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How & When to Say “I Love You” for the First Time: 46 New Love Must-Knows!

When is the right time to confess your love for the first time in a new relationship? And how should you do it? Here are some tips.

how and when to say i love you for the first time in a relationship

Finding the right time when to say “I love you” for the first time seems to plague everyone in a new and happy relationship. You have the urge to tell your new partner you love them, but there are so many concerns that are holding you back.

Should you wait a certain amount of time? Is it too soon? Should you plan a whole date around it? Can you just blurt it out?

These are things we all think about when we are in a new relationship. Confessing your love for someone for the first time is a vulnerable thing. You want to make sure you don’t do it too soon. And you want to make sure it is special.

But, how do you know exactly when to say “I love you” for the first time in a new relationship? 

What does saying “I love you” for the first time mean?

Saying “I love you”, especially for the first time, is heavy. It isn’t just a celebratory milestone, but a major marker for your relationship. [Read: How to prove your love for someone the right way]

You’re essentially telling this person that you trust them with your heart and are jumping into that relationship without a safety net. It is not just a vulnerable moment, but it can define your relationship.

We don’t mean to make you more nervous than you probably already are, but these are the reasons we get so worked up about it. It is scary, there is no denying that.

But when you truly love someone maybe it doesn’t have to be. [Read: Understand the differences between and “I am in love with you”]

How to know if you are ready to say “I love you” for the first time: 3 factors

In order to help ease your nerves when trying to decide how to say “I love you” for the first time, there are three factors to consider initially. 

1. Passion

Passion isn’t just limited to sex and physical bonding. Sure, having a sexual attraction is very important. But that alone doesn’t lead to love – that’s lust.

So, you also need to have emotional passion as well. And that goes beyond infatuation. Do you genuinely like this person? Do you want to spend all your time with them? That’s a passion too. [Read: Passionate love – what it is, the signs, and why it’s so strong and scary]

2. Intimacy

Just like with passion, there are different forms of intimacy too – physical and emotional. Of course, you can love someone before you have sex with them. But for many people, love comes after sexual intimacy.

But there should be emotional intimacy too. Have you talked about deep things together? Have you shared parts of yourself and your past with them? You should have an emotional bond before you say “I love you” for the first time.

3. Commitment

While you might think you’re in love with a friend or friends with benefits, you don’t have a commitment in those types of relationships. [Read: Committed relationship – 59 signs and ways to show your commitment in love]

Even if you are dating someone but aren’t sure if you’re exclusive or in a relationship, then that’s not the time to express your love.

So, make sure you are in a committed relationship with that person. If you haven’t talked about commitment and exclusivity, then you probably don’t have it. In that case, hold off saying “I love you” for the first time until you know for sure.

Are you sure you’re ready to say “I love you” for the first time?

In order to know for sure if it’s really love and not just a fuzzy feeling of infatuation, you need to look at even some more honest-to-goodness signs. [Read: Infatuation vs. love – How it feels and 28 differences and ways to turn it into love]

Some might say that “you just know,” but that usually leads to someone deluding themselves into thinking that it’s true, just so they can get it out of the way.

But there are real signs that you are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, in love and finally ready to say, “I love you.”

1. Have you felt it on more than one occasion? 

In a new relationship, there may be moments of love. They could do something sweet for you and you may have a passing moment where you feel you are in love with them. [Read: Am I in love? 30 signs to read the fuzzy flutters after infatuation]

That is great. But if you only felt it once it may have been a fluke.

If you notice as you spend time with them that you want to say “I love you” at different moments for different reasons, you may be ready. At this point, you know that you feel and can say it.

2. Is the feeling steady? 

A lot of new relationships aren’t stable. You may feel like you’re in love one moment and in a passionate and dysfunctional fight the next. Passion and chemistry are often confused with love. [Read: How to tell if what you’re feeling is lust and not love]

Just because you have a lot of attraction and intensity doesn’t necessarily mean you are in love. You could be in lust. 

If you feel love even in moments when you disagree or are doing something mundane, it is likely love that you feel.

