How to Say I Love You for the First Time

advice: relationship lauren gray

How to say "I love you" for the first time. This is one of my favorite topics!

You also may be wondering “When should you say I love you?” Or even, “Who should say I love you first?”

To answer those real quick:

When: You should say I love you when you’re bursting with the feeling and your heart is so big it’s going to burst if you don’t share it with them.

Who: Whoever feels it first.

The real question is HOW: How do you say I love you for the first time without freaking out your partner?!

That’s what I’m going to show you in this post. I’ll even share with you the exact wording of how I told Glade I was in love with him nearly a decade ago!

Dear Lauren, 

So I told my boyfriend I loved him for the first time and he got really weird after that. Why does he think that saying I love you means "Let's get married" and a major commitment? Not simply, I love you, which is how I meant it. 

– Chiara

What “I Love You” Means


Your man wouldn’t be the first person to misunderstand these three magic words and he won’t be the last. Just because you understand “I love you” to mean one thing, doesn’t mean he’ll have the same interpretation.

Everyone has their own history with these words, which can influence what meaning they choose to attach to the phrase.

In addition to their own life experience, they’ve also been exposed to love stories, movies, and books, which have idealized and romanticized love to the point where it can be intimidating and a little scary at first glance.

This might seem bizarre. After all, love is a soft, cuddly thing, right? What is there to be afraid of?


Why This Step in a Relationship Makes People Get “All Weird”


Saying “I love you” is supposed to be an epically romantic moment. Unfortunately, that expectation only makes it even more devastating when you announce your true feelings and your partner gets “all weird” about it.

Why do they get weird? They’re scared.

What are they afraid of? Expectations. And they come in three forms.


“I Love You” Expectation #1:

There is an expectation that if you say “I love you,” he has to say “I love you too.” And he may not be ready to say that to you yet.

It doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it too. It just means he hasn’t come to own those words yet. Love isn’t an exact science. There’s no mile-marker that says, “You have reached this point; you are officially in love with this person.” He has to come to it in his own way in his own time.


“I Love You” Expectation #2:

Even though it may be unfounded, there is an expectation of a greater commitment (ie: marriage). “I love you” may not translate to “I do” but it can feel like you’re signing a binding contract anyway.

Most of the time in a relationship you’re in the moment, having fun and enjoying your time with each other. Somehow when the word “love” gets introduced, you get tunnel vision straight to the future. The expectation is that love leads to marriage, which leads to kids. If you’re not ready for this kind of commitment then it usually leads to, “OMG I have to spend the rest of my life with this person?! I’m not ready to be a dad!!!”

Thanks tunnel vision for totally blowing this out of proportion. ;-)


“I Love You” Expectation #3:

The closer you get to someone, the more power you hand them; they have the power to make you unbelievably happy and the power to break your heart.

When you say “I love you” you’re giving him your heart, trusting he’s worthy of that gift. There is now an expectation that he will take care of and cherish your heart, never hurting it, never bruising it, never making a mistake.

That is a BIG responsibility. And it doesn’t matter how tough and strong the man may be, if he cares for you then he’s going to be terrified of one thing: letting you down.

You’ve been happy so far which means he’s been successful so far. Making a woman happy is the most fulfilling thing for a man in a relationship.

But when he hears you say the words “I love you” for the first time, he feels the weight of a whole new host of ways he could potentially hurt, disappoint, or let you down.

It’s not your feelings of affection that scare him; it’s the fact that you’ve reached a point in the relationship where he could hurt you real bad if he screws up, leaves or, can’t provide for you.


How to Say “I Love You” for the First Time (Without Freaking Out Your Partner)


Yes. There are lots of scary things about love, imagined, and real. But just because you now understand how your words can be misinterpreted, doesn’t mean you should stifle your feelings or keep them from your partner.

There is a way to tell someone you love them without putting them in a position where they feel uncomfortable or afraid of expectations that don’t exist.

Here is the real-life letter I personally wrote to my boyfriend when I told him “I love you” for the very first time nearly a decade ago!

It demonstrates three key phrases that will ease your partner’s mind and clarify your intentions.

Dear Glade,

It’s gotten to the point where my current vocabulary can no longer express my feelings of gratitude, appreciation, admiration for, and trust in you. “I like you” just doesn’t seem to cut it. And so, after trying on phrases like, “You’re my favorite” and “I love spending time with you” and still finding it lacking, I’m going where no man (in this relationship) has gone before.

I love you. Yay, I said it! I love you. I’m so relieved it’s out there. Aaaaahhhh!!!! Did I mention I love you?

I know it’s a loaded word open to many different interpretations, so I want to clarify that my love comes with no promise or expectation for the future. It exists here and now in this moment.

I feel hesitant to use this word for fear it may change things between us or worse…scare you off. At the same time, I feel stifled when I think to keep it from you. This is my journey, these are my feelings and they require nothing more from you than what you already give. Your friendship and “like” is more than enough to make me a very happy lady.



3 Key Phrases to Banish the Scary Expectations


As you can see, in my letter I used 3 key phrases to address all 3 expectations head-on.


“I Love You” Expectation #1: Pressure to say, “I love you too.”

Key Phrase: “Your friendship and ‘like’ is more than enough to make me a very happy lady.”

This put him off the hook for saying “I love you too.” Which allowed him to say it in his own way in his own time.


“I Love You” Expectation #2: Pressure for a greater commitment (ie: marriage).

Key Phrase: “My love comes with no promise or expectation for the future. 

This relieved him of any expectation that my love would lead to future commitments. He could appreciate the feeling in the moment and not get tunnel vision.


“I Love You” Expectation #3: Pressure to step up and be “super-boyfriend.”

Key Phrase: “These are my feelings and they require nothing more from you.”

This allowed him to realize that he doesn’t need to do anything more to be successful in this relationship. As it is, I am happy. As it is, he is enough.


Falling in Love


Now that you know how to get rid of the imagined and assumed fears attached to the words, “I love you,” there’s still the REAL fear that now that you carry their heart you can potentially break it.

Love is a delicate gift, which is why you don’t give it to just anyone.

Talk to your partner. Clarify your intentions. Once he understands your love comes expectation-free, he will come around and the two of you can fall in love, fearless, and fancy-free.


With love,


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