This post is relevant for anyone who is at the point of exchanging declarations of love with someone else…
In this post, I aim to explain a number of the issues I have with the phrase “I love you”.
I must admit that this phrase confuses me – what do men mean exactly by this? So if someone were to tell me that he loves me, I would probably just stare at him in confusion, and mumble a confused “thank you”. I can imagine that that unenthusiastic response might make a man feel a little upset, especially if he has gone to great effort to build up his courage before telling me…
This is why I find it confusing: the phrase “I love you” possibly involves a few distinct emotions (?) or mental viewpoints, and I’m not sure exactly which combination of emotions etc that he might be referring to, unless he specifically spells it out. Depending on exactly what combination of emotions etc he is talking about, I might want to respond positively, or alternatively I might want to draw back in caution. By default, if I am not quite sure what he means, or if I do not know him well enough to trust him, from a self-preservatory instinct I would probably draw back (for instance, he might be using this declaration to manipulate me – as described below). So naturally if I could be interested in him at all, I would prefer to ask him exactly what he means.
Options for what “I love you” means (might there be a few that I have forgotten here?)
1. I am romantically attracted to you
2. From what I have seen of you so far, I care about your wellbeing
3. I admire your character, what you stand for
4. I like spending time with you
5. I think that you are physically appealing
6. I’ve seen enough of you to know that I will care about you forever.
7. I feel that you and I are on the same wavelength and I am excited about being able to interact with you emotionally
8. I think that everything that you are is extremely valuable, and I would do everything within my power to protect you
9. You make a very important contribution to my life, and I cannot imagine how I would manage without you in my life
10. (Sighs!) All of the above!
11. Your smile – further sighs!
As I am writing this, it occurs to me that I analyse my own thoughts, impressions, habits at great length. If I were to be attracted to a man, it would be almost automatic for me now to sit down and carefully identify for myself what exactly it is that I am attracted to in him. However, not everyone does this. I would love to marry a man who is as self-analytical as I am, and who strives to know himself as much as I strive to know myself. However, I know that for some people asking them to look within themselves would be like asking them to drink bitterness; that the act of looking inside themselves would cause them lots of pain, or embarrassment because they would have to acknowledge various overwhelming internal insecurities, or fears of rejection etc. For them to come to the point of acknowledging that they love you is in itself a huge achievement. I know this because this is how I used to be! On reflection, I think that this is probably true of the overwhelming majority of people. I think that the way to handle such a situation would be to be extremely gentle, until the person in question slowly, shyly, bit by bit releases what is in their mind and heart towards you.
“I love you” for the sake of manipulating behaviour.
I hope that writing this blog in some way largely protects me from this behaviour I am about to describe. Something that many people talk about is the fact that people can use the phrase “I love you” to manipulate other people to get them to do what they want. Apparently we as women are especially susceptible to those “three little words”. So then, the possibility is that a man, even a supposed “Christian”, might use those words “I love you” without having any actual feeling in his heart towards you at all. So then, this is one of the reasons why I would prefer to deduce someone’s love for me from their actions. This is also the reason why I personally prefer to show my own love by my actions. My aim would be that someone would sit down and think through my actions and decide for himself that these actions spring from genuine care and concern. Conversely I don’t want to make it sound as if I will need anyone to “jump up and down” to “prove his love”, because I won’t. I trust that when it comes to that point, everything will happen by God’s leading, so that by the spirit of God he (the man) will make appropriate gestures, and by the same Spirit of God I will give the correct interpretation to those gestures, and I will reciprocate in kind, and he and I will both know.
Conflicting meanings of “I love you”
If a man tells a woman that he loves her, and she responds that she also loves him, that might sound like an ideal scenario. However, it is possible that the man and the woman might mean different things in their expressions of love. If they were to go ahead to build a relationship without more deeply analysing just what they both mean by these mutual expressions, then that might eventually result in difficult situations. For instance, if the woman needs deep-seated, unconditional care and concern from her husband, if this is what she hears when she hears the phrase “I love you”, then she might be greatly disappointed to discover a few years later that what he meant by “I love you” was that he found her physically appealing; her beauty was the great contribution that she made to his life, that he did not think that he could live without. As I am typing this, I am asking myself whether it could truly be possible for such a situation to arise, that a couple would not talk at length about just what they mean when they are exchanging feelings. However, I’m thinking that such is the difficulty of these conversations, and such is the awkwardness and vulnerability that many people feel about these subjects that it is eminently possible for a couple to not discuss this, and to go ahead to build their relationship on different understandings of love. And then it would only be after years of living together, that the truth slowly, unmistakably reveals itself. How many times have we all read accounts of marriages where one spouse remained desperately in love, made endless sacrifices, only for the other spouse to unceremoniously run off to pastures new? On embarking upon the relationship, they both proclaimed their
underlying(?!) undying love, but each party meant something different, undergirded by different levels of sincerity.
Anyway you know what, as I have been writing this post, I really feel as if God has been speaking to me myself through this post. A few things have come together in my mind. Now I really pray that God would unmistakably grant His leading where necessary, as I have spoken about earlier on in this post! 😉
Most men will proclaim each his own goodness [or kindness, or love],
But who can find a faithful man?
PHOTO CREDITS Photo of “I love you” symbols by D Williams on Pixabay ———————————————————————–