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There are many ways to say the words I love you that don’t necessarily use those words. Sadly, we sometimes misinterpret the words said, hearing them as admonitions or distrust. Then it starts, the grumbling, the bickering. The one who said the words ends up defending themselves, and it escalates. What began as an expression of love turns into a spat.

Let’s look at a few common expressions that actually say I love you, but are heard as a challenge.

Be careful: I’ve said this countless times. Many times, it got lobbed back to me in the form of do you think I’m reckless or don’t you trust me. The person goes out the door grumbling because they were told to be careful.

What I meant: What I was actually saying was I love you, and I don’t want you to get hurt. I want that person to truly be careful in whatever activity they’re going to so they come back in the same shape as they left in. I’ve hauled enough people to the emergency room that I don’t want to do it again, especially with the person I said be careful to.

Proper response: I will. Thanks. Love you too.

Drive carefully: Saying this usually returns something snarky like I KNOW how to drive or don’t you trust me (again).

What I meant: I love this person so much I hope they get where they’re going without an accident. It’s not a declaration on how well they drive. It’s mostly a statement about how badly other people drive. It’s dangerous out there, and I want them to be careful (see above).

Proper response: I will. Thanks. Love you too.

Watch out!: This is most often said while Hubby is driving, or Hubby says it to me while I’m driving. This evokes the responses I see it or I know how to drive and a lot of bickering and arguing. Sometimes, one of us sees something and says nothing, the driver doesn’t see it and we swerve or stop suddenly which brings on the same arguments. Why didn’t you tell me, I did last time and you got mad,…. That’s a worse argument.

What I meant: I’m saying I see a hazard ahead and hope the driver does too. I don’t want me or the person who is driving to get into an accident so I’m trying to help out the only way I can. At our age, it takes too long to recover, and having two pairs of eyes on the road is twice as safe. There are occasions when the driver doesn’t see it and thanks me for the warning.

Proper response: Thanks, dear, for helping me watch out.

When driving, it’s better to say something than not. Hazards are everywhere so making sure the driver sees them is an act of love. Drivers, take it as intended so you both arrive safely. Remember to be careful.

There’s also a bit of superstition when I say these to people I love. I’m afraid if I don’t say it, then something bad will happen, and I’ll regret not telling them to be careful/drive carefully/watch out. It also allows me to say I told you so when something happens. I’m a mother. I get to use guilt trips as a punishment for not being careful.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs us anger. Proverbs 15:1

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