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How to live with a spouse that doesn't know how to love

Posted by on Aug. 14, 2014 at 12:38 AM
  • 17 Replies

I am at my wits end.... For eight years I have been dealing with a husband that has zero idea on what love really is. I thought that he was going to at least love his own kids... but he doesn't even really do that. He never says he loves... which really I am fine with. But the bigger thing is that he doesn't show he loves either. He stopped even trying with his daughter in another state because she threw and fit and wouldn't talk to him... so he just gave up on her. Now with his son who is six... he only wants to scold him all the time and be the tough parent because he says that I am too "soft". The ONLY reason that I am "soft" is because I feel that I need to show him love to cover for both his mom and DAD. Dad NEVER hugs, kisses or shows any kind of affection. Really he doesn't ever interact with him at all. He is a mommy's boy because I try everything to make up for that.

I can live with it... this is the man that chose... even thought the other night he told me that if I ever got fat he would have no problems leaving me. I called him on that and said that if he feels that way that I KNOW he doesn't love me. The answer he gave was "I was just kidding...I'm stuck now". After I pressed him further he said... "Since your are hot right now all of your quirks and just cute... but as soon as you are fat they will just be annoying."

Dealing with this is my problem that I got myself into. BUT my son should not have to grow up with a father who holds his "love" like that.

I know the answer to my own question and that is that there really is no answer. But here it is anyway just in case anyone has an idea... what do I do?


by on Aug. 14, 2014 at 12:38 AM
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by Silver Member on Aug. 14, 2014 at 1:09 AM
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Maybe you just dont recognize the love he does display because you "speak" different love languages.  What my husband and i realized that we did such that for him the actual words meant more to him and for me it is the actions that mean more.  He wanted me to actually tell him that I loved him and appreciated him, etc. and I was showing him by doing and buying things that i know he liked but didnt say the words.  For me, he was telling me the words, but I care more when he did things that I asked of him instead. 

by Silver Member on Aug. 14, 2014 at 1:11 AM

Most of us grow up learning the language of our parents, which becomes our native tongue. Later we may learn additional languages, but usually with much more effort. In the area of love, it’s similar. Your emotional love language and that of your spouse may be as different as Mandarin from English – no matter how hard you try to express love in English, if your spouse only understands Mandarin, you’ll never understand how to love each other.

Seldom do a husband and wife have the same primary love language. We tend to speak our primary love language and become confused when our spouse doesn’t understand what we’re communicating. Once you identify and learn to speak your spouse’s primary love language, you’ll have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage.

Determining Your Own Love Language
Either take the assessment here, or since you may be speaking what you need, you can discover your own love language by asking yourself these questions:

❤ How do I express love to others?
❤ What do I complain about the most?
❤ What do I request most often?

Speaking in your spouse's love language probably won't be natural for you. Dr. Chapman says, "We're not talking comfort. We're talking love. Love is something we do for someone else. So often couples love one another but they aren't connecting. They are sincere, but sincerity isn't enough." **

The Five Love Languages

Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.*

Verbal compliments or words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love.
Encouraging words: “Encourage” means “to inspire courage”. All of us have areas in which we feel insecure. We lack courage, which often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. Perhaps you or your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting encouraging words from you or from him.

Kind words: If we’re to communicate love verbally, we must use kind words. That has to do with the way we speak. The statement “I love you”, when said with kindness and tenderness, can be a genuine expression of love.

Humble words: Love makes requests, not demands. In marriage we’re equal partners. If we’re to develop an intimate relationship, we need to know each other’s desires. If we make our needs known in the form of a request, we’re giving guidance, not ultimatums.

If this is your partner’s love language: Set a goal to give your spouse a different compliment each day for a month.

The Power of the Tongue
Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Good for Mark Twain, but I don’t know many husbands and wives who can survive on six compliments a year. Solomon, author of the ancient Hebrew wisdom literature, wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other. Verbal compliments are powerful communicators of love.

Encouraging Words
One way to verbally affirm your spouse is to give encouraging words. Allison always wanted to be a writer, but after receiving her first rejection slip from the publisher, she gave up. One evening her husband Keith came into the den and said, “I hate to interrupt your reading, but I have to tell you this. I just finished reading your article. Allison, you are an excellent writer. This stuff ought to be published! Your words paint pictures that I can visualize. You have got to submit this stuff to some magazines.” “Do you really think so?” Allison asked. “I know so,” Keith said. “I’m telling you, this is good.”

Ten years later, Allison has had several articles published and has her first book contract. She credits her success to Keith’s words of encouragement. Perhaps your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words.

