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Carolyn Hax: Her schedule says he needs to say it

Hi, Carolyn: I have known my boyfriend about five years. We dated casually, on and off, for the first four, but we’ve gotten serious over the past eight months. I truly adore and love him. We’re always laughing and touching and smiling. We talk every day and see each other often. This weekend, he is taking me to meet his extended family out of town.

I have no doubts that he feels deeply for me.

But he has yet to tell me he loves me, or express verbally how he feels for me.

He will be 27 soon. He is buying a condo and starting a new job. He seems to be making all the arrangements to settle down.

Eight months into our relationship, shouldn’t he be able to express how he feels for me? I want to be married in 2 or 3 years. I love him, but I am willing to walk away within the next six months if he can’t be more open about whether he sees a future with me.

How can I get him to express what he feels? – Left in the Dark

I’ll give you a moment to take your schedule out back and bury it.

Now. What is more open or expressive than bringing you out of town to meet his extended family? Maybe you’re not in the dark so much as impressed by only one kind of light.

Words are important, of course. Mature people also tend to say the difficult ones when they need to, even when putting emotions into words doesn’t come naturally to them.

This isn’t just about what your boyfriend “should” be able to do, though; it’s also about when. Certainly there’s room for different opinions on I-love-you timing? There’s a suspiciously quick range, a what’s-the-holdup range, and a-healthy-pace-is- your-own-pace range, no? Wide ranges, all?

There’s no substitute for talking, since you and he might see intimacy and your relationship differently, and mind-reading has a lousy track record for reconciling such differences.

But before you initiate any Talks, please renounce your schedule long enough to get to know your boyfriend better. Chances are, after four casual years with him and eight intense months, you have enough information to understand how, when, and to whom he communicates what is important to him. Instead of just waiting for him to speak your language, or pushing for it, make an effort to learn his.

Once you’ve done that, and lived with the results for a while, and broached unmet needs – his and yours – to give each of you a chance to fulfill the other, then it will make sense to decide whether a future together makes sense.