It's your third date with Zac and things are going great. You're amazed at how many things you have in common: food, music, even your favorite cartoon as a kid. You've only known each other for two weeks, but you find yourself thinking about him a lot, almost as much as he texts you (a little annoying, but you're sure he'll calm down). Unlike some of the other guys you've dated lately, you can really see a future with Zac, as long as this "living with his parents" thing is just a phase and he stops calling everything "the bomb dot com." After dinner at Arby's -- oops, he forgot his wallet again! -- he pulls out a paper rose and says, "Baby, I know it's crazy, but I think I love you."
Crazy? Perhaps. Too soon? Absolutely. Dating experts agree that a premature profession of love, while not necessarily a dealbreaker, is definitely a red flag. If someone is capable of falling in love that easily, they're just as capable of falling out [source: Georgi]. Or worse, the love-struck party might just be faking it in order to win his or her way into the heart (and bedroom) of a new love.
Of course, the way you react to an early "I love you" depends a lot on your own feelings. If you really like the other person and enjoy spending time with him or her, then you should be more forgiving of an early blurt. In this case, the offender probably confused the giddy infatuation of "falling in love" for "being in love" [source: Atwood]. If you want to salvage the relationship, the best way to react is to be honest. "I really like you, too," you might say. "But I think we still need to get to know each other better before we can talk about 'love.'"
Unfortunately, an early "I love you" can do irreparable damage to the natural balance of a young relationship [source: Rollins]. If you've barely entered the "really like" phase and your partner is already picking out your wedding colors, it's going to put a lot of pressure on you to figure out -- quickly -- if you feel the same way. The L-word is now the elephant in the room. If you think there's a future in the relationship, address the issue sensitively and do your best to restore the balance. If not, Hallmark makes some lovely "you're dumped" cards.
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