Written by Sue Nador.
I remember the first time my husband told me, “I love you.” Rather than my heart exploding with joy, his words took me aback. I wasn’t ready for this pronouncement. After all, we had only known each other for a few weeks. Did he really love me or the thought of us being in love? I wasn’t sure.
I’m a stickler for words. And when it comes to the word “love” I worry it has been diluted so much that we use it glibly. I can tell my husband: “I love this mystery novel”; “I love this strong espresso”; and, “I love you so much” in the same breath. Not that a good read or a shot of excellent caffeine isn’t right up there with true love – but still!
Is there a right time to tell someone “I love you” for the very first time?
Here’s my take on when you should say it.
When you know
Saying “I love you” for the first time is a big step in the arc of a relationship. It is a line in the sand that signals the end of a casual romance and the start of an enduring one. Love is hard to define but my test is whether you are ready to embrace someone’s eccentricities, blind spots and annoying habits – not just their great qualities.
It’s easy to love someone for their positive characteristics. At the start of a relationship, people are often the shiniest version of themselves. And there is a hormonal high that tends to blind us to someone’s duller qualities. If you have spent enough time with your partner to see them as a “whole” person warts and all, and you still wouldn’t change a thing, that’s love!
When you are ready
There is no deadline for saying, “I love you.” My husband told me after a few weeks but it took me longer to be certain. The worst thing is to feel pressured to say “I love you” or to feel you need to say “I love you too” when someone has declared their love.
Saying “I love you” naturally raises expectations. So, find other ways to express interest without committing to saying three words that you are not yet certain of. How about something like, “I think I may be falling in love with you”? Sure, it’s more qualified but also a more honest expression of your feelings.
When you are thinking clearly
Saying “I love you” is serious business. It should be a pure expression not muddied by competing motives. This means not saying “I love you” to get something you want whether that is physical affection or a loan till pay day. It also means not blurting it out when your brain is foggy from too much wine or too little sleep. And, it especially shouldn’t be said when you are distracted and can’t look your partner in the eye.
Saying “I love you” should be said with warmth, sincerity and the best possible frame of mind. Don’t cheapen the experience by saying it at the wrong moment. It can be spontaneous (spontaneity is good!) as long as you won’t have to take back the words later!
My husband may not have picked the right moment (in my mind) to say, “I love you” the very first time. But when he says those three words to me now, I know they are from the bottom of his heart.