In the lead up to Valentine’s day, on the podcast we discuss saying ‘I love you’ and how it can be done consensually.
In wider culture it’s generally assumed that if somebody feels love they should say ‘I love you’ without thought of the potential impact, it’s regarded as a bigger deal than expressing other feelings towards somebody, there is pressure to say it by a certain point in a relationship, it’s seen as romantic to surprise somebody with these words (e.g. in an anonymous Valentine), and if one person says it the other person is expected to say it back.
None of this is very consensual to ourselves or others.
We might think of love more as an action than a feeling – as bell hooks suggests – and instead of focusing on naming the feeling we could consider what might demonstrate love most to a person. If they don’t reciprocate that feeling then this may be more about what we don’t do than what we do. We also need to speak in their love language – finding out what feels loving to them rather than doing what we assume they will like.
If we tune into our feelings in a consensual way we might find that there are others which are as – or even more – meaningful to express than love, such as gratitude, appreciation, fondness, excitement, heat, safety.
We can take the pressure off ‘I love you’ by doing it differently. We give examples of partners saying ‘I think I love you a little bit’, or saying ‘I love you’ from different parts of themselves at the different moments when those parts felt that way.
Going back to the idea we often talk about where there are many different kinds of love we can take the focus off romantic partners, recognising that we can experience micro-moments of love with lots of people. Perhaps love is any moment of profound connection where the sense of a split between ourself and the other person drops away for a minute. How might we cultivate such moments in relationships? How might we celebrate all kinds of love – consensually – on Valentine’s day?
©Meg-John Barker & Justin Hancock, 2019