I recently asked my 10-year-old what she would remember most about me if I were suddenly not around. The prompt answer was, “that you love me a lot”. I wanted to know more. What do I do to make you feel loved, I asked her? “Mamma, you say you love me at least 10 times a day!”
That gave me pause, frankly. How often do I say “I love you” to others that I love, I asked myself. How often do I say it to my husband? I can tell you the answer was, not often enough.
I usually say it on occasions that call for it almost as a norm — birthdays, anniversaries. In general, most of us shy away from saying I love you, don’t often receive it with grace and find it hard to say back.
When testing names for our dating company, Floh, anything with the word “Love” tested quite poorly with urban singles. Why, I asked our survey participants. About 93% said they did want to fall in love, and be loved. But to openly state that would make them feel desperate, and seem desperate to the world.
Isn’t that the truth? We all want, in fact crave, love but we never want to admit this openly. There’s an odd fear of stating this emotion. And yet nothing comes close to the exhilaration of reciprocal love. Much of that thrill comes, in fact, from the sense of surrender and vulnerability you feel.
Why not put that into words as you spend your lives together? A week ago, I decided to say “I love you” to my husband every day. It felt odd at first, but I went with it. The first day he said “I know” (not the most exciting response, I have to admit). The next day I got a smile and a what’s-going-on look. From the third day on, he started saying it back. This Saturday he went out specially to buy us some blue cheese and a bottle of good wine. That felt so special to me, because the first time we met we’d bonded over blue cheese.
This time, he brought it home and we had one of the most fantastic evenings we’ve had together during the pandemic. And all I’d done was say out loud something I feel every day.
In my opinion, when you are loved and give love, it can be the foundation of a better life. It’s the whole premise of my profession as a relationship coach, and yet I realise even I wasn’t verbalising what I felt.
It’s important to say it, because that chain of “I love you”s acts like weather-proofing when the buffeting storms hit a relationship. The joy it gives both parties goes much further and much deeper than the few seconds it takes to say out loud.
In what’s been a tough year for the world, maybe this could be part of how we reengineer our lives. Do what you can to make your loved ones feel the love, but also make sure you say that you love them as often as you can.
(Simran Mangharam is a dating and relationship coach and can be reached on [email protected])