Should I tell my boyfriend that I love him? If so, how?
October 5, 2015 2:00 PM   Subscribe

We've been dating for three months. I love him, but he hasn't said it yet, and I don't know if I want to say it first.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three months. It's been really great and smooth sailing. We spend a lot of time together, and have already taken a couple trips together. We have both expressed that we could see ourselves getting married/having kids/the works and make jokes about when we're old and gray, etc. We have made serious plans for a year out.

I got out of a really long relationship shortly before I met him. I have had a few relationships before. In all of my relationships, the other person said "I love you" first, within the first month, and I reciprocated without being sure if I meant it. I did enjoy hearing it though and was happy.

He has also had a few relationships, none super long-term, and has only told one person that he loved them (in a romantic sense). However he says he now feels, in retrospect, that he was not actually in love.

For the past month or so, I have been considering telling him that I love him. I am over-analyzing a bit, probably, but I am 90% sure that I love him. There have been several moments where I really really wanted to say it, but held back. We do say nice things to each other often, like "You're my favorite," "You make me so happy," "You're the best" and my boyfriend has said on multiple occasions that he "really cares" about me.

The reason I am holding back is that since he has not said it much before, I feel like he takes it really seriously and I do not want to pressure him to say it before he wants to. I also don't want to hang an awkward axe over us because I am currently happy with how things are. If he doesn't love me yet, I feel that he will, and I do not feel insecure or like I need reassurances. However, if I say it and he specifically doesn't say it back, I think it might make me feel bad.

On the other hand, loving people is nice, and I'd like him to know that I love him, as long as it would make him feel good. If he is ready to say it back, I'd be glad to be in that new stage. I'd like to be able to say "I love you" when I kiss him goodbye in the morning. And, though I'm theoretically happy to wait, say, another three months, I would feel uncomfortable being in a relationship without exchanging "I love you's" for much longer than that. I am a person who likes to say it and hear it a lot in relationships. So there's a compatibility issue I'd like to confirm as well.

tl;dr: Should you say "I love you" if you're not sure the other person loves you back? Any tips for not having hurt feelings if they don't want to say it yet? If you know the other person is more serious/cautious about saying "i love you," should you let them lead the way? Does it matter if I say it in person or over text first?
posted by ohsnapdragon to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're not 100% sure, but, yes, it's a nice thing to say. "I think I'm starting to fall in love with you" would be a nice low-key way to bring it up.
posted by kmennie at 2:09 PM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you feel like saying it, say it. You're saying "I love you" to someone you're close to, not swearing a solemn oath of unconditional love forever and ever.

And a lot of guys let "I love you" go to their heads because they're weird, and they decide not to acknowledge that love and affection fade because they need it to pump up their egos.

So I say, just say it. It's better to be an expressive person than someone who remains emotionally constipated and withholding. You might find out you don't love him anymore in a few months and that's fine too. You can stop saying it then if you don't feel like you love him anymore:)

Be open, be free! Say what you feel, feel free to not say it anymore later.
posted by discopolo at 2:15 PM on October 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I personally think it's premature before at least 8 months, but that's me. In your shoes, ask yourself how you would feel if you said, "I love you" and he replied "You're awesome," or "I know."

Leave it. Let it be something special for you to reserve until you're sure, so sure that it doesn't matter whether or not he's sure.
posted by janey47 at 2:16 PM on October 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I moved to a different country for my now husband. We had never said "I love you" before I moved.

After a couple of months, we were lying next to each other on the bed and I just burst out "I LOVE YOU"
His response was "You do?" and we had a little chat about the fact that I did, indeed, love him... but he didn't say it to me.

Then, a few weeks/ months later, he was out at hockey and we were on the phone to each other chatting. We said goodbye, I said "I love you" and he said "I love you too" and hung up.

I was obviously ecstatic!

I then waited for him to say it to my face, and he didn't for a while. So I brought it up with him and said "you know, you said you loved me on the phone the other day" and he admitted he was hoping I hadn't heard him because the whole "being in love" thing was overwhelming to him (his last serious relationship had ended badly) and he had wanted to fully process his feelings before saying it back to me.

Fast forward seven years and we're married and we tell each other we love each other 100 times a day.

So, what am I getting at?

Should you say "I love you" if you're not sure the other person loves you back? At some point in EVERY relationship, One person has to take the leap of faith. The other person may or may not be ready, but that's fine!

Any tips for not having hurt feelings if they don't want to say it yet? If the relationship is good, be patient, it will come eventually. If they don't say it eventually but keep stringing you along, then that's a different thing.

If you know the other person is more serious/cautious about saying "i love you," should you let them lead the way? Personally, I'm glad I took the bull by the horns because I needed my guy to know how I was feeling.

Does it matter if I say it in person or over text first? In person. You'll get a better handle on his response that way

good luck!
posted by JenThePro at 2:20 PM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I said it to my husband a week after our first date. We've been together almost eight years. Whatever works.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Forget about should and would and whatnot.

If you love him, say so! Part of relationships is being vulnerable and showing your partner that you trust them with your vulnerability.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2015 [14 favorites]

Tell people you love them so that they know you love them. Don't tell people you love them so that they'll tell you they love you.
posted by headnsouth at 2:27 PM on October 5, 2015 [24 favorites]

somebody should write a book called, "this is what they said when I said I love you"

just random recollections of responses from people all over the world.

