After dating a guy for a long time, you might be eager to drop the highly anticipated L-bomb. When you’re head-over-heels in love with someone, you want to scream it from the rooftops, for goodness sakes! That’s why it can be pretty frustrating when your boyfriend is reluctant to express his feelings of love toward you, no matter how strong your feelings are for him. In fact, you might not even know if he loves you at all!
But just because he isn’t saying those three little words doesn’t mean that his love for you isn’t there. There could be plenty of signs that your guy is digging you just as much as you’re digging him – you just might not be noticing them!
After all, actions speak louder than words, right?
Why Isn’t He Saying It?
Just because a guy doesn’t say it doesn’t mean it’s not true! There could be many things holding your guy back from saying “I love you.”
Reason #1: He’s afraid of being rejected
Fear of rejection could be a huge factor in why your significant other isn’t showering you with love. Denise Christopher, a dating and relationship coach and founder of the love and date consulting website denisechristopher.com, says that you shouldn’t worry if your guy hasn’t said “I love you” yet. “Guys are no different than women when it comes to rejection; they too have a great fear of being rejected,” she says.
Let’s face it – dealing with rejection is no fun. No one wants to say “I love you” and not have those same feelings returned. Your boyfriend may be worried that you don’t feel the same way and won’t reciprocate his proclamation of love, which could be a big factor in why he’s holding back.
“I dated my girlfriend for six months before I told her I loved her,” says Scott*, a sophomore at the University of Washington. “I knew I loved her after about three months, but I was so afraid to tell her that I just couldn’t say it. I had no idea if she loved me and I didn’t want to get rejected. That would just be awkward.”
Reason #2: He had a bad past relationship
Unhealthy relationships from the past could also be a contributing factor. “Everyone has emotional baggage, and often deep hurt can effect your guy’s decision to say ‘I love you,’” Christopher says.
A terrible breakup or an unhealthy relationship can really take a toll on someone both mentally and emotionally. If your guy had his heart broken in the past, he may be scared to tell you he loves you in fear that your relationship will have the same heartbreaking ending. Fear of repeating the past can cause a guy to take a step back and assess the relationship to make sure he’s really committed to it before he takes it further.
“My last serious relationship ended really badly, and it was hard to recover from,” says Liam*, a sophomore at Washington State University. “I casually dated a few girls after it, but I never fully committed myself to them because I was always worried that they’d just end up like my last one. Getting your heart broken is no fun, and whenever I get involved with a girl, I always think about that.”
Reason #3: He doesn’t know how to say it
Maybe your guy is totally, madly in love with you, but he’s struggling to find the right way to say it. After all, it’s a pretty big deal and it comes with a lot of pressure! “Most guys aren’t as verbally expressive as women,” Christopher says. “Your guy may be feeling challenged to actually say the words ‘I love you.’”
While it may seem like a simple thing to say, a lot of guys find it very stressful and straight-up nerve-wracking.
“Like I said, I was absolutely terrified to tell my girlfriend that I love her,” Scott says. “I had never said it to a girl before and I wanted it to be special, but I had no idea how to say it or when to say it or where. I didn’t know if I should tell her casually or take her out to a fancy dinner or make some big, romantic gesture or something. I thought about it way too much, which is probably why it took me so long!”
How Can You Tell if He Loves You?
Even if he hasn’t expressed his love for you verbally, there could be plenty of nonverbal signs that he’s totally in love with you. If you’re on the lookout for clues that he’s in L-O-V-E with you, watch out for one of these signs!
Sign #1: He makes you a priority
When you become an important part of his day-to-day life, that’s a pretty good sign that he’s feeling some love for you. Taking time out of each day to catch up with you, planning weekly dates and being attentive to your needs are all signs that you’re becoming a priority in his life.
“I know you never want to be that guy that blows off his friends, but when I started dating my girlfriend, I noticed that I didn’t mind ditching ‘guy time’ to hang out with her,” says Cameron*, a sophomore at Seattle University. “When you love a girl, you make sure you have time to see her no matter what; it’s just what you do!”
When he makes time in his busy schedule of friends, school and sports just to make sure he can see you, that’s a good sign that you’re a real priority in his life.
