Your feelings for your partner have been growing, and you've finally worked up the courage to say those three magic words: "I love you." While you didn't wait for years (like Chuck Bass did), you still aren't sure that you picked the perfect moment. Maybe your partner was hesitant to say it back or didn't say it back at all. Perhaps you feel like Charlie Brown when the football gets snatched away from him. It's possible you felt the relationship dynamic shift after saying it, and you're left wondering: Did I say "I love you" too soon? To answer your question, I've spoken with experts and asked about how you'll know if you've chosen the right time to say the L-word.
Saying "I love you" can sometimes have a big effect on a relationship, so it makes sense that you might want to know if you chose the right time. "It redefines the relationship in terms of seriousness and should not be uttered lightly, in response only to what you believe your partner wants to hear, or without thought in mind," Dr. Joshua Klapow, Clinical Psychologist and Host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Elite Daily. If you're considering saying I love you, evaluate how you feel about potentially taking your relationship to the next level.
Additionally, your partner might give you verbal and physical cues if they think you've said "I love you" too early. I asked Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couple's therapist in Los Angeles, what your partner will do if they think you've said it too soon. "Your partner winces, even if just a little bit, or slowly begins to withdraw from you, or all of a sudden is finding reasons to not spend as much time with you," he says. Dr. Klapow also warns that they might not say it back, and that's OK! "Be prepared for that. They may not want to hurt your feelings and so if they say nothing, if they look surprised, shocked, stressed, if they say 'thank you,' if they try to change the topic — all of this is likely a sign that it is too soon for them to be able to tell you they love you."
Still, the right time to say "I love you" is whenever you feel it, regardless of how your partner responds. "A lack of response, hesitation, or even not reciprocating doesn’t mean they don’t love you," Dr. Klapow says. "It does mean they were not thinking of saying 'I love you' in that moment and the words carry so much weight that they have been caught off guard." You've just said something monumental to one of the most important people in your life, and it's understandable that they might not have a response ready. Communication is key in relationships, and as long as you can stay open and honest, by telling your partner how you feel, you can work through saying "I love you" at different times.
Experts agree that there's no specific relationship milestone you have to hit before saying "I love you." "The key milestone is when you genuinely realize you love the other person. That's the best milestone there is," Dr. Brown says. You don't have to wait until you know that your partner feels the same way, because it's about how you feel. "Say it if you realize that you likely might not find anyone else you feel as compatible with, even if you are not certain they feel the same way." You might already know if you and your partner are on the same page, in which case, saying "I love you" is unlikely to surprise them. "If each of you is able to verbalize how you feel about one another without saying 'I love you,' you both will have a better sense of where you stand," Dr. Klapow says.
If you've said "I love you" and you're worried it was too soon, don't worry — your relationship isn't doomed! Perhaps you said it before you were ready, or perhaps you said it before your partner was ready. In both cases, you'll be able to work it out. "If you really do feel it, don't retract what you said — just continue in the relationship and see how things go," Dr. Brown says. "And if you didn't feel it, then ask yourself 'why' and see what lesson you need to learn." No matter what, relationships are a learning experience. You want a partner you can grow and change with, so if you have to work through saying "I love you" before they were ready for it, it's not the end of the world.
The right time to say "I love you" is whenever you feel it in your heart — not when your partner feels it, when you believe they want to hear it, or when your friends are saying it. "I love you" is a beautiful phrase, and it shows a commitment to the relationship that only you know if you're ready for. Love is different for everyone (unless you're a character in Grey's Anatomy, in which love is anything that happens in the on-call room), so there's no one-size-fits-all time to say "I love you". Don't worry — if you love your partner, then you haven't said "I love you" too soon, because too soon doesn't exist.