Love, Lindsay

'When Should I Say 'I Love You'?'

All your relationship questions answered — right here, right now.

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Lindsay here, A Plus's resident relationship guru/columnist. While I may not know everything, I do know a lil something about love and our seemingly endless pursuit of it. Having written dozens of A Plus articles about dating, relationships, and sex, I'm ready and willing to investigate all of your romantically-inclined questions (submit here!) — because I've asked them myself. What I hope to bring to A Plus's readers is a sex-positive, body-positive, and most importantly, you-positive perspective on modern love. Consider Love, Lindsay your digital Cupid.


Last Monday, I asked our Facebook audience what relationship question they'd most like me to explore, and the results are in! With 62 percent of the vote, "When should I say 'I love you'?" won in a landslide. You crazy kids really love love, don't you? 

Here's my answer:

There's no perfect time to say "I love you," and that includes when you feel it. Especially if you're the type of person who falls hard — and fast. You can feel 'in love' after just a month into a relationship, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should say it right then, because no matter how much time you've spent with your special someone in that first month, you still don't know them that well. The honeymoon period tends to last anywhere between six months and a year.  

So keeping that mind, studies on the matter have shown it's best to hold your tongue until you're at least three to six months in. One study from Match surveyed over 2,000 British men and women and found that the average amount of time before dropping the L bomb was five months. Another study by Josh Ackerman, a social psychologist, found that in relationships in which sex had already occurred, both men and women thought the appropriate time to declare love was between three and six months. 

On that note, if you're not saving sex for marriage, but haven't yet had it in your current relationship, you might want to hold off saying "I love you" until after intimacy. While that might sound backwards for some couples, there can be ulterior motives to someone saying "I love you" before sex — namely, to convince their partner to have sex with them. 

Whatever your intentions in saying "I love you," be honest with yourself about them. Ask yourself, "How do I want my partner to respond?" If you want them to say it back and solidify your commitment to them, then that's a great reason to take a risk and spit it out. But if you're doing it for some short-term gain, and not solely because you really, truly, madly mean it, then it may be worthwhile to reexamine your relationship entirely. 

If your heart's in the right place but you're not sure the timing is, you can ease your way into saying "I love you" with similar phrases like "I love being with you," or "I'm loving where our relationship is going." These phrases get you comfortable with saying the 'L' word and give you an opportunity to gauge your partner's reaction. If they're on the same page, then you can feel confident in taking that next step to actually say "I love you."

While these guidelines should help you figure out this gray-ish area in your relationship, they're just guidelines. Every person is different, with their own ideas and understanding of what love means. We all have different ways of expressing our feelings for another person, and oftentimes that expression doesn't involve the three words at all. 

According to marriage expert Dr. Gary Chapman, the creator of the 5 Love Languages®, every person "speaks" a primary and secondary "love language," which is essentially their preferred way of expressing and receiving love. Depending on your love language, verbal affirmations, like saying "I love you," may be more important to you than to someone whose love language involves acts of service. Other love languages include: quality time, receiving gifts, and physical touch. 

So one way couples can figure out how important saying and hearing "I love you" is to each other can be to learn which of the five Love Languages® they prefer. After discussing your and your partner's love languages, you can use that information to better give and receive acts of love in your relationship. 

Then, instead of wondering "When should I tell my partner I love them?" you can focus on "How can I show my partner I love them?" Sometimes that's through saying "I love you," but sometimes it's through a helpful action or comforting touch. So bottom line: Saying and hearing 'I love you' isn't the sole determinant of a relationship's success, so saying it for the first time is just that — the first time. It doesn't have to be the "best" time, and if all goes well, it won't be the last. 

Love, Lindsay 

Cover image via  RossHelen I Shutterstock


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