My husband and I both work at our computers off and on throughout the day, and we email back and forth a lot. Every once in a while, I get what looks like an empty message from him -- just a series of dots in a box. This makes me laugh every time, because I know what happened: It's just Gmail being too smart for its own good again. When you end every email the same way, Gmail thinks it's your signature, and thinks it doesn't have to include it in every email, especially if it's a response to a response to a response to a response to a response. The recipient must know who it's from by now. So smart, right?
And so, when I get an empty email from my husband, I know it's because he wrote "I love you." He says it so often, at the end of so many emails, Gmail thinks it's part of his name. Gmail thinks that's who he is.
I used to be skeptical of people who dashed off a hasty "I love you" all the time. "Don't forget to pick up some ketchup and laundry detergent!" -- "'Kay, love you!" Way to cheapen the sentiment, I thought to myself. Why not save it for when you can say it from the bottom of your heart? That way, you both know it really means something.
I don't know if I've grown softer or what (mentally, I mean. Physically, there's no question), but I'll tell you what: I need it now. I need to hear him tell me he loves me, over and over again, especially when we're talking about ketchup and laundry detergent and dentist appointments and parent-teacher conferences and taxes and who needs more fiber in their diet. I need the reminder that he knows who I am, even on the days when, according to our accomplishments, we could easily be replaced by some unskilled laborers and an adding machine.
And I need to hear it when I know he's mad at me. He writes it then, too. He always writes it, and he always means it, because that's who he is. It's almost like it's part of his name.
Husbands and wives, do this for each other. Say "I love you." You don't have to do it all the time, but do it! Don't let it go unsaid. We all need to say it, we all need to hear it. And, if we want to stay married, we have to act like we mean it.
[This post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2013.]
Image: Anonymous (Old postcard) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons