Have you ever told a friend that you love them?

I grew up in a working class Yorkshire family where hugging and saying how much you love each other was more or less frowned upon. My wife’s family are worse, try to hug them and they freeze, it’s like hugging a hat stand. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s just that telling you they do or giving you a hug is for daft buggers.

I have come to realize the power of the words ‘I love you’.

A while back, I underwent a medical procedure that required full anesthetic. Before I drifted off, my wife held my hand and told me she loved me, which isn’t out of the ordinary as we often say it to each other.

Then a friend leaned over and said, ‘I love you, Gary.’

I was startled and muttered clumsily ‘I love you too.’

Why startled? Because my friend is a woman.

Being told I was loved by someone other than my wife brought down a wall behind which I have hidden since childhood. By telling me she loved me, based on a deep and caring friendship and not sex or illicit romance, she set me free.

Why do we find it easier to tell our pets that we love them than our friends?  And heaven forbid that one of those friends is of the same sex.

Telling someone you love them is totally liberating, and I no longer shy away from saying the words. When I drop my friend at the airport to catch a flight, I tell her I love her. If she is having problems in her life, we tell her we love her.

Three simple words ‘I-love-you’ dripped like water into a meandering stream that gathers strength to become a river on its way to the sea.

The power is only in the words if you mean what you say. Betrayal is in the words if you don’t.