Thought Catalog

How Many Times Should You Say “I Love You?”

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In this moment, I’m not sure what I feel for you. I’ve been raised in a society that both exalts love and fears it. A society that tells me love is rare and experienced only under particular circumstances; beginning with family and radiating outward to long term relationships and close, time-worn friendships. To love too quickly is deemed foolish. To love too many, is superficial. Our tragedy is that we believe something can only be beautiful when it is rare. We exist in a society that dismisses the beauty in everyday life. We overlook the small, fleeting moments that make up our day, because we’ve become jaded to the heaviness of a cat sleeping on our lap; the warmth of someone else’s fingers filling the space between our own.

My father once told me in a hushed voice, that the only woman he ever said “I love you” to was my mother. He told me to be cautious with whom I spoke those words to. I always felt there was something wrong with me; that I didn’t comprehend the immensity of love. I felt it so easily for the friend curled up beside me in bed the morning after whispered conversation, for the young man with whom I shared a cup of coffee with each day for a year. Sometimes it’s okay to abandon caution and open yourself up to the possibility of a connection with another human being. It’s okay to be vulnerable. We were born with an incredible capacity for love. The quiet woman on the subway could be the person who gives you a new perspective on life—the one who opens you up with tremendous ease and assuages your fears and puts out your fires.

The English language doesn’t contain the vocabulary to express different levels of love—instead using one abstract word to encompass the entire complicated spectrum of human emotion. In Spanish, love between family is separated from love between spouses. In Greek, there are four distinct terms, each with its own meaning. Working with such a limited capacity for expression, it’s no wonder our society as a whole appears to perpetually be in turmoil over the concept of love. We’re in constant pursuit of it, yet question it when we experience it; herald it’s beauty, yet fear that we will be left broken in its wake. Love becomes a contradiction. It simultaneously becomes the root of our joys and our woes.

If there were a dictionary dedicated to all the variations and subtle nuances of love, perhaps I wouldn’t feel so conflicted when I look at you. You, sprawled out on my living room couch as dawn comes in under the blinds and I allow time to pass before interrupting your sleep. We aren’t rare. We exist in the category of everyday things; friends driving slowly on a Saturday afternoon, or two people holding on to each other in an airport. These things happen in high frequency, but it is in these moments, halfway between your start point and your destination in that car on that Saturday afternoon, when you look over and realize that you feel love for the person sitting next to you. Because the beautiful things in our life aren’t always rare or extraordinary.

Sometimes it’s the quiet seconds before dawn when everyone else is dreaming and you feel as if time has stopped momentarily. The moments that pass quietly and unnoticed are what you’ll remember most as you age and begin to collect memories like dead flowers pressed between the pages of a book.

There will be no fireworks or music swelling in the background. Love, as defined by every romance film in the past decade, is not going to occur; and that’s okay. I will wake you up and offer you something to eat. Breakfast will be ordinary. Despite what society says, what my father says, what the black and white printed definition in any dictionary says, in this fleeting, beautiful, simple, quiet moment, I know what I feel for you. TC mark

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  • Nicole

    Beautiful; smart

    • Gmo Saza

      And true.

  • Michael Koh

    you say it as many times as you feel it so i love you

  • Vishnu Venugopal

    So Beautiful. Thank You.

  • Sophia

    I loved this so much. So much. Thank you.

  • Lakshitha

    Ahhh this was so nice to read after a horrible day. Beautiful :)

  • Lindzi

    This is the most inspiring thing I’ve read in 2012. Everything I’ve been feeling put into words. Thank you.


    I’m so glad that you wrote this. I’ve been struggling with the word “love” lately. For myself, the phrase “I love you” has never been past my lips, and I feel, never will unless I truly mean it. But that isn’t to say that I’ve never felt love for someone, something, or some moment. Holding that word in serves solely as a protective barrier, making myself both much more and much less vulnerable at the same time. 
    I think we are all brought up one of two ways– those who are taught to cherish this word too much and those who exploit it much too frivolously, making it almost meaningless. I wish we did have varying levels of love in the English language. How do I know if the love I feel for you is the same love you feel for me? I chose to give it that one, ultimate meaning: this is it– you’re the only person I want to ever say this to. But do you love me like a quiet Sunday afternoon where your mind is free to go everywhere and nowhere all at once, or do you love me like one of your last ex-girlfriends.. that replaceable love? 
    Sometimes I feel like we need more words for this. 

  • anon

    This was a beautiful post, expressing everything I’ve felt and been afraid to say in the last couple of months

  • Gregory Costa

    Ryan O’Connells fans have resulted in this being in the 100 most commonly used English phrases.  Congrats!

  • Ketsia Leste

    Thank you for this. :)

  • Tanya Turner Rao

    Absolutely beautiful and true! :)

  • appl3


  • Jordan Hoov.

     This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

  • guest

    What a delight 

  • alainalatona

    I have felt at times that the amount of love I have in my heart to be the wrong amount. Too much, too welcoming, too present. This post put me at ease. Very beautiful.

  • Jackie20Smith

    I cried at this. Because even still, understanding that most people realize it’s a fleeting, moment-to-moment feeling, after I say “I love you,” I can’t help thinking if it’s still true five years, five months or five minutes later. And that completely breaks my heart. Still nonetheless lovely, though. So thank you.

  • Rob T Firefly

    Thank you for this!

  • E.B.

    this is adorable :)

  • Domino

    beautiful and very true. especially loved how as I was reading I started thinking about how in spanish we have “te quiero” and “te amo” and you mentioned it just as it crossed my mind.

    lovely “thought” that put a smile on my face.

  • alex

    I love you.

  • Sabrinaanne Santos

    I love and will always do…:)

  • Scotty Tran

    It’s really kind of amazing to hear so many people on here feel the same way I do. Love is so damn confusing for me; I thought I felt it, and I even said it. But when I look back, I don’t know if that’s what it was. But there are those moments in the relationship… I don’t know, it just feels right sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    Amazing first article. :)

  • Catie

    So eloquently written and very true on so many levels.

  • Jacqueline Lilo Louboutin

    I really really really enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

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