I’m in Love with My Boyfriend of 16 Months But He’s Not There Yet. Will He Ever Love Me?

I’m in Love with My Boyfriend of 16 Months But He’s Not There Yet. Will He Ever Love Me

I’m a great admirer of your insight. I’ve read Believe in Love and Why He Disappeared, which helped me get through a tough period after my last relationship ended. We rushed because of passion and got engaged too soon, one of the red flags I ignored because I was so happy to meet a guy who was madly in love with me. I’ve tried to move more cautiously since then. I just turned 30 and I’m very confident early in a relationship, but I have a borderline anxious attachment style and tend to fall into the “last man on earth” trap once I’m in love.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. I’m in love with my boyfriend of a year and 4 months, and he’s not in love with me. He says he cares for me deeply. He says I’m extremely important to him and his feelings are growing over time — but he doesn’t know if they’ll turn into love or not.

If he weren’t such a great partner in other ways, I would walk away. He calls every day, makes time to see me three or four times a week and we spend every weekend together. The sex is amazing. We’ve talked about marriage and kids and we want the same things out of life. We have a strong foundation of trust, respect and communication, and he’s integrated me into his tight-knit group of friends and their wives. But he doesn’t love me yet, a fact he openly tells me when pressed.

His stance: People say they’re in love too early and the word gets thrown around. His definition of love seems to be closer to wanting to spend your life with someone than mine is, and he isn’t there with me. He’s only been in love once, and it took him well over a year to realize it. He moves slowly and deliberately in general. He admits there’s a gap in our level of feelings for each other, but doesn’t think that’s a reason to end the relationship yet, and says he wants to see where it goes. But he’s also torn that this is hurting me.

Because I have some time before fertility becomes a more imminent issue, I’d like to relax and wait to see if he does fall in love. But I’m finding it tough to keep my cool and my anxious tendencies are coming out. Recently I keep wondering, what if he never falls in love? When do I cut my losses? And if I do stay, how do I keep my insecurities from eating the relationship alive?

Can people catch up to each other like this when there’s a gap in feelings? Or does this situation inevitably spell doom and pain?

Sincerely,
VM, a long-time reader

Great question. Sorry this is taking a toll on you. I’m sympathetic to you, of course, but because I’m a bit like your boyfriend, I’m going to try to help you understand where he’s coming from as well.

For most of my life, I dove into relationships head-first. Start with sex, commit within a week or two, declare love within a month. From ages 25-34, that got me into a series of short-term relationships with intense chemistry and no long-term compatibility. When I got dumped by a beloved girlfriend after only three months during the summer of 2004, I realized my methodology (or lack thereof) wasn’t working.

The reason you shouldn’t give up on him is because he’s already shown a sensitivity to your feelings…

The next time I had a girlfriend was two years later and I was EXTREMELY cautious. We dated for 2 ½ months before I agreed to have sex, not wanting to hurt her or lead her on. When we finally did sleep together, I committed to her as a boyfriend and we had a wonderful eight-month relationship. Yet I never told her I loved her because it seemed like a promise – an unspoken prelude to engagement – and I wasn’t willing to go on record with such a verbal commitment.

Was my standard for saying “I love you” too high? Probably. All I knew was that I was trying to avoid the same mistakes I’d made for the previous 34 years.

Before I ended the relationship, I realized she was ALMOST exactly what I was looking for in a partner. Warm, kind, silly, curious, family-oriented. What she wasn’t? Older and sexier. She was 25. I was 35. I needed a woman, not someone in her first job and her first relationship. Six months later, I met a 37-year old divorcee who, temperamentally, reminded me a lot of my ex. Ten years later, she is the mother of our two children. Still, I didn’t say “I love you” until we were together for six months – which was the very first time I brought up having Jewish children.

My thought process: I didn’t want to say I love you OR break things off until I knew I was ready to consider marriage.

That’s just my story, but I’m sure I’m not alone for not wanting to make promises (or even offer hint at commitments) I wasn’t sure I would be willing to keep.

It’s not that you’re wrong for wanting clarity; it’s that you can’t force clarity upon another person based on your own insecurities and arbitrary timetable.

The reason you shouldn’t give up on him is because he’s already shown a sensitivity to your feelings:

“He admits there’s a gap in our level of feelings for each other, but doesn’t think that’s a reason to end the relationship yet, and says he wants to see where it goes. But he’s also torn that this is hurting me.”

To me, that’s a sign of integrity. It’s not “this is a dead-end, you’re wasting your time,” but rather, an honest assessment that he’s unsure. It’s the same thing I was feeling after 16 months with my now-wife when I proposed to her – two weeks after having a “I don’t know where this is going” conversation.

My point is that if you have a good man on your hands, he already knows what’s at stake.

The next time this comes up, let him know that if he ever knows definitively that he’ll never propose to you, he should break up with you right then and there. And then zip it and become the kind of confident partner that he can’t live without. It’s not that you’re wrong for wanting clarity; it’s that you can’t force clarity upon another person based on your own insecurities and arbitrary timetable.