3. Do you feel it when they aren’t around? 

When you think of your partner when they aren’t around and not only miss them but feel yourself wanting to text them “I love you,” it is almost for sure the real thing. [Read: When you miss someone – 36 signs and things you MUST do to learn from it]

Just feeling in love when you are with them may not actually be love but attraction or even just a lot of liking.

4. Are you prepared for your partner not to say it back? 

This is a big one. 

We hate to put a seed of doubt in your mind because there is a great chance this won’t even happen, but if you aren’t ready for this possibility, you may not be ready at all. [Read: How to deal with saying “I love you” but not hearing it back]

5. Do they treat you with love? 

We put such pressure on the words, “I love you,” but it isn’t always the words that matter the most. Not everyone is an all-star at communicating their feelings. Your partner may be better at showing their love for you than actually saying it.

If you want to know how your partner feels about you, think about how they treat you. [Read: 25 signs your guy really loves you even if he’s never said it out loud]

Are they respectful? Do they listen when you talk? Do they take your opinions into consideration? 

Even if they can’t say it right now, there is a good chance they feel it and are showing you in other ways.

6. Do you have butterflies, rollercoasters, and backflipping hippogriff?

This is the easiest marker to watch out for when you want to say, “I love you.” That loopy feeling you get in your chest is your body’s way of saying, “We’re happy. Just go with it.” [Read: Butterflies in your stomach – 16 steps to control and calm them instantly]

But if it’s a loopy feeling in your pants, you might be mistaking it for a different feeling. 

Still, those butterflies in your chest – even though science has no definite explanation for them – is a sign that one thing is for sure: this person makes you happy.

7. Do you have any doubts about it?

Thinking about saying it excites you; it doesn’t scare you at all. You’re not thinking about why you shouldn’t say it. [Read: New relationship doubts – 22 toxic and normal signs to read what you feel]

You just know that it’s perfectly okay to say “I love you” even if you don’t get the response you’re expecting. That’s how you express love, right? Without wanting anything in return.

8. Is there any reason why you shouldn’t?

There are only a few excuses why it’s not okay to say “I love you,” and one of those is to never say it to someone you hardly know. 

But if you know someone well and you feel strongly about them because of who they are, then it’s perfectly okay to say, “I love you.” [Read: Fear of rejection – 59 signs, causes and ways to get over it and overcome]

9. Are you not expecting anything bad to happen?

The worst way to go about saying “I love you” is wondering about all the bad things that can happen if you do.

Your partner might not say it back. They might think you’re going too fast. You might end up alone. 

If that’s how you see it, then you’re probably not ready. Relating it to any bad circumstances makes it pretty useless, even if you say it out loud. [Read: Taking it slow in a relationship – How should you do it?]

10. Can you hardly stop yourself?

If you can’t stop yourself from saying it, it’s pretty clear that it’s what your heart is shouting. The only reason why you have this uncontrollable urge to say it is because there is no other thing left to say. 

You’re in love. But remember the other signs. If you’re not feeling any of those, the reason you’re saying it might not be the right one. [Read: The step-by-step guide to telling someone you love them for the first time]

11. Do you feel ready to say it?

You might feel it and maybe even have been feeling it for a long time. But there is a difference between feeling it and saying it. Feeling it isn’t scary. But saying it is.

So, if you feel any discomfort with the thought of saying those three words out loud, then maybe you should wait. You want to have absolutely no reservations at all when you say “I love you” for the first time.

12. Are you ready to be exclusive?

Maybe you really do love the person, but there are some reasons why you might not be ready to be in an exclusive relationship. [Read: Exclusive relationship – 36 signs you’re ready for it or in one already]

It could be because you’re afraid of commitment, getting hurt, or just getting out of a serious relationship or marriage.

Either way, you shouldn’t tell someone that you love them if you’re not ready to be exclusive and commit to them. That would just be cruel, especially if they want to be exclusive with you.

