When do you say I love you? Is it when you feel it? Right away, without really thinking much about it? Or do you wait, until it’s right, or even until the other person says it first? Do wait until you are sure of what it means, or does it need to mean anything at all?
I’m from Venezuela, I think we have established that already, right? So, that means I do things a little differently than people here in the US. Demonstrating affection is one of those things I seem to do differently. You see, in Venezuela people are very affectionate, verbally and physically. Hugs and kisses are given without a second thought, touches and caresses while conversing is natural, and calling an absolute stranger terms of endearment is part of the regular interaction. And although these behaviors do not come naturally to me in English, they still make their way out now and then. When I relax, when I’m not so aware of the cultural differences, I let myself be as Venezuelan as I can, and it comes through.
People here are affectionate, don’t get me wrong. Especially in the Midwest, I find people to be more demonstrative of affection, verbally at least. Yet, there are still some noticeable differences. One that’s been on my mind lately is the saying of I love you.
In Venezuela we have ‘te quiero’ and ‘te amo’. The quiero is used more frequently because it has sort of an ‘I like you’ tone to it, more than ‘I love you’, but it means more than just like, more than caring for, it is meant to mean love. Te amo, is used more profoundly, more like I love you is used here when it means love as in I am in love with you, can’t live without you, sort of way.
So this not having a ‘te quiero’ in English represents a problem. What do you say to someone you have feelings for but are not necessarily sure you want to spend the rest of your life with them? I like you? I care about you? I really, really like you? Do you say I love you and it’s understood that I love you right here, right now, this what I am feeling is love, but that doesn’t mean I want to marry you tomorrow or that I am totally convinced you are the love of my life and we will grow old together?
I’ve had one too many guys freak out when I have told them I loved them in English (this is how my relationship with Jason ended). Apparently, it is a big deal. To them at least, because to me, frankly it’s not. If I feel love towards you, I’m thinking you would like to know, right? Well, apparently not so much. Or maybe it’s just, you need that ‘I love you’ to come with an explanation of the intensity or the meaning behind the feeling.
Call me crazy, but I think that takes away from the whole demonstration of affection. If you have to explain that the love you feel for someone is this and NOT, absolutely not, that, then it’s like saying “I love you, but not the way you think, not in the happily ever after sense, this is about right here and right now, so don’t freak out, ok?” It sort of ruins it, don’t you think?
So how can I say ‘te quiero’ in English? How can I tell someone I love them without using those words? Can someone please enlighten me? You native English speakers, I’m looking at you. Help!