Give him the space to choose you and trust that he will – and you’re far more likely to get what you want. Good luck.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Skaramouche

    @VM.  Sounds to me as if he does already love you…he’s just waiting to say it.  IMHO, loving someone and saying you love someone are two different things.  Are you really uncertain whether he loves you or do you just need to hear the words?  I.e. what should he do differently, other than saying the words, for you to feel loved by him?

    My husband finds the words “I love you” trite, overused and a bit meaningless.  I feel somewhat similarly but I am female and I think I’m wired to say those words and to want to hear them.  I definitely said them first and waited till a moment of emotional crisis to hear them from him.  I’m certain his last girlfriend also contributed greatly to what was probably already a slight aversion and is now a great aversion.  She would say – “I love you…..” and let it hang there expectantly and being the good boyfriend that he was, he would say it back by rote.  Sometimes she would say – “Skaramouche’s husband, I love you, do you love me?” with a hint of a joke but they both knew it wasn’t really a joke and the only correct answer was – “yes honey, I love you too”.

    Having said all this, I was never in any real doubt that he did actually love me.  My husband has always found other ways to show me that he does indeed love me deeply.  In the beginning, I occasionally felt a pang, as if something was missing but now I hardly think about it.  We’ve been together going on 7 years and I can count the number of times he’s said “I love you” to me on the fingers of my hands.  Funnily, it means that much more when he does say it because I know the words come out unbidden as he’s tapping into a deep emotional reserve and any sense that it’s cliché is overridden by his depth of feeling for me.  My heart always jumps a little in my chest and beats extra fast for a few moments :).

    This is why I’m confused about the fact that your boyfriend says he doesn’t know if his feelings will turn into love.  That suggests there’s a magic “love threshold” and on one side you’re in love and on the other side you’re not.  It doesn’t work that way.  If he cares for you deeply without thinking about what is in it for him, he loves you.  This love will obviously grow the longer you are together.  If he’s attracted to you and if his heart jumps a bit at the sight or thought of you then he’s in love with you.  I think it more likely that he attaches some serious significance to the actual words and will not say them until he feels that level of commitment to you.

     

  2. 2
    Stacy2

    “Zip it and become a confident partner”? I am sorry but saying this to an emotionally vulnerable person (she told him she loves him and he said he didnd, duh!) who was anxious to begin with, it’s like advising a paraplegic to just get up and run 10 miles. I am sure it didn’t occur to her to “just become a confident partner”? Yeah, if we could do this sort of mental gymnastic, why would he have any relationship issues in our lives?

    The OP: I feel for you. Having said someone you loved him and hear that he didn’t in response must’ve hurt a lot. And it must be hurting every day since as you are trying to placate this person and be someone you think he would fall in love win rather than being yourself. My advise would be to remove yourself from this situation before it drives you insane. If at all an option, book a long (2 weeks or so) vacation in a far away land. May be you always wanted to see Bali or Vietnam. May be you always wanted to do that yoga retreat in Cista Rica, or save elephants and orphans in Zambia. Whateves. Or book a bunch of business trips or take an assignment in another city of that’s an option. Just get out. Continuing to give this guy what he needs as if nothing has happened will NOT make him fall in love. But, perhaps, making him feel what it would be like without you in his life will. Or not. But you’ll have your answer. And more importantly, you will have your balance and dignity too.

    1. 2.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      My advice involves positive thinking and a leap of faith that shows she values herself and she trusts her boyfriend.

      Yours involves the opposite: running.

      Hmm, I wonder which one will lead to him feeling better about the relationship and more confident that he can’t live without her?

      I can’t guarantee that my advice will work but I can guarantee that yours WON’T.

      1. 2.1.1
        Stacy2

        No Evan, you advice can’t work because it can’t be executed. You’re failing to see that, perhaps because you are failing to see the emotional component behind the question. Your advice assumes that a woman in love, whose love interest told her point blank (it’s clear from the letter that they had a discussion and he’s aware of her feelings) that he doesn’t love her back, can “zip it and be a secure partner”? Really? Can I say “let them eat cake?” If you believe that this is doable, I have a nice bridge to sell you. My advice actually may help her become that “secure” partner. A change of scene may help her clear up her head and chill out a bit, and bring the intensity of her own feelings down and give her some perspective. Perhaps, if the object of unreturned love is not in front of her 4 days a week, she will re-evaluate her own feelings a bit.

        1. Elemental

          Took me a while reading Evan’s blog and some other resources (some that Evan recommended, some I found on my own) to get a handle on how my own anxious attachment style has been messing up my relationships. And that only after a bit of a confrontation with Evan, not all that unlike the comment and response above. But Stacy2, I too think you’re wrong. I get it — being a “secure partner” isn’t easy for women like the OP and me. In fact, it’s really fucking hard work! It’s not an exercise in “mental gymnastics,” rather it’s a process and like me, the OP may need help to get there. But it absolutely can be executed — I’m finally learning that from my own experience.

