Saying, "I love you," in the romantic sense puts a person in the most vulnerable, beautiful and frightening of situations. It is so petrifying because despite wanting, needing and learning to love our entire lives, we can never be sure what love really is.
We grew up watching movies where boys grabbed girls' faces, looked into their eyes, confessed their love and then kissed. Our hearts proceeded to melt and hoped to someday find somebody like that.
As we try to find our happy endings, we sometimes come across relationships that mimic love. They look like it, feel like it and sound like it, but eventually, we realize they are not love.
With a horrendous tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, I have given countless I love yous for all of the wrong reasons. We may never know exactly what love is, but after our trials and errors, we become aware of what love is not.
Here is what love is not:
Love is not an obligation
In one long-distance relationship, I half-jokingly compared communicating with my boyfriend to doing my laundry: It was rarely a substantial part of my day, I would always put it off and I deemed other things more important, so I did them first.
Still, I knew it had to be done and I would be at ease once it was done with. I thought love was an everyday obligation.
Though love is a responsibility, it is one we take on by choice. Relationships are hard work and the love that comes from them forms after emotionally investing oneself in a partnership. Being in love requires a type of effort that couples sincerely want to exert.
Rather than comparing a relationship to doing a chore, a strong relationship should be like a really good workout: challenging, bordering on difficult, but incredibly satisfying. Love is not a waste of time, but rather, an investment of time.
Love is not a noun
Love is a verb. I have said "I love you" a million too many times, and yet, I have not been truly, authentically in love. Why is that? Because I have yet to truly give and receive more than words when expressing what I thought were accurate feelings.
Love is not talking the talk; it is being able to act in a way that supports our claims of adoration. Words mean nothing if they are not accompanied by gestures that validate them. You cannot simply speak love; you must show it, too.
Without loving actions, it is nothing but another four-letter word.
Love is not babysitting
If our significant others see us as people who are supposed to put our lives on hold for the sake of improving theirs, then it is not love, it is being taken for granted.
We are so sold on the notion that being in love means our partner's happiness is our own, that we may sacrifice our own happiness in order to ensure our partner is satisfied.
But, that notion is not a one-way street. If we are not receiving the same support and care from our significant others, then we become unpaid babysitters -- not worth it.
Love is not a cakewalk
Thinking that a solid relationship consists of zero arguments is a common misconception because we hate ugly things and the idea of hurting and being hurt.
But, how can we use such strong words like love if we are unable to speak other strong words to our partners? There should be a visit to the other side of the spectrum of emotions in a relationship in order to maintain balance.
Arguments may make us crash and burn, but fighting gives relationships the chance to rise like phoenixes and be stronger than in their previous form.
Love is not a battlefield
Sorry, Pat Benatar, but I am calling bullsh*t on this notion. Our romantic relationships should never be comparable to a war zone. The metaphorical battle scars we acquire over the course of a relationship should be able to heal before a new relationship.
Sometimes, we think arguing is the only way to get across to a significant other. But, love is not yelling at your partner, it is your partner hearing you. The moment we compare a relationship to a creator of casualties, it's time to surrender.
We should not regret our past I love yous, but we should learn from them. The more we learn about what love is not, the closer we come to understanding what love is.