Is There A Right Time To Say 'I Love You' In A Relationship?

For a long time, you've liked or loved this person and wanted to confess your feelings. Now, a pleasant dinner with champagne and roses in a candle-lit room has opened the opportunity. When the time finally comes to utter the words you've rehearsed countless times, you feel them stuck in your throat, and all that breaks free from your heart is your pounding heartbeat. Before any syllables could escape your lips, you let out a sigh, turn the gas off on the fireplace log, and call it a night.

Many of us have been there, holding back the long-anticipated "I love you" for reasons that only we understand. Is it too soon to commit? Is it love or lust? What if that person rejects me? "There is no decision without loss," explains psychologist Stan Tatkin to TIME. It's okay; the stakes are always high. But if you don't get it off your chest, your imagination will torment you for a long time. Once you've decided to say it loud and say it proud, the next question is when to say it.

 Unfortunately, there's "no set definitive time as to when to say it", dating expert Alex Mellor-Brook tells Newsweek. Everyone falls in love and goes about courting at a different pace and purpose, so it's hard to pinpoint a one-size-fits-all timing for such a strong statement. There's a time to say it as you feel it, but there's also a time to do some thinking. If you sort of want to say the "L" word but are not sure if it's the right time, here are some pointers that might help you make an informed decision.

How long it takes people to say 'I love you'

Here are some interesting facts about love. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that it takes men only three months on average to declare their love, but women take five months. A similar study also suggested that men fell in love earlier than women, who tend to have less faith in a confession of love that comes before sex because it sounds like a means of getting sex. 

According to a 2020 OKCupid data poll given exclusively to MindBodyGreen, 62% of the participants think you should say the "L" word as soon as you feel the urge, while 22% believe you should wait several months before getting serious with such a statement. Only 3% of the surveyed say you should wait at least a year before saying "I love you." 

What we can gather from these findings is that men tend to be the ones taking the initiative when it comes to propelling the relationship into the next phase. And some women might prefer taking their time before getting serious. While "I love you" is one of the hardest things to say, there's a vast number of people out there who believe we should say it when we feel it. This is heartening news for those who are combatting the emotional weight of saying it. So, how do we know if it's the right time?

How you know it's time to say 'I love you'

Before you can declare your love for someone, you must ensure that what you feel for them is love. For instance, you know you love someone when you feel a prompting to care for them, comfort them, and shelter them while hoping they will do the same for you, as couples therapist David Khalili explains to Insider. You are also motivated to cherish that person as they are, and you feel free to be yourself in their presence. 

Furthermore, a loving relationship has a good impact on your health, reducing the risks of depression while strengthening your immune system and your heart, a study in the ​Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism shows. In other words, you know you are in love when you feel happier, healthier, and more protective around that person. Whoever has had this much positive influence on your life is definitely a keeper. Many people would advise you to not say it if you don't think the special someone feels the same way. However, being rejected for love, an emotional bond that doesn't happen overnight or every so often, is a risk often worth taking.

If you have begun to see a future together with your person, for better or worse, there's no reason why you should hold your peace. When worst comes to worst, you can at least move on with no regrets. On the other hand, the downside of waiting for too long to say the "L" word is that it makes your relationship appear directionless and leaves room for a third party to jump in. The sooner you take the plunge, the sooner you can chart a course for both your relationship with your object of desire and your dating life.