Tainted L-Word: What Love Isn't

by Ruwan Meepagala  Jul 2, 2015

I lie in bed staring at the ceiling. The nude body of a woman I recently met quietly snores beside me. I run through my mind the sex that just happened at the urge I almost released. It was close. Why did I almost say that?

For as long as I've been sexually active, I've been ashamed of a certain phrase often pops into my head when I'm in bed with a woman.

It's a dirty phrase.

A nasty phrase.

One I knew I never should say unless in very rare circumstances.

These three vulgar words would arise in the throes passion, when I was overwhelmed and losing control. I had to do everything in my power to make sure it didn't slip. The entire dynamic would change drastically if these three words were to ever leave my mouth:

I love you.

You can't just say that to people, especially if sex is involved. There are rules around that. The L-Word comes with a slew of promises, expectations, and pledges of loyalty. To throw around that phrase freely would be to devalue a resource of limited supply. I mean, you can't just go around saying "I love you" to everyone. If you do those words will have no meaning.

Or so I thought.

I have a friend who's a recovered addict. He explained to me that one of the most transformative parts of his recovery was saying the words "I love you" to everyone he cared about. The point wasn't to be nice or liked, it was that more love you express the happier you become.

Lately I've been letting myself think more and more about how much I love people and found that's totally true.

Love isn't a finite resource that will run out if spent. The more you feel it, the more there is to feel.

But what's still perplexing is the relationship between love and sex. Why is it more appropriate for me to say "I love you" to a roommate, friend, or even stranger than it is to someone I'm sleeping with?

The Greek language makes distinctions between the different types of love:

Storge is affection, fondness due to familiarity.

Philia is friendship, a bond of common interest.

Eros is romantic/sexual love, love + lust.

Agape is spiritual love, selfless love for all things.

As continue staring at the ceiling I wonder, did the English language fuck up and conflate a bunch of separate terms in one four letter word?

I definitely feel eros, lust, for the snoring woman next to me. Is what I really wanted to express "I lust you"? That doesn't seem to have the same potency. I don't know her well enough to consider her a friend, but despite not knowing many facts about her, there's still something more than just sexual attraction present. I dig into the feeling more and notice it's not very different from what I feel around a puppy or a baby I just met. It's like an adoration and appreciation that she exists.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just high on oxytocin.

Then it hits me. English actually got it right. There is no difference. Love is love. It's the most elemental emotion, and because of that it can appear in different forms and circumstances, but really it's all the same thing.

Love is the ever-present feeling between beings. We just often don't notice it under the masks of our fears.

In a way you can say underneath it all it's all agape.




I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the advice "Don't say 'I love you' unless she says it first!" As if one's emotion is only valid met by another.

This forces people to make further semantical perversions: "Oh I totally love him, I'm just not in love with him."



I used to be very stingy with love.


Love is the closest understandable concept we have to unification.

To put conditions around where you can express love is to limit your ability to connect with existence.



  • Sex and love are so closely entwined, not because lust necessarily augments love as the story we sometimes tell ourselves, but because the high sensation of passion creates a breach in our ego big enough for the universal love that we feel for all things all the time to burst through.