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Should I Still Be Saying "I Love You" To My Separated Spouse?
When you’re in the middle of a breakup that you never wanted before, it can be tempting to remind your partner that they’re still married to someone who still loves them very much. I know there can be a real concern that if they’re out of your presence, they’ll start to forget what they love about you. Or they may find that the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is true.
So you may have a general tendency to tell your estranged partner that you love them every time you talk or see them. And that’s perfectly fine – as long as you’re getting an enthusiastic response. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
A wife might say: “I know it sounds desperate and needy. But I can’t help it. Every time I talk to my estranged husband, I tell him I love him, even before we hang up. I’ve done it for everyone.” . I have known him for years and old habits die hard. At the beginning of our separation, it seemed fine. But the last few times, I have noticed that he hesitates before responding. Last night he did not say anything in response. I don’t mean to be dense. Of course, he’ll think I’m doing something wrong or he doesn’t want to hear that I love him during the breakup. But not saying that feels like a lie. It feels like playing games or holding back. I don’t love him. Do you want to pretend? Because I think it’s ridiculous. I love him. And it seems silly to me that I shouldn’t talk every day the same way I have for years. Do I have to stop?”
It really depends on you. I would never tell anyone what to do during their marriage or their separation. I can tell you what made my opinion the same situation I was in. But, I know that all situations are different. So I can’t say what worked for me will work for you.
But, during my own separation, it finally became very clear that my husband wasn’t accepting of treating me the way he did when we were happily married. When I tried to act like we were another married couple or that nothing was wrong, he would stay away or avoid me. If I push, it gets worse and I have to work really hard to even get him to take my calls. To be honest, there were times when I could literally feel him when I said I loved him.
As hard as it was to accept, I started to realize that if I didn’t change things, I might just be making the situation worse. So I made a conscious decision to withdraw some. Does this mean I don’t love my husband? No, if anything, I loved him more, if not more. But I knew that if I was going to have any chance of keeping that love, I had to find a strategy that drew him closer rather than pushing me away.
And when I tried to push my love on him, it definitely drew him further away. So, I curtailed my demonstrations and declarations of love. I told myself it was only temporary, but it was hard. Still, I knew that my long-term goal was most important and not my declaration of love at that moment.
With my support things eventually got better as my husband finally accepted me again. And him being receptive to me meant that we got to spend more time together—which would never have happened if I’d kept trying.
I can’t say what will work in your own situation. I can only suggest that if you notice something isn’t working, sometimes it makes sense to try something else – if only once. Maybe the next time you talk to your husband and it’s time to sign off, you could try something like this: “Tonight, I’m not going to insist that I love you, even though I do. I think that makes you uncomfortable. But I don’t want to.” Was it because I was angry or whatever. I’m just trying to respect your wishes and not push.”
At this point, your husband can assure you that affectionate phrases are fine. Or, he may say nothing at all – in which case his silence speaks volumes. If you decide to back off and find that he seems more comfortable the next time you talk, you can probably guess that holding back a bit has helped.
I know it can feel weird and almost dishonest to stay with your own partner. But separation can be a very delicate time in a relationship – especially when one partner has asked for space or isn’t sure what they want. It has become my opinion that if my husband backs off a little to be available to me, I am willing to pay that price at that point. Because I knew it was part of a long-term strategy that meant I wouldn’t have to hold back once we reconciled.
Today, I tell him that I will always love him, so it was worth it for me to stop. And I believe it helped. But every situation is different. In some situations, both spouses are perfectly comfortable saying they love each other. And that’s wonderful. But that was not my reality. Still, if everyone is happy, I see no reason to stop.
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