The feeling of falling in love with someone can be scary, but actually saying
“I love you” for the first time can be even more terrifying. After all, should a certain amount of time go by before you say it? Should it be when you're alone together? When you're having a romantic night? When you're having fun together so you can keep it casual? According to some relationship experts, there is no “wrong” way or moment to say it.
“There is no perfect time or place,”
Toni Coleman, a relationship coach and divorce mediator, tells Bustle. “The right time won’t happen because your partner is in a good mood or you are enjoying something special together. It will be the right time because you are both feeling something special for the other, and your connection is undeniable.” She says that, usually, that first "I love you" just happens, often when people least expect it.
David Bennett, counselor and relationship expert with
Double Trust Dating, says that saying “I love you” can be scary. “So many emotional factors go into saying it,” he tells Bustle. “It requires vulnerability and also courage, because you have to take the risk to say it when there is a possibility the other person may not respond in kind. I believe it’s worth the risk, because falling in love — and expressing it to that person you fell for — is one of the most amazing things a person can experience.”
Below, women reveal what it was like when they
first said “I love you.” So if you want some saying-“I-love-you” inspo, look no further.
“My boyfriend and I had been dating for five months and we were on his
family’s annual vacation to the Outer Banks when we finally said it. He’s the first guy I’ve dated that I’ve fallen in love with, and even though I’m not a romantic person, I figured a beach setting would make the moment extra special. So when the night that happened to be our five-month anniversary rolled around, we were all going out for dinner — I dressed in his favorite outfit and made sure to put some extra effort into my hair and makeup. Problem was, after dinner, he refused to go for a walk on the beach because he was tired and it would make the walk back to the house longer.
We went back to the house and I tried to wait around as long as I could for a ‘moment,’ but it never came. I ended up saying it first, hours later while in my PJs and no makeup on our room’s porch that overlooked a dimly lit playground and tennis court. Turns out, he had been waiting for me to say it first, and I had been waiting for him, but I guess I cracked first.”
“When I was 26, I was lying in bed when my then-boyfriend/now husband was falling asleep and I said it quickly, then turned to my side so he could pretend he was sleeping if he wasn’t ready to hear it. I was so nervous. It turned out, he
did hear me, but pretended he was sleeping. He told me he loved me a few weeks after and admitted he was nervous to say it back to me that night.”
“I had said those three little words to an ex, but to a guy. Saying it to a
woman was the real deal for me and happened last year. Luckily, I didn’t scare her off and we’re still together. I had planned to tell her during this romantic dinner I was making her, but then it slipped out a few days before that. We were just taking a walk through a big local park. Winter had just ended, so the sun was out and she just looked so beautiful as she walked and talked and I couldn’t concentrate. We stopped to sit under a tree, but before that, we leaned against it, though I was leaning more against her than the tree. As I held her, I just whispered it, and she said it back (thankfully!).”
“Dave didn’t fit the image of navy suit-wearing, Washington, D.C. attorney husband I had imagined my whole life. But shortly after meeting him, I realized how flimsy our predictions for our lives can be and how this man with a thick Boston accent was the only person I ever wanted to be with. I remember, a few months after our first date, I looked over at him as he joked and laughed with our group of friends. I was nearly bursting with so much joy and pride that I ran up to him and said ‘I love you!’ in a not very private or quiet way. Fortunately, he said it back (although, I was probably much louder). I was 24 then and it felt freeing and so real — I felt really present.”
“My boyfriend, Mike, and I had been dating for about six months when I first told him I loved him (I was 21 at the time). We were a pretty standard couple except for the fact that he lived in England and I lived in Alabama. We planned to spend New Year’s Eve together and even planned a big trip to New Orleans. We put so much effort into planning our New Year trip. I knew I wanted to tell him I loved him at midnight as we watched the gumbo pot drop over fireworks on the river. I had how I was going to say it all planned out in my head.
