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How to Tell Someone You Love Them: What Really Matters

Figuring out how to tell someone you love them is scary. Saying “I love you,” is a major, but if you focus on what matters it can be a beautiful moment.

How to Tell Someone You Love Them

Not only is spilling an “I love you” super nerve-racking, but it’s also a critical moment that either halts or transforms your relationship. With all the ways to tell someone you love them, it is still so complicated.

Much like a proposal, if an “I love you” is rejected, things likely go downhill, but if those feelings are mutual, your relationship blossoms. It is important to know how to tell someone you love them.

You don’t want to blurt it out in the middle of intimate time. And you don’t want say it for the first time in front of their family. You want the moment to feel right. And most of all, you desperately want them to say it back.

From timing to location, there are a number of details that go into that sometimes life-changing moment. So, what are they?

Wondering if it’s all happening too fast or going too slow? Check out these signs to know how soon is too soon and when is the right time to say it.

What does saying “I love you” mean to you?

If saying “I love you” is a huge deal for you, it is vital to think about what it really means. Does saying it mean you are 100% committed? Or does it mean you have fun together? Love means different things to everyone, so before you say it, be sure you know what it means to you.

At the same time, you may not know what love means to your partner. Is it something they are hopeful to hear or scared of? For people with trust issues, it can cause anxiety. Some people hear those words and want to flee, while others will leap into your arms with glee.

And, be careful about those who may take it to mean something more than you meant. Think about that before speaking the words. [Read: What does it mean to be in love? 21 ways to tell the good and the bad apart]

What to consider before telling someone you love them

You might think, “Who doesn’t want hear someone loves them?” Don’t people love to hear that? Not exactly.

Not everyone feels the same about those three little words. Before thinking about all the ways to tell someone you love them, think about what goes into it.

What matters in that moment? Consider these things before nailing down exactly how to tell someone you love them.

1. Is this your first time saying it?

If this is your first time telling someone you love them, it can be difficult to be sure you’re ready to take that step. This will most likely be something you remember for a long time. So being sure that what you feel is in fact love is important.

The first time I said those three words to someone I was sure I meant it. Looking back, it wasn’t love. It was teen lust and a desire to have this meaningful and dramatic relationship like the ones on TV. If I hadn’t said it, I may have saved myself a lot of heartbreak.

So, how do you know for sure? If you have a great time together and are always happy, that is wonderful. But love tends to be a stronger, more overwhelming feeling than that. If you think about this person when they aren’t around and bring them up in random conversations you are getting closer to the signs of love. [Read: Should you say “I love you” for the first time?]

2. Have they already said it?

If your partner already said I love you, you’re lucky. A lot of the pressure is off. You no longer have that fear of rejection or a bad reaction. In that case, pretty much anywhere, anytime, and anyhow will do. They have probably been dying for you to say it back. But what is it that is pushing you to say it?

Do you really feel those emotions? Or, are you wanting to please them? Do you like them and think you’ll love them eventually, so you might as well say it now? Look at your reasoning for wanting to tell someone you love them.

If it is for any reason other than you truly feel it, you may want to keep thinking or take a step back. [Read: How to respond to “I love you” when you don’t feel it]

3. It doesn’t matter who says it first

Yes, being the first to say “I love you” is a bit more nerve-racking because you open the door to a conversation that can’t be closed. But other than that, it does not matter who says it first. Telling someone you love them isn’t a competition.

I know friends and the internet will tell you differently. It is even a question people ask of you and your partner years from now… “So, who said it first?” But, it all comes out sooner or later if you do love each other. So, no, it doesn’t matter who speaks the words first.

And even if it doesn’t work out, it still doesn’t matter. Some people think saying it first means you love them more and lost the power. But that is not how love works. All saying it first means is that you’re open to being vulnerable and need them to know how you feel. [Read: Should you wait for them to say “I love you”?]

4. Have they ever been in love?

This is more knowledge you want to be prepped with before telling someone you love them. If this person has never been in love they could feel shocked, unprepared, or hesitant at the sound of those three words.

I would hope that if you do love this person you know a little bit about their romantic history. That may not always be the case, but knowing at least something about where they are emotionally would help.

If you know they are new to this serious type of discussion, prep them a bit. Start off by saying something like, “I know this is new for you, so there is no pressure, but I’ve been wanting to tell you…” This eases the pressure they feel when you share your feelings. [Read: How to talk about your past with your partner]

5. It does not need to be romantic

Depending on this person, saying “I love you” does not have to be a big drawn-out affair. Some people appreciate a romantic dinner with candles and roses, but others prefer a more intimate declaration in private.

The way you tell someone you love them does not need to mimic the movies. It is about your relationship and what brings you together, nothing else.

If you love this person, my guess is you know if they prefer public displays of affection or one-on-one love sharing. Base your timing and gesture on them, not what someone recommends or what you saw in a movie.

When I realized I wanted to say it to my boyfriend, I had this great idea. He loves Star Wars so I wanted to recreate the Han and Leia scene. I was going to wait for him to say it and respond with, “I know.” I thought it would be perfect and clever.

