Saying “I Love You”

Another Friday! This one was a little easier to earn, the two-day spring weather hiatus was a welcome break from the winter doldrums. I can’t say I’m feeling much better physically, because I took two terrible falls this week, which wrenched my sore psoriatic ankle into further sharp pain. It is now visibly swollen, which greatly exacerbates the stiffness. I also had a lot of trouble sleeping because of the pain, the warm temperatures, and some additional stressors that piled on the usual heap. It also felt like I saw Ben even less than usual, so the weekend time together will be extra special.

One thing on my mind this morning is how it confuses me when people who are dating sometimes are reluctant to share their feelings honestly with the other person. We were watching a trashy reality TV show the other day where one of the girls shared privately to the camera that she was reluctant to tell the guy she was dating that she loves him. Instead, she opted for “I think I’m falling for you.” I found this totally baffling, so it sparked an interesting conversation with Ben. He explained the various “levels” of liking someone (something like “I like you,” “I think I could fall in love with you,” “I’m falling for you,” “I love you,” and “I’m in love with you”). I’ve never considered a set pathway like this. I’m not sure if it’s me, but I feel like I love someone intensely or I don’t care all that much about them. In the latter case, I’ll still treat them with respect, compassion, and even care, but I’m not deeply invested in learning about them, thinking about them, and trying to take care of them or make them happy. I guess it seems like there’s less of a graded scale and more of a black or white.

More importantly, Ben explained how many people tend to hold back from gushing about how much they care for someone or love them before that other person has shared those feelings or they have some level of confidence that such words and sentiments will be reciprocated. He described it as sort of a self-preservation ego thing, where it can be embarrassing to bare your feelings if the other person doesn’t feel the same way. This behavior totally mystifies me. I don’t know if it’s a theory of mind issue or another autism thing, but I absolutely cannot understand why someone would rather withhold expressing their love or admiration of someone and prefer to lie and pretend they are less interested or care less than they truly do. First if all, if you love someone, are in love with them, are enamored, care deeply, etc., you feel something special and complimentary toward the other person. Therefore, telling them should be easy; it’s not like you need to tactfully express a problem or criticism. As far as I know, all humans want to feel loved and cared for. It’s a gift to earn that and hear those words. In a world that’s stressful, full of hate, and often unfriendly, expressing feelings of love or gratitude to someone you love is like showering them with a valuable, yet free, gift. Particularly because you love them, you should want to treat that person to that wonderful feeling of affirmed love. Why would one want to make the person he or she loves question that or have that special gift withheld? It seems to me that if you actually love a person, the very definition should mean you want them to be happy and feel cared for. Wouldn’t choosing less intensive words (like “I’m falling for you” when you are actually in love with them) be partially harmful? It might make them doubt their value in your life. I think it’s easy to openly gratitude, admiration, and love for someone when those feelings are genuine because the very utterance of those types of sentiments will buoy the spirits and heart of that person you treasure.

I’ve never found it uncomfortable to openly express how much someone means to me, or how much I value them, or how special I feel they are. Now that I think about it though, written notes or verbal statements professing this sort of devotion and gratitude have sometimes been met with what I can only guess to be embarrassment or fluster. Perhaps the recipients of these “flowery” messages didn’t feel the same way about me or were, for some reason uncomfortable with my openness. Still, I don’t see why this is necessarily problematic or upsetting for the giver (me, in this case). If the other person doesn’t reciprocate those feelings or even explicitly denies feeling the same way toward me, it’s somewhat helpful to know. I should note that I’m not talking exclusively about romantic love (though I think becoming aware that someone you’re in love with romantically/sexually doesn’t feel the same way is important so you can move on). I have deeply loved all types of people in my life in a completely asexual way. The extent to which I can care for another person is truly intense. I can care so tremendously for them and appreciate everything about them. It doesn’t happen all that frequently, but for the large handful or so of people that have earned this place in my heart at one point or another in my life, their presence in my life is a cherished gift that I have no reservations in expressing to them. In hindsight, I think the intentions of my love have been misunderstood at times because it seems uncommon for neurotypical people to experience such passionate platonic love. Such types of love would be accompanied for them by sexual or romantic desires that simply aren’t present for me. (I do have these feelings, for my husband for example, but feeling these “in love” feelings are very rare for me and often are completely absent in these other deep loves I’m describing.)

It’s likely that this is yet another way I’m a bit different than many people. I’ve definitely been in situations where I express my immense appreciation and care for someone and they think I am saying I’m “in love” with them. I guess this should be embarrassing, but I’ve usually found it to be more frustrating than mortifying because it feels like they don’t understand my heart. I’ve always enjoyed when people say they love me or they give a very personal thank you for something I’ve done it some way I’ve made them feel. Perhaps this is one of my primary “Love Languages” that I hear mentioned. Thankfully for me, the people in my inner circle who I deep love these days all understand my need to express my love for them. I think the world would be a more nurturing and supportive place if this was a practice we all exercised.

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