“I Love You” – Is It Just Another “Have A Good Day”?

The young teen threw her arms around her mother as she sang her greeting, “Mom!  I love you”.

Her mother and I were in the midst of working out a schedule.  She asked her daughter, “Aren’t you supposed to be helping your dad?”

“Remember I said I love you!”  The mother had put in enough teen year time to spot a trap.

Obviously the discussion between mother and daughter did not need an audience. I decided to do a wrap, “Let’s go with Wednesday.”

As I walked away, I was struck by the manner in which love was used to allay an anticipated blast of negativity.  It wasn’t the first time this crept into my consciousness.  Families use this phrase liberally with each other on phone calls and other departures.  Many speak with seeming sincerity while others appear to throw it out like the irritating “Have a good day” phrase.

Is “I love you” becoming the same convenient closure as that banal, inane and lame sentiment?   Are we bereft of ways to leave gracefully?

"You'll love me once I burst into bloom, too."

When I say “I love you” to friends or loved ones, I usually take a moment to gather my feelings so I can wrap the words with intent.  When I screw up and only blurt the words out, I add, “Do you know that I really do love you?”  With a note of surprise, they answer, “Yes.”  What else are they going to say?

During my adolescent years, when someone used those three words, it usually meant marriage was wafting into the picture or someone was facing some terrible demise.  So how do I know when a person is sincere when they say “I love you”?

It comes down to time.  When a person is willing to offer their time, there’s a bushel of love in that package.  When someone listens, walks with me, shares a meal or just sits over a cup of tea, they are sharing their time and, therefore, themselves.  That’s when I know love is present.

A few of Susan's envelopes. Her gifts say, "I see you."

My friend Susan picks intimately appropriate cards that tell me she’s been paying attention to my heart’s pain or joy.  She decorates the envelopes with secret messages and symbols that say, “I love you.”

Another example of knowing, Karen gave me a basket of goodies containing massage oil that she mixed herself, along with epson salts and other delicacies for bathing. The preparation took a healthy chunk of time – a rare commodity for a business person. Her love resides in every drop of well-measured essential oil.

So, how do I say “I love you”?  How do I show it?  I do share time, but I also deeply appreciate being able to leave someone feeling better than when we got together.  I see the virtues in others and enjoy pointing them out.  It doesn’t matter if the content is 5 percent or 95.  If it’s there, it’s there.

As one of my Teachers explained, “The bud feels the sun and explodes into bloom.  It doesn’t say, ‘Well I know the sun is up there, but it’s March 4th and it’s not terribly warm!  I’m not really supposed to bloom before March 21st.'” The bud simply lets go in that moment and displays its glory so we can revel in its magnificence.

Same with people I love. I want to watch them burst into bloom regardless of life’s gloomy issues or setbacks.

My guides provide constant reminders of Love throughout connections with their power and insights. Today was no exception. They were signing off with their usual, “We love you.”

I couldn’t resist.  “Could you use some other words today?  I’m having a little trouble.  The phrase is sounding bland.  What else could be said?”

Instantly, I could feel the energy gear down, meaning the response carried great weight.  They said, “We keep you.  We are keeping you.  We hold you home.”


64 thoughts on ““I Love You” – Is It Just Another “Have A Good Day”?

  1. Yes and 😉
    I read in A Return To Love, (Marrianne Williamsons reflections on a course in miracles) that EVERY interaction/echange between us humanoids is either a call for Love or an affirmation of Love. I find this to be true and I really believe we are all doing our best to love and be loved. Sometimes we’re just really good at ummm concealing this glorious state of affairs. But that makes us all the more endearing, doesn’t it?! 🙂

    • I believe that, too, Athena. Having that insight makes it easier to love, accept and forgive. However, it doesn’t stop me from having the odd “Wah” and wanting others to be different. I eventually remember! As the Course says, we forget to laugh.

      The real juggernaut can be us loving ourselves!! 😀

  2. Hi,
    One of my friends daughters used to use the “I love you so much Mum” phrase, especially if she had done something wrong, or wanted something, it is very sad in a way, that these special words mean nothing to some.

