I love you: two nouns and one verb, three words, a daring phrase. It attempts to express one of the deepest emotions ever known to man. It’s layered with vulnerability, void of egotism, and raw in human truth. To say “I love you” is to speak a challenge to practice love as an action and give unconditionally to family, friends, partners, and lovers. But without reciprocity as a given, we often struggle to tell all of the people who influence our lives and inspire our hearts that yes, we love them. When it comes to lovers with whom we have no “official” relationship, saying, “I love you,” often feels like a guaranteed way to commit emotional suicide. But is it really? Or just another defense mechanism that’s developed into a human shortcoming?

When there’s no “security” in any human relationship, we often hold back from giving our whole selves to certain individuals as protection from potential heartbreak. But as love continues to prove that there are very few rules, it’s a wonder that many of us still get caught up in the politics of when and how to express positive love instead of allowing it to flow freely and in truth.

Of course, love has many different manifestations and can apply numerous human relationships. Romantic love is not even a fixed definition or entity. But most of us know love when we feel it, and we react by succumbing to the urge to box it, suppress it, and control it.

It’s the ego that tells us that love has to come in a certain prototype, neatly packaged to fit our fantasies. If he’s not a soon-to-be husband or boyfriend, he isn’t worth our love, affection, or confession. If she’s not our soon-to-be girlfriend, she isn’t worthy of the courage for us to be raw with our feelings and emotions that indicate that love has taken a presence in our lives. If it hasn’t been six months or a year, we refuse to let the phrase slide off our lips. We rather not express our emotions. We put on our poker faces and entertain denial.

Human beings have been trying for centuries, and we still have failed to rationalize or understand love. It’s never served us to set our hearts and minds up for battle against each other. By always trying to intellectualize love instead of just feeling it, we have built all this hype and pressure around one of the sweetest human actions: saying what you’re doing anyway. You are loving. There’s no need to feed your fears.

As always, words are choices. And it is best to use them wisely. But if love is one of the saving graces of humanity and backbone of any healthy human connection, why do we hesitate to introduce it as a phrase to our lovers that don’t fit traditional relationship models?

Do you need to be in a relationship to feel comfortable enough to tell a lover that you love them even if you already feel it? Or are you one to say what’s on your heart regardless of a relationship status? Speak on it.

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