But, after months of waiting for that perfect moment, I realized how I planned the moment wasn’t nearly as important as the moment itself. [Read: How to know when you’re in love]

How to tell someone you love them

Okay, so we are getting into it. I know it is stressful. When I knew I was in love with my boyfriend, I held it in for more than three months, because I was so nervous he didn’t feel the same way. I didn’t know what would happen, so I just didn’t do it.

Part of me thought that if he loved me, he would say it first. I was blinded by my feelings and my fear. Instead, I should have paid attention. [Read: How to tell that special someone that you love them]

Learn from my unnecessary hesitancy, and read the situation, your partner, and your feelings. If you just got the urge to say it out of the blue, maybe that is perfect. Maybe your relationship thrives off of spontaneity. But if that is the case, explain later that you truly meant what you said earlier, or it could be lost in the delivery.

Building an “I love you” up too much makes you and your lover nervous. It is a big deal and is so exciting, but it is not a marriage proposal. This is not the end all be all.

Everyone comes to love in their own time. So relax. Although love can be terrifying, it offers comfort along with it, so more than anything be excited to share your feelings.

But, before you do, these ways to tell someone you love them can help you go into it with a lot more confidence.

1. Let go of expectations 

Learning how to tell someone you love them is not the only thing you need to know. You need to know how to go into it.

Having expectations in this situation almost always dooms you for failure. Whether you anticipate an “I love you too,” a rejection, or even sex *shame on you*, you’re not a psychic, so be open to any outcome. This unknown is what is so scary, but that fear is what is holding you back and making you unsure.

Whenever you share such deep feelings, there is a vulnerability that tags along. Your partner could be on an entirely different page and shock you with how they don’t feel the same. Or they could be elated and react perfectly. But nothing you say or do changes how they feel, so hold onto hope, not control.

When I finally told my boyfriend, I was scared. I hid my face and felt so nervous. When he said it back right away, I barely heard it because my own mind was freaking out. Letting go of all that so that you can enjoy the moment is so much better. [Read: Unrealistic expectations that can ruin your love life]

2. Let them say it back at their own pace

Sure, the most common response to “I love you” is “I love you too.” But, that doesn’t guarantee a mutual feeling or an affirmation. Statistics say one thing, but telling someone you love them is never a sure thing.

If you get a disappointing response like “wow” or “thank you,” be aware that just because you said you love them doesn’t entitle you to an explanation. They may not want the relationship to end, but just aren’t ready to say it, yet. Hopefully, if you truly love them, you can wait.

Everyone feels and shares their feelings at a different pace. If this person has been hurt before, they may wait longer to say it back. That doesn’t mean there is no hope or that they don’t love you too. So make sure they feel comfortable and know you are not expecting a response right away. Let them take their time, you don’t want to push it.

Putting pressure on someone to say it before they are ready can really disrupt an otherwise healthy relationship. It can sting to not hear it back right away, but know that letting them say it in their own time is really how you show love. [Read: How to react when you say “I love you”, but don’t hear it back]

3. Stay calm

Some people flip out if they don’t hear a positive response right away. If you’ve seen Gilmore Girls, the first time Dean tells Rory he loves her, he flips out when she can’t say it back. It was totally disrespectful and rude.

No matter how close you feel, you are not entitled to anything. Remain calm and understanding. You do not want to be a Dean.

So, whether it happens later that night, next week, or even next month, do not get mad or make the other person feel guilty or pressured. If you give them an ultimatum, it will backfire. Telling someone they have to say it or you’re leaving is awful.

Not only will this push them away, but if they do say it, you’ll always wonder if they meant it or just didn’t want to be alone. If you truly love this person, you want them to be sure they feel the same before saying it back. [Read: Reasons saying “I love you” too soon sucks]

4. Explain what love means

Love can seem like well, love. It is a loaded word. Love is mentioned in almost every song. It is written about in books and poems. But, even so, it is still a bit of a mystery. Can anyone truly define love?

It does not mean the same thing to everyone. For some, it means I care deeply for you. For others, it means I can’t live without you. Or it could mean, I’m depending on you. So when you say it, be sure your partner knows how you mean it.

You can say something like, “I love you and that means I will always be there for you no matter what,” “I’ll fight for you,” or anything along those lines. This is important because I, love, and you, are three words you do not want to be taken the wrong way. [Read: What is the true meaning of love?]

5. Show them

As a society, we put so much pressure on those words we can forget to actually act on them. You worry about saying them the right way and at the right time, but even if you get all that right, so what?

You can have the perfect, “I love you,” moment but if you don’t continue to show your partner that love, what does it even matter? Actions speak louder than words.

Be there for them. Support them. Let them vent. Do things for them. Spend time with them. Without all of this, those words don’t mean much, do they? [Read: The cutest ways to show someone you love them]

All in all, when it comes to love, ignore the timelines, statistics, and games. Learning how to tell someone you love them is about you and your partner. There is no right or wrong way when true love is involved.

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Samantha Ann
My name is Samantha Ann. I am 28 years old. It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding...