Someone’s “I Love You,” Really Means “I Understand You”

Someone once told me that love is when you know a person is your best friend, but you’re continuously in awe of the fact that you’re their best friend, too. I didn’t get it at the time, because it didn’t make any sense to me. How could you be surprised over the fact that a person is your best friend, and call that love?

Now, I am far from being an expert on romance. I cannot manage to sit through an entire viewing of “The Notebook” without feeling queasy. And, Valentine’s Day makes me break out in hives. Yet, I soon came to comprehend what was meant by this statement. And though I may be a bit cynical about romance, I do believe that I’ve realized what love really is: understanding.

We all present a version of who we are to the world including armor we utilize to both define ourselves and shield ourselves from judgement. But the people who see beyond, beneath, around and through these fronts, the people who know us on a deeper, emotional level are the people who truly love us. Because love is when a person knows these embarrassing, beautiful, ugly, heartbreaking and unique aspects of who you are and accepts you for you.

Another tendency of human beings is to speak to each other, not with the intention of listening to what the other person is saying, but with the intention of listening to ourselves respond afterwards. Because it is so much easier for us to understand our own perspectives and experiences, to know where we are coming from and how that has managed to affect our outlook on the world. We are comfortable with our viewpoints and uncomfortable with the ones that don’t match them.

But it is important that we do work to change this phenomenon, no matter how much we struggle in doing so. By understanding others first and being understood second, we show those around us that we are willing to give them our time, effort and energy. Because love does not stop at being a noun, love progresses to become a verb. It is not enough to simply tell someone how much you care about them, because the power of the word is lost when it isn’t reinforced by your actions.

Understanding others can be difficult and frustrating. Understanding others requires time and patience. It is much easier to dismiss the perspectives and voices that we disagree with, it takes great willingness to be vulnerable in order to achieve mutual respect with the people around us.

Portia de Rossi once said, “It is good to be loved, but it is profound to be understood,” and this is a quote that I have always carried with me (yes, even the cynic can have a soft spot). Love is such a rare thing in this world, but understanding is even rarer. Yet both can be found and spread if we ourselves take the first steps toward them.