Does a Man Need To Hear His Girlfriend Say I Love You?

Hi Evan. I love, love, love your blog! You have some really saucy, right-to-the-point advice. I’ve combed through many a blog post. Now, here’s a question for you: I find the topic of expressing “I love you” on my mind a lot, lately. I’m dating a wonderful man of 4.5 months, who’s exhibited superb “boyfriend behavior.” We see each other 3 times a week. I’ve met his family and he’s met mine. He brings me flowers when I’ve had an awful day, and shows me support when it counts. But… he has yet to say “I love you.” I know it’s a bit soon to say the words, but it got me thinking: do men need to hear I love you from the ladies they’re with? Do they even care? I have a feeling that men aren’t sitting around chatting with their buddies about the topic: “Bob, it’s been 4 months and no I love you’s yet! What gives?! Does she love me or is she scared of commitment?” What I’d like to know is this: do men say “I love you” to us because they know we like to hear it (and of course, they should mean it), or do they place any importance on those 3 words? Do men sit in angst, wondering when the “I love you’s” will come, or do they just get around to saying it because they know it’s a requirement for us. Thoughts? –Tanya

Dear Tanya,

As much as advice columnists need to rely on generalizations and stereotypes in order to make our case, it would be dangerous to consider men as if they were some sort of monolithic unified entity.

And while I’d agree with you that there aren’t many angst-y male conversations about the words “I love you”, I think there are many reasons that men say it.

Just because a man says “I love you” doesn’t mean that he’s a perfect boyfriend, doesn’t mean he wants to marry you, and doesn’t mean he’s going to still love you in a month.

The #1 reason that men say “I love you”?

Because they mean it.

It’s not something that’s calculated. It’s not something he’s doing to send a message or affect a change. It’s not just to be nice to you (unless you said it first to us, then it might be).

A man says “I love you” because he loves you and those are the best words to express what he’s feeling at that time.

BUT – and this is a tangent – just because a man says “I love you” doesn’t mean that he’s a perfect boyfriend, doesn’t mean he wants to marry you, and doesn’t mean he’s going to still love you in a month.

This is VERY important to understand. I can’t tell you how many women have clung to “I love you” as some sort of talisman. “He said that he loved me during our one month anniversary in Cabo and he’s never said it in four months since…and now I think he’s pulling away from me. How is that possible?”

It’s possible because he said “I love you” spontaneously – because he meant it – and then, upon further reflection, didn’t want to reinforce the message, because he wasn’t sure he was going to stick around.

The fact is: different people weight those words differently – and it would be impossible for me to say what YOUR boyfriend is thinking.

When I was younger, I said it a lot more often.

In my mid-30s, I had one girlfriend and I didn’t say it for 8 months, because I wasn’t sure I meant it.

And even with my wife, I waited six months, until I could say it without reservations. For me, it was my way of letting her know that I was seriously considering a long-term relationship.

For others, they may not have come from families where men emoted like that. Once again, it’s hard to say.

I do think that your belief that men say it to you first just to get you off their back or because you want to hear it is unlikely. Most men would rather say nothing than to say something that they don’t mean and may come to regret later.

All I’d tell you is to pay attention to how he TREATS you. If he treats you like he loves you, then I am quite confident that his feelings and words aren’t all that far behind. Patience, grasshopper. Patience.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Tina

    This blog leaves me with the feeling that men are flighty and emotionally unavailiable. 

  2. 2
    Martha

    The ones who say I love you too fast are always trouble, be glad he is taking his time and will say it when he means it.
     

  3. 3
    Emily

    Tina –

    This blog also gives me the sense that women are needy and neurotic.

