Love you is one of the most powerful words in any language. It can convey affection, protection, warmth, and respect—and it’s used to describe not only people but also animals, principles, and religious beliefs. The concept of love has occupied the minds and hearts of philosophers, poets, and writers for generations, and it’s a subject of debate in today’s culture as well. While most people agree that the word “love” implies strong feelings of affection, there are many different opinions on what it really means to love someone.
Some believe that true love is a state of mind that’s more important than an emotion. The idea is that when you love someone, you treat them with respect and kindness—even when they make mistakes or act out of character. This kind of love is not dependent on the current mood or circumstances and is a permanent commitment to the person, even in tough times.
Others think that love is more of a biological drive, similar to the hunger or thirst drive in mammals. In this view, the chemistry between two people in love is influenced by hormones like oxytocin, neurotrophins, and pheromones. It’s thought that these chemicals influence both the feeling of attraction and the attachment process, creating a sense of loyalty and euphoria.
Still others consider love to be a combination of both emotions and behaviors, including the act of caring for another person. This type of love is thought to be a result of both serotonin and oxytocin and may be more stable than the sexy, obsessive feelings associated with infatuation.
It’s difficult to define when it’s the right time to tell your partner that you love them. Many experts say that it’s not necessary to wait a certain amount of time, as long as you have the feelings and are willing to follow through with loving behavior. But the truth is that everyone has a unique relationship and timeline, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
In addition to considering whether you’re ready for the big L-bomb, it’s also important to check in with yourself. “At the end of the day, you must love yourself first,” says spiritual thought leader and author of Rethink Love, Monica Berg. Berg suggests getting radically honest with yourself—dysfunctional patterns and all—to ensure that your motivations for saying “I love you” are healthy.
Some people don’t use the full “love you” because they’re trying to be economical with their word choice and avoid sounding too sentimental. They may value terse communication styles that get to the point or prefer to use colloquialisms and universally understood emojis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it just reflects their personality and values.