Dropping the L-bomb

Carly Reiser

Love is a strong word that becomes magnified around Valentine’s Day.

When couples drop the L-bomb for the first time in a relationship, it can either go really well, really badly or it can just be plain awkward. And it can add a lot of pressure for some couples if thrown around on Valentine’s Day.

“I think it makes you very vulnerable to express that level of feeling to someone if you aren’t sure if they return it,” said Carolyn Cutrona, a professor and chair of the psychology department. “It’s so hurtful to be shown to be the one who is more involved than the other, or maybe the other person thought it was fun and here you are offering something serious.”

Jessica Kelly, a freshman in biology, didn’t return those three words when someone dropped the L-bomb on her.

“Oh, OK cool,” Kelly remembered responding, and that was the end of the conversation  because it got awkward.

Eventually, Kelly said it to him a few months later.

“We don’t say it a lot,” Kelly said. “It’s not really weird. I think we just aren’t that serious because we only dated for seven months.”

Love has many components, and passion, trust, physical attraction, concern for the partner’s well-being, openness or intimacy and communication are key components of what love means, Cutrona said.

“I think it means you deeply care for another person and their well being and supporting them in whatever they do and always looking for ways to see the positive in your relationship,” said Breanne Evans, a sophomore in event management.

Evans has been dating her boyfriend for more than two years and he first dropped the L-bomb during a fight. They were both upset and talking on the phone. Evans said she told him the issue wasn’t a big deal and he needed to calm down, but he responded, “No, it is a big deal because I love you.”

Their fight quickly faded and she returned the sentiment, Evans said.

“Some may never have to say it, their actions may just demonstrate commitment and fun and kindness and passion,” Cutrona said. “Others may just want reassurance all the time.”

Love is a big deal to Cutrona. A healthy love is not blown out of proportion, but she is concerned with hookup patterns in the dating lives of some college students, Cutrona said.

“Some people are just having fun and that’s fine, but most of us can’t go through a whole life just hooking up. That’s not satisfying enough,” Cutrona said. “There are well-supported theories in psychology that we need somebody to love us, that we need someone to be committed to us, and that is a basic human need. You can’t hook up forever.”

Saying “I love you” made her relationship stronger, Evans said. It helped to get their feelings out in the open because in the end it made them more comfortable with each other.

       “Love is wonderful word,” Cutrona said. “it makes the world go round.”