Our question today comes from some woman that I got stuck with for two hours (long story). I don't know how the conversation turned to her love life...some people just over-share...but the issue is one with which we have all dealt at one point or another:
When is “I love you” appropriate?
Splitter, you realize that thousands of books have been written on the subject of love already, right? You want me to answer such a question in a blog post?
Thanks, pal. See if I come back for book four.
First, we should examine when “I love you” has no real meaning. For example: in bed. As a matter of fact, nothing said in bed should ever be given too much weight. The bed is the adult playground where we get to be and do whatever we wish.
For some people, that involves superhero costumes and cooking oil. For others, it involves whips, chains, and the occasional quotation of Gaelic poetry. Scratch that last one, I just wanted to use Gaelic in a sentence about sex. Sound it out, you'll get it.
In any event, people can have ulterior motives for the words that come out of the mouths in bed. It is safe to assume that anything said before sex is directly related to the want for sex. We call that “closing the deal.” If a guy says “I love you” while blood flow is being diverted from the portions of his brain that control higher functioning, you cannot hold him accountable for those words later. Chances are, he won't even remember it anyway.
Anything said after consummation is equally invalid. Endorphins are pumping and blood flow is reversing at that time. We are lucky that we remember to breath. You may, in post coital bliss, wish to have his children, but that feeling will probably pass once you remember that he was delivering your pizza ten minutes earlier. You may think that she is the most wonderful woman in the world and that you would walk through fire to come to her rescue, until you realize that she stiffed you on your tip.
Stiffed you on your tip...I didn't even mean to type that one.
During the act itself, any thought that becomes articulated is to be ignored. This includes: I love you, who's your daddy, I've never done this before, that's too big, that's too small, I think I pulled something, where did you learn that, did you just say my sister's name, screw the neighbors, and, yes, but in a good way. As a matter of fact, most of what is said during the act itself should be immediately forgotten and no further thought should be given to such utterances after that “walk of shame.”
(For the record, using names during the act is to be avoided due to the risk of error. Substitutes: Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, or Dinkums. Minds wander during the act and a wrong name can have lasting, negative effects on a relationship.)
(Editor's Note: Dinkums?)
“I love you” has to be said without an agenda and with a clear mind. Saying it at the door as he leaves to go have drinks with his buddies is a guilt trip and really means, “I am mad that you are not paying attention to me so do not have a good time and come home early.” Saying “I love you” right before you confess what you did the previous evening while you were out with your buddies is a hopeless attempt to gain her favor (you are still going to catch Holy Hell).
We should also remember that there is a difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone. Loving someone is constant—even on those days when you don't like them very much. It happens.
Being IN love with someone is that wonderful, magical feeling we all seek. You think about them and you smile. You see something funny or beautiful and your first thought is that you wish the object of your love was with you to enhance the experience. It's a sickness of sorts. It makes men do stupid things like think they can sing love ballads. Being in love makes women plan weddings and set up 401K plans.
You can love someone and not be IN love with them. Many relationships go this route over time. The affection is there but not the fire.
You can also be IN love with someone but not love them. Love/hate relationships are a good example of this. You want to be with him but then you want him to go away before he annoys the hell out of you and makes you follow through on your plan to make the fall look like an accident.
Let's face it, even when you are in love with someone and love them, those feelings fluctuate. As I said earlier, you are not going to “like” the person every moment of every day even though you love them. And anyone who has been in a long term relationship will tell you that some days they are not “in love” with their partner (mostly thanks to PMS).
“I love you” is a powerful phrase. Maybe the most powerful phrase we have. But we forget the three words that are even more important.
No matter what.
When you put both three word phrases together, you come up with a sentence that, said by the right person at the right time, can make even the most jaded of souls weep.
“I love you no matter what.”
That's power. That sentiment excludes all conditional caveats. It no longer means, “I love you as long as you make enough money to give me the lifestyle I crave.” It no longer means, “I love you as long as you stay young and beautiful.”
It means what it says. “No matter what” might be the more important part of the sentence.
Isn't that the love that we all seek? Don't we all want someone to love us even when our plans go awry, our bodies fail us, or fate deals us an unfair hand? Don't we all want to love someone in that way, too?
Real love cannot come with strings attached so we should not use the words so carelessly lest they lose their power.
To answer the original question: When someone tells you they love you, or you tell them you love them, take it in context. It might mean what you wish it to mean, but it depends on who is saying it and when.
However, the moment you are comfortable saying AND hearing “I love you no matter what”...well...that's real.
Ouch! That last thought was deep. I think I pulled something in my brain...
Disclaimer: The views expressed above by Tom surprised the snot out of me too.