Saying "I love you" or "Ich liebe dich" - how soon is too soon?

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So first I would start by saying, every relationship is different so I recognise what the cultural standards are might not apply directly to my individual person. However, I'm curious about the cultural context so I can better understand the right time to express these words. 

 

I've been seeing a guy for only 6 months. We spend most nights together, have met each others friends, and have gone on holiday together twice. I have no doubt from his actions (he is consistent, caring, and honest) that he genuinely feels for me. Although we have only spoken about it lightly, I think we both believe there is potential for this to evolve into the "real deal." That being said, we've known each other for only 6 months and nobody is rushing. We both prefer to take things slow, which I appreciate, because I know every step we take we are really ready for. 

 

Some cultural context: He's German, I'm American, and we're both in our early 30s. 

 

In the States, we have a very different meaning of the words "I love you" (or at least I think we do, based on what I have heard). In most of my relationships in the US, people typically say "I love you" after only 3 months. This is because in the US "I love you" means more something like "I am passionate about you" rather than "I am confident I see myself committing to you forever."

 

I realise this does not apply here, at all, and it is quite normal for couples to wait a while because "Ich liebe dich" means something more like "you're the love of my life, and I plan to commit to you forever."

 

As an American, I keep feeling the urge to tell my boyfriend "I love you," but I have held off because I realise these words carry much more weight here in Germany, and I care about him deeply so I don't want to make him feel uncomfortable by me using words he will interpret too strongly. 

 

I did say "I am starting to fall for you, does that scare you?" and he said it does not and he is as well, so I feel very emotionally secure. I am just asking this out of respect to him because I want to understand his culture better before dropping the "L bomb"

 

My question is:

When do couples in their 30s in Germany typically begin to say "Ich liebe dich" - again, every couple is unique! I'm just curious about the culture standard. I have a feeling if I said these words now it would be shockingly too soon, so I'm asking when it becomes culturally appropriate. 

 

I'm guessing its something like

3 mo: probably crazy and/or emotionally immature

6 mo: could happen, but probably too soon unless you knew someone for a while before starting to date because how well can you really know someone by then enough to know you want to commit to them?

9 mo-12mo: probably the right time

More than 12mo: something could be missing if people don't feel the meaning of "Ich liebe dich" by then

 

What do you all think? When did you and your German SO exchange these big words?

 

Cheers :)

 

 

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I think the fact that you are asking here means you are probably a bit less "emotionally secure" than you realize.

 

That being said, I would wait for him to say it first.  I think, if he feels it, and wants to commit to that, he won't have a problem saying it.  My German husband said it first, and way sooner than three months.  

 

The reason he hasn't said it yet might be precisely because he does feel it but isn't sure he wants to commit to it.

 

As you said neither of you are in a rush, I would just wait for him to say it first.  You're ready, but he's possibly not.  I do think that one cultural difference is that Americans tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves whereas Germans (in my experience) are masters of holding their cards to their chests.

 

When he wants you to know for sure that he loves you, I am sure he won't hesitate to tell you.

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2 minutes ago, dessa_dangerous said:

I think the fact that you are asking here means you are probably a bit less "emotionally secure" than you realize.

 

That being said, I would wait for him to say it first.  I think, if he feels it, and wants to commit to that, he won't have a problem saying it.  My German husband said it first, and way sooner than three months.  

 

The reason he hasn't said it yet might be precisely because he does feel it but isn't sure he wants to commit to it.

 

As you said neither of you are in a rush, I would just wait for him to say it first.  You're ready, but he's possibly not.  I do think that one cultural difference is that Americans tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves whereas Germans (in my experience) are masters of holding their cards to their chests.

 

When he wants you to know for sure that he loves you, I am sure he won't hesitate to tell you.

 

I would disagree entirely the false assumption it is about security ;) As you can read from my explanation, I'm trying to figure what is culturally appropriate out of respect for him. It could be you assumed otherwise as a projection, I don't know, but that's up to you to decide for yourself

 

I do think it is very outdated to always wait for the man to make the first move on major milestones, and I pride myself on being confident enough to not default to this. Plus, it's always crazy to think two people could be waiting for the other - someone has to be bold enough to do it first, right? And why must it always be the man? 

 

In short, even though I think its too soon for me just yet and will likely not say these words for more months, there is a 50% chance I will be the one to do so first (simply because I'm 50% of the relationship). 

