Is engagement expected to follow closely after saying ‘I love you’?
Also, when you say the words, “I love you,” does it mean you should accept the person faults and all, rather than nit-pick and question his behavior?
To use the word “love” for a mere feeling — as you seem to have done — is careless and cruel. Authentic love is not a feeling, but a permanent commitment of the will to the true good of the other person. In a romantic context, therefore, the words “I love you” mean “I have resolved, if you will have me, to give the rest of my life to you alone.” They are properly used only as a preamble to proposing, with marriage to follow shortly, and to speak them when no such intention has been formed is to use a woman’s heart as your plaything.
A century ago, when people still knew how to deal with cads, you would have been horsewhipped by her father on the steps of your favorite hangout, and your only hope of redeeming your reputation would have been to submit meekly and publicly to the punishment. In our time that option is no longer available, but if you have any decency at all you will confess to her that you’ve been stringing her along.
I take it that the occasion of your second question is that she replied “I love you, too,” and now you think you are beyond criticism. When a man loves a woman, he is more aware of his faults than of hers, and he ardently desires to become better for her sake. The answer, then, is that she doesn’t have to accept all your faults; she doesn’t have to accept you at all. Try to be more worthy of your next girlfriend, because if this one catches on she’ll drop you like a hot potato.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2002 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.