I have seen my fair share of rom coms, teen shows, and semi-romantic books so I know American culture considers saying “I love you” a huge deal. In real life I guess I’ve always found myself wondering why?
I am a somewhat affectionate person (okay I need hugs a lot) and about average for getting emotional, but I feel love all the time. A student shows excitement towards something I’m teaching, I love them. A close friend; male or female; I love them. Someone shares something personal in a non-creepy way, I love them. I know if I tell students I love them some will find it weird, or if I haven’t known a person long enough its odd. I know that that love is different and the real issue is romantic relationships, but how is that so different?
I remember the first time I told Wole I love him, not because it was a big deal, but because I had been led to believe it was a big deal. We had known each other for over 6 months, but only been dating for a little over 1. We were on Spring Break, Wole had stayed behind at school and I was on campus for only one night during a school group function. Trying to maximize our one evening, I spent the night in Wole’s room (just cuddling thank you very much). As I got ready to leave in the morning, without even thinking about it I said, “I love you.” Immediately, my easygoing haze lifted and I started to panic. It was too soon and those words were too heavy! He was going to push away from me now because I was too needy and jumped in too early! All this panic lasted all of 30 seconds until I heard an easy, “I love you too,” from Wole.
We discussed this moment sometime well after the fact and Wole said, “Of course we loved each other. I knew that before I even kissed you. You knew that, so it was no big deal.” So that’s how easy it could be. When I thought about it, why was this phrase held up as such a relationship maker? There are no commitments made in the statement, “I love you.” Its just simple truth about an emotion you feel for the person in that moment. There is no vow taken.
I use the phrase, “I love you” a lot and I mean it. I’m not afraid of it, but I also know its power and its inadequacies. It isn’t hard for me to say “I love you,” but it can be hard to show it, to act on it, to sacrifice for it. So rom coms, quit making it so hard to get out the words I love you and start working on the really hard part; proving love and making it last for a lifetime.