When you fall in love, everything can be a bit of a blur. And if you start to feel like you’re legitimately in love, you’ll probably want to shout it from the rooftops…or at least tell your partner as soon as humanly possible. But there’s a very good reason to wait longer to say “I love you,” and it’s not what you might think. People should wait a little longer to make it special. Don’t you feel like we all say “I love you” to pretty much everyone? You tell your best friend you love them, your dog, sometimes even the barista who makes your coffee, if you’re not paying attention.
People tend to use “I love you” as a catch-all phrase for a whole bunch of emotions when we really might mean a lot of other, far more specific stuff.
Do you really love when the food delivery comes early, or does it just make you super happy? There’s a difference, right? The more we use the words “I love you,” the less important those words become. The phrase starts to lose meaning, and being in love with someone is a very complicated cocktail of different emotions. You don’t want to say “I love you” before you really know you want to work to make something last with someone.
Karin Anderson, a relationship expert, told Glamour that everyone has trouble figuring out just when is the right time to say you love someone. “It’s difficult because, especially in the early stages of a relationship, the pacing and timing is really critical. It’s so much easier and less awkward if you’re on the same tempo.”
Early on, you could be feeling any number of things, and sometimes that initial awkward and exciting feeling you have can be mistaken for L-O-V-E. It could be excitement, gratitude, and/or a little fear of losing such a good thing. Researchers at Rutgers have actually broken down what you’re really feeling: It’s a little lust, some attraction, and attachment.
Also, having sex with someone new can actually mess with your hormones and make you feel like you’re made of unicorns and ice cream sundaes. Waiting until all of that passes is definitely recommended before tossing out “I love you.” You want to make sure it’s more than just lust and that you’re attaching in a way that brings out the best in you.
Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, a love coach, told Bustle, “Relationships are so awkward in the beginning because both partners are putting forth so much energy trying to impress one another.” Be careful — because even after a few months of dating, you’re still exploring the other person and getting used to being yourself around them.
Instead, it’s pretty common to jump into the “I love you” phase when you reach that point as a couple. Couples can use it as a sort of refresh button.
Saying “I love you” too early is a very good way to skip over some of the hard work that comes with relationships. The kind of hard work that makes an actual, loving, and respectful relationship last. Instead of saying “I love you,” you can tell a person how grateful you are for something they do for you — like having your back, supporting you through something, making you laugh. That’s probably more honest anyway when it’s still early on in a relationship.
Far too often, couples start saying “I love you,” instead of having an actual, grown-up conversation about their emotions, and what they want from a relationship. Before you drop the L-bombs, you should have that talk. Do you know there are people out in the world saying “I love you” to their partner and they’ve never actually had the “are we exclusive” talk? It happens. That’s emotionally cheating yourself, and possibly setting yourself up for some disappointment and heartache later.
Taking the pulse of your relationship and sharing your feelings and expectations — not just for your partner but for the two of you together — is not a “crazy” thing to do. Far too often, women are socialized to think they’re going to scare someone away or “freak them out” if they talk about commitment to each other. So we sing-song, “love you!” and consider it done. You deserve a little better, don’t you think?
Those “three little words” aren’t so little. Keep them close to your heart until you’re really ready to unleash their power.