When it comes to dropping the L-word for the first time, there are no clear-cut rules to abide by or timetables to follow. Sure, saying “I love you” is supposed to feel intuitive and natural, but the reality is that those three small words can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Waiting too long to say it could drive your partner away, but saying “I love you” too soon could come off as a major red flag. Not to mention, there’s the excruciating possibility of putting your heart on the line just for the other person not to say it back.
Giving yourself arbitrary deadlines or markers for when to say “I love you” is robotic and anti-romantic — basically the complete opposite of listening to your heart. But if you’re solely trusting your gut, what are you supposed to do if you find yourself deep in your feelings for someone just one month into a relationship? As with most things involving love, it really depends. If you’re stuck mulling over how soon is too soon to say “I love you,” here’s what experts have to say about it.
It depends on how much time you spend together.
You can be dating someone for a month and only see the other person once a week thanks to your busy schedules. This pacing amounts to a whopping four dates and maybe 15 hours together total. In this case, no matter how "meant-to-be" you might feel, saying "I love you" after hanging out for fewer hours than there are in a day is probably a bad idea. But one month together for one couple might look completely different than another couple’s, according to dating and relationship expert Meredith Golden.
"[One month is] not too soon if you spend every single day together for an entire month," Golden says. "That's long enough to fall in love and to verbally express it."
On the flipside, Anita Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist, isn’t fully convinced four weeks can give you all the answers. In a lot of cases, people aren’t even official partners after that amount of time. Saying “I love you” too soon can put your new relationship in an awkward position.
“I just don't think a month is enough time for there to be patterns emerging and for a person to truly show that they're going to be consistent over time,” Chlipala says. “My recommendation to people is to try to wait until they're a little bit outside of the infatuation period.”
Chlipala differentiates between being infatuated with someone and truly loving them by being able to see your partner for who they truly are and deeply know their personality. “If you feel confident that you can accept them in a relationship should you continue to date, then that would be my recommendation to share your feelings,” Chlipala says.
That being said, if you've been with your partner for nearly every minute of your entire first month of being together — and it’s not unheard of nowadays — maybe 30 days isn’t as lightning speed short and delusional as it may seem. As long as you can see your partner authentically, maybe one month is enough time to see past the infatuation period.
It depends on if your partner is on the same page.
A lot of feelings bubble up within the first month of dating someone new, and love could undoubtedly be one of them. The key to figuring out when to say “I love you” is to understand whether or not your partner reciprocates the love.
“I think that there should be some sense of security — I'm not saying you're going to know that you're going to marry this person, but you should at least have basic trust and some sense of security, like [knowing that] this person makes plans they're going to follow through on,” Chlipala says. “You should feel like a priority in their lives and that they take you into consideration in their decisions.” You don’t want to be worried that your partner isn’t in the same place yet when it comes to your commitment to and understanding of each other.
“Like any expression of feeling, it's human nature — we're born this way to look for signs and signals [of] feelings being reciprocated,” says Chlipala. “So, to be the first one to say it and not know if you're going to get that back can create a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.”
Going into it blindly only increases the fear of rejection that can already come with saying the L-word. "In general, whoever says it first is in a vulnerable position," explains Golden. "If you know that you are loved, it’s easier to reciprocate the sentiment." Love is expressed in far more ways than just verbally. If your partner is consistent in their behaviors and devotion to you, it’s a good sign that you two are on the same page.
You have to trust your gut.
Trusting your gut doesn’t simply mean acting out of impulse at any given moment. It means examining it, and then acting on it. If you find yourself constantly falling in love and saying "I love you" first only to have relationships blow up in your face, maybe you just need to spend more time with your gut feelings. The opposite, however, is also a common problem, according to Chlipala.
“In general, I think people know, but sometimes people might sit on their feelings,” she says. “Rejection is something that people avoid as much as possible, even to the point of self sabotage, and more people sit on their feet than share [their feelings] right away.” Worrying too much about how soon to say “I love you” might actually get in the way of embracing your own emotions. The most important thing you can do is to have an honest heart-to-heart with yourself.
"Ultimately, you know when it feels right," says Golden. "If you see yourself having a future with someone, the relationship is healthy, communication is easy, chemistry is stellar, and you’re monogamous, all signs point to a happy, healthy, and committed relationship warranting the three words."
At the end of the day — or month — every relationship is different. You've heard it all before because it's true: No one bond is exactly like another on the planet. When deciding if a month is too early to say "I love you," ask yourself three things: "Do I want to say it?" then, "Will I regret saying it?" and finally, "How upset will I be if my partner doesn't say it back to me?"
Putting your own feelings first and protecting your heart should be your top priority. Maybe you really are in love, or maybe you're just feeling all of those strong emotions and whirlwind butterflies you get when you first fall for someone.
All things said, trust the feeling — you’ll know when it’s right.
Meredith Golden, dating and relationship expert
Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Relationship Reality 312
This article was originally published on