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Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.
So here’s the thing, being in love is scary. Traditionally, by the time you realise you’re in love, you’re neck-deep in emotional investment and giddy from all that oxytocin your brain emits. Being in love usually means that you’ve developed some sort of soft spot or weakness for someone, and to me, that can be kind of scary. If you’re anything like me, the person you’re in love with is usually on your brain a lot, and their opinions matter immensely.
However, what’s even scarier, I think, is saying 'I love you' to that someone you’re actually in love with. The majority of the time, the reason I’m afraid of dropping the L-word first is the fear that I’m way in over my head and that person doesn’t actually love me back. I’m also worried that I might seem like I’m “too much”.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the word 'love' and saying 'I love you.' In past relationships, I was never really the one to say 'I love you' first. My ex dropped the 'love' word in my last relationship after six months of dating, but he was also the one who said we didn’t have a 'deep connection' three months earlier, so it all left me a bit confused.
In the relationship before that, my ex would often remind me not to throw the word 'love' out so quickly less I truly felt 'in love' and that I should never always expect to hear him reciprocate if he wasn’t truly feeling that way at the moment.
In the many conversations I’ve had with my friends, the right time to say 'I love you' is from three months (and to my friends, this is cutting it close) to six months.
“You need to be able to know everything about this person before you drop a bomb like that because you can never take it back,” says *Isabelle, 27, one of my closest friends since high school. “And I think the right time is usually after three months or whenever you’ve seen them through a tough time because then, you’ll know what they’re truly like.”
My friend *Cass, 26, never says 'I love you' first. “It’s embarrassing if they don’t love you back or are not ready to say it back, you’re left feeling like an idiot because you’ve expressed stronger feelings.”
To some degree, I agree with Isabelle and all my other friends when they say you ought to wait it out and see what someone is truly like before saying something as huge as an 'I love you.'
My most recent 'I love you' story happened not too long ago. The night it happened, *Mark, 30, and I were hanging out with friends, and after a few too many drinking games, we retired for the night. Drunk out of my mind and fresh from puking out all the wine I had irresponsibly ingested, I had apparently muttered, ‘I love you' in bed.
The next morning, he asked if I remembered anything I said.
Truth be told, I forgot what had happened most of the night but, a small part of me recalled having said something sober I would have kicked myself in the head for. I also remembered he did not reciprocate.
I was mortified.
Perhaps I said it because I was influenced by the fact that he cleaned me up after I puked or that he willingly brushed my teeth while I was lying in bed, muttering nonsense; I reasoned with myself internally.
Or perhaps, I really was feeling something for him but didn’t quite want to admit it. After all, we weren’t looking to be in a full-fledged committed relationship with each other. While we’re both emotionally attached, we had only started seeing each other two months prior, so I felt like I was definitely jumping the gun here.
Thankfully, because of the fact that our entire relationship is built on us taking the piss out of each other, Mark teases me about my drunken confession and makes inside jokes about it. I’m just glad Mark hasn’t really run away either (or he’s about to, and I just don’t know about it yet) after I said what I did.
As for the optimal time to say “I love you”? I still haven’t gotten it down pat yet, clearly. But, on the other hand, I’m usually so careful with my words, so this was a huge step for me — even if I was drunk beyond recognition.
Perhaps the right time to say 'I love you' is when you’re truly feeling it or when it feels good actually to say it. On the other hand, maybe it’s unnecessary to say it when your actions towards someone speak for themselves and show more than words could ever convey (which is ironic considering how I’m a writer).
What’s clear, though, is that I’m going to be a lot more careful with the word 'love' from now on. These days, I tell Mark I like him and appreciate all he does for me, and perhaps that’s enough.
Balancing the New Normal: