Three little words

I know guys aren't supposed to be the first one to say "I love you." Will I ruin a great thing if I tell her after only seven weeks?

Published May 29, 2003 7:29PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I have a wonderful problem, indeed I've never been so happy. I'm 29 and I've recently met a wonderful woman who is 28. Her core values resonate with mine, and she is smart, beautiful and athletic. I fell in love with her on our second date. We've been seeing each other for seven weeks now, and things are fabulous. Indeed, they are so good that it is a daily struggle to pace myself, but so far I've managed. I know from experience there is a natural progression to relationships, having been on both sides of going too fast and dragging my feet.

I'm doing everything I can to allow this one to breathe, blossom and grow. There is an unwritten rule that the guy should not be the very first one to say "I love you" in a relationship, and I think for good reason. Is it worth the risk to break this piece of cultural wisdom? It seems silly to love someone and not say it, but I don't want to douse the flame with too much fuel. I think the words may even escape of their own accord if I'm not watchful, but if you were to say something like "Wait six months and see how things are then" I could do it.

Lovestruck in Portland

Dear Lovestruck,

I think you need a language that lets you speak of your feelings of love, and your feelings about your feelings of love, without committing to a church wedding and joint checking.

You could say, for instance, "I really like the way things are going between us, don't you?" You could say, "Sometimes I wish things could go on like this forever." You could say, "I'm not superstitious, but sometimes I'm afraid of jinxing things by even talking about how happy I am with you right now." This can be done in a way that is lighthearted but not insincere, straightforward but not unnervingly so. And then you can ask permission to eat her nigiri. It sounds dirty but after all it's just a piece of fish.

Frankly, although I know you don't want to scare her, I think it is a shame that you can't say "I love you" without fearing that she will think it means "I want to own you" or "I want to be your slave" or "I totally misunderstand the terms of our relationship." If you don't understand the terms of the relationship, then please endeavor to understand them. Ask her questions. Talk about relationships. Discuss the rules. If you want to own her or you want her to be your slave or vice versa, make that known.

Maybe I live too much in a world of old movies where heroes and heroines understood each other implicitly, but I think it's lamentable that we must guess how others will interpret the words "I love you." What could that possibly mean except what it means? Besides, it is only one utterance among many in the phrase book of romance; there are other phrases, such as "May I eat your nigiri?" to lubricate other delicate romantic transactions. That one phrase ought not be so freighted with contractual implications.

I just think it's sad you can't say it. Why can't you? Why not be romantic and speak of this love freely as long as it lasts? Why not unburden yourself like a true lover would? After all, if you don't love her, what's that ridiculous look on your face? What's romance for if not for being romantic? If you're crazy about her, I say tell her so. What's she going to do, have you arrested?

Want more advice from Cary? Read the Since You Asked directory.

By Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Love And Sex Sex Since You Asked