It was cold, one of the first really cold nights of the year, and we were on our way home from a party. We were arguing – not fighting – about my incessant need to check on his well-being. I asked if he was okay, probably for the 18th time that day, because I worry about my people. That’s how things in my family had always worked. If you shut a cabinet too loudly or sighed too heavily, someone would be there to ask what was wrong. We read into actions and body language… a lot. Sure we’re obnoxious, but we care. My boyfriend had yet fully to understand this family characteristic.
“Why do you worry so much if I’m okay?” he asked. As the absurdity of the question (and a bit of the alcohol) began to wash over me, I realized I was already speaking.
“Because I love you!” I said, as if it was something he should have already known. Then I heard the words bounce around the car. What had I done? We said we were going to take this slow and I just said “I love you” after a few months. Then it started happening again. I was talking.
“Well I mean I don’t love you. I just care about you, a lot… ” WHAT IN GOD’S NAME AM I DOING?! Did I just take it back? You can’t just take that back. Also, why am I being such a bumbling child? This is like a bad movie and it’s only getting worse. I’d always prided myself on not being thrown by the dynamics of love and dating. I’d never feared being the one to go in for the kiss and frequently ignored the rules about who-texts-who and after-how-long. I was cool. I was confident. I was not the kind of person who has a Rom-Com I Love You moment… but then I did. We did.
The next morning I told him I was sorry. I apologized for taking it back. I wasn’t sorry for saying it because I had meant what I said. That much I knew. It came out like that because it was the obvious answer. I had felt it bubbling up in my chest for days and it was time to let myself feel it. My past relationships had all been with men I met through mutual friends, and our first dates usually consisted of a house party and a make-out session on someone’s old sofa. The “I Love You” was never really a moment; it would just fade in at some point. We meant it when we said it – and it might have even been introduced with care and planning on someone else’s part – but there was always the lingering feeling that we’d also just arrived at a point where it was supposed to be said, whether we felt it or not.
So maybe it was too soon, but I spoke my truth and doesn’t that mean it couldn’t be too soon? In the year that’s followed our foolish “I Love You“ moment, I’ve learned that the embarrassing, word-vomiting expression of my feelings was exactly the memory I wanted. And the memories I would continue to want.
I was done with being the cool girl in the relationship; the one who said it back only when she knew she’d locked him in. I had spent the last six years playing the role of the laidback, sexy and indestructible girl and I was done. I’d been done. I wanted to be vulnerable. I wanted to drink a couple beers and say exactly what I felt without the fear of waking up with an emotional hangover. I wanted to wear my heart – and my mental health, fears and insecurities – on my sleeve.
I wanted to say “I Love You” a little too soon. I wanted to love someone without the knowledge of being loved back. I wanted to let myself express my feelings so they could felt, not because I needed them validated.
Vulnerability isn’t always cinematically beautiful; sometimes it feels a little like you’re the star in a soul-crushingly awkward movie. But when you express your love for someone with honest, imperfect humanity, you open the door for relationship of two, unhidden selves. You open the door to something authentically beautiful.
*(Arguing is what to passionate and stubborn people do when expressing different viewpoints or opinions. It’s usually productive, if not at least fair. Fighting is angry and destructive.)
Author: Abigail Hofrichter
Author Bio: Abigail is a social media marketer, writer, freelance photographer, and indoor cycle instructor. Most of her writing can be found on her mental health and self-acceptance-focused website, Tallulahish.com. Tallulahish is a space that was created in the hopes of inspiring all people to own their stories through sharing and conversation. On the site, Abigail explores the topics of mental health, eating disorders, feminism and much more.
Link to social media or website: http://tallulahish.com | Twitter @abigaillhoff | Instagram @ahofri