Clichés: Are You Saying What You Mean?

Wednesday, Mar. 16th 2011 1:10 AM

Clichés are an accepted part of our collective, cultural dialogue. Companies use them, because they work. Well-meaning loved ones rely on them to help us feel better when we’re going through times for which comforting words are hard to find. But when it comes to expressing our romantic thoughts and feelings, we can be far more effective (and genuine) if we get a bit more creative.

“Committed relationship,” “willing to give all of myself,” “you complete me,” “soul mate,” “I love you” – I have probably said each of these clichés at some point in my relationship history. I not only said them; I felt them. And I wanted the listener to feel them too. I wanted that person to understand all my complicated emotions, and I hoped these vague, over-used sentiments would help. In reality, these words did not accurately capture what was in my heart. I was just being lazy.

The argument can be made that because these phrases are so well-used, their meaning is universal, something everyone understands. But in fact, they are so over-used that they have become less meaningful. When we use clichés, we are not really thinking and we are asking our partners to engage in conversations that minimize their thinking as well. We are simply regurgitating words, not taking the time to genuinely express how we feel (or worse, not taking the time to figure out how
we really feel.)

Another problem with relying on clichés to express our feelings is that they are often inaccurate or even nonsensical. “Willing to give all of myself” is one that generally gets a hearty chuckle from me, mostly because I am a little clueless about what it means. Presumably, the speaker is noting his/her strong feelings for a partner and perhaps the desire for a monogamous relationship. But why not say that, rather than using a vague phrase which is physically impossible?

Expressing our feelings in clichés can also be a way to manipulate our partners. For example, if a man tells his love interest that he wants to be in a “committed relationship,” he is using a cliché that means he wants to be sexually intimate with only her, and he probably wants her to say the same thing. After all, he could be just as monogamous without ever telling her. The manipulation is in the strong desire to hear the other party respond in-kind, the sneakiness of requesting this without expressly asking the question and the assurance that feelings will be hurt if the sentiment isn’t reciprocated.

Relationships are an environment where thinking and creative expression is optimal. I am not suggesting that we should skip romance and replace all amorous expressions with words of intellect. I am suggesting that you communicate those romantic feelings with your words – or at least with words that are meaningful to you.

There is a poem by Ram Dass which my partner loves so much that she has memorized it. It reads:

I honor the place in you
in which the entire universe dwells.
I honor the place in you
which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace.

I honor the place in you where,
if you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,

there is only one of us.

When she is feeling mushy and amorous, she will tell me, “You are in that place in me.” And I light up every time I hear it. After all, it is something that I have never heard anywhere else. These words, which are so close to her heart, make her think of our relationship, and that is meaningful to me. And I don’t know anyone else who says “I love you” this way.

So, instead of using, thinking and living clichés, search earnestly within to find out what you think and feel – and say that. Your words may not have the same blockbuster-movie flair as “You complete me” or the same universal significance as “soul mates,” but they will be significant to you. And to someone who truly loves you, your genuine sentiments will be as good as any love song.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

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6 Comments on “Clichés: Are You Saying What You Mean?”

  1. Janis Evans Says:

    Yes, absolutely, cliches are safe. Most people have a hard time expressing what they feel because they are not used to verbalizing emotions. Those kinds of words don’t come easy. It’s scary stuff depending on past experiences and how you were raised. It definitely takes time, work, and a willingness to open your heart and be vulnerable in the name of love. Beautiful poem!

  2. Raziyah Says:

    I agree well said

  3. Fx Nozakhere Says:

    I don’t like using cliche’s in any situation. But yes, in relationships they can be very manipulative and vague.

  4. Kenda Says:


  5. G Says:

    Hmmm . . . Is it a cliche to say that words are powerful. They have the power to make us “light up”. To make us see what we want rather than what’s right smack in front of us. And to connect in deep, meaningful and profound ways. I think it’s in The Four Commitments that we’re taught to be impeccable with our words.

    Really? You said, “You complete me”? Agghhhhh! Frank, say it ain’t so.

    Good post.

  6. Don’t Take a Chance on Love | Frank Love Says:

    […] a chance on love.” Hearing that phrase made me chuckle a bit, because, as is true of most clichés, it’s not really accurate. We do not take a chance on love; the love part happens over time. […]

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