How Soon Do You Say “I Love You”?

July 22nd, 2008 by Nina Atwood

couple in heartDear Nina: I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about a month and a half. We’ve been moving at a good pace and I hope we have a strong future ahead of us. I believe he’s going to tell me he loves me soon (he’s given me indications he’s been feeling this way). I’m not sure I’m there yet. Is it concerning for someone to tell you they love you so early on in a relationship? How long should one wait? – Debbie

Dear Debbie: In dating, the words “I love you” are often spoken to describe the experience of falling in love, which is not necessarily the same as loving someone. To love someone, and to feel loved, you must have intimacy, and I don’t mean sex. If you break it down phonetically, intimacy is “into me see,” meaning that you are open and transparent enough for another person to have a strong sense of the real person underneath your social mask.

In dating, especially at one and a half months, it’s not easy to get to that level of emotional intimacy. To really get there, you have to peel away a few layers, and that usually takes time together, some conflict or the possibility of conflict, and the experience of working through something together. It also helps if you share your life stories in depth, not just the good but the mistakes, regrets, and losses.

So the bigger question in your question is this: how well do you really know one another? If the answer is very well, then you are on the map of the map of intimacy. Only time will tell. Your not feeling you are ready to say “I love you” may be a reflection of not yet having gone deep enough in revealing your selves to one another; if that’s the case, make that your goal. Drop any remaining masks, really open up, and see what develops in your hearts.

Meanwhile, if he says the words and you don’t yet feel them, be honest; the worst thing you can do is fake it by saying it too soon. Suggested script: “I’m so flattered that you feel this way, and I just need more time to let my heart open up with you. I hope you can handle that. When I tell you I love you, I will mean it; I won’t be parroting what you said in return.”

Entry Filed under: Communication,Dating,Relationships

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Debbie  |  July 22nd, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Nina,
    Thank you so much for your response. My boyfriend and I have peeled away much of the layers of who we are. It kinda scares me b/c this is the first relationship where I’ve done this. He told me he loves me last week. I said it back to him, but then told him I was premature to say those words and took them back. While he was disappointed, he reacted really well and said that he would refrain from saying those words until I was ready to say them. I think I’m just scared b/c I’ve been hurt by those words in the past. I’ve said them too prematurely and heard them too prematurely and been hurt in the end. I don’t want that to happen this time.

    Debbie

  • 2. Nina Atwood  |  July 23rd, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Debbie: Thank you for sharing more. I’m confused, though. When you said “I love you” to someone in the past, what do you mean it was “too soon”? Was it too soon because in the end he didn’t really love you? Or was it too soon because you didn’t really feel the love and were just parroting what someone else said?

    Being scared is not a good reason to hold back on love. Love and fear cannot share equal space in a relationship. One or the other will dominate your interactions, and I can assure you that if fear dominates, it won’t work.

    If you love your boyfriend, feel that you’re falling in love, and you are certain that he’s a good guy (be sure and read Temptations of the Single Girl for more on that), then the only thing that will work is for you to go for it.

    Taking the risk of being hurt is part of any new relationship. If you are terrified, that’s a sign that the relationship is high risk (filled with red flags about him). But if you are simply scared because you’ve been hurt in the past, maybe it’s time to let go of the past. Being hurt is part of life – pain is inevitable. Suffering, however, is optional. We suffer when we deny current reality and live in the past.

    Keep us posted on how you move forward!

    All the best to you in life and love,
    Nina

  • 3. Debbie  |  July 23rd, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Nina,

    Thanks for responding to me.

    When I said “I love you” in the past one ex freaked out and wasn’t able to hear those words and with the other two exes I was parroting off of them. Only with the most recent ex did I say “I love you” because I really felt it. But, now that the relationship ended, I’m not so sure I really did feel it. I’m having a hard time feeling confident in my thoughts on whether I actually know what love is and whether I’m able to decide if I’m in love with my current boyfriend.

    Between my last boyfriend and this one I took a year off from dating to work on me and my wants and desires. This whole relationship came a lot sooner than I expected which is why I think I’m nervous about it. I believe my boyfriend sees a long term future with me based on things he’s said. I just want to make sure that I’m able to figure that out for myself and not just think I want that too b/c he wants that.

    I haven’t seen any major red flags with him. And, any concerns that I’ve had I’ve had an open conversation with him and resolved them. We’ve also had the “You and Me” conversation and know we are looking for the same thing out of life.

    Hopefully, this makes sense.

    Debbie

    PS – I’ve read your book Temptations and am about to finish your book Be Your Own Dating Service.

