So we had the same debate thrice yesterday - whether it is necessary to say the words, or if it is sufficient to just know its true, and avoid the self gratification of frequent utterances forcing the recipient to either reciprocate, or get in trouble.
We do not throw about the phrase in my family - and yet I am completely secure in my knowledge of the familial love. There is not an inkling of doubt, there never has been, and I cannot imagine either a time or event which would prove otherwise. I cannot even imagine an existence in a family where that is not the case (not to be confused with my knowledge that it does indeed exist). To voice the phrase, to me - is completely unnecessary. And that is OK. I'm not judging, becalm yourself!
On the other side of the triangle (bear with me, the third side is coming up, and its your fave!) is the love between friends - I have, along with almost every person alive and awake, experienced both having it said and proven not to be true, and had it true without acknowledgement; each alongside both the claim and the evidence in concurrent honesty. Waters presently perhaps too deep within which to dive without a saddle bag of strong constitution, wine and a fresh block of chocolate.
The third side, that of romantic declarations, was the most vocally argued. How can you know if he loves you, if he says naught? And perhaps most poignantly - how can you understand the euphoric feeling of hearing it from a beau, if you never have? (amid much speculation as to the level of gooeyness to which I will descend when it does, eventually, happen. Urgh.). Are you saying it because you want them to know? Because you want to hear it back? Because you need the ego-stroke? If you say it without reciprocation, is that enough for you? Should that not be one of the fundamental values of 'love'? Do you actually, genuinely love them - or are you just being needy-with-a-side-of-low-self-esteem? If your feelings are not reciprocated, do they diminish? And if they do - was it perhaps less true in the first place?
All of this philosophical stultification means little, but is a topic not often brought up in mixed company, and as such proved most fascinating. Though the rapidity of risen voices and completely unshakable opinions makes for a futile debate.
There is, however, a vast difference between not saying it - and not feeling it.