I’ll get to the sub-topic immediately. I love you. I’m not saying ‘I love you’ to just anyone. I am saying it to you, the reader.
Those three little words are overused, underused, and misused. They are overused to the point of not having meaning when they become a reflex reaction to certain situations. They are underused by people who keep their emotions trapped deep within themselves, as if they have no emotions at all. And they are misused to manipulate others into doing someone’s bidding.
When my wife and I first got married, I had two reasons to overuse those words. The first was that I rarely heard them from my parents. In one of my mother’s few slips of the tongue, she responded to the “I love you” by saying, “What is the purpose of saying ‘I love you’ when I don’t mean it?” What she meant to say was ‘if I didn’t mean it.’ Since it was so hard for her to ever say it, and the hugs were even more rare, I wondered if she ever did mean it. I was determined to have no problem saying ‘I love you’ to the woman that I married, and to the children, once they came into the world.
The second reason for saying ‘I love you’ before going to bed was Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Late one night, my wife and I had a disagreement about something, not long after we were married. I tried to say that I was sorry. She didn’t buy that. She was going to bed. Ephesians 4:26 popped into my head. I tried to at least say, “I love you.” She yelled from the other side of the closed door, “I’m not buying that either.” That was the first time she went to bed angry at me, but those nights were few. Maybe the “I love you” was forced at times, but we both worried about what would happen if we stopped saying it.
Married couples argue. Some fight, but we aren’t going that far. When my wife and I were first married, the making up afterwards was more emotional than at other romantic times. But we didn’t make a habit of it. The ‘I love you’ was fresh on our minds and some arguments never happened as a result. Now that we have been married for over 40 years, the arguments are almost non-existent. Why get the heart rate up? The blood pressure could get higher, and nobody wants that. Then again, we know each other’s hot buttons. We argued strongly a couple of weeks ago. I playfully said that making up might be quite romantic. I wasn’t thinking anything physical, honest. My wife said, “Please, we are both too tired for romance, physical or otherwise.” We made eye contact, and we both knew that the argument was over. I can’t even remember what the argument was about. If the world falls apart tomorrow, the world can blame us, because we had been arguing over the solution and decided to shelve the argument in lieu of peace and harmony.
Of course, showing that you love someone is more important than saying it. The words should be easy to say especially to family, but they need to know by actions that you mean it. We’ve called our sons and said ‘I love you’ and we have gotten the reply ‘I know.’ Jesus told Nicodemus that God loved the world (John 3:16). Jesus told his disciples (John 15:3) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” But Jesus showed that love when He died on the cross for our sins.
So, when you get married or you want a new habit for some who already are married, make a habit of saying ‘I love you’ at specific times during the day. Resolving conflict may be required. I always felt it important that my wife’s and my last words on parting (going to work, shopping, etc.), sleeping, and waking should be an expression of our love for each other, not necessarily the ‘I love you.’. Part of our routine when we tucked the boys into bed was ‘I love you.’
Once I was extremely distracted over some problem that needed solving around the house. My wife told me, “That can wait. It’s time that you said the blessing.”
I bowed my head, totally distracted, and said, “I love you.” My wife and boys burst out laughing, but why? In Matthew 22:37-38, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Saying ‘I love you’ to God should be part of the deal, along with showing that love.