How To Say 'I Like You' When You're Not Ready For 'I Love You'

There’s an unspoken stage between we’re-only-seeing-each-other to wow-I-love-you-so-much, and though it’s a happy part of your a new relationship, it can also be kind of awkward. There are no rules on who should say the big capital L word first but when you’re not quite sure you want to drop that bomb, but you want to express how you feel, what can you say instead of "I love you"?

If saying "I like you" reminds you a little too much of that crush you had in middle school, consider making an upgrade to the little ways you verbally express affection to your partner. Unlike those days where liking someone meant your entire world was anxiety-ridden and you just had to scribble their name in hearts on every piece of paper you had, deepening a connection with a new partner is less about saying you like them and more about explaining why you do.

From how they make you feel to the daily choices they make as an individual to the things they've taught you, here are some heartfelt things to say to let your new partner know how much they mean to you before you're ready to say "I love you."

1. “You Make Me Happy”

They do, don’t they? Otherwise, you wouldn’t fancy another date with them and spending endless hours talking like you do. It might seem too simple to say exactly why you’re hanging out with them, but it isn’t. The feeling is likely mutual, and we bet some kissing will ensure after.

2. “I’m Really Proud Of You”

Yeah, yeah, your parents might tell you this on the daily or write it in your birthday card every year, but acknowledging your partner’s hard work will go a long way. If they have a big project at work or they’ve been working on building their upper body or even if they just simply got up when the alarm clock went off, don’t be afraid to give them a thumbs up emoji in real life.

3. “Thank You For Teaching Me How To _____”

In the time you’ve known your new lover, what have they taught you? How to properly poach an egg? Where the best speakeasy is in your city? Whatever it is, thank them. Part of being in a relationship is taking two folks with different backgrounds and interests and combining them — you learn from them, they learn from you, and hopefully, you’re both better off because of meeting one another.

4. “I Always Look Forward to Seeing You”

Your friends likely know quite a bit about this new person who you’re quickly falling for, and more so than anyone else in your life right now, you want to spend the most time with them. We don’t blame you, it’s all part of the new relationship dance and you should savor it. And let them know just how much you really want to see them... all the time.

5. “I Don’t Need You But I Want You”

Possibly the most powerful thing you can say to someone aside from those three words is a twist on them: I want you. As you’re dating, you’ll meet a lot of people you likely want to share a bed with or a drink with, but in the end, you don’t choose them or they don’t choose you to build a life with, so you build that life on your own. And when you do meet someone who is wonderful you do pick them. So while you don’t need them, you want them. And you choose them. Let them know how special that choice was.

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