A friend of mine once told me that she and her family rarely say ‘I love you’ to one another. This surprised me. Her family is certainly very close. In fact, I’ve often been envious of the strength and support they provide one another, the profound topics of conversation, their commitment to conflict resolution and, most importantly, the wild and wonderful and weird things they do together for fun (i.e. selling lawn-chewing services door-to-door. You read correctly… perhaps I’ll need a follow-up post to discuss the lawn-chewing thing).
So why are the words ‘I love you’ spoken so rarely? For my friend, it’s so that the words don’t lose their meaning. Saying ‘I love you’ on a regular basis somehow diminishes the worth of the words, in her mind. Perhaps her concern is that they will be thoughtlessly or carelessly spoken if they become too familiar.
Now, I must confess. I chronically communicate ‘I love you’.
Her comments strike me because my husband and I constantly say ‘I love you’ to one another—at the end of every phone call, anytime one of us leaves the house, random moments when our thoughts are on one another, at the end of the day when the lights get turned off. Has ‘I love you’ lost meaning for us? Have those words lost worth? Are they too familiar? Do we speak them carelessly?
After careful consideration, my answer to each of these questions is no. Actually, I feel the words become truer each time they are spoken. I’m conscious of authenticity and have yet to recall a flippantly uttered ‘I love you’. I certainly never tire of hearing the words and their effect is not lost on me. But there is one thing I notice that comes out of the chronic communication of ‘I love you’ and that’s creative conveyance.
For a while, we started this thing of saying ‘I lover you’… maybe as a way of capturing the eros aspect of the word love. I should probably be embarrassed to mention it (if my sister reads this, I know she’ll think too much information). And since we’ve had kids, the creativity has really kicked in—because if we were chronic communicators of ‘I love you’ before, we are now chronically chronic communicators of ‘I love you’.
One look at my son or daughter and I can’t help but think: You are wonderful, I love you. I overhear my four-year-old son describe to his dad the superhero he invented. You are wonderful, I love you. My sixteen-month old daughter barks whenever she sees a dog. You are wonderful, I love you. My son shares a new toy with a friend. You are wonderful, I love you. My daughter spends time in her room looking through books. You are wonderful, I love you. She also likes to pinch me if I say no to something. You are wonderful, I love you… but don’t pinch me.
Isn’t it only natural that one speaks what one thinks?
So with my children, I sometimes ask: Do you know how much I love you? Because as much as they hear the words from me and their dad, it’s also nice to hear them articulate that they know they are loved. And when my four-year-old stops in the hallway and says “Mom, (I look at him anticipating a question) I love you,” that‘s nice to hear as well. When he begins to realize concepts of scope, magnitude and distance—then he shares: I love you into space. Soon thereafter: I love you into space and back. And then: I love you up to heaven. In the car, on the way to pick up his dad, he declares: I love daddy up to heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, heaven and back, and so on and so on.
For me, the most difficult time saying ‘I love you’ comes in the moment when I realize I’ve said or done something to hurt my husband or one of my kids. If I’m overly brusque in putting on my daughter’s boots the third time in the process of trying to get us out of the house. How can I expect her to understand my frustration? Taking off her boots is simply a game for her. So my less-than-gentle hands make her sad. Or the impatience in my voice when I say to my son “Hurry up, let’s go go go, into the car.” Why should he have to scurry and dance around my moodiness? Once the seat belts are buckled, perspective seems to fall back into place. I realize their tender emotions are worth more than any millions of extra minutes needed to get somewhere on time. And I apologize: You are wonderful, I love you. I’m sorry. Saying ‘I love you’ in those moments is the hardest. Because the intensity with which I feel love for my children clashes with the intensity of knowing I will never be able to constantly and completely convey that love.
No, there is no diminished worth in saying ‘I love you’ as often as I do. No lost meaning. No over-familiarity. No carelessness. I’m not saying that my friend is wrong in her thinking. People are different and experiences vary. But in my case, I won’t be seeking out a cure for my chronically chronic ‘I love you’ communication anytime soon.
How about you? What are the ways you say ‘I love you’?
© Kelly Dycavinu, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.