When Should You Say ‘I Love You’ in a Relationship?

One of the most common early relationship experiences is deciding when to say “I love you”—that is, of course, after you figure out you are in fact in love withyour partner. It’s not just timing that’s an emotional struggle. There’s where to say it, how soon is too soon, and what to do if the other person doesn’t say it back…ever.

Yep, dropping the L-bomb is a tricky romantic milestone. To get clarity on the exact right time and how you’ll know you’re ready and really feeling it, we reached out to relationship experts. Here are the three guidelines they advise.

Consider putting it off at least 3 months

Of course, every relationship is different. If you truly believe you’re in love by the second date and your heart is about ready to thump out of your chest if you don’t share the realization, then by all means, go for it.

But more often than not, even if you think you’re in love, consider waiting. That’s because the progression of love takes time, at least three months, Rebekah Montgomery, PhD, a therapist in private practice in Washington, DC, tells Health. If you think you feel it beforehand, it’s probably lust, infatuation, idealization, or chemistry.

This is because romantic love has a lot to do with amassed experiences with the person you’re dating. “How deeply do you know them—like, really know them?” Montgomery says. “You can fall in love with someone when things are going well and you’re having fun, but how about during stressful times, extended periods of time in each other’s company, traveling together, or when one of you is sick, vulnerable, or not at your best?”

Make sure your mindset has gone from “me” to “we”

Let’s say the relationship has lasted and you’ve been through less-than-ideal circumstances together. When you start reconfiguring your world around the other person, and you feel comfortable letting down your guard and sharing your deepest fears, needs, and desires, “it is likely love,” Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, relationship researcher and author of From First Kiss to Forever, tells Health. “When you constantly think about the other person, and you value the person for all of their strengths and faults, it is likely love.”

Wait until you won’t care if they don’t say it back

This one is a biggie. “The most critical aspect of deciding when to say ‘I love you’ is waiting until you feel comfortable with whatever the outcome is,” Montgomery says. “You want to feel good sharing how you feel, even if your partner isn’t quite ready to reciprocate.”

Montgomery emphasizes that you shouldn’t panic if they don’t return those three little words right away. “In fact, it’s even good to let the other person know you don’t need them to say it back,” she says. “It’s unrealistic to expect that two different people would experience the same exact emotions with the same exact timing.” In a relationship, you will be ready for things at different times: the first kiss, sex, moving in together, etc. “It’s about navigating the natural differences in timing,” she adds.

Also, a person’s definition of love may change with time and age, or over the course of a single relationship. “Infatuation, or the period of time in which you are totally absorbed in another person—see the world through rose-colored glasses, potentially ignore red flags—has been shown to last up to two years,” she says. “It’s not that a person needs to wait two years to say ‘I love you,’ but the ‘I love you’ can communicate different things, and the meaning behind it will evolve.”

Just don’t worry if they don’t say it back right away. Unless your partner explains that they don’t see those feelings coming at all, it’s more important that they’re putting forth effort to grow the relationship and they take their time to say those three little words. An honest, sincere “I love you” from someone you’re sure you love is worth the wait.

 

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Maureen – Finance Manager – Part 2

She’s on her second martini and I can see it is bringing forth the real Maureen. I like this because when most people get foggy with alcohol everything becomes more clear to me.

I get to Marathon 40 minutes before Maureen. I’m happy she’s hung in there and is coming to meet me tonight.

The bar is empty and I get a seat on the end which I love. My favorite bartender Mike is behind the stick and makes me my usual. Bulliet Rye Manhattan, up with a brandied berry and a side of ice. Delish.

I see my man Branson the beverage manager and I can see he’s dealing with some crisis, so we simply wave. I love Marathon. Think of an upscale diner with locally grown farm fresh food. Just a cool vibe with terrific consistent dining.

I’m watching the Winter Olympics on the TV behind the bar and surfing on my phone. Currently on the TV is women’s track. All powerful women with great legs.

My friend who I got a job there as a server Francesca rolls over to me. She leans in for a hug and a kiss. (See: Francesca – Monday Feels Like Friday) I’m happy to see her and notice the musculature of her back. My girl’s really in great shape.

She tells me how she’s had a horrible week. She’s recently tried to get back together with her ex boyfriend who is a great guy but has anger issues. Never hurt her, but… just too much rage. A personality disorder. He was supposedly going to therapy, but apparently he didn’t and just lured Fran back into his life and is still the same fucked up, violent dude he was a month ago.

