Let me start by saying that I am not the most affectionate person. Well, at least I don’t come off that way. I have taken the love language test more times than I can count, always falling short in the more visible forms of expression like physical touch or quality time. Because of this, I have always felt like my friends may not get the message in the ways I share it.
I grew up in a household that didn’t share love in a traditional way. It was on very rare occasions that I heard the words “I love you.” Don’t get me wrong, I never doubted that my family loves each other dearly, but we each had different ways of showing it. My sister and I, for example, have always butted heads; however, no matter how big the fight, by the end of the day, we would always end up in each other’s rooms finding something else to worry about or make fun of. I always knew I was loved, but something about the absence of the word made it feel almost taboo.
The older I got, the more the word loomed over me, making me anxious at the thought that, even though I had felt it, maybe I didn’t know what it meant. Love, to me, wasn’t a word you just threw around; it was a heavy word reserved for only the strongest of feelings or the most important moments. I thought that maybe if I used it too often, it would lose all meaning — that I might lessen its value.
The first friend I can remember saying these words to me is my best friend, Olivia. Since the age of 5, the two of us have practically been attached at the hip. One day, she and I had been on the phone, and as she hung up, she said, “Bye, I love you.” The way she said it so casually caught me off guard. Did she mean to use such a sacred word in such a small way? I brushed it off at first, but every time we parted ways or hung up the phone, she always gave a loving goodbye. The shock faded a little less every time she did and turned more and more appreciative.
That was when I started to realize how much the words meant. They didn’t have to be a big show of affection; they could be a simple goodbye, a show of appreciation, or even just a reminder of a deeper connection. Love can be felt in countless ways, and acknowledging it and expressing it can make all the difference. Olivia and I have been friends for over a decade, yet I still found comfort and warmth each time she said “I love you,” and that warmth never faded; the word never dulled its meaning.
It took a lot of time to realize it, but you aren’t dealt a certain number of “I love you”s you can say in a lifetime. I love you isn’t always a grand gesture or a frozen moment in time. Sometimes I love you is hoping your friend gets home safe, thanking them for letting me vent after a tough week, even just being grateful they picked up the phone when I was feeling lonely. Now, I say it as often as I can. When my friends tell me they love me, I feel welcomed and cared about. I know that they think of me outside of our interactions and that I hold a space in their hearts. I see the impact the words can have, and I always make sure those I love know just how much they mean to me.
If you haven’t told your friends that you love them recently, do it. It can make all the difference in the world.