It was all rather innocuous. I was on my way home from spending a Sunday with my boyfriend of four months .Our day had consisted of long naps, football watching, and baking – a perfect relaxed day to recharge before the work week begun. He wanted a quick ride up the street to a deli to grab a late night dinner. Harmless enough. As I dropped him back, I put my car in park at the entrance of his apartment.
It had been a long day and at times we had begun bickering due to the amount of time we had spent together that weekend. And so our goodbye conversation went a little like this:
Boyfriend: Babe, it’s a natural part of relationships to get on each other’s nerves at times, it’s
totally okay. I had a good time with you today, I’m glad we got to spend the weekend together.
Me: Yeah, you’re right. Just worried about it today. But okay.
Me: Okay. I love you.
Now before I continue, let me explain this declaration. There was no romancing occurring during this instance. We hadn’t had an amazing day, no extraordinary sparks, no great milestone. In fact, if I could have filmed myself, what you would have seen was a tired looking girl half mumble, half whisper “I love you” into the crisp, autumn air.
So there it was. Out before I even know what I was saying. The rest of the conversation was incredibly awkward:
Me: Oh! Don’t forget your drink, have a good night – WAIT – can I have your drink?! I mean —
Boyfriend: Yeah, you too! Oh you want it? Yes, please take it all! Just keep it —
Me: No, no actually I’ll just go. Ok goodnight bye!
So I sped off, my face feeling hotter with each passing second. And so the meltdown begins. In the span of 20 seconds, I called every one of my close girlfriends. I don’t know exactly what my intent was when I began, but all I knew was that it felt like I was going to implode due to sheer embarrassment.
Four of my six girlfriends ended up either calling or texting back at some point. And the conversations made me realize that well – who really gives a shit if I accidentally said “I love you” to my boyfriend?!
Molly was the first to answer. In my fit of embarrassment, I told her of the incident, and of my utter disaster of a declaration. Her response? “I’m surprised you guys haven’t said it already. Anyway, who cares, it was bound to happen eventually.”
Unexpected, but it did force my panicked brain to slow down a little. My next friend Rachel, called back. She found the entire episode to be hilarious. But was quick to point out that this was an ego play as well. In relationships, both parties often hesitate to say those three words first. To some it’s a power-play – they want to wait for the other one to say it simply so they can take comfort in knowing they perhaps are loved more than the love they are giving in return. Others are simply cowardly and would rather wait and know how their partner feels about them before declaring their own love. I knew my ego had taken a hit – after all, even if I didn’t love him, I still wished that he had said it back or at least acknowledged my whispered confession.
My friend Nicole asked me if I could take it back. How would that go? “Hey, babe, I know I just mumbled “I love you” to you. Just wanted to tell you I didn’t mean it so really, I don’t say what I mean or say what I mean so I don’t love you yet but may I will so when I say it later I’ll mean it maybe but maybe not since I don’t say what I mean and I tell everyone I love them so…yeah.” No, taking it back was not an option.
My best friend of them all – Sofie – asked the real question. “Did you mean it when you said it? If you do, it is fine, you meant what you said. I wouldn’t stress about it either way, it is what it is.”
And so there it was. Did I even mean it when I said it? It had been a long day, and we had argued quite a bit throughout the evening. When I said “I love you,” I did mean it. I meant that despite our tough evening, I still care about him and what we have and that I was still here, ever willing to keep at this. It wasn’t the beautiful romantic declaration that we are often taught to believe that first “I love you” is to be orchestrated as, but it was real. I often find myself telling my friends and family I love them. This does not take away from the value of the phrase for me and I know I love my boyfriend, too – I love him as I love so many others in my life. And while I hope to grow into this more romantic notion of love with him someday, that day is not today. For now all I can do is own the love I do have for him.