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The joy in saying “I love you”… even if it’s not reciprocated

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Josephine McCaul - published on 04/08/24

Declaring our love for someone takes courage and vulnerability but brings a great sense of relief.

One of the trickiest things about love is once you feel it, you can’t deny it. It’s there, impregnated in your heart leaving you with two options: to declare it, or run away from it. Well recently, I chose to declare it. Eeeeeeek!

Ordinarily I wouldn’t reveal this level of detail about my life. However, I think there’s an important, positive message to be gained from my experience, so I’m hoping by sharing it, others in a similar situation may find it useful.

Firstly, in my middle age I’m not a very romantic person. Big declarations of love and affection leave me feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. And as for Valentine’s Day, well that is a big no-no for me.

I’m also not a massive believer in finding one true love. Maybe I’m a little too pragmatic, but I definitely feel that love is in fact a choice. It is a decision to allow yourself to be vulnerable towards another human being. It is a decision to want to love that person in a way they need to be loved, and not necessarily how I would naturally want to love them.

(I should add that there is no way I felt like this when I was younger.)

But now, at the tender age of 46, I finally decided to declare my feelings for someone who I’ve been dating for just under a year.

The declaration

For the last few months, it’s been absolutely killing me not to blurt out “I love you” every time I see him. However, I was digging my heels in, waiting for him to state his feelings for me, even though I know he’s not capable of expressing his emotions in the way I’d want to hear them.

Therefore, last week I bit the bullet… helped with a little glass of red wine.

I explained to him that I’d had a near-death experience and, after thinking about my kids, one of the things that crossed my mind was I’d never told him that I loved him. I then got to finally blurt out “I love you” but with an extra “and there’s nothing you can do about it.” (Please bear in mind that I was a little merry, a little stressed, and very emotional.)

The man in question looked at me a little bemused — and dare I say, rather happy. I could see his mind whirring. He hadn’t expected to hear that from me, especially in an almost accusatory manner.

The result…

After a few moments he managed to say that he couldn’t reply accordingly. Well, this did not come as a shock to me, it was the response I’d been expecting. But, as I said to him, I needed to share my feelings, rather than bottle them up and get more and more frustrated. And I also said that what he does with my declaration is up to him.

After initial feelings of vulnerability, I feel lighter than I have felt in months. And believe it or not, I think it might have inspired him. It’s such a privilege to love, and what will happen to us in the future I put in God’s hands. (Although if you see an article soon on 10 Catholic quotes for when you have a broken heart, you’ll know things didn’t exactly turn out the way I’d hoped!)

Yet, if there’s one thing that stood out to me from this experience is that love is rarely straight forward. It tests us: asks us to be brave; asks us to take risks; and even when it’s not reciprocated, can be one of the greatest gifts we have to offer someone.

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