I'd buy that book.

If you genuinely feel something awesome in the realm of happiness, friendship, appreciation, love... it's usually a really lovely thing to hear.

Drop your expectations about reciprocation and all that, expressing a beautiful and sincere sentiment from within yourself helps unlock more of you, not them.
posted by bobdow at 2:29 PM on October 5, 2015 [16 favorites]

Stop playing games. If you love him, say it if you feel moved to. Maybe he'll say it back, maybe he won't. Is it really that important?
posted by sparklemotion at 2:36 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding "I think I'm starting to fall in love with you".

Always err on the side of kindness.

If you think this is really going somewhere, saying "I Love You" it can take the pressure to say it off. If you think it'll eventually get stuck, wait a while.
posted by notsnot at 2:39 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I don't want to do it first" is the shittiest reason to not say something like this.

I mean, i realize we've probably all done it at some point or another with this sort of thing... But it's very The Rules and gross.

And i say this as someone who has way way way overthought saying this and hesitated a lot before. It's only ever hurt, not helped.
posted by emptythought at 3:18 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do it!

I've been in a situation where I wanted to say it and never did and it added a strange weight to the relationship that things never recovered from. I've been in a situation where I said it on accident three weeks into the relationship (I was joking around and it just slipped out), and had it totally reciprocated, and everything was great.

In my book, three months is a reasonable enough amount of time. I mean, who wants to waste 6+ months dating someone if they don't love you back? By three months, assuming no extenuating circumstances (you've never met in person, you haven't slept together, you see each other only every few weeks), you kind of know what their deal is. You probably know whether you have the capacity to fall in love with them or not. And if they don't have the same understanding of you, that's not so great.

If you're really, really worried, why not do a sort of "training wheels" expression of love, like "I'm crazy about you", "I like you so, so much", "I'm falling for you", etc? My current dude and I watched Scott Pilgrim together early on, and our training wheels phrase of choice was "I'm in lesbians with you". You get the idea.
posted by Sara C. at 3:26 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Definitely tell him in person if you're going to say it!

Texting it is being cowardly: maybe he feels the same, maybe he's moving towards feeling the same, maybe he doesn't feel that way. In any case, you've got to take the risk in order to have the "reward" of reciprocation.

If you're feeling it (and it sounds like you do), just say it! The fear is your vulnerability speaking, which is a good thing in that you need to be vulnerable to grow in a relationship. You can acknowledge that this may be a bit early for him and you understand if he's not feeling the same yet but you really want to express yourself. That's a good thing, regardless of what happens! I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:28 PM on October 5, 2015

It takes a long time to get to 100% but I'd wait until I was about 98% sure before I said it. 90% sure is way too uncertain for such a claim in my opinion.
posted by sockermom at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

People seem to be reading into your question, which is maybe not surprising. I don't think you have nefarious reasons for wanting to hold back saying "I love you", at all. It's very plausible that it could make him feel awkward despite your best intentions. I don't get a vibe from you that you're trying to play games or anything like that.

My boyfriend said "I think I'm falling in love with you" before he actually said "I love you." At the time I thought it was cute and a good way to ease into the subject. My response was to tease him "you think?! Well, you will have plenty of time to decide." Then we kissed and it was overall a pretty cute/non-awkward moment.

I nth that this is the way to go, before laying out the full "I love you."
posted by quincunx at 4:06 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could always start out easy by getting into the habit of saying "I'm crazy about you" or "God, I love it when you do x, y, z." It's a safe halfway step.
posted by egeanin at 4:19 PM on October 5, 2015

FWIW, talking about getting married, having kids, growing old together, etc. is way more serious to me than saying "I love you." If he's starting to fall for you, then I'd expect he feels similarly. However, if he's saying all of that but not feeling any inklings of "love" or "in love," I'd be concerned that his words weren't matching his feelings.

I feel you really can't go wrong with something what others wrote above: "These past three months with you have been amazing. I really feel I'm starting to fall in love with you!" Chances are he'll react positively, however that may be. And, if he doesn't, we can certainly share more feedback from there!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:06 PM on October 5, 2015

The same thing happened to be when I first starting dating my boyfriend. He had told me he'd never said it first and I was trying to be stubborn and wanted him to say it first. But at 4 months, after a month of trying not to say it, I did. DO IT! It's scary but it's better than feeling scared of letting it slip all the time.
posted by shesbenevolent at 7:38 AM on October 6, 2015

Since you feel nervous about this, you might try some lower-key declarations 1st. You know, I really like you. I like spending time with you. You're pretty terrific. Not all at once ...
posted by theora55 at 8:12 AM on October 6, 2015

After I asked this question, I spent another few days staring at him, totally in love, and willing myself to say the words. I ended up needing some/a lot of liquid courage, and I was not smooth at all, but I did it! He did say it back, and we both agreed we had been wanting to say it/considering it for a while now. We have exchanged "I love you's" several more times. I'm glad I didn't wait any longer, because it is an amazing feeling to hear him say those words.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 2:12 PM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

« Older Cinnamon and Cayenne and Chocolate, Oh My!   |   A good word for feelings that are real but not... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.