Knowing when to say “I love you” for the first time in a relationship can be a minefield, as one Mumset user recently discovered.
The woman wrote on the forum asking others when they first said “I love you”, after feeling like the right time was approaching with her partner.
She received a mix of responses, ranging from two weeks to six months.
Relate counsellor Barbara Bloomfield told HuffPost UK it’s not unusual to feel anxious about when to tell another person we love them.
“We may fear rejection and worry that we won’t hear the same words back,” she said.
“If somebody says it too early, particularly if we have a fear of commitment or aren’t sure about the relationship, then it can sometimes put people off.”
So when is the best time to drop those three little words?
According to Bloomfield, love means different things to different people “and we all express our love in different ways”.
“Sometimes we may not say to our partner that we love them but we may show it through our actions,” she said.
“Often you can trace back people’s attitudes to expressing their love to their family of origin.”
On the whole, Relate encourage people to talk openly about their feelings.
“Times when you might want to hold back are if you’re already in a relationship with somebody else or the person who you love is,” Bloomfield said.
“It may help to think about why you’re wanting to say it. Are you saying it because you’re feeling needy and insecure? This may not be the best motivation.”
She added that there is no set timeline for when you should express your love for someone else.
“But if you’re feeling positive and full of love then it can be a wonderful thing to share,” she said.
“Try to look at your unique situation and decide what’s right for you. Consider how serious your relationship with that person is, how they might take it and any possible repercussions.
“But when it comes to expressing your love for another person, try not to overthink it. On the whole if you feel love and your motivations are good, then say it.”
However, Gay Times columnist and dating blogger The Guyliner believes saying ‘I love you’ can be overrated.
“I don’t necessarily think you should have to say it at all. Thinking there’s an ideal time or stage in a relationship makes it sound like a mechanical process rather than an insatiable urge, driven by emotion, passion and comfort,” he told HuffPost UK.
“I’m wary of people who consider saying ‘I love you’ to be a big deal – it usually implies it means nothing at all to them. I prefer my ‘I love yous’ to come from how I act, not what I say.
“And if they love you back, you’ll know. No big speeches necessary…But don’t say it right after sex. Nobody ever believes that one.”
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that if you don’t receive the response you’re looking for after saying “I love you”, it doesn’t reflect on you as a person.
“If they don’t say it back then try not to take it personally,” Bloomfield said.
“It may have much more to do with them than with you.”