Why We’re Swapping “I Love You” for “I Love to You”

If someone told me that four words from a (dense) philosophy novel would still be ringing in my ears years later, I don’t know if I would have believed them.

Luce Irigaray - psychnsex

Yes, there are plenty of outstanding philosophical works that I think back on from time to time, but I think about these four words on a daily basis (seriously).

5 (or more) years ago when I was in university I was introduced to a thinker whom I didn’t realize would make such a lasting and profound impact on me and my relationship with love. The thinker is Luce Irigaray, and the particular work I was studying at the time was a translation of her book I Love to You: Sketch of A Possible Felicity in History Luce Irigaray is a brilliant Feminist Philosopher who’s work I would recommend to anyone. So, if you’re looking to dive into some feminist philosophy, she’s your girl! Anyway, this is not my efforts to promote a philosopher or review a book, it is my efforts to put forth to you my notion of one of her concepts. Something that may just change the way you see love, I know it did for me.

I Love to You: Sketch of A Possible Felicity in History She plays with the possibility of a language born fromliberation which would forge a new relationship between people. This language aims to acknowledge the difference between people rather forcing them into one single understanding. Because, after all, feminism is about celebrating everyone and their differences, not forcing everyone into one single, reductive box.

“In order to carry out the destiny of humanity, the man-human and the woman-human each have to fulfill what they are and at the same time realize the unity that they constitute.”
― Luce Irigaray

So, how does this apply to love? It’s all in language.

Irigaray puts forth a new way of expressing love to act in the place of “I Love You.” Because, have any of us really thought about those three words, our relationship to them, why we use them, or their implications? I know I haven’t — or hadn’t, prior to coming across this:


I love to you” is more unusual than “I love you,” but respects the two more: I love to who you are, to what you do, without reducing you to an object of my love.

― Luce Irigaray

All I can offer is my interpretation of this, but I can tell you that this interpretation very special to me.

We do not and can not love someone at all times, fully and completely, and love everything about them. So, saying “I love you” may not always be appropriate.

Irigaray - psychnsex

And, as Irigaray puts it, it reduces the individual to an object of your love. When you say “I love you,” you’re saying that you love the version of them that you have created from your understanding of them, not the version of them they understand themselves to be.

Additionally, this new way of expressing loves paves way for us to question our understanding of love as a state of being rather than a state of giving. We give love, that is how we relate to our lovers, so “I love to you” rather than “I love you” brings emphasis to the act of giving by the giver, and gives the receiver the chance to accept if they wish, and give in return if they should feel inclined. Not only does it give intention to the statement, it creates motion and action within it, and it gives consent to both parties.

I was so deeply infatuated with this. “I love to you.” For me, it drew my attention to the fact that we have the power to alter language and conventions to suit ourselves, our relationships, our values and our beliefs. It also gave me a tender, warm feeling thinking of someone saying this special statement to me.

“I love to you” can be a collection of words, new social tool, a piece of mind, or anything you need it to be. But for me, it was some much-needed perspective that I’ve carried still for all this time. Love is not a state in which we exist unconditionally, it is an act of giving love, and accepting love in return.


Would you like to learn more? We highly suggest you do! Pick up a copy of this wonderful book for yourself!

Sources: I love to you. L Irigaray, A Martin – Trans. Alison Martin. New York: Routledge, 1996

Britanny Burr

Britanny is a Freelance Writer and Editor with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She grew up in the Rocky Mountains and is currently dwelling in Vancouver. She loves pool parties (though they are few and far between because she lives in Canada), hairless cats (though she hasn't yet met one in real life), and people who make her laugh. You can find her dancing, reading, drinking coffee or wine (dependent on the time of day), and watching Boy Meets World re-runs. @britburr

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