There is no set time frame for when to say “I love you,” but here are some things to take into account to be sure you really mean it.
Three words change the entire dynamic of a relationship: I love you. These words carry a lot of meaning and emotion behind them. So when you do say them to the person you’re dating, it’s important that you truly mean it. If you’re wondering when to say, “I love you,” to someone, you might not be satisfied with the answer.
Saying “I love you” is a personal decision, and you’ll know in your heart when it’s the right time to say it. For some people, it takes a few days and for others, it takes months or even a year. However, if you’re worried, there are some factors you want to take into consideration beforehand. Let’s talk about when to say “I love you” to the person you’re interested in.
How Long Should You Be Dating Before You Say “I Love You”?
Truth be told, there really isn’t an exact time frame on when you should tell someone you love them in a relationship. For some people, it could be a few weeks. For others, it could be a year. Many people in relationships never even get to the point of saying these words, and that’s okay!
Lust vs. Love
You never want to tell someone you love them without actually meaning it. So before saying “I love you,” do some self-reflection to see if it’s love or lust that you have for this person. Most of the time, we experience lust with a person before it transforms into love. For this reason, we can often mistake lust for love, so here are the differences between the two.
Lust is “a strong feeling of sexual desire”. Lust is the sexual attraction that you feel towards someone and often can take place in the form of getting “butterflies” when you see this person. When you’re away from this person, all you can think about is being close to them. Lust triggers emotions in the brain that release hormones such as testosterone, pheromones, and androgens. When these chemicals are stimulated, the person you’re interested in likely consumes a big majority of your attention.
Most of the time, lust occurs when you are intensely sexually attracted to the person. And that’s not to say that sexual attraction fades when love happens. But when the primary feeling of attraction you have for a person is sexual, it might just be lust.
One way to know if what you are feeling is lust is if you can’t identify any faults in this person. No one is perfect, and everybody has faults. It turns into love when you learn to accept and communicate through these faults. But if you just consider the person you’re attracted to as “perfect,” it’s likely more lust than anything.
Love is a little more difficult to define compared to lust. If you’re starting to feel more comfortable in your relationship and less of that emotional high that lust gives you, you might be feeling the love. But certain factors have to be there for love to be present.
Psychologist Robert Sternberg says that love is made up of three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Intimacy is when you feel closely connected with your partner on physical, emotional, and sexual levels. It’s what makes you feel bonded to one another. To have intimacy, you have to be open and honest with your partner. Intimacy develops through vulnerability, which can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, so this may take some time.
Passion is the intense romantic and emotional feelings you have with your partner. One way to identify passion is when you’re longing for your partner when you’re not around them. If you’re constantly thinking about your partner, that’s passion. Most of the time, passion and lust go hand in hand, so it’s important to keep in mind that passion isn’t the only component of love.
Commitment is simply the decision to be with one another. There are different levels of commitment that you’ll need to discuss with your partner. For example, if you want an open relationship, you and your partner need to be on the same page with that. Assuming you’re in a monogamous relationship, that level of commitment is more intense, as you two are essentially promising to stay faithful to one another.
Difference Between Falling In Love And Being In Love
It’s important to recognize the difference between falling in love and being in love. If you’re falling in love with somebody, maybe it isn’t the right time to say “I love you” directly. This goes hand in hand with lust vs. love.
Falling in love is mostly based on lust and infatuation. It is a transitional phase between the initial attraction of really liking someone and being full-blown in love with someone. “Falling” is the perfect image for this feeling, as you’re starting to see the signs of love, but you just aren’t quite there yet. No one goes straight from liking someone to being in love; there is almost always a stage of falling. For some people, this stage is quick. For others, it doesn’t go any further.
Being in love is a completely different story. When you’re in love with someone, you still feel that passion and infatuation with the person, but you’ve become more intimate and comfortable with them as well. Intimacy becomes a part of your everyday relationship, and it bonds you as a couple.
Who Should Say It First?
If you want to say “I love you” first, but you’re scared your partner won’t say it back, you are not alone. Most people who say “I love you” first have this worry, so it is completely normal. But if you feel comfortable enough to tell someone you love them, there’s a good chance that they probably feel the same way you do.
It’s important to know that the relationship isn’t damaged if the other person doesn’t say it back. Think about it: Would you rather someone say they love you and not mean it or wait to say it until they truly mean it? Open and honest communication is the most important part of a healthy relationship. If the person you’re saying this to is right for you, the time will come where they will confess their love for you. And when they do, it’ll feel even better because you know they mean it with their whole heart.
And if we’re talking about gender, of course, women can say it first. The idea that only the man can say “I love you” first follows traditional gender stereotypes that only perpetuate sexism. Nowadays, these gender stereotypes have somewhat fallen apart for the better. But it’s not uncommon to see older generations still following these roles.
What About Long-Distance Relationships?
If you’re in a long-distance relationship with someone and haven’t said “I love you” yet, the stress of knowing when to say it only increases. In most cases, saying “I love you” in person is best, so if you can wait until you see this person face-to-face, it’ll feel more sincere and genuine.
