March 31, 2015

The 3 Most Important Words to Say to Anyone. {Not “I Love You.”}

“I love you” is a statement. “How are you?”, an inquiry.

“I love you” is a dish on the menu.

“How are you?” takes us out of the restaurant and into the car on an open road going anywhere.

Like when we first met.

“How are you?” lets the wind of your words lick the space by my ears.

“How are you?” blew up the hairs on my skin and made me rest deep in my own solar plexus, as I paused for response.

Remember when we asked questions?

I felt closer to you when I didn’t know you well, than I have since.

“I love you” was like punctuation ending the sentence.

“How are you?” opened up paragraphs of sharing.

“I love you” was a bracelet, belt or scarf circling wrist or waist or neck. It could be put on, or taken off.

“How are you?” was the cave under the skin where we let each other explore. It can’t be shelved or lost, because it’s within.

When you thought you knew me less, you were full of questions.

When you weren’t worried about saying the right response, you were more honest.

So was I.

When I thought you knew me less, I felt more present and less hesitant. More open and less guarded or attached to outcome.

Remember when we thought it was fun to pull up blinds and look under the covers and didn’t know what was in the cabinets or pantry?

How come we let dust collect and kept reaching for the same tired dirty cup to be the one to fill us up?

“I love you” is so lazy. “How are you?” reaches for the shot glasses on the top shelf and the double-size coffee mugs for hours-long conversation.

We got as practical and polite as an “I love you” peck goodbye.

“How are you?” is the first bite as you pull a chair to sit.

“I love you” is a fact.

“How are you?” is curious.

You are gone now. And so is love.

I remain with questions:

Who are you?
Who were you?
What is love?

And of course, the most important still, that can’t be asked or answered anymore:

How are you?


Relephant Read:

The 3 Little Words that Guys Dread Hearing and Why they Shouldn’t.

Relephant bonus: Another important thing that can keep our relationships alive:

Author: Christine Cissy White

Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Tallie Robinson/Unsplash 


Facebook is in talks with major corporate media about pulling their content into FB, leaving other sites to wither or pay up if we want to connect with you, our readers. Want to stay connected before the curtain drops? Get our curated, quality newsletters below!

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Katherine Sep 18, 2015 12:23pm

Interesting food for thought. But then again i agree with Meow. How are you is often asked flippantly like Hello, not really caring to hear how the other person is. One is expected to just stop at fine thanks and not go on with how one is whether good or bad. Conversely I love is said flippantly too casual injection like Meow notes , which ends up loosing meaning to the recipient and even the one saying it. How to balance? I would prefer like to hear both from the heart.

Meow Aug 9, 2015 2:08pm

This was a revelation for me when I (an American) got into a relationship with a man from another culture. In American culture, so often asking “how are you?” is a pleasantry that doesn’t require or actually request a detailed answer. The general expected response is “Fine, thanks, how are you?” or something similar.

In my significant other’s home culture, you don’t really ask someone that unless you’re ACTUALLY inquiring and want to know. He’s not huge on saying “I love you” extremely often or casually. Initially, as an American, it threw me for a loop that he didn’t say it much, but it made infinitely more sense when I learned to truly understand the value of it, that when he DID say it, it was because he really meant and felt it in the moment to the point of feeling that he really NEEDED to say it. On that point, he asks me “how are you?” or “how are you feeling today?” or “how was your day?” every single day and really WANTS an answer.

Far more engaging and telling about his feelings and level of investment than any casually ejected “I love you” could ever be. Life and my relationship with him got infinitely easier, more full of gratitude, and less mysterious (in the neurotic unhappy sense) in every way.

Listless Bedouin Apr 3, 2015 7:14am

Such true words. Complacency, laziness and the fixed ideas we develop about the other – about ourself – over time corrode relationships til there's nothing left but loneliness, mistrust and dust. Coming out the other side of three years together and a failed engagement, I'm vowing never to let this happen again. I thought I was being mindful to maintain curiosity and communication within my relationship but he wasn't interested in this and eventually I became resentful and gave up trying too… Sad. I'll choose more wisely next time and make sure I'm with somebody who shares the same relationship values. Commitment to communication has to come from both partners or it just doesn't work.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Christine "Cissy" White

Christine “Cissy” Whiteknows it’s possible to live, love and parent well after being raised in hell. Possible but not easy. Her work has been widely published in places such as The Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine online, Spirituality & Health, The Mighty & To Write Love on Her Arms. She speaks about developmental trauma, expressive writing and the lifelong impact of adverse childhood experiences. Her motto is “It’s not trauma informed if it’s not informed by trauma survivors.” She’s founder of Heal Write Now, co-collaborator of the #FacesOfPTSD campaign and Group Manager of Parenting with ACEs on the ACEsConnectionNetwork. Find her on Heal Write Now on Facebook: Facebook page
Email [email protected] to contact Christine “Cissy” White.