falling in love isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience, but sometimes, when you know, you know. Your heart won’t stop fluttering, you can’t get them off your mind, and eventually, your friends all start pointing out that you’ve got it bad. But while falling in love can be exhilarating, it can also feel a little overwhelming. Deciding when and how to tell your partner you love them for the first time can be a pretty big (exciting! terrifying!) deal! But worry not—we’re here to help you figure it all out.

First off, there are no hard-and-fast rules for when to say “I love you.” And yes, it’s totally normal to be nervous about it even if you’re 99.9 percent positive your partner feels the same way and is going to say it back. (Ahem, why do rom-coms make it look so easy?!) But the logistics of it all make it exceptionally stressful. Should you say “I love you” first? What if you accidentally blurt it out in the middle of sex? What if you’re ready to say it, but your partner isn’t? How soon is too soon? Should you wait until a few weeks in? A few months? A whole year?! (*Screams in panic.*)

Obviously, telling someone you love them is *super* personal, and no two couples are the same. Only you know when you’re ready, and as you’ll see, everyone is different when it comes to expressing their love. Some people are ready after a few dates, while others might not be ready to say it for a while. Both scenarios are valid and normal.

To get the lowdown (and hopefully make you feel a little better!), we asked a bunch of guys to spill when they knew it was time to drop the L-bomb. Here’s what they had to say.

  1. I said it during a weekend spent relaxing on the couch after a long camping trip, about six months into our relationship. As we laughed and discussed life, I realized how his adventurous spirit perfectly meshed with my own. Every day was a journey of discovery with him, and his presence filled my life with a joy I hadn’t known before. Seeing how perfectly his qualities aligned with what I wanted in a lifelong partner, I was certain I was in love.” —Nick R., 29
  2. I started dating my best friend in high school. We’d always had so much fun together, so I fell for her very quickly. We had lots of similar interests and would constantly be making each other laugh. Being so young, I was always nervous that things wouldn’t last. There was so much life to live still, and it seems to be pretty rare that high school relationships end up going the distance. That nervous feeling is how I knew I was in love, though, and I had to let her know. Luckily we’re still here almost ten years later!” —Jamie V., 24
  3. You can’t put a time frame on when the right time is. You say ‘I love you’ when the time feels right. I absolutely love my girlfriend. She is my entire world and I am hers. I said it three months into our relationship.” —John J., 34
  4. Although it was scary, I knew I wanted to say ‘I love you’ to them when I would look back at pictures and see how happy they made me…when I couldn’t picture a future without them there. That’s when I knew I was more than ready to be vulnerable and transparent about how I really felt.” —Fernando D., 19
  5. I knew I was ready when her family and closest friends started opening up to me. Whether it was her dad making fun of me the way a dad should, or her best friend asking me what she should get my girlfriend for her birthday, having those important people in her life talk to me showed care and acceptance toward us dating. It’s one thing to have a relationship with my girlfriend, but to form bonds with the other people in her life—knowing they care about me and her as individuals and as a couple—let me know that our love is real. It made me feel as much a part of her life as they are, and that, to me, was probably the biggest indicator that I was was ready to start saying it.” —Joel S., 23
  6. I just kind of blurted it out after we’d been dating for a few months. I didn’t really plan it and it felt a little awkward at the time, but we’re married now so I guess I was right?” —Mike, 34
  7. It’s the butterflies. When you have them and you look at your S.O. and they have this quiet smile, that’s when you know.” —Jason*, 36
  8. Honestly, I was being kind of a dick. I’m used to people responding to that in a certain way, but this girl accepted me in that moment. She was like, ‘I understand why you’re feeling this way.’ And in that moment, I was just like, ‘Fuck. That’s incredible. I’m being a dick right now, and she’s really going to accept that that’s part of me? I think I love her.’” —Philip, 27
  9. It’s easy. When I finish inside of someone, my body usually goes in one of two directions: repulsion or embrace. When I just want to stay on top of them and continue playing, kissing, etc., that’s how I know I’ve developed stronger feelings.” —Jamie, 27
  10. The first time I knew I truly loved her was when I realized every single vision I had of my future had her in it, and everything I wanted in my life involved her being by my side.” —Joe, 25
  11. When I took interest in the things she cared about. Can’t say I’ve ever wanted to watch The Bachelorette, but here we are.” —Chris A., 24
  12. I recently had a death in my family, and the grieving process was hard. I knew how much I cared about her when she was the only one who I wanted around meduring that time.” —Aoki V. 26