13. Are you sure you’ll stick with it when it gets tough? 

Love isn’t just a feeling, nor are they just words. Real love is shown in your actions too. And relationships can be tough sometimes. [Read: 18 secrets to get through a rough patch in a relationship and grow closer]

There’s a reason that wedding vows almost always say “for better or for worse.” That’s because that’s what true love does. It doesn’t quit when the going gets rough. It stays around forever.

14. Are you sure you really mean it?

At the beginning of a relationship, emotions run very high. But part of that is lust and infatuation. And sometimes people get that confused with love.

So, before you say “I love you” for the first time, make sure you have figured out that it actually is love and you’re not just getting caught up in the other chemicals that cause you to feel that way. [Read: Do I love her? 48 signs you’re slowly but surely falling in love with a girl]

15. Have you suddenly realized that you love the person? 

Maybe you’re slow to realize that you love someone. And that’s okay because everyone is different and develops feelings at different rates.

So, maybe you just woke up one day and realized that you love this person. Perhaps you have been separated because of travel and you missed them a lot, and so you realized that what you’re feeling is love.

When should you say “I love you” for the first time? 

We’re talking about time here. Most people think that time is the ultimate basis for saying those words. Too soon, too early, just right – those are the factors that people base it on. [Read: Is your relationship masquerading as love?]

But here’s the real truth about that. There is no specific time or place to say, “I love you.” You can say it whenever you want, wherever you want, and to whomever you want.

The only thing that you really need to think about is whether you really feel it in your heart. Is it really love? Or are you just expressing something that you think is love?

If you have any doubts about that, here are some guidelines on when it’s okay to say it. You can decide otherwise, but these are your safest bets. [Read: Puppy love – what it means, stages, 37 signs and ways to turn it into real love]

1. When you trust your partner

Usually, love doesn’t come until after you trust a person. By that time, you’ll be able to say those three little words without any doubts or second-guessing. 

We’ll never know what can happen after, but it feels a little safer to say it to someone that you trust completely.

2. When your head is clear

Aside from getting your brain hopped up on hormones, there are other instances when your mind is too muddled to actually mean those words.  [Read: Reasons why saying “I love you” too soon just sucks!]

When you’re feeling needy or ignored, it’s not right to use those words to manipulate a response from your partner.

It’s also not advisable to use those words to make someone like you – that only works in the movies.

3. When it feels right

This is what most romantic experts usually advise, and they’re absolutely right. Putting limitations on yourself will only lead to more heartache. [Read: Love is patient love is kind – 14 rules to experience true love]

That’s because there’s a huge chance it could backfire, and you’ll only have yourself to blame because of it. So, stop thinking about why not to, and do it because you want to.

Saying it too early will lose the value

While there are no hard and fast rules for when to say, “I love you” for the first time, you might want to think about if it’s too early or not. 

If you think you love someone, that’s a great sign. It’s not too easy to find prospective lovers with whom we can fall deeply in love. [Read: What falling in love feels like – 20 true-love feelings you would experience]

But even if you think you’re already truly, madly, and deeply in love, wait a while before expressing your lovey emotions.

If you say it too early into a relationship, you may make the whole thing feel trivial, like you’re used to saying “I love you” to anyone you date. Take your time, build the romance, and say it at the right moment.

When NOT to say “I love you” for the first time

There are limitless options when to say “I love you” for the first time, but there are a handful of moments when you probably shouldn’t say it. [Read: True love stories – my true love]

We’re not saying that these will ruin your relationship or anything like that, but they can cause hesitancy and concern for some.

1. Do NOT say it before sex

This can be a confusing statement. When you tell your partner you love them and if they say it back, you may want to celebrate with some time between the sheets, and that is totally cool.

But don’t say it in the hopes of having sex. 

When you say, “I love you”, especially the first time, you want your partner to know you mean it, and saying it before hoping to have sex could make them wonder what your intentions are. [Read: Is he saying “I love you” too soon? 14 signs he doesn’t really mean it]

2. Do NOT say it after sex

Saying “I love you” for the first time after sex may seem like it is in the heat of the moment and maybe even romantic, but there are a few reasons it isn’t the best time to blurt out those three little words.

First of all, it can seem like you’re only saying it as a thank-you for sex. Secondly, your hormones are going wild after sex. 