    Information Synthesis and Prognosis: We’re all effin’ nuts

    Solution: all we can do is stumble around, try to apply good advice, and hope to find people whose crazy matches our crazy in the right way

  4. 4
    Androgynous

    Tina, you are kidding right ? Or are you a troll ? If anything, men are the most uncomplicated creatures on the planet. If they seem flighty and emotionally unavailable, that’s usually because of how women interpret  their behaviours and/or actions, or the way women attach layers of meaning to their behaviours/actions or how women project their wishes and desires onto the behaviours/actions of men. I think men don’t know what women want, and I don’t think even women know what they want.  
    If a man is very attentive and loving, he is an emo weirdo. If he is cool and distant, he is a write-off.  If he keeps saying I love you, he is a stalker in the making. If he does not say I love you, he is a cold bastard.
    Like with all things male, men like to prove and show their love rather than just talking about it. They know how women latch on the “loaded” words and forever hold them to things perhaps said in the heat of the moment. Women never forget things like that and men know that if there were going to say I love you, it means having to live with the consequences for the next ten thousand years.
    To men, saying I love you simply means that he loves you. To a woman, a man saying I love you means 1) he will do anything for you 2) he will cop shit from you 3) he will give you kids and marry you 4) he will love your friends and family even if they hate him 5) he will smile and say It’s OK love when you bang up his Maseratti 6) he will let you have his credit card and not ask any questions 7). 8). 9)…..1001) you get the picture.
    Sure not all women are like that and once your man knows it, the I love yous will surely follow
     

  5. 5
    Darci

    I don’t find any part of this post flighty, emotionally unavailable, needy or neurotic.  I think this is a good question.  I think Evan makes some good points. Mostly, I think we think too much. 

    Love is a good thing. Real love is not something that can be felt right away and when people say “I Love You” before it’s reasonable, or before they feel it, then you’re probably operating on a more superficial level.

    We’re all human and most of us are just trying to learn how to connect and find a loving mate.  The most important thing I think Evan points out is that love is an action.  If someone is treating you like they love you then getting all hung up on the word (especially during early dating) is…well, you’re just getting hung up.  It isn’t that important at the moment, watch what he (or she) does. That will speak volumes.

  6. 6
    Robin Cockrell

    Watch his actions, not his words. 

  7. 7
    Ellen

    This post came just at the right time, ’cause in true female fashion (it’s in our DNA I think) I’ve been waiting to hear those words from my new beau of only two months. Now, before everyone hops on me realize we are both in our late fifties and so pretty much been around every block- twice! And yeah, I learned years ago in my marriage to go by the man’s actions, not words. lol

    Still, as Evan points out elsewhere on this site, love can sometimes happen quickly. I think we are both blown away by what we feel. Right now we end some texts and phone conversations with an “I adore you” or “love you”. He sent me flowers on Valentine’s Day signed “Love, Ed”. I know, I know, that doesn’t count probably.

    And recently he met me at a local bar for drinks after an exhausting day even though I was with my autistic daughter (20). Talk about unselfish.

    It’s all over but the shouting as the idiom goes imo. Anyway, I hope.

    To me, it’s what comes AFTER the “I love you” that really counts with men. If he says those words I figure plans will follow perhaps, or shortly. Or he will take me for granted, a huge pet peeve of mine.’Cause he said once to me, early, “I don’t have much time.” Meaning, I guess he feels his attractiveness and life force slowly melting away. Like mine. I never felt my mortality in any way til I turned about 55, late these days….

    The problem with plans/commitment is both of us have never had a truly successful relationship- each in our own ways though he’s never been married (decided early against it ’cause he never wanted kids). I’ve been married 7 and 25 years, respectively, and in all that time my stated and unstated emotional needs were met a grand total of, I don’t know, 5 years? The rest was momentum and being a good wife. So to say I’m skeptical is the understatement of the century! I’m also frequently cynical though still, miraculously, a romantic at heart. Talk about complicated. So finally finding this guy after three years of silly online dating is just so very nice.

    In my two marriages I wasn’t deeply unhappy, just never was fed emotionally in a way I knew I could be, based on ONE, lovely year-long relationship.

    And it took me years to TARGET the guy who could do this for me, thanks to Evan’s advice, the right mix of astrological sign (Cancers! or other water signs), moon, emotional make-up, type of intelligence (he needs to be at least intellectually curious like I am), childhood experience. I’ve never had any luck with guys sans sisters also. So I finally can spot THAT guy. And my current beau has what it takes I think. He is the eldest with two younger sisters, but doesn’t pull rank or be bossy. How rare is that? And he is a total teddy bear of a man, my fave. Enormous character and true to his word in business. But alpha when he has to be. Sexy, rugged, great bod. Still has hair- lots of it! Lord! Sigh!

