How To Know You’re Ready For Saying “I Love You”

By: Abigail Boyd

Updated February 13, 2020

Saying I love you is always a huge step in a relationship, a turning point. These words hold so much meaning and power. If you've been dating someone for a while and you're having strong feelings for them, you're probably wondering if you should reveal this to them. But how do you know when the time is right? Is there such a thing as saying it too soon?


If you're looking for advice on saying I love you for the first time, then you're probably asking yourself many questions. Who says I love you first? What if I end up saying I love you too soon? What if the other person doesn't say it back? If you've been searching around for answers to these queries, you've probably been overwhelmed by different opinions.

Exchanging "I love yous" with a special person for the first time can be one of the most memorable moments of your life. If said at the wrong time, however, saying I love you and not hearing it back could hurt a relationship.

How Soon Is Too Soon To Say I Love You?

If you have invested a lot of time and energy into your relationship, you may be worried about saying I love you too early on. You've probably been experiencing strong feelings for a while before you began to build up the courage to express them. Maybe you've had to stop the words from spilling out of your mouth for fear of finding out that the other person doesn't feel the same way.

No matter what dating advice guidebooks propose, there is no specific timeline for when to say those three little words. There is a lot of advice out there, much of it conflicting. Are you supposed to wait until after you've had a certain number of dates? What even qualifies as a date anymore, anyway? Is staying in and watching a movie a date? Is it bad to say it after sex?

The timing of when you say "I love you" is important but it doesn't depend on these outside factors. Instead, it's about the flow of your specific relationship. Saying I love you prematurely can make the other person feel pressured or unsure if you truly love the real them.

In most cases, it's usually best to refrain from talking about your feelings within the first few weeks of dating. Even if you feel like stating that you love the other person this early on, there's no rush, and you should allow your feelings to have the chance to expand and grow before sharing them.

How To Know It's Really Love

Another important aspect of how long before saying I love you is to make sure it's actually love you're feeling. How do you know if it's real love or just strong feelings or attraction? Really search your heart. Loving someone isn't just about desiring them or enjoying their positive qualities. You need to see the whole person and still love them despite-or even because of-their human flaws.


Strong feelings can abound when you're first dating someone, partially due to neurochemicals that are associated with attraction, including dopamine and oxytocin. These chemicals literally make us high on attraction, which can trick us into thinking it's love we're feeling. You may feel compelled to declare your undying love for the other person before that's really the case, especially if this is your first serious relationship.

Take some time to consider if what you're feeling is really love or just a strong attraction. You'll want to be sure when the time comes.

How To Know You're Ready

You may never get to a point where you don't feel at least a little vulnerable and anxious putting your true feelings out there. That's okay and normal. You'll know you're ready to say I love you when you're clear about your feelings and you can picture a future with the other person. It will be a feeling in your gut when you think about the other person and where your relationship is headed. It's a good idea to allow this feeling to germinate for a few weeks before you speak it out loud. If it's love, it's only going to get stronger, so there's no rush to say it immediately.

Knowing The Other Person Is Ready

When you're sure that you're ready to share your feelings, you need to consider where your partner is to know if they're ready to receive them. Have you had an open discussion about where you both see the relationship going? Are you clear about his or her expectations? Sometimes, a person can go into a relationship wanting something casual, but when feelings develop, their desires change.

However, what if the person you love has expressed recently that they don't want anything serious, they're still dating other people, or you have another reason to believe they're not ready? If this is the case, then you' want to have a discussion with them about where the two of you stand before you decide whether it's time to reveal your feelings. Don't assume you can change their mind just because you've begun to care about them. This can backfire and lead to you getting hurt.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

This phrase is so common for a reason-it's true. With real love, what you do matters exponentially more than what you say. This applies not only to you but to the other person. Do they show you that they care about you in little ways, like bringing you lunch out of the blue or messaging you because they miss you? These actions can add up and give you an idea if the other person's feelings match yours. When a man constantly says "I love you", then it's obvious how he feels-but that's rarely the case.

How To Say I Love You For The First Time

Putting your feelings into words can be an act of bravery, especially if you've been hurt before. Who should say I love you first? There's no hard and fast rule, despite what advice you may have read or gotten from your friends. If you're really feeling like it's time to confess your love for the other person and think they feel the same way, then go ahead and let them know how you feel. Don't agonize over the right moment.

It is usually best to say it for the first time in person, although you might dream of calling just to say I love you. Talking in person is not only more intimate, but allows you to clearly gauge the other person's reaction. Make sure you choose a time when you're both in a relaxed mood and let them know how you feel.

If You Don't Hear It Back

If all goes well, the person you declare your feelings to will reciprocate. However, what if they don't say anything back? This can be a very awkward situation if your words are met with silence or a muttered "thank you." Or worse, if your love interest tells you they don't feel the same way.

It doesn't have to be a nightmare, though. The conversation should not just end there. If they're not ready to say it back, then you need to have the difficult discussion of where the relationship stands. Maybe they do care, but they're just not ready to speak those words. That's okay. You can still continue working together to get to the same level.

After The First Time

Let's say that you took the step to say I love you and it was well-received. How do you proceed from there? Be mindful about saying I love you too much. Even if your feelings for the other person are strong, you don't want to overwhelm them. Every time you say I love you, it shouldn't feel casual, it should be because you truly mean it.

What To Say When Someone Says I Love You

What if the person you're seeing says "I love you" first? Ideally, you would consider what to say before this happens. But what if it happens when you're unprepared? Really evaluate your feelings.

Don't ever say I love you if you don't feel it. That's not fair to you or the other person, and once you say it, you can't take it back. If you're not ready to echo the words, there are other ways to respond. Make sure to tell the other person that you care about them. This can be a very vulnerable situation for both of you, but the more honest you are now, the better the outcome.


Know that if your feelings don't match up, this may affect the relationship. You can only do your part to handle the situation delicately. If the other person is hurt enough to want to end the relationship, that's not something you can change.

When To Seek Guidance

Navigating love and relationships can be difficult sometimes, especially if you have a history of heartbreak. Speaking with a therapist can help you process your feelings and adopt effective communication skills that will serve you in your current and future relationships. If you need someone to talk to, BetterHelp is the place to turn for professional online counseling.

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