Sure, it's hard to hold back when the L bomb wants to escape your lips, but the object of your affection is more likely to be receptive.
When You're Sober
Booze may make you brave, but your passion proclamation loses something if your guy has to ask himself, "Was that the vodka talking?" or in the case of Emanuel,* 32, the champagne. "Last New Year's Eve, my new girlfriend and I got hammered," he says. "As we counted down to midnight and popped open another bottle of bubbly, Lana kissed me and yelled, 'I love you!' I know I've said things I didn't mean under the influence, so I couldn't take her seriously." Hot tip: Spill preparty and, when he responds in kind, you'll really have something to celebrate.
Out of the Sack
During a hot roll in the hay, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and say (or yell) "I. Love. You!" But your guy wants to know you're equally hooked once the post orgasm fog lifts. "Mandy and I had been dating for a few months and were really into each other," explains Michael, 19. "Then one night while we're in bed, she blurts out that she loves me as she's climaxing. I thought, Does she love me or having an orgasm?" The lust lesson: If his mattress moves rock your world, let him know, but save the monster declaration of your devotion for when you're vertical.
Over the phone, via e-mail, or by text message are all really bad ways to profess your love to someone for the first time. One, it's a cop-out. If you feel that strongly, look him in the eye and say so. Two, regardless of how many emoticons you throw in an e-mail or text, the message often gets misconstrued. Take it from Dave, 27: "A girl I was dating signed off on IM with 'iluvu,'" he says. "We'd never said that to each other in person, so I didn't know how to take it. Was she playing around or dead serious?" Ladies, don't escort your lovesick boy into such uncertainty. Tell him to his face, so he can read the sincerity in your eyes.
Before He Says It
If you're feeling the love itch, chances are he is as well but is too chicken to be the initiator. So say it first and take the pressure off him like the girlfriend of Sam, 25. "I knew I'd fallen for Mia, but I held back because I was afraid I'd seem desperate," he says. "Then one day in the park, she whispered that she loved me. Of course I reciprocated." Bottom line: Guys have an easier time saying "I love you too."