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Saying "I Love You"
How—and how often—do you say, "I love you"?
Whether you're thinking of your spouse or partner, your mom or dad, or your son or daughter, you probably don't get that message across often enough.
How do you say, "I love you"? The family of one of this book's authors says "14-3" for "I love you." There is one letter in "I," four in "love," and three in "you." By phrasing their "I love you's in a cute and different way, this family gives the statement personalization and meaning.
But there are other ways of saying "I love you" besides verbally. The old song advises, "Say It with Music." The floral industry tells us to "say it with flowers." Good advice.
Another piece of good advice is the old proverb, "Actions speak louder than words." What you do for the ones you love may be the best way to say, "I love you." Not that doing meaningful things for those you love should be taken as license to stop saying "I love you." We all want to hear the words, too. But once you start saying "I love you" through the things you do, the possibilities become endless—and your loved ones get to feel your love through your fun or thoughtful or creative efforts. How do you say, "I love you"? We've got more than 500 ways for you to express your love that are more concrete, more tangible than simple words. We've given you some general ideas to start with. Knowing the person you want to convey the message to, you can probably think of still more ways.
To avoid awkward he-or-she constructions, throughout the book we've said, "Give her a ..." or "Take him to ... ," but the pronouns are in most cases strictly arbitrary. Feel free to read, "Give him a ..." or "Take her to...." Few of the suggestions are truly gender-specific; most can be applied equally well to your son as to your daughter, to your mom as well as your dad, and as easily from you to your spouse or lover as from him or her to you.
So what are you waiting for? You've got a message to deliver! Whether you say it with music, with flowers, with "1-4-3" notes for your beloved, or with one of the more than 500 suggestions in this book, it's a message that will make the person you love very happy. And chances are, he or she will have something to say to you in return—verbally or otherwise.
"I love you...." What a lovely message to deliver ... however you say it.
FROM Him to Her AND Her to Him
The words "I love you" usually come most easily to people when they're in a romantic situation, especially when love is still new. But some people have trouble saying the words even then, and others have trouble believing them.
One of us knows a woman who said, "I love you," so automatically at the end of phone conversations with her husband that one day she slipped and said it to a stranger she was ready to hang up with. While we applaud the fact that she never finished a phone conversation with her husband without an "I love you," obviously the warm closing had become rote, routine, automatic. It had ceased to have meaning. We don't applaud that.
The person you share your life with—spouse or significant other—may be starving to hear you say, "I love you," or she may hear it so often than she questions whether you mean it anymore or just say it from force of habit. Once it ceases to be meaningful, it no longer conveys the same warm feelings, the same sense of being cherished, the same weight as it did before.
Too, even if you say it with meaning, if your actions (or lack of them) contradict your words, the phrase will ring hollow.
* "He says he loves me, but when's the last time he actually spent an evening with me? All he does is watch TV/work on the stuff he brings home from the office/work on his silly model planes." Is that you?
* "She used to act as if I were the most important person in the world. Now she's so busy helping the kids with homework/talking to the other members of her committee on the phone all evening/writing reports that she didn't have time for at work, I have to make an appointment to have a conversation!" Is that you?
* "If he does have time to talk to me, I can tell his mind is somewhere else." "If she does take time to talk, she's so tired, it's not much of a conversation."
Sometimes we can't help the distractions of real life that interfere with our time with the ones we really care about. Of course, we need to make time to be with those we love ... and not just time but (pardon an overworked expression) quality time. That's the subject of another book, though. But we can do the little things that show the ones we love that we care about them.
Most women don't need a tennis bracelet or a diamond ring as proof of love—a single rose when it isn't her birthday (and when the rose isn't a guilt offering) will go far toward showing her you were thinking about her, you care, you really do love her. (Although we're about to offer you some suggestions that are far less timeworn than roses.)
And men appreciate little proofs of affection too. It can be something as simple as a new bag of golf balls, a luxurious massage from your loving hands on a night when he's extra-tired, or a love note left on his pillow, detailing some—or even just one—of the reasons you love him.
Whether you're a new couple, looking to make each other understand that love is in your hearts, or whether you've been together for several decades and you want to convey that the love that first brought you together is still verdant in your heart of hearts, you need to get the message across, you need to do it believably, and you need to do it even when it isn't an anniversary or other occasion.
Here are some ideas:
If you have a big budget, rent a nearby billboard and use it to proclaim your love for your beloved in large letters. You can write a clever message or a simple "Craig loves Emily ... THIS MUCH!"
Write him a love letter—when it's not a birthday or anniversary.
Get up 10 minutes early and start the coffee.
Take a cue from David Letterman and present your loved one with a list: Top Ten Reasons Why I Love You. (If you think of more than ten good reasons, throw them in and call them Bonus Reasons.)
With a kettle half-full of warm water, give her a nice footbath while she's watching TV. Leave her feet wrapped in a fluffy, woolly towel while you go get her a bowl of ice cream.
