Here's When to Say 'I Love You', According to Relationship Experts

When to say I love you is a contentious issue. Waiting for the right time is key, but what may feel a little too soon to some, may feel like a lifetime to others.

Love may just be four letters long, but this word expresses one of the most intense emotions ever experienced.

As a result, telling that significant other "I love you" for the first time can feel a little daunting.

Newsweek asked the experts for their opinions on the timings for this relationship milestone.

Should You Trust Your Instinct?

Alex Mellor-Brook, Certified International Executive Matchmaker, Dating Expert and Relationship Coach at Select Personal Introductions, believes it pays to be confident you really feel this emotion.

He told Newsweek: "The relationship could be progressing nicely, but are the couple on the same page? They get along really well, they're attracted to each other and there are undeniable butterflies, but when is the right time to say those important three words, I love you? Whatever the decision, one word of warning—don't mistake love for lust.

"When to say 'I love you' is a very personal decision and there is no set definitive time as to when to say it. Everyone falls in love at a different pace, based on my experience, coaching clients, and recent studies, it's men that tend to say it sooner than ladies.

"However, be careful as what you think are feelings of love could be no more than infatuation. Being attracted to someone in the early stages of a relationship makes you feel great because of all the 'feel-good' chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin that are being released in your body."

When to Say I Love You
How long you should delay before announcing 'I love you' depends on what you believe those three words really mean. YakobchukOlena/Getty Images

Dr. Venetia Leonidaki, Consultant Psychologist and Founder of Spiral Psychology, appears to agree, adding you may want to "check-in with yourself" before confessing love to your partner for the first time.

She told Newsweek: "You want to make sure that you are not only experiencing lust or strong physical attraction. In addition to passion, love also includes a sense of intimacy and commitment.

"You may feel a deep connection with this person, want to know more about them, care about how they feel, and be willing to go to great length to take care of them. All the above signs suggest that your feelings run deep and as a result, saying 'I love you' may only come out naturally."

When to Say I Love You
Hard-and-fast rules do not really apply when you get the urge to say 'I love you' for the first time in a new relationship. nd3000/Getty Images

Is There a Right Time to Announce 'I Love You'?

Mairead Molloy, Relationship Consultant and Strategist, and Global Director at "elite dating agency" Berkeley International, cautions there is no exact science to determine the "right time."

She told Newsweek: "The time that it takes to understand whether the feeling of love is real love or infatuation varies vastly on the amount of quality time spent as a couple.

"Some people share their feelings as soon as they notice the first urge to say them. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't hurt to take some time to think, either. The right time is based on the evolution of the individual relationship."

Molloy added a little planning can go a long way when preparing to choose the right moment.

When to Say I Love You
Men reportedly on average confess love first and feel happier when receiving confessions, the American Psychological Association has suggested. jacoblund/Getty Images

She said: "Don't say it if there is an obvious lack of commitment, you feel pressured, there are signs of unkind treatment or you have had one too many drinks.

"Before you utter these words, try to make sure you know where they are coming from inside of you and try to imagine what these words might mean to your significant other."

Dr. Marianne Trent, Clinical Psychologist, points out while the ablity to express "je t'aime" is "a uniquely human experience", the word "love" may mean different things to people in the same relationship.

The founder of Good Thinking Psychological Services and host of the Aspiring Psychologist Podcast said: "The golden time to say those magical words is going to differ from one person to another and of course from one relationship to the next.

When to Say I Love You, relationship
Those three little words can carry a lot of weight in a relationship. vsurkov/Getty Images

"Some grow up in households where feelings and declarations of love are discussed daily whilst others have grown up in more of an emotional vacuum. The feeling of being in love is an intense rush of hormones which can elevate your excitement levels which as a result make it kind of hard to keep the words in!

"I would say that if you feel like you love someone and it looks likely that the feelings are reciprocal that you can dive in and say it! A safe way to dip a toe in the water is to say "I'm falling in love with you" before actually dropping the 'L Bomb!'"

When to Say I Love You
Some people may take weeks, months or even years to articulate 'I love you'. Ridofranz/Getty Images

What Does Research Say About Saying 'I Love You'?

Barbara Santini, Psychologist, Sex and Relationship Adviser at online adult store Dimepiece LA, points out there is evidence the sexes may diverge as to when to utter those magical three words.

She said: "Recent studies indicated that most men say I love you on average after three months, while women can take two, three, six or even a year.

"This is not always the case as others alter these heavy words after hours, days, of knowing each other."

2020 OKCupid dating app data on 6,000 people, shared with relationship site MindBodyGreen, found 62 percent of people stating you should say "I love you" "as soon as you feel it."

This also found 22 percent declare one should wait "several months", while 3 percent cautiously claimed waiting "at least a year" is advisable.

And a comprehensive 2011 study published by the American Psychological Association found "it is actually men who confess love first and feel happier when receiving confessions."

When to Say I Love You, relationship
If you’re feeling like you are in love, it is very likely love. Halfpoint/Getty Images

What Are the Signs You May Be In Love?

Although psychologist Santini recognizes telling someone you truly love them is "one of the challenging things to say", she believes you should ignore self-doubt and express love when you notice the following signs.

• You feel free with your partner and open up to them "without fear of being judged."
• Your experience increased feelings of "lust, attachment, and attraction" towards them.
• Being with them makes you happy, and "can still afford a smile" when on bad terms.
• Their irritating habits have less impact on your moods and make you "more curious" about their life.
• You "enjoy their company, feel more secure and trust them" even when far away.
• You can "no longer hide your feelings" from them and those close to you.
• You include them in your future plans and are ready to introduce them
to your inner circle.

When to Say I Love You
It is possibly too soon to declare 'I love you' if you do not actually know the other person that well—but remember every relationship is unique. Nadasaki/Getty Images

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts