One of the main reasons we as humans obsess over relationships is because of their variability; no matter how hard we try, there are still things about them that we can’t explain. Some couples are created out of straight chemistry, and others have the love languages to thank. No matter why or how your relationship exists, one huge situation that almost all couples face is those three little words. Saying “I love you” is a big deal, and professional counselor David Routt believes that there are some things you should consider before dropping the L-bomb.

“When talking about love, I always caution for a person to consider what it is that they are attempting to get from their actions,” Routt shares. “Telling a person that you love them can be a great way to let a person know that you think they are wonderful and worthy of your time, attention, and expressions of love, but if there is another reason behind it, then it is time to be wary of ourselves.” He points out that, feelings aside, saying “I love you” can also be used as “social manipulation” to make your partner do something. While your feelings toward your partner should ultimately dictate your actions, Routt suggests asking yourself these three questions prior to saying those three words.

A couple sits together watching the ocean under a colorful blanket

1. What do these words mean to me? Love can mean many things; you can love your mom, your dog, or a great taco. Love can also be defined differently in different romantic relationships — for that reason, it makes sense to think a little bit about how you define love between yourself and your partner.

2. What do I expect in return? “If you are saying these words to your partner to elicit any type of response, then the words become a manipulation instead of an expression of positive affection,” Routt observes. You don’t necessarily have to expect nothing in return, but you shouldn’t use the phrase as a bartering tool either.

3. Do my thoughts, feelings, and actions support the statement? There are tons of ways to express love: Routt mentions spending time together, non-sexual touching, kind and loving words, and giving gifts, to name a few. If you’re considering telling your partner that you love them, be aware of what your actions toward your partner reflect about your feelings for them. Feelings are personal, so those are up to your interpretation, he reassures us.

Overall, Routt encourages people in relationships to say “I love you” whenever they truly feel ready to. “If you’ve answered all these questions and determined that you believe the words are to be an expression of how your love is actually expressed, that nothing is expected in return, and that your thoughts, feelings, and actions are supportive of the statement, then it could be the right time for you to say ‘I love you,’” he affirms.

How did you know the time was right to tell your S.O. that you love them? Let us know @BritandCo!

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