She tells me she’s done with him. It’s sad. I really feel her pain. Francesca is a great girl, and I know she really cared for this dude, but he needs to get help.

“I’m sad but I got laid this week.”

Classic Francesca.

“Yea. You know him. It’s Michael. He comes in to your salon to tan occasionally.”

“Oh, yea… him.”

“Yea. I had a horrible week, so I needed to unhook my belt.”

I love Fran and I know she’ll be fine. It’s called being on the right side of thirty and the wrong side of romantic experience. She’ll find her way. I like that’s she’s confident and empowered in her sexual identity as a woman.

I tell her I’m meeting a lady tonight.

“What about your girlfriend?”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Then what is this?”

“I don’t know. Just a meet up for drinks.”

“Does she know that?”

“Don’t judge. Nothing’s happening.”

 

Maureen rolls in on time. It’s been raining and I see her near the hostess stand getting herself together. I stand and wave to her. She approaches and it feels a little to corporate with the handshake, but it’s early.

She is obviously not 24 and I would put her age somewhere between mine and 60.

She seems fine, and I’m one Manhattan in, so I’m low and ready. She orders a vodka martini straight up with a twist and olives. Okay. Let’s see what that looks like.

I give her my whole rap sheet and she exchanges hers with me. Seems she’s been driven by work her entire life. Very successful, and has lived all over the world for her jobs.

Never married. No kids.

That’s a red flag nowadays.

Why no one?

We order food and I get my usual barbecued chicken sandwich with fries. (Which is always glorious) She gets the crab cake platter and sweet potato fries. (Which is equally magic)

Here’s the thing. I don’t see myself doing this again. She’s a nice lady. She’s smart and worldly. But I’d rather just drink with Francesca for an hour and go home. This lady is just too old. She’s missed it all. All of the things people my age have gone through she’s missed.

She’s taken care of her parents for the last 12 years and now they’re both dead. Now she wants to get out and meet men.

No.

That’s not my scene. I have a girlfriend. Maureen was persistent and present. My girlfriend Cherie isn’t. I love Cherie. I don’t want to go on dates with women anymore. Especially ones as far removed from my world as Maureen clearly is.

She’s on her second martini and I can see it is bringing forth the real Maureen. I like this because when most people get foggy with alcohol everything becomes more clear to me.

I’m telling a story and she calls me out on the way I tell the story. She says I look away when I tell a tale, as if I’m talking to the character in the story. No one has ever said that to me in a half a century. I just met her. If I’m telling a story I’m not going to look right at her when I do the dialogue. I think it’s to imposing to a woman to speak to her like she’s actually in the story. I know people who do this and it’s uncomfortable.

So I look away as if I’m addressing the person and I don’t direct it at my guest.

She says it’s weird and it looks like I’m doing a performance.

I don’t like this, and she seems like she’s not only stepped over the line socially but the martinis have loosened the reasons why she’s alone.

I look at the bartender Mike, and swirl my finger in the air. (Wrap it up)

She sees her misstep and how I’m done, and desperately tries to backpedal. I’ve already decided that we’re done, but I actually agree with her and admit that I do it. I’m just buying time. The die has been cast. I’m not going to waste my time with any more of these lost women.

We actually kiss (drunkness) and on a second kiss she slips me the tongue. Its fine but how gross is it for me to be doing PDI with an old lady in my favorite diner? Has she no moral code? It feels clumsy and gross.

She goes to the bathroom and I joke that I always do that when the bill comes. Maureen is totally cool with splitting it, (Which redeems her for a second) I also notice that one of my Manhattans has been taken off. (Thank you, Branson. My man!)

Francesca floats by and says hello.

“I saw some tongue action over here.”

“Stop it.” I laugh “This ones not going to make it. I may be in here tomorrow with another one.”

“Holly shit! Really? You’re as bad as me!”

“Kidding. I’m done and my Marathon rewards card still isn’t working.”

“Not my problem. Talk to the owner. He works out at your gym.”

Again…classic Francesca.

Maureen returns and we wrap it up. This has been a real lesson for me.

I need to continue on the path that I carve and that which is carved for me on the path of least resistance. That has always worked for me. All of these dating sites are just cast off people. It’s nonsense. Just like social media, online dating is a sad desert of sadness.

Real sharks swim in the ocean.

I need to embrace Cherie and write about my life. It’s plenty exciting and I’m done with all of this dating nonsense. It ends here. Anything that happens from here on out will be purely organic.

But I’ve said that before.

I text Maureen that I got home safe and she does the same.

I’ll not call upon her again.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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