When someone says they love you - what do they mean?

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Many people have been told by someone "I love you!" Without doubt this has to be one of the statements that has the potential power to move mountains. However, many people have been told this and have subsequently been let down. "I don't love you any more" or "I love someone else" or "I'm not sure if I like you any more" etc etc.

Of course the result is that when someone says "I love you" in the future, those who have been hurt are not sure if they can trust the words. They start to wonder what the person really means. They ask questions like "What is love - really?"

This has got to be one of the trickiest questions in the world, alongside "What is infinity?" The word "love" must be used billions of times a day. People say "I love bananas" or "I love rain". Can this same word be used when we say "I love you"? How many degrees of meaning does that simple four letter word hold?

As I see it, despite the richness of language, this word has taken the place of many more appropriate words, reducing its effectiveness, compromising its meaning. And even if one were to use the word "love" only to express our feelings for other humans, how would we know whether that other human means what we think they mean? Or want them to mean?

In many instances when a person says "I love you" they mean "I desire you" or "I need you" or "I admire you" or "I want to own you" or "I approve of you". Most often, if we have our wits about us, we realise what people mean and respond accordingly. This is fine, excepting for when a person wants to be loved truly, unconditionally. Do they perhaps misunderstand due to the strength of their own feelings?

What is this, this need to be loved like this? Why do we want it? How do we know it exists? Where does this profound feeling come from, the feeling that lurks in our hearts waiting for reciprocation? And is it possible to get it - this real love - from another human? This love that lasts forever.

I think the answer is yes. However, I've only ever seen this kind of love in action between some parents and their children. And once between a man and woman. I have a distant older relative who told me after his wife, almost blind at the time, had left the room, "To me she is still the beautiful sixteen year old girl I married so long ago - how I loved her - and still do." There were tears in his eyes. He has since lost her and the pain of his loss burdens him, now at the age of 88.

I'm sure that when he told her he loved her, she knew that this was a declaration of true love.

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