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Who says the L-word first?

Posted on Monday, March 8, 2010 in Advice, dating, Honesty, love, Relationships, Sex/sexuality, Singles

It was a leisurely Sunday morning a few years back. Van and I were taking our time getting up; actually, we were snuggling together in a way that was going to get him a little more up than me, let’s say.

After, as we lay there, a wonderfully sweaty tangle of legs and arms, his hot breathe against my neck, he gave me a kiss so tender and loving that I committed the most fatal mistake we gals can do with someone we’ve been dating for a few months.

I opened my mouth.                          

“I’m falling in love with you,”
I said softly into his ear.

There was silence.

It was the most deafening silence I have ever experienced, before and since.

Did he not hear me? Was he pretending he didn’t hear me? Either way, I wasn’t about to repeat myself.

“Oh boy, did I fuck up,” I told Sara, calling her as I headed back home later that morning.

“What you do? Forget to put gas in your car again?”

“No. I told Van I love him this morning.”

“Kat, I told you before: A woman never, ever, says the L-word until the guy says it first. Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

“Because you’re divorced; if you knew what the hell you were talking about when it comes to relationships, you wouldn’t be.”

“Touche. But, honestly, haven’t I gotten smarter?”

Maybe she has, but was she smarter in this instance? Should men be the first to mutter the three little words — “I love you” — that transform a relationship into something “meaningful”? Or is that a woman’s thing?

Or, does it even matter who says it first, as long as someone says it to move the relationship along?

As usual, the so-called dating experts are all over the map on this one. Thanks, but …

So, forget asking them; the only answer that matters is from men. Why? Because we gals don’t really understand them; all we know is that sometimes when we do what feels natural to us (or, worse yet, follow the advice of some stupid women’s mag), we end up crying into a pint of Rocky Road.

And, according to a lot of guys, Sara’s right; women typically don’t flip out and bolt if a guy she likes tells her he loves her. In fact, she’s probably been dreaming (aka obsessing) about that day.

And if she’s not quick to return the love? Like it or not, men have a lot more experience with rejection than we gals do. This is not being sexist; I’m not saying it’s even fair, and I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt. I’m just saying it is. So, if he says “I love you” and she gets all silent on him, he probably can deal with it better.

But it’s risky business for a woman to say “I love you” to a guy who’s hasn’t quite sorted it out in his head yet. It’s gotta feel like he’s just stepped on a land mine that’s going to explode, spewing diamond rings, engagement parties, wedding planning and, eventually, a minivan. No wonder many want to bolt. Goodbye freedom, hello commitment.

However, regardless of gender, you never want to say “I love you” too soon. Say that to someone after a few months of dating, and you’re talking with your genitals, not your head. Lust is intoxicating, but it ain’t love. It’s like eating the tiramisu before the Caesar salad, garlic bread and pollo al diablo; it might be luscious, but it can’t sustain you. And even if it feels sincere, but it won’t come off that way.

And yet, I’m still not fully convinced. You know how I feel about dating rules, like third-date sex, all the stupid dating markers and the silly games we’re “supposed” to play. Why can’t a relationship develop organically?

So, I’ll ask the smartest people of all — my readers.

Who says “I love you” first?

(and, just because I’m curious, who says it in a gay or lesbian relationship; think about it)

Photo © leekic –

Bring on the comments

  1. brian says:

    Best to wait for the guy
    See the recent Miller Lite commercial
    Effective in part because it is spot on

  2. Don says:

    I have been a bachelor for 10 years now and have preached to my guy friends to wait 6 months to tell a woman you love her. This is because I have had many girlfriends in the last 10 years and almost all were perfect in the beginning and then had ‘issues’ within about the 6 months timeframe. My buddies call me Don Juan because I never make it past the 6 month mark and probably more because it rhymes and is catchy.
    This last relationship lasted 8 months, but the thing is that I broke down and told her ‘I love you’ within a few WEEKS! She was beautiful, fun, sexy, and everthing I was looking for in a woman and more! Only she did not say it back either….which made my heart sink. The next week she did, but now that we are split i have to wonder if she was just saying it because the sex was good. Regardless, I think ‘love’ takes time to really know someone. There is NO such thing as love at first sight and love is an easy feeling to get when you first meet and don’t know about the ‘bad’ side yet. I remember how sweet she was and that when she mentioned one day that she could be really mean at times, i simply could not even envision it……and now know what she meant.

    Question for the ladies: Why would a woman tell a man she loves him and wants to marry him a week before Valentine’s Day, then not even accept his valentine and tell him she was over him and that it was through? (Our slogan was ‘forever and a day..’ for 8 months while we were together) Do I just let her go? Don’t call or email? She says we are through and to not contact her anymore, which is confusing as hell when she doesn’t elaborate as to why…

    Any suggestions???

  3. Don says:

    I do think you should wait for him to say it first, though. It is some psychological game where the person who says it first is usually the ‘dumpee’ in the end….and I have no idea why…’dumpers’ are usually the spoiled ones that get tired of playing with their new toy and don’t want it till someone else wants to play with it.

    Don Juan Quixote

  4. I wait for the guy to say it first. That being said, if and when I feel love for him, I will not hesitate to show it in non-verbal ways. I think if a woman says it first it’s counter-productive cuz then the guy feels pressured and like you stated, starts fearing the commitment of being “in a relationship”.
    .-= Mindy@SingleMomSays´s last blog ..Big Blog Love =-.

