How can you distinguish what lust versus love feels like? What is the spectrum of lust, like, caring, love? When do you share with someone that you love them? How do you communicate it?
I think a lot of times this all gets over-analyzed, but I think that many people hear things about commitment and the future when they hear "I love you." (I am talking just about romantic relationships right now.) For me, this sentence can have more or less depth depending on the relationship. With J, the sentence has a lot of history- we have been telling each other we love each other since for 6 1/2 years. We have gone through a lot together, and we plan on being together as long as we are happy together (which I foresee being a very long time). But, I remember waiting to tell him I loved him. The boyfriend I had before him sort of traumatized me- I was about to tell this person I loved him, and he said "Don't say it. Just don't say it." I was so hurt! I can tell you that I love you if I want to! But I didn't. So with J, even though I felt like I loved him after just a few weeks, I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to be rejected again. I waited until he told me a couple months later, and I felt like my heart was going to explode (I've been wanting to tell you this!!!). It was lovely :D
But why didn't I tell J when I felt it? Was it just because I didn't want to be rejected? Or did I also feel on some level that I was in lust/infatuation mode and that maybe it wasn't "love" yet? Or was it love, and just a different kind?
For me, saying "I love you" is similar to the "I see you" in the movie "Avatar" (haha, sorry for the dorky reference). I see you, I care deeply about you, I respect you, and I am grateful that you are in my life. It doesn't have anything to do with expectations about my relationship with that person, what it has to look like or where it has to go. I also feel it and want to express it, without exacting any kind of obligatory return from the other person. It is a statement of being, not doing.
And yet- there is an overwhelming amount of mainstream baloney (in my opinion) that gets perpetuated about what love means, when it's appropriate to express it, and how it affects the relationship once it has been said. So I find myself in an open relationship, already having to discover for myself what framework is satisfying and workable and fun, and also feeling love for different people in different ways with no model for how to express it. Sometimes it has hurt people when it has been said, sometimes it makes a relationship more confusing, sometimes it makes a relationship stronger, and always, it makes perfect sense.