16 Ways to Say “I Love You”

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 14, 2020

Although most of us thirst to hear the words I love you, they can also be unsettling — even frightening — because in the past these words have been associated with experiences that were not entirely pleasant. It’s very common for people to say I love you in order to get something they want in return: sex, for example, or a favor, or a smile, or an I love you too. So I love you is common for manipulation, and we don’t like the burden of being manipulated, even when it’s done with sweetened words. How often has an I love you been soon followed by some kind of disappointment or betrayal? Or how often have these words been spoken insincerely from the beginning?

How to Say "I Love You" without Using Those Exact Words

In short, we have discovered over the years that while these three words have a rosy attraction, they are often accompanied by many nasty thorns, so it’s little wonder that when many people hear them, they often wonder — or even become frankly suspicious — about their meaning. We, therefore, need to become familiar with some additional ways of communicating "I love you” without actually using those exact words and thereby arousing the questions and suspicions associated with them.

The following are a few examples of ways to say I love you. These are commonly spoken to people who are experiencing fear or pain, but not always.

  • “I can’t make your pain go away, but I can promise that while you’re having a hard time, I’ll be here with you.” When people are in pain, we have a tendency either to minimize it, to make vain promises that it will go away, or to give them advice. On the whole, none of these approaches is effective. People simply need our assurances that we care about them, and with the power of our love, they will make the best decisions they can at the moment.
  • “I’m not leaving you.” People tend to fear most the thought of being left alone, with no one to care about them. As you affirm that you will be there for someone, he or she will feel your concern for him or her.
  • “All your life, people have criticized you or withdrawn from you when you’ve shared with them how you’ve really felt. I won’t do that. I’m enjoying every word you’re saying.” One of the reasons we are so afraid to share how we really feel with people is that the people around us have no idea how to respond. In the past, they have criticized us, run from us, given us advice, expressed their disgust, and so on. If we can communicate to people that we will simply listen and support them as they share who they are, we will greatly facilitate their ability to continue sharing.
  • “I love talking to you. I love being around you, and I don’t want anything from you. If you really get what that means, it will change your life.” We are so accustomed to people manipulating us, using us, and wanting something from us. This is one way to communicate to people that you are just there to accept them.
  • “Why are we talking? Really, what is the purpose of our conversation? To fix your problems? That won’t last. We’re talking so that you can feel that somebody cares about you. You. Without wanting anything in return. Do you have any sense of that now?” People get confused about the purpose of meaningful conversation. It’s not about the details. It’s not about fixing them. It’s about love. This is one way to communicate that core purpose.
  • “You are not alone.” This is a variation on “I’m not leaving you.”
  • “As you talk about yourself, I really do feel connected to you. Thank you.”
  • “The next time you feel anxious, call me. I mean this. You don’t have to live with pain and fear anymore. You don’t have to be alone.”
  • Touch. As someone is talking, a gentle touch on the knee or arm can clearly communicate compassion.
  • Look. The way you look at the speaker can be a powerful communication of love.
  • “I don’t know if you can feel it or not, but my real intent as I’m listening to you — even when I’m saying nothing at all — is just to hold your hand, to be here with you.” This is something you might say over the phone. Phone conversations tend to be a little more distant, and this tends to make them more personal.
  • “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy hearing you talk about yourself.”
  • “The most important thing you could get from our conversation isn’t the words I’m speaking but a change in the way you feel. Right now I could be doing a great many other things with my time, but I’m choosing to talk with you — for as long as you’d like. What does that tell you about how I feel about you?” This can be a powerful communication of love.
  • “I don’t know if you feel this yet or not, but of all the things I could be doing in this moment, you are the most important. There isn’t anything I could be doing more important than listening to you.” This is usually said on the phone and usually in response to something the other person says, like, “I hate to take your time,” or “I know you’re busy.”
  • “Look at me. What do you see? All your life — as you have described who you are to people — you have seen disappointment, impatience, and irritation in the eyes of other people. Do you see or feel any of that in my face now? Remember how that feels. Remember how it feels to be unconditionally accepted. Gradually, that feeling can make a big difference.” Sometimes people are being unconditionally loved and simply fail to recognize it. This is one way to point it out to them.
  • “I’m not in a hurry. Take your time.” You would say this when people are in a hurry to finish a conversation or to tell a story, telling you that they hate to take your time. It’s a powerful way to tell them that they are important and that you care about them.

Learn more about finding genuine happiness now and forever with your partner by listening to or reading Real Love in Marriage.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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