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Saying 'I love you'

February 24, 2009|By BARB KENNEDY / Pulse Correspondent

So you said, "I love you."

The problem is, did you mean it?

Many teenagers today think they do, but usually it's not really love. For some reason, those three previously almost-sacred words are now tossed about by young teenagers who think they really are in love. Puppy love, maybe. But real love? Think again, ladies and gents!

It's becoming rapidly apparent that they aren't really thinking before the words cross their lips. It's turned into the thing to say that means "Oh, by the way, I really like you."

That's not how it works. You can't meet someone, date for a little while (and yes, a one or two months is still only a little while) and then say "I love you" when the chances are you don't really love that person. Given, there are cases that may prove me wrong but as far as I've seen, I'm right.

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Roughly three or four months ago, I watched it happen with a friend of mine. It's what sparked my interest in the subject. She was asked out by a boy. They dated for exactly five days and during that five days he told her that he was in love with her. He also told her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her and that he felt so utterly connected to her.

I'm sorry, but I laughed. They met Monday. They started dating Tuesday. She'd broken up with him by the beginning of the following week, and then he went on about how much he loved her. Seriously, people. How can you fall in love with someone that quickly?

I've been close to her for barely a year and I can still only tell you so much about the girl. What's five days mean compared with seven months of note-writing in class?

Think about it. How much do you honestly know about this person? What's his or her middle name? Favorite pizza topping? Favorite color? Biggest pet-peeve? Who does he or she consider to be their "BFF"?

Even I have seen friends go through relationships, date for a few months and still only be able to tell me things so basic that even I knew. And I probably didn't have had any real contact with the person, you know?

I think that part of loving someone is knowing them intimately; like skeletons in their closet, things they've done that they aren't proud of, their dirty laundry - that stuff. Loving someone means you know the good side and the really bad but stick around anyway because he means that much to you.

It's crazy to think about. I recently asked several friends about what love means to them. The general consensus is that love is a strong feeling of caring and although that is true, that's not all there is to it.

Chelsea Betts, a junior at Martinsburg High School, says, "It means that you care and would give anything to a person to make them happy. You could see yourself with them for a long time or your life."

Notice the second thing she said?

I really am trying to understand how preteens and teenagers can date for a week, say I love you and then break up the following week. Most middle school-goers who say "I love you" to boyfriends and girlfriends only last for a couple of weeks, days or maybe a month or two. Then they break up like they never cared about each other at all.

How can that be possible? Love doesn't just fade like that. You don't just toss it away once the person bores you, ticks you off or you decide you're done with it. Love isn't a temporary thing. For one, it doesn't grow over night.

And another thing. Many boys - not to be sexist, gentleman, merely stating a fact - will say I love you because they want the girl to progress further physically in the relationship.

So how do we know that when he whispers, "I love you," she's not just saying it back because she's swept up in a romantic moment?

And what if the boy only repeats it back because she said it first and he's afraid of the "evil-girlfriend-might-hurt-me-for-not-loving-her, too" thing? How does either party know that they really love each other?

So I'm going to say it: Love is abused by teenagers; so very violently, horribly abused.

Don't get me wrong. I know couples who said I love you just a tad early and are still going strong even now. I also asked a couple people this question: When do you consider yourself to be in love? And what made you sure enough to say it? One answer I got came from Jessica Smith, a freshman at Martinsburg High School.

"Well, when I feel like I can be myself, without being afraid of him not loving me or thinking I'm weird," she said. "I knew he loved me too. That was all I need. I had strong feelings for him when I first met him."

Now, because she told me that they both consensually said "I love you" only two weeks into the relationship, I asked her if she regretted it. Her response was simple: "No. I don't regret it. Because I meant it."

Still, the relationship is young and I'm a natural skeptic with such things. Maybe in a few months, I'll believe, it but still. I don't see how you can date for two weeks and know love like she claims so quickly. But I could be wrong.

To wrap up, teenagers today don't seem to really know what love is. When questioned, Merissa Dean, another junior at MHS, says, "I think you're right. Because most people shouldn't be saying it, 'cause they don't really understand it."

That's probably true. So please, everyone, think twice before you say it - you might find that you don't love them at all.

Barb Kennedy is a freshman at Martinsburg High School in Martinsburg, W.Va. She believes that "I love you," should be only said when teens mean it.

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