Three simple words, one perfect sentence, complete with a pronoun, a verb, and an object. It's a sentence that is supposed to carry with it great intent, reveal the most intimate caring, and define relationship status. But do the words "I love you" really convey all that they are supposed to?
The words "I love you" roll quite easily off our tongues when we speak them to our children. We, as women, are simply bred to automatically and immediately love our children, and for most of us, this comes naturally. It may be less often that we say "I love you" to our parents and siblings, but when we do it's usually intentional. When it comes to romantic relationships, however, we need to be extra careful that, when we say those words, the people who hear them know that we truly mean it. And more importantly, we need to understand that we mean it. Has there ever been a time when someone you "loved" said "I love you" many times and yet betrayed you, or you felt it was simply "lip service?"
How can we make sure that when we do say "I love you", there's no room for misinterpretation or doubt?
Let's get grammatical for a minute. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists love as a noun and also as a verb.
Love: n. 1: strong affection 2: warm attachment 3: attraction based on sexual desire 4: a beloved person 5: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for others 6: a score of zero in tennis.
All of these definitions conjure up unique feelings, and when we look at them individually, we can see that clearly. Love for a friend is different than love for a lover. Love for a certain population is different than love for a grandparent. And then there's the score in tennis…
Love: vb. 1: cherish 2: to feel a passion and a tenderness for 3: caress 4: to take pleasure in (an object or an activity).
The verb form is the component in the phrase "I love you." And it is also the one subject to banality and overuse.
Here are 10 ways to put "I love you" into action, make our relationships more meaningful, and avoid overuse of these three powerful words:
1. Expand your vocabulary
Instead of always saying "I love you", use words that you don't usually say but also have meaning, like "I'm so lucky to have you," or "I love that you…" or "I admire you for…"
2. Accept yourself and your needs
Accept that the other person is not you. One of the things that prevents a person from loving another fully is our relationship with ourselves. Separating yourself from the other is not only healthy, it is a key to a successful relationship.
3. Actions speak louder than words
Express your love in a variety of ways by bringing a small gift, a flower, a card, or a small token that you think the other person would like.
4. Be childlike
Children express affection so easily. Think like a kid! Write on a mirror with a dry erase marker, tuck a silly note in a briefcase or on a car seat. Be spontaneous and creative.
5. No faking
Pay attention to your non-verbals. Facial express and body language are extremely revealing. If you aren't feeling "I love you", saying it won't matter. Your ambivalence will be written all over your face.
6. 1:3 Ratio
Follow the 1:3 criticism ratio: one criticism per 3 compliments given. This is effective in all relationships. Remember that everyone loves a compliment.
7. Use your body
Add a special touch when you say "I love you." A hug, a kiss, a simple pat on the back, or gentle touch on the arm adds emphasis to your words. And, absolutely, look the person in the eye.
8. Daily one-on-one
If you are already in a committed relationship, enhance your relationship by setting aside fifteen minutes a day to share. During this time, be sure to "unplug." Set aside your smart phone and turn off your laptop. Leave the logistics (to do lists, calendar topics) for another time and just share with one another. Make up your own rules, but keep your appointment.
9. Date Night
Date nights are crucial, especially if you have children. Schedule "real dates" on your calendar. Don't wait for them to happen. Do this as often as you can.
10. Listen up!
If you really want to express your love and let someone know how much you care, be a good listener. True listening is the most important aspect of communication. Listening to others helps us understand their perspective, their ideas, and their opinions. Also, listen to yourself. By listening to your true voice and your intuition, you will feel and be more authentic, and your "I love you's" will be more real.
Make your "I love you" really stand out and say something by implementing a step or two of the actions listed above one at a time. And then add more, be creative, and watch your love bloom.
More relationship expert advice from YourTango: