How To Say I Love You For The First Time

Women's Dating

5 Tips for When & How to Say “I Love You” for the First Time

Rachel Dack

Written by: Rachel Dack

Rachel Dack

Rachel Dack is a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach specializing in individual and couples psychotherapy. Rachel's areas of expertise include relationships, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and self-esteem. To connect with Rachel or to learn more about her psychotherapy and relationship coaching services, please follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Buy her book "Sexy Secrets to a Juicy Love Life" on Amazon.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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Saying “I love you” for the first time is a monumental moment in a relationship. The timing will look different for different couples because love develops over time and is felt at varying paces. So it’s natural to wonder how to handle the timing of saying “I love you,” as well as the best ways to express feelings of love to your significant other

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to saying “I love you” for the first time, here are 5 tips to help you determine when and how to say it best:

1. Say It for the Right Reasons

Saying “I love you” needs to be something you feel good about. It should be said out of a genuine desire to share how you feel with your partner. 

It should not be said out of obligation or pressure. It should also not be said to keep your relationship going or keep up with how your partner feels about you. 

Photo of a couple dancing
The best reason to say “I love you” is because it’s truly how you feel.

For example, things can get tricky if your partner says “I love you” first and you aren’t sure you feel love yet. You may worry about ruining your relationship or hurting your partner’s feelings if you don’t say the words back to them, but it is important to say it only when you feel ready and certain of your emotions. 

Yes, you may hurt your partner’s feelings, but lying to avoid hurting your partner is not the answer. Without putting too much pressure on yourself, remember that these three words are very special and mean a lot, so there is no sense rushing them or saying them because you think you should. If you aren’t ready to say “I love you,” there are other ways to express that you care about your partner.

2. Drop the Worry about Who Says “I Love You” First 

You can’t avoid feeling vulnerable when you express your love to your partner. That’s why you may wish your partner would initiate these three words before you do. However, if you are in a healthy, stable relationship, it shouldn’t matter who says it first. Ideally both of you will develop loving feelings toward one another, even if one of you feels and expresses it first. If you are the one who expresses it first, try not to worry if your partner doesn’t say it back right away. 

Remind yourself that there is a wide spectrum of how long it takes people to develop these feelings and not everyone feels equally comfortable expressing them. You owe it to yourself and your partner to be honest about how you feel (again, as long as you are saying “I love you” for the right reasons). 

3. Consider Your Feelings & How Long You’ve Been Together

Falling in love follows no time schedule. Some people fall in love more quickly than others. That’s why it’s important to take into account how long you’ve known each other (and been together as a couple), as well as how you feel before you say “I love you.”  

Photo of hands holding
Some couples fall in love right away, and others grow in love over time.

Check in with yourself to make sure you feel comfortable with your partner and where your relationship is going. Remember there is no rush; you should not say “I love you” if you are not ready to commit to your partner. I don’t mean that you have to be ready for cohabitation or marriage, but you should feel good about your relationship and ready to stay committed during difficult times (unless your relationship is toxic or unhealthy for you). 

Also, if exclusivity and monogamy are important to you, your feelings and desire for each other should align prior to expressing love. 

4. Express What You Love about Your Partner

When saying “I love you” to your partner for the first time, be sure to make it special. Consider mentioning the specific qualities in your partner that you love and appreciate. 

Use the following statements as a template to communicate how you feel:  

  • I value your…. (intelligence, kindness, generosity, sense of humor, etc.)
  • I really appreciate you because… (we can talk about hard topics and stay on the same team, I feel safe with you, etc.)
  • I think we’re compatible because… (you bring out my goofy side, we have such a fun time together, etc.)

You can also include when you knew you were developing feelings of love, why you feel lucky to have your partner in your life, and what you are drawn to in your partner.  

5. Show Your Love Through Continued Action

A verbal affirmation of love is wonderful, but it’s equally important to treat your significant other in loving ways and through healthy relationship habits. Think of love as a verb. 

When you love someone, it’s important to show up for them and continuously put effort into your relationship. This involves more than simply saying “I love you.”  It means learning how your partner receives love and understanding your partner’s love language(s). You and your partner can take the official 5 Love Languages quiz to learn about each other.

Once you have a better sense of how your partner receives love, you can focus on that area.  For example, if your partner’s love language is quality time, prioritizing time together is a great way to show love. 

Say “I Love You” When You’re Ready for a Commitment

Saying “I love you” is a very special relationship milestone. It’s natural to feel nervous when saying “I love you” for the first time, especially if you are unsure of when and how to say it.  

Try reminding yourself that there is no perfect time or perfect way to express love.  So trust yourself to say it when it is right for you. Follow up verbal communication with active displays of love. Remember to be patient if your partner doesn’t say it back right away and remind yourself that love develops over time.

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