This article first appeared at www.northhousecoaching.com
In a new relationship, saying I love you can be one of the most exciting yet nerve-wracking things. On the one hand, if ‘I love you’ is reciprocated by your new partner, this can be an incredibly magical time. On the other hand, if they don’t reply, a lead balloon falls to the floor, the tumble weed rolls by and the relationship is doomed from that moment.
But what if you never said it? What if you went through the relationship agreeing NOT to say, ‘l love you?’
As the most universally accepted concept amongst races, religion and nationalities, love is the thing that everyone knows of, but few can explain. You all love someone; parents, siblings, partners, friends, pets and children - yet in each of those relationships, the love you feel for that person could be described differently. A love for a child is different to a love for a partner, which is also different from the love for a friend. Some people say that they just know when they are in love, others say that love is hard work. Some people feel enhanced by love and others feel destroyed. So, in some ways, to cover this all off with a simple ‘I love you’ seems a little understated.
When you are telling people that you love them, what is it that you mean? Sometimes you love different things about different people and how you love people is refined and matures over time You will find that there are certain traits that are common among the people you have loved in the past and things that have been wildly different. The stages that you are at in your lives also contributes to the type of person that you love. The person you loved at university is often very different to the person you will love in your 30s, 40s and 50s and you will love for different reasons. The more you understand about this the more likely you are to make wiser decisions about love. For instance, most people have experienced staying in a relationship for far too long. The relationship starts and both people fall in love. Over time though, their love needs may change. Perhaps at the start they are in a point of their lives when they wanted to live a crazy life, lots of socialising and buckets of ambition. In that moment they are seeking a wild/ free type of love. Over time this may change and what they now need is a secure, nurturing, romantic type of love. The wild and free traits of their partner are no longer having the same impact and the relationship starts to break down. This love can very quickly turn to resentment and the relationship becomes toxic. Both parties claim that they still love each other, because they have been together for a long time and still say, ‘I love you’ every day like clockwork. They say it because they have always said it, perhaps in a bid to re-ignite the relationship or because it is too painful to accept that they have differing love needs. Now some of these relationships may be able to work through it and last a life time, others will fall apart.
But what if they had never used the L word in the first place? Would they have been able to leave the relationship earlier and saved themselves months, if not years, of heartache?
What if, instead of saying I love you, they are specific about what they loved. For example, saying ‘Thanks for making me a cup of tea, that was thoughtful,’ or ‘that’s a fantastic idea, I really like it when you do something spontaneous like that.’ Is it any different to parenting? For children to understand what behaviours are good and bad you have to be specific in your communication i.e. ‘that was really good work tidying your toys away, well done.’ Not only is it telling them the behaviours you want them to repeat, it is self-esteem boosting because of the praise and appreciation. How lovely to make your children feel good about themselves?
So maybe it is worth giving it a go with your partner, changing up ‘I love you’ into being specific about what you love about them. After all, by loving them, you would want them to feel good about themselves too.