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“Should I Ask Him Directly If He Loves Me?”

By boyfriend and I have been together two years. About six months ago, I finally said “I love you,” deciding that if I didn’t say it first he never would. I am still waiting for him to say it back and I’m rather conflicted about the whole thing. First, we are very happy despite some bumps we hit early in the relationship. When I met him, he was completely emotionally unavailable and he has taken incredible steps toward being a better partner for me — changes that I had never even dared to ask for since you and so many others have always said “You can’t change him!” I think he does love me, because he has gone from being that commitment-phobe to telling me that, “I will stay with you until you tell me to go.” I know that he deeply values me the way he has never valued anyone before.

However, when we were in our rocky phase, he outright told me that as much as he cared about me, he would probably never be in love with me — because he didn’t even think he was capable of love. (We broke up after that.) Since getting back together, I have been afraid to bring up the “love” topic directly, because while all signs point to him loving me, I am so afraid that he will tell me that he doesn’t LOVE me, still doesn’t really know what love is, etc. etc. My friends tell me that if I’m happy, don’t rock the boat, but it does nag at me sometimes.

Should I ask him directly? Tell him I’d like to hear it back (I’ve said it many times with no response)? Or just leave well enough alone? I don’t even need him to say, “I love you.” I just need to hear out loud, just once, that he does. — Waiting for the L-Word


Wow, your boyfriend outright told you he didn’t think he would ever love you and now you’re wondering how long you’ll have to wait until he tells you he does? When someone reveals something about himself, believe him! Your boyfriend basically told you that he either doesn’t believe in love or doesn’t believe you’re the person he’s going to fall in love with. By getting back with him, you basically said, “I understand you may never love me, but I’m willing to be with you anyway.” So, if that’s not the truth — if staying with him is contingent on him loving you — on saying it as well as showing it — regardless of how happy you are with him and how nice he is to you, you absolutely need to talk to him about his feelings. And if turns out he still doesn’t love you, still doesn’t believe in love or believe he’ll ever love you, MOA. MOA if what you want is a partner who will truly love you, because if this guy says that isn’t him, you’re just wasting your time by staying in this relationship.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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{ 140 comments… add one }

  • avatar TheOtherMe May 24, 2011, 7:45 am

    1) …”he outright told me that as much as he cared about me, he would probably never be in love with me”

    2) “Should I ask him directly? ”

    No. You already know the answer. You should feel loved. You deserve to feel loved.

    He’s unable to say the words, so if “all signs point to him loving me” is enough for you then great but it still seems like you have doubts.

  • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 8:06 am

    Oy vey. Why do women try so hard to become happy with relationships that can never truly make them so instead of working to find relationships that will naturally make them happy? LW, your boyfriend is not capable of fulfilling a very basic need for you (a need that many, if not most, people consider essential to a relationship). I would be curious to know what convinced you to return to him, as it is not included in your letter. I suspect its omission may be due to the fact that your reasons for reunion were not particularly solid. In any case, MOA; that is, if you hope to someday have a partner who loves you.

    • avatar cdobbs May 24, 2011, 8:26 am

      this is exactly what i would say to the LW

    • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 9:36 am

      Im pretty willing to bet she did a lot of the pushing for the reconciliation & he just gave in…

      • avatar MsBorgia May 24, 2011, 12:09 pm

        Nope. All his idea. I, in fact, never thought I would give him another chance.

  • avatar Sue Jones May 24, 2011, 8:08 am

    Respectfully disagreeing here. Love is as love does. He is acting like he loves you. He treats you like he loves you. Some people just have trouble saying the L-word. And some people have very rigid pictures about what “being in love” looks like, feels like, etc. In my book he is behaving like he loves you with commitment, time spent together, sharing, etc. Don’t let Hollywood Romantic Comedies (which are bullshit in the real world) create your relationship for you. Sounds like you guys have a good thing going. Real love is about commitment, working out issues, being able to create a future together, working out finances, planning for the future. All the other rom-com stuff is really infatuation and projection. Those words are nice, but like chocolate mousse, you cannot live on it, it will not nourish you or sustain you through hard times like a diet of organic veggies and proteins will. And you won’t always feel it (that in-love feeling) in a long relationship. If you are looking for the Hollywood feeling and for a long relationship to feel like one long date, you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for loyalty, companionship, someone you really click with and whose company you enjoy, then don’t worry about the L-word. He may even have Aspbergers, for Pete’s sake, so the fact that he is not using the pretty words that sell movies is irrelevant. A good resource for you to read may be “The Five Love Languages” or something like that. Basically it says that different people demonstrate love and accept love in different ways. For some people that is pretty words, for some people it is doing stuff for the other person, for others it is quality time spent together. I forget the other 2, but it may help you understand your relationship better and to be able to communicate to the other your needs so that you both get your emotional needs met and feel loved by one another.

    • avatar PFG-SCR May 24, 2011, 8:43 am

      While I agree that the _scenarios_ in rom-coms are unrealistic, those intense feelings where you can’t think of anything else besides him (or her) and you feel like you’re being swept away are not unrealistic. Maybe it’s not easy to find someone where you feel that way, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. I agree with you that these feelings will not sustain a relationship, though, and there has to be more, like the commitment, common interest, shared goals and vision for the future, etc. But, over the long-term, a lack of mutual love in a relationship is likely to lead to issues that will cause the relationship to be an unhappy one.

    • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 8:46 am

      She isn’t wanting him to say it all the time. She is wanting him to identify his feelings as love. He does not identify them as love. To me, that suggests that either his emotion for her is insufficient, or he is not emotionally wired in a particularly healthy way (as she somewhat described in her letter from early in the relationship). Asperger’s generally wouldn’t do it (both my sister and father are diagnosed with it).

    • avatar Amber May 24, 2011, 8:47 am

      I would agree more if he hadn’t said that he would never be in love with her, or be capable of it. To me that doesn’t say I will love you but not be able to express it in the same way you do, but rather I’m not ever going to love you. So he treats her well and she says they’re happy, even though it seems like the LW is not since she wants and needs something he’s not able to give. And if she needs someone who is able to tell her he loves her occassionally then obviously this is not the guy for her. I think she does need to talk to him if she’s serious about staying in the relationship and expressing to him how she feels. Not being able to talk to your partner about something like that, especially after two years together, is not a good thing.

    • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 9:57 am

      I disagree with you. You can give it all the run around you want, but this guy flat out told her he’ll never be in love with her. Sorry, but when you’re in love you can say it at least once, esp. when your partner of TWO YEARS says it. Theres no ifs ands of buts…

      • avatar Hana May 24, 2011, 1:16 pm

        Sometimes with love stuff people say things like that because it is how they feel at the very moment or they are confused and the words don’t come out right. My boyfriend said something close to that to me before but he just has trouble processing his words sometimes. And we are in love and he tells me all the time now.

        • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 1:26 pm

          That’s the point though. He tells you. Regardless of his issues, he made it a point to work through & tell you. Why? Because he is in love with you.

    • avatar Quakergirl May 24, 2011, 10:24 am

      She’s not expecting him to write her sonnets or take over an amusement park at night and ask her to marry him at the top of the ferris wheel– all she’s asking is for him to say that he loves her! That isn’t a crazy rom-com idea. People actually say (and mean) that in real life every day. It isn’t brainwashing to want to feel loved. That’s a pretty basic human need. And for her to feel loved, she needs him to confirm it, just once. Forcing an admission of love out of someone is hardly a rom-com plot.

      And I’m curious about the assumption that you don’t always feel in love with someone in a long term relationship. You may not always be over-the-moon, can’t-think-of-anything-else, crazy infatuated with them like you were in the beginning, but I can’t fathom the idea that during parts of a healthy long-term relationship, you don’t actually love each other. As PFG-SCR said, that can’t be a long-term strategy for happiness.

      • avatar Sue Jones May 24, 2011, 1:24 pm

        What I meant by that is that during long term relationships there are times when you feel “in love” and times when you don’t feel the magic everyday but you just know the love is there. There are times in my now 16 year relationship when it is just everyday, mundane. To keep the love energy getting sucked away by bills, childcare with 2 kids, housework, jobs, other life stresses that come up etc, we have a date day during the week. Sometimes with kids we have to schedule sex or it won’t happen. We are secure in that we love each other, but I would not say that we are in the honeymoon phase anymore and that is just fine by us.

