saying i love you
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Before you say - ‘I love you’

I love you. Three simple little words. A million ways to mess them up. No wonder, carrying them around in your head and the build-up to saying them out loud can fill you up with crippling fear. So what can you do ( or should not do) before you say these three words to someone. Read on.

Saying ‘I love you’ and hearing the person say it back can be a riveting experience, especially the first time. It can mark the beginning of a new chapter in your romantic journey and make your relationship more intimate than before. 

On the flip side, when said at an inappropriate moment or under the wrong circumstances, the same three words don’t sound all that magical. The experience can leave you feeling embarrassed, confused and even make you question the whole premise of your relationship. 

Have you been bracing yourself to say ‘I love you’ to that special someone in your life? Here are a few dos and don’ts to bear in mind: 

Saying ‘I love you’ – The Dos 

So, you have been rehearsing your confession of love over and over again. Have been looking for the right moment to spill the beans. Have even come close to saying it but the words just didn’t roll off your tongue. If this situation sounds relatable, here is what you need to know about saying ‘I love you’: 

  • Make sure you’re ready: Before you express your love to another person, take some time to reflect on your feelings. Is it really love that you feel or just attraction in its strongest form? Clarity of thought is critical in making sure saying ‘I love you’ won’t complicate your relationship dynamics. Don’t just say it to get out of trouble! 
  • Understand what love means: Love can mean different things to different people. What if to you it means a promise of companionship but the person you’re saying it to sees it as a stepping stone to a marriage proposal? Subtly try to understand if you and your partner define love in the same way before saying ‘I love you’ to them. 
  • What does it mean for your relationship: Does saying ‘I love you’ automatically translate to exclusivity in the relationship? Does it mean you are now in a committed, long-term relationship? Figure out these things for yourself, so that there is no confusion later on. 
  • Listen to your gut: Our mind tells us if a potential partner is a good fit for us practically, our heart tells us how the other person makes us feel but it is our gut that tells us that something is off about a person or relationship. Listen to that voice of reason in your head when you are gearing up to say ‘I love you’ to someone. 
  • Give it time: Even if you’re sure that you’ve met the love of your life, wait for at least a couple of months after you start dating to say it. Saying ‘I love you’ too soon can scare the other person off, if they’re not on the same page as you, bringing a promising relationship to a standstill. 

Saying ‘I love you’ – The Don’ts 

Now that you know what to do, learn about the absolutely no-go areas of the saying ‘I love you’ etiquette. Here are some don’ts to keep in mind: 

  • Don’t say it under pressure: Let’s say the person you’re dating has said ‘I love you’ or have been dropping clear hints that a grand declaration is around the corner. Don’t say it back to avoid an awkward silence or beat the person to the punch because they expect you to. Say it only and only when you’re ready. 
  • Don’t be impulsive: You are having a vulnerable moment or going through a rough phase and your significant other has been your rock through it all. Sure, such moments can make your heart melt. But don’t get carried away and blurt out ‘I love you’. Think it through before you say the words. 
  • Don’t say it when drunk: Saying ‘I love you’ under the influence of alcohol is a No-No. You can leave the other person feeling confused about whether you really mean it. And if you’re absolutely hammered, you may not even remember saying it. 
  • Don’t say it in intimate moments: Saying ‘I love you’ for the first time before, during or after sex is far from ideal. It could well be your hormones talking. Besides, it can leave your partner feeling pressured and ruin a beautiful moment of togetherness. 
  • How you say it matters too: When it comes to saying ‘I love you’, how you do it is as important as what you say. So, make sure you understand the person well and don’t make a declaration of love that will make them uneasy or put them in a spot. For instance, if your partner is shy or an introvert, skywriting ‘I love you’ can be disastrous. They may prefer something more intimate like a love note or you whispering the words in their ears. 

Saying ‘I love you’ over and over again 

You’ve navigated the minefield that is saying ‘I love you’ for the first time. What next? Where do you go from here? Here are some rules of thumb to guide you: 

  • Do say ‘I love you often’
  • Don’t grudge a partner if they don’t say ‘I love you’ often. ‘You make me happy’. ‘I trust you’. ‘You complete my life’. ‘Text me when you reach home’. ‘Did you take your medicines?’ These can also be a person’s way of expressing love 
  • Do say it when you make up after a fight 
  • But don’t use it as a way to manipulate your partner into forgiving you
  • Do say it when your partner does something that makes your heart skip a beat or makes you appreciate them more 
  • Don’t say it out of obligation 
  • Do say it on special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries or when your partner has done something you feel proud of 
  • Don’t say it to counter the guilt of having done something wrong 
  • Do say it before falling asleep at night 
  • Don’t say it to keep a partner from moving on 
  • Don’t say it to get a partner to agree to sex 

At the end of the day, you are the best judge of whether or not and when to say ‘I love you’ to another person. If you’re feeling conflicted or unsure, these guidelines will definitely help you make the right call. And that’s important because love is one of the key factors on which the future of a relationship rides. 

Person in picture are models. 

Have questions on how to say I love you? Please ask LM experts on our discussion forum. We are also on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. 

Arushi Chaudhary is a freelance journalist and writer with 5 years of experience in print publications such as the Pune Mirror and Hindustan Times, and has spent close to a decade writing for digital platforms and print publications – The Tribune, BR International magazine, Make My Trip, Killer Features, The Money Times, and Home Review, to name a few. Of the many things she's written about over the years, exploring the space of love and relationships through the prism of psychology excites her the most. Writing is her first and forever love. You can find her on Twitter here.

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