I'm in a relatively new relationship post divorce. I was hesitant to pursue a new relationship after losing myself in my last one. I was EXTREMELY guarded after my previous experiences.
My partner and I have yet to introduce regular 'I love yous' into our the romantic conversations. And because of this I have noticed a shift in our affectionate language. The lack of "I love yous" causes us to be far more descriptive and specific about the aspects of our character, personality and gestures that we genuinely enjoy about each other.
We say things like 'you have a beautiful spirit', 'you can do it', 'I really appreciate that you cooked for me'. We are both grown and have been through multiple serious long term relationships, which I believe causes us to have a strong reverence for the phrase.
I say all that to say, no relationship is perfect (including and especially ours). However, I feel that there is a form of laziness embedded in the 'I love you' phrase. It can mean a million different things to a million different people. For some folks it's merely a closing to a phone call. 'Ok, bye, Love you.' For others its the ultimate expression of vulnerability.
I think that in addition to saying this phrase, we should become more thoughtful about the ways we describe to others the place they hold in our lives. We should be more diligent about sharing our appreciations for who they are, who they are not, their skills, talents and abilities. I hope as people we can be more intentional with our words and gestures. We could all use more Love!