I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Saying "I love you," especially for the first time, is a huge deal. You're showing a vulnerable side of you that's usually kept hidden, opening up your heart to someone else when it's usually locked away in a box under the dumpster outside your apartment.
Those three words carry a lot of weight. You don't just throw them around like any other phrase. They have value, meaning, and are a great way of showing just how you feel about someone.
You love them. That’s big!
But saying “I love you” during sex is… unexpected, to say the least. If you’re the partner on the receiving end of this, you’re probably surprised to hear such intimate words uttered in the midst of hot, sweaty, passionate lovemaking. Because there's no better time to tell someone for the first time how full your heart is than when you're inside them, amirite? Well, maybe not.
If he said “I love you” during sex for the first time, does he actually mean it? Should you believe your partner in this situation? “When someone says ‘I love you’ during sex for the first time, it could certainly mean that they are experiencing a flood of hormones and are feeling good,” sex therapist Moushumi Ghose tells Elite Daily. “This euphoria could explain the feelings of love towards the other person.”
Sex Releases Endorphins
When you have sex with someone, your body releases feel-good hormones that make you feel (literally) high on drugs. "[Oxytocin makes] us feel bonded and pleasant,” Dr. Jill McDevitt, sex educator and resident sexologist for CalExotics, previously told Elite Daily. “Dopamine is released en masse, which makes us feel euphoric, and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the area that controls behavior, shuts down,” she explained.
These lowered inhibitions make it a lot easier for someone to make bold gestures, like telling their partner they love them during sex. “[Sex is] pleasurable because pleasure chemicals are flooding your body, while the brain areas that deal with anxiety, control, and other things that can hold us back from pleasure shut down,” Dr. McDevitt said. If you’ve ever been tipsy and said something extremely honest to a friend, you know that can lead to some conversations you never expected to have (or at least not in this environment). Think of this situation the same way.
“I Love You” During Sex Is Still Real
Just because your partner said those three words at an unexpected time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe them. “It is certainly a real feeling, in the moment and for the moment,” Ghose says. “As with most emotions, it may, however, be fleeting.” If your partner immediately backtracks after saying “I love you,” or acts like they never actually said or meant it, they’re probably feeling too nervous to claim that feeling just yet. Even if they do feel love for you, they’re not ready to express it outside of that endorphin high.
“You can definitely respect someone's moment if they say, ‘I love you,’ and it's a new relationship, or it's the first time they've said it,” Ghose says. “It's wise to recognize this exclamation is about them and how they are feeling in the moment.” Allow it to happen, and try not to make a huge deal about it when it does. Follow your partner’s lead to see whether they want to bring it up after sex.
How To Talk About Saying “I Love You” During Sex
Can’t stop thinking about that moment or replaying it in your head? You can bring it up with your SO, but be gentle when you do. “If you wish to have a conversation with them, wait for a neutral time, and lead with curiosity and tenderness,” Ghose says. Don’t assume anything about what they meant when they said it. She suggests asking questions like these:
- When did you know this?
- How long have you felt this way?
- Is this a new feeling?
- What does love mean to you?
And as for whether you reciprocate their “ILY,” that’s totally up to you. “You certainly do not need to reciprocate the exact feeling, but this might be a great time to acknowledge what kind of feelings you do have for them,” Ghose says. “A healthy discussion of where both partners are at is a good idea. Honesty is not always comfortable, and that is okay, too.” This awkward moment might actually lead to some helpful conversations.
What do people on Reddit think of this topic? As you can imagine, their answers are all over the place. Read on to hear people express just how they feel about telling their partner they love them for the first time in the middle of sex.
This person recommends that love should be referenced before ~the sex~ takes place.
[I] never said it to someone for the first time during sex. It usually gets said first and then we have sex.
That emotionally charged romp sometimes makes people say things they don’t totally mean.
I wouldn't recommend it, specifically because of that emotional high that's hormone fueled during sexual play... oftentimes it makes us feel very differently than we do once we're back down from that high.
I actually have had one experience with this that I vividly remember. A partner and I were having sex and it was clear how intimate it was and the deep connection we were feeling. It's like my love was pouring out of me and felt his coming back at me. I was definitely thinking ‘I love you’ but knew enough to hold back on actually saying it out loud. Afterwards, while we were cuddling, he looked at me and asked what I was thinking during it. I put the question back to him without answering and he replied with ‘we were definitely both thinking and feeling the same thing but I need to hear it out loud from you right now.’ I felt comfortable letting him know that's what I was saying and feeling during the act then, since I felt we both had time to process it and come down for a bit and it was more about how we were during the experience itself. Would probably surprise people to know that he was a casual partner (FWB situation) and we were both clear on the relationship status, knowing we would be horrible in a serious, dating relationship together.
If one person says it, sometimes the other person will, too!
I did! I told my current boyfriend that I loved him for the first time during sex. We had been dating for about 6 months or so, and it was the day after Valentine's Day. I thought about telling him then, but we had such a fun night together I didn't want to potentially ‘ruin’ it...Even though I could tell he loved me back, lol. So the next day we were having sex and I was just overwhelmed with how much I loved him. I knew he did too, so I just said it. At first he was kind of caught up in the moment and kind of whisper-grunted "love you" and then he realized what I said, held my face, and told me he loved me so much. It was fucking awesome. Now we constantly exchange ‘I love you’s, and it never gets old.
Of course, sex can also make things more confusing.
It's probably not the best idea. It may be difficult to tell the difference between a heat of the moment, blurt it out 'I love you' and a genuine one.
This person would prefer to say "I love you" over a lobster dinner, not sweaty sex.
Not a good time to say it. Better over a nice romantic dinner or something like that.
Rough sex might not be the most practical time to pour your heart out to someone.
My current SO said it to me for the first time while we were having particularly rough sex. He just pulled me onto his lap, brushed my hair out of my face and told me he loved me. It was a very sweet moment and we just kissed for a while, but it definitely was awkward getting back into rough sex after such a tender moment between us. I think it was super sweet, but I definitely think it would have been more practical to wait until after we had had sex.
This person recommends saying “I love you” outside the bedroom first.
I don't think I have... But I'm more of a ‘show don't tell’ type when it comes to expressing love.
Everyone has their own feelings about the expression. Some people say it at the end of every phone call, others reserve it for special occasions. Just keep in mind that the expression means different things to different people, and the setting can affect how they interpret it.
Personally I would say it outside of the bedroom first. If your S.O. sees sex more as a form of (intimate) play, they may be caught off-guard if you start professing your love to them in the middle of foreplay.
Saying “I love you” during sex doesn’t actually count, according to this person. . .
I make it a rule that any sort of ‘I love you’ immediately before, during or after sex doesn’t count unless it's been said before. Because when the hormones are raging and your heart is pounding you say stuff you wouldn’t normally say and in that moment you can confuse those intense emotions for love. It's not the same.
Sex can get messy in so many ways — literally if lube is involved, but also just messy with feelings). So, bringing love into the equation may not be the best course of action. But if it happens, it happens, and you can still talk through it together.
Moushumi Ghose, sex therapist
Dr. Jill McDevitt, sex educator and resident sexologist for CalExotics
This article was originally published on