        2. Stacy2

          There’s being “secure partner” and there’s “being secure partner to a guy who told you in your face he doesn’t love you”. I don’t even know if the latter can be called “being secure” or “being a sucker for self inflicted pain”. Anyhow, good luck with that is all i can say. You’ll need it.

        3. Marika

          While I see where you’re coming from, Stacy & I would definitely agree if he was coming across as one of these wishy washy non-committal, emotionally withholding types, he’s actually not. He’s obviously a good man who’s honest and cautious (very cautious in my view, but that’s another story).

          Is he supposed to lie to her and tell her he loves her when he’s not sure? Is he meant to break up with a woman he really likes and is good to and feels good around? It’s her job to decide if she can handle this, and I would only add to Evan’s advice to give him a deadline (in her own mind). For instance, at the 2 year mark, if there’s no I love you, and no definite talk of a future, she knows she’s done her best to make this work, and can move on knowing that. Yes, she’s ‘wasted’ more time, but there are no guarantees in dating.

          I think the point Evan is making is, if you choose to give him some latitude and patience (which he suggests), you have to do it in good faith, not say you’re okay with it but be all passive-aggressive. That’s certainly food for thought for me. I don’t think I could handle this personally, but I’m not in her situation.

        4. Stacy2

          Hey Marika,

          i agree with you that he is not a bad guy. Nobody is a bad guy for not loving you! He was honest. So this is not about punishing him or giving him deadlines. She said “I love you” and he said “I don’t”. From now own it’s all about damage control. And by  damage I mean damage to her emotional well being (I will give the relationship 80pc chance of DOA from here). I was that girl once and hearing “I don’t” was like being stabbed in the heart. I stuck around for a while (because duh I loved him) and he treated me very well – up until the day he finally broke up with me. That experienced left me so broken that I couldn’t seriously date or consider any relationship for a year and a half (granted there was other shit that got me also when it rains it pours but still). The OP is 30. It’s not the time she already lost she should be worried about, it’s the time she will lose when on a rebound from this… So rather than hoping against hope and continuing to invest here, her best course of action is to disengage a bit and fall out of love with this guy, if you will, to make an effort to get back to the same level of emotion that he is feeling. That’s all I am saying. If he says the L word in a few months- great, if not she will be empowered to dump his ass and move on. Otherwise this will be a trainnwreck.

        5. DeeGee

          I agree with Evan on this one.
          Sure, she may wish to give him some time limit to get to know his feelings before she considers moving on, but if she just bails now, how long before she finds another guy that she feels the same for, and what if she never does.  Only she can make that choice though.

      2. 2.1.2
        KK

        Evan,

        I’m confused as to how she is valuing herself in this situation. They’ve been dating 16 months. Not 5 or 6 months. She’s in love with him and he is NOT in love with her.

        He admits there’s a gap in our level of feelings for each other, but doesn’t think that’s a reason to end the relationship yet, and says he wants to see where it goes. But he’s also torn that this is hurting me”.

        Sounds like a decent guy but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s not in love with her.

        VM isn’t the CEO of her love life. She’s an intern anxiously HOPING for a permanent position.

        1. Emily, the original

          KK,

          “But he’s also torn that this is hurting me”.

          Not torn enough to end it.

        2. Nissa

          I’d have to agree with this. Not that Evan doesn’t have a good point, because he does (being angry, demanding is not helpful) but 16 months is long enough. The OP’s letter said that they boyfriend took ‘over a year’ to know the first time if he’d been in love. He’s had that. Frankly it should take less time now because he’s had the experience and should know his own feelings about this.

          My take on this is that the boyfriend is an over cautious, fearful person in general. Unless the spouse is on the same page, I foresee conflict even if they got married. I would say that unless the OP is ok with experiencing this exact issue (she’s ready for things years before he is) on finances, moving, kids, and retirement – she’s far better off moving on.

           

    2. 2.2
      R.C.

      My thoughts exactly..Either he do or he don’t..Time is not enough to waste especially if she’s looking toward marriage and having a family in the near future…Been there and done that..Wish him well & move on..Yes, easier said but it can be done.

  3. 3
    Selena

    I think the question for VM is how long are you willing to wait to see if he “gets there”?

    It’s odd to me that someone wouldn’t know if they loved you or not after spending 16 months together.  He told you he’s only been in love once, and it took him a year to realize it? That sounds like a romcom script to me – and how did that work out for him? Could be telling.

    I’ve read countless stories from women who waited years and years for their boyfriend to commit and he never did. To them anyway, because these stories often have a follow-up where the ex married someone else within 2 years.

    So again it goes back to how long you are willing to wait, before you start feeling like his “for now” girl?