The feeling we get during and after sex can feel a lot like love but that isn’t always the case. You don’t want to say it and then have those happy feelings wear off only to regret it later. [Read: Why oxytocin can be toxic in a flawed relationship]

If you feel the urge to say it after sex, just wait a few hours, and if you still want to, you are in the clear.

3. Do NOT say it in public

Now, by public, we don’t mean you can’t say it at a romantic restaurant or while walking on the beach. What we mean is that it should be private enough that you don’t feel uncomfortable if things don’t go exactly as you planned.

You wouldn’t want to say “I love you” for the first time in front of their whole family only for them not to say it back. [Read: Definition of love – the true meaning of love and what it should feel like]

4. Do NOT say it after the first date or after you first saw each other

This seems like a pretty big limitation, but it’s safer to consider strong feelings as infatuation, as opposed to actual love. 

You hardly know a person at this point, so it’s typically too soon to say that you love a stranger. If it’s love at first sight, however, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re willing to take a risk that quickly.

5. Do NOT say it while you’re drunk

Sure, alcohol can act as a “truth serum.” In other words, it can make you say things that you really mean and wouldn’t say if you were sober. That’s because it removes your filter. [Read: Drunk texting – how to avoid the awkward drama of drunk texts]

But don’t ever say it when you’re drunk. You’re not thinking clearly and you aren’t thinking of the potential consequences. Plus, the other person might not believe you because you’re drunk. You want to make a sober declaration of your love.

6. Do NOT say it over a text message

You might be too scared to say it face to face, but you really should. It’s not the same if you just text and “I love you” for the first time. It’s just too impersonal.

So, get the courage to do it in person. Sure, you can’t hide behind your phone that way, but that’s the point. It is much more meaningful when you ditch the technology and do it the old-fashioned way. [Read: Different ways to say I love you without saying a word]

Guidelines for saying “I love you” for the first time

Of course, you are probably still nervous to say, “I love you” for the first time. Honestly, so are most people.

You might be in a new relationship and bursting at the seams wanting to say, “I love you.” But you are scared.

What if it is too soon for them? What if it scares them off? Or what if you get hurt? What if they feel like you’re pressuring them to say it back? [Read: 37 ways to stop being clingy and holding on so tight you push them away]

There are so many unknowns when you share such strong feelings. And we are so scared of being hurt or rejected, we can barely enjoy the bliss of being in love.

The thing is, sharing that you love your partner is not a weakness or something to fear. It takes courage to wear your heart on your sleeve like that. 

So, before picking the best time to say “I love you” for the first time, remember that this is a bold move. [Read: 23 signs and reasons he’s afraid to fall for you and scared to commit to you]

If you still aren’t sure when to say “I love you” for the first time, these guidelines should help you be sure you are ready.

1. Let your date know

Your date should know your intentions much before you actually reveal them. Let your date know just how serious you are about the relationship. 

When you get some time to speak with each other, talk about how special you feel when they’re around and how romantic and meaningful your life has become since they’ve stepped into it. [Read: Types of love you’ll experience in your life]

If you’re dating someone who’s only looking for a fling thing, they’ll know it’s time to back off.

2. Be nice

Let your romantic gestures reveal your intentions. Casual daters don’t go out of their way to do something nice for each other. 

If you truly love someone and are only waiting for the opportune moment, start to treat your date like you would treat your lover. Your date will instinctively know where the relationship is heading. [Read: 25 sweet romantic gestures for everyday life]

3. Test your compatibility

Can you visualize your date in your arms five years from now? Do you really love this person you’re dating, or is it just an infatuation that’s clouding your mind? 

Love isn’t a trivial thing. Before you say, “I love you”, you need to be sure that you would want this person in your life as something more than just a weekend date.

4. Who says it? 

It’s usually a man’s job to profess his love and control the direction of the relationship. So, all you men out there, man up and make a move, will ya? [Read: How to get a guy to ask you out in 9 sneaky ways]

It doesn’t matter who says it first. But generally, women play with their cards closer to the chest as evolution has trained them to play hard to get. [Read: Is she playing hard to get? 29 signs to read a girl’s mind and play it cool]

After all, women have one egg a month to share with a man. Men have billions of sperm in every casual shoot. Who do you think needs to protect their resources here?

