Timing Those 3 Words: I Love You

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Te quiero, je t’aime, ti amo: I love you. This simple yet famous phrase has gushed from lovers’ lips since mouths could form words and humans could articulate emotion. Is it possible, however, that today, this global expression has been wedged unnecessarily into every conversation? If so, can one potentially express his or her love “too early” in a relationship, and if used too frequently, can the expression become cliché?

“In theory, it’s the right time [to say ‘I love you’] when you feel it and you’re sure about it. But then again, in practice, I think that I hesitate to say it because I don’t want to be the first one to say it,” said Lucina Schell, 2011 graduate of The New School.

At times the weight of the words can make them too intimidating to use. But the “moment” for telling your partner that you love them doesn’t have to equal the romantic atmosphere of a proposal.

“Right after a long day of snow shoeing at his home in Maine, I told my [then boyfriend] that I loved him over a slice of pizza. It wasn’t planned, and now he’s my husband,” newly-wed and St. Paul University graduate student Aisha Armitage recalled. Sometimes the simplicity of the moment can express one’s sentiments better than flowery words in a “dolled-up” atmosphere. Bring the fun back to romance: leave room for surprises and keeping things light and genuine.

Vania Myers, an uprising sophomore at Syracuse University, agrees that the moment for saying “I love you” should be a “spontaneous, in-the-moment kind of thing.” She added, “I wouldn't say it unless I really meant it. I don't think it should be thrown around.”

“I love you” should not replace standard greetings between two people. It’s not necessary to use the phrase when saying hello or goodbye to your partner, though it is always a welcome statement when said in earnest. Remember that actions should reflect words: find ways tocommunicate love to a partner through behavior or body language. “When you’re in a long relationship, it can get to a point where it’s assumed that you love each other, so you don’t have to say it [constantly],” Schell shared. “The best is when two people feel it at the same time, which is rare, but it does happen.”

Carol Speed-Zeyen, a social worker, commented, “Saying ‘I love you’ needs behavior to match it or it is an empty statement . . . It is important to understand how a partner feels loved and valued.” Speed-Zeyen concluded that though using the phrase frequently isn’t a problem, there are other ways of expressing one’s love for their partner, including actions.

Listen: Ask how your partner’s day went. Listen patiently; inquire about details, express interest!

Time: Don’t just “pencil-in” dates like you would a homework assignment. Spending time with your partner shouldn’t feel like a scheduled appointment. Pop by their place between classes, give them a text between tasks to let them know they’re on your mind.

“Love” means something different according to each individual, so when considering the phrase, keep it simple, honest, and fun!

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