you & me

Learning the Words “I Love You.”


“I was raped.”

Despite how traumatic the event was, it was so easy for these words to come off my tongue. I was able to demand to the half dozen laughing cops, “I was raped. I need a rape kit. Now!”

Oh, I had the words. I repeated them over and over and over in the lobby of the unfamiliar apartment complex. In the hospital to the nurses and doctors. To the detectives. To the sexual assault advocate. To the judge. Over and over again, I had the words.

I have the words to talk about living with mental illness. About being raped. About developing PTSD. Anything and everything, I have the words.

Words come easily to me. Even when the topics themselves are anything but easy, I can acquiesce my way through nearly any conversation.

I’ve repeated those words — “I was raped” — over and over.

I can narrate these intimate details of my life not only to friends and family, but to a room full of complete strangers.

But then came another three-word phrase — “I love you.”

Such a common phrase, yet such a complex concept at the same. Telling someone that you care about them. Deeply. That you adore them. Deeply. That you have feelings for them. Intense feelings.

Growing up, “I love you” was as commonplace as “Please” and “Thank you” in my house. We said both a lot in my family.

Saying “I love you” to my parents and aunts and uncles and loved ones was easy. It’s still easy.

What’s difficult is telling my boyfriend “I love you.”

I do love him. But I’m just learning the words of love. It’s frustrating. It’s scary. It’s uncertain.

How can I so easily say “I was raped,” but find it so difficult to say “I love you”? Am I broken?

I mean, I can name a lot of things wrong with me, but putting together words isn’t typically one of them. Words come easily to me.

“I was raped.” I can say I was raped. Raped! Such a traumatic event, yet so easy to say.

And “I love you” is what’s hard to say?

It’s not that I question whether I love my boyfriend. I do. But those words. “I love you.” And the associated words. The associated feelings.

Maybe I’m afraid of being hurt. Of being let down. Of being in love.

Being in love is a foreign concept. I’ve never loved. I’ve never felt. Had intense feelings. Deep feelings. Adored someone. I’ve never lost. I’ve never been heartbroken.

I haven’t learned the words of love. I don’t have the vocabulary to express caring, adornment, intense feelings.

How do I tell him that I’m afraid?

How do I tell him that I’m not broken?

How do I tell him I’m just beginning to learn the words “I love you”?


Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, runs Caffeinated Kyle. His goal is simple — to help people find jobs they love (or at least tolerate). Kyle loves coffee (if you couldn’t tell), writing, and eating the same thing at different restaurants.


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