  • 4. TinaC1964  |  July 25th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I just had a similar situation. I’m in my 40′s he is 45 and neither of us have been married. We were together 8 months. I fought falling in love for a while and I’ve known for about a month how I feel. I felt secure and felt he loved me too. BIG MISTAKE. I told him how I felt, he politely said he was flattered, but only felt a deep, I like you a lot, not love. After thinking about it, he calls me yesterday to tell me not to bother coming up because he feels we need a break to reevaluate our relationship because he is not sure he can truly feel comfortable being around me anymore knowing how I feel about him.

    I really think dating someone a month and a half is too soon to tell someone you love him. Personally, I learned now NOT to tell a man I love him first…I’ll wait for the man to say it now.

    I do know, deep down, the man I’ve been dating will not call or see me again..if you say I love you too soon in a relationship can make a man run for the hills.

  • 5. Alan Bentley  |  July 28th, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I could not agree more!

  • 6. Nina Atwood  |  July 29th, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Tina: I’m wondering how you got eight months into this realationship without knowing exactly where you stood with this guy. Did you have the “you and me” talk up front to clarify that you were not in this for fun and games? Did you let him know at the beginning that you were in this for love and marriage? Did you make sure that he was aligned on that intention with you? Did you put off sex until you were sure he was committed toyou? Did you listen to your inner compass which would have told you that he wasn’t that into you?

    If not, you’re not alone. I get tons of communication from single women everywhere who have fallen into the temtation of denying your true desires (for love and marriage) in order to not scare guys off, as well as the temptation to get sexual too soon. To avoid these traps in the future, be sure and get Temtpations of the Single Girl and read it now! You will then be on a path to attract an intentional guy – who falls in love with you, wants you, and wants a life with you (marriage). You deserve the best; educate yourself now so you can claim your wonderful future!

  • 7. Debbie  |  July 29th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Tina,

    I actually ended up telling my boyfriend that I love him. I have been in your position though in the past. I once told my ex that I loved him after 8 months and he freaked out. I vowed never to tell a guy I love them first. But, this relationshiop is different. I have done what Nina is telling you to do and am certain that my boyfriend and I are on the same page and that we want the same things in life. No, I’m not saying this will definitely end in marriage, but I guarantee that when he says he loves me he means it and knows I mean it too. So far so good. Try being open with the next guy. I think you’ll be surprised.

    Debbie

  • 8. Wendy  |  August 4th, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I have recently come to the realization that love knows no boundaries – not space, and not time. Life is too short to wrangle with worry about being hurt. Those layers – with the right person – can peel off with ease, and sometimes can peel very quickly. That’s what happens when a heart is open to love.

  • 9. Debbie  |  August 5th, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    That’s a very good point Wendy. I sometimes forget that and get myself all insecure when there’s no reason to be. Thanks for reminding me what love is about. :)

  • 10. Nina Atwood  |  August 6th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Thank you Wendy for making your point. Your key words are “with the right person” – and that is critical. Who is the right person? Someone whom you know well enough to be confident that his values are good; someone whom you know well enough to know that it is simply not in his character to manipulate a woman or play games of seduction; someone whom you know well enough to feel confident that he’s capable of commitment; someone whom you feel deep down cares for you for who you are, not for superficial reasons; someone with whom you can picture sharing a whole life – ups & downs, bruises & joys – the whole package. How do you know someone that well? By pacing the relationship, putting off sex for a LONG time, and by communicating transparently – putting who you are out there, asking good questions. It’s work to follow this path, but the reward is a great relationship with a truly good guy! When you see that you have that, go for it!

  • 11. Cassie  |  December 16th, 2008 at 1:42 am

    I am 21 years old, and I have been in a relationship with a guy for a year and three months now. He still doesn’t say “I love you.” I don’t really understand it, because it feels like he says it in his actions. He’s always the most attentive, supportive, and caring guy, but the closest he’ll get is saying “I adore you.”

    I said it to him about six months ago, and he did say it back once or twice, but then he told me he wasn’t always sure and that he’d prefer it if we didn’t say it.

    I know I’m young and naive about things like love, but how long should I wait around for him to say it? I want to believe that he loves me and that he’s just scared because he’s been hurt badly before. He’s even moving away from me soon, and he told me he wants more than anything for us to stay together. I’m usually not bothered by this, because I enjoy his company so much, but every once in awhile I’m reminded that he can’t say it. Is there any hope for me?

  • 12. mike  |  September 16th, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I’m 58yo. my girlfiriend and I have been dating 2 months and we both told each other we love each other this weekend. we have been talking a lot about getting to know each other and although she seems a bit too keen I’m comfortable with it especially after a bit of time apart. I think we all find our own time but I agree with Nina that you have to know each other first.

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