    I really like the idea of the homemade oils you got from your friend, a very special gift indeed. 🙂

    • I’ve seen a couple of those situations, too, Mags. Yes, Karen really surprised me. I thought we would do recycled gifts, but she went ahead with this little feat. It was a first for her to put this package together. Very sweet – Karen has an incredible heart.

  3. Some people say ‘I love you’ in the same manner they say ‘How are you?…Have a nice day!’…but the words need not be avoided when said eye-to-eye with the heart saying the words first….so enjoyed the post.

  4. What a lovely message thank you. It me until i was 35yrs old to tell my mother i loved her and for her to say it back. We loved each other it was never said, i’m grateful for all the ‘i love you’s’ since

    • My mother and I began telling each other when I was in my late 40s which meant mother was in her 80s. I knew she loved me, but it was quite something to hear her say it. Like you, I’m glad we did, Bev!

  5. Amen! There is a huge difference between words alone and words and action, and even tone says something deeper. During this time and an occurrence a few months back I’ve become aware of the vast difference between words and actions. It has been a sobering time, but one that was needed. Thank you for this post, Amy. I love both your teacher’s explanation and your guides’ response.

    • Yes, SuziCate, we size up the whole picture. The more we need to know its truth, the more factors come into play for us. My past partner had a thing about saying “I love you” because his previous woman friend needed to hear it constantly. I was the opposite…I felt loved when he’d bring in a load of wood and say, “There’s your wood.” It wasn’t MY wood, but I knew what was behind his words. Oddly enough, he told me he loved me more often than any other man! 😀

  6. An acquaintance gave me a small (very cute) miniature bottle of hot sauce she and her husband had made. She was saying “thank you” for driving her into town for a series of classes we had enrolled in. I use hot sauce sparingly, and still I think of her kindness when I reach for it and I shake a few drops into a recipe.
    Interesting…this “I love you” thing. I don’t take it for granted. For many years…can you believe it?…my family didn’t say it. Then I started and they followed my lead. I began to notice, once I said it, everyone started using it more frequently. I didn’t call attention to it…because I didn’t want that fragile thread broken. Having not experienced it for such a long time, it warms me when I hear it at the end of our conversation. Such is the value of “daughters” I guess…and I’m glad my brothers have learned to use it. Someday, maybe I’ll write and post about this.

  7. “When a person is willing to offer their time, there’s a bushel of love in that package.” How very true that is!!!!
    Love is expressed in actions more than anything else. Yet, the words are wonderful to hear even when sometimes they do not come out with all the feelings that should go with it.

    • Hi Lidi…thanks for dropping in – I think you have left Laos – the land you have fallen in love with. How was that for a say-quay? (I’ve lost the spelling of that word!) As an actress, you could do a complete show on how actions express love. But in real life, we do need that balance – I agree!

  8. Like you, words (so easily manipulated and often used to manipulate) are not enough for me . . . but they are the preferred means for others.

    You might be interested in this:

    According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, people express love in different ways based on innate preferences:

    * Words of Affirmation
    * Quality Time
    * Receiving Gifts
    * Acts of Service
    * Physical Touch

    • Hey, thanks, Nancy. I have Dr. Chapman’s “5 Love Language” here in my library. Thanks also for listing those points, Nancy – 5 methods for expressing love, and also 5 different ways in which we feel loved. As I noted in my comment to SuziCate, a past partner of mine had a tough time in a past relationship. He is an Acts of Service person and his ex was a Words of Affirmation person. It sure helps when both people are aware of how these factors play out in their relationship. And PHEW! Thank goodness you discovered you and BFF are compatible. I know…he just keeps the fridge full of chocolate and you tell him he’s the best husband on the planet!

  9. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.I have come back to read this a couple of times. I want to disagree with you and commenters on the premise here, but if I do so, well then I cannot express my own feelings on the issue as they would not be particularly valid. I say that because if I do disagree that nullifies my own beliefs on the issue. How is that for convoluted thinking and expression?

    Part of what I just said is actually in my genes. I am terribly literal and have always been so. Kind of like when I am about to embark upon something big and someone says “break a leg.” My first response is what? Why would I want to break my leg. So when someone tells me they love me, I simply believe that they mean it … different people, different degrees of friendship … different degrees of love. When someone says that to me I really do feel it and believe it just as when I say I love you to someone I am really feeling it and meaning it. Maybe it is my quirky “gene” but I don’t think so.

    • Yes, Raven, that’s another point – the degrees. Love, like any other virtue is in our hearts to varying degrees. What does it matter if someone loves me 5% or 95% – if they say they love me, I can accept that. However, I’m going to pay very close attention to their actions if I am deciding whether or not I am going to share my life with them.

      My observations in this post are about the phrase being said with a motive that has nothing to do with the person’s feelings…when the words are disassociated from feelings. Some people say it to get off the hook – ‘there, no action needed’. Words are grand, but actions are a validating force.

      Another factor, Raven, is the inability of so many humans to feel loveable – to be able to accept love. But that is yet another post!

      P.S. Re Nancy’s comment…have you heard of that book? It’s really clarifying.

      • I do know what you are saying. It is just that I guess that I feel like someone loves me if they tell me that they do. And I get it too (oh so well) when someone tells me they love me … but their actions don’t speak too it as you mentioned. Someone loves you but is abusive towards you … totally unacceptable! And I remove myself from the relationship.

        No, I am not familiar with the book.

        • Yes, abuse is another issue entirely, Raven! I wish everyone could and would remove themselves from those situations at the first detection.

          The book describes the different ways in which people feel most comfortable giving and receiving love. For example, some people feel loved when they are given a gift. Others, when they are told they are loved. Yet others feel loved through touch. It explains some of the confusion and misunderstanding about love within relationships.

  10. So thought-provoking, Amy. I agree that the gift of time is a precious way to show true love…especially for those of us who are a bit compulsive about “getting things done.” One of my greater challenges (my brain doesn’t shut down easily) is giving full attention, really listening. Way too often, David has to say to me, “You didn’t hear what I said, did you?” Allowing others to have their way is tough for me, a control freak. As for words–perhaps silence is the greatest. Just being there.

    • This is interesting, Victoria. I’m amazed at people being able to tune out other people to such a degree in their home. I could do it in a work environment, but I have a tough time doing it at home. When people come to stay, I’m on 24/7. I used to think I was wanting to be the perfect hostess and anticipate their every need. Then a friend told me about his inability to get on with his life when someone is visiting and staying in his house (whether they are in the house or not!). I’m the same…it is even hard for me to sit down at the computer and check emails. Intellectually I know I don’t have to entertain them, but I don’t stop feeling responsible. When I was married, it wasn’t so difficult because I felt I could “blank out” and my husband would be there.

      What’s this got to do with love? Somewhere in there is the desire to show my love! I need to learn hospitality from the Benedictines. They certainly don’t fuss! 😀

  11. Like you Amy, my mother and I did not actually say these words to each other till much later in life…I am so grateful that it was a ‘better late than never’…not because either of us did not feel and show love to one another in a million small and not so small ways, but simply because in those days it was not the catchphrase it has become today…

    Although I often love the frequency of hearing it now…I am not always convinced it is not just a knee jerk expression…the done thing…expected thing…with a motive…thoughtless…even though I hate to judge another’s intent…

    Time…a tender touch…an unexpected hug…a handmade gift…a kind action…a thoughtful visit…these all shout ‘I love you’…a mixture of both is quite heavenly…and do in effect say…We keep you…We are keeping you…We hold you home…

    • Yes, Shama, you and I are not the only ones feeling this way. I really like your list of things that mean love to you. They are a declaration of keeping each other in life and home.

  12. I really loved this post Amy. Love in all it’s forms is a wonderful thing, accepting it, giving it, both make you feel wonderful. When it’s hurtful, I think it’s not so much the love that’s hurting you, it’s a thoughtless action committed by the person perhaps for whatever reasons because they themselves are in a weird place that day,beacause of who knows what.
    I like the idea of being kept, or held, I do think it fits in with God hovering over us, for we are in His keeping.

