Love. According to the Beatles, it’s all you need, the Black Eyed Peas demanded to know where it is, and Elvis couldn’t help falling into it. It’s pretty darn important. But how do you go about letting someone know you love them?
Showing the love: How you do it and why you want to
“I love you” means different things in different contexts. Always, though, it’s a way to nurture affection and strengthen a bond. We tell people (and animals, and often inanimate objects like our video game gear) we love them to affirm a deep, enriching, and significant emotional connection.
Love can be romantic or completely platonic. You may tell your partner you love them before initiating smashy bang time. You also say the same to your pets. Very different circumstances, both appropriate uses of the I love you words.
If you love somebody (whether it’s the sexy kind of love or the platonic familial non-naked kind), you probably want to tell them. Doing it can be a scary prospect — so scary that you don’t see how you could ever do it. Not without help, at least.
Don’t worry, fam, we got you.
If you want a better way than shouting, “YOU! ME! HEART! FEELINGS!” in somebody’s face, here are 55 ways to show them love like a pro.
It is easier to say “I love you” to your dog or video game gear than it is to a human, even if you’re pretty confident the person will say it back.
Fortunately, scientists have figured out how love languages work. Love languages have helped loads of folks that are less-than-Shakespeare when it comes to showing affection tell their S/O what’s up.
There are nonverbal love languages (which is, like, super helpful, as we’ll cover), but wordy verbal love is still a key way folks like to express and receive it.
If you want to say “I love you” with your mouthparts, but struggle with making those three specific syllables, here are 10 alternatives to get you started:
- My life is enriched by your presence in it.
- I’m significantly better off for having met you.
- You make me want to be better than I am.
- I’d be sad if you weren’t around.
- You’re important to me, and I don’t take knowing you for granted.
- I treasure our connection.
- I’ll hold onto memories of our time together forever.
- I want to share my life with you.
- Seeing you happy gives me a reason to try.
- Caring for you has given me purpose.
- Who’s a good boy? Is it you? Yes, it is! You’re the goodest boy! Yes, you are. (This one generally works better with dogs than humans.)
Love languages have been mega helpful. They’ve revealed to many the art of expressing love without words.
A nonverbal love profession can include:
- physical touch
- acts of service
- simply going out of your way to spend quality time together
So, if you find yourself getting tongue-tied, taking your video game gear on that cruise may be exactly what you need to do. Or, y’know, your partner or family member. If you must.
If words aren’t really your thing, or you don’t think words alone are enough, here’s how to tell someone you love them with actions:
- Ignore your phone when they’re around, so they know they’re important.
- Practice active listening, so they know you’re actually invested in their words.
- Give a well-thought-out personal gift. Make them something with your hands for bonus points.
- Run an errand for them or go out of your way to make life easier for them in some way.
- Make time to do an activity together you know they enjoy (“Remember the band that’s playing tonight whom you love? Well, guess who got tickets?”).
- Remember stuff about them. It shows you listen to them and that you actually think about them when they’re not in the room.
- Show up to support them when they need it (be there for them when a pet or loved one is ill or has died).
- Sit down to support them when they need it (pick them up from a really important job interview and have lunch together, for example).
- Give them a hug (if they’re OK with that, obviously).
- Do some sexy time (as long you’re romantic partners and they’re OK with that, obviously).
- Throw a ball or stick for them so they can run, find it, and bring it back to you. (A great option for your dog, not so great for your video game gear.)
Obviously, the scariest time to tell someone you love them is the first time. As much as we’d all love it to be as easy as going, “Yo. Listen, yeah, I love you,” it rarely ever is.
If you’re on the cusp of breaking your L-word virginity with somebody, here are some methods for showing feelings that are a little easier on the nerves:
- Whisper it in their ear as they’re falling asleep. (We’re assuming you share a bed with them. If you don’t, avoid this method. Nobody will appreciate you breaking into their bedroom, no matter how much you love them.)
- Tell them over their favorite meal. They’re more likely to be receptive, plus they’ll forevermore associate your love with their favorite dish.
- Write it in the air with a sparkler. Sparklers are a mainstay of many holiday celebrations, and writing a little “I ♡ you” in the air with burning magnesium is a twee and cutesy way of conveying your admiration.
- Make them a love song playlist. Spotify and YouTube etc. mean you don’t even need a cassette these days. Get to it.
- Write it in a note and leave it somewhere they’ll find it. If they take it the wrong way, you can lie and say you left it for the cat.
- Combine methods 2 and 5. Make them breakfast in bed, write it in a note, and deliver said note with said breakfast.
- Write it with your finger in condensation on the bathroom mirror. Have you both just gotten the shower or bathroom mirror a little steamy? Turn that into your first admission of love.
- If you’re at the beach, write it in the sand. Beaches are dead romantic anyway, so it’ll be easy to set the tone.
- Just come out and, you know, say “I love you.“Even if you’re visibly uncomfortable. In fact, being uncomfortable can work to your advantage. Working through visible discomfort to express affection can be super endearing for some folks. Plus, once you’ve done it once, it’s way easier to do again.
- Text it to them when they’re in the room. No, seriously. You can watch their response and both get all mushy about it.
- Let them sleep on the bed that night instead of outside in the dog house. (Yes, we’re still bringing up the dog. They’re people, too, you know.)
Do you know what are still considered hella romantic, heartfelt, and wholesome? Letters.
In today’s age of Tok-Tiks, GoogleBooks, FaceSpaces, and whatever else the kids use to chin wag, the traditional letter remains the best way to show someone the words you’re writing matter to you.
If you’re going to go old-school and bust out the stamps and envelopes, here’s how to get your I love you letter-game on point:
- Write it by hand. If your handwriting isn’t great, then fair enough. But if you can write legibly, then taking the time not to type is a great way of adding emotional weight to your words.
