Contrary to the deep belief in university “hookup culture,” college is the time when many students enter into serious, long-term relationships. With new relationships that start to get serious, there is always that one thing that results in many questions – the “L- word.” You question yourself – When is the right time to say it? And you question your boyfriend/girlfriend – What if they don’t say it back? It is stressful, but there are simple things to keep in mind to make saying I love you for the first time seem less scary.
1) Don’t rush it.
Perhaps the most common oversight new couples face is mistaking love with lust. “I love you” is a statement that holds a lot of meaning and promise, so don’t make the mistake of saying it too soon. Doing so could cause your partner to doubt the sincerity of your love. Waiting to say ‘I love you’ is never a bad thing– it shows you have the maturity to really contemplate how you are feeling and what you are promising to your significant other when you say it.
2) Put actions before words.
Anyone can say they love someone, but love is shown better than it is told. Think about the way you treat that person, and how you act around them. This can be a true test to see how you’re really feeling. Are you happier around them? Do you want to do all that you can to make them happier? As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Pay more attention to actions, rather than words. If they say it first, you might be able to tell if it’s sincere by the way they treat you.
3) Be yourself.
When you tell someone you love them, you are opening yourself up to that person. Do not use alcohol or any other type of drug to help you speak your mind when saying I love you for the first time. (This also goes for sexually charged situations and unusually emotional circumstances.) Doing so will only send a bad message. In a successful relationship, both partners should be able to talk about their feelings openly and confidently. Saying ‘I love you’ for the first time sets a precedent for how you will handle your emotions and trials later in the relationship.
4) Plan it out… or don’t.
Depending upon your personality, it can be helpful to plan out when and where you are first going to say those three words. This can help to dissolve nervousness and eliminate the pressure of knowing when to say the right thing at the right time. However, for others, spontaneity can work better, so you can say it when the moment truly feels right, and you won’t have to worry about clamming up when that moment arrives.
5) Being afraid to say it is normal.
Many times, people wait for their boyfriend or girlfriend to say the words first. Even though you’re totally sure how you feel, you’re not as sure about how your bae feels. It means more when they say it because you know they feel the same way you do, so you wait. You find yourself whispering to yourself when you and your partner are having a moment – “say it, say it, say it” – but they don’t. Even though you want to shout it from the rooftops, you still wait for them to say it first because you don’t know what the reaction will be. Will they say it back? What if they’re freaked out? But, what if they do say it back? You’ll never know until you build the courage.
6) What if they don’t say it back?
One of the biggest fears people face when saying I love you for the first time is the worry that their partner won’t say ‘I love you’ back. If they don’t say it back, it’s super awkward, but no matter what happens after the fact, you know that you were honest with them, and more importantly with yourself. On the off chance they don’t feel the same way, perhaps the relationship wasn’t meant to be. If they can’t imagine loving you in the future, they clearly were not the right match for you. However, some people just need more time to sort through their feelings to understand where they are in a relationship, and that’s okay (See Tip 1). Telling someone you love them is one of the highest forms of compliment, and no one should ever belittle you for being honest about how you feel. How they react is a telling tale of the kind of person they are when things turn serious.
Although saying ‘I love you’ for the first time can certainly feel like free falling, taking the time to understand how and why you truly feel the way you do can make those three words much easier to say out loud. However, no matter how much preparation you do, it is likely that when in the right relationship, speaking your mind to your partner will come easily, and the moment will just feel right – much like the moment when you first kissed. Cue the butterflies.