When to Say I Love You - Why Waiting is a Good Idea

Posted by Evie Shafner, LMFT on October 16, 2020 at 6:00 AM
Evie Shafner, LMFT

3 minute read

When to Say I Love You

Opening our hearts to a new relationship can feel so vulnerable and scary, and we're looking for signs that we are not going to be hurt, to make a fool of ourselves. 

That can be especially true if we've got a lot of relationship trauma in our backgrounds. So there can be a tendency to push for declarations from our partner that they genuinely love and cherish us. 

And because we fall in love from the limbic system and have all these outpourings of feel-good brain chemicals - oxytocin, dopamine, pheromones, endorphins, we are literally on a chemical high. So wanting to express and declare love goes along with that feeling.

Time is our best friend - to really see the person we are getting involved in a relationship.  

One lovely young client I had was so distraught that it had been over a year, and her boyfriend had not uttered those three little words, I love you... She was angry, hurt, questioning, asked all her friends, and read all the online articles. 

But even though he wasn't declaring his love, he was an attentive, empathic guy. It felt so vital for her to tolerate the waiting and to take the time to notice his qualities to decide if he WAS a person she wanted to hear those things from specifically. 

Time is our best friend in that way to answer important questions. 
  • Are they mature at communicating

  • Are they able to take ownership of their stuff? 

  • Are they good at listening to you? 

  • Do they ask questions when you share your thoughts? 

  • Are they interested in why you feel what you feel?

  • Do they intersect well with your family and friends? 

Out of our insecurities and longing to feel worthy, we might push for the three little words without really discerning who we want to say those words.  

This client in question worked really hard to manage her anxiety and become her self-soother. And, there were moments when friends (in their well-meaning but it may be overly influenced by all those online articles -kind of way) would say, "he's just not that into you." They'd even say, "you deserve better." However, her experience of him was much different than what her friends were saying. 

And when he did finally tell her that he loved her, it was over a year later. However, it was said to her in such a lovely way, by saying, "I wanted to wait to tell you because those words have so much meaning for me, and to let you know it means that you're my person in the world ..." I think that it was worth the wait! Don't you? 

So it's not all about just waiting and putting everything on hearing the L word. I tell my clients that each stage is so special and unique, and we'll never quite get it back in that same way again. 

The anticipatory moments of the BEFORE
  • Before the first kiss

  • Before I leave my toothbrush at your house 

  • Before you tell me that you love me

  • Before wondering if we'll get engaged

The engagement time itself - are beautiful times in themselves. So our ability to tolerate the unknown, stay in the present moment - that's the best place to be - and not push the river. 

It's very normal to want to see if your relationship is on track and follow the typical trajectory. Match.com studied when most couples did utter those famous three words, and 5- 6 months was the average time. 

It's so important not to make a story out of it, and start pushing and pulling to make someone say it to you. Each great love story has its own just-right unfolding. Please, allow your journey the time needed to unfold just as it should. 

Be present and enjoy every single step and moment along the way!  

If you need help in your relationship, we're here.  Check out our Imago Relationship Workshops and Imago Relationship TherapyWe have Online Therapy and Online Workshops now too! 

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Connect. Transform. Thrive.

Evie_Shafner_LMFTThis blog post was written by Evie Shafner, LMFT.
With a degree in clinical psychology in hand, Evie started private practice in 1979, as a licensed MFT. She was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Women’s Therapy Center, where she worked for over 20 years. 
Evie began training in Imago Relationship Therapy in the 90’s, getting certified in 1994. Evie then went on to become an advanced clinician in Imago, a workshop presenter, and has served on the Board of Imago Relational International for the last 6 years.
Check out her website too! 

Topics: Happy Relationships, Appreciation and Gratitude, Healthy Communication, Online Couples Workshop, Getting the Love you Want, personal growth, Soulmates, Creating Healthy Relationships, Online Couples Therapy, Listening, Healing Trauma, Trust, Vulnerability, Lasting Love, Life Lessons, Happiness, Mature Love, Love and Acceptance, Love

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The Imago Relationships Blog features content from our team of professional therapists, workshop presenters and facilitators who are passionate about helping you discover a new way to communicate and love your life.

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