There are certain milestones that happen in almost every relationship. The first time you hold hands, the first time you kiss, the first time you spend the night at each other’s place, etc.
If things continue going well after those milestones there is an inevitable phrase on the horizon that always feels difficult to navigate.
Someone eventually breaks the ice and says the simple phrase that can make or break a relationship depending on the timing…“I love you.”
Based on my experience there never seemed to be a “right” moment to say these words. Should you wait a few weeks? A few months? When can you be certain that you have waited long enough… but not “too long”?
These are the questions that we often ask ourselves… but perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing. In fact, there are three specific questions you could be asking yourself before taking the leap to ensure you are in tune with your own feelings.
Is the other person saying it as a means of control?
Years ago I was in a relationship with someone who lovebombed me very early on and confessed his deep feelings after only several weeks of dating.
Granted, I was young and naive at the time but those words had an extremely powerful effect on me. Hearing “I love you” from this individual caused me to believe that I was experiencing love at first sight. Growing up, this is what I had seen play out in the movies and media I consumed, so I simply accepted it without question.
Later on, in the relationship when the abuse started, it was extremely confusing because it was coming from someone who had claimed to love me.
It wasn’t until later on that I learned words can be used as a means of control when in the hands of a manipulator, especially words claiming to feel devoted love towards another human being.
Are you only wanting to say it because the other person said it first?
When someone says “I love you” they are expecting/hoping for that phrase to be said in return.
I have been with my partner for over three years, and I was actually the first to say it in our relationship. He said it a few weeks after, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit nervous/anxious that I had put that out there without a response.
Now that I can look back, years into a happy and healthy relationship, I am thankful that he didn’t say it back right away. The fact that he waited showed me that he wanted to ensure he truly felt that way before saying it made the words all the more believable.
Are you saying it to “speed things along?”
There are so many times that I tried to speed my relationships along because I wanted to jump the beginning stage right into the part where we were deeply and madly in love.
Not only did this behavior result in many unhealthy relationships, but I was basically cheating myself out of the excitement that comes with the beginning stages of dating someone.
With my partner of many years, I didn’t jump in headfirst and we took things slowly and at a pace that we were both comfortable with. Neither of us said, “I love you” (I being the first as I mentioned prior) until we had been dating around five months. This made it incredibly special because we had built up to that feeling instead of jumping straight into it.
If I could go back in time and tell my younger self something about love…
I would give myself one main piece of advice.
You aren’t going to love every single person you date, and you don’t need to feel like you have to reciprocate feelings that may not be there.
Love isn’t meant to be a word that is thrown around carelessly, nor is it something that you should be pressured to say. There is no right time that anyone can tell you as it’s something you have to feel and decide from within your own experience.
The “love” that you feel today for your partner is different than the “love” you will feel next year, or the year after that. Don’t rush it and remember, everyone’s experience is unique to themselves.