When to Say ‘I Love You’ for the First Time?

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Are you currently in a new relationship and thinking when’s the right time to say the “three words, eight letters”?

How long should you wait before saying those precious words?

Mark E. Sharp, Ph.D.

Mark E. Sharp

Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Author, Not Lonely at the Top

It needs to be driven more by your own feelings

Saying “I love you” for the first time in a relationship can be a big deal for people and many think of it as a great milestone. It can also be anxiety provoking because it opens you up to rejection if the sentiment isn’t returned.

Nevertheless, the first thing I would say about when to say it is that it needs to be driven more by your own feelings than by how you think it will be accepted by your partner.

Of course, that assumes you have a good sense of relationships and that there is a deepening relationship with your partner. It should be an accurate description of your feelings and should be an indication that you are interested in moving the relationship to a deeper level of connection.

Michelle Baxo

Michelle Baxo photo

International Love Coach | Founder, Power Love Programs

The state of the relationship should be considered

For those who want a cut and dry answer, I would suggest waiting for three months before saying I love you. That being said, the state of the relationship should also be considered and I suggest being pretty sure that the other person is going to say it back.

Here are some markers to help you determine that it’s time to say I love you for the first time:

You’ve both been committed and monogamous for 3 months. Many people date for a while before committing. So it’s important that you’re not including the casual dating in your 3-month count. While you might be excited to say it as soon as you commit, the other person may feel a lot of pressure if ‘I love you’ is said as soon as you commit.

You’re both talking about the future (Plans 5+ years from now). It’s time to say I love you if you both are talking about long term goals and experiences for your future together. Kids, marriage, travel, moving out to the country… These all indicate a life-long commitment.

It feels completely natural to say it (It almost falls out of your mouth unintentionally). Don’t ever force ‘I love you’ just because it’s been a certain amount of time or because you feel like you should say it. Notice if you say it in your head when you look at the person or think of them. You want it to feel completely natural for you.

You are two feet in the relationship and you believe the other person is too. This again speaks to the level of commitment. If you’re still at the place where you are still checking to see if this relationship is going to work out, then you shouldn’t bring ‘I love you’ into the mix. When you both express that ‘this is it’ then this is love.

You’ve both been vulnerable with each other. In the beginning, you’re both showing the best versions of yourself but at some point, one of you will fart and the other will get irritable and you both will catch a really bad cold. Life happens and it’s important for you to see your partner’s humanity and for them to see yours. That’s part of being seen and known which is critical in your trusting the love you feel and receive.

Related: What Are the Benefits of Being in a Relationship?

Celia Schweyer

Celia Schweyer

Dating Expert, Dating Scout

When you feel ready to say it

When you search the internet, there are so many rules about dropping the “I love you” bomb. Some say you can turn him or her off when you say it immediately. Others would advise that you need to wait a certain number of months before you can actually say it.

The truth of the matter is, it can be a few weeks into dating or few months after seeing each other exclusively, but you can say “I love you” when you are 100% certain that you love this person and you are more than ready to tell it to them. What’s important is being in tune with yourself and knowing what you feel. When you are ready to say it to the other person, that’s when you can say it for the first time.

When you are ready to go exclusive

You say it to your partner when you are ready to seal the relationship. This means that you are both over the getting-to-know phase and that you want to move through the more serious level of dating—going exclusive.

Relationships are different for every couple, but saying “I love you” for the first time is something universal. You can only say it if you mean it, and in most relationships, you can only love one person at a time.

When you are sure that you’ll stick with it when it gets tough

Never take “I love you” as something you can just easily tell someone just because it feels right at that the moment. It’s easy to fall in love but staying in love is hard work. If you tell your partner that you love them, make sure that you’re not only saying it because everything has gone smoothly between the two of you for the past months or years.

If you both have been through so many ups and downs and remained strong, then that probably means you do love them whether in good times and bad.

When you really mean it

You don’t have to say it just because you are expected to. Only say it when you mean it. There is no general rule as to the length of time you have to be together before you are allowed to say “I love you.”

However, as a reminder, you have to know that saying these words will open a lot of expectations from the receiving end. A little talk about how you both want things to be going between you might help.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Fall in Love with Someone?

Beverly Friedmann

Beverly Friedmann

Content Manager, MyFoodSubscriptions

When you realize you love the person

When we say “I love you” to a partner for the first time, we want it to be the perfect timing, setting, and most importantly, we’re seeking reciprocation. But instead of basing this expression on any specific timeframe or date within the relationship, if the sentiment comes from the heart, this is usually the best time to say “I love you.”

If you have a strong feeling in your gut that the feeling is mutual, irrespective of any timeline, this is a message you can express to your partner in (almost) any setting. The most romantic way someone has ever told me they loved me for the first time was after a few weeks of dating, and the message was delivered at home after a takeout dinner.

When should you say I love you for the first time? Quite simply, when you realize you love a person, and it’s often best to express this message along with all of their qualities and characteristics that have made you fall in love with them as well.

Julia Askin

Marketing Coordinator, Fueled

There is no rule book

As someone who has been on both the giving and receiving end of an ill-timed “I Love You“, I can confidently say it’s no small, insignificant phrase.

When a person is told that they are loved from a romantic standpoint, there is an immediate imperative to evaluate whether or not the sentiment can be returned. Frankly, it takes experience, trial and error to know what your deeply personal definition of love is; feelings are highly subjective and there is no rule book. If it is said too early for one partner, it might be a signal of misalignment for the other and create a wedge between the couple.

Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that love can be temporary and giving oneself the opportunity to internally evaluate without engaging and possibly placing unintentional pressure on one’s partner is extremely important.