It happened once before.
I let my guard down and said it just like Chuck and Blair. Three words, eight letters. I LOVE YOU.
The first time I said that terrifying phrase, I was in college. I was very drunk, and he didn't say it back.
To be completely honest, he broke up with me the following week. Eventually, he would say it back to me, and we would have a very emotional relationship. But, it never changed the fact he freaked out when I said "I love you" for the first time.
But like most college relationships, it came to an end. What no one tells you is how much that moment — when you first drop the "L" word in your first relationship — will change you forever.
I dated my college boyfriend for almost six years on and off. He had his good moments, and he had his bad. Actually, he had a lot of bad moments.
But, what I'll always remember isn't the cheating or lying. It's the moment I told him how I truly felt, and how he rejected me in the cruelest way.
That was back in 2009. Now it's 2016, seven years later. I have the most amazing person whom I get to call mine. We've known each other for six months at this point, and all I keep thinking is that I love him.
Deep down, I think we all know when we really love someone.
You know it's time to say it because every time you're around him, you can hear yourself saying those three words. You imagine it when you're not around him. You love him, plain and simple.
The problem isn't that you love him. That's not what makes that phrase so scary.
No, it's the memory of the only other time you let your guard down to say it to someone you thought loved you, too.
Why are you so scared? This new guy is everything you want. He looks at you the way someone who loves you would look at you. He pushes your hair back off your face, and he holds your head in his hands while kisses you. When you're sick, he doesn't hesitate to take care of you.
Every sign points to him loving you. But every time you look in to his big, brown eyes, and you start to say "I love you," you see your ex's face with his blank stare.
When I was going through this same situation, I did what every girl would do at that point. I talked to literally every single girlfriend I have, as well as my best guy friends.
I knew how to utter the phrase because I had done it before seven years prior. Still, I needed advice.
How do I know when it's right? Should I say it first? Should I wait until he says it? What if he never does?
My friends helped. They told me if it's right, I should just say it. I read every article from every relationship blog. Ultimately, nothing would help me conquer my fear.
Every week when I watched my favorite TV shows like "The Bachelorette," I could see how easy it was for people to say "I love you." I just wondered, "Why can't it be that easy for me?"
It's scary, and it makes you feel like you won't be capable of saying it again.
At that point, after going back and forth so many times, I felt like I wouldn't be able to say it. I thought I had ruined my only shot at love.
No one tells you how hard it is to fall in love. Movies, TV shows and that random couple on the street make it look like a breeze. Whether it was my friends, blogs or advice columns, nothing helped.
I was the only person who could make this decision and find the strength to be honest.
One night, after a few too many drinks, I finally found the courage to say how I really felt. I knew I would never completely be "ready," and I knew no amount of outside advice would adequately prepare me to let my guard down in front of the person I so clearly and completely loved.
So, I let myself be vulnerable and said, "I love you." This time was different, though. This time, he looked at me and said, "I love you, too."
Those four words changed everything. My fears subsided.
I'm still scared to say it again, but at least I know I'm capable of it.
The signs were all there, but saying "I love you" the second time around was scarier. You'll always think about the first time you said it and how scary it was and how vulnerable you were. It may not have worked out the first time, but I promise you that the second time will be different.
Because the second time around, you'll be more sure of yourself and your feelings. You'll have grown and figured out what you want just a little bit more.
Only you can make the choice to be honest about your own feelings. Take a leap of faith, and see where your love lands you.