You all know my favorite dialogue from Empire Strikes Back as the bad guys are about to freeze Han Solo, and Princess Leia says: "I love you." He says: "I know."
Maybe I'm over-analytical, but there are many things to think about before you say "I love you," or hear your significant other say it to you for the first time. It has the power to move a relationship to another level, but it could also stall or break a relationship.
Here are four things to consider when it comes to saying "I Love You":
Who Goes First?
Princess Leia's downfall in the above quote is letting her emotions take over and saying it first. My biggest fear about saying "I Love You" is not having her say it back. It's sad, but even though you love someone, you might hold back from saying it first because you don't know if they'll say it back.
Do You Really Mean It?
Whether it's concious or unconsious, saying "I Love You" might be a manipulation tactic. It can be used for power, to smooth over mistakes, and keep someone around. So, you do have to wonder if they mean it when they say it...or if you mean it when you say it. And when you break up someone can always throw: "you said you loved me" back in your face.
I've told one girl I loved her, but I didn't mean it. I thought I meant it. "I Love You" can be manipulative, even if the perpetrator is not aware they are using it to manipulate. I did not feel right having sex with my first girlfriend (we were both virgins) unless we were "in love". That's a noble stand to take, but it led to unsavory behavior. Eventually, my desire to lose my virginity dictated my words. I told my girlfirend I loved her as a means to an end. I knew I had to say it so we could have sex. And several months later we had sex, and I never loved her-- hopefully at least I thought I loved her at the time.
Spontaneous Or Planned?
The best way to say "I Love You," is to let it grow inside you and spontaneously jump out. It should take you by storm, and it should create a memorable moment. But all too often, the weight of saying it for the first time forces you to think about it. You might end up planning when/how you'll say it. And if you end up planning it, you kick yourself because you originally planned for it to be spontaneous. Boy, that's confusing! In the quest for it to be "right" and memorable, the first "I love you" is drained of spontaneity.
Is It The Right Time?
Sometimes it's best not to rock the boat. If you drop "I Love You" on your significant other while they are enjoying the pace of the relationship, it might be overwhelming. Some people like a casual relationship, or they like it to "feel" casual, and "I Love You" might be too much if it's said too soon. There's no going back once you use the "L" word.
Is It Better To Show It Than Say It?
In English class, my teacher taught us: show me, don't tell me. In other words, actions speak louder than words. To me, it's more inspiring when a friends/relatives shows they love me, by standing up for me, supporting me, etc.
I annoy my buddies when I do stupid things like run out of gas (I tend to do that more than the average person), but they are always there for me when I call them and need a ride. Just knowing someone is there for you, and cares about you is stronger than any three word phrase. I'm not saying you should avoid saying "I Love You," but it's stronger and more challenging to show it through your actions. Han Solo's line is actually reveals that he's well aware of Leia's love for him through her actions.
What are your thoughts on saying "I Love You" for the first time? Do you agree with my thoughts above? Do you shy away from saying it for the first time? What effects has the phrase had on your relationship after it's been said? Have you ever been manipulated or used it to manipulate someone in a relationship?
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