"I can sleep with her, marry her, take care of her, but love - that's something else," said Tony, a married man in his late forties. "Guys don't like to talk about love. They don't know what to say. Of course guys do love. But they express it differently."
Despite this fact, most women do not feel happy unless they hear those golden words, I love you. Men need to hear them as well. And yet, as much as men want love, many fight it to the last minute. Love can make men feel vulnerable, childlike, and unable to do what's expected of them, especially those who believe they're functioning in a dog eat dog world. Still men do love, and different types of men express their love differently. In fact, love means different things to a man, at different times in his life. A woman needs to be alert to who the man she is with is, and what love means to him. As discussed in my book, What He Can't Tell You And Needs To Say, there are broadly, Four Types Of Men, and for each of these types, love will mean something different, and certainly be expressed in different manners.
Although most women wait to hear the golden words, "I Love You," here are 5 different ways that men use to express what they are feeling. The first way is simply by saying "I Love You." Actually, saying these words is a huge step for some men. It means a lot more than simply expressing a feeling. For some it feels like a life commitment, for others it is fraught with danger.
"When I say I love you," said Steve, "I feel like I'm taking my life in my hands and giving it to her. It's scary. I've got to really trust her and know she won't throw my love away in order to actually say the words to her." In this case the fear of rejection comes up strongly. Rejection is enormously painful for most men, and saying "I Love You", can be an invitation to be hurt. Most men must feel very secure in the relationship and in the woman's feelings for him, before he'll dare say those words.
For others, saying "I love you," means, I'm offering a commitment. I'm going to be here to do things for you. For many men, love is expressed through action, so these words are a promise of what is to follow. Simply by saying these words they feel they are agreeing to be there to give to her and support her. If they don't do it, they'll feel like a heel.
For others, the words means, I'm not leaving, or I'll always be faithful This can be very scary for some men. They feel the words themselves are a promise, and if the promise is broken, they will suffer as well. However, there is another type of man, The Lovers, Dreamers and Peter Pans, who enjoy falling in love and letting the world know it. These men will say "I Love You" easily. There are many different motives behind their words though. Some say it to get a woman to make love with him, others to enter into a romantic fantasy, some to feel as though they are the great lover of all time. By saying these words, others seem to be offering the woman the world, (that they have no intention of giving). Others say it just for the sheer pleasure of seeing how good it makes the woman feel, and how powerful this makes him.
When a woman hears those precious words, she should step back a moment and put them in context. What do they mean to this particular man? Are there other ways she might also realize that he loves and is caring for her?
Another way men express their love, is through bringing gifts to the woman. There are many different kinds of gifts a man can give. The obvious ones include those wrapped in packages, candy, flowers, special notes. But there are others that a woman may or may not be aware of. For example, for some men, giving their time to you, is a gift. they spend more time with you, and less with family and friends, this is their way of saying they love you. They are choosing to be with you. For them, the conclusion should be obvious - that they love you.
There are other gifts that can be given as well, standing up for you during a difficult time, going with you to your family, doing things for you, attending important functions with you, planning trips, dates or outings, and putting you first in their thoughts. As many men are not so comfortable with expressing their feelings directly, these behaviors are indicators that they care a great deal. Many expect the woman to realize that these actions are being generated because they love.
Another one of the Four Types Of Men are the perfectionists controllers, and addicts (work addicts, love addicts). For some of these men, a way of expressing love is through being jealous, or possessive. (Other types of men can fall into this as well) Although this may not feel good to many women for these men it is can be a sign that they care about you, you're important to them and they don't want anyone else near. They do not want to share your attention. It is especially upsetting to these men if you speak of or look at other guys.
Although being controlled is not being loved, in the pure sense of the word, to many men and women, the two overlap. Many women feel cared for when the man wants to know where she's going during the day, who she's with, and what she's doing. "It's a sign that he cares a great deal," said Renee. "Sure, it can be annoying that he's so controlling, but if he wasn't, truthfully, I don't think I'd feel loved or cared about." For Renee this kind of behavior produces a sense of security. Even though he's controlling her, at least she's on his mind, and in this way she feels she's controlling him as well. She translates this to mean that the man is involved, he cares about what she's doing. He wants to make sure that she doesn't spend more time with others than she does with him.
Other men say "I love you" through physical displays. They are affectionate and spend quality time making love to you. Some men can most easily express their feelings during love making. After being intimate they feel as though they've loved you, and often feel loved as well. The physical contact breaks down barriers and provides a feeling of closeness that cannot be so easily be obtained in another manner for them. Most women need affection and fore-play as well as sexuality. For the women this is what makes them feel loved. Some women require hearing words of spoken during this time as well. This can be a complex area, because sex can mean so many different things to different individuals. But when a man is open, giving and affectionate with a woman on an on-going basis, it is often his way of expressing love. For him love means meeting her needs and having his needs met as well. Some use sexuality to avoid or cover up areas in the relationship that might be difficult. They feel that if the sex is good, everything else will fall into place. Usually, when the sex is reluctant, or not happening, it is an indicator that something is missing emotionally, or that conflict exists in the relationship. Sex is a sensitive barometer to what's going on in all aspects of one's life.
Another way of saying "I Love You" is taking you home to meet the family, (and close, meaningful friends). This is often an indicator that the man has deeper feelings for you. Not only does it say that he's proud of you, but he wants to connect you with the people who mean the most to him. He wants you to care about them, and for them to care about you as well. This is a sure sign that intimacy and love is increasing for him, that you are becoming a significant part of his life.
Some women complain a great deal about not having met the family, being kept separate and apart. When this goes on for too long in a relationship, it can be a sign that the depth of his feelings for you, and his involvement is lacking.
Some men compartmentalize relationships, they have someone for dating, someone for sex, someone else for the kind of love that leads to marriage. By being aware of the people in his life that he introduces you to, and includes you with, you can get a good idea of how he operates in this area. Does he want you in all parts of his life, or is this a limited relationship? Love, in the deepest sense, includes sharing all parts of ourselves with another.
It is helpful to keep a little journal of your relationship. So many acts and expressions of love go unnoticed and unfelt, because we simply get used to them, or are too busy to stop and take note - or to stop and say thank you. In the journal of your relationship, take a few minutes each evening to note, what you received that day, and also what you gave. Write it down. Be specific. List everything, like phone calls, kind words, a surprise visit, etc. It will be amazing to you to realize all the ways your partner is giving to you, and it will be wonderful to find new ways to give back to him.
Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, psychologist and psychoanalyst, is the relationship expert on www.ivillage.com. She is the author of Living By Zen . She has conducted over 500 workshops and talks regionally and nationally, which have been widely acclaimed.
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