When To Say “I Love You”

In Dating, Drama on May 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Dear Yenta,

When is too soon to say “I Love You?”


Mr. Lover Man

Love is about nudity. Make sure they can handle seeing you bare your naked heart. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear Mr. L,

First, a disclaimer.  Only you know yourself and your lover.  No Yenta can tell you what’s best.  But here are some ways to derive a system of gauging love and its profession.

As one woman once said, recoiling at the words “I Love You,” “That’s the nicest thing you can say to anyone, isn’t it?  Thank you.”  This coupled with a severe look in the eyes and rigid body language is the reaction, I am guessing, you are seeking to avoid.  The question is less about when, and moreso, about how, to whom, where, etc.

Say it too soon, some people run.  Why?  For a number of reasons.  Here are some rational explanations as to why those three words can be terrifying, followed by a list of ways to safely profess your undying love to anyone, anywhere, anyhow.

1)  Commitment Phobia

Early declaration forces decision into the relationship.  Ie, commitment.  It is an ultimatum in some ways, like saying, “this is where I am, up here on the love platform, and if you can’t join me here yet then we are through.”

2) Self-Hatred

Saying “I Love You” is also a big witnessing of another.  To be seen in our entirety and then loved, as sweet as it sounds, is hard.  We are programmed to doubt ourselves, so when someone says, “I don’t doubt you, I adore you,” our fears come shooting out.  Ie, “Am I worthy?”  “Will you still like me in a week?”  “You don’t know that I killed my cat when I was five, when that comes out you will regret those three words.”  Things like that.

3) Falsity

The Sakyong , Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche once spoke of how the act of declaring your love is a moment once-removed.  “I Love You” is really a redundant expression.  When love is real and alive and vibrant it lives between two people in their eyes, their touch and in their actions.  To then state it is an afterthought to the reality of the love that was already alive between you to begin with.

One way to cope with the fear that it is too soon, is to express your love rather than declare it.  A declaration without the backup actions will scare anyone away.  That, and the human heart and mind can only handle so much adoration in one dose.

4) Vulnerability

Saying “I Love You” is making yourself extremely vulnerable, exposing all of yourself.  We build trust and intimacy so it is strong enough to hold the intensity of really loving and seeing each other.  If the web isn’t strong enough, we lose that foundation and find a closed-door in our face.

I once fell in love and professed my feelings so emphatically and intensely that the boy ran away for weeks before secretly admitting his mutual adoration.  It was too much, like love vomited all over him, like a basket overflowing and his arms couldn’t hold it.  Give the person you love enough love that they can hold it, see it, feel it, touch it and know it.  If love is somehow palpable, held, breathing and doled out in digestible doses then your loved one will better be able to meet you.

Ways to Gauge the Moment and Properly Profess

1)  Evaluate Intention

The questions you want to ask yourself before surrendering your heart in the name of a four letter word include: What do you lose if you say I love you?  Would it compromise anything, the sex, the honesty?  Do I love this person, or lust and hunger for them?  Am I professing to pin them down, or lift them up?  Can your relationship stomach this admission, even if it is true? Make sure this is love, not just hunger for sex and security, etc.

2) Actions Speak Louder Than Words

So say I love you when you feel like it, but be sure your actions back up your words, and that your words aren’t some way of cornering someone into commitment.  That isn’t love, that is ownership.  Because you want it to be true, that simple truth needs to resonate with your behavior.  If you give your partner a cold shoulder most of the time and suddenly spout loving words, they might coil in fear.  Don’t just say it, do it.  Saying I love you without action, is a lie.

For help, click here for 60 ways to say I love you.

3)  Time Will Tell

When in doubt, wait.  Generally if it is torture to hold it in, you need to start expressing yourself, stat.  But it is a hard and thin line between doubt and fear.  Doubt can be guided by intelligence and intuition, whereas fear is laced with cowardice.

According to some secret sources, before the two month mark is too soon, at the four-month mark is perfect.  According to a sage, wise at the art of love and poker, “It’s never too soon to say I love you, Merissa.  I’m not one for rules and regulations when it comes to these things.”  Advance day by day, step by step, with your own heart thumping loudly and leading the way.

Click here for a list of 100 languages in which to say “I Love You.”

Click here for a CNN article on why women should wait to say it.

Click here for an article on The Different Ways Men Say “I Love You.”

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta
  1. i have had two men tell me recently that they love me after 20 and 25 years respectively …. not that they said this at the time we were involved! a bit heart-breaking as at the time, in both cases, I was madly smitten but thought that they were not & broke it off. I have long since moved on and married someone else. there is no going back in time etc. so, my own advice to young men is to try to be more open. or live to regret it.

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