        I think that her boyfriend does love her, actually, but perhaps he is expecting it to FEEL a certain way so he might not say it. People can get really caught up in their images about how it should feel when they really have a perfectly nice relationship. Love can take many forms. And maybe for this particular guy, they should call it something else.

        I get a sense that many of the readers are much younger than I am at almost 50. I had 4 serious relationships before I met my husband when I was 33. What I wanted in a boyfriend at 16 was much different than what I wanted at 33. One thing I did learn is that the “over the moon” feeling, while fun and amazing and everything, does not last forever, it can’t. We would go insane. Too much dopamine in the brain. And most of the relationships that had that “love at first sight” feeling did not last, while the one I married, while we did have a honeymoon period, was more muted and has deepened into something a lot more sustaining and nurturing. It depends what she wants. So different people require different things. If she straight out asked this guy if he loved her and he said “no” , then I might be taken aback, but my sense is that he does love her in his way, just does not say it because it is so LOADED a word. Perhaps she should ask him again and see what he says?

        • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 1:35 pm

          Ok…what your talking about is completely different. I understand long relationships get routine & mundane but the point is at one point there **was** that honeymoon phase, where you guys told each other “I love you.” What she is describing is that he NEVER told her that & even stated that he doesn’t think he ever will, which he has proven since they reconciled nearly a year ago & he still has not made any mention.
          It’s not a matter of how young or old we are, it’s a matter of the reality of the situation. Maybe the LW is content in her relationship, but if she really was happy & ok, why would she be writing to get third-party advice? I know to me, I could not be in a long-term relationship where my partner didn’t verbalize at least once that he was in love with me. I wouldn’t feel as comfortable, or like the relationship was evolving. I’m sorry, but I don’t think anyone can feel truly happy comitting themselves to a person who will never say they love them. Everybody wants to feel loved & if you say you don’t, you’re lying.

          • avatar Sue Jones May 24, 2011, 1:46 pm

            Well if the LW feels that she needs to know for sure, she should ask him for a “Status Update” or have a “State of the Union” talk. I don’t believe that what he said in the very beginning of their relationship, that he would never love her, was a permanent emotion. Feelings change and deepen as relationships develop. Especially with ambivalent guys… and this one seems to have gotten less ambivalent as time goes on. But if LW asks him again and his answer is still the same, and that is not what she is truly wanting or looking for, then, certainly she can MOA.

            • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 2:11 pm

              I guess we’ll agree to disagree, because IMO, if they’ve been together two years, broke up, reconciled & he STILL has not said “I love you,” that’s a pretty good clarification that what he said before, still stands.
              But, I will agree with you that, for her own sake, she should talk to him. I know she def. cannot just get up & leave. Maybe hearing it once again will finally give her the strength to walk away, if he does confirm his intial statement.

        • avatar SpaceySteph May 24, 2011, 2:01 pm

          I think you are talking about two different things. The “what I wanted at 16 is not what I want at 50″ is a different issue than the “honeymoon period” issue.

          Also I made the mistake once before of believing that you didn’t need to feel the love every day in an LDR, as long as you knew it was there. Well, while I believed it was there, he believed it was gone… only he didn’t tell me. He just hung around expecting it to get better and then finally gave up. How are you supposed to fix anything, if you don’t know you’re broken.

          So I think the moment you feel the love slip away, don’t get complacent… talk about it, fight for it, and then even if it ends, you know you gave it your best shot!

        • avatar Quakergirl May 24, 2011, 2:41 pm

          I’m not disagreeing with you that things get hectic and crazy in a long-term relationship. There are days when Quakerboy and I don’t have a conversation that lasts more than 2 minutes, usually as he’s coming home from the office at midnight and I wake up to say “did you remember to pay the electric bill?” But I think the distinction is that between love and romance. The romance part of the relationship has definitely taken a hit in the last 4 years or so, but the love has only gotten stronger. Even when it’s midnight and I’m exhausted and he tells me he forgot about the electric bill, I still love him. The stubble and the bags under his eyes aren’t particularly sexy or romantic, but I can honestly say there hasn’t been a moment in our relationship where I haven’t felt deeply, completely, confidently in love with him.

          This LW isn’t complaining about a lack of romance, or even a decline in lovey-dovey feelings as real life creeps in and you get frustrated and irritated due to the stress of life. She’s actually questioning whether that basic love that’s in the background no matter what– that lets you get through those life stresses and unromantic moments (food poisoning, pregnancy, 5 o’clock shadows)– even exists. That’s…pretty harsh.

    • avatar Flake May 24, 2011, 12:56 pm

      In my opinion, what you have described is friendship. And it is definitely ONE of the main ingredients of a successful relationships. Love is what makes any particular relationship special.

      • avatar Sue Jones May 24, 2011, 1:28 pm

        I am friends and I am lovers with my husband. Some people run hotter and cooler than others. Just so you all know, my husband is more “the girl” in our relationship, and I tend to be a bit more of a Vulcan most of the time. We balance each other. But it works, so…. who is to say what it is and what it isn’t? Perhaps this guy is a Vulcan too.

        • avatar Flake May 24, 2011, 1:38 pm

          But you are not writing here wondering if you should ask your husband if he loves you. You KNOW he does. And I am sure that he has told you this at least once, Vulcan ( :) ) or not. The thing is, if it is love you’re looking for, chances are you will not be happy with anything less, no matter how nice, caring, kind and enjoyable the relationship is.

        • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 2:18 pm

          Hello Sue,

          I have a personal question that I’ve always wanted to ask a Vulcan, and feel free to decline if you feel uncomfortable in any way. When you guys finally bang after 7 years, is that like the hottest thing ever?

          -Spaceboy

          • avatar SpaceySteph May 24, 2011, 2:23 pm

            Thumbs up for “bang!”

          • avatar Sue Jones May 24, 2011, 2:29 pm

            Who waits 7 years anymore? That was so Mr. Spock…. but yes it is the hottest thing ever! ;)

            • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 4:09 pm

              Good to know! If we ever have a really slow day here, I’ll relay the story of how I almost got kicked out of The Star Trek Experience in Vegas.

  • avatar PFG-SCR May 24, 2011, 8:10 am

    “I think he does love me, because he has gone from being that commitment-phobe to telling me that, “I will stay with you until you tell me to go.” I know that he deeply values me the way he has never valued anyone before.”

    I’m not sure how you found that comment endearing in any way. Given the context of all the things that he’s mentioned to you since you’ve been together, it’s as if he’s telling you that he’s content with you, but he’s not going to ever be who you want/need him to be so when you decide you’ve had enough and want to break up, he won’t even try to change your mind.

    If he couldn’t respond with “I love you” after you said it after 18 months, and he hasn’t responded with it in the six months since, I’m not sure why you’d want to ask him directly if he loves you now. You’ve already put him on the spot numerous times by telling him that you loved him, and he’s not said…anything. To me, that’s your answer.

    I could never be with someone who didn’t love me. I could never be with someone who didn’t know how to experience and show love. I could never be with someone who couldn’t say they loved me. Like Wendy said, you need to decide if that’s important to you. But do you really see a long-term future with him? If he’s only content at this early part of the relationship, I’m not sure if he’ll even feel that after two decades together. And, can you be happy with that?

    I’d be very introspective and think why you’re happy. But, as someone who has been with their significant other for a lot longer than you’ve been with yours, I can assure you that life without the euphoria with being _mutually_ in love with someone seems rather sad and unfulfilling. Life – including marriage – will have it’s ups and downs, and if you don’t truly and deeply love that person and they love you, it’s highly unlikely that it will be a happy one. While I don’t believe that “love can conquer all”, I do believe that love needs to be part of the foundation of any long-term romantic relationship.

    • avatar Amber May 24, 2011, 8:36 am

      I was bothered by the I’ll stay until you tell me to go comment as well. What does that even mean?

      • avatar Bethany May 24, 2011, 11:13 am

        To me, that sounds like he’s giving her an “easy out”, almost like he was hoping she’d tell him to leave.

    • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 8:49 am

      It’s hard to tell without context, but I have sometimes heard guys say “I’ll stay until you want me to go” when they were not emotionally healthy people. I had an ex who was like this; he was so depressed and down on himself that he couldn’t accept that I would want to be with him, so he took it for granted that I would eventually leave. Come to think of it, my ex also had the issues with identifying love and affection. He was quite damaged. Maybe the LW’s boyfriend is as well.

      • avatar HM May 24, 2011, 1:31 pm

        I dated someone who said things like this as well. As a child of divorce and a participant in numerous failed long-term relationships, he grew to be a little emotionally damaged. Now that is something that can heal with time and perspective as most relationships don’t work out, but it was up to him to take care of himself and I couldn’t force him.

