DEAR ABBY: "Confused in Quito, Ecuador" complained that when she says, "I love you," her boyfriend's response is, "I love you more." She asked what made him feel he had to "best" her in this. Please let her know it's possible he's only repeating an endearment that means, "My love for you is so immense it has no bounds."
I'd bet my next paycheck that the young man has no intention of trying to "top" her, but instead feels he's giving her the highest compliment he can. -- RUTH IN BRANDON, MISS.
DEAR RUTH: I agree. However, you would not believe the letters and e-mails that "Confused's" question generated!
DEAR ABBY: "Confused" shouldn't be offended. I have a 10-year-old son, and that is one of our standard routines at bedtime. We always tell each other we love each other when we kiss goodnight. The fun is seeing who can tell the other that we love each other more, until finally one of us says, "I love you more than anyone can love anyone in the whole wide world."
Please urge "Confused" not to make a competition out of it, and just enjoy the fact that he "loves her more." -- LOVED IN MINNESOTA
DEAR LOVED: My mail indicates that the "I love you more" game is a tradition in many families.
DEAR ABBY: "Confused" should listen to her instincts. If her boyfriend feels the need to compete with her and "win" in other areas, too, it could be a warning sign of a potential abuser. When I was a domestic violence advocate, this was one of the "little" signs we told clients to watch out for. -- SHERRI IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR SHERRI: Thank you for lending another point of view.
DEAR ABBY: I hope "Confused" ends her relationship with that young man and allows him the freedom to find someone who truly appreciates him. Shortly before my daughter's wedding, she and her fiance were in her car driving home when she said, "I love you." He replied, "I love you more." Thus was born the theme for their wedding. They had their wedding bands engraved with the phrase, and I embroidered it on the ring bearer's pillow. Two children later, they're still saying it and blissfully happy. -- JOAN IN WATKINSVILLE, GA.
DEAR JOAN: What a beautiful way to memorialize a wedding ceremony.
DEAR ABBY: I sure wish I had that girl's problem. My husband of 27 years hasn't said "I love you" to me in more than 20 of them. He tells our sons and our dogs how much he loves them, but I never receive any words of affection from him. What I wouldn't give to hear my husband say those three little words. -- LONELY IN LAGUNA
DEAR LONELY: There is a reason why, seven years into your marriage, your husband withdrew and became emotionally withholding. Until you bring the issue out into the open, nothing will change. Not only do you need to understand the reason for your husband's behavior, it would also be helpful to understand why you have tolerated it for so long. Offer him the option of discussing it with a marriage counselor. If he refuses, go without him. I guarantee you'll get an education.
DEAR ABBY: My daughter and my husband had the same ritual. Whichever one said, "I love you," the other would respond, "I love you more."
After raising eight children, my husband died of cancer at the age of 59. On his tombstone, in addition to the data, is the endearment "MORE." -- MARJORIE IN ELGIN, ILL.
DEAR MARJORIE: And a fitting epitaph it is.