Since when did saying “I love you” become such a big deal? Google “when to say I love you” and you’ll come up with 700 million articles full of idiotic advice.
Before he lets those three little words “slip,” Men’s Fitness says a man should know his beloved’s three favorite books, movies or songs, her birthday, her middle name, where she was born and how she would spend her money if she won the lottery. Cosmo says a woman should wait until after she’s done the dishes to tell a man how much she cares. AskMen.com says wait at least 12 dates. Daily Mail says six months minimum, to make sure you’re past the “infatuation” stage. And most all the experts agree – never say it just before, during or just after sex (cause God forbid we confuse sex with love).
An article in Psychology Today made slightly more sense, arguing that rather than focusing on the timing of dropping “the L bomb,” people should say it whenever they feel like saying it. But the author loses me when he starts making all kinds of distinctions about “profound love,” “greatest love” and “love of my life.”
The best advice I’ve found so far is in this amazing blog post called Casual Love by Carsie Blanton:
“We have a mythology surrounding romantic love that says it’s a special, rare feeling, reserved for just a few people in your whole life. It says that love takes time to develop, and that the feelings you experience at the outset of a relationship are not love, but something else – “infatuation”, “a crush”, or my favorite, “twitterpation“ (see Bambi). It also says that love is generally constant and reliable, and that falling in love is A MAJOR LIFE EVENT, about which SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!”
“Rare and reserved for just a few people in your whole life” – ever asked yourself why that is? We’re told “love” is a very important, very valuable word that should be used with extreme caution and frugality. If we felt this feeling for just anybody it wouldn’t be so special, right? So to increase it’s value (and cost) we are made to believe love is a scarce resource, even more scarce than religionists want sex to be.
Sex and love are to be reserved for “The One” – the one who will make babies with you and pay your bills (or wash your dishes)… The One who will go to work for the machine and keep society divided into neat and tidy nuclear family units. In modern days, we’ve allowed people to love and have sex with more than one person in a lifetime, but not too many more… you’re allowed ony so many “mistakes” – break-ups and divorces – before you find the “real” love of your life.
So, the idea of love scarcity prevails. We are tricked into thinking the word “love” will lose its meaning if it’s shared with too many people.
But love is just a feeling, and like all feelings it comes and goes all the time. There’s no controlling it. There’s no stopping it. And there’s no shame in feeling it for as many people as you feel it for.
As Blanton defines it, the feeling of falling in love is “hot and fluttery and tingly. I get it in my guts and chest and face. The feeling is accompanied by a series of enthusiastic thoughts, such as ‘This person is the greatest person ever,’ ‘I wonder how I can make this person feel good,’ and/or ‘I want to climb onto this person and put my face close to their face and smoosh my body onto their body.’”
Blanton says she has “felt this way, to varying degrees, towards probably a hundred different people.”
I don’t know how many people I’ve felt this way about, but it’s at least four. I remember the first time I felt it with my first boyfriend – burying my head into that cradle on his chest, under his collar bone, wrapping all of the limbs of my body around his as tightly as I could, staring up into his blue eyes and his scruffy Norwegian face, on the top bunk of his messy bed, wishing I could freeze time forever. I felt like I couldn’t get close enough to him, like I wouldn’t be satisfied until I got inside of him.
It’s the same feeling I still have about Brad from time to time, like the other day when I told him I wanted to get under his skin and live there. It’s the same feeling I had for my second boyfriend, and it’s the same feeling I’m having for Ben now – that I like him so much sometimes I want to eat him.
I know many of you are still thinking – that’s not love, that’s infatuation. Well guess what, according to Wikipedia, infatuation is a type of love. It’s “the state of being carried away by an unreasoned passion or love … a desire to express the libidinal attraction of addictive love … an intense but short-lived passion.”
And I think it’s one of the most important types of love, because, as Alan Watts says “it’s only when you’re in love with another person that you see them as they really are … a divine being … when you’re not in love with people, you see only a fragmented version of them.”
So, like Carsie Blanton said – “Instead of trying to deny it, or ignore it … I want to call it like I feel it: I’m in love. I’m in love with my husband, several of my friends, most of the musicians who move me (including some who are dead) and a handful of people I hardly know…”
And, like her, I want to start saying the following to everyone I feel it for: “I love you. It’s no big deal. It doesn’t mean you’re The One, or even one of the ones. It doesn’t mean you have to love me back. It doesn’t mean we have to date, marry, or even cuddle. It doesn’t mean we have to part ways dramatically in a flurry of tears and broken dishes. It doesn’t mean I’ll love you until I die, or that I’ll still love you next year, or tomorrow.”
I guess what being in love really means is temporarily seeing the divine in people, catching little glimpses of their perfection, momentarily being blinded by the light of their glory. I just fell in love with my daughter again 30 seconds ago, when I caught her making one of those crazy faces at her dolls, and if you’re not careful, I might just fall in love with you.
I know there are other types of love, but let’s not belittle – or make too much of – this type of love – the kind that makes you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven, even if it’s just for a moment.
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