Why Men are Confused About ‘I Love You’

“I love you” means “I love the me I am when I’m with you.”

Image for post
Image for post
Photo credit: Shutterstock

By Avrum Weiss

When I was a kid, my parents were very persnickety about language. For example, whenever I passionately declared that I “loved” catsup, one of my parents would be sure to correct me by asking “are you going to marry catsup?” They were instructing me that the word “love” was reserved for the feelings a person has about a life partner and, therefore, not to be used for something as mundane as catsup. The problem with my parent’s linguistic fanaticism was that they never did suggest an alternative. “I really like catsup a lot” just didn’t fully capture my passionate feelings about catsup.

A lot of straight men have this same problem in romantic relationships as adults.

Because we only have the one word, “love,” to describe such a wide range of feelings, and because, like my parents, we are socialized to equate love with marriage, many straight couples get stuck in a bit of a standoff about who is going to use the word first. Women are socialized to believe that marriage is something that women want and men don’t, so they hesitate to say “I love you” for fear that their partner will hear this as a marriage proposal and run for the hills. Men are similarly socialized to believe that marriage is something that they won’t like and should avoid for as long as possible. Men hesitate to use the words “I love you” for fear of giving the impression that it is only a matter of time before the ring follows.

Feminist theory offers men and women a way out of this bind.

This approach immediately lets men off the hook. Men don’t have to struggle in isolation, trying on their own to figure out the right word to describe how they feel about their partner. Love is an experience that is shared between two people. Whatever any man is feeling is just his own version of what two people in a relationship both feel. The two of them have to work together to figure out the right words to describe how they feel.

From a relational perspective, it is only through intimate relationships that we become most fully ourselves. Everyone has within them the potential for the full range of emotional experience. We are all capable of feeling everything, but that potential only comes fully alive in relationships. For example, I might think of myself as a person who does not get angry. No matter what the circumstances, I pride myself on never getting angry. However, if my wife announces one day that she’s in love with another man, and is taking the children and moving to Alaska to be with him, I will hopefully discover that I actually do have the capacity to feel anger, just like everyone else does

So it is with love.

This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

Written by

We're having a conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century. Main site is https://goodmenproject.com Email us info@goodmenproject.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store