Ask the Yangxifu: Waiting to Say “I Love You” To a Chinese Boyfriend

I love you, written in the sand
Should you wait to tell your Chinese boyfriend "I love you?"

Should I Say “I Love You” asks:

I’m an American woman dating a Chinese American man in the US, and need your help.

After just a few months [with him] I find myself thinking of him constantly! We talk all day long, via text, and spend at least an hour a day on the phone. We live about 50 miles apart, so sometimes I drive through hours of traffic just to see him; and he has to walk to a bus, take a train & then I pick him up & we drive some more to come to my house. We do our best to get together every weekend, but have gone 2 weekends without seeing one another and it was BRUTAL! The closeness of our connection and the quickness of it scares us both.

We talked about it a few weeks ago; I am just coming out of a HUGE relationship that I thought was going to last forever and I am now in a big ugly financial mess as a result–3 years ago he was ready to propose to someone who broke his heart, and now he is working full time while going to school full time and his priorities are finishing school [With an A average and no less, of course ;-)] and hopefully landing a job in his dream career. We talk about societal pressures to “settle down”, have kids, “grow up” and neither of us are really willing to conform to those norms. We discussed how it is good that we kind of live far apart, it allows us to take care of our responsibilities etc. during the week, and then really enjoy each other’s company on the weekends. But even with that distance, we are extremely close and I think both frightened by it.

A few weeks ago, we had spent the weekend together and it was beautiful. The next day we talked on the phone, and he shared with me that he is nervous that his feelings for me are much more than he expected, and he is afraid if our relationship moves too fast he will not accomplish his goals. I appreciated his honesty, he told me once that expressing himself openly is often very hard for him, so I knew it was important if he told me about it. Frankly, I think our relationship right now is PERFECT! We connect intellectually, emotionally, and most DEFINITELY PHYSICALLY (Yes!). The distance and other circumstances does prevent us from moving way ahead of ourselves and it’s a little safety net.

So here it is……………I am in love with him. No matter how I try to rationalize myself out of it, or think of reasons this could just be a “fling” or a “rebound” I have just connected so deeply with this man on so many levels it can be nothing but love. Certainly not at all what I had expected, but I guess it’s better when things happen that way, isn’t it? I am not ready to tell him this, because I feel it is too soon, and I don’t want to put any unnecessary pressure there at all. But sometimes the way he looks at me, right into my eyes, he seems that he wants to say the same thing too. It was after the first time he looked at me this way that we had our “I’m scared” conversation. It’s like every time I look into his eyes I want to scream “I LOVE YOU”, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Am I wrong for holding that in?


No, you’re not wrong at all.

He’s said he’s a little scared, and you feel scared too. Sometime inside both of you is saying “take it slow.” And if you feel that way, you should — including waiting until the right time to say “I love you.”

That can be tough to reconcile when you grow up in the US. We don’t like to wait for anything, including love and intimacy. In my naive adolescence, I cringe to think about how many times I declared “I love you,” when it was only a young infatuation. The more we do this, the more we cheapen the phrase in our minds (kind of like the word “maverick” in the 2008 US presidential election). So, when you choose to wait, you’re doing something courageous — by making sure it really is love before you announce it.

Your Chinese boyfriend clearly needs to slow down because of his situation. It’s not uncommon for Chinese men to devote themselves entirely to study and work — sometimes at the exclusion of romance. This may be his first time balancing love, learning and a livelihood at the same time — a uncomfortable proposition when he is so smitten with you, the woman who seems to rock the whole balance in his mind and heart.

And there’s another matter weighing on his mind and heart — the past girlfriend he nearly proposed to. He thought that was love, but he was wrong. Such an emotional slap must make him hesitant to call your relationship love, even as all of the signs are there.

So, give him time. Take things at his pace. Let him be the one to say “I love you.” It’s clear he does love you, and he’ll love you even more because you really understand.


Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.

18 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Waiting to Say “I Love You” To a Chinese Boyfriend”

  1. “It was after the first time he looked at me this way that we had our “I’m scared” conversation.”

    Scared of who? Public, tea-baggers, your family members, his family members? Or just simply scared?

    1. Hi George,

      Thanks for the comment. In this context, I think the girl is referring to feelings, that they are both scared that the relationship is going too fast. This isn’t about the public/family members/tea-baggers. I guess the term “scared” can seem to suggest something much worse than what it was in this case.

