Can I say ‘I love you’ first?

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We have discussed our future with each other and our plans, such as marriage and children one day. None of the conversations are super deep or long, but they have happened. However, he still hasn’t told me that he loves me. He shows me every day that he deeply cares about me, but he isn’t one to be sappy. Should I be worried? He has been betrayed, so I have given him grace and time to heal. That’s why I haven’t said that I love him. I want to give him time. But I almost slip and tell him that I love him every week. What do I do?

LOVE HIM

A. I don’t understand the “officially dating” thing, but I’ll assume that means it was seven months of “healing time.” You’ve known each other for the better part of a year, which seems relevant. It’s been 10 months of falling for him.

Tell him you love him and then clarify what that means. For some, “I love you” means “I’m ready to get betrothed.” For others it’s more, “I care about you, am attracted to you, and hope this keeps working because I’m so excited about it.” I swear, if we all expanded on our “I love you” declarations, they might be less stressful — and more revealing. The only thing to hold back is the part about him being the one. Right now, all you really know is that you’re hopeful. You love the way this is going. Focus on that.

Let him know you enjoy the way he shares affection, and that there’s no pressure to match your words if it feels too soon. It’s nice for someone to know that all of their other acts of kindness and support aren’t being ignored.

I do get it. It’s a scary thing to say first, but it’s also kind of frightening (for some) to even reference a future with marriage and children. If one thing is possible, so is the other. Just be clear and patient.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

“He has been betrayed, so I have given him grace and time to heal. That’s why I haven’t said that I love him.” Is he still hung up on someone? Then, no.

JACQUISMITH

If you feel you must follow antiquated rules of who says “I love you” first even though you’re already talking about a future together, I would cut back on those six to seven days a week of seeing each other. Because I don’t think you’re ready for discussions of marriage. You sound young and I get it, but really, truly loving someone doesn’t mean hiding feelings and being coy about real emotions.

BKLYNMOM

You sound young enough not to understand yet that it’s the things that get left unsaid that cause the most regret. If you love and want to tell him … tell him.

JOEYMAMA

“Tell him you love him and then clarify what that means.” Obey the first five words, and then stop. No clarification is needed. Keep it simple.

HARRISBSTONE

Consider that your boyfriend might be writing the exact same letter! Honestly, just say it. If saying “I love you” is going to torpedo the relationship, it’s doomed anyhow.

STRIPEYCAT

Yes, you can tell him you love him first. Set a precedent for speaking what is important to you.

NANOSECO

You worry about his feelings while censuring your own? Huh. He was betrayed, but not by you, so why are you doing time for someone else’s crime? I get that you’re excited about this relationship and worried about screwing it up; however, it’s about time you stopped walking on eggshells and let him worry about upsetting you for a change.

COMMENTOR2

Send your own relationship and dating questions to [email protected] or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.



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