9 Stages Of Saying "ILY" For The First Time

When you consider chance and its wily nature, it's a GD miracle any two people ever come together in a romantic way. It's not just a combination of right place (emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually) and right time. There's gotta be attraction, similar life ethics, aligned maturity — the whole nine yards. I used to go through phases of counting wedding rings I saw on my morning commute, and the final number would regularly blow my mind. But obviously there are a million steps between the initial draw. One of the major game-changers, though, is sharing those three small words.

Say you found an incredibly dope human to call your partner and the personal clarity to determine you're actually in love with them. You're on the right track! And holy crap are you lucky — considering that fickle chance thing we just discussed. But deciding you're down to be the first the utter this pretty serious phrase — that might not be as instant as the first heart flip you felt for this person. There are a lot of nerves that come into play. That's all reaffirming, though, really. Because if you didn't actually care, then why bother being nervous? You're in deep. You maybe even accidentally almost said it — saving yourself with something silly like, "I love y...Yellowstone National Park. Yep, hiking, right?" Here are the fairly universal stages leading up to taking the next step in your relationship.

An inkling

Call me a grump, but I don't really buy that love-at-first-sight-crashing-to-the-ground hoopla. Infatuation may work like that — or lust, even — but not real, romantic love. That takes time and an exchange of energy. When you first start to suspect your feelings run more deeply than they have with Casual People, you have your first hunch. You may start catching yourself perusing the tall man section at the thrift store when you yourself are a not tall woman. They're on your brain a whole lot and you never feel annoyed when you see their name flash on your phone. Their iMessages either make you feel really stoked or a sense of calm — never annoyed, not matter how deep into work you may be.

A self-interrogation

"Wait," you gotta ask yourself. "Is this like-like, LIKE-like, like-love, LIKE-love, love-love, or LOVE-love?" Trust me, each has its own set of nuances.

A (potentially unfortunate) reflection of your past

How does this relationship compare to those you've experienced before? Sure, comparisons between past and present lovers isn't always the most kind tactic, but sometimes (like now), it's necessary. Does this relationship share any qualities as that time you feel in deep, hard lust with that dude who poured a mean Americano (among other things, wiiink)? How do or don't those feelings overlap with your current situation? It helps clear up any murkiness you may feel in actualizing your heart's current state.

Deciding to do it

Yep, this person absolutely makes your heart and pores and fingertips and entire body sing. They are Special and you feel confident in your decision to share "ILY" — but with more letters — with them.

Slight doubt

Sure, you feel this way and it seems they do also, but ... what if they don't? You may just expose your soul all bare and open for judgement! What if they judge?

Confidence re-boost

Well, they wouldn't judge. Because they're better than that (which is why you love them, duh). Surely they feel the same and will eagerly echo your sentiment.

Planning the attack

When, where, how could you divulge such precious info? It's gotta be special, just like your Special Person. You panic about making reservations at a unique spot that isn't too crowded, doesn't use corny white tablecloths, serves a variety of gluten-free fare ... or is too cold out to rent out a hot air balloon? You worry about how epic is epic enough and what would come off as cheesy. Regardless, you make sure that makeup is on point.

Straight anxiety

The plan is intact and you feel pretty good about it. It's been idiot-proofed because — well — we do tend to act a fool when our hearts are on the line. You might even wear extra cute underwear to help prepare.

Abandoning the plan

Wow. So much for carefully curating the perfect environment. Chances are, if you really are so hopelessly smitten with another human, you won't be able to hold out until the ideal moment because — well, every moment with them is pretty ideal. Whatever, it sounds hackneyed and overdone, but guess what? This person is fucking awesome and it's 100 percent cool to let them know you think so in a natural way. "I love you" is a simple phrase but expresses an endlessly complex, rapturous soul state. If you feel it for someone, don't sweat it — just share it.

See? Don't you feel better now?

Images: Unsplash; Giphy (10)