LIFE

'I Love You' Has More Power Than You Might Think

Plus where it came from and what it means.

20/08/2017 7:06 AM AEST | Updated 20/08/2017 7:06 AM AEST

In intimate relationships, we often find ourselves looking for the same thing -- validation, confidence, reassurance and of course, love. Deep and meaningful L-O-V-E.

When we don't hear 'I love you' from our significant other, that validation, confidence and reassurance can quickly drop off.

But where did the significance behind these words come from and why do we put so much emphasis on eight little letters?

Psychologist and dating expert Melanie Schilling told HuffPost Australia this significance can be related to the make up of the English language.

"In English we only have one word for love -- LOVE. Other languages have several ways to describe the feelings of devotion and adoration, in fact Sanskrit has 96," Schilling said.

"So this places a huge emphasis on the word for us."

The L word is a defining factor in an intimate relationship and verbalizing it signifies the depth and seriousness of the union.

Sanskrit isn't the only language with more than one way to verbally express your love. According to author Robert A. Johnson in his book 'The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology', Persian has 80 words for love, and Greek has three.

"Ancient Greek and Egyptian literature is full of references to romantic love. There is no doubt that it is a state of being that we have aspired to for a very long time," Schilling said.

Aside from the history of the English language, Schilling explains the words 'I love you' are significant because they act as a potential forecast for the future of the relationship.

"The other reason we place so much emphasis on hearing the three little words is that it's a symbol for the next level of the relationship," Schilling said.

"In modern relationships, it has become a signpost for moving into a deeper stage of the relationship, a symbol of commitment and a perceived emotional safety-net.

"It's the green light to move forward, open up, bare all and get vulnerable together."

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The reason we can find ourselves waiting to hear the words 'I love you' is because of the attachment we make between ourselves and our romantic partner.

According to Schilling, this makes hearing 'love' a whole lot more important as "the L word is a defining factor in an intimate relationship and verbalizing it signifies the depth and seriousness of the union."

Despite this, there may be times we hear 'I love you' but can't decipher the real meaning or real intention.

Schilling explains the significance in someone's declaration of love can be identified in their motivation.

Showing unconditional respect, support, encouragement or behaving like a 'team' can be more meaningful for some couples.

"Sometimes, people say the words in order to 'get' something such as sex, attention or an ego boost," Schilling said.

"This is a manipulative technique and is often short-lived -- "He only says I love you when he wants sex" or "She only tells me she loves me when she knows she's done something wrong"."

Interestingly, although the words 'I love you' indicate a committed, legitimate relationship, Schilling suggests gestures may actually be a more significant expression of love.

"Many people believe actions speak louder than words, so loving gestures can be much more powerful and meaningful," Schilling said.

"Showing unconditional respect, support, encouragement or behaving like a 'team' can be more meaningful for some couples."

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