If you’re a female in a relationship, chances are you’ve come across an article or 300, ruthlessly targeted at you, that’s titled along the lines of 10 Signs He Loves You or 25 Ways He Shows He Cares. Unless you’re the world’s most secure human being, chances are you’ve clicked on one or all 300 of them. They all say things like “He puts his phone down when you’re together,” or “He asks you questions about your future,” or, “He goes out of his way to hold your hand or touch you when you’re hanging out.” A quick Google search will turn up literally dozens of these lists. And the lists aren’t wrong, exactly. But… well, they aren’t the whole story either.
A while back, I clicked through a Cosmo story that was a checklist of all the signs that my boyfriend truly loves me and had a hiccup of panic when I couldn’t identify with more than one or two. No, I’m not in a loveless relationship, I’m in an old one. My boyfriend and I live together, and our conversations aren’t often conducted over an intimate dinner with constant eye contact, they’re shouted across two rooms as one of us is unloading the dishwasher and the other is answering work emails. He never inquires about my hopes and dreams because he knows them all. He’s seen me stress cry when achieving one of them was particularly hard. I stay away from him when we’re lounging on the couch because when he gets home from the gym and hasn’t showered yet it’s not the time to snuggle up.
To some this may sound like lowering the bar. But for every new-love behavior that falls by the wayside, there is another that indicates the deep and comfortable love that takes its place.
So for all the long-attached girls out there, here’s a vastly underrepresented list of signs that he still loves you.
1. He reveres the traditions you share.
This can be anything from a standing date night, to the understanding that you two split up at Costco to get double the samples. If he finds these traditions important, it means he’s established a structure in his life that you’re a necessary part of.
2. He senses when you’re feeling off.
If you’ve had a bad day, watched too many “Colorblind man sees color for the first time,” videos and you’re in a funk, or even if you’re just PMSing, and he senses something is wrong, he’s in tune with your non-verbal cues and can pick them up from a mile away. That’s real intimacy.
3. He respects your routines.
For some people taking an hour-long shower is pure necessity. Or maybe you like to watch E! after dinner blissfully uninterrupted. If he accepts the routines that keep you balanced, even if he doesn’t get them, it means he accepts you for who you really are, and not just when you’re on your best behavior.
4. He pitches in.
Someone who takes on housekeeping duties, or offers to run to pick up the take out, or valiantly kills the bugs you can’t handle wants to be a contributing part in the structure of your life. Letting you lean on him so that your life is a little easier is a non-verbal way of telling you he loves you.
5. He ditches the phone when you need him to.
We all hit a level of comfort with our partners where we know they won’t be offended if we scroll through our twitter feeds at dinner. But if he can identify when you need some quality time, and is willing to put the phone down, it means he values you above whatever the internet has to offer.
6. He talks about your future together.
Talking about your future transitions into planning to be in it, and voicing those hopes. It shows that he’s not afraid to think about you long-term, and even excited about the prospect.
7. He’s into the comfortable silences.
Being alone together is the hallmark of comfortable love. If you’ve got a clinger who doesn’t seem comfortable with the two of you doing your own thing while sharing the same space, (or if you’re the clinger) there’s a good chance he doesn’t feel like there’s enough love in the relationship, and needs the validation of being paid attention to all the time.
8. He likes to include you in mundane decision-making.
Being in a rock solid relationship means discussing big decisions with each other. But if he still feels like he needs your input when he’s purchasing sweatpants or deciding which setting to use on the dryer, it means that he values your input across the board, and that you add value to his daily life.
9. He’s still playful.
Old relationships sometimes have the reputation of being dusty or joyless, but a loving seasoned relationship still has plenty moments of joy, and aren’t just reduced to two people living parallel to each other. If he’s still exhibiting those traits that charmed you in the beginning, it’s a sign that he still feels that spark that initially drew you to each other.
10. He embraces your less-than-charming habits.
Early on, everyone is still hiding their bad habits and quirks, and when they’re finally revealed it can be a make or break moment. If you and your partner live together, or have been together for a while, there’s a good chance he’s seen the gambit, and if he’s still around, and not nagging you about every hairball on the bathroom floor, or the sleep-yoga you do when you’ve had too much caffeine, it means he loves and accepts every fiber of your being. Even the uncute fibers.
Being in a solid and loving long-term relationship basically boils down to feeling that you’re loved, regardless of how exactly your man shows it. And if you’ve perused this list and you’re not feeling it, it doesn’t necessarily mean the love isn’t there. It may mean that you and your partner just have different ways of communicating love. Every relationship and every love is different. Finding the ways you share and show your love with each other is part of what makes your relationship unique.