One of the biggest step to take in any relationship is the uttering of the sentence “I love you”.
That’s a given.
And there are always questions and doubts surrounding the said: “I love you”.
Do you really mean it?
Is it the right step?
Are they saying it for you or for themselves?
Well, that is exactly what Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Han focused on in his book, How to Love.
There is a passage in the book that we’ve selected below where he explains why “I love you” might not mean what we think it does.
So, what does “I love you” really mean.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings about love revolve around the idea that “understanding is love’s other name.” Simply put he elaborates that to truly love someone is to fully understand their suffering.
He says that what people are really caught in when they say “I love you” is the idea of “self”, and are basically focused on the “I”. But he says that true love requires letting go of the ego and understanding that we’re in this together:
“Often, when we say, “I love you” we concentrate mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being extended. This is because we are caught by the idea of self.
We think we have a self.
But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made of components that are not a flower, such as water, chlorophyll, and sunlight. If we remove all the elements that are non-flower from it, there would be no flower left.
A flower cannot exist by itself alone. Like everything else, a flower can only inter-be with all of us. Humans are like that too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone, we can only inter-be.
I am made only of non-me elements, such as the sun, the Earth, parents, and ancestors. In any relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. When you start to see things this way, you start to speak and act differently. This by itself can relieve so much suffering.”
True love is when TWO becomes ONE.
True love involves realizing that you’ve become one together, according to Thich Nhat Hanh, who says that when it comes to love, there’s no “I”:
The boundary between you and the other person no longer exists when you are in a deep relationship, you are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less, so suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to you happens to your loved one. and what happens to your loved one happens to you.
In true love, there’s no more division or distinction. Your suffering is her suffering. Her happiness is your happiness. You are no longer allowed say, “That’s your problem.”