12 Things You Say That Really Mean "I Love You"

Maia and Alex have been dating for eight years. By all appearances, they have a great relationship: they live together, they have fun together, he buys her cupcakes. But in all that time, they’ve never said “I love you” to each other. Tired of the giant “I love you” shaped elephant in the room, Maia decided to finally do something about it and contacted filmmaker Bianca Giaever, who’s collaborating with This American Life on a film series called “Videos 4 U.” Giaever says of the project, “I find people who are having trouble saying something, and I help them get their message across—in a video.” After eight long years of “I-love-you”lessness, Maia had something important to say to Alex, and Giaever was there to help her say it in a big way.

Before we get to the video—which is so stinking cute that it’ll warm even your cynical, Valentine’s Day hating heart—let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that “I love you” isn’t the end-all, be-all of romantic relationships. I think that we often put too much weight on those three little words, turning the into a huge, relationship-defining event, and ignoring the more substantive ways that our partners express profound affection. After all, someone can say “I love you” a million times and still act in ways that are completely unloving; conversely—as seems to be the case with Maia and Alex—people can never utter the words and still show their love for each other in deep, meaningful ways. Here are just a few of the things we say to people when we really mean “I love you”:

“You are my favorite.”

“Call me and let me know you got home safe.”

“I’ll still think you’re hot when you’re old and wrinkly.”

“I love who I am when I’m with you.”

You make me smile with my heart.”

“Of course I will drive you to the airport at 5AM.”

“You make me stupidly happy.”

“Would you like half of my cookie?”

“I lurve you, you know. I loave you. I luff you.”

“Yes, we can spend Christmas with your family this year.”

“Look, I went across town and got you some [insert favorite food here.]”

“As you wish.” (I mean, obviously.)

In the video, Maia puts Alex’s favorite things together to declare her love, which is how we get to watch an amazing rock concert featuring Trader Joe’s burritos, burgers, puppies, fonts, and suits as Vaden Todd Lewis, lead singer of The Toadies, wails, “I LOVE YOOOOUUUU!”

Even better, This American Life posted a video of Maia and Alex watching her mini-“I love you” movie together. So. Completely. Adorable.

Images: YouTube; Giphy (3)