put them together. Let your appreciation and your aggravation stand on their own. Be kind when you share your concerns, but don’t connect it with expressions of affection. After all, the last thing you want is to get the reaction I had to my father’s attempts at endearment, which made me tense up every time he said something nice, because I worried that a criticism or request was coming.
To conclude: Say “I love you!” Say it often! Just don’t say it to get something for yourself. Say it when it is genuinely about your partner.