If you don’t watch How I Met Your Mother then you haven’t met Ted. Meet Ted. On a first date he unwittingly drops the "L" bomb (ie, LOVE, which, as it turns out, meant no second date for Ted). We have a tendency to toss "I Love You" around, which means it's especially hard to sort out the meaning of it in a new relationship. In a sea of over-users, here are a few indicators that your mate (or first date) is for serious.
The moment of clarity:
A knowing, loving gaze usually pre-empts a legit “I love you.” It represents that moment when the person knows. If he stares into your eyes and cocks his head to examine your features adoringly, he definitely means the three little words that follow.
Consider it a verbal monogram. If he starts by declaring your name – than you’ve got yourself a legit I love you. “Ted, I love you" – is as a non-negotiable confession. If in this moment he’s got your name wrong – throw your drink on him and never return a call again. He doesn’t just have a case of the I love you’s, he has baggage.
It's all in the tone:
Even if there are more than 3 words, such as: “I’m in love with you,” “I love the hell out of you,” “I love you to bits”; you will know by the tone (if it’s for serious he is going to sound for serious).
The minute it can get 'ya' confused:
“I love ya” is not an “I love you”. It’s the complimentary “I love you” that we reserve for praising close friends and pets. If love is a battlefield than “ya” is reusable ammunition and you’re still waiting for the bomb to drop.
Pause for the real thing:
Following the “you” the first time someone says it (and means it) is usually followed by a long pause where the profess-er patiently awaits a response from the profess-e. If you notice any signs of awkwardness following the I love you – he’s waiting to hear it back, or has even surprised himself by saying it. Go easy on him – the “I love spending time with you response” can leave emotional bruises.