Oh, society. We are wimping out hardcore. Despite a heretofore unknown squishy comfort with phrases like “Go fuck yourself” and “Eat shit and die,” adults have resorted to whimpering like wounded puppies, cowering in a corner until finally faced with an ultimatum, or downgrading our full-fledged feelings to semi-sardonic backhanded compliments in our interactions with other humans. And this isn’t just in romantic relationships, although that’s where it’s the worst — even sometimes with married couples who you’d expect to be over this sort of thing.
This situation is so dire — with Valentine’s Day, DAY OF LOVE, right around the corner — that the Wall Street Journal spent more than 1,000 words telling us how hard those three little you-know-whats are, and why, and even giving us tools to fix the problem. Did you know that if you “pretend you’re a child” that can help?
Other tactics involve asking others to say it back to you, showing-not-telling (put a sticker on your beloved’s blouse that says “You’re Special!”), and finding other words (wait, isn’t that what we’re sort of doing already? I <3 you?).
When in doubt, blame technology:
Technology doesn’t help, even as it keeps us hyper-connected. We email, text or tweet in as few words as possible, many of which we don’t even bother to spell out. And without eye contact, or even full sentences, it’s hard to express our true feelings.
Except that’s bullshit. “I love you” is well under the 140 character limit, and who has time for eye contact or longing glances nowadays? But, seriously, you can certainly love from afar, and even online. The reasons you don’t say “I love you” aren’t because of Facebook. They’re simpler than that (and ultimately far more complicated).
1. You’re afraid. Or as the expert the Journal spoke to put it:
“It can be terrifying because you’re showing that you need this person, and they may fail you,” says Diana Kirschner, author of the book Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor’s Guide to Lasting Love and a psychologist in New York.
Even if all goes well, there will be consequences. Consequences, good or bad, are scary.
2. You don’t actually know. And maybe you don’t even know what “love” is.
3. You are married or in a relationship in which you do love the other person, but you just don’t say it because it’s too mushy or annoying or whatever, or it’s never been part of your “thing.”
4. You don’t actually love the person you’re dating. Or maybe you don’t love anyone. That’s cool.
But imagine a world in which the L-word was more common than the F-bomb. Utopia, no? Maybe? If you think so, we suggest starting with people you do know you love. My last times were over the weekend, and they involved my mom and a very close friend, separately of course. With practice it grows easier. Take a cue from this dog: