Illustration: Loryn Englesman

Dear Metro: "How long should I wait to tell my boyfriend I love him?"

We return to our regular Dear Metro schedule this week as we say goodbye to Robinson - thanks for guesting for us, Robinson! This week: how long is too long to wait to tell someone you love them?

Dear Metro,

My boyfriend told me he loved me and I’m worried I’ll drive him away if I don’t say it back fast enough. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I’m definitely getting there, but I’m not quite ready. How long should I wait? And what if I never get there?

From,
Love is Not Quite in the Air

Dear Love,

Give it a bit more time! Some people are really certain early on and others take a little bit longer to feel secure in their feelings and to trust what they're feeling is real and not the first flush of infatuation. Both are fine and normal and neither is better than the other.

I'm not sure how long you two have been together, but I think sometimes (and especially if you have been single for a while) the level of both vulnerability and commitment which accompanies saying 'I love you' can feel scary. That fear of commitment can seem at first glance as if it's about the other person, rather than the idea of being back in a serious relationship and all that entails - ie, either staying together forever (arghh! Scary!) or falling in love only to break up further down the line (arghh! Also scary!).

If your boyfriend is worth loving, he will be happy to stick around until you're ready to reciprocate his feelings without putting pressure on you. Remember though that he has been vulnerable with you, and may (understandably) be either wounded or cautious over not having his feelings entirely reciprocated - reassure him of the feelings you do have (without exaggerating their depth), and make him feel secure in the fact you want to be with him even if you don't mirror him exactly right now.

As to how long it should take, that's entirely subjective (sorry!). Some people call it after a couple of months if they're not in love already, others find it wild to think you would even say 'I love you' within a year. You know best what it means to be with someone for three/ six/ 18 months and not yet love them. Be honest about that, with yourself and with your partner. If you never quite ending up progressing from 'falling' to 'in love', that will be sad but not deceitful or wrong of you to have tried. 

Don’t rush yourself and don’t stress - you can only feel what you feel and if it’s all going well so far then simply enjoy that, and see where it takes you.

With love,
Metro xx

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