When should you tell someone you love them?

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This weeks blog topic comes from a reader.  When should you tell someone you love them?

You should tell someone you love them when:

  • You are confident you love them.
  • You know what love means and doesn’t mean in the context of your situation.
  • You can explicitly or implicitly communicate to your partner what love means and doesn’t mean to you.

The first time I wrote “love” was in a notebook I passed between girl friends at school.  We were junior high girls with a new crush every few weeks.  We’d write things like Sarah + Andy = Sandy, inside a heart shape.  We knew like and lust but not love.

The first time I said, “I love you”, I was in high school.  To me love meant being best friends, it meant loyalty, and companionship. It meant intentions of being together forever. It was an understanding of love that was completely decontextualized.  It was love without consideration of the details of life’s journey. It was genuine yet immature.  Disposable Love: The First Cut is the Deepest

The fourth time I said “I love you” it was followed by “too”. Never say I love you as a mere response if you don’t mean it.

The fifth time I said I love you he said, “ I love you too but…” This is when I learned that love needed conditions.  It was important to know what being in love meant or didn’t mean.  In this case it meant the emotions were there but too many practical things were missing.  We weren’t the same religion, we wanted to live in different places, and the list goes on.  A declaration of love in this case was merely a statement of emotion.  It did not mean there was potential for marriage, something I definitely sought after.  Love is Not a Marriage

Once I learned that “I love you” didn’t mean I want to marry you, or I want to be with you forever, being in love lost some of its value for me. I felt like Tina Turner,

       “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?  What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”

What was the point of professing love if it resulted in no meaningful outcomes?  I felt this way for years.

My husband thinks I missed his proposal speech.  I was barefoot standing precariously at the bow of a boat desperately trying to keep my balance as a photographer fluttered around us snapping shots.  Trying not to stare at the shiny rock glimmering in front of me added to the distraction, but I did hear his proposal speech.  He said, “I love you and…”  After the “and” he spelled out in detail what the results of his declaration of love meant. It meant he wanted our partnership to be put above our relationships with friends and family.  It meant he wanted to live together and have children.  It meant he wanted to commit to growing together and problem solving together as we grew.  What came after the “and” was very specific, it defined what he meant when he said the words “I love you”.  If Not Love Then What?: 6 Reasons Why I Married Him Other Than Love

Now that we are married, we sometimes say I love you as a casual greeting.  It’s equivalent to goodbye or see you later.  But there are more meaningful times when it is said too.  This morning he stood at the sink washing baby bottles.  I walked up behind him and hugged him.  I love you I whispered with an implicit because (I love you because I appreciate you for completing this laborious task. It’s now one less thing that I have to do).  These days our biggest acts of love happen at 3am when we take turns volunteering to take care of our infant.  “Go back to sleep, I’ve got him” is the new I love you.  Dating Tips for Single Women from a New Mom

I’m not saying you should only tell someone you love them when you want to marry them.  Marriage is not for everyone.  Some couples can be in love for decades and never marry.  Other couples sole purpose for dating is to find marriage.  So be clear.  Add an “and” or “but” behind that “I love you”.  Spell it out.  What does it mean? 

I love you and I want to see if this could lead to something permanent.

I love you and eventually want marriage but I feel it’s way too early to have marriage conversations at this time.

I love you but I don’t know what I want long term.  I do know that I want to savor this moment.

I’ve lost track of how many times I thought I was in love but the times that mattered are remembered. All but one of those times did not lead to marriage.  But it doesn’t mean the other times were a “second hand emotion”, they were all lessons and experiences that helped shape my journey.  Don’t be bitter if you feel love, declare love or have love declared to you without it resulting in the ultimate outcome you hope for.  Move forward, and learn to say or listen for the stated or implicit “and” or “but” that follows the “I love you”.  And if “I love you” isn’t being said, it doesn’t mean love isn’t there.  Just ask me at 3:05am when I’m returning to the coziness of my bed as my husband rocks the baby back to sleep. “Go back to sleep, I’ve got him.”

What are your thoughts?  Have you ever felt bamboozled by someone who claimed they loved you?  Have you ever unintentionally misled someone with your declaration of love?


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