Love is Not a Transactional Event

By Lee Collins •  Updated: 08/29/16 •  4 min read
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I once heard tale of a young lady asking her new husband “why don’t you tell me you love me more often?” and the gentleman responded “I told you I love you once. If anything changes I will let you know.”

It makes for a funny story, and I doubt I would ever carry my belief to that extent but at the same time I don’t think saying “I love you” needs to be a transactional event every single time.

Here’s what I mean…

First, I believe if someone loves you, you know it. Period. You feel it so deeply there is almost no need for the words to be spoken. But the words being spoken can feel amazing.

The typical interaction goes something like this:

Girl: “I love you”
Boy: “I love you too”

Or vice versa.

But I don’t think it has to go down quite like that every single time. What if instead the interaction went like this:

Boy: “I love you”
Girl: “Thank you honey” (maybe followed by a soft embrace or a passionate kiss)

Or vice versa.

But, can you IMAGINE what would happen in 99.9% of relationships if that were to happen? The person who said “thank you” would likely get ripped to shreds!

“Thank you?! Thank you!? I say I love you and you say thank you?? WTF is wrong with you…”

But here’s why I believe that would be OK…

When I say “I love you” I mean it. Deeply. To me it’s like giving a gift.

If I give you the verbal affirmation that “I love you” I don’t need to hear it back. What I mean is there should be no obligation to return saying the words back to me. Not every single time anyway. I don’t need to hear it to know it. I can tell by the way you look at me. By the way the words are received. By what happens next.

Just like if I say “I love spending time with you”. I don’t need to hear it back. To me it would sort of cheapen my compliment. A thank you would be awesome, maybe followed by a smile, an embrace, a kiss or something else (hint hint).

Giving a compliment is a gift. I would love the recipient to simply receive it. It’s my pleasure to say it, to let you know how I feel. Unlike most people, I don’t say it to elicit a response. I say it simply because I want to say it. To you. Because I mean it.

I thought of this because I was observing a couple sitting next to me on the plane ride to Vegas. Their relationship seemed awkward. And I could tell they were engaging in a relationship full of conditioned responses. And I reflected back on how falling into a series of conditioned responses can lead to losing yourself in a relationship – be it with a lover, friend, family member, co-worker or any other kind of relationship.

Even in a single serving relationship like this:

Person 1: “Hey how are you”
Person 2: “Good how are you”
Person 1: “Good”

How many times per day do YOU have this conversation and not even mean a single word of it?

But I may be getting a little off topic.

I am confident enough in myself that if I tell Natalie “I love you” and she simply receives this, she just made my day because she accepted my gift. I’m not saying “I love you” to elicit her to say “I love you” back to me. There is no obligation. And her not saying it back to me doesn’t mean she loves me any more or any less. I’m saying it because I mean it. And I just wanted her to know.

My point is simply this:

If there is an obligation, the gift ceases to be a gift and instead becomes a transaction. And love as a transaction is destined to fail.

What do you think?

Lee Collins

Lee Collins is a former Air Force Network Systems Engineer and Fortune 500 Corporate VP - who is best known as an early pioneer of Direct Response Marketing on the Internet. He has over 24+ years experience running operations for multiple multi-million dollar marketing, software, SEO, financial, and business coaching companies. When Lee isn't helping his private clients solve big (and small) marketing and operations problems, Lee is most likely heading up into the mountains in his fully-equipped Jeep Gladiator. Or just gone fishing.