Why Women Shouldn't Say "I Love You" First

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Thoughts on why it might be better to keep your mouth shut.

If I have a daughter one day, among the many things I'll teach her will be how to tie her shoes, to look both ways before crossing the street, to never end a sentence with a preposition, and to always let the man say "I love you" first. I'll give her plenty of other relationship tips, too, like how it's perfectly okay to ask a guy out, to make the first move, to even propose, but when it comes to the "L" word, the ball's in the guy's court. When this issue came up last week in my list of 30 things a woman shouldn't do before 30, it caused a bit of commotion. "What is this, the Victorian era?" wrote one commenter, "if you truly love someone, tell them. Otherwise you're just playing outdated coquettish games." Another commenter put it more diplomatically: "I don't think I've ever said 'I love you' first, but someone has to do it. It's okay to take a few risks." I appreciate both arguments and understand the sentiments behind them, but at the risk of having my feminist card revoked, I think it's naïve for a woman to utter those three little words before a man does.

Unlike asking a man out, making a move on him, or even proposing, there's no action-based response to the first "I love you." It's all words, it's all emotion. In that moment, he either loves you back or he doesn't — you only hear the black or white of a 'yes' or 'no,' not the grey of "Well, I like you a whole lot and I could see myself falling in love with you, but I'm just not quite there yet."

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