Never have three words sent so much anxiety through my body and soul. I still remember the first time I told my partner, “I love you” my heart was in my throat, and my stomach was churning, and I honestly felt kind of sick. It also took me about an hour to get up the nerve to get the words out, even when I knew I wanted to say them.
When people say the worst thing someone can say is “no,” clearly they’ve never had someone laugh in their face after you opened your heart up and said you loved them. I’m not trying to discourage you from telling someone how you feel about them. When it goes right, it’s the best feeling in the world.
How do you know it’s love?
Love is an intangible feeling. It’s hard to pin down and define, and it can be hard to figure out when exactly you’ve fallen into it. It’s also different for everyone. For some people, it’s super intense and happens very suddenly. Some people can point to an exact moment when they fell in love. For others, it creeps up on you and happens before you even realize it.
Luckily the most common signs of love are pretty simple, even if realizing them isn’t. You’re probably in love if you can’t stop thinking about your person. If you’re happy to be around them doing whatever, even if that means sitting in silence for hours on end. When they can hold your hand and make a bad day better with just that small touch.
If you’re still not sure whether you’re ready to say I love you, that’s okay. Sometimes the anxiety of saying it for the first time can make you doubt your feelings. When I told my partner for the first time, honestly, it wasn’t because I was 100% certain of my feelings; it was because I felt like I couldn’t deny it anymore. After weeks of almost saying it and having to stop myself, I felt like it didn’t matter whether I was completely sure or not.
Clearly, I wanted to say it subconsciously whether I was consciously ready or not. Maybe that will be the case for you, or maybe it won’t. Everyone will develop feelings at different rates, and that’s normal.
When should I say “I love you”?
People move at different paces, so it’s important to understand that even if you’re ready to tell your partner you love them, they may not be ready to say it back. A study from 2011 found that, on average, men consider saying I love you after three months while women consider saying it after four and a half.
Other studies have suggested that women wait even longer to tell their partners they love them because they want to avoid pressuring them, which I can relate to. I told my partner after only about three months of dating, but I was also terrified of their reaction, so I said it while we were on a video call and immediately ended the call afterward so they wouldn’t have time to respond… Which didn’t even work because Skype lagged enough for them to respond (thankfully, they said it back, and it felt like butterflies had punched me in the stomach).
The point is, you should say it when you feel the time is right for you – when you feel confident enough in yourself and the relationship that you won’t regret telling your significant other how you feel. If you’re ready to say it after just a few months like me, that’s great. If you aren’t ready to say it after six months, that’s okay too.
It’s perfectly normal to take more or less time to say it depending on where you’re at in life, especially if you’re still recovering from heartache or getting over past relationships. Be honest with yourself and when you’re ready, be honest with your partner.
How often should I say “I love you”?
Once you’ve heard those three magic words for the first time, it can be addicting. Hearing someone say that they love you when you love them is like a triple shot of dopamine straight to your brain – at least the first few times.
I’m sad to say the euphoric feeling that leaves you giddy for the next half hour doesn’t last forever. Some people want to hold onto that feeling, though, so they’re very sparing with repeating their love. Other people don’t care and will sprinkle it into every sentence, so sweetly, it makes everyone around them sick.
To be frank, my partner and I may or may not fall into the latter category. I know we can get pretty gooey sometimes, but we try to tone it down a smidge when we’re around other people. My newlywed friends are pretty similar and will say “I love you” every single day, multiple times a day.
I also know people who have been married for decades, though, who are much more close-lipped. They dearly love their spouse but only break out the “L” word for special occasions like anniversaries. It all depends on what you and your partner are comfortable with.
Trust me when I say you’ll want to find some sort of common ground that you both are comfortable with. You don’t want to end up in a relationship where one person says it too much or not enough. That sucks.
As great as being in love is, it also takes work. If you like this blog, check out this one where we talk about how love isn’t just a happily ever after; it’s a verb. It’s an active thing you do and put work into. The best kinds of love include fights and miscommunication sometimes.
Moral of the story
Do what feels right for you, even if it can be a little scary. You don’t want to look back and regret not saying “I love you” or saying it when you weren’t ready.
Being in love is one of the best feelings in the world, but it’s different for everyone. It can be hard to avoid comparing yourself or your relationship to other people’s. Especially as you get older, it feels like everyone around you is getting into serious relationships or even married. I promise that going at your own pace when you’re confident in how you feel is the best option every time.
When do you think the best time to say “I love you” is?