    Still, I worry. Not sure what I bring to the table, but me these days. Don’t want to re-marry, and will only live with a man if given an ultimatum (I like my independence). So saying “I love you” is grand, but only the beginning of the negotiations maybe.

    For now we are exclusive and I love that. (This man took down his profile on our third date, bless his heart.) We both want to take it slow, just see how it evolves. What’s the hurry when a ring or children aren’t in the offing? Still I DO, being a typical female, want to hear those words fairly soon, and guess what? I think he wants me to utter them too. I think he is actually waiting for me to say them maybe. Just my intuition. But any fool can see I’m in love now. As my roommate said recently “He knows how you feel about him Ellen”. We know. We all know, on some level.

    Good luck to everyone. 

  8. 8
    Ellen

    Oh, and I waited FIVE weeks to sleep with him. Wanted to be sure.

  9. 9
    SnowdropExplodes

    As a guy, I definitely need to hear those three little words every so often to feel like I’m wanted for who I am.
    When I say them, it’s always because I mean it.   But humans are emotional creatures and it is possible to mean the words in one moment of immense connection and then when the moment fades, so do the words.   I know that I am like that and so I try to be cautious with how and when I say them: there have been times when I’ve really wanted to say those words but known that the situation was actually such that they would be meaningless the next day, so I held back.
    I like EMK’s advice in the OP about when he says “I love you”: waiting to know it’s real and not some phantasm caused by emotional responses in the moment.   Also as EMK’s OP says – it’s how a guy treats you that shows you how much he cares in between feeling like saying “I love you”.

  10. 10
    Tina

    Androgynus – No I am not kidding and no I am not a troll. 

    I found it confusing and flighty that there were so many reasons why a man may say he loves you and that at any time he may only be saying it because that is what he feels in the moment and not what he feels in the long term. 
     
    Men are usually simple and straightforward, that is one of their many great traits.  But this particular article left me with the sense that they are not to be taken too seriously when they say I love you.    
      

  11. 11
    AllenB

    Like Evan said, you have to remember that different people say that for different reasons at different times. You can’t assume everyone, man or woman, treats what saying that means the same as you do.  I had a girlfriend say “I love you” just before the last time we were intimate, and she decided to break up with me a day after that (and she said it without me saying it first during that particular conversation). This was a kind breakup. No fight, no misdeed, just “I love you” and “we aren’t right for each other” soon after.   Apparently women are not be taken too seriously when they say it either. (That is hyperbole.  It depends on the woman and the relationship of course.)
    A relationship where you share what you are feeling towards  other partner in a particular moment. and both of you still feel safe confident even when it is “I am not feeling loving towards you right now” will be strong in the long run. 

    1. 11.1
      Em

      Perhaps the woman saying “I love you” felt a disconnection in the way you responded. Just like the way the catch and throw of conversation can signify a naturalness and social ease between two people, the way a man reacts to a woman’s declaration of love, can make her feel reassured and trusting of him, or make her think that she had better back away because he doesn’t seem to share the same feelings. Every woman wants to feel safe and adored enough to truly express herself. If a guy just makes her feel vulnerable and uncertain, then maybe her heart isn’t in safe hands. Plus her ability to be, or learn to be, truly uninhibited and satisfied in the bedroom will be limited.

  12. 12
    Zann

    @ Tina — Evan stated right up front that men can’t be lumped together as a single entity, identical in their behaviors and beliefs. Just as a man MAY be flighty and say he loves you in the heat of the moment and then be unsure about it later, women may/can do the same thing. But you’re right — you don’t want to take a guy’s I Love You too seriously if it seems premature (you’ve known him a week) or if his actions do not mirror the words. Ya know, Walk vs. Talk.  By the way, I generally don’t find men “usually simple and straightforward” at all. If they were, why would we constantly be doing all this guess work when trying to navigate intimate relationships with them?

