More of the L word

Nice chat yesterday. As promised, here’s the flip side of yesterday’s “I love you” letter. And it starts with an exclamation point, which is sort of exciting.
Meredith! I started reading your column when I started my new job as a little respite from my number crunching. You (and your readers) seem to offer sound advice for many relationship conundrums, so I’m writing in with mine… I started dating my boyfriend of five months as I finished my degree this past spring. This summer, we dated successfully while both living in apartments here in Boston. He went back to his school in Connecticut (and I miss him terribly), but our locations make it fairly easy to see each other and keep the relationship going. I’m not looking for advice about how to make a long-distance relationship work. On the contrary, I want to know when he’s going to say he loves me. I know that I am falling in love with him (I’ve been in love before, only this time it feels better, less forced, and real). BUT he tends to have a poker face when it comes to our relationship, and seldom (although it does sneak out periodically) admits how much I mean to him. This relationship is NOT what some of your more sarcastic readers will deem a case of “ugly/fat/annoying/easy girl being used by guy.” We are both equally committed to our relationship, spend lots of quality time together, and truly enjoy each others company. Fun, friendship, respect, loyalty, trust, common values … those are words that describe our relationship. What it comes down to, though, is that neither of us is a particularly outwardly emotional person. We connect on a deep-level, but refrain from the “baby,” “snookums,” and other mushy gushy stuff that seems to be commonplace these days. So really, my question is, when will he utter those invaluable three words that will make me want to continue traveling to see him on the weekends after a 60-hour work week? I know it’s old-fashioned, but on principle I refuse to say “I love you” first, so for now I am in limbo land waiting for him to pull the trigger. My questions are: Can a woman say I love you first without risking that the guy will run far, far away? Are there ways to push him to say it or bring up the conversation? How can you still express your deep feelings for someone without saying “I love you” while waiting for them to come around? How long into a serious relationship do most people say “I love you”?

– Waiting for Those Three Words, Boston

WFTTW, like I said yesterday, the meaning of “I love you” varies and changes with time. It’s almost impossible to know why someone has or hasn’t said it. It’s also impossible to guess how someone feels about you. You have to ask. What does “I love you” mean to you? If it means, “I dig you so much I’m willing to keep driving to Connecticut,” go ahead and say that. If it means, “I hope we never break up,” go ahead and say that. Don’t play chicken to see who’ll break down and say “I love you” first. I know you're old-fashioned, but it's time to get yourself out of limbo land. If everything you say in your letter is true -- if your boyfriend likes spending time with you and cares for you -- he shouldn’t run as soon as you emote. My advice is to take the lead. You've unintentionally endorsed some repressed behavior, so it's up to you to show him that you actually like the occasional sweet validation. You need to let him know that you want to be more open about your feelings, especially the happy ones. I get a lot of letters from people who say, “I want my boyfriend to say this,” or, “Why won’t my girlfriend say that?” No one reads minds. We can’t script our significant others. If you love your boyfriend and want to start saying so, get to it – and then explain what that love means to you. You don’t have to call him snookums. You just have to be honest if you want to move ahead with him. As for when people say "I love you," it depends -- and again, the meaning is fluid. If he doesn't say it back after five months, no biggie. All he needs to say is, "I want to keep showing up for you." Right now, that's the most important thing. Readers? Is it bad for a woman to say "I love you" first? Should the letter writer's boyfriend have said it by now? Share your thoughts here. Letters to the right.

– Meredith