Next Valentine's Day, buy an extra card. Send it to her in August or October.
Cook him a special dinner. Serve it on a tablecloth instead of place mats, and decorate the table, too, with flowers, seashells, pine branches, or candles.
Repot those plants she has been meaning to get to for weeks.
When she's sick, buy her three or four magazines on a topic that intrigues her, such as home decorating, doll making, quilting, horses, or wherever her interests lie.
If you have adequate computer experience, you can change his screen saver. Next time he's sitting there in front of the computer, daydreaming or trying to figure out how to finish that paragraph, instead of those goofy fish swimming tirelessly back and forth on the screen, he'll find himself confronted with big letters that announce, "Evan, You Are the Light of My Life!"
Say "I love you" by making a CD or tape that is a collection of those very special songs that help define you as a couple in love. If you don't have CD-burning capacity, you can make a tape, or ask around—one of your friends almost certainly has a CD burner.
Give him the window seat.
Go for a walk in the rain together.
Arrange for him to drive some of that big earth-moving equipment he's always saying Wow! about.
Have her car detailed.
While you're out of town, conspire with a friend to have the friend tape to your beloved's front door every night (or put through the mail slot, if you have one, or slide under the door if possible) an envelope containing one in a series of love notes you'll have left behind for that purpose.
If she wakes up to the same radio station every morning, find out what it would cost to buy 15 seconds of advertising time and surprise her with an on-the-air love note.
Keep all ticket stubs, motel receipts, and other paper mementos of the trips and special activities that have helped make life with your loved one delightful. Mount or display them in an original way—such as on a piece of colored poster board, or decoupaged to a wooden cutting board, or under lacquer or glass on a coffee table. Emphasize that the other person is a huge part of the reason that the trip or event was special.
Buy six rolls of Scotch tape before Christmas.
Have a quartet serenade your loved one at work, at the hairdresser's, down at the pier where he's fishing, or some other place outside the house where you know your beloved will be.
Write "I love you" instead of "Wash me" in the dirt on the big back hatch door of the van.
Have a T-shirt printed with your pet name for her on it.
If he listens to cassettes on his drive to work, make a tape of a nice speech that tells him how much you love him and why. Slip it into the tape player in his car one night, and your voice will give him a surprise boost when he heads off to work in the morning.
Bring her breakfast in bed.
Give him a certificate for a hot air balloon ride. Not on a special occasion ... just because.
Using your computer, post a message declaring your love on an online forum.
Serenade her ... under a window, if possible. That's a lovely way to say, "I love you."
Treat her to a special dinner on the anniversary of your first date.
If she listens to homemade music tapes, find a tape that has a few moments of silence at the end, and record your own surprise message.
Write a song about your beloved. If you can't write music, set the words to an existing tune. It doesn't have to be Grammy-winning quality; it just has to come from your heart.
Take out a classified ad declaring your love in your local paper's Announcements section.
Hire a skywriter to declare your love on the largest "blackboard" in existence.
Buy her a single bud rose, and give it to her with a note that says, "Like this rose, our love is only beginning to blossom. May it unfold into a thing of beauty for many years."
Give her some spice potpourri with a note saying, "You are the spice of my life."
Instead of an anniversary card, send him a list headed, "Reasons Why I'd Marry You All Over Again."
Bring him a gift, or cook her a special dinner, to celebrate other "anniversaries," such as the anniversary of the day you met, the day you/she/he proposed, or your first date.
Use colored icing to write "I love you" on top of a cake.
On her birthday—or on any ordinary day that you want to make a little special—fill the tub with bubble bath and then bring her a glass of still more bubbles—champagne—that she can enjoy while she luxuriates in the tub. Offer to wash her back ... or to leave her alone to enjoy the interior and exterior bubbles in blissful solitude.
Send him love notes that have been sprayed with his favorite perfume, addressed to him at work.
Don't throw away his disreputable old shirt.
Stop by the video store and pick up that movie he's been wanting to see.
With a fork, poke "I love you" in the top of an apple pie before baking it.
Buy her a manicure.
Go out to look at the stars together.
Give her the piece of cake with the extra icing on it.
Buy a gift certificate for an hour-long massage.
Bring those fuzzy slippers without being asked.
Let him watch his favorite show even though it comes on at the same time as yours.
Read the same book, and talk about it.
Hire a baby-sitter on the sly, and surprise her with a night out.
Watch a ballgame with her, and cheer for her team.
Arrange bedding plants in a heart shape in the flowerbed underneath her living room window.
Buy him the latest issue of his favorite magazine.
Stick an "I love you" note on his steering wheel while he's at work.
Write "I love you" with a felt-tip on a deflated balloon; have him blow it up at bedtime.
Replace the batteries in the smoke detector.
Push the self-cleaning oven button on your way to work.
