I love you. There, I said it. I bet you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I say I love you constantly; to members of my family, to my friends, to Jack and to my pets. They even say it back (no, not the pets, though I’m working on it).
When it comes to the early stages of a committed relationship, it’s probably one of the most common causes of panic. We plague ourselves with doubts: when is a suitable time to say it? Is it too soon? Does he/she feel the same? What if I say it and I realise I actually *love* Cherry Garcia and only “kinda like” my other half? It’s the stuff Taylor Swift diary entries are made of.
It’s only three words when you think about it, and when used in certain contexts, can be rendered meaningless. For example, I said “I love you” to a chicken wing after a particularly tough day at school, but I doubt Nicholas Sparks will be writing any novels about that anytime soon. We probably use the word “love” in a hyperbolic context too much. For example, you might have strong feelings for certain brands of snack foods. You also might have pretty strong feelings for your children. Are these feelings the same? (Hopefully you’re thinking ‘not exactly’ or you’ve got a problem, mister.) I’m guilty of overusing the word “love” when “really like” would probably suffice. I’m also guilty, according to Jack, of telling him that I love him too much. Yes, you read that right. But before you imagine me tied to a radiator and him throwing stale chicken wings at me, I actually agree with him. I started to say “I love you” as much as “change the cat litter please” or “why is our dog killing the postman?” Jack said something pretty meaningful:
“It’s not that I don’t like to hear it. It’s just that you say it so much, it’s become almost meaningless. It should be like a treat to hear. Or you could show me with actions, like sandwiches and pizza.”
Yes, that’s verbatim by the way. I actually agree with him (bar the sandwiches and pizza because HELLO cholesterol AMIRIGHT?) They’re just words. They’re easy to say. Showing that you actually mean them is harder.
So this prompts me to pose the question: what is love? (I’m allowing you ten seconds to sing *that* song but only ten seconds, mind you.) Now that you’re back, think about what you would define love as.
I think it’s different for everyone. To me, it’s realising that you actually are willing to put someone else’s happiness above your own, even if it means you won’t get any credit for it. That’s how I realised, only a few months into my relationship with Jack, that I loved him. I started to think about his happiness over my own. And I knew he loved me, because he endured a four hour bus journey to see me after a long day of work only to sleep on my couch. Ah, l’amour.
We didn’t make a big deal out of saying it. I’ve never really agreed with making a “thing” of the first “I love you.” Jack says I said it first, in a text (and they say romance is dead!) but I don’t remember. What I do remember is the first time I knew that I loved him. To me, that was the most important thing. (I mentioned briefly in a conversation that I liked Norah Jones and three months later her album arrived in the post. Jack was just a teen and had to save up but it was one of the sweetest things he’s ever done because he wasn’t going to see me for a while and I knew it was a purely selfless act. Look, I’m even gushing ten years later!)
So what I’m saying is, the words are important but the actions behind them are more important. There doesn’t have to be grand gestures or sweeping declarations, just selfless and thoughtful everyday actions that will make your other half feel valued and cherished.