USED to have a friend that would force me to say, “I love you too” whenever she expressed her love for me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, it was just that uttering those words came with great difficulty for me — especially saying them to people I really did love and care for.

I then bumped into the term ‘’philophobia’’ while trying to understand my challenges with saying ‘’I love you too’’.

Philophobia is the fear of love or falling in love. According to FearOf.net, individuals that suffer from this phobia fear romantic love or forming emotional attachments of any sort.

I thought this was the definition of what I was suffering from. However, mine is a bit more complex than that. It’s not the falling in love that scares me per se; rather the being in love and having to say ‘’I love you’’ to someone that makes me question everything.

I am a very emotive person. I have no problems in expressing my emotions clearly for the next person to understand. But when it comes to love, my expressions are more practical than theoretical. I would prefer to allow my actions to speak for themselves which sometimes wouldn’t play well with others.

It’s not clear yet as to where this Robocop behavior stems from when it comes to matters of the heart. Maybe I do know and prefer to tell that story another day, but I have noticed that this lack of expression somehow spilled over into my romantic relations with the opposite sex.

I would look my male counterparts in the eye as they declared their then undying love for me without even blinking. Unfortunately, my nature wouldn’t allow me to believe them. And if they ever dared tell me that they love me the only responses that would leave my lips would be “thank you” or “okay”.

This would obviously cause problems for me in the long run where “thank you” could no longer suffice in a three-year long relationship. So, I would have to gather my strength and just say it back even though I knew that the words “I love you too” were not enough.

They were not enough for me so how could they possibly be enough for him? But they were, they are, that’s all they seem to care about; the “I love you too”.

So, I noticed that philophobia couldn’t possibly be the correct diagnosis for my condition. It wasn’t falling in love that I feared. Quite frankly, I live for the rush that a newly formed relationship gives you. The thrill of meeting someone new, reeling them in, charming them and having them envision a future with you.

Then suddenly when those words are uttered, the party is over and all I can think of is my exit strategy. Do I just break their heart and leave, or drive them to the brink of insanity and have them leave on their own accord? It wouldn’t be on “their own accord” anyway since their decision to leave would have been made under duress. However, they would be gone, nonetheless.

Commitment phobia/relationship anxiety is also not the correct diagnosis, I’ve had relationships that varied from two years to four years. I was happy most of the time. For those reasons, I don’t think the issue was commitment.

I think it has a lot to do with knowing that once they tell me that they love me, I know that they stop working towards that love.

They no longer give the same efforts as before because the destination of “love” has been reached. Then I ask myself what comes after that? What comes after love? What do we work towards beyond that? Or is the task at hand now to simply maintain that love and dwell in it all the days of our lives?

Perhaps it’s the little narcissistic traits within that compel me to hold onto my “I love you too” just a while longer in hopes that the journey to love will continue; the thrill, the excitement, the pleasure, the love.

This is the first in a series of columns by Koketso Moselakgomo.