Different sorts of love

Alex McNab

The first time I told my girlfriend I loved her, she didn’t believe me. “How can you love me,” she asked, “when on Monday you said you didn’t even want to be in a relationship with me?”

She had a point. It was only a few days prior to my declaration of love that I’d made it very clear that I didn’t believe that our friendship had the emotional depth necessary for a romantic relationship, and, on the Saturday when I told her I loved her, my feelings for her hadn’t changed, but still I was telling the truth. I did love her, just not in the way she thought.

For every situation, every relationship, every person in life, I believe that there is a different type of love. On the Monday she was referring to, my girlfriend and I were just friends, and so the love we shared was friendly. Later that week, our relationship progressed to a romantic stage, and, although by that Saturday my feelings hadn’t yet caught up to my relationship, I still felt friendly love for my girlfriend and could tell her without hesitation that I loved her.

On that Saturday, as she expressed her doubts, I tried explaining all this to her. “I love almost everyone,” I told her. “I just love different people in different ways.” She considered this and accepted it, probably deciding that she too loved me as a friend.

From that Saturday forward, my girlfriend and I exchanged many “I love you’s,” but that all came to a stop about eight months ago when our romantic relationship ended and our friendship began again.

Many, perhaps most, romantic relationships end because the love has changed or gone away, but, with my girlfriend and me, that wasn’t the case. Our separation was due to an issue of convenience.

Until that point, May 30 to be exact, our entire acquaintanceship, friendship and romance had been confined to Beijing, where we were both living as a part of School Year Abroad. On that day, we were leaving China and going back to our American hometowns thousands of miles away from each other.

We parted at Beijing Capital International Airport. She left me at the security gate as she made her way over to another section of the building, where she would board a plane headed for Honolulu while I checked in my boarding pass with the letters LAX printed on the front in large black capitals.

When I got back to America, I tried saying “I love you” again, but it wasn’t long before my old girlfriend stopped receiving the comment in the way that she used to.

Instead of explicitly reciprocating my feelings, she’d tell me that she felt the same way about me but that we were just friends, and she wanted to make sure that I knew that.

I understood her concern. Over the months we’d been together in Beijing, our friendly “I love you’s” became more and more romantic until it got to the point where they became more boyfriendly, more girlfriendly, than friendly.

Back in America, these boyfriendly feelings that I’d developed in China hadn’t changed, and so, as my ex probably sensed, I was saying romantic “I love you’s” in a non-romantic relationship.

It may not be healthy to feel romantic love for someone who’s just a friend. I haven’t yet made up my mind about that, but, regardless, I love Makana in the most romantic sense of the word, but, for her sake and perhaps also for the sake of our friendship, we don’t say that word anymore. Instead, we say “I really care about you as a friend,” but, for me at least, that’s just another way of saying I love you, a lot.