Brad taught me such an important lesson during the early years of our relationship, before we were even married, but it took a long time for me to get. Whenever he took a second, just out of the blue, to tell me he loved me, I’d repeat the words right back to him. To my surprise, he encouraged me not to.
He’d often say, “Thank you – but you really don’t have to say it right back.” That always threw me for a loop. I’d grown up learning that when someone says “I love you,” you repeat it back to the person. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. The nice thing to do. I felt bad, I told him, if I didn’t immediately mirror that love back to him.
But that, he told me, was exactly the point. He never wanted me to feel obliged to say those words. He hoped I could just receive the love sometimes – without feeling like there was any expectation attached to it. Say it if you really mean it, he told me, but also give the words a chance to sink in.
Phew. For a life-long people-pleaser, it was really hard to just feel the love vs. act on it. He saw the way I deflected kindness and compliments and unconditional love by throwing those gifts back at people like hot potatoes. And he loved me enough to want me to feel that I am enough, that I am worthy, that I am treasured. Such a huge gift.
Happy 13th anniversary, dear. And for the record: I love you, too. So much.