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

I’ve been seeing someone (I know!) fairly seriously (I. Know!). We talk about our future together — houses we’d buy, vacations we’d take, potential children’s names. We know we’re going to be together for the long haul, we’ve committed to that, but we’re not in any rush. The thing is, we haven’t said, “I love you.” I want to. Every single day, when I watch him put on his work clothes or when he buys me gummy bears on his way home or when he kisses the tops of my hands when we’re watching TV, I want to say it. I’m bursting to say it. And yet, I stop myself by thinking of the scene from Scott Pilgrim where Michael Cera tells Ramona he is in “lesbians” with her, because he fumbles using the BIG L-word.

It just seems like such a big deal and I get the sense he feels the same way — both in that he loves me, but also is scared to say it. We’re at an impasse. A terrifying impasse.

So when is the right time to say, “I love you?”

Do you say it as soon as you know? As soon as you feel like you love the person? Should it slip out during a routine phone call or when they bring you your glasses before bed, real casual-like? “Thanks, hon. I love you.” Should you say it when you’re cuddling, under the covers, clinging to each other? Should you whisper it as they fall asleep, lips warm against their ear, hoping maybe they won’t remember in the morning?

Should you say it during sex? Should you declare it at a fancy dinner where he wears a tuxedo and you wear a ball gown? Write it in a note left on her kitchen table? Should you make a macaroni portrait or put it as a clue in an acrostic mix CD? First song is “Imagine.” Second song is “Let’s Stay Together.” Third song is “Only You.” Etc.

Is four months in too soon? Is two years in too late? What if you never feel that you love the person? Is that okay? What if you knew you loved them before you even got together (or as Savage Garden sings, “before I met you”)?

I’m beginning to think my concerns about when I should say it are problematic. I’m anxious because I’m anticipating a response when I shouldn’t be. My love for him isn’t about whether he loves me back. It’s something that I feel, that I want to share, that should be nice, and sweet, and a wonderful, happy feeling. I shouldn’t be expecting anything from the other person that they don’t honestly feel.

Maybe for now, it’s nice and cozy to know it and not share it, not expect anything back, not crave love, but rather want to give it wholly and selflessly. Maybe I should hold onto this feeling — show you that I love you with actions and affections, every single day. Literally, live out my love for you in everything I do because that’s more important than expected rom-com declarations or Cosmo magazine “milestones.”

Maybe that’s when you know it’s real and true: when you’re not worried about saying it or anxious to hear the other person’s response, when you don’t want anything from the other person, when there is no “right” time. The “right” time is now because who knows what will happen tomorrow? I don’t want to regret the things I never told you, the things I thought we just both knew.

I am sure that I love you. There’s no textbook, formula for saying it (though there’s definitely some wrong places, ha) so instead of stressing about it, I should just say it and enjoy loving you. Because I do. TC Mark

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