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When should you say ‘I love you’ for the first time in a long distance relationship?

Perhaps you’ve started your relationship whilst already living apart from your S.O. Or maybe you were dating already but you were forced to put a few hundred miles between you before you managed to say those three important words. Perhaps you’ve never even met your partner!

Either way, you’re probably here because you’ve realised this is turning into something special, and you’re now faced with the challenge of saying it at the right time, in the right way. And it’s doubly difficult when you can’t hang out together and let it ‘just happen’.

So, how can you get the timing right and make sure your words still have impact – even if you’re not able to be there in person?

Here are 8 rules to follow to make it a moment to remember.

1. Meet before making it official

I absolutely believe that love can blossom from a distance. But I also think that it’s very easy to fall for the idea of a person and not really know them properly until you’ve spent plenty of time in each other’s company. If you skip this step (unless your intention is to remain long distance forever, which is unlikely) chances are good that you’ll be in for a rude awakening when you finally do close the distance.

So, if you’ve never met IRL, this is not the time to declare strong feelings. I suggest holding off on even deciding to be an item until you’ve seen each other in person, hopefully more than once.

2. Test the waters

Just like with marriage proposals, a declaration of love shouldn’t come entirely out of the blue. They should have some idea of how you feel before you say it.

How can you make them aware without going all the way?

Luckily, there are lots of ways to be affectionate without coming outright and saying ‘I love you’. For example, tell them how much you enjoy spending time with them, that you’ve missed them, that you can’t wait for your next visit… and so on.

Actions generally speak louder than words, as well, so investing your time and attention in them, being considerate, helpful – and in general, just remembering that love is a verb – will convey your feelings most of all. If they’re open to it and are doing the same for you, it’s a good sign!

3. Get the serious convos out of the way

Your first couple of dates with someone should be more or less casual – focus on getting on together and having fun, rather than diving head first into the serious subjects of religion, politics and your deeply-held beliefs.

Once you know you enjoy each other’s company, that’s the time to begin exploring some of the deeper stuff. With that in mind, if there are any deal-breakers, discuss these before saying ‘I love you’.

4. Don't say it over text

With the exception of times when you have no other option, texting is for casual conversations and fun chit-chat – not for dropping bombshells or serious news.

You might feel like texting is a ‘safe option’ if you’re nervous about saying ‘I love you’ face-to-face, but it can actually put your partner on the spot just as much. If they don’t reply straight away, you’re also likely to obsess over why they haven’t seen your message yet – or, if they have, why they’ve not replied immediately. The point is, it’s way too easy to read things into a text message.

Spare yourselves the unnecessary anxiety and choose a different method 🙂

5. Nervous? Say it in a letter

Handwritten letters are super romantic and are a great way to declare love if you just can’t find a good moment to say it in person.

Take the time writing a special message, then take a deep breath and send it…

The ball is then in their court!

6. ...Or over the phone

Traditional phone calls are underrated, but it can be super sexy to hear your partner’s voice for a few minutes without the added pressure of having to look good on camera. And if you’re feeling self-conscious about saying ‘I love you’, but don’t want to break out the scented paper and Shakespeare verses, telling them in an audio-only call can be a great solution.

7. Give it time

When you first feel like you might be in love with someone, the natural impulse is to shout it from the rooftops. But there’s something to be said for being patient and sitting with that feeling for at least a week or two before telling your partner.

Giving it some time will help you to recognise whether the feelings are genuine (if you’re in any doubt – which is common if it’s your first time being in love!) and you’ll have a little time during which you’ll be seeing your partner in a whole new light and can figure out the best way to tell them. This can be a lovely feeling, like you’re carrying around a sweet secret that nobody knows yet 🙂

8. But don't obsess over the "perfect moment"

At the end of the day, if your boyfriend or girlfriend loves you back, they will say so, regardless of whether or not the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.

Of course you should both be in a general good mood when you say those three words, and it always helps if you have time afterwards to bask in the moment (so ideally, that means not right before they have to leave the house to go to work). But other than that, don’t obsess: the perfect moment doesn’t exist – it’s all in what you make of it!

Showing love every day

Once you’ve said ‘I love you’ to each other for the first time (and the second, and the thousandth!), what’s next?

One of my most popular posts on this blog is about how to show gratitude for your long distance partner, each and every day. If you want to make your partner feel appreciated, check out these 20 powerful ways to express your feelings!

More advice

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