Things I Need to Happen Before I Say “I Love You”

Telling someone you love them for the first time is basically putting the responsibility of your feelings into their hands, and for someone to accept that responsibility without realizing that is reckless. Frankly, I don’t think saying “I love you” is a fair thing to do to a person until a few things have happened.

  1. We need to be at our worst. Bad days look different to everybody. A bad day for you might make every response from you short and snarky to the people you love. It might make you cry at the first sign of trouble. I need to know that the person I’m with hits rock bottom in a way that I can handle respectfully and I need him to not look at me lying in bed in yet another depressive spiral at three in the afternoon on a Tuesday like a mopey zombie and tell me to “just cheer up.”
  2. We need to have the trauma talk. Everyone has a sob story hidden in their past. What has happened to us might be no fault of our own, but it’s selfish to assume that everyone is going to be able to handle it. I want someone who can help me carry the weight of what has happened to me, and if he isn’t strong enough—maybe because of what has happened to him—then I’m not going to force him to try. That goes both ways. If something he’s been through is too triggering for me to help him through, he deserves better.
  3. We need to fight. I’ve been told that I have an abrasive personality, which is never truer than when I’m fired up about something I really care about. I’m gonna need him to disagree with me about something so he can see if fired-up me is someone he wants to spend time with. Also, I need to make sure that he’s going to step up and face me in the verbal arena and not just bow out and keep his complaints in like a baby before I can toss him the ole ILY.
  4. My family needs to meet him. I understand that not everyone has a close relationship with their families but I do. I need him to understand that. He has to meet my family and see that for himself and I need to see if they like him or not. If my parents don’t like him because they don’t get his sense of humor, that’s fine. If my brother’s don’t like him because he doesn’t like the same football team as they do, whatever. If they don’t like him because they see something untrustworthy that I don’t, that’s a different story.
  5. We need to not see each other for a while. It’s hard to miss someone if they won’t go away. I can’t know if I really love someone until we have to be apart for at least a few days. I like being alone, but if I’m not missing him at least after a few days, then maybe it’s just an intense infatuation that occurs when we’re together. And if I don’t get a cutesy “I miss you” text from him at some point during my family vacation, that’s a pretty good sign that I should keep my love declarations to myself.
  6. We need to see only each other for a while. It’s one thing to spend the night at each other’s houses after work for a week, but it’s another entirely to spend an entire weekend together without any obligations separating us. If we go on a romantic camping trip and are at each other’s throats or completely out of things to talk about after day two, then we probably should keep things casual. “I love you” denotes a state of at least semi-permanence, so that permanence needs to be tolerable.
  7. We need to get drunk together. I like to drink. If he doesn’t, that’s fine. I respect his life choices and I like having a guaranteed designated driver. If he does, we need to go out and get a bit too tipsy and make sure that we don’t become a toxic menace to ourselves and the public when we do. I want to know everything I can about a person before I invest myself so fully, and I need to know that he doesn’t suddenly become someone different under the influence. What if he gets abusive? Or worse, wants to sing Nickleback at karaoke?
  8. We need to make mistakes. You can’t be positive that someone is right for you when all you’ve ever seen is the sunshine. I need to truly mess something up before I can tell someone I love them because I need to see how they handle it. Alternatively, when I told my last boyfriend (who told me he was in love with me two weeks in) that he really hurt my feelings with a mistake he made, he broke up with me. Maybe he should have held onto those three little words until a later date. Just throwing that out there.
  9. Most importantly, my dog has to approve. If my dog doesn’t like you, then you can show yourself out, boy.
Johanna is a proud longtime resident of the Finger Lakes in Western New York and a gaudy jewelry enthusiast. This ambitious early-thirty-something can often be found declining event invites on Facebook and looking at pictures of her niece while she drinks wine on her couch, accompanied by her beloved dog, Dorothy Barker.