He Said “I Love You” on the Fifth Date and I’m Freaked Out!

Dear Evan,

So, I met this great guy online. We’ve been exclusive nearly from the start and we really like each other.

However, he’s moving really fast. He said I love you on the 5th date. I just had a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. He’s said repeatedly that he will take this at my pace, but he’s made it clear that he’s found “the one” and that’s me! While all this is great, it’s a little frightening. Are these red flags? He’s been divorced and dating for about 6 years, so he’s been there and done just about all of that. I’ve only been divorced and dating for about a year and a half and am still finding my way through life as an independent person. He says, and he’s proven in subtle ways, that he’s willing to give me whatever space I need-that he loves me and that’s it for him.

Is this normal? I’ve never experienced this kind of strong emotion from a man. Was I just with the wrong guys if they were more apathetic? If I was more apathetic?

I am falling in love with him, at my own pace, but I’m just wondering if my dating radar isn’t picking up on something here.

Help me figure out if I’m missing something here or do I have a really great guy?

Steffi

Dear Steffi,
I really relish these role-reversal emails, because it just goes to show that it’s never just a “man” thing or a “woman” thing.

Men can be prudish about sex and emotionally vulnerable.

Women can be on the fence about commitment and concerned about clingy men. 

Relationships are about people with emotional needs. And those needs are universal.

The above links are probably somewhat instructive. After all, you’re not the first person who’s been concerned that a man has fallen for her too fast.

But let’s take your question on its surface, based solely on what you told me.

Let’s give this guy points for the important things. First of all, he’s being real with you. No games here. (Funny how people complain that they don’t like games, then when someone is nakedly honest with them, they get that “deer in the headlights” look?)

You’ve become the perfect vehicle for all of his dreams and desires, and, from that pedestal, you can’t be on equal footing.

Second of all, he’s self-aware enough to see that he’s freaking you out, which is why he came back with, “We’ll take it at your pace.” Which means, roughly, “I’m going to do a very poor job of pretending I’m not totally whipped on you, and I pray for the day when you show me you’re whipped on me, although that probably won’t happen because it’s hard to respect a guy who is so whipped so soon.”

What’s heartening about your situation, Stef, is that you say you’re falling in love with him at your own pace. That’s usually not the reaction that women have to guys who come on too strong. Credit goes to you for seeing this guy as the man he is, rather than being overwhelmed by his one-sided passion. That said, there IS a red flag. This guy is projecting a LOT onto you. You’ve become the perfect vehicle for all of his dreams and desires, and, from that pedestal, you can’t be on equal footing. I suspect he knows intellectually that you don’t walk on water, but when he’s going through that “puppy love” phase, there’s no room for realism….

I spend a lot of time thinking of the value of passion in a relationship, and what I’ve figured out is this:

Passion is blind. It may or may not mean that you’re compatible or that you truly love each other. What passion DOES do is provide such clarity of purpose that there is no second guessing. Sam Harris does studies on the biochemistry of belief and I suspect that he can affirm this. The chemical rush that we get when we’re in love is the same one that allows people to be suicide bombers as well. Helen Fisher’s book, “Why We Love,” delves into the same thing. The kind of love that your boyfriend is experiencing is like a cocaine high-with all the highs and lows that come with it.

People get carried by passion all the way to the altar, and never stop to think whether this person is the best long-term investment.

The problem, therefore, comes when that high goes away. What do you really have? This, I suspect, is the greatest cause of divorce. People get carried by passion all the way to the altar, and never stop to think whether this person is the best long-term investment. They’re too blinded by “love.” All those couples who say, “You just know” sound really positive and passionate…until they get divorced. Thus, passion creates a bond; it doesn’t necessarily portend a healthy future.