     

    1. 3.1
      Malika

      Hi Selena:

      Absolutely. She could be wasting precious time hoping ‘he’ll come round’ when in the end he’ll be one of those guys who say ‘dunno, i just somehow drifted into the relation and now i’m here’ . Only to five minutes  later fall in love with another woman and to put a ring and declaration of affection on it. There’s slow and cautious, and there’s downright glacial.

      Then again his actions portray a man who is commited and holds great affection for her. It’s difficult to say from the outside: is he feeling what others choose to term as love, or are you his Ms Right Now? It’s up to the letter writer to find out.

  4. 4
    Tom10

    Hmm, I’ve always been of the school of thought that men never really “grow” into “love”; they either feel it from the very start or they never will; which doesn’t bode well for VM, the letter-writer. However, I have a tendency to feel that all men think like me whereas, in reality, different men feel differently on these matters.
     
    I think a more pertinent question the letter-writer might have asked is “what is my boyfriend’s ultimate intention/goal here?” And it seems that his intentions are indeed long-term: we’ve talked about marriage and kids and we want the same things out of life”.
     
    So VM needs to ask herself how important is it that he feels “in-love”? As it is quite possible he might never feel that way. Not every guy has to feel that “in-love” feeling in order to truly commit (although most do).
     
    You see, the risk in this situation is that VM could spend several (of her prime) years in this relationship limbo and still be no closer to where she actually wants to be. Talk can be cheap. People can change their minds. So taking his word for it that he wants marriage and kids (with her) might not be enough.
     
    Tricky situation, cut-and-run or wait-and-see?
     
    Perhaps she needs to analyze the 16 months they’ve been dating so far; has the relationship been continually progressing in intimacy/commitment throughout, or has it plateaued once her boyfriend was content once it reached a certain level (i.e. a level that suits his needs)?
     
    My advice would be to run if the relationship hasn’t been continually progressing in-line with his stated intentions, but to keep with it if it has.

    1. 4.1
      IntellectualCandy

      Yeah, he wants the same things, but not with her. Cut and run. No contact for 30 days. Date others. Maybe he’ll be “sure” after that.  At least she’ll have her answer sooner rather than years later.

  5. 5
    KK

    Interesting. On the one hand, I relate more to the boyfriend because I’m a slow mover as well. Not THAT slow, though. They’ve begin together almost a year and a half! On the other hand, I feel sorry for VM because this clearly isn’t making her happy.

    I don’t think this will work out because they’re not equally invested. I couldn’t be in a relationship like this. Nor would I want to be with someone that was way more excited about me. Never works long term, IMO.

  6. 6
    John

    I think Evan is right on this issue. I think many guys would cave and say “I love you” to please her or to get laid.  This guy has integrity. The word love is overused.  For example, I love ice cream, I love my job and I love  spaghetti and meatballs.

    It seems like he’s already showing that he loves her. It may be that he’s not aware of his feelings enough to connected it to being in love.  Most guys I know are not so great with feelings. Sometimes men can’t articulate them. It seems that he is showing his love by his actions.

  7. 7
    Marc

    I agree with Evan here.

    Too many women think those 3 words merely denote affection. For me, it’s like that old song: “when I said I love you, I meant that I’d love you forever”. I’ve had several great lengthy relationships, but the only time I’ll say those words is the same time I start ring shopping.

     

    Have a little patience,  VM… he’s still on his way.

  8. 8
    roxy

    Hmmm I don’t say I love you first anyway so if a man says “I am not sure if I love you yet” and it’s been 16 months yet he treats me like gold I don’t think I would have broken up with him right away. I would continue evaluating how he treats me and give him more time. If his treatment lessen then buh bye. But if he still treating me good then him not sure if he loves me is kind of the same of him not sure if he wants to marry me yet and  dude got 2 years to propose before I jump ship anyway lol. Now if I had to guess how this convo came about she probably already told him she loved him first and he probably responded like that which would set any woman’s anxiety off. I mean I have to admit if I would have put myself out there by telling a man I love him when he hasn’t said the words yet and he responded that way I will probably be more inclined to be like “I can’t be with a man who I love but doesn’t love me back so I believe we should part ways.” I know that seems very silly when the difference is me not initiating the words but it just seems like the dynamic is different and you go from having a wait and see attitude which you should do in premarital dating/relationships anyway to literally placing yourself in the position of unrequited love situation. That’s two very different things.

  9. 9
    Marika

    Really sorry to hear that, Stacy2.

    That does sound awful and hopefully the poster keeps that in mind as she doesn’t want to go through that if she can avoid it. My heart went out to you reading that. I’m like someone else, I never say the L-word until the guy does, so can’t imagine how crap it would feel to say it and hear crickets in return.

    How’s it going with your beau? I’m still beau-less. My friends call me the ‘two date wonder’!!😁

  10. 10
    Kim

    What do you make of someone who does really opposite? You let him lead, he does everything right. You bring the kid into the picture. He says he loves you. You all go on a big trip. And after eight months he says he’s changed his mind. It’s confusing either way.