    I think the utterance, “I Love You” is overrated and can lead to presumptions, misconceptions, and even awkwardness (As in, he says it first, I don’t reciprocate because I’m just not feeling it, and you could cut the silence with a knife. Or vice versa. Gahhhh, hate it.) If I feel loving, that’s how I act & I assume a man will do the same. In my opinion, those 3 words have been given way too much significance and weight in the context of a relationship.

     

  13. 13
    Tina

    Hey all, I’m other Tina.
     
    to Tina #1: Not all men are emotionally unavailable. I’ve also been hurt before and this man told me many beautiful words… but still I beliеve in love and that there are good men out there.
    Do not lose your faith in love.

  14. 14
    Joe

    Evan wrote: A man says “I love you” because he loves you and those are the best words to express what he’s feeling at that time.

    This.  The key words to understand are “at that time.”  Just because a guy says he loves you, and then later on decides he doesn’t (and breaks up with you), it doesn’t mean he didn’t genuinely have that feeling when he said it.

  15. 15
    Tina

    Tina – Thanks for the feedback.  Just for the record I’m not mad at men.  I was martied 18 years and maybe 3 times heard him say I love you.  I have only heard my own father say it to me once.  I had always thought it was no big deal to a guy and was suprised to learn that they too can be indecisive about the I love you part of a relationship.

    Some people are overthinking my response. 

  16. 16
    Androgynous

    Sorry Tina 1, if my response to your post seemed judgemental. The way you phrased your opinion about men being flighty seemed a tad judgemental to me and I felt that merited a response.
    Like other posters here have said, men and women both say and do things in the heat of the moment before really thinking carefully about the implications of their words and actions. The other thing with men is that they often say and do what they think you want them to say and do, in order to please you, particularly in the early stages of a relationship. Sometimes this leads to them saying things which they don’t actually mean. While I don’t think this is a right thing for men to be doing, women really shouldn’t be “pushing” and pressuring men into being people whom they are not, or they will be getting an impersonation of what men think their women want. Eventually his true persona is going to come out – leading to the appearance of being “flighty” 

  17. 17
    Tina

    Androgynus –

    I didnt say men were flighty.  I said that the article left me with the feeling that men are flighty.  It created an internal conflict within me that was new.  “How is it that men can be indecisive about the I Love You” – this is outside my boundary of experience.

    If men were flighty there would be dumb blond guy jokes, t-shirts, and bumper stickers mocking the subject.  Men get mocked for being stupid (which they are not), not flighty.

    My apologies for not effectively communicating my shock at learning that men can casually say I love you and sincerely mean it only in the moment.

     

  18. 18
    Erinlee

    Tina – Don’t you think women sometimes say things they don’t mean or change their mind too?  The point I feel he was trying to make with the article, is that each person is going to express/or not express their love at different times and in different ways and maybe for different reasons because we are all simply the result of our life experiences.  Therefore, our uniqueness makes this question a difficult one to answer.  I don’t think he was implying that the same man would express it in all these different ways, just that there are many ways an individual will go about this.  To me that’s not being unavailable or flighty, it’s being true to yourself.

  19. 19
    Tina

    Erinlee – you are reading to deep into my comment.  I never said that women dont do or say things they dont mean.  For that matter I never said that men are not indecisive.

    I was specifically talking about the boundaries when a man says I Love You – that is it nothing more or less.  My life experience has taught men that men are only one way with this subject.  It was a suprise to learn that they are not.

  20. 20
    Jason

    It’s there a theory or study that says men really want respect and women really want to be loved?

  21. 21
    Daisy

    Jason – I thought men really want to be adored more than be respected?
    As a woman, yes I can say that women really want to be loved.

  22. 22
    Liz

    Jason #20

    Yes, there is a whole theory that men crave respect and women crave love.  There’s a book about it called Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. It’s very popular in Christian Circles.  

  23. 23
    Erin

    If someone only loves you and says they love you, in the moment, then that’s not really love in my book. Real love takes work, patience, loyatly and a bunch of other things. So a guy that says “i love you”, might *feel* like he means it but feelings are flighty. I am not looking to be with men or respect men that use such words carelessly or change their feelings at the drop of a hat. I am sure most women aren’t either. And I can’t say that I really care if a man ment it ‘in the moment”. If he no longer means what he says, then what he did say is worthless. 

