Whether the subject is romance, friendship or family, love you is one of the most powerful words in the English language. Yet it’s also one of the most misunderstood. It’s a word that has been a favored topic for philosophers, poets and writers, but there is still no consensus about its meaning. In fact, if you ask 10 people what it means to love someone, you’ll likely get ten different answers.
One of the challenges is that people use love to describe everything from feelings of affection to a deep-seated commitment, and each person’s definition of love will probably be quite different from another’s. In addition, love can be applied to non-human animals and things like principles or religious beliefs, which further complicates the issue.
For many, the best way to define love is through examples of it in action. Some of the most memorable stories are of couples who have fallen in love and acted on it, either by saying “I love you” or by other gestures such as sending flowers.
The timing of when a couple says “I love you” is very personal, and it depends on the relationship’s stage and history. Some experts say that it’s better to wait until a couple has been together for three to four months before saying those magic words, but that timeline isn’t a hard and fast rule. A number of factors should be taken into account, including the level of passion, trust and intimacy in the relationship and how committed each person feels to the relationship.
Another consideration is that some types of love can be difficult to sustain long-term. Infatuation, for example, involves a rush of hormones such as cortisol and dopamine that can lead to high levels of stress and obsession. Then there is companionate love, which is not accompanied by physiological arousal and can feel less intense but more constant and stable. It’s not uncommon for people to switch between these two phases of love in a relationship.
In a healthy relationship, both partners should actively choose to show that they’re in love and willing to work through any issues. This can be as simple as expressing gratitude for your partner, even for the small things such as washing your mug. Other strategies could include reaffirming your love for them by making sure they know you value and appreciate who they are or giving them a hug or a kiss. Love, especially true love, is a decision and it requires some hard work. But it’s a worthy endeavor. After all, what other pursuit is worth putting yourself out there to be rejected or hurt? In the end, you’ll be happy to have tried and pushed through those difficult times. The reward will be a deeper bond and an understanding that your love is truly irrevocable.