When should you say “I love you”?

www.geodun.com

“I love you”: those three words which we inevitably swoon over in soppy movies, yet which in reality cause some people to cry with joy whilst others weep with longing, and makes some grow in confidence and security but others choke in fear and want to hide. There seem to be so many factors and emotions caught up in these simple words that they often become a source of anxiety that masks the joy they should bring. So when is the right time to say it?

I’ve heard two interesting takes on this recently, which I think are true in their own ways. The first is that if one person is ready to say it and the other isn’t ready to hear it then it can risk causing hurt. If the relationship is naturally moving forward but is still in the early stages of getting to know each other, then it may be the case that holding back from saying it until you’re certain you can both commit is more loving than saying it. This might mean making a sacrifice by withholding your desire to declare your love, but love inevitably means sacrifice!

The second take is that love is more than just words, and so when it’s professed depends on when it can confidently be proven. The words in themselves can be meaningless unless they’re backed up with actions, but when the actions are strong and consistent they speak for themselves, and the words that follow confirm them. In that respect, it’s also possible to show someone you love them long before you begin a relationship which warrants an open declaration. If that’s the case, then why wait once you’re sure you want to say it?

A couple of weeks ago I watched “Braveheart” for the first time after reading Christopher West’s thoughts on it. (Yes, I’m expecting a mixture of shock that I’ve managed to go nearly 22 years without watching it and confusion over why I’d want to watch bloodthirsty battle scenes anyway). Though I have to say that it’s seriously in contention for my new favourite film, what struck me the most was a single line…

“I love you. Always have. I want to marry you.”

This single line took my breath away, not because a man said “I love you” in a fictional context and my heart automatically melted (believe me, I’m so not the soppy kind!), but because there wasn’t a hint of fear in it. For the first time, hearing “I love you” on-screen didn’t speak of empty romance but of bravery, confidence and vehement passion. I understood what it meant for a man to be willing to lay down his life for the woman he loves as Christ did for the Church. The man speaking that line wasn’t afraid to admit his feelings or commit to the woman in question, because he was so consumed by love that there was no room for fear. It was that love which enabled him to become more fully himself, with all the masculine qualities he so clearly exhibits!

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

The bottom line is that there is no perfect formula to apply to every relationship. Whether you say it or don’t say it isn’t the real issue: it’s the reasons behind it. Those three words come with an unspoken promise that you’ll keep on choosing to love even when you don’t “feel” it, unless you prayerfully discern that the relationship itself isn’t right. Don’t say it unless you’re willing to back it up with your actions, but don’t let fear hold you back when you believe it’s right!

Above all, don’t fight it. “I love you” isn’t scary, it’s beautiful. It shouldn’t bring guilt, confusion, or unhealthy dependence, but should be linked to assurance, healthy connection and stability. If you’re in love, say it, and say it often. Then continue to prove it with your actions. I don’t believe there’s anyone who, deep down, doesn’t want to hear it and know it’s true.

___________________________

Esther-Rich-2-770x1024Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Youth Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”

 

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece. I really hope to feel less fear around showing and sharing love. Your article offers such great advice in discerning when to share those precious words:)

    By Jessica | 1 year ago Reply
  2. I am 17 years old and I have never once heard it explained like that. That was such a beautiful and true way to put it. I doubt that you remember me but I met you at DCYC a few years ago in Tulsa. You made me really think about how I wanted to live out my life and I fully decided then that I would save myself for marriage. I’ve read you and your wife’s book “How To Find Your Soulmate Without Loosing Your Soul” 3 times and each time I’ve read it I’ve cought different things and it helps me remember the promise I made to God that I would save myself. I have never once been in a “relationship” but I’m going into one. I’ve known him for years now and I really started to get to know him in about August of last year. We started “talking” in March of this year. Now I am in no way ready to say I love him… I don’t think…. But I know I feel more than just a liking towards him. My youth group and I went to a Steubenville Conference a few weeks ago and during adoration I asked God to help me and my situation with the guy I’m talking to. I trust that God will take care of my relationship with him and will show me if its what He wants for me or not. I pray for him pretty much everyday and I only want what God wants for him, even if that means I’m not what God Has in store for him. I know that Love is an action not a word or really a feeling, it’s the act of doing what’s best for the others soul and what will help them get to heaven. So in that aspect I guess I do love him because I only want what God wants for him… But does that mean I can say “I love him”? I don’t know…. I pray that God shows me when I should or if I should ever say it. Thank you for giving me some more confidence in saying “I love you.” and thank you for showing me that chastity is a beautiful thing.

    By Lily | 1 year ago Reply
  3. Your sentiments are good, but I always caution…”Don’t let screenwriters define your philosophy! “

    By Safeblonde | 1 year ago Reply
  4. Esther, this is great! I was so surprised to see your picture at the bottom. Una (Ilford Ursuline – Mission March 2015!) xx

    By Una Fahey | 1 year ago Reply
  5. and I am humbled by Miss Lily’s comments. God Bless you young people!

    By Safeblonde | 1 year ago Reply
  6. Remember Braveheart’s ending before you allow too much inspiration. The hero ultimately won by having an adulterous affair and impregnating the princess, in this way he ended the kings bloodline. An action that is neither noble nor loving.

    By Michelle | 1 year ago Reply
  7. The second take is that love is more than just words, and so when it’s professed depends on when it can confidently be proven. The words in themselves can be meaningless unless they’re backed up with actions, but when the actions are strong and consistent they speak for themselves, and the words that follow confirm them. In that respect, it’s also possible to show someone you love them long before you begin a relationship which warrants an open declaration. If that’s the case, then why wait once you’re sure you want to say it?

    With regards to the above paragraph can you please specify what kind of actions and how consistent should they be. Just confused a little confused here. Please let me know.

    By Denzil Fernandes | 1 year ago Reply
  8. Should you only say it in a relationship, in your family, and to your best friends?

    By Amanda | 1 year ago Reply
  9. My take on the actions Esther was speaking of was not so much the physical actions (kissing, etc), but actions of another sort. For example, your sick, so your boyfriend/girlfriend brings some soup for you and sits with you to keep you company for a while. Another instance might be that she/he comes to meet your parents and shows them respect. These are just a few examples of true, pure commitment and love. When such actions are repeated multiple times and you come to the point where your main concern in the relationship is the joy and salvation of the other person, then you can say I love you. Your actions will back up the words and give them their meaning. Does that help?

    By Olivia | 1 year ago Reply
  10. This article was outstanding. I really need someone’s help. I am currently 16 years old and there is this guy that is the perfect gentleman and I feel like he leads me closer to God with his words and actions. He is one of my best friends and he seems like the only guy in my school that does not have bad intentions with girls. I know so much about him and I think I am in love with him, but I am not sure. I told him that I liked him as more than a friend, but he said he was no ready for a relationship and I am not sure he feels the same way about me. However, I didn’t tell him exactly how I feel. All I said was “I like you” with tears streaming down my face. Was it wrong to not tell him I loved him? And should I let him go and wait for someone else?

    By Evangeline | 1 year ago Reply

Leave a Reply