  13. The bud in the sunlight: what an absolutely beautiful analogy! And equally, the sunlight is what effects the change. The little signs that one values another’s company. I am going through a tough time at work but there are colleagues who make it all bearable, with tiny gestures. Helping make a heaven of hell.

    • Hold fast to those caring colleagues, Kate. So sorry you have to face that in the face of an occupation that you love. As Mother Theresa says at the end of her “Do it Anyway” prayer:

      “Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

      In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

  14. Amy, true love requires attention. I feel miserable when I say “I love you” to someone I spend little time or effort with. Is the love really there? Yes, the feeling is. But I feel ashamed that I do not find time for all the loved ones in my life.

    • Is it a matter of you not finding time or that it’s nearly impossible to find a mutual time? When I feel moved to connect, to create room to give love, I’m often met with an answering machine. I am suspicious that snail mail will be coming back in vogue…

  15. And so the bud risks opening early to a life threatening frost! That is, indeed, love and spontenaeity. (sp?)

    Anyway…great post, Amy. I should be doing other things, but I stopped to read this. It touches me because those three words always seem fraught with difficulty for me. Either I am “expected” to say them or I feel like saying them when they seem totally inappropriate. For example: during my weekend ski adventure, I looked across the snowy slope to see one my skimates (not a close friend) floating through the white etherworld. Filled with the power and magic of a perfect moment, I just thought, “I love that guy!” Now this was not a romantic thought. It was more an Agape thought. It is not easy to relay that thought without seeming inapporriate. (Therefore, I need to work on a blog post to try to put it all into context!)

    • It’s those moments of feeling unconditional love that we are so full we are in “danger” of overflowing! It’s beyond me to decipher agape from ero from filial love. One of my teachers in Contemplative Prayer and I decided it’s all love, just different motives.

      I adore the whole picture you portrayed, Linda – the mountains, the snow, the thrill of skiing with wild abandon. That was my life in my late teens/early 20s in Banff and Lake Louise. I’d kill myself now, but my cross country skis adorn my storage shed, dusted with non-use. Being a downhill skier at heart, I never have been thrilled with x-country – having no edges to cut my way down some piss-ant knoll! 😀

  16. ….or ‘the check’s in the mail’, or ‘I gave at the office’. Yup, I’m sure it is and they did. (actually, not so much!)

    I grew up in a home void of those three little words.
    I heard a lot of ‘if you loved me you’d ___ ‘ which was enough to shape my belief that love was about ‘doing’, boy howdie!

    I’ve tried to incorporate my doings with my sayings and that’s been working pretty okay for me. As a non-touchy person, I go ahead and hug/touch the lucky recipient of the “I love you”. It pretty well seals the deal to be genuine and heart felt in the eyes of the receiver who knows darn well that touchy feely stuff just is NOT my deal.
    I also confess I’m not beyond a cheesy ‘I lovvvvvvvvvvvve you soooooooo much’ and a batting of the eyes when I’m playfully messin’ with someone.

    I’m such a playful dweeb. LOL

    • I’m afraid that “if you love me” stuff doesn’t work very well in my life. I don’t even like to hear it as a joke! I bet you are all packed by now… Hope you find time and ability to be playful with your wee sis!

  17. It’s always jarring to me when comics say “I love you, New York (or where ever)!” It takes the meaning right off the phrase that should mean so much. It’s all about ego and nothing about heart.

    When I say “I love you,” I say it when I’m looking into the eyes of the person (or dog) that I love. If I’m saying it the phone to my son or a dear friend, I emphasize the phrase and soften my voice, but first soften my heart. I say it with awareness.

    Thanks for writing the post. We live on auto pilot in so many ways. This shouldn’t be one of them.

    • Auto pilot, for sure. Yet, Lorna, just as I wrote that short sentence, I received an international phone call from a friend who’d just read my blog. He said, “Just calling to say I love you.” He knows the perfect way to melt my heart with a voice of sincerity.

