It’s not a promise. And it doesn’t require reciprocity.

Saying “I love you” can be terrifying.

Saying “I love you” makes us feel vulnerable and exposed, like we’re hanging on the edge of the universe for the few seconds it takes to say such a brief but intense combination of words.

Vulnerability itself is terrifying, but when it comes to confessing our love for someone, there are many other factors that make us afraid, even though they absolutely shouldn’t.

You’re afraid they won’t say it back.

Rejection is never fun.

All we want is to hear “I love you” back. Who doesn’t want a happy ending?

But the essence of love is giving with no expectations of return. Expecting

an exact return for what you’re offering creates a sense of obligation and makes the relationship heavy from the start.

Saying “I love you” doesn’t immediately make the object of your love indebted to you in any shape or form.

“Love is giving what you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it.” — Jacques Lacan.

Peter Rollins explains the quote above as meaning that, when in love, we offer

the other person our lack, our flaws. No one really wants that, but if they love you, they’ll take it.

When you confess your love, you’re also offering your lack.

You’re offering everything that’s wrong with you, all your problems and insecurities. When those are accepted and you’re loved back, you’ll experience a beautiful thing. However, you can’t expect that will be the case. It’s unfair to put on anyone the expectation of accepting your lack.

You expect someone else to be responsible for your own happiness.

Having a fulfilling relationship is great, but it should be a complement to your happiness, not the only reason for it.

No one is responsible for your happiness but you.

Declaring your love for someone is not the same as placing your happiness in their hands. Love is about giving, not about surrendering. You’re giving your love to this person, not surrendering them power over your happiness.

Expecting someone else to provide you with happiness is also a major responsibility, and to place it into someone else’s hands is not only unfair to the other person, but it sets an unrealistic expectation that they can complete you, which is impossible.

You believe you’re responsible for the other person’s happiness.

That’s not only conceited and selfish, but toxic to any relationship.

A healthy relationship is not about completing one another or bringing one another happiness, but truly accepting one another so that you can be partners in life.

You should be happy together, but you shouldn’t be happy exclusively because you’re together.

If you believe you’re responsible for the other person’s happiness, your fear of disappointing them, or of eventually breaking their heart will take over, and saying “I love you” will become extra terrifying.

Replace your sense of responsibility for their happiness with a sense of acceptance for who they are and the fear should be gone.

“I love you” is not a binding promise.

We tend to confuse freely confessing our love with putting ourselves in the other person’s hands, entirely at their mercy. But that’s the wrong concept of love.

Confessing your love doesn’t mean that the other person suddenly owns you forever.

It doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to ever reconsider how you feel.

Saying “I love you” doesn’t mean that you’re biding yourself to this person for the rest of your life. Unless you’re getting married and promising to love each other forever— which even that can be undone. Trust me, I’ve been there — you’re not suddenly committed for life just for confessing your feelings.

They might break your heart. Let them.

Love is also a risk. You might not be reciprocated, or you might end up involved with someone who will eventually break your heart.

But here is the thing: when you’re in love, there’s no foolproof method to preventing heartbreak.

Or rather, you can choose to remain alone and out of love forever. That might do the trick. It’s just not the best route for a fulfilling life.

Falling in love and getting your heart broken is no one’s preferred outcome, but it happens. It’s part of being a human and exist in this crazy, complicated thing we call life.

And even if you take every conceivable measure to avoid pain and heartbreak, you’re still gonna be alive. So why not go for the full experience instead of isolating yourself in an emotional bubble wrap of your own making?

We learn a lot from heartbreak. They are all painful lessons, but they help us grow. So go ahead, give someone the chance to break your heart.

Just let them.

Love is not like your actual heart — you do have more than one.

Our culture often mistakes offering love with “giving your heart” to someone. That’s another wrong concept.

Love is not giving your heart away. Love is opening room in your heart to let someone in.

You’re allowed to have more than one love in a lifetime, which is not argument against monogamy, but an argument for recovering from heartbreak and allowing yourself to find love again if you have to.

Just because you’ve said “I love you” to someone once doesn’t mean you can’t say it to a different person later.

Sure, some people have only one love in their whole lives. They stay married for 50+ years and are forever crazy about each other. That’s great. But these people had no idea their stories would turn out how they did from the start. Maybe they hoped it would, and they certainly worked for that outcome, but they didn’t know.

They took a chance. And it paid off.

You won’t know how your story will turn out unless you do too.

And now that your fears are gone

Go enjoy love. Give it freely. Embrace the possibility that you might fall on your face instead of letting that fear stop you from living.

Saying “I love you”, however, is still a pretty big deal. Love is a deep, serious feeling, and it should be treated as such.

Don’t be creepy about it. Don’t distribute it like it’s candy corn on Halloween. Just be honest with yourself and validate your feelings.

And take a chance.