The Thing About “I Love You”

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Disclaimer: I realized I’ve been ghost for like… *checks blog archives*… over 2 months but I have been a wee bit overwhelmed with life. This PhD thing is really getting in the way of my life. SMH. But I need a break from science. So I’m taking to my e-journal, since this subject has been on my mind for a long time…

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?

I love,
Gemmie

——-
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.

30 thoughts on “The Thing About “I Love You”

    Brandi said:
    June 8, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I suck in this department. Saying I love you is like pulling teeth. Growing up we never really said it so now when family members say it I cringe….weird I know. I definitely love them and I try to show my friends and family since the actual words are so difficult for me. I am trying to do better because, fortunately my children are very expressive and will often say I love you Mommy and how can I not respond to that?!

    Great post!

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 8, 2012 at 10:43 am

      thanks for reading/commenting, Brandi!

      if its hard for you to say i love you in general im sure it makes it just as hard or maybe even more so to say it to a partner/lover.

      has NOT saying it to a partner caused problems in the relationship? or have you tended to gravitate towards people who also have trouble expressing i love you? just curious.

      fortunately my children are very expressive and will often say I love you Mommy and how can I not respond to that?! :)

        Brandi said:
        June 9, 2012 at 2:22 am

        The hubs wasn’t big on it either BUT he’s much better at it than me in fact he said it first. He’s probably the only person other than my kids that I make a real effort to share my feelings with.

        The funny thing is I’ve always gravitated towards very emotionally open people….. I really wish I could
        be more like you!

        gemmieboo responded:
        June 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        very interesting. as long as you and your hubby have an understanding since you both struggle with this, thats all that matters. i think it would be very difficult for me to be in a relationship with some one who didnt express “i love you” easily and often. i need words of confirmation – especially when it comes to the L word.

    fourpageletter said:
    June 8, 2012 at 10:16 am

    man… listen.

    this post >>>>>

    i too love love. i love being able to freely give it and freely say it.
    i don’t think your love is any less because you share it with many people because it’s obviously different types of love.

    Is there a right or wrong time to tell your partner you love them?
    nope. if it’s real to you, then it’s the right time. YOLO right? ;)

    Do you verbally express your love to your partner, or is it assumed by your actions?
    bof.

    Has a partner ever told you they loved you and you did not return the sentiment, or vice versa?
    had someone tell me they loved me, but it was too late. which made me sad, but such is life.
    i’ve never said i love you first, the fear you mentioned is REAL.

    i LOVE YOU GEMMIEKINS!!!!!

    ps: your ‘competition’ with your mom reminds me of a story i read recently

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 8, 2012 at 10:49 am

      had someone tell me they loved me, but it was too late. which made me sad, but such is life.

      for some reason this reminded me of a friend i “fell in love with”. we were very close, and we said we loved each other all the time, in that friend way. for various reasons, the friendship fizzled. but i can say without a doubt i loved him as more than a friend (and i suspect he felt the same). and that was the 1st time i’d experienced heartbreak from a guy who i wanted as more than a friend.

      ANYWAY… I LOVE YOU TOO KBEEEEEZY!!!! and i already love *happy feet* :)

      that book??? adorbs!

        fourpageletter said:
        June 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

        <3

    www.max-logic.com said:
    June 8, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I have always been the one to say I love you first. And I have been in the awkward position of not hearing it back. It hurts, but I believe vehemently in telling the people you love that you love them. All the time, no matter what. Because I’ve been in the situation of losing someone I didn’t know I loved before I had a chance to say “I love you” and it sucked.

    This was a great post Gem. Believe you me I understand the need to take a blog hiatus, but it’s good to see you back.

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      All the time, no matter what. Because I’ve been in the situation of losing someone I didn’t know I loved before I had a chance to say “I love you” and it sucked.

      i think this is why i say i love you so much. i dont ever want some one to leave this earth being unsure about how i felt for them.

      thanks for welcoming me back, Max!! always appreciate you stopping thru :)

    Wu Young, Agent of M.E. said:
    June 8, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Good post.

    Unlike most things the scarcity of saying “I love you” does not prescribe it any more value which is rare. If you say it and mean it a few thousand times the value holds true.

