Ask Yourself

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It seems to me that at least once a day, for the better part of my last 16 years alive, I have heard someone swooning in love over someone they've just been dating for a day. I say this because it is true — it is not an overstatement.

Everyone I know does it, and I'm not about to say that it's a feat reserved for shallow high school students alone, who "are too young to know what love is." Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Everyone does it. And, though I'll admit that most high school students really don't know what love is, for the most part, most adults don't either. Or, need I remind you of the steadily increasing divorce rate?

What is this it, I'm talking about, exactly? Telling someone you've known for short of a day that you love him or her. I'm sorry, but it's infuriating. You cannot possibly love someone after just a single day. Yet, that's how most everyone goes about it.

I myself have had a boyfriend who did just that. It had been two days since I'd agreed to go out with him; we hadn't even officially gone on a date yet. And, he called me up one evening on the phone. As our conversation was drawing to a close, he told me, "I love you." Needless to say, we didn't last much longer after that incident.

I'm not saying that you can't have feelings — generically — for a person you've only known and/or dated for a short time. Because you can. You can have feelings for someone you've never even known or dated. That's called a crush. An infatuation. Yet, it is a far cry from love.

A lot of people can't seem to tell the difference.

In fact, most people don't even seem to realize, or else they've forgotten, that "I love you" is actually supposed to mean something. They'll just say the words to whomever.

I'm sorry, but it unsanctifies the whole concept.

Maybe it's just because love is such a hard thing to understand. Or maybe, it's just too hard to know when something is actually love. (For reference look to my other work, "Physiology of Love"). Most times, though, it's because people mistake infatuation with love.

To clarify, infatuation is a strong lust for someone. For example, I'm infatuated with the Australian actor Jesse Spencer. Infatuation is normal. It is a longing for something we know is clearly beyond our reach; or it is an overpowering emotion for someone that fizzles out once the longing aspect has been removed from the equation.

A common way to explain this is the schoolgirl crush. Say you like a guy, perhaps one of your older brother's friends, or your best friend's ex. Well, let's add that, after some time, whomever it is you long for finally notices you and decides to ask you out. Of course, swooning in love like you are, you readily agree. Disappointingly enough, for you, however, after a few dates you realize that they really aren't everything you thought them to be and everything goes up in flames.

This, good people, is an infatuation Nothing usually comes of it. In fact, most times you end up crushed. (They wouldn't call it a "crush" if it was supposed to feel good).

It's dry passion. And empty lusting. It's shallow and petty. It is not love.

Infatuation at its core is a want for something we can't have. Or, it's putting someone on a pedestal. It's unrealistic in all but the World of Media.

Love is actually a deep, satisfying emotion that brings with it peace and contentment. It is also the realization that your partner or love interest is only human, and you can actually see them as such and accept them as they are.

Infatuation is saying "I love you," because you look like Jesse Spencer, are as athletic as Lance Armstrong, as funny as Adam Sandler and as smart as Ben Stein. —As you can see, this is clearly an unrealistic vision of what anyone could ever hope to be. Blessed be some, but never doubly so, my friends.

Love, on the other hand, is saying, "I love you," because you look like Adam Sandler, are as athletic as Drew Carey, and fall short of Jesse Spencer's God-like status. —This is love: Acceptance for whom they are regardless of how well they stack up against other people.

Put this way, maybe it's easier to see the difference between idle fantasizing and truly wanting someone for who they are.

Either way, it has to stop. If we keep abusing the word love as we are, it will undoubtedly lose its meaning and relevance. I, for one, would rather that it didn't happen. For, as overused as the expression is, love, when felt for the right person, can be the most gratifying feeling in the world if it's sincere and heartfelt.

So, think about it. Your last boy/girlfriend… Did you really, truly love them? Or, were you just saying it because:

1.) They said it first and you didn't want them to think you were heartless.

2.) It was in the heat of the moment and just kind of slipped out, so you couldn't take it back.

3.) Because it sounded good at the time.

4.) You were bombed or high as a kite. (Don't laugh as it's all-too-often the case).

5.) Friends said it for you ("she really does love you") and you went along with it.

6.) Out of guilt or because you felt you owed it to them.

If any of these were the reason as to why you told them, "I love you," it most probably wasn't heartfelt and sincere.

1.) If someone tells you "I love you," and you know you don't feel the same, don't' say it back. It's as simple as that, and it's the easiest way to avoid trouble later on down the road.

2.) Even in the heat of the moment, you should have enough mental capacity to know better if you truly don't care for the person with all your heart, soul and being. Be smart — words can hurt, you know.

3.) Just because something sounds good, doesn't mean it is. Besides, what's good at one time isn't always going to be good forever. Emotions change as rapidly as fashions, and they're a lot more damaging.

4.) All the more reason to avoid drugs and alcohol kiddies. They can ruin your life.

5.) Just because a friend says something about you, or on your behalf doesn't mean you have to agree with them. You can think for yourself. You are your own person. Don't let them make decisions for you.

6.) Even if you feel guilty, it doesn't mean you owe anyone a thing, let alone your affections. You owe them nothing of the sort. They are yours and yours alone; you owe your feelings to no one.

I'm not saying that just because you said those three sacred words because of one of the above reasons that it isn't love. I'm not saying that at all. All I'm saying is, that if you did say it for one of the above reasons, you might want to take some time to really think about your feelings. It can't hurt, can it?

I can guarantee, if you look back and think about things, you'll be doing yourself and your significant other a huge favor. Because there never where words more devastating to the soul than a mislead "I love you."

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Lisa Kantenseter
6-22-06