When do "I love you"? His take...
It's funny if you think about it. Most of us go through our adolescent years going over in our minds which signals will shine in a relationship where real love exists. We always tell our friends and ourselves, "He/she will love me so much, that they'll [insert action here]," or, "The person I'll love will [insert action here]." We all dream the dream when we're in love, and it's fantastic. The funny thing is, after all our prophecies are fulfilled and these actions are a thing of the past, we always hesitate before saying the three words everyone longs to hear - "I love you."
Isn't it funny - we think we will know when we'll be in love, and yet we have no idea when the appropriate time is to utter those three meaningful words, for the first time, to our significant other.
"Will they love me back?" "Is it too soon?"
Questions run through our heads like sprinters gunning for a gold medal.
We simply have no idea if they'll love us back, or if it's too soon. But hey, if our expression of love were conditional on such things, it wouldn't be "real love."
Or would it?
In my previous relationship, she uttered those words only a month after we started dating. I'll never forget the feeling I felt when I first heard those words fly away from her lips.
Apprehension. And worry.
Wait, wait. I'm not a commitment-phobe. I can explain.
You see, I had only known this girl for barely a month, as we had only gone out on a few weekends. When I heard her say those words, I was speechless, but not in a way that would flatter most girls. I was just...speechless. It's not that I couldn't see myself loving her - it was because I didn't love her. But there she was, looking up at me waiting for me to say something. I panicked, and not before long, those words flew from my mouth and into the stagnant air of regret. And like the air that flows around a butterfly's wings, the breath of those three words started a four year chain reaction that eventually led to more destruction and devastation than any hurricane could shake a stick at.
That obviously wasn't the right time, nor was it for the right reasons.
But what was I to do? Tell her I didn't love her after all?
Oy. It was a lose-lose situation for me.
I guess that's why I was so hesitant to say it for the first time again, several months ago.
See, for the longest time, I had been avoiding those three words. I just didn't want to blurt it out like some cheap confession of infatuation as it was blurted out to me so many years ago. This time, I wanted it to be at the right time, and for the right reasons. But as more time progressed, I caught myself hesitating more times than I'd like to admit. I frequently found myself asking the same questions over and over in my head.
When exactly is the right time? What exactly are the right reasons?
What most of us do is that we begin to run down our list of "indications" as if it were some master crib-sheet-of-answers. I, like most everyone out there, had my own convenient list of things to look out for. But, as I was running down my list with pencil-in-hand (or rather, in-mind), I realized something.
Did I do the things that I did out of love? Or was she merely an outlet of growing pent-up affection? Was she someone strictly there for me to satisfy a selfish desire to breathe a breath of romance?
Just because someone we love does something for us, it doesn't mean they do it out of love. It is this realization that leads to our hesitation. This hesitation is the direct result of our flawed beliefs in how real love manifests itself in a meaningful relationship.
This meant that Love wasn't confirmed with a checklist of "things to do," or "things already done."
This meant my list (and the lists of many others) was entirely useless. So, I started from scratch and asked myself the grossly over-simplified, and infinitely complex questions again: "Do I know what love is?" and "Do I love her?"
Did I know what love was? I was pretty sure I knew what love was, and (with past experience) was even more convinced I knew what it was not. Did I love her? Well, only time would have answered that one. I couldn't use my "relationship checklist" because I realized it was utterly useless, so I decided to take another approach to answering that elusive question.
Again, at the time, I didn't know much about Sweetine. I knew she was a university student. I knew she had a job. And, I knew she had the same affinity for sarcastic humour with a slight angle for exaggeration as I had. As more time passed I learned much more about her. Her cute mannerisms; the sound of her voice when she's shy; the many different smiles she chooses to express, one for every single emotion; her hopes, her dreams; her feelings toward certain classmates; the kinds of bedtime stories she likes to be told; the way she likes her to be hair brushed in the morning; this list goes on and on.
See, while trying to think of a new approach to answering the question, "Do I love her?", I came to realize that there wasn't a line 153.28 meters away that said, "You'll love her when you pass this line." There are no stages, there are no markers, there are no external queues telling you, "Hey buddy, you're ready to say it so say it already." So why do we tell ourselves that there are such "signs"? Why do we keep making illogically useless relationship checklists, while we sleep with one eye open to see if these things are around us?
After some more thinking, I came to this conclusion: being in a relationship is like swimming.
You can't enjoy real swimming in a child's pool with only shallow waters. Some may be so desperate to prove to themselves that they know how to swim, they may just crawl around on their hands in a shallow area and call that swimming (I know I, for one, am guilty of such an act as a four year-old). You should never dive into any body of water. Rather, you should wade in or swim to the deep end.
You should notice certain things while wading into any body of water. You notice and get familiar with the temperature, the direction of the different currents, and the rhythm of the waves. Your confidence grows with your familiarity, which encourages you to progress deeper. There will be a point in time where you'll be on your toes with your chin barely above the surface. This is when you'll be swimming periodically. See, it's at this point when the line between wading and swimming is blurred. You could start swimming at any point the surface reaches your neck or shoulders, and when you eventually do, you're…well…you're swimming. You have the comfort of knowing you could stop swimming and stand on your own two feet at any time you choose.
The inflection point of the relationship occurs when you reach down to touch the ground with your toes, and notice it's not there. It is then that you realize that you are truly swimming. Some people may panic and splash around, drown, or stay a while and eventually grow tired and swim to shore. These people never knew how to swim anyhow. Because if they did, they would know that above all else, swimming takes endurance. These people never knew what they were getting into, and will eventually end up making excuses to hide their true hidden intention of just wanting to get wet (pun intended).
So in my case, at the time, I had been tip-toeing around in the deep end for a while, and swimming short distances.
When did I tell her I loved her?
I told her when I realized I loved her.
I simply looked around me and realized, "Hey, I'm swimming."
It was fantastic because it wasn't a cheap confession of attraction or infatuation. It wasn't said because "it's what couples who date for more than X months say to each other." It wasn't said to pacify, or act as a placebo for anyone. I knew it was right because I felt no apprehension, or any other feeling (emotional or ethical) that would have brought doubt in my mind.
Let the currents take me where they may. I can swim forever.
I used to be on the swim team in high school, you know. ¤ Bee
[ When do I love you? Her dating diary. Part I of the battle. ]