When did you last tell somebody you loved them, and what did you mean?
Much of the language we often use about love exists as shorthand; abbreviated sentiment shortened to hide its root: that our heartfelt expressions often orbit around ourselves and our own relationship with the object of our affection. When we tell our Other that we love them, we are asserting a position about ourselves, as a subject. The unabridged version often qualifies such sentiment through further self-referencing.
Suddenly, what initially sounded sweet starts to become awkwardly self-indulgent.
In a wider sense, this can extend to the way many of us form value judgements about our relationship dynamics. We perceive of our Other as they relate to us, be that common interests, reciprocated feelings of lust or romance, or the provision of hope and our own well-being.
We have a tendency to focus inordinately on our instinctive, knee-jerk reactions and use them as a bedrock from which to form further ideas and opinions about what we encounter and who people are. How we feel is not only the first sense we have of a person or an event, it can also be the strongest and is certainly the most private, all qualities we frequently use, without even thinking about it, to justify and inform our affection.
That’s often essential – we have, after all, developed a personal framework, tried and tested, to perceive our environment; to seek out the things we enjoy and are good for us, and to protect ourselves against threats and danger. It’s important that we have a self-referential system in place to cross-check our surroundings and be sure any risks are duly calculated.
When it comes to relationships, the same thing can happen – we are overcome with our own feelings for that person, but as the relationship grows, that instinctive selfishness can give way to a stronger sense of commitment and a desire for proximity and prolonged intimacy. We feel drawn to who we’re with, yet many of us might struggle to express why, without once more reducing the answer to ourselves. It’s not only inevitable but important that we are aware of how our Other makes us feel, but our truest expression of love isn’t self-centred, so without making it about us, how can we adequately communicate the depth of how we feel?
Love is not inexpressible, but words may not be where its purity is found. It’s undoubtedly romantic to verbally communicate how our Other makes us feel, but love itself is a verb. It’s found in the everyday: the little glances and touches; the silent, unsaid things done for each other; mutual contribution towards a together-experience; giving for their sake and not ours; being sacrificially available to them. All of these are beautiful, selfless expressions of love.
They are our love-languages. Anything else could be verbose.
Perhaps the most powerful way we can express our love is to recognise and abandon the inadvertent possessiveness of our spoken words and how that can be subconsciously reflected in our behaviour. To make a concerted effort to let go of qualifying another as they relate to us, and instead to admire and respect them independently, being quietly and simply thankful that they choose to come home to you, which is itself true love expressed once more.