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. 61

    Jessica 42 – I’m sorry for what happened to you.   There is a GINORMOUS red flag in what he said to you.
    I am making so many sacrifices for you and to be with you, my trip up there is costing me $1200”³!! Don’t you get that I am in love with you and I want you all to myself??!
    Geez.   He’s making sacrifices, how much it cost (I mean, how gross) and, and for me this is the very worst, “I want you all to myself”.
    I wish you luck and avoid him.

  2. 62
    David T

    @Judy 61  

    I agree that super possessiveness does not bode well.

    Did you know that all these events transpired with Jessica and Steffi over 5 years ago? Yeah, this blog post is THAT old.   It would be interesting to hear how their stories turned out, but we might never know unless Evan pings ’em.  

  3. 63

    David T 62 – thank you for taking the time to post your comment.  
    I see the links (i.e. to the blog post) and assume that they are new when they appear on the left or right column of the blog (apart from the archives which I sometimes comment on too).
    Superpossessiveness would lose me straight away.   I like to feel free – crazy comment I know – but there’s a huge difference between feeling “secure and free” with a man and stifled and suffocated, which is where the possessiveness or superpossessiveness comes in.  

  4. 64

    I had a guy tell me he loved me on the *first* date. Yes, we’d been communicating by phone and e-mail for weeks before that, but still…
    Unfortunately, whilst I was interested at first, I could not respect someone with such blindly overwhelming feelings so fast.   Unlike Steff’s man, this guy had no respect for my personal space or feelings (I was also fresh out of a divorce), and the whole thing fell apart very quickly. The sad part is, I probably would have developed genuine interest and feelings if he had only played it a bit cool.

  5. 65

    Please, he SAID? What did he DO to PROVE his “love”? Blabbering around about “loves” mean nothing. As a divorced woman, you must know it already. Where are his deeds to support his assertions? Otherwise, blah blah, he loves you, he will go fetch a moon for you, blah blah tra la la.

  6. 66

    Men are entitled to say that and come on very strong because they are entitled to make the first move while women cannot.

  7. 67

    I can only say that two men that have told me that they loved me post-divorce, both occurred very early on like this woman has described. I also met them online and did not previously know them. They both were gone from my life within a few months. I think they were fascinated with me, excited to find someone who appeared to be right for them. In situation #1, it was determined that the guy had not had proper time to heal from a past relationship and experience ‘life’ even though he said that he was well adjusted and seemingly health minded in that arena. In situation #2, I did fall in love with that person also. They relocated for work. Had they stayed, perhaps it could have worked out. I think it’s also important to remember that just because a person is post divorce, does not mean that they are not still healing from a past relationship (girlfriend or fiance). I remember this past year, going on a few dates with a guy that spoke about his ex wife like she was golden and he really impressed me. By the fourth date, he finally admitted that he and a girlfriend had recently broke up. The reality is that by the 5th date, you’re just now getting in the ground work of getting to know the person. However, it’s important to ask good questions when appropriate. That is one area that I will dig a few questions deep to confirm. I do think it’s a good thing that he is self aware. However, can say in both of my situations, those men also acknowledged that they were sharing their heart on the sleeve emotions very soon.

  8. 68

    I recently met a guy online. I truely never thought I would meet anyone and felt it was to much work. To make a long story short. We began to email and then talked on the phone and then a first date. The date went well and now we are on date 7. He told me that he was falling in love with me after date 4 and I asked him how and why. He told me I was different than the other 2 women he has dated (he has been divorced 2 years and dated 2 women) He feels comfortable, he can share openly with me and that he feel good being around me. Shortly after he said that he loved me before he ended the phone call. Of course I was startled. The next day he mentioned I realized you were taken off guard when I said I love you. My guy is similar to Stef. He said we can take it slow as I want. My thing is I am not a friend with benefits and he respect my stand and willing to wait.

  9. 69

    to me sounds like a big red flag/   sounds like a person who has insecurities and soon you’ll be feeling like a bad person cause in no time he’ll be putting you down like you did something wrong, etc.   because its not moving fast enough for him.   he’ll be the nicest person on the planet, maybe even has a really awesome job/position/career/income/future security/nice home/no kids, the perfect deal.   then you realise, hmmm, there is a reason why he is single, and its def not by choice as he would constantly remind you about.   in no time he will have you replaced if you cant handle obeying to his rules and choices and whatever the package may be.   hes probably getting seeking out another “the one” if he thinks he is failing.   and preparing for his big, make it look like you are the bad one in this,, such as you are not the person i first met or thought you were, etc.   RUN   as far as you can.   don’t give in to all the niceness he will try to care for you in so many ways and offer security. oh, but make sure you have a female family dcotor, cause that will be a suggestion of his if you don’t!   even though he dones’t have a male doctor if his own.

  10. 70
    Still Trying to Get it Right

    I realize this post was made a long time ago but I have just seen it and it resonated for me.   My most recent ex asked (!) me when he could tell me how he felt, just four weeks after we started dating.   It was clear  what he was going to say (imagine a personal version of Tom Cruise jumping on  Oprah’s couch)  and it scared me silly.    As a relatively level-headed gal (and middle-aged, to boot), I knew  he couldn’t possibly know me well enough to genuinely love me.    My response to him was to ask him to wait for a bit before he articulated how he felt because his intensity scared me and made me want to run away.        But for me this initial approach led me to put up  my guard    and always wonder why he was rushing   (good news: I am now working on my own fear of receiving love – so I can thank him for that)  . For him,  this   moment led him to box away his feeling and not revisit them – or so he told me at the end of our relationship 2.5 years later.    After he said that, I started to blame myself.    But then I started thinking about it and have revised my interpretation.   His  rushed  “love” at the beginning of the relationship  and his unkind, blaming comment at the end of our relationship   suggest some (a lot?)  emotional immaturity.   That is HIS problem.  Evan,   I’d be interested in your take on this.

    For me, the bottom line is that genuine love takes time to develop and emerge.   And while someone’s attraction to you (or yours to them) is exciting and thrilling and sexy and energizing, those three words matter.   Rushing to say them drains them of their real meaning.

  11. 71

    Hi All,

    I was married 22 years, have two beautiful daughters in college, he told me he loved on the third date. I wasn’t there yet, but over time my feelings grew deeper, he was a good honest man, with a wonderful family.

    Dont be afraid, this man, my ex, still loved me when I told him I was divorcing him. I lost respect for him over the mental abuse he put me through, so the love died I had for him.

    As women, there is nothing more satisfying then to hear the words I LOVE YOU, you can’t put a clock on it, embrace it.

    4 things make it last forever:


    LOVE being all of those, if you have the ingredients then go with your heart.

    Everyone falls in love at their own pace, it’s not a race.

  12. 72

    I think she should be aware that he could be personality disordered and the ILY could be part of his psychopathological need to “love-bomb”.

    Her gut is telling herself. I’d say listen to it.

  13. 73

    Are you people serious? The guys not the only one that needs help. Jessica you need to get some serious help. And not online. Is there some sort of game?

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