So, Steffi…you’re much better off with this guy than a guy who is apathetic about you. But only if you respect him. And that’s where this kind man is going awry. By laying his cards out on the table and telling you that you’re in control and that he’ll do whatever you want, he loses a piece of what makes him attractive. It’s hard to be a masculine leader if you’re so willing to follow behind a woman like a lovesick puppy. My guess is that this guy is a really good man who is in that delightful space where he just wants to declare his love with reckless abandon. As long as you don’t hold this against him, as long as you realize that this is a GOOD thing, as long as you realize that you can’t ask for much more than a DEVOTED man, well, you may just be the big winner.

Let us know how it goes.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    CupidsReviews Heidi

    Right on Stef! I too am amusedby the role reversal, thought I have felt the same way before. Not so much afraid of the commitment as I am of the fact that if I dont start feeling the same way soon, I will really be breaking someones heart. The pressure is on, to be your best and try your best to make it work, which often does the exact opposite.

    1. 1.1
      trenna

      Steffi, I am in the same boat. But my husband of 31 years died 21/2 years ago. I was not looking when a guy came into my life. A guy that has those same qualities of yours. I am now engaged but after our engagement something went wrong. I’ve ignored red flags such as his 3 marriages (one ending in a car accident) and at least 1 other engagement. He claims he loves me like he’s never loved anyone before and that he asked God to send him a good Christian women. He then met me. After saying I would marry him, doubt has really messed things up. Along with 4 deaths of immediate family in my life in those same 2 years time. I haven’t been able to go to him (though he would like it) with my grieving over the loss of my son 2 months ago. Where he’s focused on us I feel I’m not being able to grieve over this loss.

  2. 2
    Selena

    I think when we say “I love you” really early what we are actually declaring is infatuation. The good news is, infatuation does indeed sometimes become love when you get to know each other better. As long as he’s not pushing you to feel more than you feel, I’d say you are on a happy track.

  3. 3
    Honey

    My best friend dated this guy once who said “I love you” on something like the third date. Turns out he was not blinded by passion at all–he’s a scientist, very analytical, and after spending years deciding what he was looking for and endeavoring to find that out, was able to discern that she had all those qualities very quickly. She was quite thrown at first but decided to give him a chance. It took her a little longer to fall in love with him, but she did, and now they’ve been married over 4 years (together for something like 6). So it’s definitely possible, and doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s in any sort of haze. I say keep going out with him and see how you continue to feel. Good luck!

  4. 4
    Marc

    “I’m falling in love with you at my own pace.” –Something EVERY guy wants to hear after he tells a woman he loves her. Would make a great Hallmark card. You could find it in the “I’m with you because I have nothing better in my life right now” section right next to the birthday cards.

    The guy sounds a bit unbalanced to be frank, but doesn’t deserve to have his time wasted, if Steffi isn’t really that into him.

  5. 5
    Markus

    Never say it first guys. This is what happens.

  6. 6
    Steve Hedger

    If Steffi understood this one thing then she would feel a little calmer. What this man is experiencing is, he loves how he’s feeling about himself when he is with this lady. He has fallen in love with his own emotions and has attached those feeling to her.

    When you look at instant love this way then it becomes less scary as it’s all about him and not about you Steffi.

    You can now relax and explore your emotions when you are with him. If your emotions are saying go slow then listen to them but don’t be put off by his excitment.

    You just need to make sure this initial excitement on his part is something that will last.

    Time is your friend here. I would just have fun relax and enjoy the attention.

  7. 7
    Suz

    Hearing “I love you” certainly can freak you out. Though from your letter, it sounds like he didn’t have to say the 3 words for you to know it. Maybe you’ve found a guy that communicates his feelings rather than leaving you guessing. The good thing is that you see the possibility of saying those words back. Have fun and enjoy. Spending more time together and sharing experiences will provide most of the answers you are looking for.

  8. 8
    Honey

    She never told HIM that she was falling in love at her own pace, Marc–I agree, that would be strange. But she’s self-aware enough to realize that she is, and kind enough not to freak him out with such a statement, and brave enough to not let his admission force any sort of time-table on her.

