“I love you” does not mean what most teenagers (and even a lot of adults) seem to think it means.
But it was nearly a year before I said it for the first time, because something was different.
But looking back, even a year in, I did not know what “I love you” really meant.
My nephew has had a couple short-lived relationships since he’s lived in my town. He’s a teenager, dating teenagers.
And both girls, by the second day of the relationship or so, started posting “I Love You” all over his Facebook page. That’s all they can say, it seems, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Why is that? Is it because more and more families are splitting up? Is it because this generation of parents are still so immature that they don’t know the meaning of “love” themselves?
I think that it’s a combination of a few things. One, teenagers want to grow up much, much too fast, because that is the way our culture is trending. Kids have smart phones at the age of 7. They want all the grown-up toys, they don’t want to play outside.
Combine that with all they see about adulthood when it comes to relationships. Single and divorced parents means they see their parents (many of whom are immature themselves) dating, looking for love, sleeping with different people all the time, and saying “I love you” before breaking it off over a stupid fight.
Oh, and also, everything on TV and in movies.
It’s not that they want to live the same way, but it’s all they know. There are very few role models when it comes to love and marriage these days. I mean, think about it, how many couples do you know that were virgins when they got married?
I can only think of one off hand, and most of our friends are Christians! I’m not trying to judge anyone, I’m just saying, this is the path we’ve chosen as a society and now we are reaping the “rewards.”
We are setting bad, bad examples for our children.
What I want my future children to know as they start getting interested in the opposite sex, that the word “love” is not something to be spoken lightly. Love is a powerful thing. Love is something that develops. Love is not a feeling. Love is an action.
When a relationship is new, especially for teenagers, you get warm fuzzy feelings all over. You get happy jitters when they walk in the room. You get shivers when they grasp your hand.
Those are nice things, but that is not love. That is happiness.
Love is grown from devotion. Love is grown from experience. Love is grown from time.
Love is not grown from jealousy. Love is not grown from romance. Love is not grown from sex.
Wait! Did you process that last one? Let’s list it again. LOVE IS NOT GROWN FROM SEX!
If you start saying “I love you” as soon as you start dating, you are saying something you don’t really mean. You think you mean it, but really, you mean that you love the feelings you get when your boyfriend/girlfriend is around.
But when the relationship loses that newness and those warm fuzzies, then what? You believe you are no longer in love, break up, and go searching for someone new to “love.”
What I’m trying to say is that when you say “I love you” based on the superficial things, then it doesn’t mean what you think it does and will mean nothing when your relationship is tested.
So, wait to say “I love you” until you are sure that you mean it. Wait until you know that there is nothing that can take that love away.
Then, when the rough waters do come, you’ll know you have a much better chance of navigating the storm.
This message applies to adults, too, by the way.
Matthew Coker is a Media Director at a church in his hometown, where he also is a leader at a Celebrate Recovery program. He’s a huge comic book nerd, Whovian, and Greendale Human Being. Matthew and his wife live in New Mexico.