Eight letters. Three words. One meaning.

Who should say I love you first?

You know, I have been struggling to remember the last time someone, other than blood relatives, told me they loved me and meant it. Infact, in my almost 40 years on this planet, I believe I’d only been told twice. Only one of those was genuine. Although I’ve recently started to doubt even that one. As I’ve mentioned before, I met my now ex husband when I just turned 20. I’d had two not serious “boy” friends before that. Love was not a factor. I grew up believing the stereotype that is depicted in romance novels, that men find it harder to show their emotions during romantic encounters, leaving the leading lady rushing in with those three little words. Uttering “I love you”, for the first time is a defining moment in a relationship, for both involved. Saying it first could be like ripping your heart out and showing it to your partner and risk the words escaping into a vortex never to be reciprocated. Being on the receiving end of those words adds weight on your shoulders. Pressure to say it back before you are ready. Guilt if you were feeling it too and realise you should’ve said it all along. Worry that if you say it straight back, even though genuine, your partner will think you’re just saying what they want to hear. Concern that if you never say it, the relationship you were very happy in will change or end completely, even though you felt it was perfect just the way it was without those words being said by either party. Acceptance that, if you don’t feel it too and think you never will, then you’ll break the other persons heart, as you will know they will want to hear it eventually, and face losing them. Oh the power held by such a simple sentence. Eight letters. Three words. One meaning. 

Going back to 1997 when I met my sons father. I genuinely can not remember who said I love you first. Now that doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t some ground breaking, earth shattering, stop the world moment. I’m sure it was. I don’t agree to moving in with someone within a year if those words hadn’t been said and meant. Remember it would’ve been the first time I’d heard them. Maybe its more that unfortunately, the bad blood between us since, has blurred it out. Or maybe that in the final years of our marriage, I was getting the feeling that when I heard the words it was more out of habit and they had lost their sincerity so I did genuinely forget how it felt to hear them and they mean something. Now that statement isn’t me being nasty, its being truthful. Something I now pride myself on being since reading so many untruths about myself posted on social media. Anyway, I digress onto a subject I’m not going to go into. 

Having only had one relationship where those words were said, I went into single life still believing that society accepted the fact that women are way more gushy than men, so saying it first would not be frowned upon or shied away from. Any new, serious, long-term partner would be comfortable with hearing it, wouldn’t they? But I was confused. Its not unfair to say that anyone coming out of an 18 year relationship after hearing the words “I don’t love you anymore”, would probably find it hard saying or hearing those three words again. You’ve heard the saying always the bridesmaid never the bride. Well, I had a slight fear that I may become always the lover never the loved. What if, in my fragile, inexperienced, rather quite naive single state, I would give my heart way too easily and fall hard and fast for men who would never reciprocate my feelings?

So when I had been dating the guy who worked in the shopping centre for just over a month and I knew I’d fallen for him, I thought I felt fine about saying it, because I actually felt he thought the same. Stuff he said, things he’d done. I had keys to his flat! It was a few days after Valentines Day. I’d spent the night at his and had to go to work but he was off so stayed in bed, after getting up and making me coffee. I told him how I felt. Said those simple little words. His response? 

” Be patient, I’m sure the time will come. Trust me” . 

Needless to say, the time never came and two months later it was all over. Now I have pulled that relationship to pieces in my mind.Was it too soon after my marriage split? I don’t think so. Was I really in love or was I just falling quickly because I was scared of being single so close to the age of 40, worried that I wouldn’t find anyone else? It felt like love. Did he really not see himself falling in love with me, despite giving me keys to his flat? He cried when he ended it, a whole other story surrounds his reasons and motives for ending things with me, but I’m not blogging based on suspicion and theories. The fact remains, I said it. It was never said back to me. And it didn’t last much longer after that. It hurt. A lot. Those three little words really really do hold a lot of power. Silently vowed never to be the first to say them again. 

Along came drop dead gorgeous boy. That relationship was a non starter in hindsight. Promised the world, and talked the talk but delivered nothing. I couldn’t fall in love with him. I didn’t see him enough. I could, and did, fall in love with the idea of him. Live gigs, exotic holidays, promises of sexual adventures that made me blush. He just wasn’t “loveable”. Our relationship never really ended so much as just wasn’t a relationship anymore but in a texted argument after it was obvious we were nothing, he told me he loved me, and that he meant it.  He didn’t mean it. I knew that, but it was a mind game very carefully played. He’d always told me he needed time to get himself sorted, was I being too hasty writing him off? Did he, maybe, love me? I never suspected he was cheating on me, but at the same time I never knew where he was and he’d go AWOL. But, what if I was just too broken to notice love when it was right there in my face? Nope, this man didn’t love me, but I’m sure he knew what power those words would hold over a vulnerable woman. Vulnerable yes, broken, no. I so desperately wanted to be loved that for a very brief moment I toyed with the idea of waiting, still, for the man who kept asking me to wait. I called myself Amy Pond, who, as Doctor Who fans will know, was the girl who waited.

 Thankfully, I’m not stupid so that idea didn’t linger long in my mind and although I knew somehow this guy would be a permanent fixture in my life in some capacity, he certainly didn’t and never would deserve my heart.

While doing some research for this blog, I was surprised to find that, although I follow the norm in believing women are more likely to sayvI love you first, studies indicate the opposite is true. The following is taken from an article on counselheal.com. 

According to new research men take on average 88 days for men to say, “I love you” for”very first time to their partners.  As long as that may sound, the study found that women take even longer to profess their love in a relationship. Researchers found that on average women wait 134 days or four months and two weeks before they say the words to their partners.
The study revealed that 39 percent of men say, “I love you” within the first month of seeing someone compared to only 23 percent of women.  Researchers also found that 33 percent of men had met their partner’s family within the first month of dating compared to only 25 percent of women.”

However, if the research is to be believed, how come there are so many  websites and articles dedicated to giving women a list of “Signs that show he loves you even if he doesn’t say it”. If he’s likely to say it before us, surely we won’t be needing to look for signs? Out of curiousity , I googled it the other way round – ” signs that shows she loves you even if she doesn’t say it out loud”. Out of the 11 results that showed up on the first page, only 2 read “she” and not “he”. Surely that’s the proof that we are indeed more forthcoming as men aren’t looking online for lists, they must just know. I’m still confused!

In conclusion, I’m asking myself a different set of questions altogether.

Does it matter who says it first?

If the relationship makes you smile, time is invested in it, you couldn’t imagine life without the other person, its comfortable, you can be yourself, its based on honesty, loyalty is never questioned, would it really matter if those words were never said at all?

My answer to both now is a resounding no.
I have been with my other half for a year and one month now. Those three words have been said by just one of us, long after the research suggests is the average. The words are yet to be returned.
I’m not going to reveal which one of us said it. Suffice to say, neither of us need to google for lists of signs that the other one feels the same. 

Actions really do speak louder than words in this case.


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