Focus on Your Spouse
There is a difference between encouraging words and nagging words. Encouraging words always focus on something your spouse wants to do, not something you want them to do. A nag is anything you tell your spouse more than three times.

“It’s Not What You Said. It’s How You Said It!”
If we are to express love by words of affirmation, those words must be kind words. Kindness has to do with the manner in which we speak. Sometimes our words are saying one thing, but our tone of voice is saying another. Our spouse will usually interpret our message based on our tone of voice, not the words we use. The same words expressed with a loud, harsh voice will not be an expression of love, but an expression of condemnation and judgment. An ancient sage once said, “a soft answer turns away anger.”

Quality Time
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.*

This means giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. What I mean is taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other while talking. Time is a strong communicator of love. The love language of quality time has many dialects. One of the most common is that of quality conversation – two individuals sharing their thoughts and feelings. A relationship calls for sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person’s desires. We must be willing to give advice, but only when it’s requested and never in a condescending manner.

Here are some practical listening tips:
❤ Maintain eye contact when your spouse is talking.
❤ Don’t do something else at the same time.
❤ Listen for feelings and confirm them. Ask yourself, “What emotion is my spouse experiencing?”
❤ Observe body language.
❤ Refuse to interrupt. Such interruptions indicate, “I don’t care what you are saying; listen to me.”
❤ Quality conversation also calls for self-revelation. In order for your partner to feel loved, you must reveal some of yourself, too.

If this is your partner’s love language: Ask your partner for a list of five activities that he’d enjoy doing with you. Make plans to do one of them each month for the next five months.

Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television. I mean sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, and giving each other your undivided attention. For some people, quality time is their primary love language, and if you don’t give them quality time, they will not feel loved. Is it possible that your spouse’s primary love language is quality time?

Listen for Clues
Quality time is a powerful emotional communicator of love. One medicine does not cure all diseases. Just as one love language does not communicate emotionally to all people. If you give your spouse affirming words; If you express love by acts of service; If you touch them affectionately; and they still complain, “You don’t ever have time for me. We used to do things together. Now you are always too busy or too tired,” they are telling you that their primary love language is quality time.

The Essence of Quality Time
A central aspect of quality time is togetherness. I do not mean proximity. Togetherness has to do with focused attention. A husband who is watching sports on television while he talks to his wife is not giving her quality time, because she does not have his full attention. A husband and wife playing tennis together, if it is genuine quality time, will focus not on the game, but on the fact that they are spending time together.

Dialects of Quality Time
Like words of affirmation, the language of quality time also has many dialects. One of the most common dialects is that of quality conversation. By quality conversation, I mean sympathetic dialogue where two people are sharing their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings, and their desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. If your spouse’s primary love languages is quality time, such dialogue is crucial to his or her emotional sense of being loved. Sit down. Ask questions, and listen.

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.*

Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest. A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” A gift is a symbol of that thought. Gifts come in all sizes, colours and shapes. Some are expensive and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts, the cost will matter little.

There is also an intangible gift that can speak more loudly than something that can be held in one’s hand. Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give. Your body becomes the symbol of your love.

If this is your partner’s love language: Keep a “gift idea” notebook. Every time you hear your spouse say, “I really like that,” write it down. Select gifts you feel comfortable purchasing, making or finding, and don’t wait for a special occasion. Becoming a proficient gift giver is an easy language to learn.

Gift giving is a major part of relationships in many cultures. I was in Chicago when I studied anthropology. By means of detailed ethnographies, I visited fascinating peoples all over the world. I went to Central America and studied the advanced cultures of the Mayans and the Aztecs. I crossed the Pacific and studied the tribal peoples of Melanesia and Polynesia. I studied the Eskimos of the northern tundra and the aboriginal Ainus of Japan. I examined the cultural patterns surrounding love and marriage and found that in every culture I studied gift-giving was a part of the love-marriage process.

A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. How often do you think about your spouse throughout your day? How often do you make that known to them? This week when you think about your spouse try to show them by giving them a token of your affection, a symbol of that thought.

Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.*

People who speak this love language seek to please their partners by serving them; to express their love for them by doing things for them. Actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, washing the dishes, sorting the bills, walking the dog or dealing with landlords are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love. I’m not saying become a doormat to your partner and do these things out of guilt or resentment. No person should ever be a doormat. Do these things as a lover.

If this is your partner’s love language: What one act of service has your spouse nagged you about consistently? Why not decide to see the nag as a tag? Your spouse is tagging this particular task as a really important thing to him or her.

“Acts of service” – doing something for your spouse that you know they would like for you to do. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, changing the baby’s diaper, and painting the bedroom, etc.

