I love you?

When do you say I love you? Is it when you feel it? Right away, without really thinking much about it? Or do you wait, until it’s right, or even until the other person says it first? Do wait until you are sure of what it means, or does it need to mean anything at all?

I’m from Venezuela, I think we have established that already, right? So, that means I do things a little differently than people here in the US. Demonstrating affection is one of those things I seem to do differently. You see, in Venezuela people are very affectionate, verbally and physically. Hugs and kisses are given without a second thought, touches and caresses while conversing is natural, and calling an absolute stranger terms of endearment is part of the regular interaction. And although these behaviors do not come naturally to me in English, they still make their way out now and then. When I relax, when I’m not so aware of the cultural differences, I let myself be as Venezuelan as I can, and it comes through.

People here are affectionate, don’t get me wrong. Especially in the Midwest, I find people to be more demonstrative of affection, verbally at least. Yet, there are still some noticeable differences. One that’s been on my mind lately is the saying of I love you.

In Venezuela we have ‘te quiero’ and ‘te amo’. The quiero is used more frequently because it has sort of an ‘I like you’ tone to it, more than ‘I love you’, but it means more than just like, more than caring for, it is meant to mean love. Te amo, is used more profoundly, more like I love you is used here when it means love as in I am in love with you, can’t live without you, sort of way.

So this not having a ‘te quiero’ in English represents a problem. What do you say to someone you have feelings for but are not necessarily sure you want to spend the rest of your life with them? I like you? I care about you? I really, really like you? Do you say I love you and it’s understood that I love you right here, right now, this what I am feeling is love, but that doesn’t mean I want to marry you tomorrow or that I am totally convinced you are the love of my life and we will grow old together?

I’ve had one too many guys freak out when I have told them I loved them in English (this is how my relationship with Jason ended). Apparently, it is a big deal. To them at least, because to me, frankly it’s not. If I feel love towards you, I’m thinking you would like to know, right? Well, apparently not so much. Or maybe it’s just, you need that ‘I love you’ to come with an explanation of the intensity or the meaning behind the feeling.

Call me crazy, but I think that takes away from the whole demonstration of affection. If you have to explain that the love you feel for someone is this and NOT, absolutely not, that, then it’s like saying “I love you, but not the way you think, not in the happily ever after sense, this is about right here and right now, so don’t freak out, ok?” It sort of ruins it, don’t you think?

So how can I say ‘te quiero’ in English? How can I tell someone I love them without using those words? Can someone please enlighten me? You native English speakers, I’m looking at you. Help!

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12 responses to “I love you?

  1. Well, I am obviously not the native English speaker that you addressed the question to, but I’d like to give you my two cents… just because I’ve been through the same dilemma.

    Apparently, we Germans are not as affectionate as Venezuelans, but we do have two phrases in German to express two sorts of love “Ich liebe Dich” (I love you), which you use solely in romantic relationships, and “Ich hab Dich lieb” (something to the effect of “I hold you dear”), which is something you would say to family members, friends, etc.

    The thing in English is that people tend to throw around “love ya” all the time, but when it comes to expressing real deep affection for somebody, you’re left with only “I love you”, which you usually have to explain to make sure the other person doesn’t feel “threatened” by your outpouring of love.

    I do think that “I like you a lot”, or “I care about you” are good phrases to start using with someone that you you’re dating (as to not scare them away). I am curious what the native speakers have to say about this.

    I never was in the situation to think about the “I love you”-part in my relationship, because my husband has always been really verbal about his affection, so I didn’t have to worry about scaring him off 😉

    • Thank you for sharing this. I would have guessed native speakers of other languages than English, would encounter the same difficulty as I do in this context. I think expats, who speak languages other than English, in general, would have this in common, as we do.

      I have used those ‘I like you a lot’ and ‘I care about you’ phrases when I’m trying to convey my feelings, but for some reason, they just don’t represent (to me at least) what I’m truly feeling.

      You’re right, here “love ya” and even “I love you” seem to mean different things, different levels of emotions, different intensities of loving. So when do we know which one it is? How do we convey the specific one we are feeling without having to explain it and ruin the moment?

      If only more guys were really verbal about their affections, and if only all affections were corresponded… it would be so much easier 🙂

  2. Can’t you just direct said person to this blog post? And I say that halfway seriously. Why not say te quiero. It opens up an opportunity to explain how you’re feeling in the same way saying I love you would, too.

    I remember the day Sweets said I love you. I hadn’t yet said it and, quite frankly, wasn’t ready to. So, I gave him his moment. I didn’t want to take away from it. It was really magical hearing him say those words and hearing his thoughts. I don’t think it would’ve been as meaningful if he didn’t tell me what he meant by those words.

