“True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.” — Erich Segal

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

My friend is living her best relationship. There is this one thing missing, though. He won’t say I love you.

She’s yearning to hear these three magical words, but her boyfriend isn’t obliging.

He’s caring and kind, reliable and supportive, funny and uncontrollably cute — in her eyes — loyal and trustworthy. He’s quite a catch. And he is showing up for her.

He is showing — not telling.

So what are the subtle, quiet signs that it is true love when love is not declared?

1. It feels like coming home

You know it’s true love when spending time together feels like the most natural way to be. True love comes naturally.

You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. You don’t have to edit yourself or squeeze in your tummy. You can be the most genuine, most authentic version of yourself.

There’s a lot to be said about familiarity. According to the familiarity principle, we are attracted to familiar people because we consider them safe and unlikely to cause harm.

Our love choices are influenced by what we learned of love as children. Through adult love, we are in search of rediscovering emotions first known in childhood.

In his book, The Course of Love, Alain de Botton expands on the theory exploring why we may fall for the same type again and again even when they’re wrong for us. “We believe we are seeking happiness in love, but what we are really after is familiarity.” writes Botton.

2. He says it with his eyes — even though his lips are sealed.

Notice the way he starts to look at you. Notice the way you start to feel in his eyes. Notice how he pays attention to the details about you.

Often, he stares at you as if he is going to say it but doesn’t.

He sings random one-liners from songs that have “I love you” in them.

He tells you nice things and is very affectionate.

He gives you these side glances that whisper, “I love you.”

You catch him looking at you with adoration in his eyes while you’re feeding the cat or making the bed.

You are unique in his eyes.

3. He wants you to be a part of his life

He invites you home to meet the family; he asks you to go out with his friends, invites you to the annual work function, or asks you to move in together.

There are so many ways our partners may show us that they want us to be a part of their lives today and tomorrow.

When you’re interacting with his friends, family, coworkers, you notice that they relate to you like they already know you. He’s already talking to them about you.

He talks to you about his childhood. He shares his wildest goals and dreams and makes room for you in his vision for his future. He opens up to you and lets you into his world.

Look for these cues, and don’t let these three little words hang above your head like a cloud.

4. He says it with his actions.

He’s there for you. He wants to provide you. He takes care of you.

He’s your cheerleader and your shoulder to cry on. At the end of a hard day, you can tell him everything, and he’ll listen. He’ll offer a piece of advice, make you a cup of hot cocoa, and open his arms to let you snuggle in and forget about the world.

He hears you coughing from the bathroom in the dark hours and crawls out of bed to get you a glass of water.

5. He wants to hold your hand

Most experts agree that 70 to 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.

Body language is just as expressive as verbal language, and if your love language is physical touch, then body language can be just as important.

Physical touch is just one of the five love languages, according to Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. The others are words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gift-giving/receiving. All five are important, but we all give and receive love differently.

He likes to sit by your side, takes your hand in his, runs his hands through your hair, wraps his arms around you, softly places his hand on your back, and likes to spoon you in bed.

Holding hands with your partner, in public or in private, can immediately release mood-boosting endorphins. Parents hold their child’s hand for protective reasons and connectedness.

6. He wants to kiss and make up

No matter how much anyone loves you, at some point, they will hurt you.

He doesn’t hurt you intentionally — and when he does hurt you, he wants to make things good again.

He’s willing to apologize. He wants to talk things through, to hear you out and make things good again.

His love for you makes him more open-minded. He is open to your point of view and willing to make changes to meet halfway.

What is holding people back from saying “I love you”?

  • True love takes time; they want to wait until they say it.
  • Fear of commitment; they are scared it means forever.
  • Fear it’s one-sided; they want you to say it first.
  • We ask it too desperately; they feel pressured to say it.
  • Perfectionistic tendencies; They wait for the perfect moment.
  • Expressive vs. inexpressive upbringing; They grew up in a home where they didn’t say ‘I love you’.
  • Love is different for each of us; they believe actions speak louder than words.

Check-in with yourself. Are you holding yourself back? Our partners will mirror our behaviour as they listen to our unspoken cues. It could be a cat and mouse chase where he’s waiting to hear it from you, and you’re waiting to hear it from him.

“I love you” may mean something different for your partner than it does for you.

There are no clear lines on what the expectations are surrounding the phrase. According to Dr. Jenn Mann, psychotherapist and author of The Relationship Fix, for some people, the expectation is: ‘OK, I say it and you say it, and that means we’re instantly in a committed relationship.’ For others, entirely different.

There’s no right or wrong — if we’re expressive or not. If we say it sooner or later in the relationship. If we’re ready to say it or not. There are no standards on when our partner should say I love you.

Look for signs of true love, and don’t put yourself down because you haven’t heard these three words — yet.