Two Sense: I Love You But Let's Not Say It 24/7


I’ve been seeing my boyfriend about six months, and he recently told me he loved me. I said it back, and I meant it. The trouble is that now he’s saying it a lot—like several times a day—and while I definitely love him, I don’t really want to say it that often. I have nothing against verbal affection, but I don’t like overusing “I love you” as a tonic for anxiety, boredom, awkwardness or just to fill space. And I feel like that’s what’s happening. When I say it, I want to deeply feel it, and I don’t want it to become commonplace and throwaway. But it’s totally weird to not say it back. Do I remain silent? Tell him how I feel? I don’t want to push him away.

He Said: I know several people who close every phone call with some form of, "Love you," and it always strikes me as a bit odd. Could something actually have happened during a routine conversation to seriously degrade the relationship? Is it perfunctory, like the emotional equivalent of throwing out a “God bless you” when someone sneezes? A mild form of OCD? And I can definitely see that receiving a frequent "I love you" when your boyfriend doesn’t have anything else to say could grow to be annoying.
Let’s assume he’s just passing through the novelty of the new boyfriend phase and let it go for a while. If he continues, you’ll need to say something lovingly corrective before you get too frustrated and pop off with a hurtful zinger. You seem well spoken and thoughtful. Try to keep it fun. Maybe next time he offhandedly tells you he loves you, respond by reminding him that talk is cheap and ask him to prove his affections by giving you a back rub or going out to pick up some dinner.

She Said: Oooh, I like that last tip quite a bit. Wish I had thought of it myself. But if he's saying it several times a day, you're going to need a few different tactics, from "prove it with a back rub" to silence (with a smile) to a big hug to … well, truth be told, you're going to run out of tactics in about three days. And then you're going to have to use your words. Something to the effect of, "I love you a lot, and I'm really happy to be with you. But I'm just not the type to say it several times a day. It's special, and I don't want it to become routine. Are you okay with me not saying it back every single time?"

That, said while holding his hand, should suffice to start a hopefully short and clear exchange. Remember that just because you don't like to say it that often doesn't mean he's wrong. Maybe he really feels it. Maybe he likes saying it every single time he thinks of it. Maybe he realizes it's a tic but that as far as tics go, it's one of the world's nicest ones. My guess is that he'll respond by either telling you to say it only when you feel it, or he'll automatically (maybe even without knowing it) lessen his own frequency soon after you bring it up.

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