She got on with her life, had relationships, got married and divorced. But she and Ezra remained friends, having annual dinners every year. It felt so important and I couldn’t believe I’d done it, I remember thinking “that’s it! ” It’s funny, because I said it so many more times over the next few years that we were dating, and it always changed.

I spent way too much time complaining that things weren’t getting done, that I was doing all the work. Vern’s more acute realization of our limited time together meant that nothing for him needed to be rushed. If one person says ‘I love you’ too quickly and the other person accepts and responds in the same sentence without real thought.

Of course, there are always exceptions, like if you’ve been spending every waking minute together versus only seeing each other once or twice a week. But in general, if you say, “I love you,” before dating for three to six months, you could be mistaking love for something else. In the end, it does not matter who says “I love you” first, or who says it more frequently, just as it does not matter whether you are the first or the second on your partner’s romantic and sexual list. What matters is the profundity of your relationship and the way it develops.

So, when is the best time to say those three magic words?

“I would say that it’s most typical for people to say these words within a few months of dating exclusively,” says Cosgrove. At this point, you’ve known each other for a bit and have been able to learn about each other and process and develop emotions. Up to now I’ve been lucky, whenever I’ve said “I love you”, it’s been reciprocated.

There isn’t a “normal” amount of time

But even if you just want to get those feelings off your chest and don’t necessarily expect that certain someone to feel the same way, saying “I love you” for the first time can still be a daunting task. Those three little words hold so much weight, and it can be scary to confess such a deep emotion to another human being. If you have found true love with the woman you’re with now, make sure that you take care of it. If you want it to last a lifetime, you have to focus on deepening her love, respect and attraction for you over time. I often get contacted by guys who’ve just been dumped by the woman they love.

There is nothing wrong with dissecting the situation. There is also nothing wrong with having some alone time to think. If your man loves you enough, he would understand. And if he, too, encourages you both to think things through before upping the relationship, maybe he really is a keeper. Most people say that being intimate should never be the foundation of a relationship, and yes, we totally agree with that.

When Vern and I first married, his death in five short years was the last thing on my mind. He mentioned that someday I might have to serve as his caregiver, but I thought nothing of it. Of course, I would do whatever was necessary, but that would be far in the future. Learning to address the imbalance of power would’ve helped Vern to show more empathy. It also might’ve helped me to not take his teaching moments so personally.

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He’s going to have special places too, even if he’s not that emotional. If this guy hasn’t had the courage to invite you to his special places, then don’t tell him that you love him. He hasn’t shown you enough about himself and his life. Chances are, he’s not as serious about you as you think. When you’re serious about someone, you’re going to be more than willing to show them the craziest and most intimate and dorky parts of your life, and that includes the places that are super meaningful to you.

I mean, I’ll tell a dog on the street that I love them, because in the moment I do. I guess it’s a lot to do with what you’ve been brought up around as well. I mean everyone’s definition of love is different, and some people don’t even know what love is, like they’ve never seen it or don’t feel as though they’ve experienced it. Have you heard the intro to “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”? It’s like a bunch of young girls being interviewed about what love means to them. “I think if you feel you can’t help yourself from saying it, and it feels like you are about to blurt it out when you are together, that’s how you know it’s time to share your feelings,” says Cosgrove.

Don’t let it come out the first time that feeling rises up in your stomach and tries to burst out of you. Bring it firmly back in from the tip of your tongue and store it away for future reference. To begin with, people often think of love in terms of romantic love, which may or may not lead to a lasting relationship. On the other hand, a lasting partnership leads to the development of mature love. There’s no way to make someone fall in love with you, and Brown-James recommends against trying to speed up the process because it can make the other person uncomfortable if they feel pressured. That said, there are ways to grow your emotional connection with someone, which can help foster feelings of intimacy.