How many times have you used the phrase “I love you, but” when speaking with your spouse? I don’t use it too often but every once in a while I catch myself. I immediately stop. I’m not exactly sure why people use that phrase. Perhaps, people use it to let someone they love know that whatever follows does not change the fact that they love them.
But it comes across as taking away from the love. It comes across as telling your spouse that your love is not unconditional or that your love has levels.
A few examples:
- I love you, but you really need to start putting your clothes in the hamper.
- I love you, but you can’t go out with your friends every Friday night.
- I love you, but I just don’t know why you insist on wearing that stupid shirt.
You really could add any insult or “improvement suggestion” after the “but.” Feel free to leave some more from your word in the comments.
Do you see how the “I love you” seems out of place. You’re asking your spouse to change something about them. “I love you, but” is a terrible way of phrasing it. To have “but” immediately following “I love you” makes it seem like your love is wavering.
Want my suggestion? Just drop “I love you” and focus on getting your point across that delivers the message that you love your spouse. In our examples:
- I know you’re tired but when you leave your clothes on the floor it makes me feel like you don’t value my time or energy because I then have to go around picking up the clothes. I really believe that is not what you’re trying to do, but it would mean a lot to me if you helped me out that way. It would really make me feel loved and respected.
- Honey, I don’t want you to stop going out with your friends, but what if we invited them here one week or switched one of the days to another day of the week? I want you to have your time with your friends, but look forward to Friday nights all week and would love to spend a few with you.
- I know you love that shirt. I don’t want you to stop wearing it, but you look so handsome in this one, too. Do you mind wearing this one to my parents’ house today? It would mean a lot to me and to them, too.
See how many words it might take to get your point across? But in the three rewrites there was no suggestion that your love was relevant to the issue. Any of these can be said a thousand different ways.
But what’s love got to do with it?