There's A Difference Between Showing Love & Saying 'I Love You'

black couple in love
PHOTO: GETTY

Paulo Coelho is dope. If you don’t know how he is, he’s the author of the best-selling book The Alchemist. When it comes to dealing with this particular topic, there is something he once said that is pretty on point:

“I am surprised how difficult for people is to say, ‘I love you’. They only say the three magic words when they are sure they will hear ‘I love you too’ back. Cowards are incapable of expressing love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”   

If you’re someone who has no problem saying, “I love you” but you’re in a relationship with a guy who rarely (if ever) does, you probably just read this and thought to yourself, “FINALLY! A man who understands where I’m coming from!” But before you text the quote to your man, take a moment and ask yourself the following questions.

If you need to hear “I love you”, then, of course, it’s important that your man says it. But is it such a big deal that the words mean more than his actions do?

man saying "speak up"
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Is “Words Of Affirmation” Your Primary Love Language?

If you don’t have the book (or at least checked out the website) "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman, check it out when you get a chance. 

The gist is that there are five (main) ways that love is expressed: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service and Gifts. All of us have a particular way we want love to be expressed to us most. 

If you’re a “Words of Affirmation” person, this might be a part of the reason why not hearing “I love you” bothers you so much. If you aren’t big on “Acts of Service”, that could explain why him showing it goes under your radar. 

Just understanding this point alone will bring clarity to you and to your significant other. If you bring it up, that is.

woman saying "we need to talk"
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Have You Brought It Up To Him?

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve loved someone, how “in sync” the two of you may be or how long you’ve dated—you can't read each other's minds.

Say that your man is a “gifts” person and he’s quietly resenting you for not getting him little tokens of your affection. If you don’t know that’s important to him, can he really hold that against you? 

It might seem like a given that someone should automatically know that saying “I love you” is important. But not all of us are the same. 

The only way to know that he knows for sure where you’re coming from is to bring the topic up.

Mister Rogers saying "Roger that"
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What Did He Say?

Here’s where it gets a little touchy. No matter what his response is, it’s important to share that hearing “I love you” matters to you. What you need to brace yourself for is his response/reaction. 

It could be something as simple as “It’s not a big deal to hear it, so I didn’t think it was a big deal to say it. I’m sorry, I’ll do better.” OR it could be something you didn’t see coming like “I haven’t said it because I’m not sure if I do” or “I only say that when I know I want to take things to the next level.” 

You’ve got to keep in mind that love means different things to different people. While you may have wanted to say “I love you” after the third date, he may not be ready to say it back until he is actually...“in love”.

Tiny talking about love
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What Does Hearing It Represent To You?

You don’t really need to “justify” why hearing “I love you” is so important. If it’s a need in your relationship, that’s nothing to feel bad about. But asking yourself what it means to you may help you gain some insight on why it bothers you so much that your man doesn’t say it (or say it as much as you’d like). 

Maybe it’s that you grew up in a home where it was constantly said so it makes you feel safe and secure. Maybe you grew up in a home where you never heard it and so it causes you to question your current relationships. Maybe in your mind, you think that words trump actions and so as long as he’s not saying “I love you”, nothing else counts. 

Getting to the root of why hearing those three-letter words can help you—and then him—to better understand what you’re feeling and where you’re coming from. 

If he’s a good man, even if he doesn’t totally agree with your resolve, he’ll verbally express himself more...simply because you need him to.

woman agreeing
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Don’t Actions Speak Louder Than Words?

Say that you had to pick between him saying “I love you” and him showing that he does. Which would you pick? 

Hearing those words is a beautiful thing, but try not to get so caught up in those that you overlook what he’s actually doing to show you how much he cares. 

There are a lot of men in this world who rattle off “I love you” to the women in their lives like it’s nothing and still are abusive, cheat or won’t fully commit. If you’ve got a man who’s making you feel loved, even if he’s not saying it as much as you’d like, don’t take him for granted. 

You’ve got a winner. In more ways than one.

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SHELLIE RENEé

Just a woman who digs all things relationships. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, that is. I've been writing (professionally) for close to 20 years, including having two books published. I'm also a marriage life coach and doula. Sometimes I speak to large audiences or do radio interviews, but usually I'm sitting in my favorite chair, surfin' the 'net and penning stuff that I wish I had read in my early 20s.

Listen, I don't have all the answers, not by a LOOOOONG shot. But whatever I can do to spare folks any heartbreak, bitterness or straight-up drama, I'll devote some keystrokes to doing. 

That's it...in a nutshell. For the most part. Kinda. ;)

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