Once you have ‘defined the relationship’ the next big milestones is “the L bomb”. There can be a lot of stress and apprehension about who will say I love you first, what are the circumstances, will the other say it back etc. It tends to be significant.

My challenge with the term I love you is that it is completely subjective.

ləv / verb

to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).

Okay, but what is feel…do you physically ache when you think of how strong your feelings are for me? If you do, do you feel it in your chest … or in your groin?

And what is romantic? How do you define romance?

And the sexual attachment thing, why is that in there? Lust is different than love, it is so dangerous to collapse the two and MISTERS MERRIAM AND WEBSTER YOU AREN’T HELPING!

I digress…

The word love is vague and subjective.

There is no way for me to accurately describe for you what love means to me and be absolutely certain that you understand. No way. And people’s relationship to the concept of love varies so wildly.

For example. In my college days, I dated someone who felt like love was a very heavy word, they didn’t use it for over a year. When they finally did it was in a complex romantic gesture involving rose petals and candlelight. On the other end of the spectrum, I have a  friend who tells all of her friends love you as part of her standard farewell.

Yet, culturally we’ve incorporated I Love You into every romance story. It’s been built up to be this critical milestone with lots of pressure. There’s pressure to “fall” in love. This phrasing has always bothered me. It sounds like the relationship stuck it’s foot out and tripped you, tricking you into loving someone. Like it’s an accident. Like loving someone is something that happens to you.

Think about it. We also use the term when some “falls” for a scam, or “falls” into bad times. I’m not dissing on the idea of falling in love, I’m just saying that the idea of it being the end all be all does not work for me.

I don’t want someone to simply fall for me, where an emotion sneaks up on them out of their control in some sort of shenanigans. I want someone to choose me, to intentionally and with care decide that they want a future with me.

My current Partner and I had been close friends for 20+ years when we shifted into something resembling a traditional romantic relationship. I’d been telling him I love you for years, I had loved him deeply as a friend, for years. So what were we to do in order to experience that culturally expected milestone? Say No, but now I really love you?

Shifting from lifelong friendship to life partnership can be tricky. At some point, I asked him, so…would you say am I your girlfriend now? His response went something like this:

I don’t care what I call you, my person, my girlfriend, my partner, all I know is that I choose you. Every morning when I wake up, I think about you and choose you all over again. Whenever you’re a brat, or cranky or generally a pain in my ass I remind myself that I choose you. All of you. 

For months and months that was our way of verbalizing affection, saying I choose you. I’d wake up most mornings to a text of yup, still choosing you.

We decided to intentionally create a tradition of exchanging handwritten love letters on our anniversary. We like the idea of having documentation of our journey together, reminders we can revisit should things get rocky. For our first anniversary he “finally” used the L word.  It was a romantic and sweet gesture to be sure, and, I realized then and continue to realize that I feel much more treasured, cared for, honored and the butterflies-in-my-tummy sort of gooey over being chosen than loved.

I have bipolar disorder and while I’m very high functioning and it’s well managed, there are days where I’m – well – off. When the clouds come in and the depression takes over. Once the storm has passed I will apologize to my Partner, without fail and without missing a beat his response is always It’s okay, I choose you, bi-polar is a part of you, so I choose that too.

He has been dealing with some intense challenges in his family that occasionally spill over to impact me directly. Like when we canceled our European vacation to stay home and be with his family through a difficult transition. He apologized to me for ‘making’ me miss my vacation. My response? I choose you, your family is part of you, so I choose them too.

He is my Life Partner.

Me and my Life Partner

While we do use the (annoyingly vague) term I love you often and it does carry meaning for us, there is no accidental falling in our relationship. We use language to communicate what we want, what we’re designing for our future and we very intentionally choose the life we’re creating together.

I always say, nothing I say is true, rather it’s my truth. You may be a hopeless romantic and the word love carries immense power for you. That’s cool, really, I love it! (ha, see what I did there?)    AND.  I encourage you to look at adding choice to your equation as well.

If you’re someone who strives to live on Purpose and with intentionality, consider joining the Choice Driven Life community to connect with others who have similar world views.


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