It’s on the tip of your tongue, but you’re not sure if the timing is right. Here are some things to consider before saying “I love you” for the first time.
When to say “I love you” for the first time:
Not too early.
Saying “I love you” on a first date is probably not a wise idea. Give the relationship some time to develop. You don’t want to utter the “L” word before you’ve discovered if the two of you have a shot at going the distance. If you’re feeling the urge to blurt it out, channel that eagerness into getting to know your new partner on a deeper level. If it’s love, you’ll have plenty of opportunities in the near future to verbalize it.
When you know your partner won’t freak out.
Consider the possible reactions your partner might have when you confess your love. If one of them is “run away screaming,” you might want to wait a while longer. Saying “I love you” too soon, or when you know your significant other is still cautious about the relationship, can do more harm than good. Wait until the two of you have developed a level of trust and comfort that can afford you the freedom to be so vulnerable without the risk of driving your date away.
Keep it simple. There’s no need to spill the beans on a Jumbotron — this isn’t a (tacky) marriage proposal. Speak directly from the heart on date night. Or maybe when you’re going for a stroll around the block. A public declaration of love can come across as overwhelming or manipulative, making your significant other feel obligated to quickly counter with “I love you, too” without even thinking. “I love you” is a big deal, and a personal one.
When you really mean it.
The number-one rule: Don’t say it if you don’t really mean it.
Check your motives before you confess your love. Don’t say “I love you” for the first time when you’re intoxicated, scared that you’re about to break up, hoping it will help you get farther physically in the relationship, or feeling competitive with an ex.
Take the time to reflect on the relationship. Do you see yourself with this person in five years? Are you both the best versions of yourselves when you’re together? Do you really want to invest your life in this person? Have you resolved conflict together? Don’t confuse love for infatuation. Make sure you understand the commitment you’re making to the relationship with those three little words.
When you’re already showing it.
“I love you” shouldn’t come as a real surprise to your partner: you should already be demonstrating it. Signs of love: respecting your partner, even on bad days and during conflict; showing enthusiasm for the things she cares about; making an effort to befriend her loved ones; being willing to compromise when you want different things; going the extra mile with no expectation of a returned gesture.
When you don’t need a response.
You should be confident enough in your decision to say “I love you” that you’re willing to risk no response. Give your partner time and space. Don’t take back the statement if he doesn’t echo the sentiment, nor should you make excuses or apologies for it. If there’s an awkward silence, don’t fill it in for him with “You don’t have to say it back….” Let him speak for himself. And let him get to the same place you are at his own pace. Respect that everyone’s different, and sometimes a delayed response is actually a sign of maturity: he wants to make sure he really means what he says. When he does say “I love you,” it will be a carefully considered statement that means something.
No turning back.
Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Introduce the phrase wisely, then live like you mean it.