Jumping in front of a bullet…scaling Mt. Apo with minimal food and water…for the average dude, these acts of bravado are child’s play next to saying he loves you. That’s because unlike women, men just aren’t hardwired to articulate their feelings. “Studies show that men don’t rely on words to convey emotion,” explains relationship counselor Douglas Weiss, PhD, author of Intimacy: A 100-Day Guide to Lasting Relationships. “Instead, a guy’s brain is task-oriented. He’s more likely to demonstrate his feelings via action.”
Translation: If you want to decipher the depth of your man’s devotion, pay attention to what he does, not what he doesn’t say. To help you get a read on your romance, we’ve outlined seven signs he’s fallen hard—behavioral clues he may not realize he’s sending you.
1. He Lends You His Most Precious Possessions
“Like most guys, I’d always been weird about women touching my stuff—that mix of expensive gear and sentimental junk that men consider off-limits,” recalls John, 32. “That is, until I met my fiancee. I’m still amazed that I gave her my cherished jersey. But she got drenched during the rain that night, and I let her wear it home. I was more concerned about keeping her dry than whether she’d ruin my shirt.”
It’s true: A guy who’s gone gaga for you will happily fork over his mountain bike, laptop, and even his iPod because he sees it as a chance to show that he’s into you. “He knows it’s possible you could lose the item, but he’s willing to make that sacrifice because he wants to demonstrate how deeply he trusts and cares for you,” says relationship expert Susan Quilliam, author of Body Language.
And as any chick who has ever watched her guy spend hours grooming his ride or rearranging his comic-book collection knows, men tend to consider certain objects part of their identity; they view their most beloved things as extensions of themselves. “So if he freely offers you something that you know matters a great deal to him, in a way, he’s also offering himself,” adds Quilliam.
2. He Wants To Protect You When You’re Apart
Ever giddily unwrap a surprise present from your guy…only to find that he bought you jumper cables, several bottles of pepper spray, or orange reflectors to stick on your sneakers when you jog after dark? Hard to believe, but his safety-related gift gaffe is actually a tip-off that he’s enamored with you.
It all goes back to Neanderthal times, when a man’s main role was to protect the cave babe he adored. Though you no longer need him to ward off wild animals and marauding tribes, his instinct to guard his girl remains. “Men express their devotion by keeping you safe,” explains psychotherapist Tina Tessina, PhD, author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “Sure, he knows that he’s supposed to bring you flowers and candy. But when he really cares for you, that innate safety reflex is so strong that he ends up getting you security gadgets you can use if your car breaks down or you’re out alone at night.” Now, isn’t that pepper-spray key chain he bought you starting to seem a little more romantic?
3. He’s Always Ready For A Photo Op With You
The average guy has a twisted relationship with the camera. On one hand, he gets a kick out of hamming it up with his posse. But when it comes to a shot of just him and the girl he’s dating, he can get seriously skittish. “A man likes to think of himself as single and available even when he’s involved,” says Weiss. “He usually avoids posing with a woman solo, preferring to wave his friends into the photo or invent an excuse for why he can’t sit for the camera. He doesn’t want anyone who views the picture to assume he’s coupled up.”
So when someone whips out a camera at a party and your dude happily wraps his arm around your shoulder and smiles, it’s a sign that he’s so taken with you that he wants the world to know you’re his girl. His devotion runs even deeper if he displays the photo in his office or apartment. “He’s subconsciously informing anyone who might see it—his boss, coworkers, other women—that he’s off the market,” he adds.
4. He Wears The Clothes You Compliment
“After my girlfriend told me I looked handsome in this V-necked shirt I had on one night, I found myself wearing it every weekend,” explains Jake, 22. “It was only when she began kidding me about the armpits getting ragged that I realized I needed to give it a rest. I guess I was so psyched that she liked it, and I wanted to wear it to make her happy.”
Jake’s point: If you flatter your man’s fashion sense and then notice an uptick in the number of times he wears the item you praised, it’s a sure sign he’s smitten. “Guys tend to play down compliments, especially those that concern their appearance,” explains Quilliam. “But if the woman he’s crazy about signals her approval of his outfit, he’s excited and grateful. He shows his appreciation by wearing it again and again.”
Give your bond bonus points if he starts sporting clothes that don’t reflect his usual look. “Most guys have a basic style they rarely deviate from,” says Quilliam. So if he normally dresses in button-down shirts and khakis but has lately been donning the ringer tee shirt you said looked sexy on him, he’s going out of his clothing comfort zone—a sure hint he’s hooked.
5. He Sits Beside You When You Eat Out
During your first dinner dates, your guy probably did the normal getting-to-know-you thing: He sat across the table from you because he wanted to see your face and make sure you caught all of his Simpsons references. But an in-love dude would rather sit side by side because the super close body contact reinforces his link to you. “I realized how much I was into my girlfriend when I found myself sitting alongside her each time we’d go out to eat,” recalls Anton, 20. “It was like I couldn’t get enough of her, and being next to her was a way for us to stay physically connected.”
This seating style also placates a man’s natural possessive instinct, conveying to other guys that you two are a tight romantic team. “With his body blocking yours, he’s subconsciously keeping you out of sight from other men who may try to lure you away,” adds Quilliam.
6. He Shares His Chow With You
Eating brings out a guy’s primal side: Without realizing it, he can get possessive about what’s on his plate, guarding his grub and scarfing it down at lightning speed. But when he starts insisting that you take half of his favorite sisig or offers you a humongo slice of cheesecake so you can taste how yummy it is, chalk it up to a different animal instinct: the urge to shower some TLC on the woman his heart is doing flip-flops for.
“Feeding someone even a small amount of food is a tender, nourishing move all animals, including humans, are predisposed to make in order to show concern and affection,” says Quilliam. And if he brings the chow to your mouth with his spoon or fork, consider it a clue that he’s feeling super-intimate around you. “It shows that he’s comfortable in your personal space,” she says.
Another reason sharing his meal means so much: “When a man is in love, he wants his girl to experience all the pleasurable things he’s experiencing, and that includes his food,” says Tessina. “He won’t just mumble ‘Try some if you want’ halfway into the meal. He’ll be insistent, so you get the message that your pleasure is paramount to him.”
7. He Brushes The Hair Out Of Your Eyes
Any dude who kinda digs you can hold your hand or rub your thigh to communicate his romantic interest. But only a seriously love-struck guy would spontaneously sweep stray locks away from your face. “Reflexively extending his hand so that he gently strokes your head is a very intimate gesture. He’s saying he feels so close to you that he can’t resist touching you,” says Weiss.
Brushing back your hair is also a grooming move that in some animals is a precursor to passion. Your guy’s fondling your hair parallels this bonding behavior, revealing that not only is he attracted to you but he also has deeper nurturing feelings toward you. Plus, a spontaneous hair sweep illustrates his possessive instincts. “It signals to others nearby that he’s your steady man,” Weiss adds.