From slow burns to whirlwind romances, there is no one size fits all when it comes to falling in love. But most can agree that whether it takes weeks, months, or years, you’re overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions once you realize you’ve fallen in love with someone. It’s time to say those three big words, and even though it takes a few seconds to say them out loud, their existence changes the dynamic of your relationship forever. You and your SO aren’t just dating anymore, you’re in love. But how exactly do you tell someone you love them?
Saying “I love you” is an exciting, intimidating and shocking milestone, all wrapped up in eight seemingly innocuous letters. Be honest and open about how you feel, and sharing this intimate moment with your partner is exciting. Maybe tell someone you love them in a perfect setting, during a romantic date night with flowers and all the romantic accessories that movies and TV shows have prepared us for. Or it might be said during a late-night phone conversation. Everyone’s experience is different, but when you know it, you know it. Below, we help you prepare for the big moment and break down expert advice on how to tell someone you love them.
How do you know you’re ready to tell someone you love them?
Every relationship is different, and knowing when you’re ready to say “I love you” varies from person to person. “Deciding when to say ‘I love you’ to someone is a personal and complex decision.” Carolyn RubensteinPh.D., a licensed psychologist in Boca Raton, Florida, explains.
This can happen weeks or months after you start dating. It could even take years to tell someone you love them, depending on the context of your relationship. Maybe you started out as friends and at some point the friendship turned into something more. But three common signs can indicate you’re ready to tell someone you love them, notes Dr. Rubenstein.
You feel comfortable in the relationship. “You need to feel relaxed and at ease around the person you want to say ‘I love you to,'” Dr. Rubenstein explains. This means you can be 100% your authentic self, without fear of judgment or rejection. “[You] trust that they accept you as you are,” she notes.You have a strong emotional connection. The attraction is there, but there’s also a deep emotional bond that goes beyond the physical stuff. “You feel like you can trust them and share your feelings with them,” says Dr. Rubenstein.You understand them as they are. This is best achieved with lots of quality time, says Dr. Rubenstein. “Time and various circumstances allow you to see someone in many settings and understand their character,” he explains.
How do you know you’re in love?
Again, love is subjective and everyone’s journey is different. “I think it’s a feeling of knowing, something instinctive,” Roxie Nafousiself-development coach, manifestation expert and best-selling author MANIFESTO: 7 steps to living your best life, he says “You just know when you have that moment where it’s on the tip of your tongue, you feel like you could say it at any moment!”
Being in love is often characterized by “thinking about that person during the day, having a strong emotional connection with them, prioritizing them in your life, feeling happy and safe around them, and feeling physical and emotional attraction,” says the Dr. Rubenstein. You often always want to be around your SO when you’re falling in love, notes Dr. Stephanie Freitag, a licensed clinical psychologist.
“It’s important to remember that being in love can look different for people, and what works for one relationship may not work for another,” adds Dr. Rubenstein. “Love is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The essential feelings are respect, safety, connection and care.”
When should you tell someone you love them?
This is a personal decision, but if you align with the feelings mentioned above, it might be time to tell your significant other that you love them. There are a few questions you can ask yourself first, says Dr. friday “Am I comfortable being vulnerable with this person? Do they show me mutual respect and consideration? Is it love or lust? Did I fall in love for the right reasons?” she asks
But it’s important that you feel happy, confident, comfortable and committed to your SO.
How do you tell someone you love them?
“I love you” is the most common, but where or how you say these three words is completely up to you. Dr. Rubenstein suggests a private and comfortable environment where you and your partner feel relaxed. Sometimes, you feel the urge to say “I love you” at the most unexpected moment, and it may be said in an immediate decision. No matter what, the most important thing is that you are honest and open about how you feel.
“Emotion and context matter more than the words themselves,” says Dr. friday If you feel like you have to say “I love you” for the wrong reasons or feel pressured to tell someone you love them, give yourself some time.
But if you’re ready, express your feelings authentically. “Start your sentences with ‘I’ to get closer to your feelings,” advises Dr. Rubenstein. “For example, ‘I love you’ or ‘I have deep feelings for you.'”
How do you show someone you love them without words?
There are other ways to show someone how much you love and care for them. Consider, for example, your partner’s love language. They can be, yes, words of affirmation, but they can also be acts of service (actions speak louder than words), gifts, quality time or physical touch.
“At the root, however, there should be mutual respect, compassion and care,” says Dr. friday
“Giving each other the freedom to be totally who they want to be and supporting their growth and dreams and having a safe space for them is the ultimate show of love,” adds Nafousi.
What should you do if you tell someone you love them, but they don’t feel the same way?
Saying “I love you” is an important and exciting milestone, but there’s a chance the message won’t be reciprocated. First, acknowledge your bravery and try to feel empowered by your vulnerability. “Give yourself a major pat on the back for your bravery,” says Dr. Freitag. “It’s very difficult to be vulnerable with others, especially when it’s such raw emotion.”
But let’s be honest: if this happens, it’s annoying and hurtful. As hard as it is, it’s crucial to give yourself some space and respect the other person’s boundaries. “The person you love may need time and space to process their feelings,” says Dr. Rubenstein. “Give them time to sort out their emotions.” Don’t pressure them to say “I love you”. “Trying to persuade someone to love you can be unhealthy and can damage your relationship,” she adds.
Above all, prioritize yourself and your emotional well-being. “Remind yourself that you’re still worthy of love, even if things didn’t work out with this person,” notes Dr. friday Spend time with your friends and family, and do the things you enjoy and that help you feel safe. “Love is still there for you and you deserve to experience it,” says Nafousi.
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Leah Campano is an associate editor at Seventeen, where she covers pop culture, entertainment news, health and politics. On the weekends, you can probably find her binge-watching vintage Real Housewives episodes or searching for the best almond croissants in New York.
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