This may not sound surprising to some of you, but we tend to complicate things that are actually quite simple. When it comes to saying, "I love you," for example, so many different "rules" have been formed that a lot of us refer to when we're unsure (read: scared) to let those three words slip out of our mouth--you should be dating X amount of time, he has to be the one to say it first, you need to meet this quota and this qualification and this standard and blah blah blah!
I know that we'd like to think life is as easy as a this-happened-and-now-this-is-the-reaction equation, but that's not realistic. Everything is situational, and you have to be the judge of what's best for you and the relationship you're in.
However, when it comes to saying those three words to someone you care about, there is only one thing to consider when weighing out the option of whether or not it's the right time to say it, and it's so simple.
Are you ready?
You know it's the right time to say, "I love you," when you're able to say it without the expectation of hearing it back.
I know that sounds kinda scary, and who the hell wants to sit there and spill their hearts only to be greeted with awkward silence in return, but that's really all there is to it.
Ask yourself this question: If I tell them, "I love you," and they don't say it back, will my love for them change?
If the answer is no, then it's the right time. If the answer is yes, then maybe you need to reconsider what you're really seeking from this love. Is it validation? Is it codependency? Is it just to hear someone say they love you, too? None of those are valid reasons to say it, but they are great reasons to reflect inward and see if there's a way to fill up that depleted love cup on your own.
See, we've kinda lost our way when it comes to that phrase and misconstrued the meaning behind it. Nowadays, most people say it only to hear it back or refuse to even bring it up unless there's some sort of guarantee that they'll hear it back.
Your love should be unconditional, meaning, your love is genuine, selfless, sincere, overflowing, and not contingent on the lack of love you may have for yourself. And that's why you tell them, because you feel it so immensely that you might explode if you don't. It doesn't matter if they say it back or not, because regardless of whether you hear those three words returned to you, the love you have for them is still there and thriving.
I used to be very stingy with saying it, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just knew the responsibility that came with it, so I didn't want to be willy-nilly about it. But then, as I grew and my capacity to love followed suit, I'd find myself in situations where I loved someone so much that I just couldn't even keep it in.
And let me tell you--it's amazing to hear someone tell you they love you, but it's almost even more amazing to say it to someone else without any worry of how it may come across or what they may or may not say back, because you just LOVE THEM.
I say it more and I say it often to those I'm closest to, because they deserve to hear it, and it's a beautiful feeling.
Allow yourself the opportunity to experience that, too.