madly in love: meanings and repetition

i've been thinking about love and saying it and meaning it, and what that means to the person you say it to. it seems like context is most important, but also i feel like it shouldn't be. on one hand, it seems like saying 'i love you' after someone makes you a sandwich might hold slightly less weight than someone saying it after you've been gone for several days or after sex. on the other hand, it seems like when the person you love says 'i love you,' it should hold the same weight always, which would transform it -- the act of saying 'i love you' -- into shutting out the rest of the world and staring straight into her face and reminding you both that you're so grateful for each other. like a secret language maybe. but i was wondering also, what does saying that mean? does it mean the same thing each time? when you say 'i love you' after being given a sandwich, do you really mean 'i'm so grateful for you and the time you spent to make this thing for me. thank you; i promise to do something equally kind for you, several times.' ?? but is that love? yes, that can be love, i think, if there are other things happening between the two people. when a waitress gives me a sandwich, i say thank you and there's an unspoken agreement that i will show my gratitude with a good tip and maybe a return visit. that's basically the same thing as what i could've been saying to my partner when i said 'i love you,' but i wouldn't tell a waitress that i loved her.

but do i?

no, not exactly, but i could say that i love the experience, so i guess there are levels of love, but it still seems like calling all of the levels 'love' is misleading. but! when i told gabe mills that i loved him in 8th grade, it was really love. i loved him. there wasn't a higher level of love that i was aware of and what i felt for him was very important to me. but now, thinking back on that and factoring in all of my experiences since then, there are at least 10 other things i could've said to him that would've conveyed my feelings accurately and wouldn't have involved a proclamation of love. i could've said, "you make afternoons funnier and i really appreciate the way you talk to me. i'd rather be sitting next to you on this couch than almost anything else. kissing you makes my stomach feel electrified. i want to do things that make you happy and when i do, they make me happy, too. you don't make me feel like i have to act differently for you to want to be around me, and that means so much to me."

so is 'i love you' just code for all of that? shorthand?

i've decided that i want to stop saying 'i love you' as much. i want to be more specific. "when you're in the kitchen with me, i'm so happy that i almost feel drunk or stupid, like a boat could fall through the roof and i'd still just be amazed by how cute you look standing next to the stove."

is 'i love you' extra special, not because it means [specific feelings], but because we know that it means [specific feelings]? is that the moment when saying 'i love you' really means as much as it can ever possibly mean -- when you know the person you're saying it to knows exactly what you're actually feeling? and so saying 'i love you' would mean both 1) the specific feeling of appreciation or happiness of a moment, and 2) proof of the trust that the person already knows what you would say if you were being more specific.

i'm also wondering if repeating the phrase 'i love you' several times -- as in, not being specific about most feelings and summing them up with 'i love you' instead -- takes away from the impact of hearing it. it seems like it would, but if we operate under the theory that what makes the phrase special is that the other person knows what you mean, then saying 'i love you' actually means more than just the specific feelings, and so it would never get old.

idk these were just some things i was thinking about.