        If LW’s bf had a similar situation prior to their relationship I can understand his issues in the beginning. However, he has had enough time to sort out his feelings and he still isn’t providing what she needs (reassurance).

        LW, unless you want things to get more serious or you are looking to find something more serious soon, I wouldn’t rush things if you are truly happy. However, I don’t think you would have written Wendy if you were truly happy. I agree that he is intentionally not saying it which means he doesn’t feel it. Maybe talk to him about what he thinks love is and why he doesn’t think he can find it. Maybe your definitions of love are different and, though you are on the same page, you call it something different semantically.
        However, if after this you are still uncomfortable and feel like something is missing, I think you have to go with your gut here and make the decision you know is best, even if it isn’t easy.

    • avatar CG May 24, 2011, 9:09 am

      Yes yes yes! I couldn’t believe that either. He basically flat-out told her he’s only biding his time until she gets fed up and he can find someone he likes better and might actually be capable of loving. Have some self-respect, girl!

      • avatar SpaceySteph May 24, 2011, 9:25 am

        I agree more with Desiree’s take. I don’t think he’s waiting for her to dump him so he can find something better, he’s waiting for her to dump him because he assumes eventually she will leave.
        This is also probably why he says he doesn’t believe he knows what love is and can’t be capable of it… he doesn’t think he can be loved either, he just figures eventually it’ll end in heartbreak.

        • avatar PFG-SCR May 24, 2011, 9:29 am

          I agree – I took it to be a very self-deprecating comment from him. Maybe that is where all of the issues are rooted – if he doesn’t love himself or see any worth in himself, then I don’t think he’ll ever be able to give her what she needs.

          • avatar _jsw_ May 24, 2011, 9:35 am

            To add on to that, if it’s the case – and I agree it seems plausible – that he feels unloveable, then perhaps what MsBorgia should do is to tell him often that she loves him. Not in an expectant way (“I love you…” *stare* *expectant look* *sad look in eyes as time goes on*) but in a very positive, happy, not-expecting-an-answer way, maybe even when he can’t really answer (whispered in his ear, followed by a quick kiss on the cheek as you walk away after meeting him in public for lunch, for example). In other words, making it very clear that you love him without putting any stress on him to reply.

            That’s not a lifelong thing. He shouldn’t never need to reply. But I could see it working if tried for a short while to improve his ability to believe he can be loved and to allow him to eventually express how he feels.

    • avatar Starfish13 May 24, 2011, 11:17 am

      I totally agree! I once was with an “emotionally unavailable” guy for several years on and off, and he would always say things like “I’ll be here as long as you want me” – at the time I mistook that as sweet and romantic. Looking back on it I realize how that was NOT deep-feelings material – since then I have dated much more mature (and emotionally available) guys, for example, current bf could not express enough how much he cares about me. I am a firm believer in “if you have to ask, it probably isn’t there.”

    • avatar Calliopedork May 24, 2011, 3:16 pm

      I think everyone is being too cynical about this, to me it sounded like he will stay with her forever or until she doesnt want him. Not that he is waiting for her to break up with him. Some men are not great with words so to them, “i’m not going to leave you” is romantic

  • avatar fast eddie May 24, 2011, 8:13 am

    The greater question is what does it mean when someone says “I love you”. Several books have been written about that and I can’t add to them…plus my finger hurts too much to type out more then this paragraph. Actions speak louder then words so enjoy the feeling of being loved and let go of the declaration.

    • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 8:52 am

      I think exploring the concept of love is just part of the human journey. My views of love now are different than they were at 18, and I hope as I grow older that they will evolve further.

      • avatar crazyayeaye May 24, 2011, 11:53 am

        Well-said Desiree, I completely agree :)

      • avatar fast eddie May 24, 2011, 5:46 pm

        My feelings of love have indeed changed with age. From euphoria and passion in my teens to common expectations in my 30s (wouldn’t mind doing those again) to comfort and security as our careers come to an end. Now it I call it love to take a nice, make that really nice, vacation, work together in the garden or have a nice dinner out. Much of my life’s success has come from working for it as a couple. Now if we’d just had grandchildren…

    • bagge72 bagge72 May 24, 2011, 11:59 am

      Well I agree that people show love in different ways, but those people usually at least will respond with “I love you” when it is said to them first. Usually they aren’t the ones to come right out and say it though. This guys just isn’t saying it or responding with it, and if actions speak louder than words doesn’t the action of breaking up with somebody, because you tell them you aren’t in love with them speak pretty loudly.

    • avatar Flake May 24, 2011, 1:01 pm

      I wonder if she feels really loved or just cared for? I think that is part of a confusion. If she truly, without any doubt felt that he loves her, she would not be writing this, and since she is, then, somewhere inside she knows, but doesn’t want to deal with the truth.

  • avatar Callifax May 24, 2011, 8:20 am

    It took my boyfriend 8 months to say the L word – I had told myself, as time wore on, that I would wait for a year and them after that I’d leave. Being told that I’m loved is something I personally needed (not everyone does). This may be an unpopular piece of advice, but you need to decide if hearing those words is something YOU need, and if so, decide how long you are willing to wait. Otherwise you are just dragging out something that’s not going to fulfill you and inevitably not work.

    • avatar SpaceySteph May 24, 2011, 9:28 am

      Same here. With my boyfriend it took him 6 months and I had decided that a year was all I was willing to wait. If you can be with me a year and not know (and be able to say) you love me, then you’re never going to.

  • avatar sweetleaf May 24, 2011, 8:28 am

    “I will stay with you until you tell me to go.”

    I translated this to be, “I’m staying with you cause I don’t really have anything else to do at this time” based on the fact that he said he doesn’t think he will ever be capable of saying/loving the LW.

  • avatar BoomChakaLaka May 24, 2011, 8:31 am

    While I’m inclined to add one more cliche phrase to the mix: “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” I really think this goes beyond the fact that he isn’t saying “I love you” to you. You want something and your boyfriend knows it, yet is deliberately witholding it from you. It bothers and hurts you that he hasn’t said it, to the point that you guys broke up over it one time.

    I, too, am interested in hearing why you guys got back together. If it wasn’t enough for him to realize that he “loves” you enough to say it to you, and to make you happy, then I don’t know if you should be in this relationship.

  • avatar _jsw_ May 24, 2011, 8:40 am

    Someone who actually loves you might not feel comfortable saying it often, but they will say it or at least acknowledge it.

    Nothing in your letter points in any way to this man loving you. Maybe he can’t love anyone. Maybe he just isn’t capable of loving you. But it’s been two years. It’s not going to happen, and the “best” you could hope for is that he’ll say he does just to stop the questions.

    Find a man who loves you, not one who simply tolerates you and who is so detached that the way he acts now is an improvement.

    • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 8:55 am

      Your last sentence really hits home. I think you’re so right – his behavior was once so bad that now, slightly less bad, is considered a great improvement. In reality, I’m not sure his current behavior is even passable for someone in a committed relationship.

    • avatar _jsw_ May 24, 2011, 9:49 am

      I’d like to amend my reply a bit after reading the LW’s comment.

      I still feel as though two years is far more than enough time to realize you’re in love with someone. I’d guess that the overwhelming majority of people who ever fall in love do so within that time period.

      However, someone who has been traumatized or who is emotionally withdrawn for various reasons might very well have a hard time accessing or verbalizing what they truly feel.

      It is up to MsBorgia to decide how long she is willing to wait – another year, another month, indefinitely, whatever – to hear him say (and mean) it. However, I now am of the opinion that is is possible he feels it but cannot express it.

      Look, I’m king of the Damsel In Distress relationship. I’ve often gone for the fixer-upper. I know what it’s like to understand why someone is broken/has been hurt/needs to learn to… whatever. I understand that, if you love someone, you will give them every chance to meet your needs and will understand why they keep falling short.

      But… I’ve learned you need to be honest with yourself about what your needs are, and that a relationship cannot work out if you never can expect to get them met. That’s why I understand why MsBorgia is giving him time… but it’s also why I think that time should have some limit, after which she needs to decide if she can remain happy with a man who will never admit he loves her. It’s fine if she can do that… but she needs to be honest with herself, or it will fester.

      • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 10:28 am

        Very much agree with your comment. There are a couple sides to the issue, and the we DW readers may fall on one or other depending on experience and preference. MsBorgia has to decide based on her priorities. I’ve done the “fixer upper” (and *been* the fixer upper at some points in my life), and it’s level of success depends on the commitment of both parties. Some people don’t want to be “fixed.”

  • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 8:44 am

    I tend to agree with some of the above commenters…when I read “I will stay with you until you let me go,” I’m hearing, “I don’t want to break up with you because I’m comfortable and don’t want to go through the trouble, but I wouldn’t fight it if you broke up with me.” That isn’t romantic! That isn’t a vow of love – far from it. It’s been two years, and your boyfriend cannot and will not tell you that he loves you.

    A long time ago, a very smart commenter once said that “You’re accepting the crumbs of this relationship.” That is exactly what you are doing now. You have stayed with someone for YEARS without ever hearing him tell you that he loves you. To me, and to most women, that isn’t even the bare minimum that one should accept from a long-term relationship. If he doesn’t love you or isn’t willing to say it, you don’t HAVE a relationship…at least not a healthy one. There are so many men who would fall in love with you and be GLAD to tell as many people as they possibly could…allow yourself to let him find you.

  • avatar Mainer May 24, 2011, 8:46 am

    To answer your actual question, the one you wrote in about (whether you should ask him to say it), my advise would be “no.” I feel you would just be setting yourself up for disappointment. You could ask him if, now that you two are back together, he has the same thoughts as he did before in regards to ever being able to love you. If he says “yes,” you have your answer. But people are capable of changing, so if he says anything along the lines of “no” or not being sure, then you may want to ask if that means he loves you or could ever love you. If that is all you’re looking for, that is the best way to approach it.

    But from what I took from you letter, you weren’t asking whether you should stay with the guy. You’re happy where you are and this doesn’t sound like a deal breaker. Your motivations for staying with someone is your thing, so I don’t think anyone is in the position to tell you otherwise. Some people need verbal love, others are fine with physical love. You just need to decide which is important to you, and what you can or can not live with.

    • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 8:54 am

      She seems quite discontent, though. It was enough for her to leave the relationship once, although she eventually returned. And honestly the beginning of this relationship sounded pretty unhealthy, with him carrying a lot of baggage. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but maybe not the guy for her?

    • avatar MsBorgia May 24, 2011, 9:14 am

      LW here. Yes, you hit the nail on the head. I *am* happy with him— there are just aspects of our relationship that haven’t improved yet. This isn’t a “comparative” relationship. He has said he won’t leave me because there is no way he can find anyone better, and he has been fighting to keep me and make me happy.

      All I wanted to know was whether his feelings could have changed, since so much else about the relationship has changed. I am very happy, for the first time in my life. And yes, he had a lot of baggage, but so did I— we worked through it together.

      • avatar _jsw_ May 24, 2011, 9:28 am

        Well, first of all, I’m very glad that you are happy, MsBorgia, and I wish you the best.

        Hopefully, he is simply coming to terms with being able to verbalize what he is feeling. Hopefully, after two years, he is not trying to decide what he is feeling.

        I must admit that hearing something phrased as “he won’t leave me because there is no way he can find anyone better” does not encourage me. When you’re in love, you don’t stay because, odds are, you’ve climbed as high up the ladder as you can… you stay because you don’t want to be with anyone else. I worry that comments like that, and the “I will stay with you until you tell me to go” one are very… passive at best.

        Again, I really do wish you the best of luck, and I hope things work out as you want them to, and I hope you remain very happy.

      • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 9:45 am

        You said “aspects.” Is there something else that your boyfriend has trouble with, other than telling you that he loves you? I note in your letter that you make no mention about the physical aspects of your relationship – am I wrong to assume that those are ok? I only ask because reading your letter made me think that perhaps your boyfriend cannot express love because his orientation is asexual. He may have some level of attraction to you, and act on it in order to make you happy, yet perhaps he can never be romantically attracted to you, and say that he loves you, simply because that is his orientation.

      • avatar PFG-SCR May 24, 2011, 10:27 am

        @MsBorgia: “All I wanted to know was whether his feelings could have changed, since so much else about the relationship has changed.”

        I feel like there’s a huge piece of the puzzle that we’re missing here. Obviously, you’re not obligated to share anything more, but without knowing, it’s hard to understand the big picture, including why he’s said or not said certain things over the two years.

        No relationship is perfect, but to me, if you were truly very happy with him, were fulfilled in every way except this one aspect, you wouldn’t be writing in to DearWendy about it. Maybe you are truly very happy, or maybe given what baggage you’re dealing with (as you mentioned), you’re just not as unhappy as you’ve been in the past so you label it as “happy”. I don’t know, but I think you need to do some soul searching on this. But, don’t underestimate the value of love in a relationship, and if you decide you can live without it, you need to think about whether you want kids with him, and whether he will be able to properly feel for them like a father should.

        I wish you the best.

        • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 10:31 am

          I think you are completely right. Regardless of our opinions, I think some soul-searching is definitely called for. I am glad that she feels happy in the relationship, but something still seems off to me. But I am an outsider with limited knowledge, so it’s not for me to say.

      • avatar TheGirl May 24, 2011, 10:31 am

        MsBorgia I think its time for you to sit down with him and have a ‘where is this relationship going’ talk. Tell him you love him and you want a future with him, and elaborate on whatever that means for you (moving in together, kids, marriage, etc). Make sure he knows that you aren’t talking about getting married tomorrow, but that you want to know if its even a possibility for him. Tell him NOT to give you an answer right away, but to think about what he wants and how he really feels about you. Give him a deadline – say two weeks or so. You need straight answers and you deserve them. Its been two years and I think you’ve been more than patient with him. If after two weeks (and two years) of thinking about your future, he can’t say yes to any of those things, you may need to move on.

        • avatar Laurel May 24, 2011, 11:49 am

          I think this is really good, really practical advice.

      • bagge72 bagge72 May 24, 2011, 1:00 pm

        I need you to read these three things, and think about what you would say to one of your friends if they told you their boyfriend or girlfriend had said these things to them.

        “he outright told me that as much as he cared about me, he would probably never be in love with me”
        “He said I will stay with you until you tell me to go.”
        “He has said he won’t leave me because there is no way he can find anyone better”

        What it looks like to outsiders is that this guys has told you that he doesn’t love, he will never be in love with you, but he will stay with you until you can’t deal with him anymore, because he can’t do any better than you. I’m not sure why you keep seeing these things as endearing statements, but that is NOT what they are.

        • avatar Mainer May 24, 2011, 2:03 pm

          How would you respond to a friend who told you these things about their significant other:

          “We are very happy despite some bumps we hit early on.”
          “He has taken incredible steps toward being a better partner for me.”
          “I know he values me the way he has never valued anyone before.”

          These are things the LW told us about their relationship NOW. The above things were said before, which shortly thereafter lead to a break up. After which, HE came back to her. Now I know it may be a long shot, and it does appear on the surface that this guy is pretty emotionally detached, but people do change. LW claimed she never thought she would take him back, yet she did. This, to me, would suggest he made at least SOME changes to restore her faith in him. But who knows, I’m only basing this off the letter and her subsequent comments.

          So I think that even if this doesn’t look like a normal relationship to us, she’s happy with him. She has her motivations for staying with him, and at the end of the day is just looking for him to (“just once”) say he loves her. Where she appears unsure is whether or not his feelings toward love (both in her and in general) are the same as before or if they have changed. The only way to find out is to ask. Until she does, we can’t really speak to whether or not he is the same exact person he was in his past. Maybe I’m just stupidly optimistic, but I’d like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

          • bagge72 bagge72 May 24, 2011, 2:33 pm

            I see what you are saying, but those are assumptions she is making about him, the things I listed are things that he directly said to her. Maybe they are out of context, because we weren’t actually there to hear them, but I can only speak to what it sounds like he is saying. Also I believe if she was really happy then this wouldn’t bother her so much. If all she really wanted to know is if it was ok to ask him if he loved her she probably wouldn’t be giving all of this other information. She seems like she actually is looking for more than just a simple answer to and easy question.

      • avatar Britannia May 24, 2011, 2:43 pm

        “There is no way he can find anyone better”, “he has been fighting to keep me and make me happy”.

        The first quote sounds disrespectful, IMO. Like he’s settling. This leads me to agree with the people who are saying that he is just in a relationship with you because no one who really strikes his fancy has come along yet.

        The second quote sets my alarm bells ringing. It doesn’t sound like he’s happy, at all. It sounds like he feels emotionally drained and simply doesn’t find this relationship to be enjoyable.

