Why Is There A Struggle Around Who Says “I Love You” First?

by Reid on November 3, 2015

closeup portrait of happy african american couple huggingDo you ever wonder why is it so hard to say “I love you” and how can you get better at it? And, why do people make a war out of who says it first?

Join relationship expert Reid Mihalko from ReidAboutSex.com and Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com as they share how to say “I love you” easier.

Cathy: We had a question from someone who watched our video on how to know if he loves you. They want to know, why is it so hard to ask and how can you get better at it? And, why do people make a war out of who says it first?

Reid: I’m Reid Mihalko, from ReidAboutSex.com and this video is so important, I shaved and I put on a nice shirt.

Cathy: I’m Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com.

Reid: And you didn’t shave.

Cathy: I didn’t shave my face.

Reid: Yes. Whoa! Okay, back to the question before we get distracted. Cathy Vartuli from TheIntimacyDojo.com, what do you think?

Cathy: I think there’s a vulnerability when we say I love you to someone. We are opening our hearts and we’re showing a part of ourselves that could be rejected. I’ve just started practicing noticing how much I love people and telling them in general, which can take a lot of the sting out of that. I tell my friends I love them, and a lot of our society doesn’t do that. There’s a certain shame associated with being the first person to say I love you if the other person doesn’t respond. Asking “Do you love me?” is kind of indicating that you kind of do love them, because you probably wouldn’t be asking otherwise. There’s a status-shame struggle there, which isn’t really useful in a relationship, but it does exist.

Reid: My jackass radical advice is going to be, on the first or second date just be like “Okay, so if we were to fall in love, how are we going to handle the who says I love you first?” Maybe you put a ten dollar bet down, raise the stakes, nice little gambling proposition. Then whoever says I love you first takes the money, or whoever says it second gets the win. The thing is, you’re putting so much energy around this particular place, make it a game, open up the conversation sooner than later.

If you scare somebody away because you have a conversation about how are we going to handle the I love you thing, the saying it thing, if we ever felt like … I get most dating coaches would be like “You never open up a conversation like that.” I’m going to tell you, you want to scare those people away. What you want is that person who’s like “Oh, this sounds fun. How are we going to do this? Ten bucks? No way. I’m putting 20 down. I’m going to win.” Have fun with the most awkward, embarrassing, shameful conversations you can.

I’m the kind of person who likes to put that stuff out there first because I’m using those conversations as assessment tools for vetting people who can handle a grownup conversation. If you guys are running around worrying about who’s saying I love you to who first … If you’re watching this video and you’re like 15 years old, I’ll cut you a lot of slack. if you’re a teenager, that’s a whole other thing; I’ll give you from teen to college. If you’re a grad student and this is going on now, and even whether you went to college or not, if you’re a grown up, what are you doing? You’re giving people all this power – or not even people: culture. Let it go.

Cathy: I think part of this stems from the belief that – and I’ve heard a lot of people say this – that in every relationship there’s one person that wants the other person more, and the other person who has more power. While that can happen, for me there’s a lot of ebb and flow. Even in my friendships there’s days I really don’t want anything to do with them and days I really care about them. There’s going to be…

Reid: Some days you do the same thing back and forth.

Cathy: Yes, realizing that a relationship isn’t stagnant. There isn’t a status with, if you said I love first, that you’re stuck forever in the bottom tier where you have to chase the other person. That can take some of the sting out of it. It is nice to know if someone loves you, especially if you’re starting to feel pretty warm towards them.

Reid: Again, this isn’t easy to do when you’re falling in love, or if you fall in love with somebody and you weren’t dating them. You got to have the grownup conversations because you’re basically just creating a really warped situation for yourself. Love doesn’t have to be Game of Thrones or a Jane Austen novel anymore, or Twilight, or any of that. Let the entertainment and the romance novels be exactly that. Do not use romance novels to copy and paste great advice into your life. No, have grownup conversations.

Cathy: My option is, I always like to tell people if I’m feeling loving towards them, because life is really short and you don’t know how often you’ll love so I share it. If they run away, it hurts, but it’s better to find out now.

Reid: Than have a relationship that starts off strong and then ends horribly because you didn’t vet the person. Again, radical advice, I know, but I did the math. I think this works out better for most people, but you still have to be a grownup. Wouldn’t you like to be in a relationship with a grownup, too?

Cathy: Absolutely.

Reid: Comments below.

Cathy: Difficult question, thanks so much for asking.

Reid: Bye.

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