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When Barack Obama was younger, he dated an Australian elementary school teacher by the name of Genevieve Cook. Cook remembers how whenever she would say the words, “I love you”, Barack’s response would be “Thank you”. Cook who was three years older says it seemed as though Barack appreciated that someone loved him. Keep telling yourself that Genevieve Cook! Maybe it was that he perceived those three words to be a little manipulative. I think that we have all been using and misusing the expression for so long that it’s time to introduce an alternate version.

Most of us have had the opportunity to say those three weighty words to a love partner, and sometimes the motives are questionable. Has anyone ever heard those words and not felt the pressure to say them back? Surely you can’t be as cocky-confident as Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo when he responded to Leia, “I know”. As a child I was so blown away by his arrogance and I wonder if the producers of the movie are lying when they say that Ford came up with that classic response in the moment; it wasn’t in the script.

When a partner says, “I love you”, you instinctively look around in your head for proof that they really do love you. While that debate is going on in your head, be mindful that the pressure is on you to say it back or explain why unlike Barack Obama, you are not grateful that someone loves you.

I believe that it is more honest to say to someone, “You love me”. Here, you are giving someone a verification that has not been coerced out of you, because “I love you too” partly means, “Yes I believe that you love me”. “You love me” shows appreciation and it might help illustrate to your partner what you consider to be an act of love. It also makes a great line for anyone with that Han Solo cockiness.

Remember the old Martin Lawrence movie, “A Thin Line between Love and Hate” where the aim was to avoid saying “I love you” to a new love interest. This modified format, I believe takes the pressure off two new partners who are anxious about who will say it first. Or maybe it doesn’t; maybe it’s only going to work after love has already been confessed in the old fashioned format.

The modified version also takes away that awkward moment when it seems like you’re saying, “I love you” because someone did something for you. You might get an “Oh is this why you love me?” or “So that’s all you love me for?”

This unique version that I am prescribing should also give the hearer a chance to stop doing things to make you feel loved. Don’t ask me why that is important; love is a complicated thing.

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