        There is something positive that can be said for relationships of convenience, but your relationship seems to be very lopsided. That isn’t going to change.

      • avatar Calliopedork May 24, 2011, 3:29 pm

        Are you secretly dating my bf? Your’s sounds like he is just terrible at expressing feelings. He cares for you and will change his behavior to make you happy, that is love. It took my boyfriend 1.5 years to say it and that was with me bugging him all the time. He just had a difficult time defining love in his mind. The way he felt about me was different than the obvious love he felt for his parents and sister so it took him awhile to recognize. I’d ask your boyfriend again. But be prepared if he doesnt give you the answer you want, or doesnt have one yet

  • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 8:52 am

    Being told that you are loved is an aspect of a committed relationship that I do not believe is subject to compromise. There are many aspects of love, and many ways that you demonstrate those aspects. I believe if you limit one of those aspects, the other ways of showing love to someone are directly affected. His actions may demonstrate that he loves you, but not being able to say it, whether through actual words out of his mouth, written letters or even sign language, says to me that his actions are hollow, much like an automaton. Personally, I don’t know how someone can act without expressed passion or desire. If this need to hear that you love is something uncompromisable to you, you need to discuss it with your boyfriend in an uncompromising fashion – back your desires up with action and if he doesn’t say it after you’ve asked and waited, MOA.

    • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 8:59 am

      I agree. I really don’t believe that hearing “I love you” is something that can be compromised. I’m not super effusive or generous with the “I love you’s,” but that doesn’t mean that I never say it. NI can understand not saying it very often, but never saying it, not even once, seems indicative of some deeper issues her boyfriend may have with committment (which he has already proved by saying he may never love her).

      • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 9:46 am

        I think its more that he flat out told her “Im never going to be in love w/ you”.Theres a diff b/w being overly affectionate vs. not so affectionate. This guy is just not in love with her, period.

    • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 11:02 am

      Like _jsw_, I am expanding on my comment based on what the LW (MsBorgia) has written.

      I feel that there are aspects of your relationship that you haven’t mentioned here, because you feel that is between you and your boyfriend. That’s ok if you don’t want to share what you both have individually compromised. Yet if you want to know “whether his feelings could have changed, since so much else about the relationship has changed”, you HAVE to ask him. Being in love does not come without it’s risks, and rocking the boat to ask him in the midst of your tranquil “happiness” is probably one of the biggest risks I can imagine considering the slice of shared history you’ve revealed. Yet if hearing him tell you that he loves you, just once, is something that is uncompromising to you, I feel you need toMUST ask. If he breaks your heart again in the process and doesn’t say it in return, I’m sorry MsBorgia, but that vulnerability is one of those risks that comes with being in love.

  • avatar The_Yellow_Dart May 24, 2011, 9:00 am

    All of the commenters have made good points. They have basically stated that there are two (almost opposing) possibilities for your boyfriend’s behavior:

    1) Actions speak louder than words – “I know that he deeply values me the way he has never valued anyone before” – he feels the same, but is afraid/unable to say the three words.

    2) An empty relationship is better than no relationship at all – “he outright told me that as much as he cared about me, he would probably never be in love with me” – he is not emotionally-invested in the relationship.

    In order to discover which of the two it is, I think you need to broach the topic with your boyfriend (as Wendy and several others have suggested). Your letter is well-articulated and non-accusatory, so it will help if you use a similar tone in your conversation. No matter the outcome of your talk, if you want to be in a relationship filled with love, you shouldn’t have to compromise!

    • avatar Maracuya May 24, 2011, 10:08 am

      This. I think each comment chooses one or the other. I think the LW should feel out which one it is. My boyfriend didn’t say those three words right away–in fact, I said it first at 8 months. I also think that that phrase “I don’t know think I’m capable of love” sounds like melodramatics to me, but if he’s not showing you love, thinking about you, discussing the future, then it’s probably option 2.

  • avatar silver_dragon_girl May 24, 2011, 9:09 am

    I read a lot of romance novels. You know, the $6.99 paperback ones with scantily-clad men and women on the covers? Yeah, those. And guess what a major plot device in about 80% of those is? A strong male protagonist who refuses to believe he’s in love even when he clearly is. He is always a wounded soul, coming off a string of horrible circumstances, so when he meets the one woman who is his true love he won’t let himself commit to her. Then he finally decides he wants her so much he will commit, but it won’t be love. Then something horrible happens and he has to rescue her (sometimes she rescues him!), and he suddenly realizes that he loves her.

    But this is real life. Real life is NOT A ROMANCE NOVEL.

    This is a tough one for me. On the one hand, you absolutely deserve to be loved, in every sense of the word, including verbally. On the other, if EVERY other aspect of this relationship is fulfilling, are you willing to throw all that away?

    I think your bf probably does actually love you. However, if he can’t say it, then he has some serious mental/emotional blockage going on. Do you want to deal with that? Are you prepared to deal with that, possibly for the rest of your life? If he can’t say it out loud, he can’t admit it to himself. And if he can’t admit it to himself, it’s always going to be easier for him to leave you. Not saying he will, just saying he’ll be able to do it.

    And since I doubt you’re going to be kidnapped by pirates or crooked 19th-century moneylenders any time soon, you probably won’t be able to use that as a catalyst for change.

    • avatar Desiree May 24, 2011, 9:17 am

      It’s that damage that I think the LW’s boyfriend has that makes me think it won’t work. I was engaged to someone who had similar problems, and it really hampered the relationship (not that I didn’t have issues of my own, of course). In the end, my now ex-fiance had to leave me, go off on his own, and find his sense of self worth BY HIMSELF before he could be happy. He has a good life now and is very happy with a sweet girl, from what I hear. But he had to deal with his demons *outside* the context of a relationship.

    • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 9:31 am

      Crooked 19th-century moneylenders!! I love it. I tried to read one of those once…I believe it was “The Slightest Provocation,” and didn’t get too far. I feel like I should push through and try to finish one haha.

      • avatar silver_dragon_girl May 24, 2011, 9:36 am

        Oh, they’re fun. I read them a lot in school, when I needed something frivolous. I even did a research paper on metaphor in romance novels ;)

        • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 10:17 am

          So basically, your paper was ‘How many different ways can we refer to a peen?’.

          • avatar silver_dragon_girl May 24, 2011, 11:11 am

            Lol. Actually, it was more on the language of “love as hunting,” “sex as heat,” and “love as nourishment,” if I remember correctly. But I definitely could have done 15 pages on euphemisms, too ;)

    • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 9:49 am

      Why did I immediately flashback to the Friends episode where Rachel tries to write her own romance novel?

      Rachel: All right, all right, all right. So I’m not a great typist
      Ross: Wait! Did you get to the part about his ‘huge throbbing pens’? Tell ya, you don’t wanna be around when he starts writing with those!

      I am such a pop culture slut.

      • avatar Addie Pray May 24, 2011, 10:24 am

        I have a crush on spaceboy.

      • avatar silver_dragon_girl May 24, 2011, 10:38 am

        Because everything is a Friends reference. Everything!

      • avatar Quakergirl May 24, 2011, 10:40 am

        YES. Just saw that episode. Classic.

      • avatar Addie Pray May 24, 2011, 11:10 am

        Spaceboy, I challenge you to relate each letter this week to a scene in Friends. You can do it.

        • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 11:33 am

          I really don’t know the show well enough to pull it off :(.

          Even though I have a TiVo-like memory for jokes, I’d probably run out of steam on Thursday.

          • avatar TheOtherMe May 24, 2011, 1:00 pm

            ok, Friends OR Seinfeld, you can do it. I am confident you can because you’re able to pull off always including the word “bang” for every response.

            Good Luck.

  • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 9:33 am

    Darling… Move…On…ALREADY! This man is never going to tell you he loves you.He’s stringing you along & will continue to do so as long as you allow him to. When a man is truly in love w/ a woman nothing, & I mean nothing, will stop him. “I will stay with you until you tellme to go” How is this statement romantic? Its not! Its lazy & and a huge red flag! He’s pretty much telling you “look, i cant give you what you want but im just gonna hang out until you figure that out.” Dump him & find someone that is truly in love with you. Youre wasting your time!

  • avatar SpaceySteph May 24, 2011, 9:48 am

    Interesting that you’ve been together for 2 years but make no mention of having even discussed any type of future committment. Have you and your boyfriend talked about marriage? Kids? Living together? What does your boyfriend say when you bring up the idea of some kind of future? I know marriage isn’t for everyone, but are you ever interested in living with him or some other form of long term committment?