A few days before we were to travel down to New Orleans, we were just hanging out on my bed and I distinctly remember almost saying it right then and there. I remember telling myself. ‘Well, if you feel that way, he should know! Now!’ So, I ended up telling him before we even got to New Orleans. After I said it, he, fortunately, reciprocated the phrase and then told me that he had built a whole plan around saying ‘I love you’ to me in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve at midnight as we watched the gumbo pot drop over fireworks on the river."
“I’ve only ever said it to one person in the true, romantic sense. I was 24 and we had been together for a few months. I was used to seeing him at least once every few days, but then
he had to travel for work and was away for a solid week-and-a-half. I missed him so so much that it hurt, and that was when I realized that I was feeling something that I’d never felt before.
His roommates were having a house party the night he returned, and I showed up in the midst of it. I felt so excited to tell him, but didn’t want to blurt it out randomly, so I waited until a little later in the night when we had some privacy in his room. I told him that I had to tell him something and he said he had something to tell me, too. We agreed to say whatever we needed to say at the same time, and both ended up
saying, ‘I love you.’ It felt so awesome to say and we were both super giddy the rest of the night. It’s so true what they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder! I guess being away from each other made us both realize the same thing.”
“Earlier this year, my boyfriend and
I said, ‘I love you’ pretty early on, about three months in (some things, you just know), but I kind of baited him to say it first because I was too scared. I thought he’d think I was crazy or rushing things. But he did tell me and once we’d both said it I sobbed like a baby. Pretty uncharacteristic of me, too, since I can be described, even by friends, as ‘cold-hearted.’”
“I am a true lover of LOVE, especially the giving part (because it is almost always returned)! After my divorce (following a 22-year marriage to my college sweetheart) and a few months of dating a couple of guys, I met my ‘him’ at the funeral of a mutual friend’s mom in November 2015. From our first conversation that went into the wee hours of the night and our first date (and subsequent ones) to making plans to spend NYE together and
travel the world together (so far, we’ve been to China, Jamaica, Mexico, and across the U.S.) to him having my back spiritually, financially, and emotionally, I knew he had me. I was the first to say ‘I Iove you’ via text and it was returned. I was 46 then.
Many women are nervous about putting their feelings out there and laying their hearts on the line for fear of being hurt or the feelings not being mutual. For me, saying ‘I love you’ was liberating and genuine. I was just a wee bit nervous/hesitant; but, love will make you take that leap. And, two-plus years later, we’re still planning to conquer the world ... together!”
I’m sexually fluid and have loved both men and women, even though I didn’t always tell them; other times, I said it and knew I didn’t really mean it. With my first love, though, it just came out when we were watching a movie together at her house. We’d both just turned 16 and started out as friends, so when I told her I loved her, it was easy since I already loved everything about her. We became even more inseparable until we went off to different colleges and I still aspire to find that same kind of love again.”
just said it for the first time and it was scary. But I could tell my boyfriend (who was not yet my boyfriend a few weeks ago when I said it!) loved me, too — all his actions pointed at ‘I love you.’” It turns out that he’d never said it either and was relieved that I did first. He said it back about a million times after I did it. And it wasn’t a scene out of a movie — it was while we were playing video games and eating pizza.”
“When I first said I love you to someone I truly loved, when I was 18, it was like ascending a roller coaster — butterflies swarming my stomach and the rare chance of failure consuming my thoughts. And then the drop. The heart lunges to the throat. Eyes widen. I awaited the response like going through the first loop. I felt upside down. But then, as gentle as the roller coaster pulling into the loading dock, he said it back. And it was a magical ride.”
As you can see,
everyone says “I love you” in different ways, and it may just happen spontaneously, not necessarily planned out. Truth be told, it doesn’t matter how it’s said, but that it’s said and, more so, that it’s shown in people’s actions. So if you have yet to say it, what are you waiting for? This article was originally published on May 7, 2018 and was updated on September 6, 2019.