When we’d fight and it was my fault, I’d try and soothe the wounds by saying, “I love you.” It’s a cheap trick, isn’t it? To use “I love you” to put a Band-aid on your anger? But often, I was so desperate to fix what was wrong it was the only thing I could think of to say. More eloquent words would not come out of my mouth. I needed not to lose you. I felt like all I had was that I loved you. But you’d call me out. I said, “I love you, come on.” You shot back at me, “I love you. I love you. What does that even mean to you? What does that mean?”
I felt terrible. I mean it when I am saying it. In the simplest way, “I love you.” I feel love for you. I am filled to the brim, overwhelmed, overflowing with how much I love you. I can’t express it any more than that in the moment. I need you to understand, to know. I would never say it if I didn’t feel it. But I understand why you’re left wondering. I understand that it seems empty. So I’m going to try and tell you what it means.
I love you means I want to be with you. If I could choose to see anyone, it would be you. I want to be sweet with you. I want to kiss your nose and text you that I hope your day is going well. I want to cook for you and ease your stress. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want manufactured drama. I don’t want resentment.
I want us to share everything. I want to crawl inside your skin and be one person. I am so overcome with how much you mean to me, with how much I adore you, with how much I feel toward you that I am actually at a loss for how to behave. I love you means I have nothing else. I could write poems and sonnets and blog posts about you all day and it would still not feel like enough to let you know how scared I am by how I feel about you. I love you means I’m terrified and hopeful and terrified about letting myself be hopeful.
I love you means I smile when I think about you. I do nice things for you without being asked. I want you to be happy more than I want the sun to rise in the morning. I want to kiss every inch of your face. I want to burrow under your covers with you and hug each other until neither of us are ever lonely again. I want to smell your T-shirt. I want to feel your hair.
I love you means I don’t want you to be sad, but I also want you to feel free to have whatever emotions you’re having. I want you to feel like you can be vulnerable and I will hold all the pieces very delicately and I will kiss them all as I put you back together. I want you to trust me. I want you to know that I never want to hurt you. I want to never be the reason you’re upset. I want you by my side, as my partner. I want to do mundane things with you like take out the trash and put away the dishes. I don’t want to keep secrets.
I love you means I understand that you are flawed and that I am too. It means I don’t want to be selfish. I want all the simple things with you — and the hard things, and I want us to survive them and I don’t want to walk away. I love you means I want to earn this. I love you means I want to be let in and to let you in. I love you means I am so close to destroying this because that is all I know how to work with. I love you means I want to put in the work with you, because I think you’re special and I think you’re worth it.
I love you means I want to sleep beside you and press myself against your back. I love you means I want to talk to you about everything and know everything about you. I want you to share what you’re thinking and I want you to feel safe doing that. I love you means I want us to be kind to each other, to want to be kind.
When I say, I love you, I’m not avoid intimacy or “cheating.” I am showing you my cards. I know who you are. I am not blind. I am not naive. You do not disappoint me. If I saw through the cracks, I would not run away. It means we will never be perfect and I accept that because I want everything about you that you’ve shown me so far. I love you means I want to consider you. I want to factor you into my plans. I want to know you see this as lasting too, maybe, and maybe that’s what really trips us up, right? In a good way though.
And that’s one inch of what I mean when I say, “I love you.” I don’t know if I have words for the rest.