When was the first time you said out loud to someone, “I love you”? When was the first time someone said this to you? It might be as memorable as your first kiss or you may not even remember the first time you said these words. Some of us have tremendous difficulty voicing this sentiment aloud. What are some of the reasons we hesitate? It seems that fear is what holds many of us back.
Some people put a lot of power into the three words, “I love you” and are not ready to promise something they are afraid to give. The more weight that is put on these words by the partner of someone who is “commitment phobic,” the less likely it is you will hear them tripping out of the commitment phobe’s mouth. Love may be present, but fear of commitment keeps it from being voiced. Why do people fear commitment, we might wonder. By making a choice, any other options are then excluded and the lack of options can be fear-inducing and too limiting, regardless of the love one might actually feel for their chosen one.
Admitting love, for some, is to admit that they need another person in her life. It is almost like giving away power if they admit that they are vulnerable to another.
Of course, one of the strongest fears that keeps us from saying what is in our heart is the fear of our feelings not being returned. Love is like a see-saw. It’s easy to begin with one person caring more for another at the start, but a balance of give-and-take is what gives the relationship momentum.
Being in love with a person is almost like having an open space in your heart. The saying about “having a soft spot” for someone is a wonderfully descriptive phrase – when we let ourselves open up to another, though, we take away a layer of self-protection and that allows us to be more easily hurt. Having your ego bruised by someone you have that “soft spot” for can be much more painful than when it’s someone less special to you.
Maybe you haven’t seen tenderness expressed too often between partners, families, and close friends? Maybe you haven’t been told often enough that you were loved? Or maybe you grew up in a family where the “currency of love” was actions, not just those three little words?
If successful relationships are built on relational economics, then it makes sense that different systems might use different currencies. In fact, accepting that not everyone can put into words what they feel in their hearts is perhaps not as difficult as it might be once you figure out what a person uses as her currency of love.
Some people use a substitute phrase to fill in the awkward space after being told “I love you,” themselves. It may be “Me, too,” or “Back ‘atcha,” or “You know.” Some people might even initiate the exchange of sentiments by telling their beloved, “Me, too” and their partner may know the drill and respond, “I love you, too.” Some might use a word like, “Bunches” or “Forever” to carry the message. All of these words are various denominations of the currency of love.
Others might use actions to demonstrate their love. I know a couple who have a tacit agreement that is never broken that exemplifies their mutual care. One partner always gases up the cars on Sundays, regardless of whether they’re on “Empty” or “Full” while his partner changes the sheets and towels while he’s out on this errand. This is another denomination of the currency of love.
Being willing to go grocery shopping with your partner, if asked, is a way to show your heart. Being willing to go fishing with your partner might be another way to do the same. Throwing her clothes into the wash when she’s had a long week and has fallen asleep on the couch or ordering his favorite take-out when you want to let him know how much you care are others. Letting your partner leave the cap off the toothpaste and never saying a word is another way to add capital to the relationship. Biting your tongue when your partner tells the same story a second and third time expecting the same “initial reaction” from you again and again is a way to show you care.
Some of us might still write love letters, but maybe “love post-its” are all you can manage. Maybe intimate and affectionate texts are the currency you use?
Whether it’s paper, plastic, sound waves or radio signals, the most important thing to remember is that the value of a relationship cannot grow if couples are hesitant to take a risk and make an investment. Letting go of the fear and allowing yourself to take a risk can pay off in big ways.
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