Stories that Matter

I Love You

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, (cough), I thought we could talk about love.

Confession: I write romance, but I am probably the least romantic person in real-life.

I have no idea why that is. Perhaps it’s because in my family growing up, we never said it. I mean, we knew we loved each other, me, my mom and my dad. But we didn’t toss around those words lightly. We didn’t toss them around hardly at all. Yet I never doubted for a moment that my parents loved me.

Having spent a few of my formative teen years at an all-girls boarding school in England, I certainly wasn’t exposed to declarations of undying affection from anyone. That was the time in my life when I began to read romance, however, starting with Gone With The Wind. I suppose that explains it. While Scarlett throws those three little words around with fervor, Rhett plays his cards close to his chest. When he finally tells Scarlett he loves her, he means it. And it’s forever. At least until he chucks her down the stairs.

But you know what I mean, right? Most of you reading this are probably American. Incase you’re not aware, the British are very different when it comes to declarations of love. They are quite reserved for the most part, and just don’t talk about such things. As you may know, I’m a huge Downton Abbey fan, and I think the Dowager Countess is simply wonderful. And while I can’t find the exact quote, in one episode she says something like, “I suppose you’ll want us to talk about our feelings, like the Americans.” (paraphrasing).

I always thought it was rather strange, hearing my American friends tell each other, “I love you.” Ā I once had a best friend who left Bermuda to go and live in America. When she came back for a visit the following year, we hugged goodbye when it was time for her to go (I was about 11 or 12 I suppose) and she said those horrifying words. I didn’t know what to do with that. Years later, when my then boyfriend who turned out to be my forever after Prince Charming, told me he loved me, I wanted to know why. I needed to understand the meaning behind the words. Over at his house they threw those words around like a baseball. Somebody was always telling somebody that they loved them. It was such a foreign concept to me that I almost questioned the sincerity of it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in saying I love you. I just don’t do it often. My children know I love them. My husband knows I love him. And sometimes they will force it out of me for the fun of it in the most awkward of moments.

But you know, for me, those are sacred words. Words I don’t believe should be tossed around lightly. Words that once spoken, shouldn’t be taken back. Ever. I think this comes across in my writing. When my characters finally get to the moment of truth, when they know without doubt that this is it, this is that now or never moment when you’re going to lay it all on the line or forever hold your peace, you feel it. You feel it so deeply that it makes you want to cry. And sometimes you do.

For me, it’s a balance of the right words at just the right time. If I hear I love you, too often, my eyes tend to glaze over. The magic is somehow lost on me. Some people tell everyone they know, including the postman, that they love them. That’s definitely not me. If I’m going to speak those words aloud to anyone, it’s going to be for good reason. And I’ll mean it.

The funny thing is, I’m a sucker for a great romance novel or movie. I just love that moment where the two characters you’ve been rooting for get together at long last and just go ahead and say it! And then of course there’s the wonderful moment where the guy sweeps the girl up in his arms and kisses her like they’re never going to see each other again. Ahh, that’s what I’m talking about. Add a very satisfying ending to all that, and you’ve got yourself a fan.

So you tell me – how do you feel about saying I love you?Ā 




  1. Donna Pyle on February 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Cathy. Those you cherish much truly cherish those words when they hear them from you, because they know the depth behind it.

    • Cathy West on February 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Thank you, Donna, I hope so!

  2. Elaine Stock on February 13, 2012 at 11:07 am

    And here I thought it was just me who stumbles with the I-Love-You words. I don’t have a cold, cruel heart. And people who know me know I’m the least monstrous person around. So, thanks for such a liberating post. I think those words, like you, are indeed special words and shouldn’t be used as a simple salutation or like a “bless you” after one sneezes. My two cents, at least.

    • Cathy West on February 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Couldn’t agree more, Elaine! You’re definitely not alone!

  3. Lindsay Harrel on February 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Yay! I’m so looking forward to receiving Susan’s book. Thanks so much!

    And my mom said it all the time, so I’m a very “I love you” kind of person. I tell my family, my husband, and my friends “I love you” or “Love ya” all the time. I also hug a lot. šŸ˜›

    However, when it came to romance, I withheld the words for a long time, because in a romantic sense, I think they should be reserved for the most serious of relationships. I waited for my husband to say them first (when we were dating), and he didn’t say those words (or give me our first kiss) until he knew he’d be proposing soon after. He told me on our one-year-of-dating anniversary and proposed a week later! Very romantic!

    • Cathy West on February 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Good stuff, Lindsay! Sounds like you will be in for a great Valentine’s Day too!!

  4. Meghan Carver on February 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Even though I was born in Indiana, I think I must be part-British — I can’t just let all my emotions hang out. I have girlfriends at church who say “love you” to me sometimes, and I just can’t say it back. It’s not that I don’t reciprocate their feelings, I just can’t bring myself to say them. It seems like more of a husband-wife comment. Yet, as Christians who are defined by our love, shouldn’t we be able to express that to each other, not just by actions? Obviously, I have some angst . . . .

    • Cathy West on February 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      I feel the same way!! Like, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right saying it to a lot of people all the time. Or maybe we’re just weird… šŸ™‚

  5. bethkvogt on February 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    OK, Cath, I am not going to tell you that I loved this blog post.
    But I will say it was . . . well done. Thought-provoking.
    Can I say I liked it?
    I am a hugger.
    And, yeah, I use the word “love” with probably too much regularity and familiarity.
    But saying “I love you” — well, even I get the difference in meanings when I say it.
    I mean, there’s “I love you.”
    And then there’s “I lurrrv” you.
    Ya know?

    • Cathy West on February 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Yes, I know where you’re coming from. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I never say it. We’re all different and I guess that’s what makes life so interesting. I have grown into a hugger, and I am learning to say I Love You with more frequency. But I’m definitely more reserved I suppose. And yes, I definitely like that I lurrrrv you!! LOL! šŸ™‚

  6. Rosslyn Elliott on February 15, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Great topic – I also grew up in a family in which those words were not said often. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned to be freer with them. Having other people grace me with their words of affection, especially my female friends, has helped me understand how healing it can be to have those words spoken, even if at first it feels uncomfortable. A lot of people have never felt loved, and I want them to know that I am there for them in that way, that they can feel comfortable with me.

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