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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.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
ex_kateo671
Jul. 26th, 2002 12:44 pm (UTC)
I don't say it as a plea for recognition, reciprocation, or negotiation.

I don't either.

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.

I have occasionally said it when I believed it was unreciprocated, and I have almost always regretted it. Most recently, I told someone I loved zir and explained that I felt that way completely independent of zir feeling's for me. Within ten minutes, zie told me zie loved me, too -- and I don't believe zie actually does. I think it was just evidence of how strong the impulse to reciprocate is.

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.

I think this is a good idea. K got me into the habit of doing this -- he's far more direct with people about telling them what he likes about them than I am. And it does sometimes seem to take people aback, but I try to tell them what I like without making them uncomfortable, which usually means stating the observation, perhaps providing a supporting example, and then letting the subject drop. It seems to be effective.
mittelbar
Jul. 26th, 2002 12:48 pm (UTC)
Your clothes RATTLE?
I really like that about you.
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2002 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Your clothes RATTLE?
*giggle* Yeah, I was washing several items that have plastic or metal bits.
pir_anha
Jul. 26th, 2002 12:53 pm (UTC)
Re: Noodlings on saying "I love you" and other forms of praise
i like you in part because i see you as a person with insight. not to say that i don't think you have good taste, but, umm, that's basically not a criterion for me to like somebody. :) the other parts for which i like you are a bit harder to grasp out of the whole gestalt of you in my mind -- the insight stands out pretty markedly.

oh yeah, and rowan is one of those who needs to learn to use the "i" pronoun. i don't ever say "i love you" as a plea for recognition or any of the things she lists. i most often say it when the feeling of warm glowing fuzz relating to a person (or animal, or anything) sweeps over me in one amazing wave. it requires no feeling of mutuality; i love the ocean, and it's tried to kill me, *snicker*.

if it's not reciprocated by a person i'll work up to it, pre-processing rather than post-processing what that means when i say it. but i do say it these days -- it's rare enough that it's not a problem. and it's become much less of one in general, since i do tell more people that i like them. and i've found that a lot of people i know really like to hear this sort of thing without any strings attached now and then. the world tends to grind these people down, and hearing that they are appreciated, liked, and yes, give somebody else a warm fuzzy glowing feeling, that seems to perk them up.

about being embarrassed -- yes, i sometimes am. often am. i need to think more about why -- will probably noodle on it in my own journal.

-piranha
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2002 04:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Noodlings on saying "I love you" and other forms of praise
if it's not reciprocated by a person i'll work up to it, pre-processing rather than post-processing what that means when i say it.

How come? Because it perks them up?

a lot of people i know really like to hear this sort of thing without any strings attached now and then. the world tends to grind these people down, and hearing that they are appreciated, liked, and yes, give somebody else a warm fuzzy glowing feeling, that seems to perk them up.

Yes, yes, yes. (Now I just gotta remember to implement this policy more often.)
pir_anha
Jul. 27th, 2002 12:02 am (UTC)
Re: Noodlings on saying "I love you" and other forms of praise
yup, because it perks them up, if i do it right. or at least it has always done that (small sample size). though that's almost somewhat of an understatement, but i don't know how to word it without it sounding over the top.

i still feel really good about especially one incident where it really made a difference to somebody, and that shaped my behaviour about saying such things to more people.

and like lcohen i say them to those where the feeling is quite a steady occurrence, because i don't ever want to think that they might have gone to their death without knowing this, really knowing it, and having heard it, having been wrapped in it. i don't ever want my last memory to be that i've been careless, taken something that means a whole lot to me for granted. (and yes, this informs my anger management as well :).

-piranha
firecat
Jul. 27th, 2002 12:30 am (UTC)
Re: Noodlings on saying "I love you" and other forms of praise
Hmmm. Must ponder this with respect to saying "I love you" in particular. I do tend to be motivated to treat people I care about well (although their possible sudden death is not my driving motivation), but negotiating "I love you" hasn't been high on the priority list. I wonder how much this has to do with... well, I tend to take actions more seriously than words. (Storing for future pondering.)
rowanf
Jul. 27th, 2002 09:17 am (UTC)
Re: Noodlings on saying "I love you" and other forms of praise
oh yeah, and rowan is one of those who needs to learn to use the "i" pronoun.

I really don't think you can have an opinion about what I need to do without knowing a thing about me.

I said "we" because I was talking about people in this culture attaching those meanings which makes "I love you" seem like something far beyond a simple declaration about one's own feelings.

I think what you had to say in the rest of that paragraph was lovely, but I really don't think you needed to bring your opinions of *me* into it.
pir_anha
Jul. 27th, 2002 10:54 am (UTC)
pronoun use and abuse
i can't know a thing about you after reading your journal? *little snicker*. but "need" was, uh, needlessly snarky, so let me rephrase that. i'd like reading you much better if you spoke for yourself, not for "we" or "us" or "you". (hi, lynn -- see? it's not just you. *grin*.)

