When I had my first serious boyfriend, I remember how obsessed I was with "I love you." When was he going to say it? What would happen if I blurted it out first? How would I react when he finally said it to me? I remember how desperately I wanted to hear those three words.
When he did tell me he loved me, it was the single best day of my teenage life. And later, the day he said "It's over" was one of the worst.
Little did I know that even better times were yet to come ...
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Fast forward a few years when I was in my 20s and had just moved into an apartment in New York with one of my childhood friends. She was dating someone she thought was "the one" and decided to set me up with one of his best friends. Even now, I will never forget the day I opened the door and there he was. Dark brown hair, hazel eyes, super cute, smart (he graduated from Cornell!), and so funny. It truly was love at first sight.
That night, we talked, we laughed, we drank a little too much, and we wound up in my walk-in closet since my roommate and her boyfriend took the bedroom. The next day, he called to ask me out and I instantly blew off two other guys I was dating so that I could be with him. Incidentally, he also stopped dating a few girls he was seeing too. The feeling between us was positively electric.
The Waiting Game
Those first few months, we held hands, we laughed, we kissed ... and we didn't say "I love you." I remember hoping he'd say it after we'd been together about three months. My roommate's boyfriend had already told her he loved her, and I just wanted my guy to follow suit.
But he didn't.
I let a few more months pass by, and finally, we had a long discussion about the importance of those three ultra-charged words. He told me that he didn't want to say it unless he really meant it, and at the time, he just wasn't ready yet. So I patiently waited a few more months.
The Moment of Truth
Eventually, it happened. He confessed that I was "the one" -- and he told me he loved me! A few years later, we got engaged, and nine months after that, we were married.
As we get set to celebrate another anniversary -- 18 years this month! -- I've realized that he has told me he loves me nearly every single night before we go to sleep and every morning when I wake up. And that has made all the difference.
Despite thaMy husband and I on our wedding dayt fact that we don't hold hands like we used to -- and sometimes get caught up in work, bills, our kids' lives, and everything else going on -- I never doubt his love for me. I've also realized that every time we spend some time alone -- especially now that the kids are away at camp -- I fall in love all over again with that really cute guy who showed up at my door one night and thankfully never left.
While I have sadly seen some of my friends' marriages fall apart, I wonder if and when they stopped telling each other "I love you." Did it stop when they were too busy building their careers or raising their kids? Was it when the finances became so tight that they found themselves arguing over the bills non-stop? Or was it when one of them "fell out of love" and fell for someone else?
All too often, the moment you stop telling your partner you love him is the moment your relationship is at a crossroads and in need of help.
The Power of Those Three Little Words
So think about it the next time you go to bed. If you don't say "I love you" to the person next to you every night or each morning, try doing it now. When you're with someone for a long time, it's so easy to take each other for granted, argue over stupid things, and fall out of love. But if you spend every day telling them -- and showing them -- you love them, you might just beat the odds.
In my case, I love my husband now more than ever. He's happier since he ditched his career in corporate finance to start a sports business for kids, he's funnier than the first time we met (maybe it's because we've been together so long we now have the same sense of humor?), and he's gotten even better-looking with age. And best of all, he still says "I love you" every morning and every night. I can't say that's the only secret to a happy marriage. But it certainly helps.
Do you think saying "I love you" frequently is important in a marriage?
Images via Edyta Pawlowska/shutterstock and courtesy Beth Feldman