Why It'S So Hard To Say I Love You

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Luscombe is an editor-at-large at cunhanlienket.com và the author of Marriageology: The Art và Science of Staying Together.

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I Love You is the title of at least 47 songs, 15 albums và 13 movies in the English-language canon. We say & hear it all the cunhanlienket.com — even if it isn’t directed at anyone in particular. The phrase, or a version thereof, adorns items as tiny as guitar picks và large as bags of dog kibble. And we get so cđại bại lớn saying it so often! We love sầu Rihanna và Ruth Bader Ginsburg và even Vin Diesel. So much. Yet when it comes lớn actually speaking the words out loud, khổng lồ another person, whose face we can actually see, people can get squeamish.


Why is that? cunhanlienket.com put the question khổng lồ some therapists that we — well, that some might say we like very, very much. Here are some of their theories, & their advice.


Because it really is complicated nowadays

Psychologists have sầu observed that modern relationships vì not follow the maps that used khổng lồ help people guide their way to lớn commitment. People used to lớn meet, go out on a few dates, decide not khổng lồ date anyone else, learn to lớn trust each other, fall in love sầu, say Those Three Words & then either officially partner up & maybe marry, or break up và fall into a deep funk before starting the process all over again. The relationships were more or less linear.

Now, ambiguity is the thing. As a result, people aren’t sure what their relationships are, let alone whether they will last. Maybe you hang out with someone, và perhaps you hook up with them a couple of cunhanlienket.coms, but you don’t want lớn put a name on it — and there are reasons for this. “I think the ambiguity is motivated,” says Scott Stanley, a retìm kiếm professor in Psychology at the University of Denver. “Simply put, If I don’t make it really clear what I want, I cannot be rejected as deeply. Ambiguity feels protective.” He points khổng lồ the rise in cohabitation as the ground zero ambiguous relationship: Hey, we’re planning a future together, but that future could be temporary.

Uncertainty makes people feel vulnerable, but it also gives them power. According to the mating theory known as the principle of least interest, the person who expresses more ambivalence about the relationship has the most power, because it means the other person has to be the one who does the pursuing.

Once someone has said I love sầu you, they can’t unsay it. They’ve sầu made a declaration as to lớn what camp they’re in, whether their love interest feels the same way or not. For some folks, it feels lượt thích diving off the high board, naked, in front of the entire school (or office). Maybe it leads to glory, maybe you belly-flop.

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Because of the ’80s

You can say I love you at any age to lớn any friend/parent/child/pet, but the classic ILY is to lớn a lover. Some psychologists believe that this generation’s belief in that particular relationship has been rocked because their parents were aý muốn the generation with the highest rate of divorce, which peaked in the mid-’80s in the U.S. They don’t want khổng lồ go through that trauma again, và they may be still dealing with its emotional aftermath. Plus, they may question their feelings. “People find it more difficult to recognize the signs of a healthy relationship,” says Victor Harris, associate professor of Family, Youth & Community Sciences at the University of Florida, because they haven’t seen so many around them. “They don’t have a sense of the red flags they ought lớn be watching out for.”


Partly to inoculate themselves against a relationship going sour, couples are marrying later (28 for women và 30 for men in the U.S.), living together first and using algorithms lớn increase their chances of finding The Right One. And to provide a bulwark against the ill effects of a breakup, they’re showing more interest in prenups, investing in education và working long hours to lớn make sure they can be independent.

Saying I love you lớn someone is throwing such caution to lớn the winds. It’s committing to something that might not work out in the long run. A new, non-peer-reviewed but plausible study from homes.com suggests that about a third of people between 26 and 40 who are living with their parents are doing so because of love gone wrong. (An earlier study from the Max Planông chồng institute also hinted at this.) For these folks, a declaration of love can seem more lượt thích diving off a high bridge, when you’re not sure what’s in the water below.

Because of 30-day returns

All right, maybe not exactly because of 30-day returns, but because of the indecision that makes that practice necessary — và also encourages it. There’s a theory of consumer behavior known as “choice overload,” which suggests that when people have sầu too much choice, the mental effort required lớn select the exact right option is so great, that they shy away from it altogether. People who are seeking mates in the current era are presented with so many options, the FOMO can be chronic. What if you commit lớn Gregory Peck and then Cary Grant swipes right? (Look ’em up, younglings!)

People don’t want to choose wrong, so they delay making any decision. Saying I love you to one potential mate means you cannot say it to lớn another. (Or if you do, you’ve sầu misunderstood the terms of the giảm giá.) “There is no decision without loss,” says psychologist Srã Tatkin, author of We Do: Saying Yes to lớn a Relationship of Depth, True Connection và Enduring Love. “When you declare something about yourself to lớn the other person, it makes real. It has somatic effect. It’s who you are.” This one is lượt thích not being able khổng lồ decide which is the best diving spot, so you never dive sầu at all.


Because of the I love over-you-ser

There’s always that one exception, the person who says I love you on the third date, or all the cunhanlienket.com, or khổng lồ everyone. The person who says it when they can’t possibly mean it, right? Then there’s the one who turns around and behaves in a way that suggests the complete opposite. “Be very very afraid of that person,” says Tatkin. If people encounter such a person in a partner, sibling, parent or frikết thúc, it can make them allergic lớn those words. Just as parents can’t name their child after someone they hated at school, nobody wants lớn be associated with a phrase that once brought them pain, fear, repulsion or some combination of the three. This is like deciding not lớn dive because you have sầu a morbid fear of water.

Because we haven’t listened to lớn this advice

If you’re having trouble saying I love sầu you, there are some workarounds. “Well, you can go into analysis for trăng tròn years,” jokes Tatkin, “or you can just say it.” The key, say therapists, is lớn tell someone you love sầu them without needing a particular response from them, but just because it’s true. You’re making a statement about yourself and your feelings, và that has benefits purely in terms of identity and emotional health. “Every cunhanlienket.com you you strengthen your sense of self,” says Tatkin. “That’s what people don’t understvà.”

It also helps khổng lồ realize that humans have a need to lớn love sầu, therapists say, & to avoid meeting that need is lớn eliminate a key part of your humanity. Homo sapiens are herd animals who pair bond. So while it’s risky & dangerous khổng lồ trust someone with such information (see: principle of least interest, above), it’s also one of the most exhilarating parts of belonging lớn the species.

“Just be honest and open,” says Harris. “Say ‘This is how I feel; you may not be there yet,’ và if you can trust that that person will safeguard your feelings, that’s a good thing.” There are limits, though. Don’t waste it. Don’t say it lớn get someone to lớn sleep with you or lớn ward someone off from another suitor. Make sure it’s earned.


It might also help to know that studies have sầu shown that men usually say I love you in a relationship before women bởi vì, & prefer khổng lồ hear it before they have sầu sex. Women are more circumspect, preferring khổng lồ hear it said after the couple first has sex, “which more reflects women’s natural và smart response to lớn be more cautious in committing to lớn a specific man until really having sized hyên up,” says Stanley. “Women can still lose a lot more than men in making a bad choice.”

But once you jump, you’ll find your way through — và eventually baông chồng khổng lồ land. If you simply can’t get the words out, you could always use the method attempted by the young man in British novedanh mục Anthony Burgess’ fictional musical comedy Say it, Cecil. Every cunhanlienket.com he told someone he loved them, a natural disaster broke out. So he tricked fate by working up khổng lồ it: “Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Isle of Capri, Isle of You.”