I've had the luck to find a husband who means the word "love" when he says it, but as I look around at my friends, TV, and my own life, I find that not everyone in a dating relationship means the same thing when they say, "I love you."
I think our culture, in general, has eroded the meaning of the word.
But, really, it means this self-sacrificial giving of yourself for the sake of the other. It means a firm commitment to them. It means me apologizing when I hurt my husband. It means him going down the stairs to the basement with a baseball bat, when we thought someone was breaking into the house (rather than making me go). It means letting our speech be constructive. It means determining not to let each other go, no matter what.
But when a past boyfriend told me he loved me after just a month and a half or so, when he suggested marriage in numerous ways, and then backed away and broke up with me after six months together...what did all of that really mean? I know he didn't mean, "I want to get in your pants." He wasn't that kind of guy (although I know that's what a lot of guys mean when they say it). But I wonder why he would throw out a word like that without meaning it to the depth of his being, without meaning it with firm commitment. He had character, he was a high-quality person, he was even a Christian. I think he even thought he meant it when he first said it. But he couldn't have if...it must have all been about feelings, which come and go. I guess I tossed the word out rather naively. I did mean it. But I didn't demand of him that he mean it before I got my heart all too involved. Perhaps I didn't respect myself enough? Perhaps I thought I might lose him?
But that was the reason that when my husband and I started dating, we discussed what we would mean by the "L" word. We would not
mean "will you marry me?" we agreed, but something rather close. We would mean that we had a pretty serious commitment to a future together. We would mean that we were seriously moving in the direction of marriage. We agreed not to just toss the word out on the whim of feeling. This led to a seriousness of commitment in our relationship, a purposefulness and honesty which I think many are afraid to pursue in relationships today (I had been afraid of it in the past!). We all feel we have to do this dance back and forth. I suppose that makes sense before you say the "L" word...I mean, you have to figure out if this is the person you want to be with. But your word should be your word...if you aren't sure, don't say it. With my husband, I was lucky enough to be dating someone who was already a good friend, so we felt more able to be honest with each other. I wonder, is there a way for our generation to be more up front without scaring each other away?
I hate seeing my friends going through this confusing dance. It used to be the case that when a gentleman took to courting a lady, there were certain rules. I can appreciate that young people have more freedom now to marry who they will, but at the same time, I sometimes think we have no rules to follow. It's so darn tough...pursue this much, pull back this much...sometimes it seems like you need a math class to calculate it all out. So, I'm not advocating pushing yourself on someone, or assuming that you are God's will for their life...but I am
advocating a whole lot more honesty, straightforwardness, and commitment. I'm part of this generation that struggles so much with commitment...but I think it's time we found our backbone, time we stood for something, time we gave of ourselves in real, self-sacrificial love. You have only to meet some couple that has been married for 50 years and is still smiling to know how wonderful this can be.