10 Ways to Show Your Love When You’re Not Ready to Say “I Love You”

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Welcome to cuffing season. No, this is not a reference to layering cardigans and button downs. Rather it’s the strange phenomenon where everyone you know suddenly pairs off with a new boo for winter. With these new romances in full swing, you might be wondering just how to articulate your feelings for that special someone. Never fear, these students can help translate the language of love.

1. Annotate That Shit

“My boyfriend had all of these little gifts for me and one of these gifts was a box with a letter on top of it that said ‘Open when…I tell you I love you,’” said Indiana University junior Cortni Henry. A month later the mystery of the box was solved. “Inside was a jar that had little strips of paper inside. The outside said ‘100 reasons why I love you.’ Each strip had a different reason why he loves me, 100 reasons. I read all of them that night.” Just “in like” at the moment? No worries, you can still remind your person why you’re falling for them without coming on too strong.

2. Netflix and Chill

I know, Netflix and chill is mostly code for a booty call, but hear me out. Your relationship shouldn’t be adding more stress to your life or hers. Just relax. “When I’m stressed he’ll rub my back until I calm down,” said IU junior Antonia Lobocki. “When we’re happy we laugh together and joke around like children.” You don’t have to do anything huge to show you care about someone; a little goes a long way.

3. Hide Your Love Away

Create a love Lizzie McGuire would daydream about with sweet reminders of your Gordo. “We were both camp counselors for the past two summers and we weren’t allowed to let the kids know about relationships between staff members,” said IU junior Morgan Myers. “We had to be super creative about showing affection. Usually our go to was making friendship bracelets, passing notes or winking across the dining hall.” Just because you’re in college doesn’t mean you should abandon your childhood bracelet skills. Repurpose those talents to make a love connection.

4. Say My Name, Say My Name—Or Don’t

Strategically speaking, pet names progress your relationship in multiple ways. One, they can annoy and alienate any other potential suitors (meaning more time with your main squeeze). And two, they show your new boo that you like them enough to call them something ridiculous and embarrassing in front of other humans. Adorable. “We started calling each other ‘Babe’ instead of just each other’s names,” said IU sophomore Haley Anson. Yeah I know, “Babe” isn’t that shocking when it comes to a nickname. Feel free to explore your options. Sprout, goon and hobgoblin are also viable (also pretty seasonally appropriate) choices.

5. Food for Thought

People say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but it works on girls too. “Ryan will randomly get me Kit Kats, because they’re my favorite candy, and we get together he’ll give them to me,” said Lobocki. What better way to say “I love you” than literally just keeping their body functioning at the most basic level. Swoon.

6. Stop the Clock

While fall provides the perfect weather for outdoor cuddling, it also means midterms and being busier than ever. “Just let the other person know that there are a million other things you could be doing, but you choose to be with them doing even the simplest things over being apart,” said Myers. Nothing says “I love you” like good time management. Finish that lab report ahead of time so when date night arrives you only have to worry about who’s picking the movie.

7. Breathing Room

On the other hand, time apart is just as valuable. While you may be completely obsessed with this person and you might be tempted to spend every free moment with them—don’t. Remember, distance makes the heart grow fonder and showing respect for them by giving them time to themselves goes a long way. By not spending every waking moment together you’re demonstrating that you respect their right to alone time.

8. Surprise Them

Stay in contact with your long-distance love via surprise notes. “I write Nick little notes and hide them in his stuff,” said IU senior Jessica Ivetich. “When he was going to audition for his doctoral program, I wrote one wishing him good luck and hid it in his outfit…it’s just a small way that I can show him that I love him…it means a lot to me that he has kept every single one!”

9. Be a Straight Shooter

Life can be hard so why make it more difficult with mixed signals? Take a straightforward approach. Saying “I’m glad you’re here,” or “I’m happy you’re a part of my life now,” emphasizes that you’re focused on the present. Don’t get too wrapped up in planning for the future and appreciate what you have right in front of you.

10. Know When To Say It

Antonia Lobocki

Antonia Lobocki

College can be a breeding ground for flings, disease and questionable choices but sometimes things work out for the better. “Ryan and I met in band,” said Lobocki. “He caught my attention over the summer on Instagram because he marched drum corps and I was intrigued…we’ve been together a year now and he’s my best friend.” From secret handshakes to winks across the rehearsal field, a stronger bond developed. “We used to say ‘heart you’ to each other, I was the first to say ‘I love you,” said Lobocki. “I knew I wanted to say ‘I love you’ when I began to see it as a more serious, long-term relationship.”

Sarah Monnier is a senior at Indiana University studying journalism and history. Passionate about pineapple, Harrison Ford and VHS cassettes.

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