I Can't Say "I Love You"

I envy the people who can readily let fly with an "I love you!" for a job well done, a hilarious pratfall or a donut.
Publish date:
February 15, 2013
love, friendship, communication, i love you

I've never been great with I Love Yous.

Part of me wishes I were. I envy the people who can readily let fly with an "I love you!" for a job well done, a hilarious pratfall or a donut.

I know so many people who can say that phrase so easily and yet make it sound honest and actually endearing. I believe them. They give their I Love Yous so freely and openly, it makes me wonder if there's something wrong with me.

I'm not really talking about just lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, etc. -- I'm talking about friends and everyone else -- someone who gives you a moment of happiness and is rewarded with "I love you!"

If a friend said, "I love you!" to me, I'd pull a Patrick Swayze from "Ghost" and say, "Ditto!" or even worse do the garbled, mumble, "Lurv ya schmoo," so as not to actually say it. I want to say, "I love you, too!" but it's a physical response in which my body and brain lock up and I just can't do it.

The first person I ever said "I love you" to was my friend Liz.

We were in college and she was in New Orleans, while I was in St. Louis. In high school, we were the stuff that YA novels are built from -- the hot girl (her) and the funny girl (me), becoming best friends and conquering, adolescence, boys and Catholic school.

On Valentine's Day in my sophomore year, we were both a little sad and a little single, and I got a love letter in the mail from Liz.

No, our friendship had not blossomed into something more, but it was in fact the greatest love letter I've ever received from anybody, male or female. I will not share all the details, but the one line that is burned in my brain was simply, "I love you because you are you, and you are the only person I have ever wanted to write a love letter to."

I called her shortly after and blathered that I loved her, too, through big slobbery tears.

And even with all of Liz's kind words, written in INK! On PAPER! FOR ALL ETERNITY! Saying, "I love you" to her was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was a glorious mixture of fear, freedom and need that compelled me to say those words.

So I'm CAPABLE of it. When my husband, then boyfriend, turned to me in bed and said, oh, so quietly and gently, "I love you," for the first time, I was so moved and my heart grew so many sizes all at once that it was all I could do to whisper back, "I love you."

I don't begrudge the people who say I Love You without hesitation, either. I get it, one person's "I love you" is another person's "You are Fan-fucking-tastic!"

One time, I did my yearly Good Deed in Real Life and warned the lady parked at the meter in front of me that in her haste she had forgotten to shut her trunk with all her gear in the back. She responded with an exasperated but grateful, "OMG I LOVE YOU." I helped a fellow human and it felt good.

But in me, there's a block. The I Love You doesn't come easy.

I am naturally a wary person, slow to warm to others, slow to trust, not always easy to talk to. However, once I get to know you and let you in, I'll love you until the day I die. See, I said "love."

I've now gotten to the point where I say "I love you" pretty regularly. My husband aside, I tell my closest friends that I love them all the time, and mean it. But I'm still always conscious of it -- conscious of where the words fall in the conversation, conscious if it's appropriate for the moment. Like when you learn a new skill that you have to think about or else you'll press the wrong buttons and set something on fire.

So I'm curious, how do you deal with the I Love You? Is it a part of your everyday speech? How comfortable are you with saying it? Do you say it to everybody? Nobody?