When to say I love you? 16 things you need to know first

happy couple
Image credit: Shutterstock - By Peter Berni

So you think you are in love? Congratulations. That’s huge!

Finding someone to love on this crazy ride called life is very special.

Even if you’ve been in love before, new love is even more exciting because it doesn’t come with all the baggage and stress of love lost and days gone by.

If you think you are in love, it might be time to tell your partner how you feel.

But how can you be sure it’s not too soon, or too late for that matter? Maybe he or she is tired of waiting around for you to say what they need to hear?

Don’t let things get to that point. You can’t go wrong when telling someone you love them, but if you need a little confidence boost, here’s how you can know for sure that you should declare your love.

You are ready to say I love you if…

When to say I love you: 16 things you need to know

Image credit: Shutterstock – By View Apart

1) You’ve been thinking about saying it for a long time.

You’ve been beating this dead horse for a while now and just haven’t had the guts to make your feelings known.

If you can’t stop thinking about it, and you’re sure your feelings are true, you need to do it for yourself and your emotional health.

According to psychologist Stan Tatkin, “Every time you [make a declaration like that] you strengthen your sense self.”

It’s time to step up to the plate and find out how your partner feels.

Even if they don’t say it back, you know you need to get it off your chest so that you can move on and figure out what to do next in the relationship.

If you find you are always right on the cusp of telling them you are in love, make yourself a promise to say it and give yourself a timeline to meet.

2) You know you make your partner better

When you lift your partner up and make their life better, this is a pretty great reason to say I love you.

The thing is, men and women are different and we want different things from a relationship. And not many people actually know what their partner really wants.

A new theory in relationship psychology is revealing exactly what men need from their partner to live meaningful and satisfying lives.

It’s called the hero instinct.

Men have a built-in desire for something “greater” that goes beyond love or sex. It’s why men who seemingly have the “perfect girlfriend” are unhappy when they get married and find themselves constantly searching for something else — or worst of all, someone else.

According to this theory, a man wants to see himself as a hero. As someone his partner genuinely wants and needs to have around. Not as a mere accessory, ‘best friend’, or ‘partner in crime’.

And the kicker?

It’s actually up to the woman to bring this instinct to the fore.

I know it sounds a bit silly. In this day and age, women don’t need someone to rescue them. They don’t need a ‘hero’ in their lives.

And I couldn’t agree more.

But here’s the ironic truth. Men do still need to feel like a hero. Because it’s built into their DNA to seek out relationships that allow them to feel like a protector.

The simple truth is that you shouldn’t say that you love your boyfriend unless you know you’ve triggered this instinct in him.

How do you do it?

The best way to learn how to trigger the hero instinct in your guy is to watch this free online video. James Bauer, the relationship psychologist who first coined this term, gives a terrific introduction to his concept.

Some ideas really are life-changing. And when it comes to relationships, I think this is one of them.

Here’s a link to the video again.

3) You have converted to using “we” to describe you and your partner.

If you are already talking about the future together, but you haven’t said the L-word, it’s time to pony up those words and start the rest of your life together.

This is especially the case if you’ve been together for a while, and you’ve passed the “passion” phase. If you’re still together and things are going swimmingly, then it might be time to say it.

Clinical psychologist, Lawrence Siegel has some great advice in Men’s Health:

“Look at any kind of flame. The top part of the flicker, where it dances, is the most mesmerizing…But the real burn is at the base. So even when the flickering dies down, how much is still simmering underneath?”

Saying I love you doesn’t have to be a big deal. It might feel like it is, but it’s just the thoughts you have about the rejection that might follow the L-word that makes it feel big and scary.

If your partner is also talking about the future together, there’s a good chance they are feeling you too.

4) You don’t care if they say it back.

You know you are ready to say the L-word to your partner when you don’t care if they say it back.

Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. says in Psychology Today, “Not everyone develops love or expresses it at the same pace.”

He also suggests keeping in mind gender differences as well. According to a survey, men take an average of 88 days to tell a partner “I love you”, compared to a woman’s 134.

This is why it’s important not to expect a response. While it may seem counterproductive, it shows that your love for them is so strong that you are willing to wait for them to come around, or to give them more time if they need it to figure out their own feelings.

This is a good thing. It means that you are offering them unconditional love and that you don’t need them to reciprocate. You’ll love them anyway.

5) You believe it’s the right thing to do.

Above all else, whether you are in a relationship with this person or not, you believe that telling them you love them is the best thing to do.

“The right time to say it is when it feels right,” according to clinical psychologist, Lawrence Siegel.

This might seem a bit selfish to go out there and declare your love for someone, especially from afar, but you’ve only got one life and you owe it to yourself to live that life, right?

We’re not saying break up marriages and end relationships to get what you want, but if you have feelings for someone, it’s always better to say how you feel before it’s too late.

6) You’ve been on more than one date.

Of course, you want to wait until you’ve been on more than one date, but this one rule doesn’t apply to everyone.

