A new study found that in two thirds of (apparently heterosexual) relationships, the man said "I love you" first. Now scientists are struggling with a difficult task: Explaining what men could possibly mean when they say those three little words.
Dr. Laura Berman, who you've probably seen making middle-aged couples squirm on Oprah takes a stab at this in the Chicago Sun-Times. She writes:
The study found that while men consider saying "I love you" a full six weeks before their partners, they are also more likely to enjoy hearing those words if they haven't yet had sex. On the other hand, women are more likely to enjoy hearing "I love you" if sex already has occurred.
So men hear "I love you" as "I'm going to get laid," and women need reassurance that they're not sluts after the fact. Oh, stereotypes — you never lead me astray!
Dr. Berman claims that the difference is due to gender-based biological cues: "While men are programmed to spread their seed far and wide, women are programmed to select a fit and suitable mate." She continues:
Some men might realize that professing their love will make a woman more likely to engage in sex with them, so they confess their emotions to illustrate their commitment and "seal the deal." Meanwhile, women see sex as part of a bigger picture (i.e. a commitment to fidelity and monogamy), and this is why they crave those three little words after the act.
In other words, he offers intimacy because he wants sex, and she offers sex because she wants intimacy. Unfortunately, these differing expectations and needs can muddy the waters between couples. In the early days of dating, it can complicate relationships because women might use sex as a way to establish commitment, when in reality, all their partner might be looking for is a night of fun. Just because sex has occurred, it doesn't mean that a commitment has been made, which is why it is so crucial to have that talk before you hit the bedroom.
Is this true for some couples? Sure. But it doesn't take into account that women aren't always looking for sex to come with a wedding and van full of babies. And isn't it possible that on occasion, men say I love you because they actually mean it? (This can definitely be confusing for some guys. It's not like envy, or even hungry! It's like your heart is getting hard!)
Here's an alternate theory: Men say "I love you" first because they're expected to make the first move, and there's less risk involved for them. After all, they've been told that it's what all ladies want to hear. On the other hand, women may be more hesitant to say the words when they feel them because hundreds of Cosmo articles have warned them about scaring men off by being too emotionally needy. Maybe it's harder for women to say "I love you" first because what they really want to express is, "I have strong feelings for you, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm desperate for a ring and a baby like the chicks you've read about in those science articles."
Men Often The First To Utter ‘I Love You' [The Chicago Sun-Times]
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