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When Is The Right Time To Say “I Love You” In A Relationship?

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I love you. Just three tiny words made up of a mere eight letters that somehow manage to cause an infinite amount of joy and heartache.

We seem to have collectively decided to put these words up on a lofty pedestal. I think we can all agree on the fact that, at the end of the day, they’re just words.

Still, there’s no getting away from the fact that they’re incredibly charged with meaning, and saying “I love you” isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Saying those little words (or not) can have a big impact, both on you and your partner.

Of course, you’re hoping that when you declare your love for someone that they will, immediately and without any hint of hesitation, tell you that they love you too. Unfortunately, most of us have nightmares about them replying “and I love spending time with you…” and the whole thing crumbling about our ears.

It’s a very strong relationship that can recover from one person declaring their love, and the other one not being quite there yet. Sure, love is meant to be unconditional and not based on whether it’s reciprocated, but let’s be realistic. In practice, it’s not easy to tell someone you love them and not have them say it back. If you can handle that, I salute you.

If you’re wondering when the right time is to say “I love you,” you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few signs to look out for:

1. You’ve Been Together For A While

I’m not going to put a time frame on this, as no two relationships are the same. You might have been casually dating on and off for months on end, meaning you could have been seeing each other for a year or more before the time is right.

On the other hand, you might have met while travelling and spent every waking second of every day together, cramming six months of a normal relationship into one.

There’s no magical cut off point where it suddenly becomes legitimate to say “I love you,” but you should definitely have spent long periods of time in each other’s company and be convinced you know them pretty well. 

Even if it hits you like a lightning bolt and you think it’s love at first sight, it’s best not to rush. Leave your declaration until you know a little more about each other, just to be on the safe side. You can always tell them you loved them the moment you saw them later on!

2. You’ve Had Your First Fight

This is a really important one. We all know those couples that claim that they “don’t argue,” but as far as I’m concerned that’s not healthy, and not realistic.

You shouldn’t be at each other’s throats 24/7, but no one’s perfect, so if you haven’t had some kind of disagreement, you’re probably actively avoiding confrontation or one of you is putting on a bit of an act.

If you love someone, you should be able to disagree on things but still respect the other person’s opinion, and you should be able to forgive each other. Often, people’s true colors will only come out when they’re annoyed, and if you love them like that, then you really love them. 

3. You’re On The Same Page

Before you declare your love for someone, you need to make sure that you’re firmly on the same page when it comes to your relationship. Have you had “the talk” about where it’s going?

There’s no sense letting yourself fall head over heels in love with someone if they’re under the impression that it’s not that serious, or that there’s a time limit on things.

If things started extremely casually with one or both of you making it clear that you didn’t want anything serious, or if one of you is jetting off to a far distant land in the near future, make sure you’re both fully aware of the intentions of the other person before you complicate things by telling them you love them.

If they’re under the impression things are being kept causal, they might be taken aback by your declaration of love, so make sure everything’s clear first.

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4. It’s Always On The Tip Of Your Tongue

If you’ve ever been in love before, you’ll know what I mean here. Don’t let it come out the first time that feeling rises up in your stomach and tries to burst out of you. Bring it firmly back in from the tip of your tongue and store it away for future reference.

Chances are that soon after you first feel like saying “I love you,” he or she will do something that makes you completely change your mind for a while. And then you’ll change it back the other way, and so on and so forth.

Let this happen a couple of times and make sure that you feel like you love them more than you doubt them before you finally set the words free.

5. You Think There’s A Good Chance They’ll Say It Back

As I’ve already mentioned, if you can deal with telling someone you love them, it not being reciprocated and that not ruining the relationship, then you deserve a medal. I aspire to your level of emotional maturity. Might get there one day.

For the rest of us, however, it’s wise to wait until you genuinely think they might feel the same way. Everyone expresses affection in a different way and the object of your affections might not be one for grand gestures or PDAs, but they’ll find a way to let you know.

It’ll be the little, cheesy things like the way they look at you that give you a clue.

Who Should Say It?

Can we please get over this ridiculous idea that the guy (in a heterosexual relationship) should be the first person to say “I love you”?

For some reason, a lot of people still seem to hang onto the idea that women should be passive and men should be pursuing them, calling all the shots.

The woman should wait around until the man decides to ask her for her number, ask her out and then profess his love at some point down the line. Miss Passivity should then flutter her eyelashes bashfully, whisper “I love you too,” and then start waiting around for him to produce a diamond ring, when he decides he’s ready.

If you feel something for someone, your gender shouldn’t be the thing stopping you from saying it. This isn’t a Jane Austen novel, it’s the 21st century and gender has nothing to do with it.

If a guy has a problem with the fact that you’ve said it first, then he’s most definitely not the right man for you, which means you can stop wasting your time on him. 

That’s not to say that the guy shouldn’t say it, obviously.

Don’t Rush And Don’t Stress

If you think you’ve found someone that you’d like to spend the rest of your days with, there’s absolutely no rush. If they’re the one for you, they’re not going anywhere. Saying or not saying “I love you” won’t suddenly change how you or they feel.

It might be easier said than done, but don’t agonize over it. Love should be a wonderful, joyous thing, that makes you feel sick, but in a really good way. Relax, and revel in the butterflies.

About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.