    The dynamic of who you are saying “I love you” to or at (You can most definitely say it “At” someone.) is very different. Saying it to a woman I love takes on another set of emotional responsibilities than saying it to your family or your friends.

    Timing is important but if it needs to be said, say it. I’ve had terrible arguments with Moneypenny and I’ve said it before I walked out the door. I was mad as fcuk but I still meant it.

    I always say it to Moneypenny and Moms, Agent of M.E. but I seldom say it to my sisters, never to my brother, and never to my Pops, Agent of M.E. With the other two it’s assumed and as a whole we’re weird people emotionally.

    I’ve told a gal I used to have dealing with that and got nothing. I showed my hand and she showed what she was holding. I don’t take saying the words lightly but the lack of reciprocation spoke volumes.

      Wu Young, Agent of M.E. said:
      June 8, 2012 at 11:15 am

      As a side note I think people misuse the word “Friend” a lot more.

        madscientist7 said:
        June 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm

        son, that is a whole other post by itself. i’m never quick to call someone my friend. i’ll be real cool with you but friends??? naw.

        Wu Young, Agent of M.E. said:
        June 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

        I know people who acknowledge folks as friends after two or three meetings. Kind of odd to me.

        gemmieboo responded:
        June 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

        I know people who acknowledge folks as friends after two or three meetings. Kind of odd to me.

        this is me. not just for the sake of calling them friend. but i quickly become attached to people i like and feel i can trust. only a handful of times has this come back to bite me in the arse.

        Wu Young, Agent of M.E. said:
        June 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm

        only a handful of times has this come back to bite me in the arse.

        That’s good. I don’t throw it around for that reason but I’m glad you’ve had good results.

        gemmieboo responded:
        June 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

        in the end, i dont feel like it was any skin off my back. so this person turned out to be a shitty friend. but for every 1 bad friendship, ive had 10 AMAZING ones (ppl who i friended quickly and have been the best of friends ever since). and to me, thats worth it.

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Timing is important but if it needs to be said, say it. I’ve had terrible arguments with Moneypenny and I’ve said it before I walked out the door. I was mad as fcuk but I still meant it.

      i agree. even when ive been angry, ive said i love you. anger and any other negative feelings shouldnt overshadow the love you feel for that person.

      i dont find it surprising at all that you dont really say i love you to your brother or dad. i dont ever really remember hearing my dad or brothers exchange those words, maybe a few times.

      but the lack of reciprocation spoke volumes.
      indeed.

      thanks for sharing!

      fourpageletter said:
      June 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      amen.

    Mo-VSS said:
    June 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I usually don’t say it first not because I’m a punk but it takes me a long time to fall in love with someone. I have sociopathic tendencies so I can say it but not mean it, and that doesn’t phase me. I figure if it’s in my best interest to say it back to someone, then I will. Doesn’t mean I don’t care for the person or that I can’t grow to love them. It just means that at that moment, I don’t feel that way but if I truly care about that person’s feelings, then I’ll say it so they’ll feel better. Is that wrong? *shrugs, I don’t know or care. I like the person, I enjoy spending time and I want that to continue and eventually if all goes well, I’ll feel the same way. So I learned there is no need to say “oh I don’t feel the same,” unless they are truly someone I’m not ever inclined to be with seriously (and then, I don’t invest time with people I don’t see myself with long-term so that’s not too much of an issue).

    I’ve opened up and shared this lack of feeling with one other person and they were so offended that I made a mental note to never-ever share this with anyone I’m in a relationship with because it sounds insensitive and it makes them second-guess themselves. My intent wasn’t to make that man feel badly, but it was to be honest. And as much as people think they want honesty, they don’t. Not the type of honesty that they can’t understand…they want THEIR honesty. And in that situation I learned it’s better for me to allow them their honesty. Eventually, I’ll get there and if I don’t I’ll break it off. Which, honestly, is the same process of any other relationship. The only catch is he’ll have thought I was in love and I wasn’t. Such is life.

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      It just means that at that moment, I don’t feel that way but if I truly care about that person’s feelings, then I’ll say it so they’ll feel better. Is that wrong?

      i can understand doing this. i see why people do. but for me, it’s not something i can do. im inclined to be very genuine about my feelings – good or bad.

