What does “I love you” really mean? : Sex & London City

Love is one of the great mysteries of life. Or so we’re told. It’s that one ineffable thing in life that none of us can explain. It’s entirely tacit. The moment you start attempting to describe it, you end up tying yourself in knots. Human language isn’t sufficient to encapsulate the concept. In that way, it has a kind of divine nature.

But is this analysis accurate? Will love permanently elude the attempts of the intellect to tame it? Or is it something concrete and tractable we can understand?

Why is love seen as so incomprehensible?

Before we look at what it means to say the words “I love you,” it’s worth thinking about the motivations of those who continue to muddy the metaphysical waters and attach endless mysteries to the concept. What’s in it for them?

Well, part of it is surely the longing for the divine. We want to believe that there are aspects of our existence that go beyond the mere material and drab. Love is so elating we feel elevated above the humdrum of material reality when we experience it. It feels like an escape.

Another part of it is deliberate misdirection from people who want to define love in their own terms for personal gain. Think of the person who says, “I am only beating you because I love you.” Or “I am only punishing you because it’s what’s best for you.” This kind of muddying is deliberate. It’s about avoiding the truth of what love actually is.

What do those three little words actually mean?

The other problem with love, of course, is the sheer complexity of the subject. It’s hard to get a handle on something when the basic reality that underlies the phenomena is so poorly understood. Nobody understands consciousness or where it comes from. Nobody can explain subjectivity. So how the heck can a definition of love find a rigorous basis? 

The interesting thing is that we all know love when we see it. It’s getting Valentine’s flower delivery for your partner or helping somebody up after a fall. It’s listening to problems or selflessly giving yourself to another person.

Perhaps the best way to understand the phrase “I love you” is in philosophical terms. It’s what you feel when you can’t help admire the goodness in somebody else. It’s that sense that you’ve found something special – something incredible – somebody that will guarantee that you’ll grow a person. 

Telling somebody you love them is akin to saying, “you fulfil the values I hold dearest.” 

Notice how this definition of love isn’t about what you get out of a situation. People say that they love chocolate cake. But do they really? Or is it more of a pleasure-seeking activity. It doesn’t make them better. It doesn’t offer any virtue. So what is it? 

The same goes for sex. By itself, it’s not sufficient for love. Random pumping and squirting is fun and enjoyable. But at root, it’s a passing fancy. It doesn’t have the ethical clout that love has. It’s about pleasures, not virtues. Life needs both. 

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