My wife and I find the Bachelor television show very interesting, watching how the relationships develop and seeing all the drama over those three simple words, "I love you". This year's version has generated a lot of buzz, "Ben, how could you tell two women that you love them? What were you thinking"? My wife explained to me that you cannot love two women at one time. She said, "if you think you do, then you really do not love either one". I argued that you can be "in love" with more than one person but it's all in how you define "love".
The reason I think there is so much fuss and fret about saying "I love you" and anticipating those words from the person we care for is because we believe that in saying those three words there comes a level of commitment, or expectation beyond just a sexual feeling. And where it gets even more confusing is that "I love you" seldom means the same thing to the one saying and the one receiving. You can bet the ladies who heard "I love you" from Ben are thinking commitment, something more than a sexual attraction. They are thinking "I love you" means that Ben is going to choose me as his mate for life, when in reality Ben may be just expressing a feeling, because he cannot make a long term commitment to two women.
A wise friend told me that when it comes to declarations like "I love you", we should always attach "today" to the end of it, when receiving it. "I love you, today!" Because tomorrow, next month or next year, those feelings may change. Yet, when we hear those words we assume they mean forever. But feeling based statements are dynamic and can change by the minute, mood, or circumstance.
So the reason we have difficulty with the phrase "I love you" is because the word "love" in our English language means so many things. I can love my car, my dog and my wife. But love in each of these cases means different things. In the Greek, there are several words used to describe love. Eros is a love based on feelings, a sexual attraction. We get our word erotic from eros. Philos is the Greek word that describes more of a friendship, a love between two people who have common interests or a fondness for a brother or sister. Philadelphia come from this word, the city of brotherly love. Agape is another word for love in the Greek that describes a love that is unconditional, sacrificial and permanent. In a good marriage, a husband and wife will give and receive all three of these types of love.
Agape is used in the Bible to describe God's love. As we love others as God loved us, only then can we be assured of a love that is not based on only feelings and emotions, but based on action, sacrifice, commitment and permanence. Isn't this what we desire from our mate, what we hear them saying when they whisper "I love you"?
So I believe Ben was saying "I eros" you to both women, but they were hearing, "I agape you".