The word love can mean different things to different people, but it usually describes a feeling of connection and trust. It’s a biological cascade of hormones that triggers emotional responses and creates deep bonds with another person. But it can also be a choice, based on your attachment style and the way you choose to communicate.
Some experts believe there are three biochemical phases to love, while others point to more emotionally-based stages rooted in a variety of theories of attachment styles and how the brain develops a sense of security. Regardless of how you define love, it’s a powerful emotion that can have profound effects on your life.
It’s impossible to determine exactly when you’ll feel ready to say “I love you” to someone. It varies for each couple, and depends on how long you’ve been dating or how close you are. However, there are certain signs that you may be ready to make that leap.
According to Jenn Mann, psychotherapist and host of VH1’s Couples Therapy with Dr. Jenn, one way to know if you’re ready is by watching how your partner interacts with you. “It’s important to gauge if the relationship is stable and progressing well,” she says. “Once you’ve established a strong bond, you can move toward the declaration of love.”
Mann warns against saying the words too early, though. “If you jump the gun, it can derail a relationship that is on an otherwise positive track,” she says. She suggests gauging how much quality time you’re spending together, as well as whether or not your emotions are consistently high and stable.
Additionally, she advises taking a look at the way your partner treats you and their loved ones. “If you’re a loving and caring person, your actions will speak louder than words,” she adds.
If you’re not sure, she recommends checking out the Gottman Institute’s app, which is filled with tools and tips to help couples work through their relationships. It has a stack of cards called the Love Maps, which provide open-ended questions to help you discuss your feelings and your priorities for the relationship.
It’s also important to remember that while the “I love you” phrase is a significant milestone, it’s just the beginning of your journey together. It’s equally important to work on the other aspects of your relationship, including communication and conflict resolution.
And if you need some ideas on how to express your love this Valentine’s Day, check out these romantic quotes about love. Hopefully, you’ll find just the right message to share with your special someone.