5. Go out on at least five dates

Do you think five dates are too soon? Well, it is early but completely acceptable. The ideal time to say “I love you” would be a couple of months. 

Wait for two months if you can hold your emotions in and try to figure out the direction of the relationship. [Read: How many dates should you go on before the relationship becomes official?]

If you still love every moment you spend with your date, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge.

6. Don’t wait too long

Listen to your gut. Wait too long, and you may even lose the relationship. [Read: Exactly how slow is too slow in a relationship? Must-know details]

Sometimes, your date may get tired of waiting, especially if the girl’s waiting for the guy to say the three magical words! It’s always better to express your love earlier than later.

7. The right way to say “I love you” for the first time

As we’ve said extensively already, there are many ways to say “I love you” for the first time. You can create a special memory, or you can say it in the middle of a conversation. Hopefully, you have an idea of when to say “I love you” for the first time by now.

8. Don’t expect a response immediately

After you tell your special someone how you feel, don’t push your luck. At times, your date may just not be ready to say anything back or perhaps, they just need more time to say it back to you. 

You’ve poured your heart out. Enjoy the moment when you’ve revealed your thoughts and sit back. The response will come when it has to.

9. Don’t apologize

Most people go wrong here. If you confess your love for someone, and they don’t respond back with anything, don’t apologize. [Read: 25 relationship rules for successful love]

Apologizing after asking someone out just to cover up the awkwardness will only make things feel worse.

You’re saying what’s on your mind. Why should you apologize for that? If your date isn’t ready to hear that, they probably have their own issues to deal with anyway.

10. Don’t respond on their behalf

Awkward silences are fine here. You’ve made a big revelation. You’ve just told your date that you love them. [Read: 28 cute ways to show affection in a relationship even if it feels awkward]

And that means you wish to become an exclusive couple, which means you may get married someday and have babies together. You see, there are a lot of things your date has to think of the minute you say “I love you.”

Give enough time for your date to think, and don’t go mouthing something just to cut the silence. 

Don’t say things like “I know it’s too early…”, “I should never have said that… what was I thinking?” or “Don’t worry about it, I just said what was on my mind, you don’t have to say anything back to me.”

If you answer on your date’s behalf, your date may just smile at you awkwardly and talk about something else. [Read: New relationship advice for a perfect start]

You’ve just helped your date squirm out without giving you an answer. Unless you intend to keep proposing to your love every weekend, avoid answering on their behalf.

How to say “I love you” for the first time and get it right

Saying “I love you” for the first time can make or break it for you. Here are a few tips to help you give this milestone the pizzazz it deserves.

1. No holds barred

When you feel it, you say it. Right then and there. It’s an instinctive feeling that most people have encountered. There is nothing wrong with saying “I love you” when you feel like saying it. [Read: Emotional attachment – how it works and 34 signs you’re getting attached and close]

Whatever triggered your emotions to form these three words inside your head prompted your lips to say it must be significant enough to justify just laying it out there. Don’t hold back.

It may happen in the middle of grocery shopping or when you’re driving or while you’re showering together. 

If you’ve thought it, you’re feeling it, then there is nothing more beautiful than conveying what you feel, spontaneously if need be. [Read: How to express your feelings – 16 must-know ideas to speak your mind]

2. It’s sushi and movie night

And it’s about to end, even though you don’t it want to. 

Even though you have been doing sushi and movie nights for quite some time now, you still get that feeling of elation and bliss, as if you are just on your first few dates. And you just can’t help but tell your significant other what you feel.

So, you say it. Tell them you love them. [Read: What does it feel like to be in love – 33 must-know truths about being in love]

After having spent a wonderful evening or day with them, it is the best way to cap off the date and also the best way to begin a long and meaningful relationship.

3. Snail mails are forever

If you want to be old school, you can write a long, handwritten letter to your loved one and say exactly how you feel about them. And before you end the letter, say “I love you.”