    • 🙂 yeah, that would be easier indeed!

      But I think you’re right, and saying Te Quiero and explaining what that means in Spanish, would serve my purpose. I guess I am just looking for a way to say it in English.

      That is great you let him have his moment and explain his feelings, even though you might not have been ready to reciprocate at the time. I wish that had been the case with Jason back then… maybe I just didn’t do such a great job at explaining what those words meant. Live and learn huh? 😉

  3. I know just what you mean. You are so right. I don’t have an answer, but yes I know. Saying “don’t freak out” and explaining yourself is pretty akward, but that’s my only solution.
    Lord help us all. 🙂

  4. You say it in Spanish. Think about it,
    the person that you want to say it to knows you are from
    Venezuela and that you speak Spanish, so you just have to say
    Te Quiero and let him find out what’s the meaning of that, and
    believe me who ever explains it will say the same thing, not
    with the same words, that you wrote before explaining what
    “te quiero” means. Take advantage of your background, for me
    it’s going to be a problem too when that happens, however I
    Have given it a though and that is the best that I could come
    up with. It’s a shame that there is not a word in English
    That candescribe a feeling between Love and Like…been
    English a language where you can find more then one word to
    describe one thing such I would of expected that there was a word
    to describe this.

    • Yeah, I think ultimately that’s what I’ll end up doing, say it in Spanish … unless I can say I love you in English and have it be what it may. We’ll see. I’m letting it go (as per my year’s goal) and let time take care of the situation, but thank you for your opinion, it’s been great reading what others think about the subject 🙂

  5. Like it’s said in P!NK’s song “we hate so fast and we love too slow”. Why would someone freak out when hearing “I love you”? Why can’t love just evolve, has anyone ever heard of different types of love? Why can you take it for what it is at the specific time. That is one thing that I LOVED about my last relationship (which ended horribly, lol) but we said “I love you” pretty early but we took it as it was, and the more we felt the more we said it and we knew exactly what it meant at every specific phase of our relationship. Too bad it didn’t last forever, lol!

    I say you throw the bomb and see what happens… do you even want to be with someone that would bail out the moment you tell them you love them even if it meant that you were in love? I say you say what you feel and they can take it or leave it! Better to suffer the disappointment early in the relationship that when you actually have more time and feelings vested.

    That’s my 2 cents!

    • Believe me, I don’t know why some guys freak out, but they do. Some don’t, and for me that had been my experience, until I started going out with American men. Not all of them of course, to be fair, not all US guys react the same way to verbal proclamations of feelings, but for those who do, we need to be cautious.

      We’ll see. For now, I’m just going to let it be and see what happens. If I get the urge again at some point to share my feelings, I will, if not, time will tell.

  6. Hey Jen, been reading this post.
    As a writer and with some hold on the semantics of the english language, it really is interesting. In a language with a pretty extensive vocab it is strange how we don’t have more words or ways of saying I love you, I’ve never really thought about it before. I hate to say it, but it IS a really big deal in our language when you say that, i.e. I would not say it to anyone I wasn’t sure was worth the risk of scaring them off by saying it, I would have to be in love with them, and want to know if they felt the same way back or move on to someone who will. It IS almost tantamount to saying, you’re definitely the one for me now and also in the future (rather than right now as you want to use it). I also hate to say it, but it’s usually better to let the man say it first, it’s somehow a bigger deal for them even more than us, which explains why they can get really scared by it – I think women can feel or be sure of those things before a bloke is. But of course there is no hard or fast rule, and in relationships all you can really do is be true to yourself and hope they’ll love you for it (and if they don’t then they’re almost certainly not the one for you).
    As you so rightly pointed out, our culture is a lot less demonstrative, more restrained, and as such your partner probably sees so much more of you than anyone else: I like to know that someone is worthy of me telling them I love them before I say it to them, I think of it that way (you must be worthy of my love even if I want to give it to you now and even if I may feel it weeks before, in a way you must prove to me you are worthy of me.) That point is certainly balanced with being true to yourself, if you feel it for too long and don’t say it you’re probably not feeling so secure with that person and (again) they’re not right for you!

    Go with the Spanish version, I’m with the others here, then you get to say what you want to say and also sound exotic in the process. He’s got to love that!

    Sarjent. x

    • Thanks for sharing this. Your view is exactly how I see the meaning of I love you in English, as an I am totally in love with you and I can’t see myself without you, kind of feeling. And I am definitely not ready for that. So, yes, I think I’ll either wait for him to say it first, or say it in Spanish and have him look up the meaning. Either way, I’m not doing anything any time soon. Time will tell, as it usually does 😉

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