This rule is for the people who have been beating around the bush for weeks, months, and maybe even years and haven’t said they are in love with one another.

This is for the friends who might become more, who have known each other for their entire lives and feel like there is something else looming in the future for them.

It’s for the people who want to be together but never saw a way to do that until now. Make sure you go on at least one date before you tell the love of your life that you are, in fact, in love with them.

According to Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. in Psychology Today:

“Rushing to achieve an unripe romantic profundity is often harmful—patience and calmness is the name of the game.”

A first date after you’ve said I love you is just weird.

7) You’ve been together for a few months.

For everyone else who meets a stranger or a friend of a friend, likes the person, goes on a bunch of dates, meets the parents, and makes plans for a vacation together, wait a few months before you say the words that will change everything.

Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. says in Psychology Today:

“Since profound love needs time to develop, it isn’t reasonable to say “I love you profoundly” after being together for just a brief time; that may indicate that you are not serious about what is in fact a serious matter.”

Sure, it’s fun to be spontaneous, but then you are left with those words out in the open. If you say it too soon, you might scare your partner away.

If you wait too long, they might go off and find someone else.

A few months is a good time to wait because you’ve had enough time to get to know each other, maintain your boundaries, learn about one another, and see the future together.

8) You’ve already talked about the future.

Like I’ve said, if you’ve already talked about the future, it’s safe to assume that love is in the air.

Dating expert Sarah Patt says, “Talking about things you should do together as a couple in the future, is a sign that you want them in your future.”

If you aren’t feeling overly confident about that fact, however, try testing the waters with plans for where you’ll live, what you’ll do on weekends when you live together, or something a little easier, like if they’ll be your date to your cousin’s wedding.

There are lots of signs that are right in front of you that you have the green light to say the L-word.

Sometimes, we just don’t see them. Create the opportunity for yourself to say the thing that is most important to you.

9) You feel like you are going to explode if you don’t say it.

If you’ve been carrying this thought around with you for any amount of time and you feel like you are going to lose your mind if you have to wait another day, consider where that feeling comes from and what saying I love you will do for your anxiety.

Because that’s what it is: you are anxious about what’s happens if you say it.

Keep in mind that saying it may be just what you and your relationship need. According to Very Well Mind, “By sharing what is in your heart with your spouse, you can achieve deeper intimacy.”

If you don’t care what happens, then you are more than ready to say the words.

Giving someone unconditional love means you love them even if they don’t love you. If you don’t need them to say it back, go for it.

10) Your gut says go for it.

We all need to trust our instincts more. Sometimes we so caught up in how long we’ve been with someone before we should say I love you.

If you believe and feel like it is the right time, it’s probably the right time.

Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. says in Psychology Today, we should say it when we feel it:

“More plausible advice assumes that there is no precise formula for when to say “I love you,” and that you should say it whenever you feel that way, without making too many calculations about timing.”

And there’s only one way to find out. Don’t hold back and be clear about how you feel.

You don’t need a response and you don’t need to pressure your partner into providing you one.

When they are ready, they’ll tell you they love you too. You just need to say this to release your excitement and joy.

They’ll come to it in their own way and in their own time.

It might seem overwhelming to tell someone you love them, but just remember: everyone wants to be loved.

Think You Are in Love? Don’t Say it During These 6 Moments

Any moment of the day is a good moment to hear those magic words, “I love you.”

Except when it’s a moment when you are in an awkward position, have no escape, and worry your partner might not say it back.

While everyone longs to find love, not everyone wants to be loved by you, so slow your roll when you decide you are going to declare your love to your partner.

Here are some times during the day when you should not say I love you for the first time ever.

Don’t say I love you…

1) During sex.

It’s a no-brainer. Any person with a head on their shoulders is going to think it’s not real.

According to Psychology Dr. Daniel J. Kruger, “When people have sex, this creates a whole cascade of neurotransmitters…the effect on the brain is similar to the substances people take recreationally.”

So yes, at that moment you may actually feel it, but when you’re not having sex, you may not feel the same.

Also, don’t say it before or after sex either. They are a triple-whammy package and not a lot of people buy into it.

Try saying it over dinner, in a quiet room, when you can be together without your pants off.

2) In front of your partner’s parents.

This is weird and while it might be romantic to ask your lady’s father for her hand in marriage, it’s not ideal to declare your love for your partner in front of their daddy for the first time.

According to Elite Daily, throwing around phrases like “our love for each other or “because he loves me so much” might make it seem like you are hookup monsters who met on Bumble.

You need privacy when you decide to do these kinds of things so save yourself – and them – the embarrassment and make sure you do it when the moment is right.

The moment is certainly not right when you are having dinner with Daddy Dearest.

3) When you’ve been drinking.

You just think you are in love when you are drinking. Everything is awesome when we drink. Don’t drink and love.

