Friendships are complicated, there’s no doubt about that. That’s why close friendships are so special. When you find a person you can connect and grow with, you never want to let them go. It’s important to acknowledge the level of appreciation you have for the friends you deeply value. That’s why I constantly say “I love you” to those close friends.
Some people choose to keep love in one of two boxes. Some people believe love can be familial or romantic. But there are so many different types out there. To only place value on those two types of love means you’re missing out on an entire spectrum. Obviously the love I have for my friends is very different than what I feel for a romantic partner. It’s not quite the same as familial love either, though if you have to choose between the two, it’s closer to that one.
For me, my close friends are my chosen family. If I’m being completely honest, I care more about my close friends. Our love has no conditions on it, because it’s a choice. I say I love you to my friends because I genuinely mean it. The bonds between us are so much stronger than mere friendship. My close friends and our relationships are invaluable to me. Expressing how I feel with them feels just as natural to me as expressing my love for my child or parents.
To be clear, I don’t go around telling just any friend that I love them. If you’re someone I have a casual friendship with, you’re not going to hear it. I say it to my very closest friends. The people I truly can’t imagine my life without. Those friends who I know always have my back. They’re the friends who hear it the most often.
Platonic intimacy is a very real thing. It’s not about creating a physically intimate relationship with someone. It’s about creating a deep emotional connection with someone. If you’re platonically intimate with a good friend, you’re sharing parts of yourself with them you don’t share with many others. My closest friends know more about me than anyone — family included. We’ve managed to cultivate a relationship of mutual respect and trust that is invaluable. So when I say I love you to one of them, I’m honoring the commitment to our intimacy. It’s something I take seriously.
Most people have more than enough love in their hearts to spread it around. Taking the time to cultivate deep, meaningful relationships outside of your family is good. Maybe you don’t equate that level of comfort and closeness with love. That’s fine, but if you treat a close friend as family, then you’re pretty close. If you wouldn’t hesitate to tell a sibling you love them, why would you hesitate telling a friend who’s like a sibling? Both of them hold similar value in your life. What makes blood the determining factor?
Once, I posed the question to my friends on Facebook. Since I say I love you to my close friends, I was curious to see if it was just me. Unsurprisingly, some friends were on board. There were a few people that were hesitant.
One of the friends expressing hesitation brought up an interesting perspective. If someone says “I love you” to them, they feel an obligation to say it back. This is a valid concern I hadn’t considered. Personally, when I say I love you, I’m not expecting to hear it back. Of course, if I do, that’s awesome. I’m merely expressing my personal feelings about that person and our friendship. If they don’t say it or don’t feel that way, it won’t change my feelings.
Friendships are a two-way street — it’s important to acknowledge what works for us. If a friend told me they didn’t feel comfortable telling me they love me, that’s fine. We can have a conversation about it and see if there’s a compromise somewhere that works for both of us. Communication is the key to a good friendship.
Love is a word with a lot of meaning, especially if you’re still figuring out what love looks like for you. When it comes to friendships, your standards for love may be more abstract. Sometimes, it looks like always listening to your problems. Maybe it’s a friend who checks in without you asking. I say I love you to my friends who are there for me no matter what. Their support carries me. Expressing my feelings for them verbally is my way of honoring their contribution to my life.
Sharing my feelings with my close friends has been a journey. When I say “I love you,” it’s the final threshold of comfort for me. By sharing those feelings, I’m telling them I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable with them. Regardless of how you mean it, love isn’t a word to throw around. Sometimes it almost feels easier with a friend, but I feel it’s taking a friendship to a more intimate level. Even if I mean it, saying the words (or typing them) still has a profound significance.
Close friendships are complex. They are also incredibly rewarding when you find ones that work. I say “I love you” to my close friends because you never know what your words mean to someone else. Telling your friend you love them may be the thing that carries them through hard times. They know that you’re in their corner no matter what. Having a person who loves you unconditionally when they have no obligation to means the world. So why wouldn’t we want to share that with the people we love?
Spreading love is never a bad thing.