Should You Say “I Love You” First?

Have you ever tried to get a man to say “I love you” by saying it first? If so, you have plenty of company. And I’m not just referring to saying “I love you” the very first time – I mean even when you’ve been with a guy for many years, even if you’re married to him. It’s easy for the urge to creep up to want to hear those three little words so badly that we become vulnerable and insecure when he doesn’t say them.

For instance, this happened to me just recently with my husband of 20 years. Yes, two decades and I still run into the same issues! Why? Because men will always be men and we will always be women, no matter what commitments we’ve made to each other.

Just An Innocent Phrase, Right?

So my husband had been away for a bit visiting his family, and I was feeling particularly vulnerable and missing him. When he called we had a nice talk, but I was very aware of the fact that he wasn’t saying “I love you.” And I really wanted to hear it – badly. So I said it first. And he just went ahead talking about stuff. I ended up feeling angry and neglected until I couldn’t take it anymore and told him so. Then he told me he loved me, and I know he means it, but I ended up feeling like I had coerced him to say it.

Here’s the first lesson of this story: never say “I love you” unless you’re positive you’re not expecting anything in return. Of course, this is never the case since it’s impossible not to notice that a man doesn’t say it back.

The New “I Love You” Script

Instead of saying “I love you” to hear it said in return, I could have instead expressed my feelings to him in a non-blaming, non-critical way. So here’s what I did next time he called: I told him how weird all that felt, and that I didn’t want him to feel obligated to say he loves me, but that it feels really bad when he doesn’t. And then I asked him what he thought. This is key: you express a feeling (I felt weird), then you say what you don’t want (not to make him feel obligated), and then I asked him what he thinks.

The reason this works so well is that men appreciate it when you are vulnerable about your feelings without blaming them, you tell them what you DON’T want, and then you give him them opportunity to come up with a solution.

When I did this, my husband said he didn’t feel any obligation. That’s the second lesson in this story. Guess what – men DON’T feel obligated! That’s a “woman” thing we’ve been taught and fed and made to feel guilty about. And I realized at that moment that I was making something out of nothing.

Replacing The Old Script

And here’s lesson number three: even though I’ve been practicing my own Tools for connecting with a man’s heart all these years, I STILL fall into old habits and need to remind myself to lean back and let him lead the relationship. I need to remember to keep the focus on the most important person – ME – so that whether or not he says I love you is completely incidental to my happiness.

So take heart: we are all human, and we all need to practice in order to remove old habits and replace them with newer, more productive ones. Become aware of your old habits that make you think that his telling you “I Love You” is like a magic potion that will make you feel completely secure.

Don’t Say “I love you” First

Yes, you must open your heart first. Always. You must be like an open book with the pages that are you – flying free for everyone to see. The colorful ones and the black and white ones, and the empty ones, too.

If I had said, “I’m noticing that I’m sort of waiting for you to say “I love you”. This feels really weird after being with you so long…” That would have been different. That would have been my book open.

But, instead – I tried for a higher spiritual plane where it didn’t “matter” that I said it first. And I discovered that I said it as a “trick.”

So – look for YOUR tricks – start to notice them when you want to do them. Over time, you will have less and less of a need for them and open your heart so that when he does say “I love you” first, you can be grateful for the spontaneity of his feeling. And that, in the end, makes you feel a whole lot more secure than if you had forced it out of him.