This post isn’t so much about relationships as it is about love. You know, that thing that is on the tip of Cupid’s arrow. That gushy, heart pounding, mind-melting pheromone that initially makes you do crazy things. Or want to do crazy things. It’s that thing that eventually settles into something a little more manageable; more realistic. That thing we all hope will stay with us, with this partner that we have bestowed this feeling upon.
And it starts with three little words: I Love You.
It’s a statement that should be taken seriously. It’s a branding of sorts, that in many cases leads to a lifetime of commitments. The words I Am Hungry, don’t pack that same punch. Neither does You Are Funky. But say I Love You, and you’ll usually get one of two reactions; the return, or the run. In some cases, as you’ll see below, you get the awkward silence too.
I have told four men over my lifetime that I loved them. As in, the big I Love You.
The first was my first love; The High School Sweetheart – he was the first one I ever said the words out loud to, and the first one who said them out loud to me. Previously I had dated a boy who drew me a picture that said I Love You, but I don’t think that counted, and I remember being confused at how he could love me so quickly. I soon realized that “I Love You” to him was tantamount to “You should have sex with me”. Strangely it worked and I lost my virginity to him. Apparently, I’ve been a sucker for the written word since I was a kid.
But the boy from high school – that really was love. I loved him as intensely as teen love can. Fiery Romeo and Juliet love. Soul crushing love. He loved me back with the same intensity, which my soul lapped up like a starving dog. We were this team, that couldn’t get enough of one another. Then one day, maybe 18 months later, I woke up, and doubt had sprouted this tiny ugly weed in my soul. Maybe I didn’t love him as much today. And every day thereafter, that love ebbed further and further from me, as the weed sort of choked the love out of me. He didn’t do anything wrong, I just ended up outgrowing him as teenagers do. But my I Love You to him, was deep and sincere.
Another, I said the words because I think circumstances told me it must be love. I was having his baby after all. Isn’t that how the song went? “First comes Love, then comes Marriage, then comes Baby in a baby carriage?” We skipped step two, but of all the people in your life, shouldn’t you love the one you’re committed to raising a child with? But the ferocity with which we fought with, both when we were together and most certainly when we weren’t, shows there couldn’t have been love for one another there. Love isn’t cruel and cutting and all destroying. My memories of him all these years later, are so marred by the ugliness we showed one another, I can barely recall any of the good times. That’s definitely not love.
The one I regret with all my heart is mostly because I never meant it. I knew it then, and I know it now. I said it because I felt like I had to. Like he needed to hear it, and then it became habit. Like “Good Morning” or “Hello”. It was just a form of communication. The worst part was the first time I heard it from him, it made me sort of sick inside. I lay there with my back to him thinking, “Oh shit. No, no no no no NO. Can I just ignore this? What do I do?” I hesitated for a moment and he repeated himself, so I said “Thank you”. He should have ran then. He should have known, but he held out, telling me that it was okay if I didn’t reciprocate immediately. I knew I wasn’t ready to hear it from him, and it felt confining; almost like a death sentence.
To be honest, unless I was absolutely 100% was certain of the reciprocated outcome, I cannot fathom why a person would say those three little words.
Jerry Seinfeld once told George Costanza that saying “I love you” without a return was a pretty big matzah ball hanging out there. After a while my Matzah Ball was just a reminder that he was waiting, so one day I said it in return.
I convinced myself that maybe I did sort of love him. Or maybe one day I really would mean it.I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.
The last one I told I love you to, I did in two different time frames; I was two different people when I said it to him; the first time a still screwed up teenager, albeit already an adult. The second time was decades later. I had my emotional shit together and he was kind of the mess. Both times I fell equally hard for him. Both times he eventually broke me. Both times I healed into stronger better versions of myself.
So half of the men I have muttered those words to, I shouldn’t have. 50%. Wow, that’s a pretty large percentage. If I met a man who told me that half the women he ever said I love you too, he realized he didn’t mean it, I’d probably run for the hills.
Let’s complicate things further by adding in that, two other men I may have been in love with, never heard those words from me. I say I may have been in love with, because even today I’m not quite sure. I think one I loved for who I thought he was, and later I realized he wasn’t that person. I don’t think, — wait I KNOW, I couldn’t ever fall in love with who I know him to be today, but back then? Yeah it felt that way. Love can color your perception. The other one? That’s the one I question the most. I know that it was damn close at one point. I was certainly walking that fine line of love with them. So six men; six major relationships, albeit it one in high school, so it doesn’t really count as an adult relationship. Nevertheless, one third of them got a true I Love You. One third got a false I Love You, and one third got nothing, when the feeling was probably maybe sorta there.
I think this sums up my love life perfectly. It’s a sometimes great and sometimes a really fucked up mess, and 100% due to the person running it. Me. Maybe now it’s a bit clearer why I have stayed single for so long.
Even though the above would suggest otherwise, I don’t usually throw the words around lightly. As shown by the two who never heard those words from me. Add to that the fact that, I’m a proud vixen, who would never utter those words to someone I didn’t think would reciprocate them. I’ve never expressed them first.
The truth is, as much as I am creature who loves to be in love, deep down, I’m really wary of it. I want to trust it. I want to pet it, and love on it, but a lot of the time, it scares the crap out of me. Half the time I’m afraid it’s going to bite me if I look it in the eye.
Today I view love differently. Which is why I think I can objectively look at those that I said I love you to, and know which ones were real and which ones were not. I think like everything in life, love changes as we get older. Love used to be something that was so passionate and fiery. It’s fire burned intensely, and for me, what burns hot and bright, generally burns out. Which means I equated short intense relationships closer to love than the ones that simmer quietly, keeping you warm without burning you.
I GET now, that love should be closer to that last statement. That you learn to keep love on simmer, keeping an eye on it, and making certain it doesn’t boil over, and worse yet burn off. I feel like I have the ingredients for love, I just don’t have the tools completely. Time has been my tool. I think my last relationship, the one I mourned for so long, and the one I know see so much more objectively for what it really was – I think that was pretty much as close as I’ve gotten for myself to perfecting what love is. I remember the feeling of sacrifice and compromise. Of having such joy in making him happy. And damnit, I know he was the same in return because he was so generous and giving in return. Remembering all that is also the reason that I shy from it so much. If I could get that close to perfect love, and still not have it work out – then am I meant to really have it?
I think I am.
The truth is, I miss having romantic love in my life. I juggle and weigh the pros and cons of having a relationship versus staying safely tucked away in my cocoon. I have done enough self-exploration to realize that all my self-bravado about being single; my Katherine Hepburn ways so to speak, are more of a shield because it’s safer with just me and my cat. No judgement. No fear. No matzoh balls hanging out there.
But the want – it’s tugging a little stronger at the reins lately. I can’t say how, or when it will happen, but I suspect that I might have one more sincere, all giving I Love You left in me.