Adding the “I” to “I love you”

Putting this trinity of words back into place

Jonas Ellison
3 min readMay 4, 2022

Intimacy is weird… I hate to admit it, but I’m not a very intimate person. Not just with my wife but with everyone in my life.

Now, I don’t speak of intimacy in purely romantic terms. I see intimacy as a deeper and more vulnerable (dare I say it) way of relating with self and others.

So now, please allow me a moment to do what my culture has green-lit for me— and that is… Blame my parents

I don’t know if they (or anyone in my family) were great models in the intimacy department. I’d see my folks peck each other occasionally. They generally got along well, and since I’m here, I guess they had coitus; but intimate with each other or their loved ones, they weren’t.

I mean, they had their shining moments just like anyone. My parents had decent EQ’s. But our vibe at home was definitely lacking in intimacy.

Well, in my early 40s, I’m at the mid-point stage of life (God-willing) and I’m taking emotional inventory of a lot of things for a number of reasons...

For one, my wife and I have been married for 14 years and I’m going for another 14 (at least) if she’ll extend my contract. Intimacy in whatever forms it takes as we move forward is key, I believe, to our continued walk through life together.

Also, I’ve heard that little girls grow up to date/marry according to their parental issues. And well, I don’t want our daughter to be attracted to emotionally unavailable men. I don’t want her to feel that (healthy, fatherly) intimacy from a male is foreign ground.

So, this is a journey, this whole growing into healthier intimacy. I have a long way to go and I don’t even know where to place my feet. But I’ll share, for what it’s worth, one little thing that I’ve been trying out. It’s suuuuper miniscule, but man… Even just doing this has me off-balance (I think, in a good way).

I’ve been adding the “I” to “I love you.”

It’s one little monosyllabic and single-unit word. But this word, it creates worlds…

The all-powerful “I”.

“I love you,” could be the three words in our human language that MAKES US HUMAN. They are the trinity of words. And so often, we neuter them by expelling a key component of that trinity… The all-powerful “I”. The subject of this all-important phrase.

For years, when I’ve parted ways with my wife or daughter, it’s always been, “Love you.” Often, it’s said in a dull and obligatory way. It’s like we’re saying that love, in general, is going to… You. We may as well say, “Love to you.” Which basically means nothing. When we say it, it sounds more like, “luhyou.”

We say it so much…


So changing it to, “I love you…”
Wow… A world of difference.

It’s scary to add the I! It sounds so different!

Now, I’m not trying to be weird or make anyone uncomfortable. I don’t, like, grab them by the shoulders and look deeply into their eyes before blasting out a breathy teary-eyed, “I… LOVE… YOU.” I’m not gonna start making out on the sofa with my wife in front of our daughter — heavenforbid.

No… Not what I’m trying to do. This here is a minor change that has made so much of a difference with how that phrase is uttered. I say it differently and I wonder if it lands differently.

Well, I’ve been reflecting on this and I think I know why this has been such a big emotional shift…

Adding the “I” has taken something that for so long has been vague and undirected and has made it intentional and specific. The all-powerful “I” has made it personal.

This is what hits us in the heart… Not the vague and universal. But the personal and specific.

I love you.

(Try it out — see what you think.)



Jonas Ellison

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