Four Ways to Say “I Love You” Without Actually Saying It

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There is a certain accountability to being a relationship and dating blogger who’s currently in a relationship. How can I retain any credibility if my own relationship isn’t owning it? Unfortunately, the deeper into a relationship you are, the further apart the milestones are, like a geometric progression.

Nerd alert

Between this post and the last, the one bridge we had yet to cross was saying those three words – I love you.

To all that I have bemoaned, “Why won’t he love me?!?!” – please know that we have indeed exchanged I love yous. We love each other. We’re officially in love. Our feelings have been validated by our words. Yay!

Some of you may be wondering, why did it have to be such a big deal? Why couldn’t I just enjoy his company? Why couldn’t I just say it first if I felt it? Well, words of affirmation as a love language is important to me – it just is.

There were certain measures I took to alleviate the feelings of urgency, not all of which I recommend. Note that I do not sanction Googling “how long until he says he loves you”. I don’t recommend having ten open tabs containing plebeian chatter on forums about how soon their SOs said they love each other, nor do I recommend feeling helplessly indignant that your boyfriend contradicts the findings in a study where men tend to say I love you first in heterosexual relationships.

Here’s what I found actually productive.

1. Talk around it

Prior to being entrenched in love with my boyfriend, I tried to feel out what his approach around saying I love you was. I asked how soon he had said it before and how he knows he loves someone, which gave me an understanding that he was a tough nut to crack. My expectations were then level-set (or really, lowered) accordingly, which prevented any unexpected outbursts of “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE ME?!” directed towards him. (All of such outbursts should be deflected to your friends.)

I recommend talking about saying “I love you” before you actually are in love. It’s easier to have an intellectual hypothetical discussion when your feelings aren’t at stake just yet.

2. Qualify it

This can be a little torturous to a recipient eager for more, but if you want to convey validation but you’re not yet ready to say those three words, you can qualify it with the things you love about that person. “I love… the way your hair smells” or “I love… spending time with you” are examples of this. I like to imagine this as building a slow but sure case for why you may eventually love that person. It also throws a bone to your hankering SO who will then bury it in his or her scant collection of affirmative gestures.

3. Parody it

Internetspeak has made parodying your feelings so easy. You can say, “udabes” or “best gf eva” or “you give me feelz” or even the classic “<3”. Simply by only saying these things via text and ditching the correct grammar of what you say takes the edge off what you actually mean, and also highlights how corny you think your feelings about that person are. You can always hide under a layer of self-deprecation and mockery if your feelings are too real for you.

4. Look it

A look can paint a thousand words. Sometimes, you can’t help but just look like you’re in love because you can’t control how you feel. But what if you’re an emoting robot and you often are misunderstood because how you act doesn’t reflect how you come across?

Why, I have just the tips for you. First, identify the feeling you feel. Next, try to break it down into its observable facial components. After all, if someone can tell that you’re in love, they can tell because they can observe it via sensory input and some contextual knowledge, yes? For instance, what would a yearning look look like? Perhaps a slight raised furrow of the brow, so your brows slope sadly downwards? Perhaps a loving gaze would entail slightly upturned corners of your lips, eyelids closed a quarter of the way, hand rustling the back of his or her head?

And if you can’t hold it in any longer…

5. Say it.

Just fucking say it. Sometimes the words are just gurgling in your throat and you can’t suppress it any longer – don’t do either of you a disservice by holding it in. For someone who wishes to get dating down to a predictable science, the wait was agonizing. Yes, it is the most anticipated “I love you” I’ve ever experienced, but the anticipation does make it sweeter than some cavalier “omg udabes I love you.”

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The Author

Singaporean in NYC, analyzing relationships with a boozy brownie in hand.

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