  2. Love your advice as usual, you are a really insightful person!
    My hubby doesn’t say I love you very often, and his parents have never said the words to him.
    .-= rhiannon´s last blog ..Hmmmmmm =-.

    1. Thanks for the comment, rhiannon, and for sharing! My husband’s parents are the same, and my husband doesn’t say it super-often either, though he does more often…perhaps because of my “training” so to speak. 😉

  3. Great story and great advice from Jocelyn. I think my parents can relate a little bit. My dad works in St. Louis MO and my mom works in Canada. They have been married close to 25 years now and they both are dedicated to their work but also hate living apart. They make it work somehow.

  4. Is this guy Chinese or American? Did he move to the U.S. or does he just not look like the men in your family?
    You should not smother your American boyfriend because he obviously doesn’t have time for a massive relationship. Why can’t he find time to come see you anyway? The first thing you mentioned after detailing your recent big breakup was the fact that you have money problems. Interesting.

    1. @Justin Liu, thanks for the comment! Nice to hear that there are couples out there who can make it work. Let’s hope it works out for this couple too!

      @Louie, thanks for sharing. He is Chinese-American, which means he is ethnic Chinese but born in the US.

  5. Jocelyn I love these couples that I get to “meet” through your advice posts. I’m rooting for this couple too, I hope things work out for them.

    My Chinese boyfriend totally threw me for a loop by telling me he loved me very early on in our relationship. I mean, I knew I loved him within the first hour after I met him but I was afraid to say it too soon. But he’s so open and speaks straight from the heart, so he told me he loved me as soon as it felt natural for him.
    .-= melanie gao´s last blog ..Do I need a breathalizer for playdates now? =-.

    1. Hi Melanie,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s amazing you knew you loved your husband so fast — and that he could say it so easily. I have to admit it wasn’t like that with John and I. I didn’t see him that way at first — but it took me the time to get to know him, and then I really fell in love with him. And it took him a while to say “I love you” admittedly!

  6. Scared would be, afraid to open up our hearts again after having them broken–scared of rushing it all so fast and not enjoying what we have now. Scared of being hurt again.

    Money–money would just be a huge concern for me. I have a lot of financial stress and pressure, and that’s something I feel I need to work out before I jump into a big relationship. I want to be able to take care of myself, and the person I love if needed, not to be a burden.

    He was born in China, been in the US 20 years, and has completely stolen my heart. I hope that our story will turn out well.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thanks so much for the comment. It is scary being in a relationship sometimes, especially if the thought of being hurt looms in the background. And, certainly, I can understand the need to be able to take care of yourself — as well as your partner — without being a burden.

      I’m rooting for both of you — you’re in my thoughts. 🙂

  7. Well, it’s been 6 months and I couldn’t be happier.

    The two of us took a short break from one another, to relieve the pressure and make sure that we knew what we were getting into. While we stayed in touch, and saw one another occasionally, we really kind of cooled it off for about a month. In that time we decided that all we really wanted was to be together. So, we started dating once again, and our conversations became deeper, and our time together grew longer and more often. Now we are together ALL the time!

    As of yesterday we officially became a “couple” and my love for him continues to grow. He has now met my family too, and that makes me very happy as well. I think I will marry this man one day, I feel it in my heart <3 <3 <3 If that does happen, Jocelyn you are SO invited!

    Just wanted to share that with you all, because I love reading stories from everyone else as well 🙂

    1. Dear Michelle, I am so so happy to hear that things are going SO great! That just warms my heart. If you get married, I’d love to be there. Do feel free to keep us all posted anytime! 🙂

  8. He loves me!

    [Insert cheering, leaping, painfully huge smiles, pounding & racing & fluttering hearts, fireworks…a general cacaphony of joy!!!!]

    So, yesterday, in such a moment of shock and pure joy, my amazing boyfriend told me he loved me. After a few moments of stunned silence, I broke into uncontrollable tears of happiness. I sobbed like an absolute fool. I’ve never been so happy in my life! He was so concerned at my crying, but I just started laughing, hahahaha…I must have confused him like crazy, hahahaha.

    Words cannot describe the profound depth of feeling I have for this man, and to know that he returns my affections means that I am the luckiest woman in the galaxy!

    I have never heard a more beautiful sound, than the words “I love you.” from his beautiful lips. I have been replaying that moment in my head over and over for hours and I never get tired.



  9. Yay! Yay! Yay! Oh man, if he knew about this blog he’d probably die, hahaha. But I am just so happy I had to tell you guys <3

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