  5. Mike says:

    I’ve never been in a relationship that I didn’t say it first. On that note it took me a long time to understand the lust and love difference.

    Yes we guys are use to rejection, but sometimes women need to put on the big girl panties and step up to the plate.

  6. vincent says:

    I feel love easily and have no problem saying I love you to a girlfriend or anyone when I feel it. The older I get the more important this is to say it because time is shorter.

    The important thing to me is to be authentic in love and everything and expressing authentic feelings is authentic to me.

    Also, tts so easy to find girlfriends and friends when you are being authentic that its totally worth any perceived risk. And if they reject me for it, more power to me to understand they feel differently.

    I’m glad he returned silence to you because then you knew how he felt and better sooner than later (but sorry it hurt your feelings).

    I’ve never found it to be a mistake to say I loved someone (even though I have had pain over it, but not really regret and pain is unavoidable as a human).

    For my friends who are girls and attached, I tell them I friend-love them b/c their attachees can get jealous about my free loving words.

    Western culture is pretty repressed at dealing with love. Many cultures have many more terms and words for love.

    Also my best friend Chandra taught me how I can love people just by meditating on it and sending people loving feelings from my heart in meditation.

    I love your column as always and more than ever Kat Wlder. Someday I want to meet you for real.

  7. Jenni says:

    I pretty much agree with everything that Mindy said.
    .-= Jenni´s last blog ..Is This Thing On? =-.

  8. Kat Wilder says:

    Brian — So, do Miller Lite ads in general “get” guys? Maybe we should ditch the dating gurus and Cosmo’s advice, and start watching for them! 😉 I’ll YouTube it. Thanks.

    Don — Well, it isn’t that all of a sudden these women had “issues.” It’s more that we’re on our best behavior in the beginning, and then when we feel we’re at a certain comfort level, we let down our guard and be who we really are. It’s not always pretty, but it’s genuine. Real love is being able to love someone once the issues are laid bare.

    As for the V-Day girl, yes, let it go; she’s not right for you because she couldn’t be honest with you. Who wants to be in a relationship with that? Think about it …

    Mindy — Yes, the non-verbal ways. Those are actually very telling and, if we gals pay attention, we’d notice guys tell us a lot about how they feel about us silently. We often mess it up for ourselves by asking, when we should be paying attention and believing.

    Vincent — thanks for your kind words. Being able to express love to those we care about is important. How nice for you to be able to do that easily, and risk the hurt (which is something we all need to know how to do). As for meeting me … how do you know you haven’t? 😉

    Jennie — yeah; great minds think alike, eh?

  9. Anonymous says:

    What if someone is your FWB for the past 20 yr on & off and he tells you he loves you? Is that lust? He said it several times, 1st time I laughed, second time I said, “What’s love got to do with it”, times after that I didn’t respond. He was drunk, was I supposed to believe him? Or watch his actions cause they speak louder than words.

  10. Don says:

    Thanks Kat….I think you are right. I caught her in a few lies, but I’m a forgiving soul that looks for the good in everybody. Trouble is, people tend to take advantage of it. I guess I should be jaded by now, but think maybe I’ll find a lady one day who is willing to do the same and wants a relationship that will last.

    She said a few weeks ago that she knew she would regret leaving me…like several other ex-girlfriends who find out the grass is rotten on the other side and then want me back. Trouble with that is once you’re on the other side, I’m not looking to let you just hop back over the fence and be able to trust my heart with you again. It’s always too late then.

    I keep telling myself that THE ONE is out there…somewhere…maybe.

  11. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    The two times in my life I said it to a romantic partner, I said it first. And I said it because I really did feel it. If a woman said it first, I might get scared and shut down. At the very least, I might suddenly be unable to separate her feelings for me from my own feelings.

    So, I’m in the “guys should say the L-word first” camp.
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog ..Children and Divorce =-.

  12. Wombat
    Twitter: kissnblog

    May I choose another vowel?

    I live you.

    I hove you.

    I levi you.

    Anything but that l-word. It’s nothing bot trouble.
    .-= Wombat´s last blog ..Fornicate in the Forum =-.

  13. mvgrl says:

    I agree with both Vincent and Mindy, I was just remembering when I said it to my now -ex hubby. I was terrified! as in “what the hell am I getting in to ?”
    I can’t remember if he responded or not.
    These days I say the L word all the time, firstly to my kids, everyday, then to great girlfriends, and also to old boyfriends that have remained friends.
    I like Brian’s take on the Miller Lite was perfect. After working in a male dominated job (so they think)for a long time, I’ve figured out a lot about the opposite sex from the way they talk , and how they check out women…interesting..

  14. Honey
    Twitter: honeyandlance

    I said it to Jake first, but I was drunk 🙂 We’d been dating about 4 months I think, and since we’d had the exclusivity talk within the first week and the boyfriend/girlfriend talk after 3 months, it seemed okay.

    He didn’t say it back for a couple months, but I knew he was crazy about me so I didn’t worry too much, though I didn’t say it again until he’d said it! Now we say it approximately 500 times a day.
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..This Sex Toy Costs $60K–Honey, Are You Listening? =-.