When to say I love you

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When Should You Say ‘I Love You’? More Than You Think

Those three little words can have big benefits
When to say I love you

RgStudio via Getty Images

“I love you” is both one of the most powerful and most common phrases in the English language. There are countless songs written about saying “I love you” and many new couples stress over when is the right time to drop those three special words. And yet, many Americans freely use “love” to describe their favorite celebrity or chocolate chip cookies

Psychological Facts About Love You Probably Didn’t Know

In fact, one study found that the majority of Americans say “I love you” in some way every day. While the phrase might be overused in some ways, it can be comparatively underused to express serious emotions in relationships.

Humans have a need to feel loved. In fact, a 2019 study found that brief experiences of love and connection in everyday life led to improved psychological well-being. And yet, the longer romantic relationships last, the less likely people are to say “I love you” to their partner.

According to a 2014 British study, more than half of couples who had been together two to five years said “I love you” every day to their partner. This dropped down to 33% of relationships over 10 years old and down to just 18% of relationships longer than 50 years.

If you're a parent, you should be saying “I love you” frequently to your children as well. There are numerous studies indicating a link between love and affection from parents and positive health benefits for children, including higher self-esteem, better communication skills and fewer psychological and behavior problems.

Being affectionate and saying “I love you” to your partner could also have positive effects on your children. In a 2020 study, growing up around loving, expressive parents led to children staying in school longer and marrying later in life. Researchers speculated that after seeing their parents as role models for a happy marriage, kids might take longer to seek similar strong marriages.

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With all the positive emotional and health benefits of saying “I love you,” why not get into the habit of saying it more? In English, “I love you” can simply be used to communicate romantic feelings, but it can also be used to show appreciation, support, admiration, respect or concern. It can be said to boost morale when a friend is feeling low, or be how to show your sibling you are proud when they reach an achievement like graduating from high school. Saying “I love you” more often is also one key way to keep your marriage strong in times of crisis.