    If you have been together 2 years and still you two haven’t discussed your future in concrete terms, I think that says even more than not being able to say “I love you.” If you decide you can live without hearing the L word (which I don’t think is something you really want) then you at least need to have a talk about your future.

    In response to all the comments above about what “I will stay until you tell me to go” means: I used to say something similar to my boyfriend at the beginning of our relationship. I would say “I’m here as long as you’ll let me be.” But it was because I was a little messed up by my ex boyfriend who, as late as our goodnight phone call THE NIGHT BEFORE he dumped me, still said “I love you.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with my boyfriend, it was that I assumed that sooner or later he would dump me just like the last guy. I didn’t feel especially loveable or even that love meant anything if it was so easy to toss around when it wasn’t true. After the break-up, he told me that he had decided to dump me 2 months before he did, but was trying to stick it out thinking it would get better… all along he had been saying “I love you” to me at least once a day, but didn’t mean it.
    A few months into our relationship, I got over it, stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop. My boyfriend, who didn’t say he loved me for 6 months, still doesn’t say it very often, but everytime he does it feels very real. Basically, LW, if 2 years in he still hasn’t gotten over this, then he’s not going to. You are, unfortunately, not the girl who gets to fix him.

  • Budj Budjer May 24, 2011, 9:51 am

    If you have a healthy relationship besides this I would wager that he just has some weird issues thinking about, describing, and recognizing “love”…it’s very possible he is in love, but is rationalizing in his own mind that he isn’t – likely for self-preservation.

    It may not be the best thing to stick this out because this is an example of someone that could be emotionally neglectful because they are too busy trying to protect themselves. That would unfortunately mean he isn’t 100% open to you…and there probably isn’t anything YOU can do to help him…he has to work through this issue on his own. It would be a risky gamble to stick this one out, but only you have the contextual information to make that decision.

  • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 10:16 am

    Have any of these comments addressed the LW’s question directly? This is clearly a missing piece of the relationship that you require to move forward, so I say just ask him point blank and put him on the spot. The more surprised he is, the more honest of an answer you’ll get. If he says what you want to hear without obvious signs of duress, you can start picking out baby clothes. If he doesn’t say anything, you can finally MOA and find a fulfilling relationship elsewhere. If he does what exactly I think he’s going to do, which is pull some lame crap like “Well, I’ll say it only because you’re forcing me to say it”, you have to decide how important the L-word is to you in the general scheme of your relationship.

    FWIW, he seems like an emodouche. The whole ‘I would be capable of love if I could only overcome this intense emotional pain that only I comprehend’ act wears thin pretty quickly on most adults. Typically, people like that are only happy in intensely volatile realtionships with people exactly like themselves. It’s a sweet match… they can scream and throw glasses at each other, have a wild makeup bang, and then chill out to some Conor Oberst. It’s also handy to have somebody to help you dip dye your hair because that can really make a mess.

    • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 2:01 pm

      Since I consider Spaceboy the unofficial residental date hunter/classifier in the DW universe, I partially agree with your assessment that he may potentially be of the genus emodouche. I am curious though what species would he be? He isn’t an official “wringer/tester” like that guy with the psycho bitch elimination test.

      • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 2:28 pm

        This guy is more of a self-hating emodouche (Emodoccia Autophobus) than the self-aggrandizing emodouche (Emodoccia Egotistica) from the other letter. You pretty much treat them the same way.

        • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 2:34 pm

          Spaceboy can we please clone you?? I know so many women who need to date you and you”re already married!

          • avatar Addie Pray May 24, 2011, 2:42 pm

            Shut the front door, Spaceboy is married? Sigh.

            • avatar MissD May 24, 2011, 6:28 pm

              Indeed. Such a shame…glad I’m not the only one with a spaceboy crush. =)

          • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 3:09 pm

            I think that spaceboy1200 or so just turned 18, so we are entering the dating pool at a pace slightly greater than the rate at which we marry off. I would guess that there’s about 400 single ones out there, but I’m not sure. I really don’t keep up with the Facebook group as well as I should.

        • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 2:55 pm

          Awesome. :D *takes notes*

          You do realize that this means that everytime you see an emodouche, we would need a species classification from you, right?

          • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 3:13 pm

            Absolutely. Emodouches are actually just a subset of the larger Douchebag family.

            • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 3:51 pm

              This just begs the question – What are the other genus within the douchebag family? I personally only had experience with the classdouche – those that look unkindly on others regarding money.

              • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 4:18 pm

                There are a bunch, but you’re most likely to run across the testostedouche, emodouche, chameleodouche (aka, the scenester), and artistodouche in the wild. Douchebags, are of course part of the larger Jerk group that also includes Tools and Assholes.

                • avatar SGMcG May 24, 2011, 5:03 pm

                  Hmmm…*takes notes*

                  Assholes are pretty self explanatory. They should be avoided at all costs. Your wife beaters, child abusers, and sexual predators – all assholes.

                  The Tool group is also pretty self explanatory. You watch an episode of the Jersey Shore and *bam* there they are. Although, the Tools on that show also have elements of douchery, so I imagine that cross-breeding within the Jerk group is possible.

  • avatar MKS13 May 24, 2011, 10:27 am

    I’m an infrequent Dearwendy reader and my comments are mainly a response after reading a lot of commentators focus on and wendy’s response to “he outright told me that as much as he cared about me, he would probably never be in love with me — because he didn’t even think he was capable of love”.
    LW didn’t say how long ago this was said, but people and feelings change over time.

    When I started dating my now boyfriend of a year and a half I didn’t think I was capable of falling in love and was just looking for someone to have fun with for a couple months and told him as much. Three months later he told me loved me. Five months after we started dating I realized I couldn’t just break up with him like the original *plan* had been because I was in love with him too.

    I don’t think it’s fair to hold someone to something they said once upon a time when you were going through a rough patch. But if a comment from weeks/months(?) ago is still bugging LW then it definitely needs to be brought up and addressed.

    • avatar Maracuya May 24, 2011, 10:37 am

      I agree with this completely. I wish the LW had described more of his actions at present time.

    • avatar SalMarie May 24, 2011, 11:26 am

      Agreed! It sounded to me like the comment about being incapable of love might have been made early on in “rocky” phase of the relationship, but it really isn’t clear from the letter. If he made this comment, say, a year or more ago, and his actions have significantly changed since that time, there is a real possibility that his feelings have also changed and he just hasn’t been able to articulate it. For this reason, I agree with those that have said that the LW does need to ASK him (*if* him being able to say those words is an eventual dealbreaker for her).

  • avatar Painted_lady May 24, 2011, 10:30 am

    Look, if what you’re really asking is should you ask him if he loves you, I’d say definitely not because he’s told you already. He either really doesn’t or he’s not self- aware enough or comfortable enough with his feelings to say so.

    If what you’re asking, though, is if you should or shouldn’t be okay staying with someone who won’t say he loves you, I would say that’s entirely your call. I don’t know that I’d be secure enough to stay with someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t say he loved me. However, my grandparents were together just shy of 60 years, and after my grandfather died, my grandmother told me he had never once told her he loved her. But, she said, he didn’t have to. He adored her and it was obvious to everyone. Only you can decide if you’re okay with never hearing out loud that he loves you, but I don’t think you should hold out hope that you’re going to hear it.

    • avatar Hana May 24, 2011, 1:30 pm

      Not a thumbs down to the grandparent story, I actually think that is very sweet, although I personally need to ear I love you. I disagree about the asking… I think in any relationship (friend/romantic) you should be comfortable to ask a question to keep the relationship moving. Just because she asked months before doesn’t mean it hasn’t changed. If she is asking every day, then no she needs to stop asking. But if it has been awhile YES! ask him how he feels, don;t just sit there guessing. If I knew him I would ask for you, but since your the only one who knows the man definitely ask him what his feelings are towards you. And if he says he is not in love with you feel free to ask him why and if he thinks it will change if you need to know the info. He if your boyfriend, you should be able to ask him anything.

      • avatar Painted_lady May 24, 2011, 3:44 pm

        I guess my point that I should have made clearer is not that she shouldn’t ask altogether. She’s already asked. She made it pretty clear before they broke up that it was something she wanted to hear. If that’s something she needs – I definitely do, I’m not denying its importance at all – then she should move on from this guy who has made it abundantly clear that he won’t say it. Beyond that, it becomes begging and no woman should ever have to beg for what she needs. And if she’s okay with not hearing it and she can trust that he loves her without hearing it, then she should let it go.