    I think that if she relaxes, then she may very well feel the same way as he does eventually (if he tries to push things along by force despite his promise, THAT’S a warning sign). It seems much more cruel to cut off her budding feelings because their intensity (temporarily) doesn’t match his than it does to let the scales even out in their own good time.

    I knew on the first date that my BF was different from all the others, and I told him that I loved him three months before he said he loved me. Now we’ve been together two years, moved in, and are saving for a wedding. How much would we both have been deprived if he broke up with me when I said I loved him–just because he wasn’t there *yet*?

  9. 9
    Bank Robber James

    I must be missing something – Is it that unusual to say “I love you” on the 5th date?

    On the first couple dates is one thing. But on the 5th date? That doesn’t seem odd to me especially if you’ve already been intimate with each other.

    Am I missing something here? comments please.

    Oh, and I love the “I’m falling in love with you at my own pace…” as if we can control who we fall in love with and the pace we fall in love with someone.

  10. 10
    Bank Robber James

    Honey – how soon did you tell your BF that you loved him?

  11. 11
    downtowngal

    I think this sounds like a great situation, Steffi! You’re being honest with him about your feelings and he’s respecting you enough to give you some space, which will only make him respect you more if/when (more likely when) you’re both on the same page and move forward.

    How many times do we meet a great guy and it’s like pulling teeth to get him to admit/commit his feelings? This guy sounds like he has his act together. If you’re not feeling it, you’ll know in due time, but give it more time with him and see what develops.

  12. 12
    Honey

    @Bank Robber–I think we’d been together about 4.5 months, though I knew sooner. I blurted it out while drunk. He told me after about 6 months.

  13. 13
    mrs. vee

    Something similar to this once happened to me. I was told on the third date by the guy (after spending a considerable amount of time writing and phoning each other) that he “loved” me.

    In my case, I saw his big declaration in a negative light because it just didn’t seem all that well thought out. Even if he truly knew himself well and knew everything he was looking for, it spooked me that he was so quick to jump to the conclusion that I was all those things. After just 3 dates.

    I thought “he’s never seen me on a bad day” / “he doesn’t know how I am in time of crisis”.

    I thought to myself, if the guy actually knew me, he’d know I prefer to sit back and observe before making a judgment on just about anything. I thought, if we were compatible, he’d feel the same as me that it really takes time to get to know a person.

    On top of all that, I’d felt like he’d spent so much time fawning over me, that he hadn’t given any time to sharing much about himself. Wasn’t he keeping track of how I might feel about him by that time? The whole thing just seemed entirely one-sided. Plus, if he could say “I love you” after just three dates, his definition of love had to be pretty immature and hollow.

    His words had the net effect of putting me off him. Truth is, though, I probably just wasn’t all that into him.

    Sorry if I sound down on your situation, Steffi. I’m not. And if you’re falling for the guy too, it’s hard to find anything bad about your situation. I think I’m just grumpy because I’m pregnant and nauseous and have been arguing on housing bubble blogs all afternoon.

    Good luck!

  14. 14
    Camilla

    Your mileage may be better, but…

    My guy told me he loved me on about the 4th date. I blanched and told him that “most people don’t put that out there so soon.” For awhile, I thought it was just because he speaks without editing (true.) But something made me wonder if he was also trying to secure me. He was clear after a short time that he also wanted me to say it. Holding my own truth, I held off saying the same until I really meant it. Deeper and deeper in love I fell. Him always making this big declarations to encourage it.

    4 months later, I discovered he was actively trying to meet other women he met online. Simultaneous with his spoken and written declarations of our “soulmate” love. I broke up with him when I found out (2 weeks ago.)

    Still sorting it out, but I think that early declaration of love was not out of love but instead his insecurity. He wanted to know I was hooked. Once hooked, he wanted to play around. Overall, I’d say that it was an early indicator/ red flag I should have heeded. Most people have boundaries that would make them wait a bit on the “love” word, yanno’?

  15. 15
    Alan

    I’d love to hear Evan respond to Marcus’ comment (#5).

