Saying “I love you” — the when, the how, and the “what’s taking so long?” of it — is one of the most asked about topics in letters I receive from readers. Ten years ago I wrote something that went viral about how women in heterosexual relationships shouldn’t say “I love you” first. I was writing for a website at the time that valued clickbait above just about everything else, and this seemed like a natural lightening rod. It was, and I got both a lot of heat and a lot of love for that post. My feelings have evolved over the years (and I’m also not so concerned about clickbait!), so today I say: Life is short; tell people you love them (but, you know, maybe not on the first date…).
I remember the fist time Drew and I exchanged “I love you’s”:
We’d been (long-distance) dating for about eight months, seeing each other for a weekend maybe once every two to three weeks. I’d felt love for a couple months, but I didn’t feel in a rush to say it. Part of that was because I was aware that these weekends we spent together, although romantic and fun and exciting, weren’t real life and I wanted to make sure my feelings were real, and not based on some fantasy I’d created from this whirlwind courtship. Anyway, about eight months into said courtship, I was visiting Drew in Manhattan for the weekend and was waiting for the bus to take me to the airport where I’d catch a plane back to Chicago. These good-byes were feeling more and more… heavy, and we’d just started talking about when and if the long-distance part of our relationship might transition into something that didn’t require air travel to maintain. As the bus pulled up, Drew pulled me in for a hug and whispered “I love you” into my ear. I said it back and then I boarded for another commute home. (It took about another ten or eleven months before I moved and the long-distance part of our relationship was done for good.)
If you’re in a relationship, do you remember your first “I love you’s”? Or, if you’re currently single, maybe you have a memory from a former relationship?
Allornone April 23, 2019, 12:15 pm
I was an idiot and kind of rushed it. Don’t get me wrong, we had been dating for a while and the sentiment was most definitely there and real. In fact, he had almost said it to me earlier in the evening. That’s what threw me- it seemed like he was going to say it, then he just…didn’t. My insecure butt internally freaked out and when I couldn’t take it anymore, said it first later on that night in the car. I think I said something like “it’s okay if you’re not feeling the same yet, but I have to say, I think I’m falling in love with you.” He just smiled and said “Really? I know I’m in love with you.” Turns out, he just didn’t want to say it the first time in a bar. So, thanks to me, it ended up in a stupid car instead. Not my best work. But we did have an amazing first kiss…
ktfran April 23, 2019, 12:28 pm
I remember the very first time it happened. It was New Year’s Eve my senior year of high school. My boyfriend at the time and I were celebrating at a friend’s house. Everyone was spending the night. We were lying on the floor next to each other and he said “I love you.” I replied “Do you need another pillow.” He broke up with me a month later.
I also remember when the husband and I said it to each other without actually saying it. Six months into our relationship, we were hanging out at my parents house over the Christmas holiday. My little niece, who was probably five at the time, drew a picture of the husband and on it was hearts and him saying “I love ktfran.” We kind of laughed and he said, “she’s not wrong.” I don’t remember what I said, but I agreed. I don’t remember when we actually started saying it out loud. Maybe the next day. Maybe a few days later. Now I say it to him any time I feel it/
K April 23, 2019, 2:34 pm
We had been dating for 6 months and we were hiking in Colorado. I was freaking out about crossing a big stream, and he hugged me and said “I love you”. I said it back. I had been ready to say it for a while, but was waiting for him to say it.
csp April 23, 2019, 2:55 pm
So my husband and I said it very quickly. The first time was the night we met. Ha! We met at a bar and started talking. We talked for hours and got drunk. We then started making out and we pulled away and he said “I love you. Wait, I can’t say that yet but I love you.” He also called an hour after I left the bar to make sure I got home ok. Two weeks later, he said it again and I said it back. When we look back on it now, we both come from “I Love you” families meaning we say it when we leave the room kind of thing. So it just normal for both of us. However, I like that he told me he loved me the night he met me.
TaraMonster April 23, 2019, 3:46 pm
We’d been together about 3 months when I told him I loved him for the first time. I’d realized it about two weeks earlier and I was afraid to say it first, but it was sort of burning a hole in my pocket. I thought to myself, “Self, woman up! This time around, you are going to be vulnerable and you are going to say your truth and not wait to see if it’s safe.” In the past I’d just sort of let my relationships steer themselves and they usually steered themselves right off a cliff lol. And so I mustered up the courage and I told him, and he said it right back. 🙂
inkyboots April 23, 2019, 4:51 pm
I think we’d been together for about a month when he first said it. I’d just driven us home in the most harrowing thunderstorm and we were soaking wet while I fished for the keys to my apartment, and he hugged me and told me he loved me. I told him I couldn’t say it back yet at the time but I think I reciprocated soon after. And then we got engaged three months after that, haha. Six years going strong.
Keyblade April 23, 2019, 8:49 pm
We said it early. I believe I may have said “I think I might even love you a little bit right now” during the course of one our marathon conversation dates. He didn’t respond and I didn’t expect him too. It slipped out in a moment of passion awhile after that. He told me to “say it again” and he told me he loved me too (something he had not said to the person he dated four years before me) . He asked me the next day if I meant and I think I said “I think I do”. I told him I thought I loved him for awhile longer until some piont where I knew I loved him ( I felt like I fundamentally knew him well enough as a man and human to be sure that I was indeed, in love with him.
Deigh April 24, 2019, 11:58 am
I said it first to my boyfriend. We had been seeing each other about 9 months but it was long distance and we really only saw each other monthly during that time. I had been feeling it for a month or so but I didn’t want to say it since it felt like a vacation romance in some ways, still. When I said it, I said, “I think I love you. But it might just be gas.” We still laugh about that.
He didn’t say it back at that point. He said to me that he cared a lot for me but he’s always been slow to say those words. I said I was still going to say it to him and he shouldn’t take it as pressure but I wasn’t going to hide how I felt to make him feel more comfortable and he shouldn’t hide how he felt and say it before he was ready to make me more comfortable.
A couple of months later I was getting ready to leave after a visit and he motioned for me to roll down my car window. He kissed me and said he loved me. I wanted to strangle him because I had to go and here was this big moment in the relationship. I wish I had said, “It’s probably just gas” and driven away but I’ve never been good at exit lines. 🙂
anon April 24, 2019, 12:27 pm
About 4 months after we met and started dating (I found him online), I tried a flirty line that a friend recommended – “I really like you” while we were out dancing at a bar. I was pretty crazy about him, in retrospect. He froze a few seconds, and then told me he loved me. I told him I loved him, and then we were ridiculously happy the rest of the weekend. I wasn’t anticipating that reaction, but I’m so glad I borrowed that line. Simple, but effective.
allathian April 29, 2019, 2:38 am
My husband said that to me for the first and only time when he held our newborn son in his arms. But he looked at me when he said it. I can’t remember ever saying that to him, certainly not at that time when I was too exhausted to say anything after 24 hours in labor.
We say “my love” to each other quite a lot, several times a week. But I guess “I love you” just doesn’t come naturally to either of us. It may be a cultural issue, as well. And also a matter of love languages, I know my husband loves me even if we don’t say it. Actions speak louder than words…