Have you ever told someone you love them too quickly, only to have them stare back at you, their eyes full of panic? Or maybe when you dropped the L-bomb, they just mumbled some kind of awkward "uh, thanks?" in reply. Rough. Stuff. No doubt, you were left wondering if the problem was a case of it being too soon to say I love you or if they just don't feel that way about you. Either way, brutal.
Putting yourself out there and telling someone what's in your heart makes you incredibly brave, but also vulnerable, so if you don’t get the answer you're hoping for, it hurts. Just don't make the mistake of overcompensating and never sharing your feelings. In this case, it’s just about knowing how to pick up on the signs that the timing is right and not jumping the gun.
But how do you know when to spill your feelings or when to keep them a secret — for now? To wade through this emotional minefield, here are some ways to tell the timing is right.
1. Keep An Eye Out For Signs They Are Ready
If you're ready to say I love you, but you're not sure if the timing is right, Alessandra Conti, celebrity matchmaker at Matchmakers In The City, says to follow your partner’s behavioral lead. Even if they haven't expressed their feelings verbally, if they are behaving like the relationship has legs, it's likely safe to declare your love.
According to Conti, things to look out for are "if your partner has been consistent in their affections with you, has [officially labeled the relationship] status, and you have spoken about the future." If you spot these signs, it's likely your love "is ready to hear what you are feeling."
2. Consider Their Background
If you’re concerned about how your feelings will be received, Conti advises you to consider your partner’s background. Do they come from a family where expressing emotions happens freely? Or do they come from a more reserved background, where showing affection is limited, so saying “I love you” represents a much larger relationship stepping stone?
"Once you understand how your partner views the language of love, you will better understand their lack of the verbal affirmation, or abundance of it," says Conti. And you'll have a much better feeling for when the timing is right or too soon.
3. How To Handle Things Gracefully If You’ve Jumped The Gun
So what if you just can’t help yourself, and "I love you" just slips out? Been there, done that. And while it's definitely a bummer to spill your guts and get nothing back, Conti says it's not the end of the world, nor does it have to mean the end of the relationship.
"If they do not say it back, this is not necessarily a reason to have a Britney-circa-2007 meltdown, followed by an emotional break up," says Conti. "Your partner may need a moment to process your words, and to really evaluate if they are on the same page as you in the relationship. It may spark a needed discussion, or it may propel them to realize that they do share the same feelings." In other words, if this happens, don't go spiraling into negativity. Play it cool, give you partner some time to process it, and wait to see how things play out.
Still dying to tell you partner how you feel? Go ahead and throw caution to the wind — just make sure you're OK with giving them space to catch up if they're not quite there yet.
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