Wendy Atterbury at The Frisky, where Jezebel is best known for "caterwauling about the patriarchy," has some advice for her daughter (and you). Emotional courage is best reserved for men.
Atterbury says that women should never, ever tell the men they love that they love them because men are all emotionally stunted creatures scared of commitment and other people's emotions and doing so will more or less inevitably end your burgeoning relationship and all your hopes of marriage, really.
And the truth is, it often takes men longer to get there than it does for women. Men process their emotions more slowly, they're usually more cautious about taking their feelings and relationships to the next level.
So what happens if you get there first and you say it and he's not there yet? What happens when your "I love you" is met with a "thank you," or worse, a dear-in-headlights look? Well, it stings, sure, but more than that, it can stop a perfectly happy and healthy relationship in its tracks before it's even too far from the station.
So, to keep your relationship intact, a little dishonesty is in order! Swallow your tongue, not your pride! A lie of omission isn't a lie! Stereotypes exist for a reason! You've read The Rules, right?
Ack! Enough already! Look, yes, if the only reason you're telling your partner that you love him or her is to elicit an expression of similar emotion from your partner, I agree, don't do it. Also, refrain from doing it naked in bed after good sex or drunk, when you are not going to be operating at full rational capacity. That said, if you love someone, fucking tell them. Say it to your parents. Tell your best friend. Call your grandmother or grandfather. Of the things you will regret in life, not expressing your depth of emotion for someone for whom you honestly have it will rank up there because unexpected horrible things happen every day.
And, if he or she doesn't say it back, so what? Do you no longer love that person? Do you love only when it's reciprocated? If you mean it, if you can look at the situation honestly and say that you love this person without hesitation or doubt, if it's not about the sex or trying to tie them down, then don't play stupid games with your heart or theirs. If the person runs, or freaks out, you probably weren't going to hear it "first" anyway — and if you catch yourself wanting to say it or blurting it out two weeks into every relationship (oh hai JOHN!), then maybe you need to go figure out the difference between love and infatuation before you say it again to someone.
But this BS game of playing by some stupid set of gendered dating rules in which men can only deal with pursuing and not with being pursued and can't handle women's overwrought emotions without freaking out and running away and women should let men make all the emotional leaps and jumps off of all the ledges and wait for them to come around needs to stop being perpetuated by women and by men. I'm sick of hearing how men can't be mind-readers but women should never be honest. Telling someone that you love them isn't or shouldn't be about emotional blackmail or hearing it back any more than you should be giving holidays gifts expecting reciprocation. Love is a gift, too. If so
[Note: I asked my father and brother-in-law their opinions, and my dad called Atterbury's advice "foolish" and said he would never tell me to do such a thing, and my (younger) brother-in-law said that it sounded stupid and that "People should be honest with their emotions."]
Related: Best Women Bloggers of 2008 [The Frisky]