I said "we" because I was talking about people in this culture attaching those meanings

some people do, heck, many people do. however, none of the people in this thread seem to do so. i don't, and nobody close to me does. and these people who don't are all part of this culture as well, just like you (unless you want to get more specific about what culture you're talking about).

"we" is inclusive. alas there is no exclusive we ("me and my pals, not mankind as a whole") as a counterpart to "we", which sucks, but there you go, stuck with using antecedents. it grates something fierce on me when somebody says "we" or "you" about something i haven't signed up for, because it implies that zie isn't acknowledging the vast differences between people, and i consider that willful ignorance, or worse, manipulation (when coming from politicians the latter especially). or, well, bad pronoun usage. guess which is the lesser sin in my eyes. :)

-piranha
rowanf
Jul. 27th, 2002 04:30 pm (UTC)
Re: pronoun use and abuse
I don't actually have any evidence that you *do* read my journal. You have responded to a partial quote in someone else's.

But thanks for softening the blow. I shouldn't have reacted so strongly to your telling me what I needed to do. Thus begin flame wars. I can only plead to being annoyed at being taken to task out of context..
lcohen
Jul. 26th, 2002 02:12 pm (UTC)
i think that sometimes it is easier to hear what someone likes about you if it isn't framed that way. not that you do that--i can't address that since i haven't seen you in action. but it is easier for me to hear "that was a really insightful comment" than it is to hear "i really like the way that you make insightful comments" because i think the latter tends to make me feel that there is an expectation that i will keep coming up with insightful comments--there's a tiny bit of unintended pressure there--if you see what i mean?

as for saying "i love you"--i think that i don't say it with the expectation that i will hear it coming back to me--but sometimes i'm in such a burbly mood that i check in to make sure that that's clear to my partner. besides saying it to her though, i've noticed that i say it a lot to people who i love as a sign-off and i know that i say it in that instance not to hear it come back to me, but so that if heaven forbid it is the last time we talk, i know that i told them that the last time we spoke. that's related to recent losses in our family and other losses that i know are imminent. so yes, i want them to hear it, but it's also a little hedge for my peace of mind so that i don't have to wonder if i told them....
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2002 04:55 pm (UTC)
the latter tends to make me feel that there is an expectation that i will keep coming up with insightful comments--there's a tiny bit of unintended pressure there--if you see what i mean?

Makes sense. But speaking for myself, if it is something I do do on a regular basis and like about myself, I like to hear the more general statement. That way I feel the person notices things about me and likes some of the same things I like about myself.

so that if heaven forbid it is the last time we talk, i know that i told them that the last time we spoke.

I sometimes say it when signing off, as a ritual, but not specifically for that reason.
lcohen
Jul. 26th, 2002 09:35 pm (UTC)
>if it is something I do do on a regular basis and like about myself, I like to hear the more general statement. That way I feel the person notices things about me and likes some of the same things I like about myself.

excellent point. i like that you enjoy looking at issues from many angles ;-) .
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2002 11:24 pm (UTC)
I like that insightful comment. :-)
roadnotes
Jul. 26th, 2002 02:40 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm... just had a conversation with a new sweetie, in which I explained, "I am coming to love you, but I am not in love with you," and "If and when I say, 'I love you,' it's a statement about how I feel; if you feel you must answer, 'that's nice," or "okay," are perfectly acceptable. I wouldn't say it if I felt it made you obliged to respond in kind." They seem to have understood me, which is wonderful.

As someone said above, I love the ocean. I love light and darkness -- I don't demand reciprocal emotions. (Which sounds much more absolute than I mean, but there's a delicate balance that I can't quite put into words right now.)
elynne
Jul. 26th, 2002 04:23 pm (UTC)
I like saying "I love you." I also like giving praise, and telling people that I like them. As piranha said, the world does too good a job of grinding people down - I'd rather work to build them up. I tell people these things out of a certain expectation... I expect that by putting positive energy into the world, that it'll come back around to me, if not directly from the person I'm being positive at right now, then from somebody else somewhere along the line. And there's a very non-mystical, non-woo-woo rationale for that, too: that by being more positive, I attract more positive people to me, and give them the understanding that it's okay to be positive back. :)
jodawi
Jul. 27th, 2002 02:08 am (UTC)
i've been falling in love quite a bit on this vacation trip. i tell one of them over and over that i love them, but i've made clear that it's not a full-blown lets-live-together-forever indicator, it's just love that i'm wanting to express. i imagine i will express to one some others soon.
firecat
Jul. 27th, 2002 09:25 am (UTC)
*happy for John*
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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