For several weeks I had been debating doing the one thing that takes any new relationship to the next level: saying "I love you."
I can't remember exactly when the thought first crossed my mind to say those words to my current boyfriend. However, I noticed that whenever I saw him after being apart for several days, or after he did something incredibly sweet or supportive, the words would almost pour out of me. I feared that one day I would accidentally say it, surprising both myself and him.
The whole process of saying "I love you" was a bit different in this relationship; in my past relationships, the guy dropped the L-bomb shortly after I began thinking about saying it. I never found myself caught up in this inner debate with myself as to when to say "I love you." The guys were always the bold and vulnerable ones, and I just followed their lead.
This time, though, I found myself waiting and waiting and waiting ... but he would never say it. As a result, I found myself doing the silly thing that most young people do nowadays when they're bound by fear at the thought of saying those three words: I went to Google for advice.
I read article after article with all kinds of theories and ideas on the topic. And all these articles did one thing for me: It was keeping me in a state of fear. This fear of him not reciprocating was keeping my heart closed and preventing me from speaking my truth, and allowing myself and the relationship to move forward.
So what should we do when we find ourselves caught up in fear of being vulnerable? How can we clear out the fear so we can truly know it's the right time to say "I love you"?
1. Take some time to be still and breathe.
When we get all caught up in the fear of being vulnerable, the mind can overact. When the mind is in overdrive, it can be hard to tap into what we feel in our heart. So take some time for a day or several days to meditate for 15 minutes.
Focus on the breath and allow yourself to become calm hearing the nature sounds or meditative music. If sitting still doesn't quite work for you, then it can also be beneficial to go for a walk or do some kind of exercise. Getting into your body by doing some kind of movement can help calm the mind down so you can really know what your heart and intuition is guiding you to do.
2. Realize that it isn't the end of the world if your love isn't reciprocated.
Who doesn't like to hear that someone loves them? Chances are that whether it's reciprocated or not, your partner is still going to feel flattered. And yes, if the other person doesn't reciprocate, it's going to suck for a while. But it isn't the end of the world.
Yes, it hurts and will for a while, but it doesn't mean you won't survive it. You'll get through it. It may not always create the most comfortable situation, but by expressing your true feelings, it opens the door for more opportunity and personal growth to happen — both for yourself and the other person.
3. Learn to follow your heart.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, only one thing truly matters: The truth of your heart that wishes to be expressed. If you can truly feel it in your heart that you love the person, then say it. Life is too short to live bounded by fear. People deserve to know that they're loved, appreciated, respected, and supported — whether they're receptive to it or not.
This article was originally published at Jennifer Twardowski. Reprinted with permission from the author.