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Jan 20, 2019 | Love & Relationships

The "I Love You" Moments

By Aaron Ben-Zeév
The

With so much conflicting advice, it can be hard to trust your feelings.

"The regret of my life is that I have not said 'I love you' often enough." — Yoko Ono

Hearing a partner say "I love you" for the first time is regarded as one of the highlights of a romantic relationship. However, people are often uncertain about when to declare their love, and whether to be the first to do so or to wait until the other has given an indication that they feel the same way. Is there a best time to reveal your heart? Does the timing make any difference or all the difference?

When should you say it?
"You don't have to have a ring on your finger to say, 'I love you.'" — Tyra Banks

Romantic love expresses our genuine attitudes. Revealing our loving heart to a partner is immeasurably valuable for communication and personal flourishing. However, such self-disclosure makes you more vulnerable and may put your partner in an uncomfortable situation, especially if his or her attitude is different from yours. Consider, for example, this common (and conflicting) advice about when to tell your partner "I love you":

  • Go on at least five dates.
  • Say it only after two months.
  • Don't wait too long.
  • Wait until you're absolutely bursting.
  • Do not do it before, after, or during sex.
  • Don't say it when you're very emotional and cannot think rationally.
  • Don't say it when you want to reward your partner for something.
  • Never say it first, and don't echo it back until you've spent some extended time together.

These examples emphasize the importance of timing. However, is timing more important than honesty and self-disclosure? More plausible advice assumes that there is no precise formula for when to say "I love you," and that you should say it whenever you feel that way, without making too many calculations about timing.

What's important in long-term love is not timing, which refers to a specific temporal point, but time. Time has a wider reference, including duration, frequency, and development. Accordingly, a few apparent mistakes along the road, stemming from bad timing or political incorrectness, will not change an entire romantic picture. It may even enhance trust and honesty between lovers. Since profound love needs time to develop, it isn't reasonable to say "I love you profoundly" after being together for just a brief time; that may indicate that you are not serious about what is, in fact, a serious matter. However, since love, at first sight, can occur, you can say "I love you" after a short time together if you are just expressing what you feel at that moment. You may add if this is indeed the case, that you see great potential for the relationship to grow. We can perceive potential, but we cannot perceive its inevitable implementation (Ben-Ze'ev, 2014).

In profound love, it is activities, rather than words, that count most. There may be many reasons for not saying "I love you" that is not necessarily because of a lack of love. When Tevye, in "Fiddler on the Roof," asks Golde, his wife of 25 years, whether she loves him, she is surprised at the question and wonders whether he is upset or tired. “Go inside, go lie down! Maybe it’s indigestion,” she says. When Tevye insists on being answered, Golde says: “For 25 years, I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After 25 years, why talk about love right now?” And when he continues to insist upon receiving an explicit answer, she finally says: “I suppose I love you.”

Different paces
"It's not easy to sit down and open yourself up and say, 'This is how much I love you,' you know? It's scary to do that." — Jason Isbell

When one is sincere, confessing one's love is typically not problematic. There may be a problem, though, in expecting a reciprocal answer to the declaration. This difficulty derives from two major aspects—the different paces at which love develops and the different personal tendency to reveal one's heart.

Image source: sweetytextmesseges.com

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