I was thinking about this the other day. Setting aside the problems of the different meanings behind the phrase, why is it a potentially scary thing to say for the first time in a relationship, or to be told?
Even though love is a beautiful thing, here’s what I came up with: telling someone you love them for the first time is unilaterally transgressing the unspoken limits of the existing relationship. And what’s more, it’s doing so non-consensually and without negotiation. Any other relationship development – you’d like to start having sex, dating more formally, move in together – can be conducted as a negotiation and posed as a question. But you don’t ask someone for their permission to love them, and you can’t ask someone not to love you after all. You can try and change your behaviour, or ask other people to change theirs, but saying “I love you” states it as an unarguable fact; no debating, no changing it.
Obviously, the hope (and more often than not the reality) is a wonderful outcome, and discovering that love is reciprocated. But the only comparable act I can come up with – where one person can single-handedly make a change to the shape of the relationship from then on – is breaking up with someone
This sounds terribly doom-laden. I swear I’m a fluffy romantic really!