Your Heart

Telling Someone You Love Them Is The Most Selfish Thing You Can Do

By February 1, 2016 1

Telling some you love them is really fucking selfish.

Wait, what?

How could it be selfish to tell someone how you feel about them? How could being in love with another human being, and saying it out loud with the risk of them not saying it back, possibly be self-serving?

Because when you tell someone you love them, it’s not just about you anymore.

Once you tell someone how you feel, the burden of your love suddenly belongs to both of you. Recently, Candace made an argument for the importance of saying I love you, out loud, to the people we love as soon as we realize we love them.

It’s a nice sentiment, and one I can respect, but I don’t think we should ever “exact what we feel minute by minute, uninhibited by the opinions and thoughts of others.” In fact, I think we should do everyone a favor and keep our feelings to ourselves and our mouths shut until we are 100%, irreversibly sure about them.

Because, the reality is, people say “I love you” at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons. 

I once had a boyfriend show up at a bar, long after we’d broken up and knowing full well that I was very happily dating someone else, to tell me he had “realized he was in love with me.” He was too late.

Another time, not long before that, a guy I was seeing told me he loved me so I would (finally) give in and have sex with him. Less than a week later, I found out he had a whole other girlfriend who thought he “loved” her too.

And the worst one of all was when a guy I had just broken up with wrote it to me in a letter — he’d never said it out loud when we were dating — as a last ditch effort to get me back.

All of these guys didn’t tell me they loved me because they meant it — they told me because they wanted something. Whether it was sex or forgiveness or another chance, every single one of them did it for self-serving reasons.

Maybe they even did love me, or at least they thought they did when they said it, but what was the point of them telling me about it? All it did, every time, was hurt me.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not some cold-hearted person who doesn’t believe in love or is incapable of feeling it. I’ve been in love (one time, when I was 14, but it still counts) and every now and then in my adult life I get pangs of “I-think-things-are-maybe-possibly-headed-in-that-direction.” But there is no way in HELL I am going to say it to someone until I am absolutely, positively sure — until I am so bursting at the seams to say it it just spills out at an inopportune moment (like during sex or over brunch with his parents) and I am ready to commit to its full meaning.

Because  “I love you” isn’t just something you throw around.

It’s not something you use as a  bargaining chip or to make someone love you back. It’s not something you say because “we’ve been dating for 6-months and it just seems weird that we haven’t said it yet.”

Once you’ve said it out loud, once you’ve put those feelings onto another person, it’s a promise. It’s an “I’m going to stick with you when  things inevitably get hard,” and an “I’m going to put your happiness in front of my own.”

And more than anything, it’s a “I’m going to do everything in my power not to hurt you.”

Until you’re ready to make those kinds of promises, don’t you dare say it out loud. Because if you don’t mean it — if you aren’t going to stick with them, and do everything in your power not to hurt them — it’s inevitably going to make the pain hurt that much more when things don’t work out.

When I was younger, and AIM away messages were still a thing, mine was constantly this quote, from a movie I’d never seen, about what love is supposed to be:

“Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. If you don’t start with that, what are you going to end up with? Fall head over heels. I say find someone you can love like crazy and who’ll love you the same way back. And how do you find him? Forget your head and listen to your heart.” 

In theory, that sounds great — the idea of falling trulymadlydeeply in love, with no reason or logic, is what the multi-million dollar romcom industry is built on and exactly what 13-year-old me thought love was supposed to look like. But it’s not realistic.

Because love without thought is reckless.

Loving with your heart and not your head isn’t just stupid (and yes, I do think it’s irreversibly STUPID), it’s dangerous.


  • Jeeves Jolicoeur

    I agree with you whole heartedly. To often the words “I love you” are used selfishly when love is anything but. To me, being in love and expressing it to someone, shouldn’t simply be a declaration but more so a call to action. It’s your mind, body, and souls call to action. Only when those three things synchronize should those words ever be uttered. Love is equal parts vulnerability, compassion, forgiveness, commitment, and insanity. It’s as you said a promise. A promise to take a leap of faith with someone who has moved you so intimately, so profoundly, that whatever the future holds, good or bad, your willing to experience it in its entirety with someone. It’s not even being able to contemplate hurting that person because their so intertwined with you (mind, body, & soul) that to hurt that person is to hurt and potentially kill a part of yourself. And though it sounds crazy to be fall so into someone else and expose so much vulnerability, the happiness and strength you feel with that person is almost enough to not even allow you a choice. But nonetheless it’s a choice that becomes inevitable because to deny it is to deny yourself. … at least to me lol