There may have been a time before commitment or marriage, a time when you and/or your dates carefully avoided words that spoke of lifetime promises, a time when you longed to hear the words “I love you.” But now — could you ever have imagined it? — there may be times when you hear your partner say "I love you!" and wonder ... does he really mean it? Or is she just saying that out of habit?
If “I love you!” is beginning to feel less meaningful these days, how else can you express your love? These are just a few suggestions for variations that can give extra weight and meaning to your words of love.
1. "I’m here for you. "
With these words, you let your partner know that in good times and in bad, you’re by her side, ready to listen, to provide emotional support, to offer ideas and encouragement when her energy to tackle life’s challenges is at low ebb.
My dear friend Mary, who lives in another state, will often end a loving email with the phrase, "Here with you..." which says it all.
Whether you are expressing your love to a partner or to a dear friend, letting them know that you are very much there for them in spirit can mean so much.
2. "Tell me more. "
This goes beyond just listening to someone's experiences of the day or description of a problem or challenge. This says that you’re listening, you’re interested, and you’re committed to helping and supporting them.
"I knew that my girlfriend, now my wife, was special when she asked to know more about a work problem I was describing," a client told me not long ago. "It went way beyond a simple 'What happened?' I knew, as she gave me her full attention and expressed an interest in knowing more, that I had a real partner."
3. "You matter so much to me. "
This is a way of telling your partner that he or she is your top priority, that what she feels or what he is experiencing is of great consequence to you.
"My husband and I had drifted apart due to a lot of things — our jobs, the kids — and we were like ships passing in the night," Jana, a former client, told me recently. "We'd ask about each other's day in a hurry, only half listening. Then one day, he mentioned, very much in passing, an issue with his brother — who can be very difficult — that was worrying him. I stopped and asked him to tell me more about it. He just automatically said, 'Oh, it's nothing.' I said, 'I can see this is worrying you, and I want to know more. What you're feeling matters to me. YOU matter to me...' He got tears in his eyes and started talking. We talked for a long time and felt so much closer. It had begun to seem to both of us, I think, that everything and everyone else mattered more than we did to each other. Letting him know that he mattered immensely to me made such a difference in our relationship."
4. "How are you — really? "
Again, this question shows a willingness to go beyond the surface and not settle for a rote answer. It gives the other person permission to tell you what's really going on, to tell the truth of his or her life, instead of simply answering with an automatic "Fine." It gives the signal that he has a safe place to be himself with you. While many assume that this is simply a given in love relationships, it isn't. Not all partners are emotionally safe and caring. But with these words and a willingness to listen, you can be one of them.
5. "I enjoy you!"
This phrase can add lightness and magic to everyday events. You might say it after shared laughter has broken through a bit of tension between you. You might say it as a reinforcement of love when you're experiencing a fun night out, a long-anticipated vacation, or a party where you're having an especially good time because you're there together. By focusing your joy on your partner, you let them know that they add immeasurably to your happiness wherever you may be and whatever you're doing. It can also be a loving way to express your pleasure during or just after love-making, letting your partner know, without a doubt, what joy your intimacy brings.