Plant petunias, pansies, zinnias, and marigolds to spell out your initials, then a plus sign, then his initials.
Buy her a back-scratcher for when you're not around.
Play a card game that you used to play.
Re-create your honeymoon.
Wash her car.
Write the story of your first date (or of some other significant experience early in your relationship) as a chapter in a romance novel or a story in a magazine. Cast it in the third person: "As Chris first tasted Kim's lips, it was as though the skies had opened and a choir of angels were singing the 'Ode to Joy' from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."
Clean the algae from his aquarium.
Write what you would put on the dedication page of your novel.
Apologize for having acted like a jerk Thursday night.
Give your beloved a copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Help him research his family tree.
Insert into a folded-up shirt or pair of underwear in his drawer a note that reads, "This certificate good for a special treat tonight, just to show you how much I love you," and be prepared to make good on the promise. It's up to you to decide what the "special treat" should be.
Have your portrait taken and framed.
Put a new bottle of shampoo within reach of the shower, with an "I love you" sign on a string around the bottle.
Give her the top half of a pair of your pajamas on a cold night.
Don't roll your eyes when he tells that joke ... again.
Praise her cooking when dinner's good ... and don't make a fuss when it falls short of your expectations.
With glow-in-the-dark paint that will be invisible in the daylight, paint "I love you" on the white ceiling above his bed.
Arrange to have a romantic message flashed on the scoreboard at halftime of the homecoming game.
Take her for a ride on a carousel.
Write a poem for her—even if it's pure doggerel, even if it's only four lines long, even if you've never written a poem before.
Bake fortune cookies that contain special "I love you" messages.
Kidnap her from work. Make arrangements secretly, getting things fixed so she can be spirited away from the office, taken to the already-reserved room at the ski inn, and kept there for a surprise weekend dedicated to finding nice ways (new and old both) to say "I love you."
Insert an "I love you" message at the beginning of her favorite videotaped movie. (You'll dub it in over the opening credits, or ads, or previews ... but not over the opening of the movie!)
Buy him new sheets.
Let her sleep in, and you take the kids to early morning choir practice. Hire somebody to wash her windows.
Change her oil and rotate her tires ... then top it off by taking her out to dinner.
Give him something engraved with his initials ... or, better yet, with a few meaningful words of love.
Wear your hair the way she likes it.
Play strip cribbage, bridge, dominoes, poker, or whatever.
Don't say a thing when she loses her car keys (again).
Write "I love you" on the mirror with shaving cream.
Buy him new shoelaces.
Take the kids to breakfast, and bring her breakfast back so that she doesn't have to leave her bed.
Rent a bicycle built for two.
Put the last ice cubes in her lemonade instead of yours.
Put the lid back onto the salsa (again), and don't say anything about it.
Flip the car radio back to her station when you park for the night.
Do a cross-stitch of his fraternity seal.
Brush or comb your hair before breakfast.
Alphabetize her CD collection.
Read aloud from her favorite book while she's in the bathtub.
Don't say anything about the fact that he hasn't touched that expensive windsurfing equipment for three years.
When she gets home from work, have the kids already at a sitter's, the candles lit, the champagne chilled, and dinner cooking.
When she says, "Isn't she beautiful?," reply, "Nah—not my type."
Give her a rose for every year you've been married.
Scoot the driver's seat back—or forward—if she's going to be the next one to use the car.
Learn how to say "I love you" in as many other languages as possible. (Sources: Local embassies, foreign language dictionaries, friends and neighbors from foreign countries.) Leave "Je t'aime" notes in foreign languages, or murmur "Te adoro" and its various equivalents in your beloved's ear.
Show interest in his hobby, even if a collection of surfboard fins ranks right up there, to you, with lug-nuts.
Make her a bead necklace, even though you're probably no better at that kind of craft now than you were when you were at summer camp.
Tell her how much better she looks than all those women in the magazine ads.
Go window shopping with her, and don't complain or look impatient (or look pointedly patient).
Kiss her in the elevator on the way to the accountant's office.
Put the cap back on the toothpaste.
Buy your partner some high-quality golf balls.
Give him a poster of his favorite linebacker.
Watch some meaningless Sunday afternoon TV together.
Clean out her car for her.
Put an "I love you" note in the pocket of the shirt he'll be wearing to work tomorrow.
Give him a list of the best of the fun and funny things you've done together. Write "I love you" with food coloring in the snow.
Run her baby picture in a newspaper ad, along with an "I Love You" message.
Excerpted from The "I Love You" Book by Cynthia MacGregor, Vic Bobb. Copyright © 2002 Cynthia MacGregor and Vic Bobb. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
THE "I Love You" Book
Saying "I Love You"
From Him to Her and Her to Him
From Adult Children to Parents
From Parents to Adult Children
From Parents to Kids
From Kids to Parents
About the Authors