  11. 11
    CW

    I agree with Evan’s approach, however like many commentators here are surprised his advice is the same for 16 months as it would be for 6 months in. I tend to agree with KK, VM is not being the CEO of her own love life.  From personal experience I can say pushing the issue will result in the relationship self destructing, so the “Zip It” method is the only method that MIGHT work. The only question for VM to ask herself is how long is she willing (or able) to “Zip It” and not consider her time wasted if the relationship never progresses.  It’s at that point in time she should walk away.

  12. 12
    Teresa

    She needs to take space for herself & heres why:  He presently has NO incentive to go inside of himself & evaluate his emtional connection to her.  As long as everything is on auto pilot,  going his way, meeting his needs he can do this indefinitely. Men can literally date forever & be happy doing so.  Women of course are not wired this way.  But he is.  There is no motivator like pain.  If he feels pain when she takes space for herself, he will know with clarity, how he feels about her & she will know with clarity as well.  If he goes on with life just fine without her then they both have their answer.

  13. 13
    Callie

    I think this is a matter of different definitions for the same word. Many people here seem to define love the same way as the OP, and that’s perfectly fine. But even in the letter itself the OP admits that she and her partner have very different views on what love means: “His definition of love seems to be closer to wanting to spend your life with someone than mine is.” It seems like he sees “I love you as” “will you marry me”. Would she have said “I love you” yet if she felt it meant what her partner thinks?

    I think the more important thing is they’ve had the big conversations and are on the same page: “We’ve talked about marriage and kids and we want the same things out of life. We have a strong foundation of trust, respect and communication, and he’s integrated me into his tight-knit group of friends and their wives.”  He has shown her in many many ways that he feels for her something similar to what she feels for him, he simply can’t call it love yet. And it isn’t like this is unique to this relationship for him either. If with all his other partners he said “I love you” quickly, then maybe it might be a red flag. But this just seems to be him. How he does relationships and how he defines love.

    I really do think actions speak louder than words. So many people will say all the right things to get what they want, but to DO the right things? To be there for other people? To be honest even when you know it might hurt someone? It could be so easy for him to say “I love you too” in this situation, to make her feel better and then they could carry on even if he didn’t really mean it. But he isn’t there yet. For him “I love you” is essentially a proposal. Would everyone be getting so up in arms if she’d written in “It’s been 16 months and I really want a proposal and he’s said he’s not ready yet, but we’ve talked about it and know we’re heading in that direction, we want the same things, the sex is great. Should I dump him?” I think most people would say, “If you are on the same page and heading towards marriage, and it’s been under two years, give him more time. Why are you throwing away something wonderful because it isn’t on your timeline?”

    I truly think this is a case of show don’t tell. So many people tell all the time, but do not show in their actions. Here is a man who is doing everything right INCLUDING being honest about his feelings (and it’s not like he’s just throwing it around insensitively either, he answers only when they have a big conversation about it. He’s not going, “I don’t love you, btw”), and everyone wants her to move on (except for Evan obviously).

    To me this thread really signals the issues so many women have with dating and relationships. Why so many women find themselves in terrible relationships because the demonstration of love, the saying of it, the trappings of it, is more important than the act. Obviously ultimately the OP needs to decide if she can wait and for how long she can wait. She shouldn’t put up with an untenable situation. But at the same time . . . if what she is saying is honest and true, then what she has is a really solid amazing relationship with someone who is moving in the direction of love and marriage. And that’s wonderful. And in my opinion ought not to be tossed aside because of a semantic definition difference.

  14. 14
    Helene

    A friend of mine recently got married to a man rather like this – seemed very slow to say “I love you ” and very slow to propose, but was otherwise a good partner. They met about 2 years before myself and my husband. They got married 3 years AFTER we did. They are in their early 40s.  She seemed to handle it pretty well – like Evan’s wife. That said, she has effectively missed her opportunity to have children waiting for him to commit.

    Personally I don’t understand these ultra-slow movers – I can’t imagine not loving some one after 16 months and then suddenly deciding I do love them, so for me I would feel there was no hope in this situation, as I find the whole thing impossible to fathom. Can these things work out – yes. Can you put money on it – no. The reason certain things ” make the headlines” is precisely because they are uncommon.  “Man marrys woman 40 years older than him!” is a headline. “Man marries woman 2 years younger than him !” is not. This is the same – ” Man dates woman for 3 years then says I love you !” is a headline….

    The bottom line for the OP is: are you happy and relaxed despite this situation or are you anxious and stressed on a daily basis? If you are, that’s no way to live. No one deserves to go through that, so if this sort of slow stodgy relationship doesn’t work for you then better to find something where you and your partner are more aligned and you can feel the joy of being in love, not the anxiety of wondering if you’ll ever “make the grade”

  15. 15
    VM

    VM here. Thanks so much for answering my question, Evan. I really, truly appreciate your insight. I wrote this question about a month and a half ago, and as is often the case, the time delay led to interesting developments.

