4 Ways You’ll Know You’re *Actually* Ready To Say “I Love You”
Article By Paul Hudson AND Hanah Kerns
~ July, 2021 ~ Ah, falling in love… I swear the only other experience that can compare to that rush is falling out of an airplane. With a parachute, of course. The problem with sky diving, however, is that you don’t want to be the only one jumping. But the truth is that someone always has to jump first. It may as well be you.
If you’re in a committed relationship, the question of when to say “I love you” is bound to come up eventually. The exact timeline will be different for everyone, but it generally takes some time to get to know each other and develop those feelings. And it can take even longer to be ready to put those emotions into words.
Although some people will feel comfortable saying those three little words right away, others will wait longer to express their feelings. So, if you’re stuck wondering when is the right time to say “I love you,” the simple truth is that you have to go with your heart. (Clichéd, I know, but it’s true.) You start out knowing very little about the person you’re dating, usually allowing your imaginations to run wild and fill in the gaps. As you grow closer and learn more about our SO, one of two things happens: Either you lose interest or you find that you’re even more intrigued than you were initially. The more often you feel the latter, the more likely you are to fall in love.
But that’s only half the battle. Once you’ve fallen head over heels, it becomes a question of when to share your feelings with your SO. It’s normal to want to let your partner know ASAP, but there are also good reasons to wait until the time feels right. To make that timeline less confusing, here are a few signs that you’re ready to say “I love you” to that special someone.
You Know You Love Your Partner
Before saying “I love you” to your SO, you should double-check that you genuinely feel that way. Once you say those words, you can’t take them back without a difficult and potentially painful conversation. So, before you confess your love, check in with yourself. Are you sure this isn’t lust or infatuation? You don’t need to know if this person is the one that you’re going to spend your life with, but you should be certain that what you have together is love.
To make figuring that out a little easier, look out for the hallmark signs of a loving relationship. “Healthy, lasting love finds its own ‘cruising gear’ where you feel fulfilled, happy, positive, and sure of your choice of partner,” Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of LoveVictory.com, previously told Elite Daily. “You are actually surprised at how calm you feel. You are no longer jumping over the waves, but instead, you are wading and floating in a peaceful pool.” She recommended asking yourself questions like: Does my SO understand and respect me? Do I feel that I need to defend my choice of SO to family and friends? Do I overlook signs of their bad behavior or make excuses for it? Asking yourself probing questions like these could help you distinguish between love and other similar emotions.
But if you’re still struggling to get clarity on whether or not you love someone, it’s better not to get ahead of yourself by saying it before you’re ready. Yes, this still applies even if they’ve already said it to you. Not hearing “I love you, too” is going to hurt your partner, but it’s much better than you lying to protect their feelings. Plus, as long as you explain that it doesn’t mean that you will never grow to love them, they should understand and be patient. Just be honest and let them process the information however they need to. If your partner really loves you, they’re not going anywhere.
You Feel Comfortable Around Your Partner
The length of your relationship is often another contributing factor for deciding when to tell someone you love them. But, at the end of the day, the number of weeks or months don’t matter as much as how close you’ve grown in that period. “There really is no average time it takes to know that you’re in love,” Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist in Los Angeles, previously explained to Elite Daily.
“Some people fall in love on the first date. Some have been friends for months or years, and then one or both realize that they have developed much deeper feelings for each other,” Brown added. No matter what your timeline looks like, it really comes back to feeling comfortable around the other person.
Some fall in love faster than others. You might get this in theory, but it can be harder to see clearly when it’s your own relationship. When you find yourself in love, it’s easy to convince yourself that those feelings must be reciprocated. Especially if the two of you are in what you believe to be a serious relationship (or heading that way). You are both intimate, you want to spend time with each other, and you’re both very interested. But are you both in love?
You’re Ready To Be In Love
Before you can love another person, you have to know yourself — baggage and all. “Self-awareness is one of the keys to our relationship decision-making process,” Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach, explained to Elite Daily. “When you’re self-aware, you’ll find what you accept for yourself and what helps you decide on who, when, and how to love.”
Self-awareness isn’t limited to understanding and accepting the hangups you might have around love. It can be a practice that helps you see whether you’re ready for a relationship in any number of scenarios. Maybe you have too much going on in your life to make a real effort in your love life. Maybe you’re not interested in a committed relationship right now. Maybe you’re still reeling from a past breakup.
Wherever you are emotionally, it will affect your willingness to fall in love and the timeline of when you’re ready to tell someone you love them. TL;DR: if you love someone, say it. But only if you can give love fully and passionately.
You’re Committed To Your SO
No matter how perfectly matched you and your partner may be, your relationship won’t be without conflict. If you’re considering saying “I love you,” you should be ready to stick by your SO even things get tough. Because things will get tough sooner or later — that’s just a fact of life.
So saying “I love you” means you’re willing to stick by someone through the challenging times (as long as the relationship is still healthy for the both of you). If you’re not ready to commit to that yet, you may not be ready for those three words. “Love is an action. It’s a decision,” Meredith Prescott, LCSW, explains. “It requires effort, hard work, and compassion.”
Relationships are easy until they’re not. Until things happen to us that rock our little worlds. Until we stop putting in the effort that we once did. Until we stop feeling loved like we once did. Until we make mistakes.
So, if you’re still wondering when to say “I love you,” check in with yourself to see if you’re prepared to stick by your SO, mistakes and all. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong time to say “I love you.” It’s completely dependent on your individual relationship. But keeping an eye out for these four signs can make it easier for you to feel confident taking that leap.
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of LoveVictory.com
Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist
Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach
Meredith Prescott, LCSW
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A version of this article originally appeared here on elitedaily.com