Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“What Does it Mean to Be In Love?”

I’m on vacation through May 13th and will be re-posting some of my more popular columns in the meantime. This one was originally published on The Frisky on January 11, 2011.

My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for a while now, and quite a few times in the past few months (especially recently) he’s told me that he loves me or is in love with me. Every time I’m with him my thoughts are screaming “I love you!” and I want to say it, and I’ve tried, but my head can never tell my mouth what to say, which leaves me wondering if I do indeed love him. When I’m with him, everything is finally okay, but when we’re apart, I don’t feel exactly right. I’m willing to do anything to see him happy, even if it means bending over backwards, which I’ve done, and I’ve sacrificed my own happiness for him a few times (he was unaware of it though) just to help things work for him. Twenty years from now, I want more than anything for him to be happy and with the love of his life, but sometimes I don’t think I’m her. There are times when I feel like we’re great now, but not necessarily forever, and that leaves me wondering if I really love him. What does it mean to you to be in love? If you’re in love does it mean that you want to spend the rest of your life with that person, or can it simply be something just for now? And also, how do I go about telling my boyfriend that I love him, when every time I’ve wanted to and tried, I’ve failed? I feel like I can’t rely on myself to say a simple “I love you” so are there other ways to do it, while keeping it incredibly romantic and memorable? — Love Shy

Girl, you need to relax! I don’t mean that in a condescending way, but in as compassionate a way as possible. You’re talking about feelings here, not some business deal where legalese, foresight and careful planning are of utmost importance. You’re talking about falling in love — one of the most wonderful sensations you can ever feel; why rob yourself of that raw emotion with over-analysis and intellectualizing every little thing and trying to somehow “make it perfect” or whatever. Love isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s just supposed to … well, be. YOU are supposed to be.

You know what will make it “incredibly romantic and memorable” when you finally tell your boyfriend you love him? Just saying it. And meaning it. Finally allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your boyfriend’s presence for once and letting the emotion simply take you where it may, without worrying about the “what ifs?” The thing is, love doesn’t care about the “what ifs?” Love doesn’t care about tomorrow, or next week, or twenty years down the line. It cares about this moment — this moment, right now, because there might not be a tomorrow or next week or twenty years later, and even if there is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you feel for your boyfriend today and everything that has led to this moment — all the big and little ways love has chipped away the armor you’ve built to protect yourself from hurting and being hurt.

What matters is that you’ve let love through. You’ve let love through! What a wonderful, amazing thing. It’s not every day we get to fall in love (and be loved back!), so let yourself revel in it for a while. Tomorrow and next week and 20 years from now are going to come whether you worry about them or not. So, why not not worry about them? Why not let love do its thing and see where it takes you? Yes, you may be led right out of love. You, indeed, may not be the love of your boyfriend’s life. But then, even more reason to express yourself now while you’re both still under its spell — while the feeling’s there — while it’s all-encompassing and unbounded and reciprocated and not yet touched by whatever complications you’ve imagined exists in the future.

If you’re scared about saying the actual words, practice saying them in the privacy of your own company. Recite them out loud until they don’t sound foreign to you. Or, speaking of foreign: say the words in a different language. Or, write them. Or sing them. Or sign them. Or spell them out in Hershey Kisses. Or trace them with your finger on a steamed-up mirror. Say them with your eyes squeezed shut. Say them in the total dark. Say them in the morning light. Whisper them. Shout them! Just do it. Do it, Love Struck. Tell your boyfriend, who has already told you he loves you so many times before, that the feeling is mutual. It’s one of the very best gifts you can give yourself. And certainly one of the best gifts you can give the one you love.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].

10 comments… add one
  • JennyTalia May 10, 2011, 3:17 pm

    I just went through this same turmoil. I have for weeks been feeling like I’m in love, but questioning every little thing just because I want to be sure. The other day I just bit the bullet and said it, and I’m so glad I did. The weight is off my shoulders and it feels surprisingly nice to be completely vulnerable to him. Let love take over.

