~ March 2022 ~
It take courage to say “I love you” out loud to another person.
Those three words carry plenty of weight, especially if you’re going to be the first one to express your love in a new relationship. What if your feelings aren’t reciprocated? What if your partner isn’t ready to hear it? How soon is too soon to say “I love you”?
“These words signify a shift in the relationship, a move toward a new deeper level of commitment for couples,” says Deirdre Cosgrove, LMFT, clinical director at A Better Life Therapy. “I believe they mean so much because these words are vulnerable to say, and they signal that this person means something to you.”
“I’m a big romantic so I think if you are feeling you love someone, it’s always good to express that feeling; however, it’s likely going to be more of an emotional risk the earlier you say it into the relationship,” says Cosgrove.
The biggest risk with saying you love your partner too soon is that they’ll feel pressured to say it back, when it might not be mutual, or become frightened by the intensity and may choose to end the relationship as a result.
If you say it too soon into getting to know and date someone, you might be expressing emotions too aggressively when in the midst of a more casual and fresh relationship. Here’s how soon is too soon to say I love you, if you’re unsure if you should wait longer before expressing those pivotal words.
Of course, reading your partner’s cues, as well as really analyzing your emotions to figure out if you’re actually in love or not, will help you make the wisest and truest decision to benefit and strengthen your relationship.
And if your partner says it first, then you have more reassurance too, so you can decide if you want to express reciprocation and feel more confident in being vulnerable. Often times it’ll be mutual, as long as you’re on the same page!
It can be confusing though, especially if you haven’t been in love before and experience feelings that are new to you. You might start to feel “love” if you haven’t had a connection as intense or as quickly than it has with anyone else before.
“I would say that it’s most typical for people to say these words within a few months of dating exclusively,” says Cosgrove. At this point, you’ve known each other for a bit and have been able to learn about each other and process and develop emotions.
In fact, anything longer than a few months might be cause of concern. “I think most people are hoping to find the person they can say this too, so if they aren’t there in a few months, it causes people to evaluate the relationship and maybe break up,” Cosgrove says.
How soon is too soon to say “I love you”?
You might hear your friend express that they loved their partner from the moment they met or on their first date, as they’re telling you the “how we met” story over dinner. While this sentiment is nice, it’s pretty hard to say that true love at first sight or on a first date exists.
“I find that people did not know they loved them truly from the first date, but rather there was a slow growth of love throughout the time they started getting to know each other,” says Omar Ruiz, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the owner of TalkThinkThrive.
When we first meet someone and feel a connection, it’s natural for oxytocin, aka the “love hormone” to increase. However, love might be disguising as lust, which is more appropriate with an early relationship and those butterflies or strong physical attraction you might have. While not love, lust does give you reason to continue to develop the connection in order to achieve love with a specific person and in the future.
Another way to know if it’s lust instead of love is to consider the timing of moments where you feel like uttering those three words. “If this phrase only comes out during moments of passionate sex, then its lust,” says Ruiz. See if you have the same strong feelings by separating emotional from physical and see if they add up.
“To me, love implies a deepening of the emotional connection that for most people takes time to unfold, and I think it is built when couples talk about their vulnerabilities, or are able to help one another through a difficult time,” explains Ruiz.
It’s the moment when you find yourself missing them, or perhaps want to spend all your time with them (apart from normal alone time to recharge). You might fall in love faster if you’ve been friends first too, where it’s not too soon to say I love you, if it’s a bit earlier than typical.
“When couples start as friends and find themselves falling for one another, they are able to connect emotionally before adding in physical intimacy,” says Cosgrove. Still, true love will take time, as you move past a platonic level and add depth to the relationship.
The right time to say “I love you”
The time might vary, but typically the common time frame happens to be the right amount of time, too. Anything sooner is too soon to say I love you.
Both Cosgrove and Ruiz agree that it’s best to say those three special words once you have spent at least three to five months getting to know your partner, where you’ve likely also talked about future plans you’d like to experience together, whether that be marriage or even just a vacation. You are probably spending most nights together too, if you’re in a relationship without distance or travel for work.
At the end of the day, trust your gut instinct. “I think if you feel you can’t help yourself from saying it, and it feels like you are about to blurt it out when you are together, that’s how you know it’s time to share your feelings,” says Cosgrove. Gage how your partner if feeling too, consider the time frame and be certain of your feelings—then it’s time to be brave and express how you feel.