 

So I am wondering equally, if now is too soon for both of us (I am not ready myself, that assumption wasn't correct), when is the point he might be filled with insecurity as well if I wait too long, if it ends up I am the bolder of the two of us and he is waiting for me to say it first. I think considering all these points and understanding the cultural meaning is just about respect. I care for him deeply and we're both cautious people with each others feelings

 

It's more about understanding the interpretation of these words. Communication is two sided: speaking, and hearing. So I understand the meaning of the words I speak might have a different meaning for him when he hears it. 

 

It sounds to me then from your post like anything after 6 mo is in the realm of culturally appropriate -- thanks for that! I appreciate the clarification based on your experience :) 

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haha, I'm projecting :lol: OK dude.  Whatever.

 

My advice has nothing to do with waiting for the man to go first, but you appear to be worried about scaring him off.  If it were a woman you were dating, my advice would be the same.  If you're not sure how your partner will react--and you've already indicated that you're falling for him, so he knows you'll be receptive--then just wait until he is ready, which he will indicate by making that step.

 

My advice seems simple to me, but it seems to be received in a very complicated way.  Nothing I can do for that.

 

Have a nice day and good luck.

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1 hour ago, ExPattheDog said:

In the States, we have a very different meaning of the words "I love you" (or at least I think we do, based on what I have heard). In most of my relationships in the US, people typically say "I love you" after only 3 months. This is because in the US "I love you" means more something like "I am passionate about you" rather than "I am confident I see myself committing to you forever."

 

Granted I am a maple-flavoured icepop 'American', but I don't know if this is really true. Both meanings exist across the ocean, too, IME. Whoever knows how long a commitment may last, intentions or not. 

 

I can understand what love does, but I wouldn't try to categorize, this means that and that means this, quite so strictly. No one wants to say 'I love you' if the other person doesn't reciprocate. Some cruel people may use that as emotional leverage, so it can be dangerous to admit your feelings. Sure. Is that what this guy is like? If you're sharing the same bed and toothbrush and travelling together (you corona rascals you), you ought to have a good feeling on that. I'll spout a cliché I think is true: Germans tend to be risk averse, also in matters of the heart. Also, even if you're the foreigner here, he should be trying to understand your cultural perspective as well. 

 

If you mean it, say it. 6 months is not too early. If he can't deal with it, then he's not for you. Clearly you want to say it, so I would. Make a ripple, express yourself.

 

I can't remember, but I'm sure my wife and I were trading ILUs before 6 months. 9 years later... well it's a little bit less often than in the first steamy months, but still Mehrmals pro Woche.

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OP, for clarification, I didn't mean to be insensitive or rude and now reading over my comment I can see how it might have come across that way.  I didn't mean to imply that you are "emotionally insecure" in general, just that going by your original post it seemed--to me--that you were less completely sure about how things stood between the two of you than you originally indicated when you wrote this:

 

1 hour ago, ExPattheDog said:

I did say "I am starting to fall for you, does that scare you?" and he said it does not and he is as well, so I feel very emotionally secure.

 

I didn't mean to say that you are an overall insecure person.  Just to be clear.

 

I agree with alderhill that the right time is when you feel it, unless you feel you have a reason to proceed with caution, which is also a completely healthy way of approaching a situation.  Saying it too soon, even if you mean it, can have some awkward consequences and sometimes it's smarter to play it cool, which is all I wanted to say, but appear to have messed up somehow.

 

Final statement: I don't think you can put a time limit on it, what's too soon or too late, at least not with raw numbers.  I also don't think that varies regionally, at least there are not *such* huge differences between the US and Germany.  In each place you take steps when they feel right and everybody seems ready.

 

Again, best wishes and I hope it works out to everyone's satisfaction. 

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1 hour ago, dessa_dangerous said:

As you said neither of you are in a rush...

 

I absolutely get what you are asking. And may I say I find it very commendable.

 

However, if there is one piece of advice I wish I had heard when younger, it's "don't let a man waste your time". Some of them will string you along for ever if you let them. And it is a bad sign - IME luke-warm feelings don't develop into passion further down the line. Chemistry tends to be instantly recognisable. You know when you have come home. If you are not sure - you haven't.

 

The guy who has found his soul mate and wants to commit doesn't take for ever to let you know. If this chap doesn't declare he wants to grow old with you after about 2 years, move on. Whether you like to hear it or not we ladies have sell-by dates when it comes to the meat market. (Sorry about that term, but I am sure you know what I mean.) It is easy to fail to move on when you feel you have invested too much in someone and starting a new search is risky / time-consuming (think biological clock), etc.

