I can’t tell you the exact moment I knew I was in love with my partner, but it was somewhere around the time they were bearing their soul to me about their flaws, worried I would want to stop seeing them. I knew in my heart that nothing they said could make me flinch, and I smiled and told them that I deeply cared about them and wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve used the word ‘care’ in place of ‘love’ so many times in the few months we’ve been seeing each other, but the more time I spend getting to know them the more the word doesn’t do my feelings justice. It never seems like the right time to say ‘I love you’ and I worry there’s too much expectation behind those 3 big words. I’ve said it too early in past relationships and was met with awkwardness and heartache when they didn’t say it back, so I’ve worked hard on keeping it locked up while trying to express my feelings in other ways until the time is right. I don’t want to change the dynamic of our relationship or put pressure on my partner – I just want to express how much they mean to me! So how do you know when to say ‘I love you’ without risking what you have?
It’s always a risk
In short, you don’t. There’s always the risk that the person you’re in love with doesn’t feel the same way – and waiting until they say it first to avoid vulnerability might be too late or never come because they’re trying to avoid vulnerability as well. Having feelings for someone, asking them out, being in a relationship – these are all risks that you most likely already took and so far I’m assuming they worked out alright. Unless they’re so emotionally unavailable they break up with you because they can’t deal with you loving them (which sucks but saves you from wasting your time) the worst thing that can happen is they aren’t able to say it back yet (and that’s OK – we all grow emotionally at different rates!). If you can deal with that, you’re ready.
Every time you see them you want to tell them
Maybe you’re gazing at them while you cuddle and you ask yourself if this is the right time. Or maybe you’re laying awake beside them as the two of you start to drift off to sleep, wishing you had the courage to just say it…now…now…now. Maybe your emotions have caused you to tear up while trying to explain to them what’s wrong when you just want to tell them being with them makes everything right. If you’re becoming a mess because you need to tell them you love them but you’re scared it’ll change everything, maybe you just need to tell them. Maybe they’ll be relieved they know why you’ve been so emotional and maybe you’ll both feel a whole lot better afterwards.
You don’t have an agenda
Be authentic when you bear your soul to someone. You shouldn’t be setting your partner up to see how they feel about you, nor should you be tricking them into doing something you want. Telling someone ‘I love you’ should be about expressing your feelings for them and making them feel good that you care about them – nothing more. Ask yourself why you want to say those 3 big words and what outcome you want after you say them. If you’re content with nothing changing except your partner knowing how you feel, then go for it.
You’re able to say it in person…sober
Everyone knows it’s way easier to say something in a text, email or over the phone. But unless you’re not able to physically be in front of your partner, tell them in person. And as tempting as it is, don’t tell them while you’re under the influence and don’t tell them during sex. There’s nothing worse than hearing someone say they love you when they’re drunk or having sex and wondering if they really meant it. Be present and fully aware of the words that are coming out of your mouth. Even though it can be terrifying, that’s how you’ll know you’re fully ready.
While I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to say ‘I love you’ to my partner, I know that I’ll keep these things in mind when I’m going for it. Remember that those 3 big words are about letting your partner know how you feel about them – nothing more. So really, the only thing holding you back from saying it is the fear that it’ll change your relationship. Once you can get over that, whenever you’re ready is the right time to say ‘I love you.’
When do you think is the right time to say I love you? Let me know in the comments below.