      • avatar Painted_lady May 24, 2011, 4:00 pm

        Also, I was in the boyfriend’s shoes for a bit – I was with someone I didn’t love yet and wasn’t sure I could love. He asked a couple of times if I loved him, and even if it had been six months to a year between when he asked, I would not have forgotten he wanted me to say it. Maybe it’s just my experience, but for me, someone asking if I loved them was impossible to forget. Even the second time he asked, I finally snapped, “Trust me, if I ever do, you’ll be the FIRST to know.”

        Of course, that could totally just be me. But big questions like that aren’t easy to forget about.

        • avatar _jsw_ May 24, 2011, 4:07 pm

          I hate to disagree, but I’m pretty sure that he’d be the second to know.

          • avatar Painted_lady May 24, 2011, 5:58 pm

            Ha! Good point!

  • avatar va-in-ny May 24, 2011, 10:38 am

    I think you need to watch 500 Days of Summer –

    She said over and over how she didn’t believe in love and never really thought she could love anyone… until she met someone she could.

    “One day I woke up and I knew that he was he one. The feeling I never felt with you.”

    Find someone who loves the way you love.

    • avatar spaceboy761 May 24, 2011, 10:58 am

      Best scene ever:

      Roses are red
      Violets are blue

      [opens card]

      Fuck you, whore

    • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 11:22 am

      One of my favorite movies EVER!

    • avatar BoomChakaLaka May 24, 2011, 12:52 pm

      Omg, I was crying throughout that entire movie. It really is a perfect depiction of unrequited love.

      • avatar BoomChakaLaka May 24, 2011, 12:54 pm

        Oh and my favorite scene was the second time he described Summer (contrasting it with the first time he described all the lovely things about her) and said, “I hate her crooked teeth and that cockroach birthmark on her shoulder.”

        That scene cracks me up every time.

        The flash mob was pretty awesome too.

        • avatar ReginaRey May 24, 2011, 1:11 pm

          My boyfriend loves the Han Solo reflection in the window coupled with the Hall & Oates dance number, which is pretty awesome. I personally just love how he looks at the camera at the very end when she says “Hi, I’m Autumn.” Everyone should be required to watch this movie!! :-)

  • avatar MsBorgia May 24, 2011, 11:17 am

    I agree that I omitted a big piece of the story… but it’s really long… I tried to condense it the best I could. He said the “I will never love you” thing over a year ago. (We reunited August of last year.)

    • avatar Britannia May 24, 2011, 9:38 pm

      How can you possibly expect us to give accurate, helpful advice if you omit “a big piece of the story”?

    • avatar Amber May 25, 2011, 10:28 am

      In the last year then how have things changed for the positive that make you think that he might love you now. You say he’s more emotionally available, in what way? It really comes down to you needing to have a conversation with him if you’re serious about staying in the relationship. It sounds like as happy as you are, this is still bugging you and really if you’re going to be happy long term you have to be able to talk to him about anything.

  • avatar Bellz May 24, 2011, 11:21 am

    Sounds like my ex. When I finally asked him, (after about 2 years) I phrased it like this: “When will you tell me you love me?” His response: “Love isn’t even a part of my vocabulary.” His lack of emotional availability is what finally broke us up a few months afterwards.

    • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 12:57 pm

      Oh my…I’m glad you moved on from that kind of a person! I’m sure you are MUCH better off now.

  • avatar Heather Feather May 24, 2011, 11:27 am

    “Should I ask him directly?”

    After 2 years, I would say what do you have to lose? Ask him, and be prepared to make a smart decision with whatever answer you get.

    No, I don’t love you – MOA and quit wasting your time in a dead end relationship.
    Yes, I love you. – Talk openly about why he has a hard time sharing his feelings.

    You are the only one that can determine what makes you feel loved, whether it is hearing it, feeling it, acts of love, etc. Someone saying they are not capable of love is really warning you of things to come.

    • landygirl Landy May 24, 2011, 1:04 pm

      Excellent advice.

  • avatar Starfish13 May 24, 2011, 11:33 am

    I have one more depressing thing to contribute, which hopefully doesn’t apply to you MsBorgia! But never sell yourself short for what kind of happiness you want in a relationship. In my last relationship, whenever someone would ask “are you happy with (boyfriend)?” I would answer “yes” without thinking. But having gone through a terrible break-up with that boyfriend, then having some healthy time away from dating, and then moving on to someone whom I am 10-times happier with, I realize now that could and should expect a lot MORE happiness.

    I know it is really hard to tell how happy you are in relationship. But keep in mind, just because you don’t want to break up with someone, doesn’t mean you are happy. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t do better. This guy sounds like he needs a few more years to grow up. He’s issues are probably too deep to work out in the context of a relationship – he needs to figure them out on his own.

  • avatar crazyayeaye May 24, 2011, 11:39 am

    One thing that caught me was that he said “I will stay until you let me go”….and while I think this does indicate attachment, it also implies he’s approaching this relationship as terminal. MOA, LW, find someone who is hopeful about your future together. You deserve that.

  • avatar Elle May 24, 2011, 12:07 pm

    I’m one of those people that doesn’t say “I love you”. I’ve never heard my parents say it to each other, and they’ve never said it to me either. I said it to my first boyfriend, about a year into our relationship, because it felt right, and I didn’t expect to hear it back. He dumped me the next day*, for my best friend. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not, that’s exactly what happened. As a result of that, I have negative connotations associated with saying “I love you”.
    Also, even though my parents never said it, they show it to each other every day. So I was raised in an environment where you don’t necessarily talk about your feelings, but act on them.
    Now, I was married for quite a while. I never said “I love you” to my ex-husband. I told him why, he seemed to accept the fact that I showed him my love, even though I had trouble verbalizing it. The closest I’ve got was say “I do”, when he asked me if I love him. This didn’t stop me from committing to him, and committing to a life with him by marrying him. I never had trouble with that part. I also never thought along the lines of “He’s the best I’ll ever get” or “As soon as I meet someone better I’ll dump him”.

    I guess my line of reasoning is along _jsw_’s – I didn’t have trouble acknowledging my love, just verbalizing it.

    LW, maybe have a talk with your bf about what he means by “love”. To me, it’s what is commonly referred to as “unconditional love”. I unconditionally love all my family. No matter what they’ll do, I’ll always love them, and it’s very comforting to know that the feelings are reciprocated. I find it hard to extend that trust and unconditional love to someone outside of my family.

    Another way to put it is, I love everyone… conditionally. As soon as they betray my trust, that little bit of conditional love is gone…

    *If anyone read “Diary of a seducer” by Kierkegaard. He acted pretty much like that guy.

    • caitie_didnt caitie_didn't May 24, 2011, 5:31 pm

      Like you, I’ve never heard my parents say “I love you” to each other, and rarely to me and my siblings. I’ve also had a crappy experience with love in a relationship. Because of that, I used to be really self-conscious about saying “i love you”. But I’ve learned that that’s not how I want to live my life. I’m never going to be super effusive but I want the people I love and care about to KNOW that I love and care about them! There is something wonderful and freeing about learning how to give and receive love.

  • sobriquet sobriquet May 24, 2011, 12:18 pm

    I fell in love with 2 different men who were incapable of loving at the time. Both for very different reasons. The first guy had a very tragic life… his brother died while he was in high school, and his mother died shortly after because she lost the will to live. He was an awesome guy, and I fell madly in love with him (he was my 1st time), but he told me early on that he didn’t think he was falling in love with me and so I moved on. It’s one of the most hurtful things you can hear. Even though he didn’t want to break up when he told me that, it was all I needed to hear. We have remained good friends over the past 6 years and he has dated plenty of women, but never fallen in love. To this day, he tells me he’d like to get back together with me. I don’t think I could be content in a passion-less relationship.

    The second guy had a very good upbringing and was practically worshiped by his parents. This made him narcissistic at best. He told me he loved me very early on, but I’m not sure he knew what love was. After we broke up, he told me that he was incapable of caring about other people (WHOA RED FLAG) and that he would be content living alone. The problem with that was, he needed someone there to be his cheerleader. He spent a summer in London a year after we broke up and he called me every morning because he was so lonely. He’s the kind of guy who needs a girlfriend/wife to cheer him on and tell him he’s wonderful. A girlfriend/wife he is incapable of loving.

