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

A man trying to kiss a woman on the cheek

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?


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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  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

      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. 1.2

      Steffi, here’s my opinion coming from a man that is very open and in-tune with what he wants. I have been divorced since 2006 and been single, dating for almost 9-10 years now. I am a guy that doesn’t try to date a different girl every week or every month. I do not want or believe in wasting my time with someone I know I don’t instantly connect.I have read a lot of these posts and replies and I think so many are making this “love” thing way to hard and complicated. It’s very simple people and Steffi. It doesn’t or shouldn’t matter who says it first or when they say it as long as they genuinely feel it and most of all prove it through not only words but actions.

      If someone says they “Love You” and want you in their life. Why run? Why be scared? If they aren’t trying to isolate you from friends, family, or doing things you want in your own time. If they give you space and allow you independence but talk and listen and make you laugh. Then why be scared? All it basically means is that they see qualities and traits   in you that make them want you in their life with the time they have for you.

      When I meet someone after I’ve been talking or messaging them online and we meet. I am looking for these things from the start. Do we have chemistry in our words? Do we have chemistry when we meet in person? Do I trust this person 100% that they are honest and give us 100% focus as far as not dating others and allowing us a fighting chance? Can they communicate? Not only openly about feelings but also about whatever it may be in things in their life with friends, relationship views, family, serious or light issues. Are they willing to discuss not just the good points and interests but most important the things they don’t like about me or the relationship and actually talk it out?

      If I sense 100% trust, honesty, and communication from the person I’m with and there is all the chemistry on every level, intellectual, emotional and physical. If this person makes you laugh, cry (in a good way), listens to and supports you and is committed and loyal. How could you not accept someone like this saying they “love you”? Because all of those major things today most people can’t or won’t do. They cheat, lie, are not open or give closure and are very selfish.

      So, when you actually find someone that truly puts you first and is unselfish. Give them a chance and don’t run even if you don’t feel that way. You’ll never know everything no matter how long you date someone. If you enjoy most of what they do and how they are instead of disliking most of what they do or how they are. As long as they don’t turn out to be cheating, physical/alcohol/drug abusers, dishonest. Then what is there not to love about someone who does most of what you want and like and PROVES it through not only words but actions. Embrace it! Cherish it! And hold on to it as long as you can!

      All of this coming from a man who has said “love you” soon but wasn’t afraid and was sincere and genuine about it. Love is not about taking things away from someone or trying to control or possess them. It’s about wanting that person who you love in your life and supporting, listening to and enjoying every moment you have with them the most you can each day.

      1. 1.2.1


      2. 1.2.2
        Helen Trott

        Wow…you’re absolutely spot on with your comment Chris

      3. 1.2.3

        Very well stated Chris!   Key takeaways are, respect the pace of the emotions of those who you choose to be in a relationship with, be considerate of your partner’s emotional needs along with yours, and don’t be too quick to run from someone who is very interested in you to someone who doesn’t get around to expressing how he/she feels about you.

      4. 1.2.4
        Cindy Johnson

        Wow… That was deep and you hit it on the nail. I’m going through that now. And we’ve only been talking a month. To me yes it’s scary to me to hear it so soon. But I’m not running….. But show me….

      5. 1.2.5

        Honestly this comment made me feel so much better and the way you expalined it made perfect aense. Thank you!

      6. 1.2.6
        Sonnie Yang

        This is the best comments I have ever read.

      7. 1.2.7

        Thanks for your response Chris. *Applause*

      8. 1.2.8

        Dear Chris thanks for your reply from a man’s point of view I am a woman in the same situation this person lives far away from me so we don’t get a lot of time together we don’t have anything physical yet we talk everyday he told me he loved me the other night I did not reply because my idea of Love must be totally different it has to be this long committed relationship before I can feel love I don’t give that word away very freely if at all. Thank you for this reply it just help me maybe not push a very good guy away it made me scared he was too needy. I am divorced from someone who said he loved me too soon we married and he turned out to have a lot of issues which after 13 years became too hard to deal with mostly emotional. Hopefully I can find this site again and let you know if it ever turns out but thanks for your help

      9. 1.2.9

        Careful though – bold statements of you being the “one”, the fiery passion, love and lust that can come can also be the way some narcissistic or abusive men groom their victims. They act as if the woman is “perfect” and shower them with love, flattery, and attention. They can be very deceptive and manipulative, so for months, there may be no sign of trouble. Just a tit for tat on this subject.