  24. 24
    Katherine Wakefield

    sometimes we get too hung up on when WE think things should happen.  Allowing things to happen in their own time is the best way.  

  25. 25
    Tanya

    Hello, there – I’m the one who posted this question. Just a quick update: it’s been 6 months now, and he told me that he loves me the other day. Isn’t love grand?! And, yes, I probably was driving myself crazy with these questions, over-thinking and over-analyzing (guilty as charged). Sometimes, I find “the signs” a bit confusing, as I’ve been wrong before. I guess the lesson is: wait and see – men reveal themselves in their actions. Thank you Evan for helping me along the way. For the past year or so, I’ve been lurking on your blog. I’ve found your advice to be incredibly helpful. Cheers.  

  26. 26
    Katie

    Hey y’all,
    I feel like I want to share my experience on this.
    I’ve been seeing a wonderful guy for about 4 months. I fell in love with him somewhere around the 1 month mark which is about when we became exclusive I soooo wanted to say “I love you” to him soon after that, but held back, having the sense that it would be better to let him say it firs. For a while it made me kind of crazy. Like, is he really serious about me? Does he really care about me? Will he ever love me?
    As time goes by, however, I’m finding that, while I still really want to hear it and be able to say it, I’m living without it just fine. This man asked for next dates while still on the current one, talks about a future with me, plans fun activities for us, calls, emails or texts on days we don’t get together (he’s even keeping this up while in Europe on a business trip), laughs at my jokes and supports my doing what make me happy.
    For me, it’s becoming like, what can I say that’s even better than I love you. Those three words somehow seem kind of trite right now and thing such as “I miss you” “it feels good to be with you” “thank you for doing that for me” sound way more caring and loving to me than the “L” word.
    And, yes, I, too have heard “I love you” waayyy too early and have it be weird.
    That’s all.
    Thanks!

  27. 27
    Daphne

    “suburb boyfriend behavior” ?

  28. 28
    Janet

    When it comes to your BF saying I Love You, Patience is very much a virtue, at least in my case!  My boyfriend took 8 1/2 months to tell me that he loved me….!  When the words were finally utered, they were complete music to my ears an well worth the wait!  And I KNOW that he meant them too.  Spoken too soon, the words tend to sound fake and said just to be said, so hang in there and wait until your man is ready.  If he truly loves you, he WILL adventually tell you!

  29. 29
    JayMac

    Ok.. Im a chick, and I have always felt that the longer it takes either party to confess to loving the other is always the best way to go. Relationships that last should start off slow, truly get to know the other before jumping right in without having any idea what exactly they’re jumping into. Would you ladies rather be told “I love you” too soon or later, down the line. What is so wrong with just spending time with your man? Having fun and for once in our lives, NOT planning anything. The more you plan, the more you’re in the position of getting hurt. The problem with us is that we are so fixated on “Happily ever after” that we completely forget about “Here and Now”, our emotions are biased, we over analyze EVERYTHING that comes from a male’s mouth AND to top it all off, we have these unrealistic expectations of what makes a man worthy of marriage. You can not plan love. It simply wont happen if you do. Your partner will fall short of your crazy expectations to even have a shot with you. As women, we need to realize when we’re expecting too much. Most importantly, we need to realize when we are given a great guy to have fun with and not expect so much so soon.
    J

  30. 30
    David T

    the longer it takes either party to confess to loving the other
     
    Confess?  Odd word choice.  Is this something that needs to be hidden? To feel guilty or ashamed about?
     
    I think it is wrong not to say what you are feeling. Sharing too much too soon is not healthy and puts pressure on a growing relationship. By the time you love someone, that does not apply. tIf you love them, this is someone you trust and have open communication with.
     
    If you feel it, say it.  If you don’t, then don’t. Of course someone will become aware or feel it before the other. It’s a feeling! Feelings might have wants with them, but they should not have expectations.
     
     

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