I Love You. Three little words that supposedly can make or break a relationship. Three little words that perhaps shockingly rarely flit into the vocabulary of myself and my significant other. As with our lack of interest in marriage and somewhat elaborate break up plans, our lack of proclamations of ‘I Love You’ seems to be an issue that polarises and even upsets people. This usually occurs when I’m not around and my poor boyfriend is left to defend the fact that he isn’t a terrible person, we just don’t say it that often.
I love you. Three little words, dripping in subtext and thrown around like they’re going out of fashion.
Personally, I don’t feel like they’re necessary. I feel like the English language (and other languages for that matter) are so awash with words to describe the emotions of affection, lust and dedication that ‘I Love You’ is almost lazy and unnecessary. Personally I’d far prefer a litany of adjectives expelled with the emotion of the moment to a prescribed sentence shared by all and regurgitated to fill each empty breath. For me it’s the total package of actions, words and feelings that tell me where we’re at.
But for some people, those three words are important, the be all and end all of a successful relationship. So why?
According to some lazy and not entirely reputable googling I found that the word love dates back to the beginning of the English language. The Indo European root is also behind the Latin lubet, meaning it is pleasing and lubido meaning desire. So effectively the origins of the word love is related to
babymaking lust. Honestly, that’s not at all surprising as love seems to be a fairly fundamental emotion. But what’s the deal with saying it?
Most research seems to consistently agree that saying ‘I love you‘ represents a commitment to future behaviour. In the words of Ackerman, Griskevicius and Li,
‘One’s intial confession of love to a romantic partner signals a desire to segue from short-term fling status to a more serious, long term relationship.’
Ackerman and buddies also suggest that women are more interested in and willing to express love and commitment than men and are often associated with stronger feelings of love than men.
Despite this, it is usually not women who take the first plunge. Research shows that men are actually two times more likely than women to spit out, ‘I love you.’ And why? There’s a couple of arguments.
If I refer back to Ackerman, Griskevicius and Li, men are more likely to be driven by social pressures and desire control of the relationship. Furthermore, women’s sexual resources are more valuable to men than male sexual resources are to women. It creates a sort of ‘buy’/’sell’ situation where the man is vying to ‘buy’ sexual access and how do you do this? By saying, ‘I love you.’ Through the transaction of those words a man is announcing his willingness to form a long term, romantic joint venture. It also seems to prevent a woman from regretting having sex with a man if those little words have been uttered.
Which gets me to the second argument, that men purely say ‘I love you’ first to get women into the sack. While ideas of long term commitment and dedication are loaded into ‘I love you,’ it actually relates far more to sex and making babies than to raising babies. To steal some words from DeSteno,
“It seems that men and women may have different senses of what “I love you” actually means: You hear it as “Let’s take it to the next level” if you’re a man but as “I’m in it for the long haul” if you’re a woman.”
It seems that once the deed has been done, most men aren’t actually that interested in ‘I love you,’ but it becomes increasingly more important for women. It’s related to what is deemed important for the individual – getting a lay? or developing an intimate friendship with extras? I’m not saying here that guys don’t need love, but I feel like it suggests that the words aren’t all that important – it’s what happens next.
I think this is why ‘I love you’ doesn’t matter for Adam and I. First and foremost we’re best friends. Midnight confidantes. And lastly sexual partners. Each of these aspects is crucial to our relationship, but none outshine the other.
There’s lots of lists online to help people with ‘showing that you love someone without saying the words.’ But I think at the end of the day it comes down to listening, laughter, trust, humility and self confidence.
Before this segues into full blown relationship advice, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite poems about love.
“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
— Louis de Bernières
Oh and one last thing. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t say I love you, but I don’t think that you need to.