Q: Here it is Valentine’s Day and I want to tell my family that I love them but I don’t seem to be able to say it.
A: That is not unusual. Many people are not taught how to express emotion. In a family where emotions are not expressed, it can be very difficult to become emotional and expose oneself that way. You may feel very vulnerable. If your family got embarrassed if anything loving was said, you would feel their discomfort and would also learn to not express your love. In some families, the only emotion that was expressed was anger and so any intense emotion still feels frightening.
If you want to change this pattern, start by writing down what you want to say. It doesn’t have to be long or overly romantic. Next, rather than giving it to the other person, arrange a time when you can both be alone and relaxed and ask if you can read it to them. Do not expect a response—remember, you have had time to think this through and write a script. The person you are expressing yourself to, hasn’t. The goal is to tell them how you feel—not to get them to tell you their feelings. This is important because if you expect something in return, it is very likely that you will be disappointed and far more reluctant to try again. The other person will learn in his or her own time.
The phrase, live your life as if today is the last day, is applicable here. If for some reason you and the person you love were unexpectedly separated today forever, what would you wish you had had time to tell them. Too often we hear people saying that they wish they had said ‘I love you’ to their parent, sibling, spouse or child before they last parted because fate stepped in they never again got the opportunity. Don’t let this happen to you. Say it today. No one ever tires of hearing that they are loved and no one has ever died of embarrassment from saying it. Be proud of yourself that you faced your discomfort and surpassed it, and don’t live your life with regrets.