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How long do you wait before you say “I love you” when you’re in a new relationship? What is required before you say it? In my younger days, if a man told me he loved me early on, I immediately said it back to him, whether it was true or not. Most of the time, it wasn’t. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and I desperately wanted someone to love me. I can see now that responding that way was an expression of my low self-esteem, and unfair to both of us. Now if a man tells me he loves me a few weeks (or earlier) after we’ve started dating, I silently bless him…and pray he is guided towards self-love. Before I tell a potential romantic partner that I love him, I want to see how he takes care of himself. Does he practice self forgiveness? Does he let people continually disrespect his boundaries? Does he keep his word? How does he respond to a major, stressful event? Does he blame himself or revel in the chance to resolve the issue? Then I want to see how he takes care of me. Does he always have my back? Or does he run as soon as things get tough? How does he treat me when we disagree? Can he support me even if he doesn’t understand my actions? After I’ve spent some time getting to know a man I’ve been dating, I know I’m in love when…as I go through my day…I constantly feel like something very important is missing when he’s not around, and no one can fill that void but him.

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