The purpose of “I love you.”

About 14 years ago, a friend of mine told me a story about a guy she was dating and that she told him she loved him and he didn’t say it back and then ensued a huge argument because he didn’t reciprocate her feelings.  (If you prefer video, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

I felt sorry for the guy.

It occurred to me that she only said she loved him because she wanted to hear it back. It wasn’t about him, or them… just her.

By definition, the purpose of saying “I love you” is to express deep feelings of affection for someone else.  It’s to show support, commitment, and emotional presence. By that definition, then saying I love you is an outward expression, a gift.

I learned a lesson from my friend’s story that extends far beyond “I love you,” I started to consider if I do things because I’m doing them for me, or am I genuinely doing them for other people, are there strings attached to my actions?

I decided that if I tell someone I love them, it’s because I want to express my love for that person regardless of their response or lack of it… no strings attached. This was a rather huge mindset shift in intentionality, although I didn’t recognize it as that at the time. For several years since then, I’ve put it into practice.

I started to consider my expectations of others in my life, mostly my boyfriend at the time, now husband. Out of respect for him, I stopped asking the stupid questions that we think we’re supposed to ask. Yes, I said stupid. I mean, think about it, why, WHY do we ask, “Do I look fat in this?” WHAT DO WE EXPECT HIM TO SAY? It’s nothing more than self-serving compliment fishing. Anything other than “no” would mean instant death to a relationship.

Before I ask a question, I ask myself, what if he gives me the answer I don’t want to hear, am I ready for that? If the answer is, no, I’m not ready, then I don’t ask the question, because it comes with an expectation which isn’t fair or respectful to my relationship. I stopped asking the stupid questions.

I still remember the first day I said to him, “I’m getting my hair done today, you should notice when you get home from work.” He looked at me a bit stunned and then thanked me profusely. And after work he made sure to take note. I mean, waiting until he comes home and saying “Do you notice something different?” sends panic through a man. And for what? To stroke our egos?

Why do we need proof that he pays attention to every tiny detail of us… here’s the truth, he doesn’t. And we don’t either by they way. So, give a guy a break and gift him the information. Help him out. I mean, you love him, right?

If our questions or comments are attached to expectations, we need to reevaluate the intended message. The expectations are nothing more than self-serving and are detrimental to our relationships.

Changing your mindset about your messaging can make a huge positive difference in your relationship. Just state the facts, men by far prefer this and if we’re honest, it makes our life easier too.

  • “I’m getting my hair done today.” Or “I got my hair done today.”
  • “I bought this dress today, I really love that it has pockets!”

These are statements that will garner responses you will be thrilled to receive, rather than playing guessing games that create frustration.

Recently, I got my hair cut (ok, barely trimmed…) and styled and I forgot to mention it to my husband. When I saw him later, he didn’t comment nor notice. Yes, my ego took a small hit, sure, we hold on to the hope of the fine details being noticed. However, I reminded myself that I didn’t mention it, which is a pattern that I created. It’s not on him, it was on me if it was important to me for him to comment. I never did say anything and just let it go. I thought my hair looked great and that’s all that mattered really.

Being intentional about your expectations is a pretty big mindset shift. Accepting that maybe some of our behaviours have been self-serving can also make us feel bad or guilty. Let that go. Growing in our intentions is a journey of learning about ourselves and becoming the person we want to be. These are patterns we may not even realize we put out there in the world. But bringing our attention to them is the important first step.

Next time you say “I love you” just feel it from your heart that you want to share your love with that person. That’s it. No strings. No expectations. Just a message that you are committed to supporting them.

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