For most of us in a new relationship, a lot of thought goes into saying 'I love you' -- does the timing matter? Is the place important? Do I say 'I love you' or 'I'm in love with you'?
The three little words, which we all can't wait to hear from our significant other, often seem like three very big, very important words that, for many, represent a relationship milestone (FYI -- 'ily' and 'love ya' don't count).
For some people, saying 'I love you' takes longer than others, so before jumping to conclusions ("they must still love a former flame", "they're not confident in our relationship", "what's wrong with me?"), it's important to remember putting on your love glasses is actually a pretty big deal.
So whether you've just said it, want to say it, are nervous about saying it, or are about to burst if you don't say it -- don't underestimate the power of your words.
Nikki Goldstein, sexologist and relationship expert, told HuffPost Australia that saying 'I love you' indicates commitment and comfort.
"It's a big deal because we're all waiting for those words. When someone's saying 'I love you', you're going to assume you're probably in a relationship, not just dating them anymore," Goldstein said.
"So it's that commitment -- when people are saying 'I love you', we know it's becoming more serious -- but it's also the reassurance of how you're feeling. When someone else says it, it's a relief that they feel the same way."
Saying 'I love you' can represent not only our ability, but our choice, to stick with our partner through thick and thin.
Human behavioural expert John Demartini told HuffPost Australia saying 'I love you' represents total appreciation of your other half -- strange habits included.
"'I love you' is a phrase that is universally seen as important and significant to any relationship, romantic or otherwise," Demartini said.
"It's significant because when love emerges it means that you have come to appreciate both the positive and negative, good and bad, happy and sad and ups and downs of a relationship."
Demartini also explains expressing your love allows your partner to understand the role they play in your life.
"It's a way to share your appreciation for someone and the truth of your heart, a chance to say 'thank you' to the people who contribute to your life -- love is our ultimate objective, whether we're aware of it or not," Demartini said.
"Letting someone know you love them is one of the most precious gifts you can give as the three words can be the most challenging words to say and yet also the most commonly appreciated words for people to hear."
The biggest thing it comes down to is we all want to be loved in life -- it's a basic need in life and we all want to hear it.
Does timing matter?
For something that we can't wait to hear from our significant other, it's ironic that timing can make us all think twice before we declare our love.
You don't want to say it too soon and scare them, and before you know it you're regretting your choice of words, but you also don't want to leave it too late, worrying they'll think you don't care or that they're not good enough.
"When people hold off saying 'I love you' it can become traumatic and stressful because people overthink it -- they get caught up thinking, 'when I say it, I want to mean it,'" Goldstein explained.
"You do need to be careful when you say it and analyse the situation you're saying it in because you're opening yourself up and being vulnerable, but when you feel it, you should say it."
What's the difference between loving and being 'in love' with someone?
Hands up if you tell your family you love them? Your best friends you love them? Your dog you love them? After all, they are our 'loved ones' and the reason being, they play a significant and important role in our life.
Would we tell our family, friends or pets we're in love with them? The answer is probably no.
Goldstein describes being 'in love' with a person as love of a romantic sense.
"It's a different kind of love. We all love people, but with a partner it's in a different way. When we're in love, it's in a personal, romantic, passionate sense," she said.
While telling your partner you're in love with them in the first instance will let them know how deep your feelings are, this doesn't mean we can't simply say 'I love you' the first time.
"The biggest thing it comes down to is we all want to be loved in life -- it's a basic need in life and we all want to hear it," Goldstein said.
How do you know if you're in love?
Sometimes we have so many emotions entering our minds, we can't always recognise what they mean and how we should react to them.
If you're lucky in love, sometimes you're falling head over heels before you even realise.
According to Demartini, there are signs you can pick up on in your own behaviour that may indicate you're ready to say 'I love you'.
"When you're in love, you feel fulfilled that this person is truly important in your life, you feel inspired by your partner, you embrace all of your partner's character (the good and the bad), and you feel grateful, loving and enthusiastic when you think about them," Demartini said.
He also explains conversing with your partner about the future is a sign you've committed your love to the relationship.
"You might feel that you're truly in love when you love being in your partner's presence and conversing with them about your and their dreams."
Can we express our love in a non-verbal way?
Goldstein suggests showing consideration and care for your partner are indicators of your feelings. While you may express your love in a non-verbal way, it's important to also express it verbally to let your other half know how you feel.
"People can think their partner is considerate, thinking about them and doing things that show they're in love, but you still do need to say the words," Goldstein said.
"Sometimes without saying those words and without hearing those words, it's not enough."
Does loving someone help us love ourselves?
One aspect of saying 'I love you' to our partner that we tend to overlook is how important these words are for developing the love we have for ourselves.
While Goldstein suggests that reminding yourself to say 'I love you' is a big deal and reflects your self-worth, Demartini refers to this as the 'love dance'.
"The love dance is where both partners learn to enjoy all parts of themselves and of one another. Love comes when you realise that the purpose of a relationship is not only romance, joy, support and so-called happiness, it is also equally about learning, challenge, growth and personal evolution," Demartini said.
Demartini explains that while expressing our love opens us up to rejection, the self-love we experience can be more fulfilling.
"These words can really indicate true vulnerability and intimacy between you and your partner, but every time you care for someone more fully and tell them how much you care, you increase your self-worth," Demartini said.
"So the phrase 'I love you' can also mean that you love and appreciate yourself, as well."Suggest a correction