(reprinted with permission, from Feb. 5, 2014)
There’s a point in a relationship when you feel like a nuclear bomb is about to explode inside your throat.
Like you’ve swallowed liters of Pepsi and chased them with Alka-Seltzer. Like Miley Cyrus is swinging on that good old wrecking ball of hers, aiming for your pathetic little heart.
This is the horrifying instant, in which the words “I love you,” want to pull a geographic from your mouth, and into the perfectly shaped ears of your beloved.
Some of us relish hearing and saying these words. We feel brave, uplifted, open, and closer to our partners. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” If this isn’t it, I don’t know what is.
To others, however, the thought of telling someone we love them is on par with watching a home video of our own conception, which our parents admit, got pretty wild.
The thing is, many of us do want to say it, but we’ve grown to fear the L word. Afraid of the small print.
Does telling someone we love them mean we’ll love them forever? That we want to live with them? That we don’t feel ambivalence, or that we’ve taken out a credit line at Tiffany’s? No. no, no, and definitely, no. Saying these words has nothing to do with relationship agreements, Christmas plans or even better sex.
In my work as a Gestalt Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, I help couples examine their internalized beliefs about love – their fears, judgments, hopes, expectations, rehearsals and misapprehensions of love – to reveal exactly how these introjects and additional connotations impact the quality of their relationships and the way they express their feelings.
Love is not a promissory note. It’s not a reason or an alibi. It’s not a strategy or an insurance policy.
WHAT IF LOVE IS JUST A MOMENT?
What if we allowed it to be nothing more than that instant, in which you’re filled to the gills with loving feelings for someone, amazed by the universal forces that have brought you together, inspired by their mere presence in your life.
What if love is that thing that happens when you watch her tie her shoes and you forget your own name? Or when she takes you through each of the 25 keys on her keychain and you listen like she’s reading Rilke. Like you’ve never heard anything more beautiful in your life. What if that’s love?
A Gestalt practice of awareness invites us to be fully present in the here and now so we don’t sleep through moments like these. Even better, awareness work connects us to our truest wants and needs and to the ability to say exactly what we mean, exactly when we mean it.
- If you want to have more sex, make a move.
- If you want to spend the rest of your life with her, say that.
- If you want to shack up, throw his stuff out, move yours in, and yell surprise!
Don’t tell someone that you love them because you want to hear it back. Say it because saying it feels amazing. Say it because saying it becomes the best part of your day. Say it because you can’t, for one more minute, stand the feeling of not saying it.
LOVE IS GOOD. LOVE IS FOR YOU.
Read more blog posts like this one, at Pilar’s relationship blog Lonely Forever. No Way.
Pilar Dellano MA is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern who helps individuals and couples of all kinds improve their relationships. MFTI #64126. Supervised by Gieve Patel MFC #47196