If you’ve cringed listening to Juan Pablo throughout his reign as The Bachelor, it may have been his lack of words that made you question last night’s season finale.
After Nikki—the woman he wound up choosing—repeatedly professed the L-word to the Venezuelan soccer stud, he simply responded, "I like you a lot." He also told her he had an engagement ring in his pocket—but wasn’t going to use it. His exact words: "I'm not 100 percent sure I want to propose to you, but at the same time I'm 100 percent sure I don't want to let you go."
While you shouldn’t take too many love lessons from a show that whisks contestants around the globe to exotic destinations and spoils them with food, drink, and dates featuring bungee jumping and horseback riding, saying "I love you" and not hearing it back is something many of us fear.
"It’s normal for two people to move at two different speeds," says Tracey Steinberg, a New York City-based dating expert. But if you’re at "I love you," and he’s at "I like you," that’s a significant difference. Hold tight and give yourself a deadline—two months, say—and then check in: Has he caught up or is there a bigger gap in how you both feel? Doing this gives you a chance for the relationship to grow but guarantees you’re not sitting around waiting for something that realistically may not happen, Steinberg says.
During that time, pay attention to his actions. Has he incorporated you into his life? Does he show up when you need him to? Does you show you off to his family and friends? "These are signs that a man loves you, even though he might not be ready to say it," Steinberg says. Of course, you have to be fair to yourself and what you want (and that may be a man who can fess up to his feelings), but if your guy is acting in love, you may want to give him a little bit longer to admit it out loud.
What did you think of the Bachelor finale? Have you ever had a guy not say "I love you" back to you? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine.