You never want to be the first person in the relationship to say “I love you,” especially if the relationship is brand new. Or do you? What if you already know four months into dating someone that you love them? They are the person you think about before you go to bed at night and you fit together so well and you can totally see yourself with them for the foreseeable future. Is that love? Is it lust? What should we call that weird space between “I like you” and “I love you”?
We are afraid to say “I love you.” If you throw yourself out there and drop the L-bomb and the other person is just not feeling you that way, the relationship can get sour. Or what if you’re the person waiting to say “I love you” but you’re too scared to just take the plunge and it’s driving you crazy to keep this big secret?
“I love you” has always been a difficult thing for me to say. It’s not that I’m incapable of loving people, but I didn’t grow up in an overly warm household and a lot of that probably rubbed off on me. My mother was always distant even when she was right there in front of me, and sometimes all I wanted was for her to tell me that she loved me, to make me feel loved. It never happened, and I always felt like the unloved child of the bunch until I learned to start loving myself. So now when I get into relationships I’m almost never the first person to say “I love you,” even if I know I’m bat shit cray cray/head over heels for him. It’s not great, I know, but I’m one of those people who just assumes that the other person knows how I feel already. I always do cute little things and drop subtle hints so they know I care. Actions speak louder than words, don’t they?
After about a year of dating someone, give or take a few months,
you enter that space where it’s kind of expected that one of you is going to drop the L-bomb. Maybe you’re trying to get out of the relationship and you hope that he or she doesn’t say it because then you’ll be forced to fake some kind of passionate response, or maybe you’re looking forward to the moment and the great sex you’ll have afterwards. No matter how it goes, saying “I love you” for the first time to a new person is big.
But does it have to be? Love, as we know, is a “four-letter word that has been tragically co-opted by the romance industrial complex.” It’s become this special word engulfed by chocolates and heart shapes that we are supposed to reserve for few people when the truth is that over the course of our lives we will have many loves.
Saying you love someone and feeling loved are two of life’s greatest feelings, but we shouldn’t feel nervous about telling people we love them and we shouldn’t get freaked out when somebody says it to us first. Maybe we should all love each other on our own terms. If somebody says “I love you” and you’re not sure how you feel, instead of being awkward, you should honestly tell them, “I think you’re amazing and I want to keep doing this but I’m just not there yet” and that should be okay. If they know how you feel, maybe that’ll get them to tell you how they feel that much sooner.