A woman with her hand on her forehead

Words are powerful. With that, overused phrases and terms can lose their vibrancy and novelty, becoming simple and surface words strung together without potency or depth. Something as powerful as an, “I love you,” when first said, can be shocking, jarring and thrilling. Those words aren’t just words. They hold emotion, intimacy and connection.

However, when said over and over again, words can lose their meaning—becoming simple background noise that falls by the waist side. Words are not simple. They also have a direct connection to action and experience.

When said within a secure, affirming relationship, “I love you” brings comfort, warmth and affection. When reinforced by behavior, “I love you” is a reassurance. When it is disconnected from those things, those words lose their authenticity and can feel like a harsh contradiction. 

“I love you” is meant to be backed up with corresponding actions—consistency, self-sacrifice, vulnerability and displays of affection. Words and behavior should communicate intention and respect. They ought to be unique to the individuals in the relationship, reflecting the situation and who the person is. We feel genuinely loved when a person’s words and actions reflect both their knowledge of us and our needs. 

“I love you” is meant to be backed up with corresponding actions.

We have a tendency as people to fall into routines and habits—to do what we have always done because it worked once before. It can be easy to allow words of affirmation to become rudimentary or repetitive. In doing so, love becomes passive; however, love must be intentional and fluid, able to evolve and shift with time.

Sometimes, love looks like saying the words, “I love you.” Sometimes, love means saying, “I’m sorry,” followed up a change in action. Sometimes, it looks like saying nothing and simply listening. Sometimes, love means countering someone’s negative self-talk with truth. Other times, it means expressing love by moving toward or sitting with them instead. 

People are complicated and relationships are complex. There is no quick fix. There is no miraculous set of words that will erase hurt and build intimacy. Love and trust take time. Words, said from the heart, followed up by behavior that reflects them, are absolutely essential.

Love must be intentional and fluid, able to evolve and shift with time.

We must invest in the relationships we cherish so that they grow and that the people we love know how much they matter to us. Love is a commitment, one certainly worth making.

Do you believe words hold power? If so, can they also lose that power if a person’s actions don’t line up with their words?

Image via Melanie Acevedo, Darling Issue No. 11

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