Even though you’ve written every possible form of “I love you” throughout your letter, writing down those three words makes a huge difference. [Read: 20 romantic secrets and examples to write a love letter and melt their heart]

With written proof of your confession of love, they can relive the moment again and again by simply rereading your letter *and beaming to themselves all the while*.

But don’t forget that when you give this letter to your significant other, you have to be there so you can still say it to them in person. Nothing beats hearing it as well.

4. Soft and gentle

Like a whisper. You have quiet moments with your partner where you just lie down, cuddle, or stare at the ceiling while stroking each other’s hair. [Read: How to cuddle someone – a guide to snuggle up and feel the love]

You are both relaxed and enjoying each other’s company, even though you are not really doing anything. The ambiance is perfect, both of you are comfortable and in each other’s solace.

If you are in this scenario, you can whisper the words in your partner’s ear. Push back some errant strands of your partner’s hair and whisper, “I love you.”

5. The best way to anybody’s heart is always through their stomach

Prepare an elaborate, home-cooked meal, complete with an appetizer, viands to choose from, dessert, and of course, some great wine to complement what you have made. [Read: Cooking as a couple – Romantic tips and date ideas to have fun together]

Ask for your partner’s preferences and don’t just cook what you feel like eating. 

Don’t forget about the table setting as well, and perhaps, romantic background music. Candles would also add that romantic effect, and it will make your partner feel extra special.

Doing this for your partner may be enough to show them that you love them, but don’t just leave it at that. After the dessert, cap off your dinner date by uttering the three words you’ve been dying to say. [Read: Romantic dinner date ideas]

6. It’s karaoke night! 

You may or may not like singing, but admit it, the music and lyrics of a song can convey honest feelings unlike any other. This is why singing is also a way of telling your significant other how you feel about them.

Make sure that you have chosen and practiced the song you’ll be singing. Also, make sure that this song is available in the karaoke place that you will go to.

The song that you have chosen should have the words “I love you” in it. And once you sing those lyrics, make sure you look straight into your partner’s eyes. [Read: Falling in love – 50 perfect songs to enjoy that happy rush]

7. Sand in your toes, waves in your ears

Have you ever thought of going on a romantic beach getaway? Even if only for the weekend? This is a perfect way to say that you love your partner. Make it a surprise “I love you” and plan a romantic weekend beach getaway.

When you are both on the shore watching the sunset, scribble “I love you” on the sand and let your partner read it.

8. Sky is the limit

Release those creative juices. You can type “I love you” on a small strip of paper and insert it in a fortune cookie. [Read: The most adorable ways to say I love you]

You can order pizza and ask the pizza place to write “I love you” on top with melted cheese or pepperoni toppings. 

You can buy an ad space in a newspaper or magazine and print your message to your partner there. The important thing is your presence when your partner finally gets to read the message.

9. Look at the stars, look how they shine for you 

Is there an open space where you and your partner can lie down and watch the stars at night? If there is an area near your place, plan for a little star gazing. [Read: What exactly is soul gazing? Learn to foster a deeper connection]

It can be a rooftop or a park that allows people to stay until the wee hours of the night. Lay down some sheets, and bring binoculars and blankets.

One thing that you can do, when you and your partner are comfortably settled, is to suggest that they use your binoculars. But before you even have this trip, outline the words, “I love you” on a piece of paper that can fit the round glasses of your binoculars. 

So, when your partner tries to peek through it, they will see these words. [Read: 30 really sweet and romantic ideas for couples to feel loved and connected 24/7]

Final thoughts

Saying “I love you” for the first time will come with different circumstances for each person. You can choose to say it right then and there or wait for the moment when you feel like it is the right time to say it. 

While some prefer to say it upfront, others would like to say it in a special and memorable manner. There is nothing wrong with that.

[Read: Eternal love – what it means, does it exist, and 13 truths to make you a believer]

Confessing your love for the first time can be tricky, but not if you use these tips for when to say “I love you.” Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to get the message across and say “I love you” in the perfect manner, at the perfect time.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...