A lot of a romantic relationship rides on the admission of three powerful words: I love you. But there’s a lot of vulnerability wrapped up in that bold declaration, enough to deter people from actually saying what’s truly in their hearts. But all reciprocity issues aside, who typically says “I love you” first in heterosexual relationships? Such was the question on the mind of writer Jenna Birch, whose upcoming article in the October 2016 issue of Psychology Today examines the factors at play when deciding whether or not to say those three little words.
Business Insider recently explored Birch’s work in a video on the psychology behind who says “I love you” first. “According to a study from Penn State University at Harrisburg, it’s men who are more likely to say ‘I love you’ first. In fact, some men start confessing those three words within just a few weeks after dating,” explains Business Insider’s Graham Flanagan. “But why are men in such a hurry? The researchers have a couple of theories. First, they suspect that women instinctively need more time to assess their partner’s value as a mate. Second, men could be using it as means to an end (sex).”
Sexual relations aside, research also suggests that heterosexual men still abide by more traditional gender roles when courting women. According to University of Texas professor Art Markman, author of Smart Change, “Men often say ‘I love you’ first because they think the man should always take the lead, in the same way, that men are traditionally expected to ask the women on the first date and propose marriage,” BI explains. “So if you’re going to say it, make sure you mean it.”