    I was obviously super distressed at the time, and things blew up two days later. I guess I had let my anxiety build up inside me. I felt I had to assert my needs and did it too dramatically and in an ineffective way. That’s something I’m working on…

    I told my boyfriend that if he wasn’t “on the road to falling in love with me,” (whatever the heck that means) I wanted to end it. He said he couldn’t tell me that, because he doesn’t know the future and didn’t want to say something he wasn’t certain of. I told him that our situation was causing me emotional pain. He said he never wanted to do anything to hurt me. He recognized that I was trying to break up with him but couldn’t pull the trigger, so he did it for me.

    I’d been reading the book Attached at the time. It’s crazy how much insight that book gave me on breakups for the anxiously attached. I was hysterical for about 12 hours and then calmed down and started following all the advice from the book. I reached out to friends and family for support to calm my attachment system. I wrote a list of reasons why we broke up and put it on my refrigerator. I didn’t let myself text or call him and I told myself it was over, over, over. I kept reminding myself that the thoughts of “you’ll be alone forever” and “there’s no one else out there for you” were nonsensical crap courtesy of my attachment system. Friends offered to set me up when I was ready.

    I was sad and missed him, but honestly felt as optimistic and calm as one can be after a breakup. And, unlike in previous breakups with other guys — where I’d wasted desperate weeks or months trying unsuccessfully to get back together — I told all of my friends we were done, including our mutual friends. Oops.

    Because the universe has a keen sense of humor, this is the one time in my life where the breakup wasn’t actually a breakup. Four or five days later, he started calling me repeatedly and said we needed to talk. He told me the breakup was a mistake, he really wanted to be with me, etc etc. A friend who doesn’t know me had tried to set him up with someone else and he was completely turned off by the idea. (Which definitely made me feel guilty for giving my phone number to a cute guy at a party over the weekend!) He said he had thought things over very carefully and wouldn’t have come back to me if he didn’t think it was in both of our best interests. He said he was going to try his absolute best to meet my emotional needs. He stopped short of saying he loved me.

    I honestly wasn’t sure what to do. But I felt like I was in a much more confident, relaxed state of mind knowing that breaking up wasn’t the end of the world after all, and if things ended again, I’d be okay. So we’re together, and for the past month and a half, I do feel a difference. We’ve talked about what I learned from reading Attached and how consistent reassurance will keep my anxiety at a happy level for both of us. He’s been pretty responsive to that.

    It was surprising for both of us how much I was able to move on in five days, versus him. We had some awkward conversations about it where he seemed hurt – “I thought you cared more about me than that” – but we got past it. I hate saying this because I don’t think of healthy relationships as a power game at ALL, but the breakup somewhat leveled out the power dynamic between us. I think he values the relationship more now. I still value it very much, but I don’t think my world is going to implode if it ends. Still no I love you.

    Yesterday we had our first (petty) fight since getting back together, and my attachment system immediately started freaking out. (It’s over! He’s going to end it! He still doesn’t love you and he never will!) So I’m glad this advice came now.

    I also completely agree with some of the commentators that this can’t carry on indefinitely. I can’t imagine six months from now being in the same situation. Things would have to change and progress. But, I’ve made peace with the fact that if we break up again — and that’s it, I’m not going to get into a cycle of breaking up and getting back together — I tried my best and learned a lot. And hey, even if we break up after 2 years together, I’ll still be 30, and I can get back out there and meet someone else, I hope.

    Obviously this wasn’t a textbook effective way to get my needs met, at all, and I don’t recommend it as a strategy. But for now, I’m happy.

    1. 15.1
      Jeremy

      Thank you very much for the update, VM.  Very interesting developments.  If I might add 2 cents…..I agreed with Callie’s comment above about words meaning different things to different people, especially the word “love.”  And now that the word has become such a big deal – he knows you invest the future of your relationship into that word – he may be even more reluctant to say it.  At this point, his doing so would be like acquiescing to a demand from you and might make him feel at a power disadvantage.

       

      Perhaps, instead of focusing on the word love, I might suggest you be more concrete in your clarifications.  You mentioned that you both envision a future of marriage and children, but did not clarify that he sees that future with YOU.  Rather than focusing on hearing the words “I love you”, focus on hearing the words “I envision my future with you.”  If, after 16 months, he doesn’t envision a future with you, then things are problematic because he isn’t in the same place as you from a relationship perspective.  You mentioned that if things are still the same in 6 months that would be unacceptable to you – but what exactly do you think will change in 6 months?  What would be the impetus for change?  Is he about to graduate from school?  Change jobs?  Enter a new phase of life?  If not, what is his motivation to suddenly decide to commit to you when he has been so unwilling to do so for 16 months?

       

      You shook things up when the 2 of you broke up, so that motivated him to grab on to you again….but didn’t motivate him to profess his love or commitment.  Nor did your being a great girlfriend for 16 months.  So what do you think will make him want to commit, if commitment is what you seek?