If this is your spouse’s primary love language, nothing speaks as loudly as these acts of service. You may give him or her words of affirmation, but they are thinking, “Cut the talk. If you loved me, you would do something around here.” For them, actions truly speak louder than words.

When we translate this into a marriage, it means that we will do acts of service to express love to our spouse. Why not choose one to express love to your spouse today?

You may be tempted to stop helping around the house because you get criticized. Your spouse’s critical remarks may be your best clue as to his or her primary love language. The next time your spouse criticizes you, look behind the criticism and see if you can discover their love language. They are trying to tell you what is important to them emotionally. Don’t fight the criticism. Seek to learn from it. Love effectively by learning your spouse’s primary love language and speaking it daily.

When I talk about acts of service as an expression of love, I am not talking about being a slave. When we treat our spouses as slaves, we remove the possibility of love because we remove their freedom. “If you were a good spouse, you would do this for me” is not the language of love. “You will do this, or you’ll be sorry” is manipulation, not love. If acts of service are to be acts of love, they must be freely given. Requests give direction to love, but demands stop the flow of love.

Learning to speak this love language may require some of us to reexamine our stereotypes of the roles of husbands and wives. Is this difficult? Perhaps. That’s why I use the word love language. Learning a new language may be difficult and take time, but it can be done. A willingness to examine and change stereotypes may be necessary in order to express love more effectively.

Physical Touch
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.*

Holding hands, kissing, hugging and sex – all of these are lifelines for the person for whom physical touch is the primary love language. With it, they feel secure in their partner’s love. “Love touches” don’t take much time, but they do require a little thought, especially if this isn’t your primary love language or you didn’t grow up in a “touching” family. Sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but communicates your love loudly. Touching each other when you leave the house and when you return may involve only a brief kiss, but speaks volumes.

If this is your partner’s love language: While eating together let your knee or foot drift over and touch your partner.

by Melissa on Aug. 14, 2014 at 7:16 AM

Would he be willing to go to therapy? 

That's not a father at all. And why you would keep your kid around a man who doesn't show love at all is horrible. This is the example you are setting for him as a man to grow up to be. 

You may have chosen that "man" at the time, but it doesn't mean you don't have to chose another. 

by on Aug. 14, 2014 at 7:29 AM
Poor kids.

You have to be a moral cornerstone and get his ass back in the game before it's too late with his kids.

No kid deserves a shit dad. Don't let your kids and his kid think that.
by on Aug. 14, 2014 at 7:35 AM

 My daughter is going through something similar, but he shows affection to his daughter.  She is leaving him.  We are helping her move out when her apartment becomes available on the 8th of September.

by on Aug. 14, 2014 at 7:42 AM
1 mom liked this

I am terrible at showing affection with my kids like that--I rarely hug or kiss.  That being said, I am absolutely involved in their lives & they know I care.  Granted, they are all at an age that they don't mind not being hugged or kissed at this point, so it's not a big deal.

I wasn't 100 percent against him, being able to understand being emotionally closed off myself, until the part about him saying he would leave you if you got fat.  If he would leave you for something as ridiculous as that, it sounds like you're not a truly important part of his life & IMO he is an asshole.

I wouldn't waste another minute on him.

by Brenda on Aug. 14, 2014 at 8:27 AM

So if he doesn't know how to love, why or what made you fall in love with him in the first place? I agree with the prior poster. We express our love in different languages. It sounds like family therapy would be very beneficial for your family. You and your husband need to find some common ground in regards to parenting, showing affection, and making sure the other feels appreciated. 

by Platinum Member on Aug. 14, 2014 at 8:53 AM

 whelp... likely this is what your husband grew up with.. and now your son is growing up in the same environment... and now you know what kind of father your son will be

I doubt your dh suddenly flipped a switch and became this way. There were red flags you probably ignored. Now that you can see those flags, what are you going to do about them?


or the other side is... you are way too overprotective of your son, and your dh sees this

hard to say, since we only have your side of the story

by Platinum Member on Aug. 14, 2014 at 8:58 AM


Quoting stepinseattle:

I can live with it... this is the man that chose...

BUT my son should not have to grow up with a father who holds his "love" like that.



 And this is the thing............ you chose to put this man in your life, you chose your son's father


you can choose what kind of man you want in your son's life


your son  can't choose who he wants for a father


think about it

    Life is divine chaos
Embrace it.  Forgive  yourself.   Breathe
           And enjoy the ride....   

by Bronze Member on Aug. 14, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Show him how to love. Keep giving love to your kids but also love him how you want to be loved. Maybe if he sees you showing love he may want to show it. Try talking to him and tell him how much ot bothers you. My husband is not good and showing love but once we talked it got better. Hope this helps.

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