When you hear those three, beautiful little words, I love you, it’s easy to automatically think, “aw, isn’t that sweet.”
But have you ever stopped to ask yourself “but is it, really?”
The phrase I love you is, what I like to call an I statement. This means that it applies or pertains to the person who is saying it and not to the person who’s hearing it. It’s tricky because it’s disguised as a phrase that’s about “you,” but in fact, it’s truly all about the person who is saying it (the “I”).
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Because “I love” is an I statement, people can use this term for so many different things— I love this place, or, I love this food, or I love these shoes, etc. Because the thing—the object that’s receiving the love—is irrelevant. It’s all about the I. It’s all about the “me” in the equation. In other words, it’s all about how “I feel” or how “I imagine things to be.:
The less that you know about someone (or something), the more you are relying on your imagination to help you create a picture of that person (or thing). In a way, it’s like a fantasy, fiction, or a fairytale—it lacks both reality and practicality.
With that made-up picture, you can create any scenario that your heart or mind desires—you can essentially direct the entire scene. It’s like having all of the good and none of the bad (or rather having all of what you believe to be good and none of what you believe to be bad).
At the same time, this imaginary scenario actually denies and removes the other person from the entire love equation. They basically have no say; they are simply acting out a role in the play you’ve created—they could be replaced by just about anybody.
The more that you know about that person or thing, the more that you are able to state clearly, directly, and specifically what it is that you feel. Not just that you care, but also what it is that you care about, and most importantly, why you care about it, too.
It’s funny, isn’t it? For as much significance as people place on the phrase I love you, you’d think that with saying it, they’d have a general idea of what they’re talking about—but typically, they don’t. Typically, people who use the phrase I love, haven’t the slightest clue why or how they love something.
Personally, I believe it’s much clearer and much more meaningful to be able to carefully, clearly, directly, and specifically, articulate the finer points that make up your feelings.
Sure, it’s easy to utter the words “I love …” without thinking about the meaning or the consequences, and it’s much more difficult (and not to mention time-consuming) to take the time to expend the effort to think hard about this sentiment—what exactly is it that draws you to this person? What makes this person appealing and attractive to you? What does “I love you” mean to you when you say it to this person and why do you feel this way?
It’s important, and it also requires a healthy dose of honesty and self-awareness.
This is Precisely Where it Falls Apart.
Because you are dealing in fiction and because you are not being honest or genuine, you are, undoubtedly, going to be disappointed. It’s not that reality can’t live up your expectations, it’s that no matter what happens, it won’t be what you wanted—regardless of how good that reality might be.
Why? Because you’ve predetermined your relationship. You wanted this, but instead, you got that. And now, the that isn’t good enough—it’s not something you’re willing to accept.
What’s worse? You’re going to blame the other person for this. You’ll decide that you’ve been deceived, even though, technically, you’re the one who deceived yourself. You’ll claim that the other person should have/would have/ could have been everything you imaged them to be.
Would You Rather?
Would you rather simply be told “I love you” without knowing what it means or would you prefer something more along the lines of “I appreciate this about you”, or, “I value that about you”?
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me
Instead, tell me what you think of me and why you think it. Tell me about the physical, the spiritual, the emotional, the mental things. Direct my focus to things that you appreciate so that I, too, know where to focus and how I can appreciate those things as well.
Talk to me about my disposition, so that I can know how to improve and what I need to work on.
Talk to me about my intellect so I can continue to keep you interested with my cleverness.
Talk to me about my emotions so that we can connect this way, too.
Talk to me about my values so that I can be validated in my own concerns.
And tell me what we share, too, what we have in common—how we complement each other.
Because at the end of the day, anyone can say those three little words—I love you. But only you can tell me how and why.
The “I love you” Challenge
This week’s challenge starts with you yourself. That’s right, it starts with you. List out the things that you love about you.
Then, pick a relationship (a friend, a family member, a partner, etc.) and list out what it is about that relationship that you love.
If you can’t—or if you don’t—ask yourself why?
Because at the end of the day, you can’t fix something if you don’t know what’s broken to begin with.
Don’t forget to let me know what you find—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Good Together: your guide to healthy, happy relationships
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