It's a very common trope in movies and series: people wondering whether, and when, and how they should say “I love you” for the first time to someone they're dating... people worrying about saying it too early, about the other person not saying it back...
But what if we stopped making such a big deal out of it?
Let me start with defining what I mean by “love”:
Love is not a feeling.
Love is a decision to care about someone else‘s happiness rather than your own.
What exactly are you willing to do and how much to sacrifice to make someone happy, is a different story.
We love plenty of people, in different ways. Remember how Jesus said “love thy neighbour”? You literally love your neighbour when you keep the noise down not to ruin their day. You make a little concession in order not to be a dick towards a fellow human. In my opinion, simple decency is also a kind of love.
Of course, we don't tell strangers that we love them, why would we? But what about people to whom we're closer?
“I love you” is such an amazing thing to say and to hear! Be it between friends, or family members, or romantic partners...
Even if we only have a single word for “love”, we are familiar with the idea of love meaning different things, aren't we? We all know that ancient Greeks had different names for love: agápe, éros, philía, philautia, storgē, xenia... Love is not reserved for really serious romantic relationships, is it?
Parents love their children, friends love their friends, people who just started dating love each other, people married for thirty years love each other... All in a different way and with different intensity, but they all decide every day to do things that they don't necessarily like, in order to make someone else happy.
I dated a guy recently. I knew I loved him, but I've never told him that. Of course I loved him – when I heard that he's close to getting his top surgery scheduled, I felt genuinly happy for him. I like boobs a lot, and I wouldn't feel so happy about the world having fewer of them, if I didn't care a lot about how he feels about his. But, well, he didn't want any commitment whatsoever, and our world sees “I love you” as a huge huuuge commitment. We've lived our relationship around that ugly taboo: we can tell each other nice things, just not this one!
Loving someone, and telling them that you do, doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is committed, not casual, and super serious. It just means you care for them, want them to be happy, and are willing to do a lot to make them happy.
Tell your friends you love them!