Friday, March 13, 2009

Dropping the L-bomb


Few things get a man's stomach roiling and his hands sweating (gross!) like the L-bomb. The terror of speaking that horrible, four-letter word aloud is more than most men can bear, which is why men are prone to mumbling, burping, or coughing when the time finally arrives in a relationship to simply say, "I love you."

At least, that's how many men (and women) treat the phrase. For me, I've never felt that way about it. I understand that it means a lot, and that it should suggest true and genuine feeling—but I suppose that for me, love is a pretty simple feeling.

In high school, whenever I was out late with friends and our caffeine highs had finally worn off, everyone would start "serious" conversations, and it was only a matter of time before someone would utter the big kahoona: "Have you ever truly been in love?" I always hated that question, because nobody knew what they  meant when they asked that. Did they mean, "Have you ever felt so strongly about someone that you were willing to commit yourself to them for life?" That would be simple: yes. (Most high school kids, while probably misguided, certainly feel this way.) Or, did they mean, "Have you ever felt so deeply for someone that you truly cared for them more than you cared for yourself?" If so, the answer was again simple: no. It certainly takes many years to develop that kind of love, anyway, and most newlyweds probably are incapable of it. Couples spend their entire lives developing that level of love—that level of commitment. And so if that's the test for "love," then probably most of us weren't "in love" when we got married.

Now, I was an English major in college, so I think a lot about words and what they mean. So maybe I complicate things because of that; but to me, love shouldn't be that hard. I waited an entire week and a half before I told my wife (then my girlfriend) that I love her. And I meant it. But I love her more now. And I'll love her even more 5 years from now. But I still loved her then, even after about 10 days of dating. The word just means something slightly different these days—something more deep.

I know that many people like to wait until they have a level of certainty about their commitment before saying those words; and perhaps that's a good thing, but I still think that sometimes we treat the phrase with too much deference. Why not just love someone and tell them?

So what do you all think? What should be the criteria for "dropping the L-bomb"? Should it be something that we do only after we're sure (whatever that means), or something that describes a simple feeling of commitment?

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