The Three Little Words So Hard For Me To Say

This confession might shock you.

There are three little words that are really hard for me to say.

Sometimes even get stuck in my throat.

Me, who writes each week about love, who shares how happy I am in my new marriage, how much I love being a mom. I have a hard time saying, “I love you.”

It’s no big mystery to me why it’s so challenging. I didn’t grow up in a “I love you” kind of house.  Don’t  get me wrong. I was clear my parents loved me in the way they took care of us kids. We were clothed, fed, and provided every opportunity. You might go so far as to say we were spoiled.  I grew up feeling loved and confident.

But I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard my mother say, “I love you.”  We’ve never talked about why, I’ve always figured she probably didn’t grow up in an “I love you” family either.

A few years ago, I decided this was something I wanted to change. I started with my closest friends because I have some amazing friends and wanted them to know how I felt about them.

“There’s something I want to change,” I said. “Instead of ending phone calls with ‘Talk to you soon,’ I want to say, ‘I love you.’” They loved the idea encouraging to me break out of my more closed emotional shell. I tried “I love you” for a few weeks.

Honestly, I might as well have taken off all my clothes and danced around the city naked. I felt that exposed and uncomfortable.  Not surprisingly, within a few weeks I was back to ending calls with, “Talk to you soon.”

Funny how life has a way of pushing you along. Turns out I have now married into an “I love you” kind of family.  My husband of two years says it all the time.  Thank goodness he’s not a scorekeeper on who says it most and he doesn’t need to hear it back every time he says it to me. He has the wisdom to see my love in all that I do, if not all that I say.

Then there is the ultimate “I love you” trainer, my daughter who I adopted last Spring.  The way she so naturally says, “Good night! I love you!” Or gets out of the car when I drop her off at school, “Bye! I love you!” It’s enough to make my heart explode. It makes me realize that discomfort takes a back seat to what’s important. My kid will hear that I love her.

You can believe I found a way to say those words to one of my best friends the night before her breast cancer surgery last month. I’m hoping practice makes perfect, that if I say it enough times it’ll start to feel natural. I love you, My Husband. I love you, My Daughter (even if I did say, ‘No, you cannot go to the midnight premiere showing of ‘City of Bones’ movie with your friends on a school night.’)

How about you? Do you know the feeling of feeling love, but loving to say love?

If so, I’d love to hear from you. Talk to you later.

  Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.  




  • Del

    Hi Daryn,

    I know how you feel! I didn’t grow up in an “I love you” household either. But since lacking it in my childhood and early adult life, I find that I spread the word around so much to my own children and close friends. I know that my parents loved us. They just were not very affectionate physically or verbally with us. It could be a generational thing; as I am in my mid forties now. Honestly, I feel so much better making the choice to express openly how I truly feel with the people that I love. I would not want to pass away, or have loved ones pass away without letting them know how valuable they are to me. And guess what, Daryn? I love you, too!!!

  • Rick Gonzales

    Hi Daryn, As a single parent I make sure I tell my son those 3 words everyday. I was uncomfortable with that word with my dad. We just never said those 3 words. So it’s our job to make sure our kids never feel uncomfortable saying those magical 3 words. Lets stop the cycle with us! So we can hear those beautiful 3 words from our kids. I LOVE YOU. 🙂

  • Harry Harkins

    I just lost my mother to Alzheimers. In recent months, communication, whether in-person or over the phone, was non-existent. She could not comprehend me, nor I her. I would always end the call with “I love you,” but in recent months got no response. In our very last call, she responded “I love you too.” What a great parting gift!

  • Rene' H. Fayne

    Thank you for your article regarding your difficulty in saying I Love You. It is probably much easier for your husband and daughter to say it because they have first hand knowledge of both love and loss.We are not guaranteed a certain amount of time here on earth and love is precious. There is a saying I once heard, “Discipline weight ounces but
    Regret weights tons.” How many of us wish we could turn back time and say those three little words because we thought we had time.

  • Hi Daryn,
    My husband and I end every phone conversation with those three little words and I tell my two girls I love them each and every day but this is not the way I was brought up. Thank God, I married into this type of family and I know that my children and my husband know how much they mean to me. I am able to express this throughout my life but just to give you a glimpse of what it used to look like for me…I remember I was 17 years old and someone asked me if I knew how to hug using a “bear hug” and I did not even feel comfortable with that so I feel so blessed that now I am always ready to hug those who are willing to accept those hugs and I am also able to express my feelings without feeling like I need to “hold back” and I feel happier and healthier than ever.
    Love you, Daryn!

The Three Little Words So Hard For Me To Say

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min