After dating someone 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. That’s why it can be pretty frustrating when your S.O. is reluctant to express their feelings of love toward you, no matter how strong your feelings are. In fact, you might not even know if they love you at all!
But just because they aren’t saying those three little words doesn’t mean that their love for you isn’t there. There could be plenty of signs that your partner is digging you just as much as you are – you just might not be noticing them!
After all, actions speak louder than words, right?
Why Aren’t They Saying It?
Just because your S.O. doesn’t say it doesn’t mean it’s not true! There could be many things holding them back from saying “I love you.”
Reason #1: They’re 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 SO 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 S.O. may be worried that you don’t feel the same way and won’t reciprocate their proclamation of love, which could be a big factor in why they’re 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: They 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 affect your S.O.’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 S.O. had their heart broken in the past, they may be scared to tell you they love you in fear that your relationship will have the same heartbreaking ending. Fear of repeating the past can cause someone to take a step back and assess the relationship to make sure they’re really committed to it before they take 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 S.O. is totally, madly in love with you, but they’re 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 people 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 They Love You?
Even if they haven’t expressed their love for you verbally, there could be plenty of nonverbal signs that they’re totally in love with you. If you’re on the lookout for signs that they’re in L-O-V-E, watch out for these:
Sign #1: They make you a priority.
When you become an important part of their day-to-day life, that’s a pretty good sign that they’re 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 their 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 they make time in their busy schedule of friends, school, and extracurriculars just to make sure they can see you, that’s a good sign that you’re a real priority in their life.
Sign #2: They talk to you about the future.
When you think about the future, you always factor in the people you love, so when your S.O. 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 they love you if they “talk 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 they imagine you being in their 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: They keep you close.
Unspoken displays of affection can be a big indicator that bae has some pretty strong feelings for you – mainly, their body language when you two are out together in public.
Christopher says there’s a good chance they love you if “they keep you close, walk next to you and have no hesitation to show a public display of affection (i.e., holding your hands, placing their hand at the lower part of your back or giving you butterfly kisses). All this not only lets you know they’re into you, but also lets others know they’re not available.”
When someone loves you, they want everyone to know that you’re theirs, which is why these subtle displays of affection can hold a lot of meaning!
Sign #4: They actively listen to you talk about your day.
Any person can pretend to listen about your day, but when someone loves you, they’ll actually listen. Why? Because they want to!
If they love you, they’ll want to know about how your day was and how they can make it better. They’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 exam. If you notice they’re really engaged when you’re telling them personal stories or they ask a lot of pertinent questions, it’s a good sign that they’re 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 their day may also be a sign that they love you. When they share personal stories with you and value your input, it says a lot about their feelings for you.
Sign #5: You meet their extended family.
Meeting the family is a big deal, so when they take you home for Thanksgiving or introduce you to their grandparents, don’t take it lightly! Most people 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 they love 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 them, 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. “They 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 their) best interests. You don’t want to pressure them into saying something they don’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 them…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 they 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 them, you should be willing to wait until they can figure out their feelings and say they love you when they really feel it. You don’t want them to say something they don’t mean just to please you.
If you find yourself stressing because your S.O. hasn’t said those three important words yet, don’t worry! The love could be there; they may just not be ready to say it yet.