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Falling in love…and staying in love…is a journey. From level to level, there are uphill climbs, breezy trails, slippery slopes and everything in between. Even saying, “I love you” for the first time can have a very different meaning than when you say it a year into the relationship and past that point. As you grow together, you encounter new situations as individuals and as a couple and so the definition of “I love you” also evolves. No matter what though, some sort of love is present – here’s what it all means:

3 Months = “This is fun – I think I like where this is heading”

Maybe it feels a little soon, but you feel like if you don’t get it out you will just burst! You are totally relieved when the other person says they feel the same way. Phew! You both like where you are heading and want to keep going – isn’t it great to know you are on the same page?

4 Months = “I’m ready to get out of my comfort zone.”

They make you feel secure enough to really start letting your guard down. You feel a little more settled in how you feel about each other. “I love you” becomes an invitation to explore new things.

5 Months = “You are important to me”

You are getting close to the end of the Honeymoon Phase and you both have loved the time spent vacationing together. Those three words tell each other that you are important and your feelings are continuing to build. Granted, there’s still an amount of uncertainty but it’s all worth the risk!

6 Months = “I think we are great together”

“I love you” doesn’t mean what it did 3 months ago. You are telling each other, “I love the way I feel and the person I am when I am with you.” Not only are you getting to know the other person better but you are getting to know yourself better – and enjoying it all while you are at it!

7 Months = “It’s all ours!”

At this point, you aren’t keeping track anymore of who pays for what. To you, everything becomes shared. “I love you” means you aren’t making plans without the other person in mind. This becomes a shared “I love you,” like most everything else in your relationship.

8 Months = “I don’t want to fight with you”

You have your first big, blowout argument and learn how to recover well. As part of your make-up session, “I love you” means “You are more important to me than this issue – I don’t want to fight with you anymore.” You recognize that you don’t want to lose each other.

9 Months = You are my best friend

Being together feels more natural than being apart. Saying “I love you” feels more serious now – like there is real weight behind the words. Not only do you mean, “You are an amazing person” – you are also saying “You are my best friend.”

1 Year = Wow!

You cannot possibly imagine your life without this person. It’s as though your lives are fully intertwined. This “I love you” feels more permanent. It’s not about who feels it more. You feel safe and comfortable. When you say “I love you,” it feels like home.

1 Year, 5 Months = We’re in this together

Wins or losses, laughter or pain – you share everything. You maintain individual lives, but your world is not complete without knowing everything that’s going on in the other person’s. Those 3 magic words also say, “You’re not alone.”

2 Years = This could be it!

Now your relationship is not limited to past memories and events, it also includes the future. It’s like you are saying, “This could be it and I’m going to love what is to come.”

3 Years: I will marry you

You take the next step and express that you want to make it permanent. You want to share everything from your home address to your last name. You want to be the first person they talk to when they wake up and the last person the talk to each night. And all of that for the rest of your lives.

4 Years = Marriage, Indescribable!

Those words have managed to encapsulate an abstract feeling, but now they mean something completely different. You now use them to express that you complete each other. No one else in the world can say it the way you do – not now and not ever.