“I love you.”
Three little words.
Three simple words that many of us long to hear, and yet, many of us that say them are probably unaware of what manipulative creatures we turn into once we’ve uttered them. Suddenly, “I love you” becomes a euphemism for “My Way or the Highway.” Without meaning to, our “love” is laden with unreasonable expectations and conditions that do little to nourish the very person we are proclaiming to love.
We can’t wait to rush to Facebook and change our status to “in a relationship.” Why do we do this?? Simply, to proclaim ownership of this person. It’s as much braggadocio as a warning: “She’s mine now.” We happily boast that we now “belong” to someone and how we’ve been “taken off the market.” Are we THAT insecure??
I know couples who either have conjoined Facebook pages or simply forbid their SO (Significant Other) to have their own. This is terribly sad to me, and I would never allow myself to be with a person who needed to watch me like a detective. I know one wife who has no friends of her own, but yet insinuates herself into her husband’s life because she’s fearful of losing him. A husband of a friend of mine assumed she was cheating because she longed for a change and without consulting him, cut off all her hair. Their marriage went downhill shortly after that. He simply had expectations of her that she never agreed to nor even knew about.
Most people would probably say that love brings out the best in us; that giving our love to someone else is the greatest gift we can give them. I beg to differ. And here’s why–because unconsciously or subconsciously, to most people, it means, “You are now in a prison designed by me, and if you don’t behave according to the rules set and enforced by me, whether explicit or implicit, it means you no longer love me the way you say you do, and this relationship is over.” Sadly when many people say, “I love you”, they have now engaged you in a hostage situation.
I think it’s quite ironic that once you get that confirmation that your relationship has reached the level of commitment (however you define it) that’s when the trouble begins. That’s the point that jealousy rears its ugly head, and suddenly, everything you do and think is under scrutiny. A friend told me that social media makes it that harder because if her boyfriend doesn’t read or respond for twenty minutes to a text she’s sent, she can assume he’s “busy” (read, “at work” or “doing something other than looking at his phone”) or she can look at his Facebook or Instagram, and lo and behold, if he’s “liked” another girl’s picture or just posted something innocuous, still she reads that as he’s not thinking about her.
It’s not just social media to blame for our insecurities. We’ve got Hollywood perfectionism screaming at us nonstop. We run around feeling “less than” 24/7 and it’s just plain killing us. And we’re afraid to feel what we feel and if we admit how we feel to the one that’s supposed to love us unconditionally, well, that’s just freaking too scary. And sorry folks, but unconditional love only comes from parent-child relationships, not a romantic ones.
There are many conditions in a romantic relationship, but the ones that strike me the most are the ones under the guise of “love”. We feel neglected if our SO makes plans that don’t include us. We feel unloved and insecure if they like things we dislike, wear or say things we disagree with, and we question their loyalty if they have the boldness to declare Monday night football a female-free evening. Suddenly, “love” is a question and not a verb or a gift but rather a constraint erected by you. Is it any wonder there are people out there afraid to say it?
In a polyamory, there is word that describes the opposite of jealousy, which is “compersion.” Wikipedia states that it is “an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy” but usually used within the context of having emotional and/or sexual relationships outside the primary one. I think this is the epitome of what “I love you” really means. It means, I love you enough to let you feel what you feel, experience what you need and want to experience, and not make ME the focus of that happiness. Most of us can’t even imagine our SO’s enjoying a conversation with any aged-gender of the opposite sex much less having sex with them, but imagine what that must feel like! How freeing that would be!
Compersion, I’m sure, is too extreme an example for many of us to wrap our heads around, but it baffles me that the extreme states of jealousy are not. If I love you, and you love me, then that must mean we are the be-all and end-all to each other’s happiness. Why is it that suddenly, anyone or anything who could make you happy is a threat to our relationship? That could mean a friend, a parent, a co-worker, a sibling, a job, a dream, a desire, ANYTHING.
We get queasy when our SO looks at another hot girl/guy. We worry when suddenly they’re dressing nice. We worry we ourselves are not “hot”enough. We freak out when a post is made on Facebook that excludes us. “Why do you have to call your Mom every Sunday afternoon?” to, “Who are you texting?” We are constantly looking at everything they do through our own lens of security and comfort. Anything that might rock that boat is seen as a sign of betrayal. We question our SO’s money decisions, food decisions (“Are you kidding me?? You had Mexican at lunch? I TOLD you I was making enchiladas for dinner!!!”) and entertainment and life decisions as threats to our very well-being. How dare they think of themselves?! What about ME??
Wouldn’t it feel AMAZING to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t make you feel defensive all the time? I’m sure most of us don’t even realize we are behaving this way. How would if feel if your SO assumed the best about you ALL THE TIME?? (Until you give them reason to doubt you of course, but that’s a blog post for another day). I implore you to go a whole day without inserting yourself into your SO’s daily activities and instead, be their cheerleader instead of a constant critic. “You want to chop all your hair off? How thrilling! What style were you thinking?” is the loving response, not “WTF you’re crazy. Your hair is beautiful. Why would you want to do that??” “Oh! You already had Mexican food today? Well, I was planning to make enchiladas but I’m happy to make pasta instead.”
Can you feel the difference?
Practice empathic love with everyone. Not just your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. Try it with your children, your co-workers, your boss, the grumpy store cashier. “She sure was rude. I wonder if she’s going through a hard time right now.” IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU.
“I love you” is supposed to be about the other person. Everyone needs friends, family, a purpose filled life, and sometimes, that doesn’t include YOU.