Love Love Love; What do you mean when you say ‘I LOVE YOU’

Back in 2006 in Enugu, I wrote an article for a BBC sponsored valentine day programme on the then Cosmo FM. The discussants then were trying to explain what love really means. As the programme was concluding, listeners were encouraged to put down their thoughts about the meaning of love and send in via email. After some thought, I decided to knocked out what I have below on and send in (It took me a trip to a cyber cafe, two hundred naira for an hour browsing time in order to use their desktop, as owning a laptop then was luxury). It turned out to be the pick of the week. I think my mum still has the prize that came with it. Read and see if it fits your bill …

What do we mean when we say we love? In other words, when I tell someone ‘I love you’, what do I mean? Love is a complex experience and sometimes is difficult to explain but let me give it a shot as briefly as I can.

I have heard people talk about love, I have experienced it and have equally read quite some literature on it and have come up with a two-fold categorization of the love experience. One is the ‘In love experience’. This is what happens to us at the beginning of most relationships. Here we see and feel the sparks, we live in floatation and believe, repeat, believe all is perfect; we are blind to faults. We go to any extent to impress our ‘lover’. In summary, it is broadly characterized by a general lack of discipline, rationality and choice. There is only a thin line between this experience and obsession/infatuation. Much more critical is that since we do not see faults or a lack when ‘in love’, we readily prefer the status quo. Thus, there is no encouragement for growth. Why change a winning team as they say? This may last between a month and a year and after that, it is either we move to the second experience or we move out of the relationship.

The second is the ‘Love experience’, a.k.a ‘love with your feet on the ground’. This is broadly characterized by Consciousness, Rationality, Volition and Will. It is conscious because you are well aware of what you are doing. Rational because each action is decided and you take it either because it is worth it or for the well being of the one you love. It is volitional because it is by choice and you will it to succeed. I call it love with your feet on the ground because there is no pretence. We see faults; we see where there is a lack. The interesting thing here is that we are only able to see these after the ‘in love experience’, when what we call love will be put to test. If there is no love, we become very unhappy, restless, frustrated and opt out. If there is love, we encourage the one we love not to change, but to make adjustments because people do not change; they make adjustments for a reason; we try to complement our partner in order to make up for the lack. Here, our words become encouraging, kind and humble. This is where consciousness, rationality, volition and will, come in.

In as much as the ‘In love experience’ is not bad, ‘I love you’ here is feeble at best and will only crumble like a pack of cards. Thus it is better not said until we move to the next phase; if we are able to do so with the person in question. This is because when we say I love you, it should literally mean ‘am of sound reasoning, aware of what I am doing, I have chosen to love you and will work at it every day of my life’. But, do not delude yourself, it is not easy and will definitely need working at. But again, the good news is that you will succeed if you work at it. With this realization and because love needs working at, I will spare no effort in speaking any of the love languages as enumerated by Dr. Chapman (Words of affirmation, Quality time, Giving gifts, Acts of service and Physical touch) in as many dialects as I can come up with because, in spite of the other nice (sexy, rich, cute, etc) people around, you choose, without compulsion, to make that one person your prince or princess.

This is what ‘I LOVE YOU’ should mean. This is what it means.

Hope I made sense. Have fun y’all.