How To Tell Someone You Love Them Subtly When You're Not Ready To Say It Yet

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L. O. V. E. It's no secret that those four little letters form a wildly complex word. One that turns your head into a pinball game, ricocheting back and forth around your brain, setting off flashing lights, and high-pitched pinging noises for endless hours. (Hey, love, could you please let me get some sleep?) It fills you with uncapped inspiration and the warmest fuzzies, leaving you... overwhelmingly terrified. Romeo & Juliet might have let it all out in less than a fortnight, but figuring out when and how to tell someone you love them, for the rest of us, can be some pretty scary sh*t.

The thing is, love is a big declaration that means a lot of things: Lust, attraction, passion, commitment, nurture, deep care, and potential future planning are amongst a few of those. On top of the feels, studies have found that saying I love you is more than sharing a powerful emotion, but it is a way we use our instincts to sort out the birds and the bees (i.e. reproduction).

Love is not light stuff, so feeling it but not being quite ready to say it is a natural part of the human experience. Luckily, there are ways to subtly tell the person you pine after that you are totally heart-eyes for them. (And if you love them, it's likely you're already doing these things.)

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1. Express Interest In Their Hobbies And Loved Ones

You might think her mom is a stone-cold jerk or his love of How I Met Your Mother is corny AF, and you might very well be right. (Nay, you probably are.) I'm not here to tell you to suck it up or grin and bear it through things you hate. Rather, just find common interests with the one you... well, you know. There is something to be said for paying attention to the things that matter to your person. So while Ted Mosby's ramblings (I mean, storytelling) might not be your steez, sitting through an episode or two will show them that you care for and respect what and who matters to them.

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2. Introduce Them To Your Hobbies And Loved Ones

If it's real lurve, sharing your life with this person will likely come naturally. With that said, make the effort to acquaint him or her with the things and people that bring you joy and meaning. It lets them know you want them to be a part of your life, and it could lead to some bond-building common interests.

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3. Make Plans For The Future

I've spent most of my dating life in New York City, where asking someone out on a second date is a huge commitment, so I'll take this one slow. Plans for the future doesn't mean mapping out some grand European tour, but rather, something as simple as a standing weekly date ritual or promising to see a specific movie together. On the flip side, if you're both into casually skimming through baby name books, by all means, go for it. The point is that you should let this person know that you want them to stick around.

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4. Show Them How Important They Are To You

Make your SO feel like a king or queen, even if said SO is not Beyoncé. (We can't all win all the time.) Take time to focus on them, explore things you enjoy together, and do nice things for them.

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5. Use Your Words, Just Not Those Words

Most of the time, the word "intimate" is thought to be synonymous with "sex." I'm not against that, like, at all, but intimate can also mean belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature. The best way to subtly tell someone you love them is to show them who you are. Clue: If that makes you feel vulnerable, then you're doing it right.

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It might take a lot of courage to get those three words out, but in all honesty, words are just the tip of the iceberg. What holds all that up is everything underlying those words, so bringing all of that to the surface first is the best way to start.

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