Who knew that three little words, eight words, one phrase could mean so much. Saying these words in any context drastically changes the conversational tone. They signify the impact a loved one has on us. It shows that we care about them and that we recognize such care being reciprocated. It means that we want that individual to be in our lives, as they likely provide support, joy, and balance. They complement our character and make us better versions of ourselves.
This is why I find it so difficult to meaningfully say “I love you.” Because of what it symbolizes, I seldom throw these words around. I utter it when I find it purposeful. Otherwise, I can count on one hand how many times I have said “I love you” in the last five years.
When it came to my heart, I was not always so frugal. As a child, I primarily directed it towards my parents, grandparents, and friends. I always ended phone calls and “good nights” with the phrase. I wanted it to be the last thing my loved one heard before departing.
Unfortunately, as I got older, the ones I loved were also the ones who hurt me the most. I had major issues with both parents. My grandfather passed away when I was a teenager. My grandmother and I grew distant after high school (and, thankfully reconnected in recent years). My one serious relationship ended with my girlfriend cheating on me with my best friend. It was just too much heartbreak.
Rather than opening up my heart to others, I held back that once magical phrase as a defense mechanism. It no longer signified intimate connection. Saying “I love you” equated to unfathomable pain. Those words became sacred, or “The Unspeakable” if you will.
This was not to say that I did not still love. I am a loving, caring individual. I always have been. It became more about who demonstrated this love in turn versus who said it to me and vice versa. I showed my love. I provided support. I made others laugh. I helped where I could. If I ended up saying “I love you,” you knew I meant it. It was done with intention.
It has been a few years since my last real emotional tragedy, and I have spent a lot of time processing healthy relationships in my life. I brought this conversation up in my own therapy this past week, especially as I see myself heading towards a serious relationship. I want to be able to say these words to that special someone when the time is right. I want to do so without hesitation. I do not want it to feel like a mistake and that I should not have let my guard down.
If I am ever to say it to her, then I will have to do just that. I must break down that barrier. I have to let them in on my innermost circle and let myself trust them. Is there a possibility for me to get hurt again? Absolutely. Could it also be the beginning of an amazing long-lasting relationship? Only time will tell.
-The Caring Counselor