Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit to the deepest interpersonal affection to the simplest pleasure. It’s a state that makes us feel at ease, happy, and content — but it’s also a difficult concept to define.
Whether it’s love for a spouse, parent, friend, or lover, or the love of a pet or a country, it’s one of the most important and long-lasting emotional experiences we can have. It’s been a favored topic of philosophers, poets, and writers for generations. It’s also a subject of intense debate and disagreement. Even experts who have studied the concept of love disagree about what it actually means.
While some people believe that love is a biological cascade of hormones and feedback pathways in the brain, others think that it’s a combination of feelings of affection, intimacy, loyalty, protection, and trust. Then there’s the religious or spiritual meaning of love – loving God, for example. In addition, there are different theories about attachment styles and stages of love.
The question of when to say “I love you” is often a matter of individual relationships and the evolution of those relationships. However, if you’re not sure whether the feelings you’re experiencing are love or infatuation, it might be too soon to declare your emotions. “Feelings of ‘love’ felt in the early days or weeks of a relationship are often a result of confusion between love and infatuation,” says Manly. “True love requires a deeper level of connection and intimate bonding that can only be achieved over time, through mutual self-discovery and acceptance of the person for all their strengths and weaknesses.”
It’s possible to fall in love without saying the words, as evidenced by countless famous couples. In fact, some of the happiest couples in history never said “I love you.” They simply lived their lives with a constant sense of happiness that was unfazed by life’s challenges. Whether it was living on a farm in Wisconsin in the 1930s with his wife, or dealing with the death of his mother and father, Charlie Schulz never stopped smiling.
Many people are confused about the difference between infatuation and true love. If you’re not sure where your relationship stands, psychotherapist and TV host Jenn Mann suggests gauging the temperature of your relationship to see if it goes from hot to cold or is more like a slow-burning ember of commitment. She also recommends examining whether your partner treats you with kindness and respect.
It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t always matter who first says “I love you.” A recent study of more than 3,000 people from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, and the UK found that men consider themselves in love about 69 days into a relationship, while women wait 77 days on average to consider those feelings. However, there is still a social norm that suggests women are more likely to say it first.