It’s easy to say the words, “I love you.” Much harder to actually love; to actually show up for someone, and support them, and accept them as they are.
My partner didn’t tell me he loved me until two years into our relationship. I wrote an article on it at the time. I wrote how even though those words were never exchanged between us, I never doubted the love.
Because I could see it, and I could feel it.
There was an I love you that time I sat in his car and cried because I knew I was going to have to quit my job, but I had no idea what I was going to do next. And he was strong for me. He supported me. He showed me that everything would not only be okay this way, but better.
There was an I love you when I awkwardly told him I hadn’t slept with anyone, and I needed time. He gave me the space I needed, without pressure, and without pushing. And he still gives me that space and that time today.
There was an I love you when we had only known each other a short while, and he chose to hop on a plane with me to Sri Lanka, and live and travel with me for the next 2 months. And there was an I love you a year later, when I had a dream about moving to Bali, shared it with him, and he didn’t laugh or think I was crazy. Instead, he chose to adventure with me.
There was an I love you every time he tried to understand me, the inner workings of my mind and the sensitive nature of my heart. Every time he unintentionally hurt me, and then did all he could to make it right again. Every time he said sorry, even when it wasn’t his sorry to say. And every time he forgave me for my own mistakes and flaws.
There was an I love you when he finally let me in. When he decided it was safe to show me all of him, to let down his guard, and be vulnerable. To show me he was just as soft and sensitive as me, but under the belief he needed to mask it. When he was on the verge of tears, and wanted them to come, but couldn’t quite get there. And he wasn’t trying to be brave the way a man is taught to be—he was being more courageous than he had maybe ever been.
There was an I love you when I thought we might be having a baby, and he told me he’d be thrilled if I was. Even though we were half way across the world from home, with no fixed address, no stable income, and not a fucking clue how to be parents.
There was an I love you when he told me he doesn’t care if I don’t want to get married, or if I do. When he told me he doesn’t care about a ring on each of our fingers, or if we find out we can’t get pregnant, or if we unexpectedly do. Because he told me he wants to be with me for the rest of his life. And while neither of us know what the future holds, and whether we will still be in love or even breathing tomorrow, he told me he cannot imagine the future without me in it.
There was an I love you every time I’ve been sick and he has brought me cups of water and nibbles of food and his gentle touch in bed. Every time I’ve been overwhelmed with stress and he has simmered me back down. Every time he has reached for my hand as we’ve crossed the road.
There was an I love you every time he has supported my dreams and wants and needs, and placed them ahead of his own. When he has made sacrifices to make sure I can continue moving forward on my soul path. When he has taken work he hasn’t really wanted to do, and given me space and time to create and grow. Every time he has challenged me to be better and to grow past the point of comfort.
Because this is what real love looks like.
It’s easy to say the words, “I love you.” Much harder to actually love.