According to Time Magazine, “Once someone has said I love you, they can’t unsay it. They’ve made a declaration as to what camp they’re in, whether their love interest feels the same way or not.”

Therefore, you need to make sure you’re in the right state of mind when you say it.

Plus, you might be one of those people who loves everyone when you drink and it is definitely going to come out all wrong.

Save face and just decide ahead of time that tonight is not the night you tell them how you feel.

4) At another couple’s wedding.

Don’t get caught up in the moment of pining after what another couple has. You aren’t them.

Get your head out of the clouds and back to the pew in the church and focus on being the best damn wedding date you can be.

According to Stan Tatkin in Time Magazine, “When you declare something about yourself to the other person, it makes real. It has somatic effect. It’s who you are.”

Keep your love language at home. There will be a time and place for you to declare your love to your partner and the world, but your pal’s wedding is not the time, nor the place.

5) While on vacation.

Everything is surreal when you are on vacation, and it might come across like you are just in a good mood and don’t really mean what you are saying.

Harsh, but true.

You don’t want your first L-word drop to be when you are flying 30,000 feet in the air and you can’t get away from one another because airplane seats are smaller than ever and there isn’t enough tiny bottles of alcohol to take the sting off of the rejection that might happen.

Victor Harris, associate professor of Family, Youth and Community Sciences at the University of Florida says that it’s important not to expect a response and understand that your partner may not be there yet:

“Just be honest and open…Say ‘This is how I feel; you may not be there yet.”

But if you’re stuck in a plane or small space together, you might put pressure on them to reply.

Cool your jets until you are back on solid ground.

6) When you are stuck in a car together.

The same rule applies here as on vacation: don’t put yourself in a situation where you can’t escape.

Remember, if you’re in a car, they may be forced to respond.

And Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. says in Psychology Today, “Not everyone develops love or expresses it at the same pace.”

If they freak out, calls you everything but their partner, and decides they want out of the relationship because you are moving too fast, that’s not good.

You need an escape plan.

Even the most confident person knows they can just turn around and go home to lick their wounds if their partner sends them packing.

Don’t say you love them when you are 2500 miles away from home and have been eating old sandwiches out of a cooler bag.

That’s not romantic and there will be plenty of time for you to say how you feel when you are both properly rested, are back in your own time zone and are properly fed.

Are you frustrated with dating?

Finding the right guy and building a relationship with him isn’t as easy as swiping left or right.

I’ve been in contact with countless women who start dating someone only to encounter really serious red flags.

Or they’re stuck in a relationship that’s just not working for them.

No one wants to waste their time. We just want to find the person that we’re meant to be with. We all (both women and men) want to be in a deep passionate relationship.

But how do you find the right man for you and establish a happy, satisfying relationship with him?

Maybe you need to enlist the help of a professional relationship coach…

Knowing the right time to say those words

For three little words, they sure do have the potential to cause plenty of emotional turmoil.

Did I say it too soon?

Why didn’t he respond?

Why hasn’t he said it?

If he does say it, should I say it back?

How do I know if it’s the right moment?

So many questions for three simple little words. It’s no wonder we’re all so confused about when’s the right time to utter these words in a relationship.

Keep it simple.

If you think you might be in love, then it’s time to test the waters and try the words on your partner. They will either make or break you.

Of course, your biggest fear might be how he responds to them.

This one is easy!

As long as his hero instinct is triggered, you can guarantee he’s not only ready to hear those words, but he’s also ready to utter them back to you.

If you’re in love, then start off by watching this incredible free video to learn exactly what the hero instinct is all about. The term was first coined by relationship expert James Bauer, and he reveals all in this video.

Discover the best way to trigger your man’s hero instinct and watch your relationship take the next step. That big, brave step into “I love you” territory.

As soon as you know exactly what to do, you can seal the deal and settle back into that committed relationship you’re after.

Take the plunge and watch this free online video.

It’s a game changer for you and your relationship.

Introducing a breakthrough new book

I’ve reviewed a lot of dating books on Hack Spirit and a new one just came to my attention. And it’s good. The Devotion System by Amy North is a welcome addition to the online world of relationship advice.

A professional relationship coach by trade, Ms. North offers up her own comprehensive advice on how to find, keep, and nurture a loving relationship to women everywhere.

Add to that actionable psychology- and science-based tips on texting, flirting, reading him, seducing him, satisfying him and more, and you have a book that will be incredibly useful to its owner.

This book will be very helpful for any woman struggling to find and keep a quality man.

In fact, I liked the book so much that I decided to write an honest, unbiased review of it.

You can read my review here.

One reason I found The Devotion System so refreshing is that Amy North is relatable for many women. She’s smart, insightful and straightforward, she tells it like it is, and she cares about her clients.

That fact is clear from the very beginning.

If you’re frustrated by continuously meeting disappointing men or by your inability to build a meaningful relationship when a good one comes along, then this book is a must-read.

Click here to read my review of The Devotion System.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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