How many layers are there to the phrase I love you? I say I love you, or its abbreviated, ‘love u’ when getting off the phone with a family member, lover, or dear friend. At this particular phase in my life, I love you are words I say automatically, with little reflection.
There are times, however, when saying I love you can give us the same emotions as we might get before jumping off of a plane; hearing the response, “I love you too” is the parachute that catches us lest we make the tragic fall into humiliation.
I now have a better sense of this phrase, I love you and all that comes with it. On the one hand, it’s a phrase that a person says in hopes of having their expectations fulfilled, on the other hand, it’s a phrase that a person may offer generously, believing, “freely give, and freely you shall receive.”
I would like to talk about both: first, as a phrase with an often innocent, yet hidden agenda.
I’ve come to realize that the connotation of the phrase, I love you, when used in a romantic context, carries a lot of weight.
When two people are dating, a sense of affinity and fondness may develop that will prompt one or both people to say this infamous phrase. Some may utter the words impulsively, just wanting to get the sense of dread that may result from their beloved’s lack of desired response out of the way. Others may say it pensively, after days or even weeks of contemplating whether their affection is worth sharing verbally.
Either way, both sorts of people know that saying I love you, and everything that may follow, is opening a Pandora’s box. I love you, and its response, I love you, too has life-changing potential.
Telling someone I love you is a proposal, and its response, I love you too, is the acceptance of that proposal. The concession that two people love each other is a sort of unwritten contract.
This is because I love you is a verb. I love you is a collection of actions. If you love someone, you are telling them that you want to be around them, you want to care for them, you want to learn about them, you want to share experiences with them. It takes two people to love, and so in saying that you love someone, you are enlisting them to be the beloved. The reciprocated sentiment, I love you too, forms a commitment.
We place all of the weight on the phrase “Will you marry me?” but, the truth is, marrying someone is simply one of many ways to commemorate a commitment to loving another person.
This being said, loving someone, at least in this context, makes the beloved partially responsible for the happiness of the one who loves them.
Does this mean that romantic love, in many ways, can be conditional? Perhaps. Perhaps conditions and commitment have been conflated. Perhaps it’s not so much that people are afraid of commitment, but they are afraid of conditions, and they are afraid of being responsible for someone else’s heart.
So, that leads us to the I love you that says, “freely give, and freely you shall receive.”
How many of us have said, ‘I love you’, agape, to a person for whom we also feel ‘I love you’, eros? Based on the pain and heartbreak that permeates our society, I daresay, not very many.
So many of us are faint of heart because we’ve experienced love that wasn’t true, or that was fickle or conditional. But there is a love that exists that can heal us. It is a love that says:
I love you, body, mind, and soul.
I love you for who are.
I love you wherever you go, and for however long you go there.
I love you regardless of who you become.
I love you even if you are not available on my terms and in my time.
I love you even if you Iove another besides me.
I just love you.
I have been working on discovering such a love for several years. The journey to this love has revealed all of the unhealed past hurts that I still harbor, and fragile insecurities that impede my ability to love fully and freely. I so desire to find this sort of love because I have experience the pain of perilous love. I know what it is to have love taken away because I did not be or act as the ones who loved me wanted to be or act. I know what it is to feel hesitant to express my true spirit because I knew that would mean losing the love to which I was accustomed.
I don’t want to love in this way. I believe that love can be an outpouring, something that never runs dry, no matter the sands and rocks it must traverse. I believe love can exist without contracts or promise. I believe that a love without weight is possible.