  16. 16
    Markus

    Alan,

    I believe Evan disagrees with me.

  17. 17
    Evan Marc Katz

    Let’s put it this way: if men won’t say it first to protect themselves, and women won’t say it first to protect themselves, then you’re in an emotionally guarded standoff of a relationship. SOMEONE has to let his/her guard down by saying “I love you,” but it’s probably best to do it when you sense it’s going to be reciprocated.

  18. 19
    Markus

    However, it is still sociologically negative for men to be viewed in the submissive role which is exactly where he ends up if “there’s no return”. The last time I said it I was almost asleep and my subconscious stabbed me in the back. As soon as it rolled out I realized and put my head in my hands. It’s like a freaking stare-down.

  19. 20
    Steffi

    To clarify a few things:

    First, let me say that I really appreciate your comments. I love the different perspectives. Okay then, we were not intimate until the 8th date. I am a slow mover with intimacy – that’s just who I am. I responded once that he was so romantic and his reply was that he has never been romantic before but he wants to get this right and not play games. I appreciate this. He is very vocal about how he feels – even as I have, over the last three or so months, fallen for him, I’m still not where he is yet. He is ready for me to move in and fully share his life – I think that’s totally rushing it so I slow him down and am thankful for my lease (I’m being funny here BTW!). I’m the only girl he’s ever introduced to his kids and he would like to spend every minute with me. I appreciate this, but can’t do it – I’m more independent than that.

    I guess I’m still torn — I do love him and I feel great with him and I have tons of fun with him – all this is VERY good . . . but . . . I’m still really reserved and possessive about my space. That’s just who I am no matter who I am with. But now I think it’s more of a boundary issue (post divorce personal space independence thing) than being freaked out by the early I love you. In short, he’s still freaking me out, but I think this is my baggage now.

    What do y’all think?

    1. 20.1
      trenna

      Steffi, I am very confused myself. I wonder why I said I’d marry him. My heart tells me no even if he is a wonderful man. I’m left feeling I’m the one sending out all the red flags and he doesn’t or doesn’t want to see them. At the time I said yes I thought we had something. Now we have only ‘talks’ and ‘seeking’ counceling. I wonder if just I changed or if something in him change too after I said yes.

  20. 21
    Jessica

    I could not have come across this posting at a better time. I am 29 he is 44. He has never been married, does not have any kids and we instantly connected through an online dating service 8 weeks ago and are supposed to meet for the first time in a couple of weeks and I am petrified! why? he has already said I love you, I need you, wants 3 kids, calls me his wife, calls my sisters “his sisters in law”, has told his parents about me, oh yeah this week alone, I have received an expensive bracelent from tiffany’s and a bouquet of roses!

    I feel suffocated and overwhelmed! How can this be! he is exactly what I had prayed for? a man that communicates, gets my wierd sense of humor, he is the perfect age (I love older men) so..why do I feel like he has “ruined it” by wearing his heart on his sleeve like that? I have been in his shoes before and I know what un-reciprocated love feels like but I don’t want to get married next week? I have told him that he needs to give me time to get to know him and have suggested that he stays in a hotel when he gets here/rents a car etc but he literally cried on the phone asking if he could sleep in my spare bedroom! He finally agreed to take things slow but he has been taking on a guilt trip about it! I feel like the “bad guy” here!

    Do I trust him, yes I do – but do I want to make the news for inviting a potential Ted Bundy into my home – absolutely not! I have worked really hard to get to my high level position at work and I am taking 2 unscheduled vacation days July 4th weeked to spend 5 days with him but he wants to be here for the entire week (from the previous weekend – 9 days) so that we can spend more time together? I expressed concerns about leaving him alone to roam the city because I have work but he does not care? okay..am I being a total bitch here? Please be honest? I want to make “us” work but I also don’t want to feel this kind of pressure. Thanks! Jess

    1. 21.1
      Debra F

      Run like hell girl !!! This is not normal. He is looking for something but it’s not a relationship. He appears to be a very “needy ” person. Do not trust him and DO NOT LET HIM KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. !!! Sounds like his next step is that he may quit his job ( if he has one ) and move to where you live and possibly mooch off of you or worse yet…….just move on………..

