Steven Keehner is a junior majoring in journalism and history.
No string of words in the English language are more convoluted than “I love you.”
Even when typing out such a simple phrase, I feel there is a significance that raises the stakes of what I am writing. For too long, we have forgotten that love is meant to be shared with others. It is not something reserved only for partners, nor does it have to only be used in a romantic connotation.
The oversaturation of love has been diluted to a form where many (especially a lot of men) believe it is weird to even internalize it, much less say it out loud. But why should we rob ourselves of the human feeling most universally felt?
Much of this stems from the representation we see of it; turn on the Hallmark Channel or look at the big Hollywood blockbusters and you will understand that in our cisgender-heterosexual-dominated industries, concepts like love are often simplified to make them more palatable.
The stupid guy falls in love with a girl too smart for him. Yet, despite the odds, true love prevails and everyone wins. I can guarantee that everyone has consumed something similar to this.
The simplification comes from thinking that love is a one-time uphill climb: that once you have found it, you can’t fall in love ever again, because you have found it.
Not to say that our entire collective misunderstanding of love stems from the media alone, but it does play a big role.
So, what the hell is love then?
To me, it is more of a state of being instead of an active feeling that comes and goes. The best thing I can compare it to is a pie.
Yes, I really am comparing love to pie, but hear me out! You can make a pie a million different ways. It can be sweet with apples and cinnamon, or bold with chicken and vegetables, but ultimately it is still its namesake.
Here is one example: I am terrible at communicating with my friends. I struggle to turn off my “work mode” to focus on them. But despite this, there is a mutual understanding that if any one of us needed the other, we would be there. Always.
That love is trust, understanding and patience, among others.
My mom is another example: even when I have hit my lowest point, I know she will do anything to ensure my well-being. To say I am cut from her cloth would be an understatement; she is my best friend.
Both cases are completely different. But it is still the same feeling. It may not be equal, and it definitely checks different boxes, but that is fine.
Those two examples are just some of many for me. But love is what you want it to be. It does not exist on one end of a spectrum with hate on the other end.
So, now you can start saying the words aloud! If you are not comfortable saying those exact words for whatever reason, that is okay, too!
Even just an “I appreciate you,” or an, “I’m glad you’re in my life,” or a simple, “Thank you for being you” goes a tremendous way. Love does not need to even be expressed using the word itself; like I said before, it is a state of being.
Maybe you are not one to convey expressions vocally. That is fine. Gifts, acts of kindness or even your presence are some ways to let someone know you are there for them. Often, the effort made is the difference that people want instead of the actual thing you would be doing for them.
So, for those struggling to find love romantically, do not let that deprive you from feeling it at all. Expand your horizons and your heart will find its way.
Who knows? Maybe that affection has been in front of you the entire time.