        1. Cathalei

          That’s a well known tactic called love bombing to manipulate the victim into prolong the relationship and push them.

      10. 1.2.10

        As I was looking for answers I read your opinion. I just wanted to say, thank you for clarifying some questions that I had.

        Good luck

  2. 2

    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

    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

    “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.

    1. 4.1

      I agree Marc.

  5. 5

    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.

    1. 6.1

      I completely agree! That was what I believe I experienced with one person that I described in my reply comment. Underlying, the person still had a considerable number of issues to work through. Eventually, they realized this and they ended the relationship. I think Stef is in a good place if she is keeping the pace (and I will extend this to the physical intimacy department also).

    2. 6.2

      This is a great way to put it Steve.   Contrary to what many people think and feel about love, it’s essentially a feeling that can be attached to a person or thing, but it all starts by how that person makes you feel over a short period of time.   The love grows as time goes on.   In essence, the feeling of love you feel today will feel quite differently years for now if you give it a chance to manifest.

  7. 7

    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*?

  8. 8

    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.

  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

    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

    @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

    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’?

    1. 14.1
      Jules Waite

      OMG Camilla.   The self same thing happened to me 2 weeks ago. We met in October and he told me on the second date that he was falling in love with me. He repeatedly told me that he just wanted me to love him, which put me under a lot of pressure because I was still deciding if I really LIKED him or not!   Eventually I started to fall for him and he was so romantic and attentive, showering me with gifts, taking me on holiday, talking about buying us a home this year – and yes, eventually I told him I loved him back. I have since found out that he is and has always been a serial cheat. I caught him messaging someone “what do I have to do to win your heart?’   Not easy to hear when I thought I had met a man for the rest of my life. I feel for you, it’s a horrid,feeling. My message to anyone being told they are loved within a few dates is DO NOT BELIEVE THEM!   It is a desire for control and manipulation. Time will tell if the feelings are  real  but do not be taken in. There is a hidden agenda I’m sure. Probably based on insecurity. You do not know this man after a few weeks,   he is still a STRANGER!

      1. 14.1.1

        Jules Waite, I totally agree with this. The same thing happened to me before. It was insecurity, and retina to fill

        1. Kayty

          He was wanting to fill a void.

      2. 14.1.2

        The same happened to me recently. I was with a guy for 6 months. After a month of online dating, he told me to love me. After 6 months I found out that from the beginning of the relationship he has been trying to have sex with other women and that he is a serial cheater. I also discovered many of his huge lies. It seems to me that we are all brainwashed that love can happen in a short time, but I think that it takes a lot of time for love to develop. After being with someone a month, you are still stranger to them and vice versa. Perhaps we do not have that much time, but it is still not love. It happened to me before that someone told me he loved me after 5 days of meeting me online. That man was probably not a serial cheater, but it is good that I did not fall for him as he was indeed trying to manipulate me into the relationship in order to control me.

  15. 15

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

  16. 16


    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

    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

    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

      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.

    2. 20.2

      I agree with something you said and want to put in my two cents worth.   Being divorced for 6 years from a 20 1/2 year marriage, I often jumped into relationship quickly because of loneliness. I recently met a   wonderful widower who has made the “I love you” declaration after just three weeks but we spend almost all our free time together.   Being post divorce vs widower I worry he is feeling the “infatuation” of having some in his life for the first time.   His wife was very ill for the last 5 years her life and he was her caretaker.   I am the first relationship he has been in since her passing almost a year ago.   I keep reminding him, he doesn’t know me that well and he should truly look inside himself.   I am crazy about him and how we are together just more cautious about the L….E word.   Good Luck.

      1. 20.2.1

        Cecil #20.2,    your story sounds so much like mine. My husband was a fairly recent widower when we started dating,   and for the second half of his marriage he had been his wife’s caretaker. But I had known him at work for years,   though only on a “hello” basis. I had a big crush on him that I kept to myself. I no longer remember who said “love” first,   but it was a relief when we both started saying it. It was maybe two months into the relationship. But I was scared because in my experience my love affairs flamed out pretty fast. Our engagement lasted a year and a half. Well, that was 31 years ago and we have been happily married for more than 28 years. Sometimes these things do work out.

    3. 20.3

      I think you see something in him that scares you. We all need our own space and like you say, he wants you there all the time. That’s a lot to ask. Follow your instinct. If you don’t feel fully comfortable don’t do it, he’ll suck in all your light. Don’t go to the altar rushed by passion.

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