- Pick the right stationery. Even Shakespeare would struggle to woo a maiden with a note scrawled on the back of a burger wrapper. Your feelings are a big f*cking deal, and you should treat them with the respect they deserve. That means nice paper and a quality pen.
- Avoid cliches and cheesy lines. Nobody feels special from reading a transcription of the speech at the end of “10 Things I Hate About You.”
- Be specific. Bringing up shared moments that meant a lot to you can be a great way to get the right emotional juices flowing for when you drop the big ILY.
- Write from the heart. A poorly constructed but honest sentiment is worth ten smoothly constructed lines stolen from movies.
- Include some poetry. If you’re struggling to use your own words, there are hundreds of years of love poetry to fall back on. Wordsmiths have written on every kind of love imaginable. Finding a poem that sums up your feelings is an easy-ass (yet super effective) way to put your emotions on paper.
- Avoid blue material. If you’re trying to express romantic love, keep the sexual stuff and swearing to a minimum. Love and lust are different things.
- Tell them the specific qualities you see in them. Don’t believe the hype — there are some places flattery can get you. Do you know what’s better than reading I love you? Reading I love you because
- Describe the difference they’ve made in your life. When you tell someone you love them, you’re implying that they’re significant to you. This is way easier to convey if you can provide examples of why.
- Don’t stress about making it perfect. The target of your affection isn’t going to dismiss you based on your skills as a writer. Honesty and openness are way more important than literary craftspersonship.
- Don’t write a letter, but cook them some sausages. Because dogs can’t read, but they do love sausages.
Our worst fear upon dropping the L-word isn’t that the recipient won’t say it back — it’s that hearing it will make them run for the hills. This is why it can be especially nerve-wracking if the person you’re trying to tell is a romantic partner.
When is saying, “I love you” not a good idea?
While we’re never going to tell you, “don’t do this,” there are definitely times when saying, “I love you” is a bad idea. As a general rule of thumb, don’t drop the L-word when:
- they’re upset or angry
- it’s the first date
- when they’ve told you, they don’t see you like that.
- you haven’t received any indication they see you romantically (cool your jets, Romeo/Juliet, ask them out first)
- they’re in a relationship with someone already
- you know they struggle with emotional commitment
- they don’t swing whichever way makes the thought of jumping on your junk appealing
- they have a restraining order against you
Saying “I love you”for the first time is a scary prospect, no doubt. You’d probably prefer it if your S/O or video game gear is still around after you say it, too. Here’s how you make that happen:
- Make sure you actually love them. Love is one of the biggest feels. It’s not something people take lightly. If you’re not 100 percent sure, your partner will pick up on it. Take the time to understand your own feelings (that it’s not just lust or infatuation).
- Pick a good time. Nobody likes getting caught off guard. Dropping the ILY for the first time as a way to stop somebody from leaving the room during an argument, (for example), definitely ain’t country.
- Don’t pressure them to say it back. Just because you’re ready to say it doesn’t mean they are. You shouldn’t expect them to respond in kind. They’ll say it if and when they’re ready. Plus, just because they don’t say it out loud doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They may be one of the many peeps who just aren’t good with the affection talking.
- Don’t make the moment dramatic. If you love the person, you know them well. If you’re concerned they’ll get scared, there’s probably a chance they don’t deal with emotional stuff too well. Make the moment casual and relaxed. Adding drama or intensity to it isn’t a good move if they’re not the kind of person who responds well to them.
- Avoid sayingit too early. Love is a big emotion and, usually, it takes time to build that kind of connection (despite popular ideas about love at first sight). Insistence on crowbarring the love word into romantic relationships too early is a red flag for a lot of people. Just something to consider.
- Don’t try and use it as leverage for sex. Seriously, don’t. People aren’t objects you can insert nice word tokens into in exchange for orgasms. That’s not how it works. It’s creepy and cringy as hell (not to mention borderline predatory behavior). Stop it.
- Tell them in private. Being told by someone you love them, especially for the first time, is an intimate moment. It can also be a little overwhelming. If you’re overwhelmed, having an audience makes the fear 100 times worse. Avoid public professions of love if you’re concerned about triggering the recipient’s fight-or-flight response.
- Don’t grab or hold them when you say it. There’s an idea dating back to the early days of Hollywood that physically sweeping somebody off their feet to confess your desire is Grade-A romantic gold. Thing is, it’s not. It can actually make a lot of people feel trapped and anxious. Respect personal space until you know the message has been well received.
- If you know they’re not ready to hear it, don’t say it. How they’re going to respond is always a bit of an unknown, but if you think it’s more likely to be received badly than not, then maybe you should hold back. You’re always taking a leap of faith when you say, “I love you” for the first time. There’s no point jumping if you can see the fall ends in spiky rocks.
- (Try to be) relaxed. It’ll be hard for them to relax about the situation if you’re panicking like a deer in the headlights. It’s easier said than done, obvs. But taking steps to be as calm as possible is a great way to minimize the chances of the worst-case scenario.
- Don’t get on all fours and try to bark the message in dog speak. As much as you think they can understand you, they can’t. It’ll just freak them out. Person language is completely acceptable.
There are loads of words you can use other than “I love you” to say, “I love you.”
If words aren’t your thing, you can speak a different love language to express your feelings. Basically, time + effort = solid expression of love.
Writing a super-sweet personal love letter still works in 2021.
Telling someone you love them for the first time is hella scary, but there’s a buttload of ways you can do it that don’t require you looking your S/O in the eye when you say it. Speaking of, there’s also a buttload of ways you can turn the phrase “I love you”into a line from a horror movie. So, you know, don’t do them.
So, who’s a good boy, then?