  21. 22
    Honey

    @ Jessica–If I were you I would end this IMMEDIATELY, before he has a chance to be in your home. Although it is tempting to interpret his actions as sweet or devoted, it seems pretty clear that he is not interested in true communication or connection with you–instead he is in this for him. He has given you a “guilt trip” for laying down ground rules that make yourself comfortable, is constantly pressuring you for things that you are not willing to give, and gives you presents that IMO are TOTALLY inappropriate if you haven’t even met yet.

    If you think that there is a possibility and the guy is just clueless and socially awkward, then by all means he should still come visit. However, you should REFUSE to let him stay at your house and put your foot down about the 5 days (not 9) as well. I would also recommend that he rent his own car so that if you don’t get along he won’t be without transportation. Tell him that this is a basic safety issue for a single woman and is non-negotiable. If he truly respects you and wants this to work than he has no choice but to adhere to whatever boundaries you set.

    Honestly, your scenario sounds every alarm bell I have and I would run in the other direction as fast as I could. But maybe that is just me? I can’t wait to see what others think.

  22. 23
    Selena

    It’s not just you Honey. It would sound every alarm bell I have as well. Honestly, this man’s behavior is so completely over-the-top it’s scary. He’s calling you his wife? Refering to your sisters as his sisters-in-law? And you’ve never even met?

    Jessica, he just sounds so unbelievably manipulative to me–please don’t agree to his terms. If you do want to meet him have him stay in a hotel at the very least.

  23. 24
    Glenda

    Jess,

    I TOTALLY agree with Honey–You need to end this ASAP!!! This guy is sending up HUGE red flags, and you need to run away from this relationship as fast as possible!!!

    I’ve facilitated a women’s domestic violence group in the past, and this guy sounds like he fits the profile of someone who MAY fit into the category of an abuser. Some of the signs are someone who rushes into a relationship and declares their feelings inappropriately early (and telling you he loves you when he’s never met you IS inappropriate), he’s already claiming you as “his own” by calling you his wife, he’s getting inappropriately upset when he doesn’t get his way (such as staying at your house), he’s trying to control you and manipulate you into getting his way by using the whole guilt trip thing, and now he’s sending way too expensive and too many gifts in a short time period to make up for his poor behavior. From my past experience with women in the support group, unfortunately, these type of things don’t bode well for a relationship.

    Other things to ask yourself about the relationship is why has he never been married at 44 but is suddenly in such a rush to do so now? And how did his other relationships end–was it always something the women did and he was never at fault? If so, that’s another red flag, because if he’s the type of personality I’m afraid he may be, then he won’t feel he’s done anything wrong, EVER.

    And your Ted Bundy comment tells me that your intuition is telling you that you really don’t feel safe the more you are learning about him, no matter how wonderful things were at the beginning. I’m a big believer in listening to your intuition, especially in situations like these, since it usually is picking up on small but VERY important things we overlook for one reason or another. PLEASE reconsider meeting this man. And if you have any doubts, you may want to look at Dr. Irene’s website–www.drirene.com. She has lots of wonderful information on verbal abuse on it. While I cannot say that is what is happening in your relationship, from what you written, it does not sound like the basis of a healthy relationship.

    Best of luck to you!!! And please keep us posted!

  24. 25
    Honey

    Jessica, let me also recommend that if you do try to end this that you do not try to provide him with any sort of lengthy (or even any) explanation. You met online, and you’ve never met in person. You don’t owe this guy ANYTHING.

    In my experience fellows like this have a tendency to perceive explanations as the jumping-off point to negotiations. I.e., when you say that you’re breaking up with him because of x, y, and z, he figures that as long as he (appears to) have a plan for overcoming x, y, and z then there is no reason the relationship shouldn’t continue. Then he’ll make you feel unreasonable and guilty for sticking to your guns, or even like a liar if it comes out that those aren’t your real reasons for continuing to refuse him.

