the Words of Binding
…speaking of “love”, my partner has never uttered the word “love” to me. If we even start on the subject in an objective way, he goes quiet. This brings me comfort and lets me enjoy his companionship even more. Free from the entanglements of emotional declarations. Could he be in love with me? Maybe? Could I be in love with him? Maybe. But right now a declaration from either of us would actually mess up the relationship that is working just fine.
I wonder if I’m a special snowflake for feeling like that. — A Friend
It’s true that there’s an unspoken expectation in most of Western culture that a spoken “I love you” is reciprocated by some version of “I love you, too.” There’s a lot of difficulty inherent in that expectation, though. Too much repetition may reduce the meaning of it; too little and one begins to wonder if it still applies. Even being creative can lead to a partner wondering “Wait…what exactly do you mean by that?”
For some it’s a threat; for some it’s an ideal towards which they strive. The author K.J. Parker comes right out in books and says it: Love is the most destructive force known to man. Judging from the number of crimes, wars, and litigious proceedings stemming from the state of “love”, it’s kind of hard to argue the fact.
That one phrase from my friend’s description stuck in my head: “Free from the entanglements of emotional declarations.” At what point does the phrase “I love you” become less a means of communicating affection and more a statement of fact or, worse, a declaration of ownership? I would not eliminate the word from my vocabulary…a well-timed I love you can be the crowning touch to a truly ineffable moment. There’s also a lot of subtle ways to say it without saying it: “As you wish” works rather well, for example. Mahal ki ta is “I love you” in Tagalog, and was how the mother of my children and I would express affection.
At the same time I feel that it’s best to follow the classic writer’s technique: show, don’t tell. Especially since telling without showing ends up a far worse situation, of a note of falseness lent to the words which is very difficult to re-tune to true.
There are a lot of ways to enjoy and express love. There are language guides all over, and even an app for that. Personally, I think the most important thing is that the word not be used without intent.
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