But if you’re not able to wait to say it, it’ll likely happen digitally. If you are planning on telling your partner that you love them on the phone, do not do it over text! Texting “I love you” is not a good idea, as it comes across as ingenuine. The best-case scenario is saying it over a video call. This way, you can see the person’s face and hear their voice. It’s essentially the closest thing you’ll get to saying it in person.
If you’ve decided that video call is the way to go, you also want to wait for the right circumstances. Wait until you know this person is free to talk without any outside stressors. If you call at a certain time every night, this may be the right time. But randomly calling up your partner while they’re doing an assignment or getting ready for work might not be the best time.
What If They Don’t Say It Back?
When you finally muster up the courage to tell someone you love them and they don’t say it back, it can feel like your world is ending. But don’t freak out! Just because the person doesn’t say it back doesn’t mean the relationship is automatically over.
Also, keep in mind that people have different ways of expressing love. For example, maybe you grew up in a family that said “I love you” every single day, but your partner grew up not being told that as often, thus not feeling comfortable to say it as freely. If this is the case, your relationship might just need a little more time. Emotional intimacy is key to creating a solid foundation for love.
You can’t force yourself to love someone, and you don’t want to force anyone to love you back. Love comes naturally. So when someone confesses their love for you, it’s more important that they mean it.
How To Respond If You Aren’t Ready To Say It Yet
Alternatively, if your partner tells you they love you and you aren’t quite ready to say it back, don’t worry! People fall in love at different times, and you should never feel pressured into saying something you don’t genuinely feel is true.
If your partner feels upset when you don’t say it back, don’t take it personally. This is a great time to provide open and honest communication about how you feel. By telling your partner that you like them a lot or are in the process of falling in love, you’re reassuring them that you’re getting to that point. By doing this, your partner will hopefully appreciate your honesty and it may even bring you closer as a couple.
Someone who truly loves you will have respect for your feelings and boundaries. So if they get upset for a prolonged period of time, it might be a sign that this person is not for you, especially if you’ve explained your feelings and the person is invalidating them without even trying to understand where you’re coming from. This is a huge red flag.
Patterns For Saying “I Love You”
Although there isn’t a definitive answer on when to say “I love you,” there are some common patterns detected among most couples. This research conducted 6 studies that looked at when the differences were between men and women saying these words.
The first finding probably doesn’t shock you. Overall, men are more likely to say “I love you” first compared to women. Alongside this, men tend to say it faster than women do. On average, men say the right time to say “I love you” is about one month. On the other hand, women averaged saying it in about two to three months.
Another finding of this study centers around the timing of saying “I love you” and sexual intimacy. For men, saying “I love you” provoked a more positive response when said before having sex. For women, saying “I love you” meant more after having sex with their partner.
However, these studies also found that the timing in which you tell someone you love them does not predict the length or success of the relationship. So to give you some peace of mind, it doesn’t matter when you say “I love you” in a relationship. What matters is that you feel a serious connection to this person and genuinely mean the words you are saying.
When You Shouldn’t Say “I Love You”
When you tell someone you love them for the first time, it’s important to mean it. There are some instances that you probably shouldn’t say it for the first time, as they can make you come across as ingenuine.
If you’re intoxicated in any way, it isn’t the time to say these words. When you are intoxicated, you’re likely to tell someone you love them when you don’t really mean it. And then you have to deal with the aftermath, and playing with someone’s feelings is never cool. Even if you truly feel it, it isn’t going to be a positive memory to have, and you’ll wish you said it when you were sober.
Saying “I love you” over text probably isn’t the best thing, either. Saying these three words is a personal moment that you’ll want to remember. Saying it over text comes across as you not taking things seriously which is not the impression you want to give to your partner. Also, communication is never clear over text, so you may misinterpret the person’s response, inevitably sending you into an emotional spiral, making you regret saying it in the first place.
If you say “I love you” during sex, it can lead your partner to wonder if you really meant it. During sex, we feel an influx of hormones and a sense of euphoria. This can make it easier for a person to make a bold gesture like saying “I love you.” Even though saying this is completely valid while having sex, it can be confusing for the person on the receiving end.
Experience Self-Love First
Before committing to someone and confessing your love for them, it’s essential that you love yourself first. Though the saying, “You have to love yourself before you can love anybody else,” is a bit of a cliche, there is some truth behind it.
Self-love is what fuels us as human beings. When you love yourself, you automatically tend to succeed in other areas of your life. One of the main components of loving yourself is prioritizing your needs. This means putting your feelings before anyone else’s.
When you set standards on how you treat yourself, you’re showing the person you’re interested in how you want and need to be loved.
As good as this sounds, no one looks in the mirror and loves every single aspect of themselves. You don’t necessarily have to like everything about yourself to partake in self-love. It’s about appreciating yourself, prioritizing your needs, and standing by your beliefs.
Saying “I love you” is a personal and deep decision that you should think about before saying. Whenever you’re ready and genuine in your feelings, saying these words will take your relationship to the next level. But if you’re wondering when to say “I love you,” there really is no definitive answer. You should say “I love you” when you truly feel and mean it regardless of the time frame.