So, you think you’re ready to say “I love you.”

First of all, congratulations on finding someone you see as having real potential. That in and of itself is a big deal. And the fact that you think you’re falling in love? It’s an even bigger deal. (No pressure or anything.)

There’s no magic length of time after which it becomes appropriate to say those three words, but saying it does require a certain level of comfort within the relationship. You need to get past the fleeting feelings of lust and longing, because being in love is about knowing someone inside and out—and loving them fully, regardless.

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And because that connection goes beyond being able to recall generic basics (like where she works and what street she lives on), dating expert Whitney Casey suggests a simple self-test to decide whether or not you’re truly ready to spill your feelings. Ask yourself:

  • Can you list the relatives or friends she likes the least?
  • Do you know what she would do with the money if she won the lottery?
  • Can you list her three favorite movies, books, or songs?
  • Do you know at least three of the most special events in her life?
  • Do you know her birthdate, middle name, and state where she was born?

If you answered three of those questions with a resounding “yes,” then you’re on the right path to saying “I love you.” That said, however, Casey has a few rules to keep in mind as you prepare to profess your feelings.

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1. Don’t tell her post-sex

People too often say things they don’t mean right after doing the deed, so the bedroom is not the place to divulge those three little words for the first time.

2. Don’t say it when tipsy, medicated, or otherwise intoxicated

You may not remember it if you’re drunk—and it’s hardly romantic, man. 

3. Don’t attempt a grand gesture

Keeping it simple lets her know you’re 100-percent serious about her, evoking a certain straightforward, no-BS tact women crave. Your rent-out-the-stadium-Jumbotron moment can wait. “Make sure the setting is intimate,” Casey says. 

4. Don’t overthink it

“The word should come from the heart, not the head,” Casey says. The fact that you mean it, not how you say it, matters most. Keep that in the back of your mind at all times, and you’re good to go.

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