Should you wait for him to say it first?
What if you say it, but he doesn’t say it back?
And most importantly:
When is the right time to say it?
These are all questions you’ve asked yourself if you’ve contemplated opening up and telling someone for the first time that you love them.
With good reason.
Saying “I love you” at the wrong time is as damaging to a new relationship as a failed proposal to an established one.
Clearly, no coach can tell you exactly when saying it is right for you. Ultimately, when to say “I love you” is something you have to decide for yourself. The beauty of love is in the fact that everyone feels and defines it differently.
What I can give you is 5 solid guidelines to follow if you’re thinking about saying it and want to give things the best chance of going well.
Consider your definition of love
Think about what you consider to be your definition of love. How would you define it?
Most women, when I ask them this question, tell me, “I just know; I just feel it.”
So I usually ask a follow up question:
When that feeling occurs, how much do you typically know of the guy? For example, how many things can you name you DON’T like about him?
In successful, married couples (or couples who have known each other a long time) the woman has absolutely no problem naming negatives about her lover. Sometimes, I have to stop her or she just keeps going!
But she still loves him.
Is that your definition of love?
How well do you have to know a man’s faults before you call it love?
So while I could never presume to give you a timeframe of when to say the words, I’d recommend you base your definition on how well you know all aspects of him. Not just the ones you like.
If you go to say I love you and you can’t name a number of things you don’t like about him, consider whether it could be the rose-colored glasses talking. It might be worth putting a hold on the ‘I love you’s’ for a couple of months while you get to know him better.
Make him work for it
I’ve always found it odd that society tells women to make a guy work for sex and value their bodies, but I’ve rarely heard anyone tell women to make men work for their love and for them to value something much more important – their heart.
If you sleep with a man, and he disappears afterwards, it can be very disappointing, especially if you liked him. But casual sex is not emotionally traumatic for most people. After all, that’s what a booty call is.
But if you love someone and he leaves, it can take months or even years to get over and can leave you with significant emotional scarring.
Your love and support is the ultimate driver, gift, and energy any man can ever have with him. Don’t underestimate its value. Men have started wars and killed millions to earn love from the woman they desire. Having sex with you gives him nothing, compared to having your love at his back.
So forget sex. Make him work for your love in every sense of the word. Don’t give it away to every guy you’ve known for a few months. Make a man earn the greatest gift you have to give.
Pick your moment
If, after all this, you’ve decided he’s the right guy, and you want to say it, then do so in a private, safe space, where you won’t be interrupted. Make sure neither of you have anywhere to be and that you’re both feeling open and vulnerable.
This way, if it isn’t reciprocated, you can reconnect properly (see below for more on this).
Avoid the 3 “Don’ts”
There are few hard rules for saying ‘I love you,’ but this is one.
Don’t say it for the first time when you’re:
–Have been exclusive for less than 3 months
When you say “I love you”, you want it to be the most genuine thing you’ve ever said to your partner. Sex and alcohol prevent this.
As for the 3-month rule, unless (as above) you can name a number of things you don’t like about him (perhaps, he was a long-term friend before you dated), you’re best off holding your tongue – just to be certain. After all, there’s no rush. The habit of confessing your love to guys you’ve only known 6-8 weeks is one that’s sure to come back to bite you.
Avoid repeating yourself
Finally, if you decide to say it, and you put your heart out there, there’s always a chance it may not be reciprocated. That doesn’t mean panic stations – it could simply mean it doesn’t fit his definition yet. However, I would encourage you not to keep saying it, at least for a little while.
I’ve met a few women, who say, “Well I don’t care if he says it back or not; it’s how I feel, so I’m just going to keep saying it.”
I don’t recommend this. Remember, love is the most valuable thing you offer. You wouldn’t keep hugging someone who never hugged you back. You wouldn’t keep paying attention to someone who never paid you attention. So why would you do it with love?
The other reason is that each time you say it, he feels pressure from you (even if this isn’t your aim) to say it back. You want him to say it on his own terms, not because he’s under pressure from you.
If it isn’t reciprocated, come back and try again in a month or two, when it has had time to fit into his definition.
There’s two other questions I’m often asked on this topic.
“What if he hasn’t said we’re exclusive, but I’m absolutely sure he has been? Is it then OK if I say it sooner?”
There’s no rush. Have the conversation about exclusivity, first. Let love blossom for another couple of months unsaid. No man has ever left a woman in an otherwise great relationship because she kicked off the “I love you’s” a couple of months late.
“What if he keeps saying it and won’t let up, but I’m not sure I feel it yet?”
Be open. It’s important to communicate that you love where things are at, but that you need more time and don’t want to feel pressured.
“I love spending time with you and love where we are going, but I need time before I’m ready to say it back. That could be a couple of weeks or it could be a couple of months, so I just need you to give me time and take the pressure off, so we can keep going the way we have been, yeah?” – is a good style of response.
In summary, love is the greatest gift you have to give. Treat it as such. Savor it and make a man work hard – while getting to know all aspects of him – before you decide it’s time.
As long as you’ve done this and feel it genuinely, you can rest assured you’ll be saying “I love you” at the perfect time.