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When Is The Right Time To Say The ‘L’ Word?

Saying ‘I love you’ is a big deal, and so is the timing

Dropping ‘The L Bomb’ is seen as a significant milestone in any romance, so you should consider the timing wisely.

Say it too soon and your partner sees you as too clingy. Wait too long and they worry that the relationship is going nowhere. Either mistake could be momentous enough to end it.

The most common advice given to those wondering when to say ‘I love you’ is to wait until you truly feel it.

But what is true love – and how do you recognize it?

The term means different things to different people, but there are some guidelines to follow below.

What does ‘I love you’ mean?

There are millions of books, poems and songs that tell us what true love is.

The average man might ‘love’ his family, best friends and local sports team in different ways.

However, in my experience, there are only two types of romantic love.

Let’s call them:

  • falling in love;
  • jumping in love.

Falling in love feels helpless. This intense infatuation invades your brain. You float through life thinking dizzy, goofy thoughts about them. It typically occurs early on in relationships, or perhaps even before you’ve agreed to date exclusively. (With hormone-fueled teenage crushes, it could occur before you even speak to the other person.)  

Jumping in love is more logical, but the feelings are just as powerful. It involves a conscious decision that you’ve met the perfect person for you. You’ve discovered all the key elements of this person’s personality and decided you’ll love them in sickness and health. Through good times and bad.

‘Falling in love’ may happen before this jump. It’s far more romantic than the jump. But I’d urge anyone to wait for the jump before uttering ‘I love you’.

It should take longer to feel this way than it does to ‘fall in love’. That’s the point. Waiting until this point should help you avoid the problem of dropping ‘The L Bomb’ too soon. It’ll also help get you out of jail if you’re judged to have waited too long (more on that later).

The right moment to say ‘I love you’

It’s not necessary to make a massive song and dance about saying The L Word. This isn’t a marriage proposal.

It’s probably worth doing it when you’re alone together. By all means, make it memorable by doing it in some sort of romantic location. However, the best first ‘I Love Yous’ tend to happen naturally.

Once you’ve made the decision that you love them, tell them whenever it feels right.

Having said that, here are some situations when it should never feel right;

  • when she’s pissed off with you;
  • when you’re in an argument;
  • when one or both of you are completely wasted;
  • when you’re trying to talk them into something (emotional blackmail isn’t romantic);
  • when she’s committed some sort of felony;
  • any time before you’re in a relationship.  

Common sense, really.

There are several advice articles that tell you not to say it before, during or after sex. The argument here is that sex creates the chemicals that feel exactly like ‘falling in love’, so you might say it too soon.

However, if you’ve already made the logical decision to jump in love, this could be a really hot romantic time to drop the bomb.

If anything, it’s a sneaky way to ensure she returns the compliment. Don’t be saying it to convince her into sex though. See the point about emotional blackmail above.

What to do if she thinks you’ve waited too long

If she thinks you’ve waited too long, she’ll do one of two things:  

  • say it herself;
  • complain about you not saying it, in some sort of ‘where is this going?’ conversation.

In both of these situations (assuming you’re not ready to say it back), tell her how The L Word is a huge deal to you. Explain how ‘I love you’ means forever and ever to you. Throw in the ‘sickness and in health’ catchphrase to emphasize your point.

She’ll still be upset and embarrassed, but at least she’ll be overjoyed when you finally decide to say it.

‘I love you’ is widely seen as a milestone that should happen before moving in together, marriage or children.

If she’s at the age where she’s ready for these sort of milestones, she might be a little less receptive to your ‘it’s a big deal’ spiel. Women don’t want to wait forever for these sorts of things. Bear in mind that older women are the most likely to break if off over a lack of ‘I love you’.

If you’re wondering how long it typically takes before women might expect you to say it, refer to this 2013 survey by eHarmony. It suggests men take an average of 88 days to tell their partner they love them, compared a woman’s 134.

Don’t let these facts influence your own decision though. Some 39 per cent of the men and 23 per cent of the women surveyed said ‘I love you’ within a month, although this doesn’t mention what percentage of these was unrequited. (If you know these three weird reasons women fall in love with men, it might happen quicker.)

Whatever you do, don’t be the coward that says ‘I love you’ just to avoid conflict. This isn’t a one-off white lie. You might be expected to tell her several times a day, once you’ve said it. Also, you’re going to look like a complete asshole if you go on to break up with her for some superficial reason.

If she drops ‘The L Bomb’, and you can’t ever see milestones such as marriage and kids in the future, be a gentleman and end it. She’ll thank you in the long run.

What to do if she doesn’t say it back

Don’t make it a big deal. She already knows it’s a big deal. Be man enough not to cause a scene.

Dust yourself off, don’t bring it up and try again a few weeks down the road.

What to do if she DOES say it back

Congratulations! You’ve reached a new stage in your relationship. You can cement your love with those three magic words whenever you like. She’ll never tire of it. It’s now down to you to honor the promise of loving her in good times and bad. It’ll be one hell of a rollercoaster. Best of luck!

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About Joe Elvin Joe Elvin is a dating/relationships blogger currently travelling the world living as a digital nomad. His book ‘The Thrill Of The Chase’ explains how learning to truly enjoy singledom helped him to dramatically improve his dating life.


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