     

  13. Every time I’ve been in love, I just knew it was love. There was no ‘aha’ moment, I guess it’s just something like when you know, you know.” —Te A., 42
  14. I’m going to be super cliché here, but it really did just hit me randomly one night when we were watching Netflix. I’m not sure what happened, but it was like, in that moment, I knew that I’d be okay doing anything—literally anything—with that girl by my side. And be completely happy doing it.” —Jaron T., 29
  15. I think it was most obvious to me when we were in an argument or fight and I could still look at her and think: ‘Yeah, okay, I do love her.’ If you can still have those same feelings even when things aren’t going the best, that’s love. But when you don’t feel that way when things get tough, it may not be love.” —Eric R., 26
  16. I knew I was ready to say ‘I love you’ when saying ‘I like you’ just wasn’t cutting it in my heart. I felt like I could tell her anything about me or what was on my mind and I wouldn’t be judged. I especially knew when I cared for her and her feelings as much as I did my own.” —Mason M., 27
  17. I’m not sure if you ever know when you are ready. The first time you say it, it just happens. Afterward, you might regret just letting it slip like you did, but inside, you know you showed exactly how you felt, and that’s a good thing.” —Aleksei C., 24
  18. My ex-girlfriend and I were best friends. The sex was great, we helped each other grow as people, and we were a great team together. Once I realized that nobody was gonna get me like she did, loving her was the easiest thing in the world, which is when I knew it was the right time to say it.” —Josef G., 27

     

  19. When enough time goes by, and no matter how irritated she can make me, I still can’t help but smile.” —Kit O., 29
  20. Honestly, there’s no way to know unless you know. Most of the time you are just guessing. I’ve said it once before, and I meant it from top to bottom. You’re usually scared to say it, but when you know it really means something, you go ahead and say it anyway.” —Christian S., 25
  21. I feel like ‘I love you’ is overused, so it takes some time for me to say it even if I do have those feelings toward them. If I were going to give it a specific length of time, I’d say typically four to five months, unless she says it first.” —Alex Z., 28
  22. I don’t know if I have any kind of rule; I’ve been in year-long relationships where I never said it. I’ve said it a month in, three months in. It’s just when I’m feeling it. Usually when I still have butterflies when I see her, and we’re both starting to talk about meeting each other’s parents. That’s usually when I can tell this is getting serious.” Tom, 27
  23. I said it after a week to the woman I wound up marrying. Looking back on past relationships, I was probably always quick to say ‘I love you,’ but I was crazy about my wife from the moment I met her.”Ian, 26
  24. I think I know if this is going to be a long-term relationship within a month or two, which is usually when I’m read to say, ‘I love you.But I wait until a good moment. I don’t just like, fire off a Snap the second it dawns on me. I want it to be romantic.” —Cody, 26

     

  25. I’ve said ‘I love you’ to two of my girlfriends and I married one of them. In both cases, it was probably closer to the one year mark, but definitely before our one year anniversary.”Jay, 29
  26. I have a problem. I fall in love with like, everyone. There has been more than one occasion where I was drunk and my friends had to take my phone away because I was about to tell a girl I hooked up with like, once that I loved her.” Ethan, 25
  27. It’s funny. I’ve said it to someone after a few weeks, and that relationship wound up being a train wreck. The woman I’m with now, she and I took it very slow. It was months and months before we said it. And things have been going so great. And that’s not to say falling in love fast is bad, just that falling in love slowly is perfectly fine.” Joey, 26
  28. It was actually a bit of a point of contention with my current girlfriend. She said it fairly early on. She probably said ‘I love you’ at around three months. And it wasn’t that I didn’t care about her deeply at the time, but… I just didn’t feel comfortable saying it. It took me awhile to get there. But it came up, and I felt pressured. I didn’t like the idea of saying it because she wanted me to. I eventually did say it, but on my terms.”Brett, 28
  29. I think six months is kind of the epicenter of saying, ‘I love you.’ That’s a very reasonable time to say it. And I think the further away you get from six months in either direction, like either too early or too late, it starts to get a little odd.Steven, 27
  30. I want to say usually between like, five-nine months. I’ve had maybe eight serious relationships where saying ‘I love you’ was even on the table. And that window for me definitely wasn’t an exact science. Sometimes I felt like I was there more quickly than other times. —Dennis, 29

*Some quotes have been condensed and edited for clarity.

*Name has been changed.

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