      And as much as people think they want honesty, they don’t. Not the type of honesty that they can’t understand…,

      so true!!!! especially when it comes to men, they say they want a woman to be up front with them and not hide her feelings (as they think we’re like to do) – but usually thats not what they mean. they want to hear us give an explanation or thoughts or feelings, but only if its in agreement with them or something they can work with. smh

    madscientist7 said:
    June 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    i grew up in a household where affection was not the norm. my parents weren’t the type to hug and kiss us and saying i love you in my household definitely didn’t occur. i think that this is something that i longed for. if i’m close to you then you’ll know that i’m an affectionate person. i tell my friends that i love them and that i appreciate them. you can’t tell your loved ones enough how much you care for them. it never gets old or stale. as far as relationships are concerned there have been times where i have been the first to say it and times were i wasn’t. it was very awkward when the feelings weren’t mutual on my part. i usually say something like “i have love for you but i don’t think i’m at that point yet.” it may hurt that person but there is a HUGE difference to me in loving someone and being IN love with them. i’m not going to let someone think the latter when its not true.

    i don’t think there is a right or wrong time to tell someone that you love them. i say it when it feels right. i’ve told a woman that i’ve loved her after a relatively short amount of time and i’ve been with some women for an extended period of time and i never came close to uttering those words. just as much as love is an action its still a feeling and if its not there then its not there. sometimes it comes easy like a sunday morning but on the flip side it can’t be forced.

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm

      i usually say something like “i have love for you but i don’t think i’m at that point yet.” it may hurt that person but there is a HUGE difference to me in loving someone and being IN love with them. i’m not going to let someone think the latter when its not true.

      so you’re saying “i love you” to a person you’re in a relationship is reserved for being IN love with them, and not just having love for them?? so “i love you” is special or more meaningful in a relationship vs a friendship??

      i don’t think there is a right or wrong time to tell someone that you love them. i say it when it feels right.

      when it feels right for just you?? or when it feels right between both people (i.e. you think they love you back)??

        madscientist7 said:
        June 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

        yes me saying “i love you” within the confines of a relationship is synonymous with me being “in love with” that woman. if i’m in a relationship i try not to say the “L” word at all unless i’m in love with her because i don’t want it to be misconstrued or taken the wrong way.

        i think i would say it when it feels right between both ppl. even if she doesn’t say it back i would want to be sure that her feelings are pretty strong for me.

      fourpageletter said:
      June 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      your comment reminded me of the interludes wyclef had with the kids on lauryn hill’s album. don’t know why. #carryon.

        gemmieboo responded:
        June 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        L.O.L!!

    African Mami (@afrikanmami12) said:
    June 13, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Oi! That word gives me the hibijibees!! It gives me African fever. My mom always finishes a phone call with I love you, I just say Bye! Yeah…it’s that serious. I love her, she knows it. But I can’t say that word back. It is not who I am. I’m not lovely dovey. *shrugs*

    Great post, great blog!

      gemmieboo responded:
      June 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      But I can’t say that word back. It is not who I am. I’m not lovely dovey.

      interesting. i dont see saying “i love you” – esp to the person who gave you life – as being “lovey dovey”. but it seems thats how it is for a lot of ppl.

      do you EVER tell your mother, or other people you love them?? or is it a word you basically never say?

      thanks for reading and commenting :)

        African Mami (@afrikanmami12) said:
        June 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm

        It’s a word I never use, when I’m serious. I just find it difficult….it’s cultural. I can’t explain it. But she KNOWS-we believe more in actions speaking louder than words.-Africans i.e.

        gemmieboo responded:
        June 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        understandable. its funny which children will embrace cultural or familial norms and which do the opposite (my mother for instance who didnt hear “i love you” much growing up says it ALL THE TIME to me and my brother and my dad).

    The Wake Up Call « That's What GEM Said said:
    September 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

    [...] and security in the arms I seek to dwell. I am free to explore and express my true feelings (of love, fear, uncertainty, etc) and thoughts with some one I trust- without meeting ridicule, disrespect, [...]

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