Those three little words—“I love you.” We might say them to put a smile on our partner’s face, to express our affection or gratitude, or even simply to hear them spoken back to us. No matter why they’re said, they’re almost always shorthand for feelings that seem too fuzzy, too complex or maybe just too powerful to tackle in the course of our day-to-day lives.
But so much is packed into those three little words that we (and those we love) are missing out if we don’t occasionally set aside a few minutes to unpack them.
So we asked seven of our Hallmark card writers to do just that. Yes, it can be difficult to find the words that truly express what you’re feeling. But as you’ll see below, it is totally worth it.
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If I couldn’t use those three little words that say absolutely everything, I’d use words like these for the man I love:
… You are the sweet spot of my existence. I literally can’t imagine me with no you.
… Because you make everything in my life a little sweeter and a lot better.
… You are the friend who holds me down and the lover who lifts me up. You are faith at my back and strength at my side. You help me believe that no matter what life brings our way or throws at us, we can stand together and come through.
… I put my hand in yours and know that our “foreverness” is solid. I pull you close to me, breathe you in and start counting my blessings that you opened my heart so wide. I feel the strength of what we have and know that we will always be able to let the little stuff go—the thoughtless moments, the petty arguments, the day-to-day stuff that tries a person’s patience and a couple’s friendship. We will always let that go because there is something much bigger and sweetly sacred to hang on to—the beauty of us, together.
— Melvina, Hallmark Writer
If you’ve been married for a long time like my husband and me, you might not always be super mushy. In our case, we’re in tune with each other enough to know that we love each other without actually saying “I love you” all the time.
But I do actually say it, in lots of different ways. I tell him, “You get the prize for most dependable breakfast-fixing husband on the block.” And, “You’ve got the magic touch for putting a grandbaby to sleep.” And asking, “How’s your ankle feel after tennis? Better put some ice on that.”
Those may sound mundane, but they’re the most genuine way I can express how I feel about him and his steady, loving presence in my life. In-between-the-lines in the middle of the ordinary is the way he’s most likely to hear me tell him I love him.
— Diana, Hallmark Writer
I owe you. Not in the offhand way like when a neighbor with a snowblower does your drive too, but in the deep, lifelong, “I’m never gonna be able to repay this” way.
Left to my own devices, the outcomes I imagine are just not appealing. There are dumb things I haven’t done because I didn’t want to explain to you why I thought they weren’t dumb. There are brave things I’ve done because I had the idea that you believed I could. There are smart things I’ve done because it occurred to me that you might think they were smart.
In fact, your version of me is better than my version. I’m trying to be the person you already think I am.
The first thing I thought the first time I saw you was, “I want to make a good impression on this person.” I still think that, I’m still driven by that, by you, and a lifetime of good things has spun out of that.
So I owe you, and I’ll gladly keep trying to repay you forever.
— Dan, Hallmark Humor Writer
When we first got together, every day was a thrill. But the world shouts things at us like “That stuff fades with time!” and “Just wait until real life hits!” so I figured it wouldn’t stay that way forever. And it hasn’t—it’s gotten better. We may not be in the honeymoon, I’ve-got-a-crush-on-you, hearts-for-eyes phase anymore, but I’ll trade that in for what we’ve got now any day of the week. I know I’ve got someone who’s always there for me, who wants the best for me and who wants me to be myself. And I know that what we have is real, and battle-tested, and strong. Life hasn’t been all sunshine and ice cream, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, either. But I’ve never doubted that I’m with the right person. Not even once. There’s no life in the world I’d rather be living than this one, and there’s no person in the world I’d rather be living it with than you.
— Andrew, Hallmark Writer
If I couldn’t say “I love you,” I would start by telling him he’s the best first husband I could ever imagine. (He would laugh and say “good luck with the next one.” Because we are smart-asses like that.)
I would then attempt to take a serious tone, which would make him laugh even more, but I would forge on!
I would tell him that he’s the smartest person I could ever hope to know.
I would tell him how endlessly and enormously proud I am of him, and that I believe in him no matter what.
I would tell him how I marvel every day at what a natural father he is to our son. I might throw in, “if he’s yours, that is.” Because he would love that. We are smart-ass soul mates, I’m telling you.
I would thank him for always making me feel heard. And respected. And needed. And important.
I would tell him that he gets more handsome every day. That every time I hear his car pull into the garage, I am excited to see him.
He would start to get a little cocky at this point so I would wrap it up. I still need him to take out the trash, you know.
I would end simply by turning on the TV and sitting quietly by his side for hours while we watch sports—without ever once interrupting to dissect for him which team’s uniforms are cuter.
It would be difficult. But he’s worth it.
— Tina, Hallmark Humor Writer
I am not the girl who gets the girl. Growing up a quirky, chubby, gay tuba player, I’d resigned myself to a life of cooking for one and learning how to knit. Maybe doubling down and adopting some kind of talking bird.
But life has this wonderful way of surprising us, and on a windy day in March, you came in out of the rain, and all at once, everything was different. You, with dazzling green eyes and long ribbons of curly hair and a laugh that made me second-guess my favorite sounds. Maybe I had a new favorite? No, I definitely had a new favorite.
Since then, we’ve built a beautiful life together—making countless memories, traveling the world, laughing through tears, dreaming up names for our future dogs or even a future kid or two. Whenever we’re together, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
I am still not the girl who gets the girl. I am the girl who gets to marry a stunning, intelligent, thoughtful woman who inspires me every day. You are my favorite human. Thank you for being you (and saving me from nights spent making tiny bird cardigans).
— Erin, Hallmark Writer
I would tell him thank you.
Thank you for working so hard to give our family everything we need.
Thank you for being present as a dad, for making memories our kids will tell their kids about. For making me feel like I’m a good mom.
Thank you for taking out the trash when it’s 8 degrees, for killing the bug, for getting rid of that gross thing I forgot was in the fridge.
Thank you for loading the dishwasher while I watch reality TV.
Thank you for planning date nights, for feeling the same way I do about taking any chance we have for alone time. Thank you for being extremely good-looking and extremely good at being a husband.
I would tell him thank you for being so good to me.
He shows me how he feels every day, and that is so much more valuable than three little words.
And then, because I’m not very good with rules, I’d tell him I love him.
— Meghan, Hallmark Writer