When Should You Say 'I Love You'?

In the past, I have been guilty of carelessly throwing around such a weighted word to almost every boyfriend I had "strong" feelings for.

I was head over heels in love with my last boyfriend, Joseph. It was the deepest kind of love. The I-don't-care-if-you-have-cancer-I-love-you-anyway-and-I-don't-want-to-live-life-without-you kind of love. It took all but 3 months before I couldn't contain my feelings anymore and I blurted out to him that I loved him. And he said it back.
There are two types of 'love' in a relationship.
There's the 'Everything is Going So Well Because We're Still In The Honeymoon Phase and I'm Actually Just Super Infatuated But I Can Totally See This Going Somewhere' love. That's the kind that spurs someone to prematurely utter the words to their significant other after three months. That's the kind that makes said significant other say the phrase back.

And then there's the true, deep ass love. The kind of love that develops when a relationship has seen all kinds of shit but both people are still there, working together at the relationship, respecting each other while fighting to keep the relationship alive. That's the kind that makes you think I fucking hate you right now but dammit I still respect you and your happiness still means everything to me so even though I hate you, I am going to support and comfort you. That's what I eventually learned to feel for Joseph and when I told him I loved him, I meant that I was ride or die. I was going to be there for him no matter what and that cancer couldn't scare me away.

He remained at the honeymoon phase kind of love. When he told me he loved me, he meant he loved me because things were easy. When shit started hitting the fan, he broke up with me and I was crushed. I felt deceived because why would you tell someone you love them if you don't mean it in the deepest kind of way? I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I said it when I was at the first tier and then grew into the second tier. He never grew.

It's tempting to tell someone you love them when things are going so well. And it's natural to crave validation from your partner in the form of three words for the infatuation you're feeling. But saying 'I love you' prematurely is a lose-lose situation. In my last relationship, I got to the second level and he didn't. I felt lied to even though I knew he loved me on the surface definition of the word. What if that happens to you? Or maybe both of you stay in the first level in which case neither of you ever says it and that's fine. Or maybe both of you get to the second level and then both of you can say it then and it just means that much more.

You should say I love you once you're past the honeymoon phase. Once you've learned to love your partner even when you hate them. When you've realized that no matter how much shit life throws at the two of you and at your relationship, you are not leaving. Because that's real love and to say it when you feel that way is so very special.