‘I love you’ is a tricky phrase. It means something different to each person and each situation. To grow your relationships and yourself it is important to see what you mean. Sometimes it is used as an exchange of loyalty or relationship, we say it automatically and expect a response.
‘I love you” could also mean that “I am feeling a lot of love for you right now…WOW!”. It is nice to honor another person by letting them know you are feeling a lot of love for them right now.
Sometimes we don’t know how to receive that immediate feeling of love. Instead of saying ‘I love you too’ as form may seem to demand, how about seeing what it would be like to receive it, try: “WOW it feels really nice to feel your love”. For me it is like someone coming to your birthday and giving you a present, then you immediately give them back one of equal value, that doesn’t make sense so why do it when someone is expressing their love.
Even beyond being able to receive love is recognizing who is really benefiting from the loving. Although it can feel nice when someone is loving me, I am not actually feeling their love, I am actually giving myself love. It is kind of like they are giving me permission to love myself.
Perhaps most curiously, do you ever hear yourself saying “I want to be loved”. It is like saying that I want to receive love in the past now. This lets me know that I did not get the love I needed in the past and there is something to let go of, either pain or a void. On the other hand lets try it out differently by putting it in the present, as in “I want to be love(ed)”. Try saying “I want to be love” every time you are tempted to say “I want to be loved” and see how it changes things.
The real beneficiary of loving goes to the lover. It is wonderful to feel love for someone. See if you can recognize that you are the real person benefiting from your love. When you recognize this, you no longer can hold the perspective that they owe you something for loving them.
There are other forms or meanings of ‘I love you’, if someone is leaving it might mean “I am feeling loss that you won’t be here for awhile”. ‘I love you’ could simply be signaling the end of a phone call, or a reminder that we are family, or we are friends; it could mean don’t betray me, or be on time, or you owe me, or …. What do the ‘I love you’s’ mean in your life? How many different meanings can you give it? Are there other ways you could express what you are feeling more clearly?