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    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com May 10, 2011, 3:20 pm

    Love this: “all the big and little ways love has chipped away the armor you’ve built to protect yourself from hurting and being hurt.”

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  • TJ May 10, 2011, 4:38 pm

    “L is for the way you look at me/O is for the only one I see/V is very very (snap snap) extraordinary/E is even more than anyone that you adore…”

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    fast eddie May 10, 2011, 8:15 pm

    As my wise old Aunt Edith told me: When you is, you is and when you ain’t ya ain’t. My otherwise useless answer is: if and when you’re in fact “IN LOVE” you’ll know it. In my youth I “knew” I was in love when my intentions were honorable and would do anything to make her happy. You can love a puppy or a car, even a lovely spring day. Being in love means your willing to put your all into making sure that the relationship continues even at the expense of your own wants. Far too many times I said “I love you” when all I really wanted was to get laid, but that was the norm in the 60s. One of my friends was over charged for some work on his house and when he went to pay the bill the young clerk accepted his check and said “I love you”. He did a double take and said “Excuse me?” She replied “Well, when I get screwed, I like to hear it.”

    Wendy has already made solid attempt and defining it far better then I can.

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  • Fairhaired Child May 10, 2011, 9:30 pm

    “I just called, to say I love you. I just called, to say how much I care. I just called.. to say I loooove you.. and I mean it from the bottom of my heart”

    I feel for you LW, relationships are often a time of confusing emotions, excitment, disappointment, bliss, and everything in between. I was in the position of your bf when I first started dating my current SO. I had waited 3 months into our relationship before I suddenly blurted “i think i love you” as he was getting in his car to head home. He paused and stared at me and said “um well i wish i could say it back to you but i’m not sure yet if I love you.” Harsh. I cried for hours after he left, and beat myself on what a dummy I was and that I said it too soon. One of my friends said “would you have rather that he lied and said it right away or would you rather wait and when he does eventually say it then you will know he means it.”

    That put things into perspective for me because, god though I wanted to hear those words back, I’d rather them have meaning behind them. We continued to do cutsie romantic wonderful things together, with me never saying it again(my pride was hurt)
    , though I caught myself almost saying it again a thousand times. Finally one night we were together he said that he realized that every time we were apart, he may have fun, but he felt something was missing, and when we were together he felt like nothing else mattered and that his soul was exploding in colors so “he guessed he really did love me too”. Granted.. not the most romantic way of saying i love you, but he said it. After that I started saying it again and more frequently , and so did he. And now he wont get out of my face and says it ALLL the time.

    End of the story is, people in a relationship may “fall in love” at different moments. Sometimes the other party can wait and doesnt mind saying it with no return, and othertimes people will MOA when they never hear it back. I think that your boyfriend could realize that you do love him (in a fashion) and how hard it is for you to say it to him, and maybe you could write him a cute note and add it to a gift for him (to find without you around) stating how much you’ve always felt that you do love him but have never been able to say it out loud, but you want to. Wendy’s advice is spot on, practice saying it out loud first, write it etc.. whatever you need to do to make the words more “easy” for you to let out of your heart and off your chest, and you’ll find the right way and time to tell him.

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    • Fairhaired Child May 10, 2011, 10:23 pm

      Wendy when you reposted some of these do you email the LW to let them know to look at this website as well for more advice/repsonses?

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  • Jessica May 11, 2011, 12:40 am

    Your response to this letter is definitely one of my favorites I’ve ever read from you, if not my absolute favorite. Felt that way back in January when I first read it, and still feel that way. Good job Wendy!

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  • shelllo May 11, 2011, 1:14 am

    I want to know what love is! I want you to show me

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    • shelllo May 11, 2011, 1:15 am

      What is love? Baby dont hurt me, dont hurt me. No more

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  • matbo May 11, 2011, 4:20 am

    when I said it the first time I said it in German in the dark right before sleep. I wouldn’t ever take it back. The best part was hearing “Ich liebe dich auch” lying side by side in the dark and holding hands.

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