    2. 15.2
      Stacy2

      Oh dear, please for God’s sake do NOT get back together with this man. He stopped short of saying he loved you? Then he doesn’t. He’s one of those, a dog in the manger, he doesn’t truly love you yet he’s selfish enough to not want to let you go and find someone who does. Sure, he may not be a “bad guy”, sure he never “mean to hurt you” (most men they never do), but so what? This doesn’t change the fact that this men is not in love with you. Period, full stop. Burn that stupid book and go out meet some new guys. There’s nothing wrong with you that needs “self-help” and fixing for wanting to hear “i love you” from a guy you’ve been for for 16 months. For God’s sake! Slap yourself sister.

      Anyway. The above is what I’d say to a 25 yo self in a similar situation if I could go back in time and do so. And then I’d smack myself real hard for being an idiot. Take care of yourself.

    3. 15.3
      Stacy2

       but the breakup somewhat leveled out the power dynamic between us

      No, it didn’t. It did exactly the opposite. Now he knows that (1) you had certain needs that he weren’t meeting (2) you broke up with him (3) he still is not meeting your needs but you took him back anyway. The only logical conclusion a man will draw from this is this: he can do whatever the f@$%k he wants, and at the end he’ll bullshit a bit and you’ll still take him back. He now knows that he has all the power. And he is correct.

    4. 15.4
      Malika

      Hi VM:

      Wow, that’s a whole lot of development! I am glad you are giving it a limited time second chance, because this just might be the development that was needed.

      Maybe i missed something, but did you try to talk about what he is exactly feeling? He might feel an intensity of emotion that other people would call love, only he doesn’t want to use a word that is associated with overwrought schmaltz. You see, if he feels intensely towards you, you shouldn’t give a flying fig whether he uses a certain word to describe it, it’s that he has the requisite feelings for you and sees a future with you that is important.

      1. 15.4.1
        Malika

        I just remembered a similar story from a friend of mine. She is in the first serious relationship of her life and after a similar amount of time she said ‘i love you’ whereupon her boyfriend said that he does not like using those words as they make him feel trapped, making a promise he might not be able to keep. For him to love someone is to promise to live happily ever after, no matter what. It shook her, as it looked as if he wanted to have his cake (LTR, living together) but eat it too (keeping the door open for leaving if he ever felt trapped). His parents have a tumultuous relationship, and he doesn’t want to end up in the same situation.

        She decided to stay with him and is content with the situation for now. She realized that she is also very ambivalent about staying together with one person for the rest of her life and feels that they are navigating their way through the trappings of a long term relationship and what that actually means together.

        It’s a situation that wouldn’t work for me. I want there to be a mutual enthusiasm for being together, and if that motivation isn’t the same for both people involved, that we would not be happy with each other. But this is a phase they feel they both need to go through, in order to get to the next level.

    5. 15.5
      KK

      VM,

      Thank you for the update!

      I hate to say this, but I think he’s just reasserting himself. Nothing has changed. 16 months is MORE than enough time for someone to fall in love. HE is the one with an attachment issue. He’s probably an avoidant. This doesn’t make him a bad guy but it doesn’t make him a good relationship partner either. These are the guys that will “date” someone for 5 years… If you are truly happy, then stay with him until you aren’t. Maybe you should suggest that HE reads your book.

      When this comes up again, and it will, tell him that you’re in love with him but you can’t be with someone who isn’t in love with you.

      1. 15.5.1
        Yet Another Guy

        For once, I agree with you wholeheartedly, KK.  I may be an emotionally distant guy, but I cannot imagine being a in relationship with a woman for over sixteen months without knowing if I loved her.  The words “stringing along,” “relationship of convenience,” and “I do not want to claim her, but I do not want anymore else to have her” come to mind.  VM needs to kick this guy to the curb so hard that he gets a concussion because he does not know how to truly commit to a woman.  She is looking at being one of those mid-to-late thirties women who finds herself scrambling to find a dance partner if she continues down this path.

        1. KK

          “For once, I agree with you wholeheartedly, KK”.

          There’s still hope for you!!! 😂😂😂

    6. 15.6
      GoWiththeFlow

      VM,

      Thank you for the update.  This is such a tough scenario.  It’s hard to give advice because so much depends upon the inner workings of your relationship and your two individual personalities that we just cannot see.

      One thing that keeps popping into my head as I read your original letter and the comments is that you need BOTH words and actions to be consistent.  Oftentimes we experience actions through the filter of the corresponding words we do or do not hear and vice versa.  A partner can be kind, express concern about our well being, and initiate time together to us.  But it won’t “feel” like love if the words aren’t there.  Conversely a partner can tell us they love us all the time, but if they are dishonest, show a lack of concern for our well-being, and don’t seem to want to spend time with us, then we won’t feel loved.  Take home message is there is even though your boyfriend is doing the action part, there is nothing wrong with wanting and needing to hear the words.

