A friend of mine – keisha brown of fourpageletter – recently wrote a couple posts on love (here and here). Is love a fancy or a feeling?1 I’m pretty clear on what love is, what it isn’t. I experience love every day. I love love. I say “I love you” a lot. I probably say the phrase every day. To family, friends. I might even say it to the same person more than once in a day. Maybe even multiple times in one convo.2
Sometimes I think I say “I love you” excessively. I mean, can I really love that many people that much to say it all the time?? Do I really even love all the people I say I do? Does “I love you” still hold meaning if said so much?
In a word, yes.
I love. Relentlessly. Expressing my love comes naturally and easily. One of the few things I do in life without second guessing or apprehension is love. Especially in my friendships. I have many friends dear to me and I let know I love them. Old and new friends alike. It can be a “this is why I love your crazy arse” or “love ya boo.” Or just “I love you.” No matter how the message is conveyed – casually or formally – it’s sincere. My affection and strong like for him/her is present and true.
It’s comfortable to me to say “I love you” to family and friends. Yet when it comes to romantic partners, I get nervous at the mere thought of uttering those 3 words, even if that’s how I feel. They’re words I say ALL THE TIME. But a partner isn’t just a friend.
Saying “I love you” to a partner for the first time can be a very serious act and signify a monumental turning point in the relationship. Hopefully this turning point is one that both people reach at the same time. If not, it can be quite awkward. And humiliating. People want their expressed love reciprocated. Unrequited love is only for Shakespeare and 90s R&B artists.
I’m not really sure at what point friendship love turns into romantic love. Hell, I’m not sure if a switch even happens.3 Love isn’t just a feeling of affection. Love is an action, something you do. You choose to love or not to love. But for me, saying “I love you” to a partner isn’t just about giving my love – I do that almost automatically with people I trust and care for. But rather, it’s about symbolically giving my heart, a piece of me only given to one person (as it’s only one heart), to be nurtured and protected. In a sense, I view saying “I love you” as much a commitment as it is an expectation – i.e. I give you this, you’re responsible for it.
Perhaps this is where I halt. Even if the feeling/action of love is there, am I ready to a) tell him, b) give my heart, and c) accept his? When’s the right time? Does he feels the same way about me? Is it that serious? Is he making as big a deal out of this as I am? These questions plague me. Le sigh.
In my experience, I’ve waited until he told me he loved me first.4 Partly because I didn’t want to say “I love you” and he a) not respond, b) say “I love you, too” but not mean it, or c) say something like, “thanks” or “that’s nice.” But also because I figured I’d be ready to tell him before he was ready to tell me. I assume that for men, verbalizing their feelings is a big commitment in and of itself. And saying “I love you” is damn serious. Even if it’s something he feels/does long before, this act is a serious and special matter to be done when the time is right for him.
In the meantime, I hold back on saying something I’m so used to saying so freely because it means more than the others. And so far, the wait has been more than worth it. Releasing those 3 words for the 1st time to my significant other in response to his declaration made the love I felt feel that much stronger. Though I’d already thought love, felt love, gave love, there was something new and special about that love upon verbal disclosure. Because the exchange of “I love you” took us to a higher level of commitment and responsibility.
Or maybe it’s just me… *shrug*
What do you think? Is there something special or important about saying “I love you” to a partner versus a friend or family member? Is there a right or wrong time to tell your partner you love them? Do you verbally express your love to your partner, or is it assumed by your actions? Has a partner ever told you they loved you and you did not return the sentiment, or vice versa?
1 From one of my favorite movies, Sense & Sensibility, in the reciting of Hartley Coleridge’s Sonnet VII.
2 E.g., my mom and I play the I-love-you-more competition. “I love you” “I love you more” “I love you most” “I love you times a billion” “I love you to infinity” etc. Corny, I know. *shrug*
3 I recognize the dynamics of a romantic relationship are different than a friendship, and the feelings of love may be different (i.e. eros vs philia/storge). But I’m not sure the act of love, at it’s core, is.
4 I’ve only been part of this ritual twice in my life.