Stef (firecat) wrote,

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Noodlings on saying "I love you" and other forms of praise

Originally posted as a comment to this post in rowanf's journal. Somewhat modified here.

rowanf wrote: often when we say "I love you" we are making a plea for recognition, making an invitation for reciprocation, starting some kind of negotiation. I am trying to own "I love you" as a declaration of how I feel rather than as something that requires action on the part of the Other. I'm not sure that it is possible though, given all the baggage around the words. So, is it better not to make the declaration when you know it is unreciprocated?

I don't say it as a plea for recognition, reciprocation, or negotiation. I say it in these circumstances: (1) The feeling wells up in me and I know the other person won't freak. (2) It's true and the other person wants me to say it (either because it's a ritual to say it at certain times, or because zie's making a plea for recognition).

I personally don't say it directly to another person when I believe it's unreciprocated, because I don't enjoy the processing and explaining that has to follow. (If I believe it's reciprocated, then I'll say it and do the processing.) But one big change for me over the past little while is that in such cases I will say it to myself. In the past I was insistent that the word love only applies to a reciprocal relationship, so I would deny I loved someone if I believed zie didn't love me back. I'm so very glad that I've gotten rid of that policy.

On the other hand, even though I don't plan to start saying "I love you" to more people, I think I probably should make more of a point of telling people that I like them and what I like about them.

Only you know what? I have gotten out of the habit partly because I've gotten the impression that some people are embarrassed when I tell them what I like about them. Maybe when I'm in that mood, I do it too much. Or maybe some people don't like praise, or don't want it from me, or think I am asking for something in return. And actually, although I'm not asking for something in return when I tell someone I love them, I sometimes am asking for something in return when I tell them I like something about them. What I want is for them to like me back because they see me as a person with insight and good taste.
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