It’s a common enough occurrence, or at least I hope it is for you. Someone tells you, “I love you.” This seems like a simple enough thing. But I (and I am guessing this is true for some of you as well) did not grow up in a house in which that phrase was bandied about loosely. I do not recall my parents telling each other, “I love you.” Perhaps they did, but they did not in front of us kids.
My father only once told me that he loved my mother, and that was when he chastised me for arguing with her, “She’s my wife, and I love her. She’s always going to be right.” How’s that for a single explicit lesson on love and marriage?
Everything else I figured out on my own—with generous glimpses into the lives of families of my friends and the families of the women I dated over the years. Or movies. We have to learn somewhere.
So, when someone—that someone—tells me “I love you,” I know that there is an appropriate response, something distinctly other than, “That’s nice.” And here, I am distinctly not writing about the first time someone tells me that—I’m writing about months or years of love. Besides, if “That’s nice” is your response, it’s time to move on. You are doing that someone no favors.
First, and this is easy, reply with: “I love you,” or “I love you too.” If possible, touch that person’s hand or arm when you make this response. A simple physical gesture can help punctuate your words.
Maybe this seems too easy. “I want to say more,” you think. How about responding, “Every time you say that, I feel happy”? Imagine telling someone that after ten months or ten years, or, for that matter, ten hundred years. “Every time?” Every time.
Or, you could answer, “I remember the first time you told me that. It thrilled me. It still does.” Perhaps share the particulars of that first time. You remember, don’t you?
If words are not your thing, just stop, and stop them too. No matter where you are, or what you are doing. Take their hand, touch their cheek, kiss them—lightly or deeply as you wish. And then ask them, “Tell me again.”