How to say 'I love you' first (without freaking out your partner)

Lauren Gray

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 "Lets get married" and a major commitment? Not simply, I love you, which is how I meant it.

Asking the RIGHT question
Hi Chiara! Great question. In fact, I love it! You know why?
Most people ask the question, “When should you say I love you in a relationship?” Or even, “Who should say I love you first in a relationship?
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 is going to burst first. ;-)

The real question we should be asking is, HOW? How do you say "I love you" first without freaking out your partner? How do you say "I love you" first so that it takes your relationship to the next level?! That’s what I’m going to show you today. Because once you know HOW, you don't have to stress about the When or the Who. That's just about following your heart.

What “I love you” REALLY means
Your man wouldn’t be the first person to misunderstand those 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 love 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 woman.” 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 big, 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” 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. 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 3 KILLER expectations
As you can see, in my letter I used 3 key phrases to address all three 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 precious 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,


read more blog posts from Lauren Gray
  • Yunoimcrazy
     6/27/2016 12:32:58 PM
    Look im a little lost here, I had a crush on this kid in my Freshmen year of high school and in my Sophomore year I got to met him and talk to him in person then towards the end of the school year I finally told him I liked him and he told me he liked me too, but he didn't want to ask me out yet because he was going to Mexico during the summer and he couldn't contact me in any way and he told me that he would do it when he comes back. When he came back he didn't talk to me much then we just stop talking all at one (school stared in Augt. we are now Juniors) So then in Nov. He gave me a letter saying that he didn't like me anymore and I became very sad so I tried to keep my mind busy with other guys but it didn't work I couldn't forget about him I fell in love with him and I just couldn't let go of him, then in May I finally wrote him back saying how I felt and that we could still be friends and whatever and he wrote me back saying that he lied about not liking me. He told me that he fell in love with me too but he found out that he was very sick and he just wanted me to be happy, he told me that he loved me and that we should go on a date later on, a month have already passed and he hasn't talked to me since that letter what is he thinking right now? He told me that (in the letter) that he meant what he said in the letter that he loves me and that he wants to go on a date but why isn't he talking to me?...

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