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I Love You
February 1st, 2012

My favorite part of any romantic movie is the moment right after one person drops the “L” bomb for the first time.  “I love you.”  In that split second when you’re not entirely sure how the other person is going to respond my heart does a tiny tap dance.  These moments are only good when you’re not sure; when you lean forward just a bit waiting to learn if the vulnerable fool is going to be showered with the other person’s affections as well, or left to slink off in a state of awkwardness.

I love this moment because I know what a big deal it is to cross that bridge.  I’ve crossed it a few times, but I usually let someone else lead the way.  That is, I was not often the one to say it first.  I bring this up because this article from The Huffington Post discusses several aspects of love – the fact that it reduces our stress levels, the way it causes us to act toward potential romantic rivals, and the economic pros and cons we weigh out when deciding whether or not to tell another person that we love them.  But the thing that struck me most about it was the finding that men are most likely to say “I love you” first.

This caught my attention because I have a theory about it.  My theory is that in most relationships (not all, mind you, but most) the woman actually wants to say “I love you” first.  She feels it earlier and wants to express it, but resists for fear of her statement not being reciprocated.  Much like most women wait for their boyfriends to propose marriage, we also wait for the man to take the lead in other relationship milestones.

I have no idea why this is.  In point of fact, I’m just theorizing here, so I could be completely wrong, but let’s pretend I’m right.  Why women aren’t more assertive in our expressions of affection?  Why do we wait for the man to say it first?  Is it because we want to make sure that the man has had time for his romantic feelings to fully develop?  Or is it because we fear that we will jump the gun wanting something to be love sooner than we know whether or not it really is?  And if we know it’s love, why aren’t we strong enough to risk our pride and say it?

Love is a tricky business.  Especially in the beginning of a relationship we constantly teeter between exposing and protecting ourselves.  It’s a highly personal decision to tell someone you love them.  We each must choose what’s right for us.  But I wonder about the calculus that factors into that decision.

2 Responses to “I Love You”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    What an interesting take on this, Gale.

    I think these discussions of feeling love, expressing love, and speaking words of love are far more complex than we think, and with good reason. Men and women invest somewhat differently in love (yes, I’m generalizing), and I daresay we use the word so frequently and to cover so many situations, that it’s any wonder anyone says “I love you” until years have gone by.

    We also live in a culture that pushes (young) women from love to (expectations of) marriage, and the notion that a woman will scare a man off if she speaks those words too soon and he then assumes she’s angling for that “next step.”

    I’m only scratching the surface and these are my impressions; when you dig deeper I believe there are links between women and lack of self-esteem and their unwillingness to declare their feelings (and show vulnerability) first.

    An endlessly interesting topic – and strangely – one that defies a post-feminist (new feminist?) zeitgeist. So maybe we haven’t really come so far?

  2. Cathy Says:

    Very interesting Gale. I tend to agree with your assessment here and think BLW adds an important key – that culture and socialization have the woman pining for marriage and children. They are afraid of scaring the man off by appearing too needy. Part of me though thinks it’s kind of cool that more often the guy speaks it first.