How The First Time I Said ‘I Love You’ Changed My Whole Perception of Dating

One of the most important memories you will ever have is the first time you told someone you loved them. Even if you despise that person now or fell out of contact with them, it is still a special moment you are going to remember forever.

At 23, I have only told two people I loved them- while I’ve dated more than that, only two people meant enough to me to feel that ultimate feeling towards them.  What I’ve realized thus far in my dating experience is that the L word is thrown around way too often without any sincerity behind it.

Both significant others who I exposed my feelings to, said ‘I love you’ to me first and in both cases I didn’t say it back in that moment.

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Ironically, in both instances, the guy fell easily in love with me and was quick to fall out of love with me. I, on the other hand had experienced the opposite. Which is why I’m telling this story of mine- love seems to mean different things to different people.

At 15, I never thought I would be “falling in love” because I was just starting to understand myself as adolescent. I was just starting to go out and have fun with my friends and try new things and meet new people, so falling for a guy was low on my list of priorities. But fortunately (or unfortunately lol), I met a guy who I became instantly attracted to. I never really clicked with anyone in my high school, maybe because I had grown up with them so it was hard to see them in a different light, but for some reason it was easy to connect with this guy I had just met for the first time- as if I’d known him forever. While we instantly hit it off, I was easy to hold my guard up (as I still do til this day) because I try never to get my hopes up in case they decide to run.

I have the image in my mind as I’m writing this of when he said he loved me and I remember as if it were yesterday just freezing in the moment with fear because I didn’t know exactly what love meant. Should I lie and say it back to make him happy? I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t lie to myself and to him that I knew anything about love, and I didn’t want to say it until I knew for sure I was in love with him. I spent every day thinking about if today would be the day a bulb would light up in my brain and realize I loved him. While things are usually not as simple as that, with the little help from romantic comedies and spending more time with him to get to know him more, I realized I loved everything about him- even the bad. This to me is what love meant, and so I decided the next time I saw him I would tell him just how I felt. However me being BEYOND shy and super corny, I had no idea how to do it. But as fate and serendipity go, things just perfectly fell into place…as we were hanging out at our usual spot, the song “Hey I Love You” started to play- of course I took this as a sign, so I looked at him and told him to listen to the song that was playing. He looked at me and paused, then reached in for a kiss and told me he loved me too.

While our romance played out, I fell more and more in love with him, as he eventually lost interest and gave up. As if the chase was more interesting than the ride itself. Things happen and people move on, but I realized after my first break up that love meant something different to everyone. I loved him no matter what and would support him through any obstacle that came our way. But for him, that’s not what love meant. His love was in the moment, not what would come next.

I don’t regret telling him I loved him, in fact I’m proud of waiting until I did. Even if love meant nothing to him, I could say that it meant everything to me and I put everything I had into the relationship- as much of it as I could control. It’s important not to rush how you feel, because you may end up regretting it.

That is what my first, ‘I love you’ taught me.