Sign #2: He talks to you about the future
When you think about the future, you always factor in the people you love, so when your guy brings up the future to you, there’s a good chance that you’re one of those loved ones! Christopher says there’s a definite possibility that he loves you if he “talks to you about the future using the words ‘we’ or ‘us’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘me,’ sometimes without even realizing it.”
Even if the future plans are just hypothetical, it’s still a big sign that he imagines you being in his life for a long time.
“My boyfriend took SO long to tell me that he loved me,” says Hannah, a junior at the University of Washington. “I was getting really frustrated because we had been dating for several months, but one day he told me that he was thinking about places that we could move to after graduation and I was kind of taken aback. When I realized he was factoring me into his future plans, it made me feel a lot better. Even though he hadn’t said it yet, I knew he loved me—he just needed some time!”
Sign #3: He keeps you close
Unspoken displays of affection can be a big indicator that a guy has some pretty strong feelings for you – mainly, his body language when you two are out together in public.
Christopher says there’s a good chance he loves you if “he keeps you close, walks next to you and has no hesitation to show a public display of affection (i.e., holding your hands, placing his hand at the lower part of your back or giving you butterfly kisses). All this not only lets you know he’s into you, but also lets others know he’s not available.”
When a guy loves you, he wants everyone to know that you’re his girl, which is why these subtle displays of affection can hold a lot of meaning!
Sign #4: He actively listens to you talk about your day
Any guy can pretend to listen about your day, but when a guy loves you he’ll actually listen. Why? Because he wants to!
If he loves you, he’ll want to know about how your day was and how he can make it better. He’ll be there for support when you’re having a pretty crappy day or happy for you when you got an A on that big test of yours. If you notice he’s really engaged when you’re telling him personal stories or he asks a lot of pertinent questions, it’s a good sign that he’s heading towards those feelings of love.
“When you love someone, you want to know about their day because you actually care,” says Patrick*, a junior at Gonzaga University. “It also makes you want to open up to them more, too, and share personal stories about yourself. I tell my girlfriend things I wouldn’t be able to tell my guy friends or my siblings because I know she cares and I feel comfortable telling her.”
Talking to you about his day may also be a sign that he loves you. When he shares personal stories with you and values your input, it says a lot about his feelings for you.
Sign #5: You meet his extended family
Meeting the family is a big deal, so when he takes you home for Thanksgiving or introduces you to his grandparents, don’t take it lightly! Most guys wouldn’t introduce their significant others to their relatives unless they were really serious about them.
“I would never let a girl meet all my relatives unless I knew I loved her and saw a future with her,” Cameron says. “If you bring a girl home to meet your whole family, they all usually assume it’s pretty serious. I know my relatives still ask me about my ex-girlfriend ALL the time because I brought her to one of my family reunions a few years ago. It’s not worth it to just bring any girl home; she’s got to be special.”
Should You Say it First?
If you’ve picked up on some of these signs and you’re getting the feeling that he loves you too, should you go ahead and drop the L-bomb first? It may be tempting – someone has to take initiative and say it, after all! Before you go ahead and express your undying love for him, however, you may want to take a step back and look at the reason why you’re so eager to say “I love you.”
“If you are saying ‘I love you’ only in hopes to be reassured about the relationship and hear the words back so you can feel secure... don’t do it,” Christopher says. “He will likely sense where this declaration is really coming from and begin to feel pressured or manipulated.”
If you need to hear the words “I love you” just so you can feel more secure about yourself, then dropping the first L-bomb may not be in your (or his) best interests. You don’t want to pressure him into saying something he doesn’t necessarily feel yet. If you want to say it just to satisfy your own ego, then it may be best to wait.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I love you” first if you truly can’t contain your love. “If you are truly secure and are bursting at the seams, struggling to hold back those words every time you see him… go for it,” Christopher says. “Know, though, that you are ready to express your feelings because they are what they are, and be confident with the possibility that the words may not be returned.”
Although you may get the response you were hoping for, you should be okay if he can’t quite return the feelings yet! You should only say “I love you” if that’s how you really feel. Don’t expect anything in return; just hope for the best! If you truly do love him, you should be willing to wait until he can figure out his feelings and say he loves you when he really feels it. You don’t want him to say something he doesn’t mean just to please you.
If you find yourself stressing because your guy hasn’t said those three important words yet, don’t worry! The love could be there; he may just not be ready to say it yet.