There is one thing that really confuses me. Why is it that in the U.S saying “I love you” is a much bigger deal than saying it here in India?
I have become so influenced by this western idea through all the stupid Hollywood movies I have been watching since childhood that now whenever I actually feel like saying I love you to someone, I stop myself because “its too early into the relationship”. My heuristic however, still yearns to express this thought. And when I feel like saying it, I’m not even thinking about the “consequences” of saying it. I just say it because I feel this deep desire to show that person how much I value them.
We in India literally say I love you more casually and easily to our romantic partners than those guys in the West do. Very often, we say it to begin our relationships in the first place. One partner says I love you, the other says ILY2 and bam now they’re dating! I’ve observed often, that even for short term relationships it is a common practice to say the 3 letter word. So, do we really know what it means when we say it?
In western societies, it seems from movies that its only months into a dating relationship (which could very much include sex) do people say I love you, and that too very hesitantly. They sometimes even wait for months and practice it in front of a mirror before saying it! It seems like people are more picky about the stage at which they say these words and it probably means more to them than it means to us in India.
So does saying I love you mean different things in the West than in India? I am not too sure.
Another question that arises is, what are the consequences of saying “I love you”? And, are they culturally consistent? There really needs to be a research done to understand that. However, my guesses are the following:
The idea of a long term relationship could be one.
There could be monogamy.
Another would could be a closer relationship with the significant others’ family.
Maybe marriage, later into the future as well.
Assuming that saying “I love you” implies the same things as it does in the west as it does in the East, how ready are the people in the two societies to commit to these implications?
Studies do show that we are a more collectivistic and slightly obviously a more traditional society too, and hence we are perhaps less afraid of the above mentioned consequences of saying I love you. The idea of a serious long term relationship, marriage, monogamy, worrying if our parent’s/family would approve of our significant other would probably come to us Indians more naturally when we get involved with someone beyond flirting because our culture is such. We are a bit hardwired to look for long term monogamous relationships and finally husbands/wives, to fulfill our cultural needs of “Settling down”. I’m not saying that that’s right/good or wrong/bad, but that is how it is. What is socially desirable and culturally acceptable, varies from Western to Eastern culture, which includes the dating and sexual practices.
In the west, with casual sex being less tabooed, and ideas of “The Good Life” of sleeping with multiple partners and not having any long-term commitments is glorified, it is a bigger deal to think about monogamy, marriage and “settling down”.
Therefore, since the socially desirable behaviour in their culture is of more people, more experiences and less “Restrictive” long term relationships, they find it harder to say the 3 letter word than we do.
Having said that, I myself don’t like the idea of a long term relationship or marriage too much because I get excited by the idea of having multiple romantic encounters and experiments in my life time, and yet I feel like saying I love you to people sometimes. Why is that so?
Perhaps because I am conditioned into saying these words, since I am still in a culture that values long term monogamous relationships. Or, these words don’t really mean the same consequences to me as they would mean colloquially. For example, I don’t oppose the idea of introducing my partner to my friends and family or spending a lot of time with them, but don’t fully like the idea of monogamy or marriage.