    This is long and I’m not sure it’s relevant. Both men were awesome people and good boyfriends. But they weren’t passionate or concerned about the status of our relationship… much like the boyfriend in the letter. You have to figure out if you can live your life without ever hearing those words, with a boyfriend who is only with you because you’re the best he can get, and who is content with leaving if you want him to.

    • avatar justpeachy May 24, 2011, 3:52 pm

      While I agree with most of what you said, it seems dangerous to me to associate passion and love so closely. Don’t want to spur on the LW because her boyfriend is capable of lust, not love.

      I think you do make a very good point, though. Is it that the boyfriend is incapable of love or is it that he is incapable of communicating his love? From the quotes we got in the letter, I’m betting on the former.

  • avatar Sarah May 24, 2011, 12:20 pm

    “He has said he won’t leave me because there is no way he can find anyone better”

    No no no no no. That is absolutely terrible thing to say and a worse thing to hear as a substitution for “I love you”. Never settle for hearing things like this. He does not deserve your kindness and patience, which you have in spades and should be giving to someone who appreciates it. Any man who says he’s not sure he’s capable of love AFTER TWO YEARS is a big heaping pile of drama that no woman should have to deal with. This man is so dramatic and overly complicated that Pacey AND Dawson would tell him to grow a pair. MOA MOA MOA. Once you MOA you will finally see how much this guy needed to get over himself!

    • avatar LTC039 May 24, 2011, 12:53 pm

      I agree with you. I think she wants us to tell her that its all ok & to yes, wait for him, because deep inside that’s what she wants & what she’s most likely going to do.
      @Ms.Borgia, you’re settling…I know you don’t want to admit it, but it is what it is. You want things from this man that he has told you he can’t give you. You guys reconciled LAST AUGUST & just recently you felt the courage to tell him “I love you” & he hasn’t told you anything back? Doesn’t that validate what he said even if it was over a year ago?
      I understand that you love him & you want to believe he’s going to change, but I think you know he’s not. I know you’re going to do w/e you feel you need to do at the end of the day, but you **did** write into an advice column for, well, advice!
      I truly do hope I’m wrong because I know how hard it is to be so wrapped up in someone that is not willing/can’t give you what you want. It’s a hard fact to accept. But please, think with your head on this one, not with your heart.

  • avatar Hana May 24, 2011, 1:08 pm

    If it really is only him saying I love you that is bothering you than I disagree with Wendy’s advice. Sometimes it takes a person longer to feel it, recognize it and act upon it. And yes, sometimes sox months isn’t a long enough time. But if there are other red flags I would MOA.

    I say give him more time about the love thing because my boyfriend/fiance is one of those guys who needed more time. He is insecure, came from a bad relationship and wasn’t sure “what love was.” When we first started dating he quickly told me he was in love with me, and I told him thank you. (about three weeks in). When I felt it I told him I loved him and he said it back. Then all of a sudden he announced that he didn’t love me and didn’t know how he felt about me. So I told him we could break up and be friends, slow things down and go back to dating or just break up. He said no to all of those and was really upset that I wouldn’t want to still be with him. But I told him that in a LDR I am not just dating around for fun because it isn’t fun being apart all the time. And of course he begged me not to leave. He explained it as he had heard a sermon at church describing the different kinds of love and then realized he felt none of them for me. But thought he might in the future. I told him he was an idiot. (not a very mature moment for me, but high emotions I guess.) I didn’t say I love you again, a few months later I came down to visit (we alternated whose house we went to) and he said something that reminded me about how he didn’t love me so we talked about it again and he said he still didn’t know how he felt but that I shouldn’t leave him. Of course, I was going crazy trying to decide if I should MOA or not because all his actions said I love you. Then I came up to be with him around Thanksgiving and I had to ask him to do a favor and I jokingly said “I love you” to get him to agree and he answered with I love you. And he says it all the time now. It is not a question anymore and we are planning on getting married soon. New issues tho because he wants to surprise me with a proposal so even though we have talked about it for 5 months he won’t ask yet because I won’t be surprised…. men sometimes!

    Anyways, my point is that you can tell if he is a genuinely nice guy who sees something between the two of you and you can tell if he has deep feelings for you by his actions. Actions speak louder than words I have had men tell me they love me non stop to get me in bed and then I sleep with them and don’t hear from them again. Now, only you know how much you can take with this guy, and if he crosses the line that you have by all means MOA and don’t wait for him to catch up. If your meant to be he will come back to you. But if he acts like he loves you and wants to be with you but has trouble saying the Lword give him the benefit of the doubt. Ask him why he doesn’t believe in it, ask him to describe how he feels about you (it may be your definition of love) and ask him to say the word if you need him too. But definitely give him a chance before you MOA if there are no other red flags!

    • avatar Hana May 24, 2011, 1:11 pm

      Sorry, I didn’t realize you had been together for two years… That is a long time to not hear I love you. Ask him how he feels about you and then decide if that is what you want to be with. If not MOA, because there are plenty of stable men capable of love out there! If you had only said I love you last August without the break up before my above advice would remain the same.

  • avatar Quakergirl May 24, 2011, 1:11 pm

    To address the question you’re asking directly– yes, you should ask him. You said “I don’t even need him to say, “I love you.” I just need to hear out loud, just once, that he does.” If that’s what you need, then you need to tell him that. If he isn’t willing to give it to you (which really, really, really isn’t asking a whole lot), then move on.

    I know you say you’re happy, and you probably are right now, but the nagging feeling you describe is only going to get worse. It’s not surprising that you have a nagging doubt (?) about his feelings because he refuses to admit to them or acknowledge them. But if you want that acknowledgment (and who could blame you?) and he won’t give it to you, that doubt is going to turn into anger and resentment and this relationship will most likely turn very ugly. Before it gets to that point, just be straight with him. Say you would like to hear him acknowledge that he loves you. If he can’t do that, you know you need to move on. You shouldn’t have to beg to feel loved. It seems like you’ve been more than patient with him thus far, but you shouldn’t have to force him to give you what you need. If he can, then you need to decide if that’s really enough– if you can see a future with him in which you never hear “I love you.” If you can, great, but no one would think you’re needy if you said you couldn’t.

  • avatar Quakergirl May 24, 2011, 1:19 pm

    Also, just as a side note, I don’t know if you want kids or not, but if you do– tread carefully. Could he say he loves his kids? Could he even feel love for his kids? To me, it would be absolutely terrifying to think about having a child with someone who isn’t sure he would love them. I’m curious, too, about how he feels about the rest of his family. Does he have trouble identifying his feelings for them as love? Because that’s a pretty telling sign, too. Someone who can’t admit that he loves his own family (assuming they aren’t abusive or something) is probably way more messed up than he’s coming off now. My family doesn’t talk about things, but I do tell them I love them. I know not every family says that to one another, but if he can’t even identify his emotion for them as love, he probably isn’t ever going to be able to recognize his feelings for you as love, either. Just something to think about.

    • caitie_didnt caitie_didn't May 24, 2011, 5:36 pm

      Also, how is the LW going to feel when this guy can’t say “i love you” on their wedding day? Or when he proposes to her??

      • avatar Quakergirl May 24, 2011, 8:28 pm

        True. That’s just so…odd…to even think about. What would you say to someone when you propose to them if you’re not even sure you love them? This whole situation is just baffling. I mean I get that not everyone says “I love you” all the time, but if you can’t even bring yourself to admit that you love someone, I can’t even imagine how a proposal or a wedding would go.

  • avatar MsMisery May 24, 2011, 1:47 pm

    Two years without the “L” word?? Jeesus Pleesus. He may be a nice guy, but you need to find someone emotionally capable of being in a relationship.

  • avatar HmC May 25, 2011, 11:19 am

    Tom: Wait. What happens if you fall in love?

    Summer: Love. You don’t believe in that. Do you?

    Tom: What. It’s love, not Santa Claus.

  • avatar anna728 June 1, 2011, 3:52 am

    TWO YEARS? That’s waaaay too long. And six months of saying it to him with no response??? How can you just not respond to “I love you” when your girlfriend of two years says it? I mean say SOMETHING!

  • avatar ReeRee August 28, 2012, 6:06 am

    He sounds like he might have a little bit of asperger’s syndrome. My love would never say it, but i can tell that he does. His emotions are almost non-existent, it would seem. Not at all easily upset by ANYTHING. He’s the person you would tell of a tragedy first, because he would be calm enough to tell other people.

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