The In-between Word

How young is too young to tell a member of the opposite sex that you love them?

Yeah, I’m starting off with a question for this post.

Is it possible for young people, teens in particular, to understand all that love encompasses–that it is so much more than an emotion?

When I was growing up and the time came when I began to really dig boys, I remember my mom telling me that I was not to tell a boy that I loved him because those words were very serious and were to be used when I was older and could understand what love meant.

So those words became sacred–unusable until I was old enough to understand. But when would that be?

I was in 8th grade at the time and had just begun my first “serious” relationship– and by that I mean we were “going out” which involved talking on the phone and making googly-eyes at school and not actually “going” anywhere because of course, I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and at 14, he didn’t exactly have wheels.

I was under the impression that it was a bad thing for me to say those three “little” words because I was young–there was no way that I could understand what love meant.

And so, when my “boyfriend” called me up one day and confessed that he loved me, my head and heart exploded. I was excited, like any middle school girl would be, but I didn’t say it back. I was afraid to. More than anything, I was afraid that I’d get in trouble if anyone knew I’d said those words to him–that they’d think I was nuts because I was young–love was incomprehensible to me.

So when he said, “I love you,” I said, “thanks.”

And we broke up.

In high school I was a little more mature–I could understand the difference between love and intense like.

I could clearly see the reason behind my parents wanting me to use those words sparingly in my teenage relationships.

But do most teens? Do they know the difference between love and like?

When I was teaching high school I heard the word “love” tossed about constantly between student couples. A young girl would say it to one boy one week, and another the next, and visa versa. And most times when I overheard it, it was all I could do not to roll my eyes right out of my head.   

Saying “I love you” is the cool thing to do; the expected thing in most teen relationships, even if you’ve only been “going out” or “dating” for a very short time.

It’s the thing to do in TV relationships between teens, and in books, too. (Insert zillions of examples here_____). Teens fall in love quickly. And in most cases, fall out pretty quickly, too.

The divorce rate for teens who marry is extremely high.

I do believe it’s possible to love at a young age. Looking back on it now, I do believe with all of my heart that I was “in love” with that boy from middle school. I pined for him for a while–into high school, thinking that I’d blown my chance with him because I was too chicken to tell him how I felt.  I dated other guys but they weren’t him.

My first love.

(Bear with me. I’m reading back over that and having a total ‘gag me’ moment.)

Okay, I was young. I was naive about the world. I did not understand the realities of lifetime commitment. I eventually got over said dude and moved on to find my Mr. Right. Praise the Lord.

Many teens believe they are in love. Many teens are just “in lust.” And some are only “in like” and throw the word love around like it’s no big deal.

But it is.

Those are three BIG words.

So I propose that a new word be created to describe what a young person feels in a relationship that’s more than “in like” but less than a lifetime commitment of “in love.”

Loke. I loke you. I am in loke with you. Will that work?

Who’s gonna help me get loke to catch on?

Share with me: Do you think teens can truly grasp what love means in a relationship?  How young is too young to tell someone you love them?


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10 responses to “The In-between Word

  1. I'm giggling because I can relate. My first real boyfriend came at 15 and I can't remember me telling him I loved him, although if I left him a note I signed "love Jess". I do remember him telling me. We broke up but it wasn't because I didn't say it, it was because I wouldn't, you know, show it. I suppose it depends on the teenager. But the words are tossed around a lot. I told my husband I loved him at 18. I married at 19. But that's rare these days. I'm on board with loke. Let's make a hashtag for it!

  2. Oh, Jess. Hashtag it is!I married young, too, I suppose. I was 21. My husband and I started dating when I was 19 and I knew without a doubt that he was the man for my forever. I guess we were lucky to find our guys early on.

  3. Who is this Mr. Right? Have I met him?

  4. I'm a big fan of "lurve." This is a brilliant point, though. Teens have a ton of emotion…they need a word for it that acknowledges its intensity but still reminds them that it needs to be treated with caution AND that it isn't necessarily forever love. Loke sounds like poke to me. I could see this going badly in high school. Bah!

  5. I am 100% positive that middle school age people do not understand the adult version of love. I'm also guessing that high schoolers (I know that's not really a word) probably don't understand it either. I do however think that these people think they understand what love is and feel somewhat differently towards a specific person and want to express that. I do think that loke is a good term for it! I'm on camp loke, I'll spread the term!!! Unlike you and Jess, I married at 28 and have to admit that I think I'm pretty confident that I entered the marriage with full knowledge of what love is and that I am in love with my husband. Ben and I did only date for 5 months prior to marriage, but again we were in our late twenties. I always find it rather hilarious to see relationship changes on social media websites indicating that a middle/high school student has changed from single to another status. That cracks me up! Love is an overused word for a very serious, grown up feeling. I am sure that I told some people I loved them when in reality I just liked their company and enjoyed hanging out with them!

  6. I never said "love" to a guy until I met my husband, and even that took a while after he said it to me. Poor guy! I'm just blessed that he stuck with me until I figured it out.

  7. This is quite the post, Jennifer. Because, reality is, we toss the word "love" around for so many things: We love boys (when we're teens, of course) and we love our favorite snack food and we love that great pair of boots and we love this awesome book we read …It's not that the word "love" isn't reserved for the right time or the right guy … it's just that we use it so indiscriminately. We love EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.

  8. Colleen- I hadn't considered that. 🙂 But I know teens, and you're right.Lori- I agree. I do think that most teens have no idea what the grown up version of "love" means. I mean, even me, with all of those powerful feelings at a young age, had no idea what LOVE meant until I was much, much older.Julie- my hubby was the first one I said it to, too! 🙂 Beth- Agreed. We overuse the word in our society. This is why we need a new word to describe those feelings! I don't know if loke with catch on, but something needs to!

  9. Also- just in case, let me clarify that when I say I can look back and acknowledge that I was "in love" with a boy from middle school, that's only based on what an 8th grader knows of love. It's certainly not the same kind of committed, Christ-centered love that I share with my husband. Herein lies my point entirely–there should be another word for teens to use that means more than "I like you" and less than "I'm ready to make a lifetime commitment to you."

  10. loke is totally RUFUS. [hope you get the significance of this word…my money is on that you do.]

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