Thinking about dropping the “L” bomb?

It’s a big moment in any relationship. Your heart starts racing, you gather up your courage, and you say it: “I love you.”

But how long should you wait before letting those words fly? That might be determined by where you live, at least in part.

A company called Brilliant Earth performed a few surveys to find out how couples shared their feelings, and the results were pretty compelling. For starters, the average time that couples wait to say “I love you” is about 4-6 months.

image

That varied according to the survey respondent’s location. People in the Northeast of the United States said “I love you” at around the 2-3 month point. People in the South waited significantly longer, closer to the 6-month range.

If you’re wondering why this is, well…we don’t have a great answer. We’d guess that it has something to do with the social value placed on love in these different cultures, or at least the word love. We’re not saying that people in the Northeast value their relationships any less than people in the South—every relationship is different, of course, and there’s no “right” time for everyone.

image

Other surveys have tried to answer the same questions.

Match.com performed a similar survey and found that the average amount of time to wait before expressing love is five months (right on par with the Brilliant Earth surveys).

Around this time, couples tend to change their social media statuses to reflect the fact that they’re in relationships, so if you’re hearing those words, you should probably make a quick update on Facebook.

image

After that point, serious relationships roll along at a somewhat predictable rate; couples get engaged after about two years, get married after three, and start their families after four. The survey showed that the average person finds their soulmate at about 25 for women and 28 for men.

That’s a median age, by the way—only half of the survey participants met their partners while they were in their 20s, according to Glamour.

image

Of course, there’s an important caveat to note with these studies.

All of the research comes from companies that profit from those three words. Brilliant Earth is a diamond company, while Match.com is a dating site.

To get to the scientific truth of the matter, we’ll turn to Ackerman, Griskevicius, & Li, three researchers who penned a study called “Let’s get serious: Communicating commitment in romantic relationships,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Their research shows that 64 percent of people believe that women are more likely to say “I love you” first. However, the data didn’t bear out that assumption; 62 percent of participants said that in past relationships, the man said the words first, while 70 percent of participants reporting on current relationships said the same.

image

On average, men began considering expressing their feelings three months into a relationship. Women began considering the words five months in.

While the data is interesting, remember: Every couple is different. If you haven’t heard those words at the 6-, 7-, or 8-month mark, don’t distress—and certainly, don’t rush it! Love is, after all, patient.