All my life, I have steered clear of saying the words “I love you”.
To me, these potent three words have a deep meaning that reaches into the vulnerable side of ‘self’ that I’m not quite comfortable to visit. It’s where you unveil who you are with all your past history for another person to see. Then you also run the risk they may not like what they see.
I’ve always stuck to my Grandmother’s advice:
“Actions speak louder than words. In fact, they speak volumes when it comes to integrity. If he truly loves you, he will move heaven and earth, like your Grandpa did.” Call me old fashioned (not old), it’s a motto that I live and breathe.
As a communications specialist, I evaluate words carefully. Every word has its distinct meaning in the sentence. And when you communicate your feelings of admiration to another person, I’d advise that you wait until you really mean them.
In my younger years with a couple of failed relationships behind me, I didn’t understand why guys kept telling me they loved me and then would leave. A friend gave me this piece of advice:
“The world doesn’t owe you anything. Love yourself first.”
These words hit home and made complete sense. It was then that I came to realize I had to make the conscious decision to live and breathe 100% responsibility for self. After all, we make our own happiness, drive our own careers. And we live by our own authenticity. Loving yourself is the first step to receiving love on a much deeper level.
So, Let’s Break Down “Love”
The word “love” is used ambiguously to refer to romantic love, which may last a matter of months or mature love which is associated with long-term relationships. Most adults recognise that romantic love does not always turn into a permanent commitment. Consequently, they’re not surprised—although they may be disappointed—when things don’t turn into a lasting relationship. But the phrase “I love you” is generally used to mean something else.
In my experience, these three words are used when people actually mean: “I think you’re wonderful.” Or “right this minute I’m so happy being next to you and being with you.” It’s a statement of a really strong positive feeling. Again when someone has such a feeling before, or in the middle of sex, sadly they will realise they may not feel this way a few hours later.
How to Interpret the phrase “I Love You”
If said within the first few months of a new relationship, it’s best to interpret with skepticism. Friends and colleagues contact me to decipher communication between their friends, partners and/or work colleagues. My advice is always to consider how that person is behaving towards you, rather than the words they choose to say.
For example, if your girlfriend or boyfriend professes her or his love for you but then becomes angry at you in public, and leaves you to get home by yourself when you live together, then let’s face it, they have no respect for you. They’re trying to fill a void.
People often say “I love you” with as much meaning as “I love chocolate”. Besides, it’s pointless trying to figure out what a person means by the words they choose. It’s far better to look at their actions. An emotionally intelligent person acts with kindness without expecting anything in return. Look for the within yourself, your friends, partner and work colleagues.
“I Love You” is a Statement of Power
In his Good Men Project article “Why ‘I Love you, Too’ Means Absolutely Northing (Sorry!),“ Tim Moussau suggests the phrase “I love you” should be a statement of power. he writes:
“It’s something to say to another because it is meant from within the depths of our heart. When we tell someone we love them, it should be organic, brought about because we experience these emotions on a visceral level.”
This means it goes deeper than receiving a Hallmark card with the right words to make you feel special and loved.
Having said this phrase to only one man, I made sure that my statement of power was reflected by my actions. Each action supported his well-being and career. Granted it took me a while to say it and even though he no longer feels the same way, I have absolutely no regrets. That’s why I think it’s a great idea to take back the power of this phrase.
Let’s Take Back the Power of “I Love You”
When someone says I love you, you can react in one of two ways:
Say you love them because you do and can feel every part of these words in this moment, not because you are vending machine that dispenses an “I love you too” in exchange for the words being said to you.
Or wait. Say “Thank you.” Don’t say I love you in that moment because you do not feel it at that time. Only say the words when you truly mean with every visceral part of your heart.
When Not to Say “I Love You”
When you’re ready to say these words here are some rules to guide you:
Rule #1 Don’t say it post-sex. People often say things they don’t mean right after doing the deed, so the bedroom is not the place to divulge those three little words for the first time. Wait for another moment – like taking the dog(s) for a walk, or perhaps when you’re sharing a meal together.
Rule #2 Don’t say it when tipsy, medicated or otherwise intoxicated. You may not remember it if you’re drunk —and it’s hardly romantic. Make sure you’re sober when you do proclaim your love to her or him.
Rule #3 Don’t attempt a grand gesture. Keeping it simple lets her or him know you’re 100-percent serious about her or him, evoking a certain straightforward, no-BS tact that people crave. Make sure your setting is intimate.
Rule #4 Don’t overthink it. The statement is best said when it comes from the heart, not your head.The fact that you mean it and are ready to say will matter the most.
Saving the Best for Last
In the end, it really doesn’t matter who says it first, all that matters is the words reflect their true meaning to you. And never regret saying it even if the feelings are not reciprocated. It shows that you’re capable of sharing your emotions and feelings on a deeper level.
What does the phrase “I love you” mean to you? Have you said this to anyone special lately? Did they feel the same way?
All comments are most welcome.
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A version of this article was originally published on The E Word (TheEWord.com) and is republished here with the author’s permission.