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How to Say, “I love you”

What does it mean to “fall-in-love” with someone? Is it an emotion? Is it a choice? Is it both? Is loving someone a subjective or objective concept?

“I love you.” We have all said those three words with as little effort as it takes to breathe.  Maybe it was to a parent before you left home to drive back to Starkville, or maybe you whispered it into the ear of someone special cuddled up on your couch. Maybe you exchanged that magical phrase this morning over a text message, or maybe it has been so long, you have forgotten what it feels like to hear someone say, “I love you too.” Regardless of who you said it to or how long it has been since you have said it, you have undoubtedly used the word “love” to describe an overwhelming feeling of attachment, desire, joy and thankfulness to someone who means or meant a lot to you.

Love, of course, exists in a variety of different forms, yet I firmly believe the form of love we understand the least is the very form that our culture idolizes the most: romantic love.

What does it mean to “fall-in-love” with someone? Is it an emotion? Is it a choice? Is it both? Is loving someone a subjective or objective concept? These questions are not easily answered, yet they point to the vital importance of understanding both the love that we accept and the love that we give.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person,” or “attraction that includes sexual desire.” The former of these two attempts to balance only half of the love equation, and the latter is the perfect example of why our perverted concepts regarding what romantic love should look and feel like are so rampant.

If love is a “constant affection for a person,” then I assert that nobody is capable of experiencing true love. Our affection for others, be  our spouses, our children, or our friends, can be described in a number of ways, but constant is not one of them. This is not to say that affection stops all-together, of course, but it is to acknowledge the inconsistency of human emotion. Personal intimacy brings forth a beautiful connection unlike any other, yet with this closeness comes the recognition and clarity of character flaws. As the cliché saying goes, nobody is perfect, and because of this, we will not wake up every single day for the rest of our lives and feel like showing unhinged love to the ones we commit ourselves to. That being said, the simple fact that our affection wavers due to circumstance does not discredit or devalue our promise to love that person with our entire body, soul, and mind.

As far as the definition regarding “sexual desire” goes, people often buy into the idea that sexual attraction and love are heavily linked as is evident by the way teenagers and some adults treat the foundation of love like it is little more than an emotion rooted in attraction. While some certainly cherish sexual intimacy as the ultimate physical display of love, sex, in and of itself, has absolutely nothing to do with loving someone. Having a strong physical attraction to someone while also finding them to be nice and funny is no more a spark of true love  than finding someone sexually attractive at a frat party constitutes a marriage-proposal. Furthermore, if your desire to be with someone is primarily contingent on that person’s physical or sexual attractiveness rather than who they are as a special, unique person, the foundation of your relationship was built on lust, not love.

This idea of love being centered around constant affection and sexual desire completely misses the mark. To say, “I love you,” is to say, “I choose you today, tomorrow, and everyday thereafter because you are the one that I want.” To say, “I love you,” is to say, “I see the good and the bad in you, and still, I choose you.” To say, “I love you,” is to say, “I choose to have these eyes for you and you only.” Loving someone is a constant, conscious choice to show kindness, respect, loyalty, compassion, forgiveness and appreciation for that person regardless of circumstance. The moment we begin to understand love as having a clear element of choice to its composition, we become capable of truly experiencing love with a heart of devotion and personal accountability long after the honeymoon-phase has dissipated and reality has set in.

I know that some of you are in serious relationships, engaged or married while the rest of you are either going through a heartbreak, trying to stay single while you focus on your education or waiting to feel the magic of falling in love. Perhaps, like myself, you told someone that you loved them, yet you stopped choosing them when the reality of the cost of love replaced the butterflies, or maybe you were on the opposite end of the pain and someone told you they loved you, yet after your first big fight, they chose to find comfort in the arms of another. Regardless of your experience with love, it is my sincerest hope that you all understand love for what it truly is, that you find it in the heart of someone who understands it too and that you both choose to cherish the love that you share, forever and always.

Falling in love is certainly an emotional experience, but staying in love is a privilege of choice. Loving someone goes far beyond emotional and physical attraction and demands that a choice be made daily to guard your heart, body, and mind from the forces coaxing you to jump-ship. If you are unwilling to make the daily choice to honor the promise of such a serious commitment, save their heart the pain of a meaningless, “I love you.”

Curated by Erbe
Original Article