My boyfriend and I don’t really say “I love you” to each other.
During the first couple of years in learning about each other, I thought that there was an order of things to model after. But instead of going down the “first comes love, then comes marriage” speedway, we took the scenic “first comes sharing snacks, then comes some awkward dance moves” route.
Respecting the fact that relationships require time and work, I would like to think that this detour has contributed to a mutual familiarity and understanding beyond words that has kept us together for nearly seven years. Still, I remember having done so much research on the subject, because “I love you” meant so much to me. In sharing with others in longer relationships — including my parents, married for 39 years — I was able to realize that relationship advice isn’t relationship gospel, that one size daren’t fit all, and that words mean everything as much as they don’t.
Recently, I learned about the neural phenomenon of semantic satiation. A concept of study since the early 20th century, it was defined in 1962 by psychologist Leon James as the temporary inability to process the meaning of a word after hearing or reading it multiple times in succession.
It really got me thinking. There are plenty of words that I myself overuse or hear overused in conversation — “love”,”hate”, “ridiculous”, “crazy”. There are surely better words to use that aren’t completely expunged of meaning and turned into mere intensifiers.
But if all words have a tendency to lose their meaning, exactly whose fault is it? Our brains for letting it happen, the words merely for existing, or one’s intention? Is it even that big of a deal?
Are you confused yet? Welcome to my world.
I just need to shut up sometimes. We all do. We need to read more, write more, learn, and listen. Turn off our brains for a second and not force or rush through a moment. You know, the simple stuff that’s not at all simple. Then maybe we can finally know what it means to understand and love each other.
All I know is that when I hugged my boyfriend this morning after learning we’ll soon be proud parents of the SNES Classic, he held onto me just a little bit longer — and that was all the “I love you” I needed.