No other early relationship milestone lives up to its hype quite like saying “I love you.” It’s not just a declaration of intense emotion, but also a sign of one’s level of commitment to the relationship. That’s why many people hesitate before saying those four words, fearing nonreciprocation or the possibility that the person they love doesn’t feel the same way.
It may seem a little silly that so much angst surrounds a simple expression of affection, but that’s because we’ve been conditioned to think of love as a magical feeling, a high that never crashes, a euphoria that lasts forever. But love isn’t magic; it’s actually hard work. It requires daily acts of kindness and sacrifice. It means dealing with your partner’s insecurities and fears, and putting up with the messy reality of life together, including a lot of unglamorous early morning doctor visits, cleaning up bodily fluids, and making dinner for each other when you’re both tired at the end of a long day.
That’s why so many of us struggle with loving the people we care about in real life, and why the concept of soulmates is a myth that doesn’t really make sense. It’s why we need to take a deeper look at what love really is if we want to make it better.
Psychologists, researchers, and sociologists all have different opinions on how love works. Some say that it’s a primary human emotion, similar to happiness or anger. Others believe that love is a complex social construct with different components, such as intimacy, passion, and commitment.
What most researchers agree on, though, is that there are some key factors that affect how we define and experience love. The first is that it can be influenced by culture, which means that people who grow up in cultures where “love you” is used instead of “I love you” are more likely to use the shorter form because they’re comfortable with it. They may even use it when expressing their feelings on a casual basis to save time or be less formal.
Another factor is biology, and that’s because the brain is programmed to respond to certain triggers. The brain releases hormones when you’re experiencing romantic love, and those can lead to certain physical responses. For example, if you’re in a state of romantic love and are thinking about your partner, you may begin to blush or tingle.
The final factor that plays into how we define and experience love is genetics, and that’s because the genes we inherit from our parents can impact whether or when we feel those intense emotions. Some studies have shown that some people are just more prone to falling in love than others.
Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, there’s no doubt that learning how to love is an important skill to have. If you’re lucky enough to find your soulmate, it’s important to learn how to say “love you” properly — and mean it.