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20 minutes ago, optimista said:

 

I absolutely get what you are asking. And may I say I find it very commendable.

 

However, if there is one piece of advice I wish I had heard when younger, it's "don't let a man waste your time". Some of them will string you along for ever if you let them. And it is a bad sign - IME luke-warm feelings don't develop into passion further down the line. Chemistry tends to be instantly recognisable. You know when you have come home. If you are not sure - you haven't.

 

The guy who has found his soul mate and wants to commit doesn't take for ever to let you know. If this chap doesn't declare he wants to grow old with you after about 2 years, move on. Whether you like to hear it or not we ladies have sell-by dates when it comes to the meat market. (Sorry about that term, but I am sure you know what I mean.) It is easy to fail to move on when you feel you have invested too much in someone and starting a new search is risky / time-consuming (think biological clock), etc.

Assuming she wants to have children, of course...

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As for the cultural side, Himself questioned me when I said ILU the first time "But Americans love hamburgers, their cars, a pair of shoes ect. Do you really mean it?"

 

I later found out that his parents never said ILU to their children and neither did mine. I changed all that. He said, "We just knew." 

 

So a few years later, I had him saying Ich liebe dich to his parents and they said it back at the end of a phone call.

 

In the end, I've never heard a German say that they love some object. They reserve it for their one and only and I can imagine that these days, they probably tell their children as well.

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I said it to my late wife once we were married and our first child was born. And to my current girlfriend after more than 10 years. I guess they knew it anyway by reading my actions. Just as I did from reading theirs.  I' m German by the way.

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1 hour ago, dessa_dangerous said:

OP, for clarification, I didn't mean to be insensitive or rude and now reading over my comment I can see how it might have come across that way.  I didn't mean to imply that you are "emotionally insecure" in general, just that going by your original post it seemed--to me--that you were less completely sure about how things stood between the two of you than you originally indicated when you wrote this:

 

 

I didn't mean to say that you are an overall insecure person.  Just to be clear.

 

I agree with alderhill that the right time is when you feel it, unless you feel you have a reason to proceed with caution, which is also a completely healthy way of approaching a situation.  Saying it too soon, even if you mean it, can have some awkward consequences and sometimes it's smarter to play it cool, which is all I wanted to say, but appear to have messed up somehow.

 

Final statement: I don't think you can put a time limit on it, what's too soon or too late, at least not with raw numbers.  I also don't think that varies regionally, at least there are not *such* huge differences between the US and Germany.  In each place you take steps when they feel right and everybody seems ready.

 

Again, best wishes and I hope it works out to everyone's satisfaction. 

 

 

No worries, thanks for the kind words. and to be fair, I probably came across a bit rude too for saying maybe it was a projection, I apologise about that too! kudos to you on leveling it out with an even tone in the last post, I admire that :)

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5 minutes ago, jeba said:

I said it to my late wife once we were married and our first child was born. And to my current girlfriend after more than 10 years. I guess they knew it anyway by reading my actions. Just as I did from reading theirs.  I' m German by the way.

 

Super wise, that's what I was thinking about and why I didn't want to rush saying it to him and risk making him feel uncomfortable. When I look at his actions, I "feel loved" even if we haven't said it yet, and so I'm not really in a rush because I feel like actions speak louder than words anyway 

 

I guess what I'm reading is that there's a huge variation within Germany. Some people say it quickly, some people say it not all, even if they feel it - that's helpful to understand already 

 

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I'd say any time before you're 60 is probably too soon.

Real soulmates would never have to say it, they would bask in the feeling and knowledge that their partner feels it too. 

If you have not got to that stage or found that person by the time you're 60, wing it and start using the phrase.

 

On a more serious note, you're already taken a half step by saying you are starting to fall for him and asking how he feels about that. That's pretty much "I love you" the diet version, love light, it's dipping your toe partially in the water to see what happens.

 

If your partner doesn't feel the same about you, what are the chances that waiting to say this will change the outcome? If he doesn't feel the same way about you now, what are the chances you can do something to change that? What would you do (tip, do not fall for the 'photos or it didn't happen calls from members here)?

Do you really think that waiting a week, a month or a few months will suddenly make him fell the same way? 

