Afternoon Quickie: “How Long is Too Long to Wait for an ‘I Love You’?”

How long is TOO long to wait for someone to say they love you? I feel that, after a certain amount of time in a relationship without it being said, you kind of lose your chance to say it altogether. But I hope I’m wrong. I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years. THREE YEARS. I’ve said it accidentally one drunk night around our one-year mark, and he was quick to reply with: “Those words mean more than a one-year relationship warrants.” That’s his point of view and I respect that. So I waited for him to be comfortable with saying it. But, it’s now been three years and still nothing. What do I do?! — Where’s the Love?

It’s not (generally) the amount of time that warrants or doesn’t warrant saying those words, it’s the feeling behind them. What your boyfriend was telling you that drunken night two years ago, and what he’s been saying with his avoidance of expressing his love for you, is that the feeling isn’t there. If the feeling of love isn’t there after three years — “THREE YEARS” — and you don’t have overwhelming evidence to the contrary (like, he overtly expresses his love in other ways), I’d move on, because three years is way too long to wait for someone you’ve been in a steady relationship with to finally start loving you and saying so.


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  1. Personally I think him saying that was cruel. Very few couples haven’t said it in a year. 3 years? Ya Move on, he clearly either doesn’t feel that way or doesn’t care enough about your desire to hear it so say it to you.

  2. Northern Star says:

    This man actively denies loving you. If you can’t live with that (I sure as heck couldn’t), it’s time to move on. You’ve waited long enough to be loved.

  3. It is all relative, but what he said should tell you a lot, and was a crappy way of him saying he wasn’t ready yet to say it. I mean I said it to my wife at 6 months so the actual time of the relationship shouldn’t matter.

  4. Ugh, I’m wary of people who make statements like that… absurd, untrue, but stated like it’s a fact that anyone should know, and you’re weird if you don’t. That’s a cue they’re a jerk. Obviously there’s a range of time that falls within the fat part of the bell curve for “I love you,” but it’s pretty often like 4-9 months.

    The other thing I know because I’ve heard guy friends talk, is that they’ll stay in a relationship for way longer than you’d think they should with someone they don’t actually love.

    Even my jerkiest ex would say it pretty regularly. We stopped saying it, and… yeah.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Totally agree Kate. The implication that it’s like *Everyone* knows you can’t say it only a year in and only a crazy, clingly person would think of doing so. Makes you feel dumb and also like you are unreasonable to want the things you want. Ugh.

      1. Howdywiley says:

        Yeah it’s kinda a little gaslighting

  5. In a one year relationship, you’ve seen them at holidays, a birthday, possibly family events, through at least one routine or non-routine medical event, and in extremes of hot and cold weather. You’ve (probably) seen how they handle pets, family, work stress, friends, drinking, sex/sex problems, and gift giving occasions. One year is plenty to decide if there’s passion, fond affection, and the capacity for endurance, in other words, love. Give him the boot, and find yourself someone who doesn’t express themselves so robotically I want to poke him to see if he has gear oil for blood.

  6. dinoceros says:

    On one hand, I agree that it shouldn’t be based on a time frame. But on the other, I think there’s a certain point where you can say that you can judge based on time. That time has passed already. I think most people could figure it out within a year, but anything over 2 years means they’re never going to love you and most likely are not interested in being with you long term.

  7. Regardless of whether he loves you you at the very least have very different ideas about love, and how it should be expressed don’t set yourself up for a lifetime of dissatisfaction MOA.

  8. vanderjohnsenberg says:

    I think it was about two or three years before my husband and I said “I love you” to each other (obviously we were still dating at the time) but it was more because we knew we loved each other so we just didn’t feel the need to say it.

    Your situation is completely different though. It seems obvious that you aren’t saying it to each other because he doesn’t love you. I mean you could ask him before you break up with him but if he doesn’t love you after three years, he will never love you.

  9. for_cutie says:

    If he is giving you a hard time about “I love you” after 3 years, what is it going to look like to have other relationship milestone conversations – moving in, proposal, marriage. If these are things you want, he is not your guy and you need to MOA. Otherwise you will feel like you are forcing him into each step of the relationship, which may very well be true.

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