Should You Say "I Love You" To Your Partner?
You see your partner every weekend and usually a few times during the week, too. They've met your family, or they've met your friends. At the very least, they've met your dog. And the sex is as good as the pillow talk.
So are they the love of your life or just the life of your loins?
To find out, I asked a love biologist, a spiritual matchmaker, a sex therapist, and others for their expert advice.
According to them, it's best to ask your head, heart, body, and soul a few questions. When you have taken full inventory of all your thoughts and feelings, then you can take the next steps with full confidence in yourself -- and, perhaps most importantly, your desirability.
Here are the most important questions you should ask yourself before saying "I love you."
1. Am I Drunk Right Now?
The early stages of love -- or what might feel like it -- are exciting, and it's only natural that you'll want to proclaim it from the rooftops for everyone to hear.
Just be certain that you aren't sloshing any drinks around in your hands when you get that urge to spill.
Alcohol loosens the tongue and impairs your judgment. If you've been drinking, you're better off taking a cold shower and heading to bed so you can evaluate things in the morning with a clear and sober head.
If you do slip up and share, that doesn't mean it's the end of the world, though.
"Hey, it happened," says matchmaker Brooke Wise. "There's just a good chance it might not be said back to you."
2. Am I In Love With The Sex Or In Love With The Person?
According to love biologist Dawn Maslar, sex and love often get confused.
"We can get fogged by the emotion of attraction, but ask yourself if this is somebody you really want to be in a relationship with," Maslar recommends. "Do they have the qualities that you want?"
She gives the example of somebody who was in love with a yacht captain who spent six months each year at sea. The parameters of their arrangement wouldn't actually work, but sex might make that more difficult to discern.
Maslar says it's much easier to decide whether a person is good for you or not if sex hasn't happened yet. Sex boosts the chemicals oxytocin and norepinephrine, which make the situation "stickier."
"Once you have sex, you're moving into a different realm," Maslar says. "If you find something that's considered to be a deal breaker, you can convince yourself to turn off the emotion."
Her advice? Delay sex until you're sure it's the right person or you might fall in love despite yourself.
Spiritual guide and matchmaker Heather Kristian Strang says that a body scan can provide important information about whether or not it's love or sex.
"If [the feeling] is in your pelvis, this may be more of a lust- or body chemistry-based 'love,'" she says.
If it's all in your loins, try and recall what you wanted before you slept with the person you're seeing. Were you really looking for love? Or just a good time?
3. Is "Love" A Word I Throw Around?
Love is an easy word for some people to leap to while others apply it more sparingly. Think about whether or not you're willing to do as much as you say.
"There is something to be said for people who just say it, and then, their actions don't reflect it," says Wise. "Be confident and sure whether it's something you feel and whether it is genuine."
That goes for whether or not somebody says it back, too. Wise says that she has encountered situations where a woman has said it, but a man has not -- but his actions still showed that his feelings were true.
"[Your partner] might be more conservative and want to wait until there isn't a shadow of a doubt," says Wise. That, too, is perfectly OK.
4. Is It Too Soon To Say It?
There isn't necessarily a timeline for love, especially depending on a person's age. The first time you're in love, a week can definitely feel like a lifetime. That changes with experience.
Sex therapist Stefani Threadgill says that hormone levels vary with the length of the relationship.
"Dopamine, norepinephrine, and testosterone are elevated in the initial phase of the relationship," she says. "This phase is often referred to as infatuation and can last up to two years."
Infatuation makes it harder to see a person's flaws.
"The elevated hormones can also contribute to what is commonly known as rose-colored glasses, where we tend to overemphasize our partner's positive attributes and minimize negative attributes," adds Threadgill.
When the rose tint wears off, it can leave the person feeling like they didn't know the person they had been with for so long.
5. Where Do I Feel The Love In My Body?
Figuring out where you feel love most strongly in your body can determine whether you're really ready to share it or if you have healing to do first.
Spiritual matchmaker Strang recommends accessing this through a deep process of self-inquiry by determining where in your body you feel love the strongest.
Try focusing in on yourself by going to a quiet room where you can be alone with your feelings and thoughts. You might even try taking a few deep breaths to clear your mind and enter a meditative state. When you feel relaxed, allow thoughts of your loved one to enter your mind.
When they do, narrow in on the place where you feel them the most.
If love isn't strongest in your pelvis, that means the relationship is not all about sex. If it's in your solar plexus -- the place in your stomach where those butterflies flutter -- that might mean you have some work to do, first.
If you feel love most strongly there, Strang says it might not have as much to do with this present life as it does about the past.
"This may indicate that there is a karmic or past life connection... and it may also be linked to power struggles that have either appeared in the relationship or will appear soon," she says.
A session or three with a trusted healer may help you develop clarity about the relationship.
As for an achy, longing feeling of love in the heart, that kind of feeling is about "wounding from your childhood," Strang says. "This person may be triggering that within you."
Again, that doesn't mean it's the end of your relationship. A healer or a therapist may be able to help with healing that pain so that love can be met fully in the present.
If the feeling of love is strongest in your head, this is a theoretical sign that somebody is perfect, but your body and soul aren't on board yet. This is important information. Just because you think something should be right doesn't mean it actually is.
So how do you know your love is true?
"If you feel the feelings of love like a light radiating through your entire body that is both grounding and expansive, now you're on to something, and saying 'I love you' may be the right next step!" says Strang.
Dang. True love sounds great.
6. What Do I Want To Happen Next?
If you're certain you are in love, and you're getting ready to share it, it's good to think about what you want to come of it.
According to Wise, going out with your partner at least two times a week and seeing them on the weekend is a good indicator that your connection has a future. You can also be confident that it's not just about sex.
Even so, is this a relationship that you see lasting for a lifetime or just for the next few years? It's OK if you don't know now, but it's still worth checking in on your own intentions.
7. What If They Don't Say It Back?
It's a beautiful thing to be open with your emotions. The danger of an open heart, though, is that an open heart can bruise. Wise wants you to be sure that you're prepared if your partner doesn't feel the same way.
"Do you really feel confident in the strength of your relationship?" she asks. "Do you know that the person is moving in the same direction that you are?
If you feel confident in your love but are paralyzed that your partner won't say it back, Threadgill says that the most important thing to remind yourself is that nobody else determines whether or not you are unlovable.
"It could have to do with their self-esteem, intimacy and vulnerability tolerance, values, love language, communication skills, levels of empathy and trust, past relationship experiences and fear of rejection," she says.
She recommends remembering this piece of advice: "Everything that people do or say has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you."
Now, did you have something you wanted to say?