Maybe it would but relationships are kind of about time, there are a good few old GFs and people I was not in to way in the past (but who liked me) that today would have been real options for a relationship (if things were the same and we were single etc). 

 

I think you have realistically  three options;

1) Tell the guy now and see what happens.

2). Don't tell the guy and see what happens.

3). Make some kind of incremental plan to test the water, see what happens and build up to it.

 

I'm not convinced about number three but I'd already typed stuff out and i'd have to change a lot if I removed it.

 

I wish you luck in whatever you decide to do but remember, it's your life and you have to balance out finding out if the guy is the one with not spending ages wasting your time with him if he isn't.

Unless you're not looking for the one, in which case just have fun. 

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30 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

As for the cultural side, Himself questioned me when I said ILU the first time "But Americans love hamburgers, their cars, a pair of shoes ect. Do you really mean it?"

And yet, is it a bad thing to be with someone that loves you as much as a hamburger, especially when they are a person who really f*cking loves hamburgers...

I know one of my ex's did and she never looked at me like she did her favourite burger... (although to be fair, it was rather good).

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10 minutes ago, ExPattheDog said:

 

Super wise, that's what I was thinking about and why I didn't want to rush saying it to him and risk making him feel uncomfortable. When I look at his actions, I "feel loved" even if we haven't said it yet, and so I'm not really in a rush because I feel like actions speak louder than words anyway 

 

I guess what I'm reading is that there's a huge variation within Germany. Some people say it quickly, some people say it not all, even if they feel it - that's helpful to understand already 

 

Word to caution here, some Germans show their love by doin stuff for you. this can be an issue of it isn't the same way you show your love.

Also, some Germans don't share their love that way.

 

How your particular German shows love can make a big difference. Anyone who has been here for a while will tell you we have had people who have been totally confused that their German partner was really p*ssed of because they went and got the car cleaned instead of cleaning it themselves. 

German showed love by doing stuff, expected that in return (this happens a few years back).

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3 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

After reading some of these posts, what is WRONG with saying it? In good time, of course.

 

It's not some huge burden.

Or go with 'ich hab dich lieb'..

 

Dr Pepper tune plays in the background...

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Which language do you use? That might also make a difference. I (German) say "I love you" much more easily than "Ich liebe dich". 

 

I think the variance in Germany is to large that it is very difficult to make any kind of generalization. What kind of relationship do you have? What kind of personalities are you - outgoing/extroverted, more introverted? Etc. I think that plays a much larger role than cultural differences as these might also come into play within Germany. Then there is the difference in families... 

 

I agree with some of the posters above: If you feel like you want to say it, say it. 6 weeks would be too early. 6 months is absolutely fine, especially if you have been spending a lot of time together and have been sharing each other's lives. 

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13 minutes ago, cb6dba said:

I think you have realistically  three options;

1) Tell the guy now and see what happens.

2). Don't tell the guy and see what happens.

3). Make some kind of incremental plan to test the water, see what happens and build up to it.

There is a 4th option: let him read this thread.

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1 minute ago, maxie said:

Which language do you use? That might also make a difference. I (German) say "I love you" much more easily than "Ich liebe dich". 

 

I think the variance in Germany is to large that it is very difficult to make any kind of generalization. What kind of relationship do you have? What kind of personalities are you - outgoing/extroverted, more introverted? Etc. I think that plays a much larger role than cultural differences as these might also come into play within Germany. Then there is the difference in families... 

 

I agree with some of the posters above: If you feel like you want to say it, say it. 6 weeks would be too early. 6 months is absolutely fine, especially if you have been spending a lot of time together and have been sharing each other's lives. 

 

That's a really good point about the language used. We communicate in English, since my German is basically the same level of a 4 year old... I would feel comfortable saying "I love you" now if I felt really moved to (but I don't plan to, I like to show rather than tell for now) but I wouldn't want to say "Ich liebe dich" because I really don't know what those words mean, I just know its much bigger than "I love you" (or so I've been told by my German friends) 

 

We are both extroverted, but I would say I much more so than him. I'm kind of classically American where I'm bubbly and outgoing on the surface, but there's a locked door to go deeper unless I really know someone. For him it seems almost reversed - it comes across as shy at first but is very warm, open, and truly the opposite of shy once you get past the first moments. Nonetheless, he is a "keep the peace" and "don't rock the boat" type person, while I tend to be a bit more verbally expressive

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