At 31+, My Definition of Love is So Different from 10 Years Ago

5 03 2015

On a recent trip with some friends, one of the girls brought up a list titled “6 Phrases More Important than I Love You,” which was recently featured on the Huffington Post. The list asserted that while “I love you” was very important, it wasn’t always enough, and so you needed more than love (possibly the other six items) to make a relationship work. The six phrases they mentioned all sounded great at first glance, but as much as I wanted to agree with the entire list, I just couldn’t. I did, however, agree with at least one of them (which I’ll get to later).

They were:

1. I forgive you

2. I’ll sacrifice for you

3. I respect you

4. I’ll support you

5. I’ll protect you

6. I’m committed to you

Now, my reason for not agreeing with the complete list was not because I don’t think those phrases and the ideas behind them are important. It’s that, for me, at 31 +, they are included in “I love you.” If I say to someone now that I love him, I mean I will sacrifice for him, I respect him, I’ll support him, I’ll forgive him, and I’ll protect him (as I can).

This wasn’t always the case. In my early 20s, my concept of love was completely different. I fell in love at 21, as if it was a faulty emotion I couldn’t control. Love was all about passion and desire, how fast my heart beat when I saw his name on my phone or AIM account (aging myself here). It was all about romance (unrequited or not) and whether or not he and I talked to each other all day, every day.

But now? I’m not saying those things don’t matter — because they absolutely do — but love includes all those unromantic, practical things as well. I’m not looking for someone to “complete me.” I want to be whole and for him to be whole and then we come together. Love is not something I fall into anymore. It’s a choice I make. I choose to love who I love. And much of that choice is based off of certain criteria.

Such as…

Do I trust him?

Can I be honest with him even when I don’t want to be?

Do I have a desire to support him, and does he support my dreams and efforts?

Do I forgive him, even after a big argument, not because I’m a pushover, but because it’s worth it?

Love now includes aspects like responsibility and future. And sure, I absolutely still want to smile like a Cheshire cat when I hear his name and have a desire to tear his clothes off and lick his teeth when I see him. But I equally want to think of him as someone I wholly and completely respect. Someone who pushes me to fight for better, even when he doesn’t realize it.

That’s love for me now.

So when I tell a man I love him, I’m saying most of those other phrases as well.

Now, if you couldn’t tell by this point, the last phrase is the only one I thought was separate from “I love you,” simply because you can love someone and not commit to him/her. Just like love, commitment is a choice as well, and frankly there are people in love who are not committed to each other and vice versa.

But if we’re just talking about love here, I think the more mature definition, at least for me, has to include those other concepts. Otherwise, it’s just undeniable, passionate lust. And while that’s great and there’s certainly a place for it; I’m not 21 anymore, so I know the difference.




5 responses

5 03 2015

Love this, Darby. I thought I was in love everytime I dated someone when I was younger and its funny how different love looks like now. Its not always romantic and sexy but the core values you mentioned above are definitely always present. Its funny how easily the phrase, “I love you” will slip out of people’s mouths but the meaning is hollow. I’ve had people treat me like shit and claim they love me. Sir, you can keep that love.

5 03 2015

Thanks Brenda! Isn’t it amazing how our concept of things like love change over time? I was never really someone who fell in love with everyone, but I just didn’t think of it as including stuff like sacrifice and compromise before. I guess that comes with getting older though lol

Also, I’m with you completely. I think people use the phrase waaaay too easily. Either that, or so many of us have such different ideas of what it means to us and we don’t found if they match until something like dude treating you like shit happens. Then it’s very clear — we don’t mean the same thing here! lol. Glad you got out of that one, for sure.

9 03 2015

“I’ve had people treat me like shit and claim they love me.” Ohhhh yes. Love is an action. Love is demonstrated. You are so right!

9 03 2015

Amen! I agree. There is a difference between love, lust, and infatuation. I believe some people don’t know the difference. I’ve never been in love, but I have been in lust and infatuated with the idea that a certain guy and I could work as a couple. Basically, my fantasies created him to be a guy that he wasn’t. “I love you” means a lot if there is TRUE meaning behind it. I do believe the phrase gets thrown out too often. I know the first time I say it to a guy, I’ll really mean it because I don’t express my feeling often at all. No words can replace a genuine, “I love you”.

10 03 2015

There is SUCH a difference! Now, what I try not to do is look back on my past and reassign feelings to stuff (because while I may not look at it as loving that person now, I surely felt it at the time), BUT I can say that I have literally told 3 men I loved them (in a relationship sense).

Of those 3, only one actually fits my current definition. And even with him, when I first said it to him at 22, it didn’t. Only now when I tell him does it include being willing to sacrifice and compromise and trust and all that other stuff.

“No words can replace a genuine ‘I love you’.” <—– AMEN!

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