  18. Hi Amy .. we are so casual now-a-days or have been ‘defenced’ into feeling uncomfortable with the words … but your post says it all – it’s the time and thus value we put on things for others. I’ve learnt from some of my girlfriends here who have ‘love in their hearts and attitude’ … and I’ve made sure with my mother that I give her time and say I love You – as right now it needs to be said … and give her a hug as best I can in her bed. It’s wonderful to read posts like this .. thanks so much .. as Sally says above – perfect timing! Cheers Hilary

    • Those hugs, that gift of touch, work magic, don’t they, Hilary. Your comment reminds me of visits with my mother. She’d be asleep the whole time. Even my hug goodbye didn’t wake her. But I know about heart energy and its incredible power.

  19. A very thought-provoking post here, Amy. And interesting to read other’s experiences. I think it is sad to use “I love you” as a way to manipulate but I’m sure it’s been done since human beings have been saying it to each other. Why some people throw the phrase around willy-nilly without much heart behind it…I don’t know…but I do know I don’t use the words lightly.

  20. Your two signs of love jumped out at me, Amy: the willingness to share time and the desire to leave someone feeling better than they did before. The first is our most valuable possession, and the second is the most valuable use of that possession. What a perfect combination.

    • Charles, I want to tell you something that I see and feel each time you comment. Your comments show that you have read, and have put some thought into, what we write. Your comments say, “I gave you my time.”

      I feel just a bit more encouraged after receiving one of your comments.

      I know that’s not easy. It’s very time consuming and soul draining. Thank you!

  21. Oh thank you for bringing this up Amy. I only use those three words when I really mean it and to hear someone using it willy nilly like “pass the salt” makes me mad.

    A friend’s kid knew the secret to being the favored grandchild lay in telling his granny “I love you granny”… so he’d include those three words at least once each time he saw her, and she’d turn to us and say “See what a wonderful grandson I have?” That’s when I’d leave the room to vomit.

    I also enjoyed reading the comments.

  22. Good thoughts, Amy. I’m sure many can benefit from the reminder to be in integrity with thoughts and actions. I would much rather have the gift of time as well – rather than a store-bought present. It comes too dearly these days.

    Sometimes my ‘I love you”‘s are deep and profound. Sometimes they are short and quick. But I always try and say what I mean and mean what I say – and those who know (and love) me surely know this. And I know it about them.

    • Bela, I respect your integrity. Sometimes I’m terribly naive and don’t know what to believe, but intuition helps a great deal. To me, “charm” and “flattery” are forms of manipulation and condescension. I stopped dating a charmer because I didn’t know who he really was or what he really felt. Terribly hard to believe “I love you” from a man hell bent for people pleasing!

  23. Great post. To be honest this post speaks a lot to me. Just like you I also get confused about people expressing their affection or love, in such a way. From my childhood I always believe, actions speak in a better way than words. Do we really need to say how much we love a person each day? In past 27 years of my life I might have used these three words 2 to 3 times. I know it sounds funny. But It’s truth. 🙂 I do not think there is any point in saying these three words, when a person does not mean it.
    In my country we touch feet of our elders to show our respect and to seek for their blessings. But like others I do not touch every elder person’s feet in my family, even though I do not have enough respect for that person. It may be wrong, as my parents say that, “Some people can take it as my arrogance”. May be my belief is wrong , I really do not know!

    Thank you for this meaningful post. I liked it a lot. 🙂

    • Arindam, you really are willing and eager to take a good look at yourself. That serves you well, I’m quite sure. Are you familiar with the line by William Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.”? It goes on with an important consequence:

      “And it shall follow as the night, the day –
      Thou canst be false to any man.”

      So your questioning hopefully takes you to who you truly are. If you can stay true to your values, you will not want to deceive others. There is no need.

      So, with the elders: Please tell me what you think of this: Are you being true to yourself if you touch an elder’s foot when you don’t hold respect for them in your heart? What if you want to respect your parents, and therefore touch the elder’s foot out of respect for your mother and father? Is that being deceitful? That is your decision because it is your culture.

  24. Good point. Good question. My son and I often say to each other and to people in our lives “I cherish you.” or “I treasure you.” because “I love you” does of sound banal and meaningless. After all we “love” everything: books, movies, shoes, lunch … on and on …

    Thanks for this, Amy.

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