That Strange Madness
November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
Written in November 2006
“I love you.”
Those three words terrify me. I use them only sparingly at first, with utmost care; once said several times, the phrase loses its potency and becomes a comfort, a soft whiff of warmth on the breeze of breath.
I love you.
Powerful words for a powerful state. I wouldn’t call it an emotion – it’s more of a deep psychological drive, too complex to be mere feeling. Some say it readily, caught in the rush of passion mingled with intimacy, that high of infatuation; I don’t trust an early “I love you”. It’s too quick. Too easy. Too little thought. You can’t know yet, I say, agonized sometimes because I feel it too but I know it could just be hormones and the in-love high. Don’t say it. Not yet.
I love you.
I bite back the words for the first months of a relationship. I love you means commitment; I love you means there’s no turning back. Once I admit it, I can’t stop it. Once I say it, I’m open; I’m vulnerable; I’ve given over a part of myself. It’s dangerous. It’s difficult. It’s a rush.
But I have to make sure it’s not just infatuation. Have to make sure it’s going to last. Have to make sure I’m really willing to commit to it. So I wait, and probe at the feeling/state, and question it, and run it through a hundred analyzations, and wait some more – wait until I’m as certain as I can be. Until it batters against the cage of clenched teeth, tightens chest and throat and tongue with the strain of caging it, until I can’t restrain it any longer and it breaks free in a naked trembling revelation:
I love you.
That’s the process I go through with a romantic relationship, anyway. The courting, the circling, drawing near and shying away until I’m certain of safety.
There are other types of relationships too, though, and the only difference is the expression of love. I firmly maintain that there is only one kind of love, but that there are many different expressions of that love. To me, a romantic relationship is just a close friendship with sexual contact; there’s little emotional difference except in sociocultural conditioning and hormonal passion.
Maybe this way of looking at things is why it’s easy for me to be polyamorous. I love certain friends as deeply as any lover; I’d just never have sex with them. I’m as committed to them and have as intimate a connection with them as with a lover, but there’s little to no physical passion. And while physical passion is nice, and even desirable… it’s not high on my list of Necessary Things for a relationship.
So – I don’t make much of a distinction between close friend and lover. I do make some distinction, obviously; the phrase “I love you” comes into play more with lovers, and gets agonized over more – but that’s mostly because passion confuses the issue so much, and I have to make sure I’m not mistaking passion for complete, companionate love. I do not say “I love you” to friends, either – not in a serious, sincere manner, anyway – unless I am very close to them.
Here is the difference between “I care about you” and “I love you”. Caring is safer; loving is threatening. Love requires care, but care is not as complete as love. I can care about a person without committing to them; I can care deeply about a person without giving them access to the soft vulnerable parts beneath skin and shell and word-distance.
When I say I love you, I mean that I trust you. When I say I love you, I mean that I will stay as long as it is healthy, and likely a bit longer. When I say I love you, I mean that you may enter my dusty closets, touch my skeletons and scars, taste my shadows, hear my song and scream and taloned shriek.
I love you means I am laid bare and open and raw before you, a split carcass with the organs still beating within, and trust you not to consume me into nothing. Because to me, there is no love without trust; no relationship without closeness; no closeness without vulnerability.
I don’t stop loving. But I can lock it away, if you bite and cut and tear too hard. Love is honest, too; and love means I will hurt you if you need it. I love you does not make me a doormat; if this gift is abused, rejected, misused – it can be boxed up again, hidden in the wound you left and sealed within the scab. If you strike even the softest place enough times, it will callous and toughen and scar; there is no need for that. I have enough armor to protect the places between skin and soul.
This is what I love you means to me. It is as much a burden as it is a gift.