    The less you give him to work with, the more power you will have. Simply say, “This isn’t going to work for me and I’d rather we not continue contacting each other.” If he presses you for an explanation just refuse–his response will tell you all you need to know about next steps (such as saving all the e-mail correspondence if you want to make a complaint to the dating service or the police). I know this may seem like over the top advice, but it is SO much better to be safe then, as you say, Ted Bundy’s victim.

  25. 26
    Eda

    Jessica,

    I agree with all the other ladies. Please end your “relationship” with this man right now. He does not sound like he is stable and he is demanding way more from you than you should give. In my opinion, any man who really cares about a woman would put her safety first. As soon as you indicate you don’t feel safe doing something that he has requested, he should back off and say and mean, “I don’t ever want you to do anything that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.” The fact that this man has tried to make you feel guilty about your boundaries and concerns is an important warning sign that you should not ignore. It is a sign that you need to run away and never, ever connect with him again….no phone contact, no email, no texting …nothing. Please don’t ever feel that that putting your safety — of your heart, your body and anything else important to you — is bitchy behavior. It’s the behavior of a sane and confident woman who cares for herself.

    Finally and importantly, please don’t feel that this guy is the only man who will get you and your weird sense of humor or do many of the things you want. I know too many women who have stayed in bad relationships with men because they have this crazy belief that there is no other man out there who will want them. If thoughts like that are swimming around in your head and making you reluctant to let go of him, please erase them from your mind. They are not true. When you let this guy go, you will be free to find a man who really will love and respect you.

    Good luck.

  26. 27
    sheseizereason

    Jessica –

    Your guy sounds either obsessive or insincere. If it’s the former, he’s scary, and if the latter, he’s cheesy. Do you have a preference?

    – ssr

    P.S. Congratulations on Baby Vee, Mrs.Vee.

  27. 28
    Steve

    Jessica;

    If this guy isn’t a kook or a neurotic, he is emotionally immature. Whatever he is, you are not going to get a rewarding relationship with him. None of those things makes him a bad person, just a person you will be happier not to be involved with.

    Send him a brief, polite note like the one you posted here explaining this to him. Make that you absolute last contact with him ever and do what you can to make sure that he can never contact you again.

    Good Luck

  28. 29
    Jessica

    @Honey, Selena, Glenda, Eda, and sheseizereason – I am crying so hard right now because I took a stand and lets just say that things did not go too well. I am too upset to write down the details.. but I am literally, shaking. Glenda, he threatened to come to GA and find me! He does not have my home address (just my work – where the gifts were sent) – I did not give that to him, he found it through our communication on what I do for a living. As embarrassing as it maybe I have to come clean with my Boss on appropriate security measures. You know what is so strange is that I did not know about this website but for the past 2 days I have been tossing and turning ..scatter brained, restless especially today .. because he had started to plan our holidays and my birthday weekend.

    I finally sat back and typed the word “obesessive men” and found this Forum. You have no idea the things that are running through my head right now! – I will give an update in a couple days.. but.. I am literally shaking and crying because each and every thing that you all wrote is coming to pass. – I am not easily moved by alot of things but..this has shocked me to my core. I sought an honest opinion even 6 hours ago.. and I know keep saying this.. but each and every word has come to pass..

  29. 30
    Steve

    Honey;

    You have some interesting thoughts in post #25.

    On the one hand, I had a friend in college who attracted the kind of guy you described and trying to negotiate closure with them only got them more entangled in a nasty way.

    On the other hand, not everybody is a basket case and feedback on what didn’t work can be the first step on sending some people on their way to improving themselves.

    What do you think about sending some brief feedback explaining what didn’t work before cutting the person off?

    On the one hand I think it could backfire with people who are far gone. They could take it as an insult and get angry. On the other hand the feedback might help a clueless but otherwise nice person.

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