Is It Too Soon To Say “I Love You”?
If you find yourself falling deeply in love right out the gate, you might want to read this.
When is it too soon to say ‘I love you’? How soon is too soon when it comes to being exclusive? There’s no hard and fast timeline for dating, and that uncertainty is what can make it so frustrating or awkward. But I think we can all agree that telling someone you love them on the first date is a red flag. Sure, we’ve all seen movies or TV shows where someone experiences a sweepingly fast deep dive into love right from the start. It’s usually prompted by some wild display of affection, like a first date to Paris, or a really expensive gift on night one. But if someone is flashing their financial status, it’s usually a red flag indicating they don’t believe in their self-worth enough.
It’s like The Bachelor version of courtship, where the guy is driving a car that doesn’t even belong to him, and everyone stays in these pristine houses. You’re flown to the top of a mountain, where employees have already hiked up, delivered food, set up a BBQ, and you get to sit down, have dinner, and fall in love. And of course you fell in love! You fell in love with the fact that this comes out of every fairytale on the planet. But it’s not real life.
And neither is falling for someone on the first date.
Avoid telling someone you just met that you’re in love with them, and be careful with people who are quick to profess their love. And while we’re at it, maybe don’t utter ‘I love you’ while you’re making out and banging in the first week. Later, perhaps, but mixing ‘I love yous’ with arousal and orgasm can be tricky territory, since we all say things when we’re aroused that we’d never say when we’re not aroused.
Some people rush to say ‘I love you’ to get out of the anxiety that comes up at the beginning of dating. But you’ll create way more anxiety in the dating process if you lead with the belief that they’re “the one.”
Let’s say you meet someone and you have this fantastic connection that makes you think they’re the one. You start planning everything: your future, the kids you’ll have, or if you already have kids you start planning the merger of your family, how your houses will come together like Montague and Capulet. When you create this idea of how everything is going to go and feel yourself falling in love, you’re actually falling in love with a story and missing out on what’s right in front of you. We miss the red flags staring us in the face when we’re living in a future that doesn’t even exist.
Start by noticing you, and the stories that run your life. Do you drop the L-bomb too soon? Are you a “love bomber,” slipping those three little words in early to create unconscious agreements?
As you’re letting new people into your life, it helps to remember not everyone has earned the rights to your heart or your story. People who overshare or can’t contain themselves might share too fast and fall in love so quickly, because they’re been desperately wanting someone to notice and validate them. And when they’re not chosen or validated, it can be really upsetting. It’s not always about you though — the other person might just be more reserved about expressing it.
We each have a story around what love means, so when we say ‘I love you’ or start to feel like we’re falling in love, it can trigger those old stories in us. You’ll see this when relationships escalate, and they go from introducing you to their family or friends to suddenly ghosting or pulling away. That’s an avoidant behavior, resistance masking a fear of intimacy and closeness. For those with an anxious attachment, it will trigger that anxiety, but this is an opportunity to notice what’s coming up. You could say, “hey, I noticed you pulled back a bit after you met my family,” or “I noticed you pulled back a bit when I met your friends,” or “I noticed the other night when we were intimate, you seemed to shut down right before you left. Can you tell me a little more about that?”
Because we all have a story around love, we can also create a story around someone who is not ready to say ‘I love you.’ But before you pull back, remember: Everybody gets to choose when they’re ready to say ‘I love you,’ and just because someone doesn’t say it back doesn’t mean they don’t.
In the past, when I was serious about someone, I would be honest about not being interested in dating other people. But that’s not a first date conversation, because that’s too soon to determine if this person is even what you’re looking for. When you’re ready to have a conversation around exclusivity, it can be as easy as saying: “Hey, I’m really enjoying getting to know you and want to get more clarity around what we’re doing. I’m not interested in dating other people, and I’d like that for both of us. How do you feel about that?”
It’s important to own our part of this: that in order for you to move forward in this relationship, or in order for you to feel safe, this is what you need. When you know yourself, you’ll know how to ask for what you need. When you know yourself, you know will feel more safe and secure with an understanding of exclusivity. Maybe things started out casual, and it’s okay to want things to be a little more serious and express what you want.
Many of us will feel rejected if they don’t agree with us, especially if our self-worth lives outside of us. So we think that if they agree to exclusivity, then that means we’re worthy of exclusivity. Nope! The victory is in the process, not the outcome. The victory is just having the conversation in the first place. It’s in you saying what you want. It’s you not rejecting yourself, because if you reject yourself, then you are already rejected.
And the whole story that the man should be the one to bring up this conversation is total bullshit and really outdated. Regardless of gender, putting the conversation in the other person’s hands puts them in charge of your future, of your life, of your dating expectations, of your needs. Step into your power and have the conversation when you need to have it. A partner who can’t handle that conversation cannot handle you or hold space for you. If someone leaves because you start a conversation about what you want, then they can’t hold the container that is you, and they’re not your partner.
If you have a conversation about what you want and need and then you lose them, you gain you.
The whole point of dating is to sort. So if you express you’re looking for a committed relationship and someone ghosts or says they’re not looking for the same thing, then they weren’t “the one.” People sometimes lament, “they didn’t want what I wanted but they were the one.” No! They weren’t the one! Because “the one” will want what you want.