I grew up in a family where it wasn’t very normal to say “I love you” to one another. The closest we’d get would be saying “lots of love” when we signed off on the phone or on birthday cards. I guess it sort of gives the same message, but somehow feels easier to say.
The first time I said “I love you” to another human being was when I was twenty-six years old. It wasn’t the first long term relationship that I’d been in, but it was the first one where I’d actually felt genuine love.
In the weeks leading up to the first time that I said the big ILY, I had wanted to say it many times before. I’d even tried it out a few times, whispering it into my boyfriend’s hair and his chest as I lay my head on it.
I was the first one to say it out loud.
We were out at a festival, inside the music tent and some song started playing that had the words ILY in it. When the song finished, I looked right at him and said it. His face went from shocked to happy, and I felt incredibly relieved when he said it back to me.
I look back on that evening as one of the most special ones in my life. Even though we went on to say ILY many more times to each other, it was that first time that stays imprinted in my mind.
We eventually broke up — although not for a lack of love — and are both with other people now.
My current boyfriend said ILY to me first, and it is the most special day of my life (it happened to be my 30th birthday too).
My boyfriend and I aren’t the sort of people to say ILY everyday. We don’t sign off every phone call, every text or every goodbye with those words. Maybe we don’t say it enough.
However, when we do say it, we know that it isn’t just out of habit or out of routine, but because we deeply feel it and want to express it. When I hear my boyfriend say those words to me, I fully believe them. I feel honoured by them.
There have been other times when people have said ILY to me and it has just been oddly weird.
Someone who I’d only known for about a year, and not very well at that, once said it to me as we were saying goodbye at a bar.
She didn’t say ILY, but LY, which does seem more casual, but still, it almost stopped me in my tracks.
I kind of wanted to ask her — do you really love me?
Google defines love as: an intense feeling of deep affection. Did she really feel an intense, deep affection for me rather than just a casual liking?
I have another friend who says ILY to pretty much everybody pretty much all of the time. Each time I hear it being said — whether it be to me or to someone else, I have a sense of the phrase being cheapened.
Like most things that we have too much of, it doesn’t feel special anymore.
With this particular friend, it’s a throwaway comment, equivalent to goodbye or see you later. I don’t believe that he truly loves everyone that he says it too, even if he is a generally loving person.
So what happens when he really loves someone?
What will he say to differentiate between the ILY he says to almost everybody he meets and the ILY of his actual loved one?
At least in Spanish there are two ways of saying it — te amo and te quiero with te amo being considered to be more powerful and representative of a deeper, more profound sensation.
But in English, we don’t have that option.
I think it’s possible to show some one that you love them in more ways than just words. My boyfriend shows me everyday in the little things that he does for me, so I don’t need to hear those words so often.
So, to sign off, I’m going to say: I don’t love you. You’re alright though.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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