      The only advice I can offer which may give you some clarity is to look out whether he talks about marriage and kids in the abstract or if he includes you in the picture.  Does he say “Some day when I have kids I want to take them to the same lake to camp and fish that my dad took me to when I was a kid.”  Or does he say, “If we had kids together I would hope they would inherit your nose instead of mine.”  The latter is a good sign.  The former means he’s marriage and family oriented, but doesn’t see you in the picture.  And if he’s not starting to visualize you in his future after 17 1/2 months, I don’t think another 17 1/2 months will change that.

      I had a boyfriend who told me he didn’t love me at 10 months.  I walked.  At 37 I wasn’t going to hang around another 10 months on the off chance that would change.  Like Stacy2, I then had a long period of grieving the relationship.  People talk about watching for signs the relationship is progressing.  IMHO, my boyfriend NOT saying I love you was a definite sign things weren’t progressing.  I did not expect for him to know whether or not he wanted to marry me at that point, and I was fine with that.  But I really don’t see where an LTR can progress to marriage if there isn’t a base of love.

      I have never regretted my decision to leave that relationship.  For me I would rather be alone for an indefinite amount of time, but have the chance to find love, than be in a relationship with someone who does not love me.  I don’t need or want flowers, champagne, and big romantic gestures, or to hear “I love you” 24/7.  But I don’t want a man who is stingy with their love.  My girlfriend’s late husband rarely said I love you to anyone, including his children.  She had to remind him on his deathbed to make sure he told the kids he loved them.  His 40 something daughter cried afterwards and said “He finally told me he loved me.”  So to everyone who wants to explain away a person being overly cautious about expressing love, a reminder of why they should try to open up a bit instead of just reflexively saying “But this is how I am.”

    7. 15.7
      Heather K

      Hi VM,

      I am just a blog reader and cannot know your personal situation – but I wanted to let you know, as per your update, that you should definitely not feel guilty about giving out your phone number to someone else while you were broken up.  That is completely within your right.  Your boyfriend’s process of how it felt when his friend attempted to set him up with someone else has nothing to do with the fact that you were broken up at the time – I’m not sure who initiated, but it seems to at least be somewhat of a mutual breakup.  So you have every right to meet whoever you want in that time.

      And also, again, without knowing your exact personal situation, I wanted to let you know that you have every right to want a boyfriend or husband who will tell you that he loves you sooner than 16 months.  For me, how someone would be able to express love and be vulnerable to that level would be an important part of getting to know someone.  There are men who will be able to verbally reciprocate ‘I love you’ or know that they love you eons before 16 months in.  Being that cautious works for some – but you don’t have to make it work for you if it doesn’t.  I also read ‘Attached’ before meeting my now-husband, and while realizing that I could tolerate various situations that weren’t ideal, I realized that I didn’t have to.  It didn’t mean the people I was passing up on were bad people.  I was as entitled to want what I wanted as they were to want what they wanted.

      I hope whatever you choose, it brings you happiness.

  16. 16
    Suzanne

    This guy sounds like a stringer.

  17. 17
    KK

    For the commenters who have praised VM’s boyfriend for his integrity, I’d like to point out that VM has maintained her integrity as well. She’s been open and honest with him too.

    Here’s the issue. Her needs aren’t being met. I’ve seen relationships like this either fizzle or more often, explode and die. Then, when VM is upset and heartbroken (after it blows up for the final time) her ex will reassert the fact that he has acted with integrity all along. He will say he never told her he loved her. Whether this lasts another month or several years, that’s what he’ll say when it ends. That’s also what he’ll tell his NEXT girlfriend. I was never in love with her. I never told her I loved her. Again, he gets to claim how much integrity he has and anyone listening to him will think, wow… why would anyone stick with someone who wasn’t in love with them. An equally good question would be why would he stay with someone he isn’t in love with.

    Whether this guy has attachment issues or not, is something he needs to figure out for himself IF he wants to. Bottom line is he’s not attaching himself to VM in a normal, healthy way. She deserves to be with someone who loves her and doesn’t have issues with expressing that to her.

    1. 17.1
      Yet Another Guy

      @KK

      An equally good question would be why would he stay with someone he isn’t in love with.

      VM’s boyfriend is doing so because he is in control of the relationship.  It is a relationship of convenience for him.  He has steady sex and someone with whom to do things.   That is enough for some guys.

       

      1. 17.1.1
        Selena

        VM’s boyfriend is doing so because he is in control of the relationship.  It is a relationship of convenience for him.  He has steady sex and someone with whom to do things.   That is enough for some guys.”

        That’s what it sounds like to me also. Why put in effort to get a new girlfriend, when you already have one? And how many girls are going to stick around for 6 mos., let alone 16 mos. knowing you don’t love them?

        A bird in the hand…

        I think the word inertia better describes this dude than the word integrity.

         

         

         

         

    2. 17.2
      Callie

      As one of the few who I suppose praised his integrity (though I didn’t really say that or put it like that, I just felt that it seemed he was showing love in the way she defined it, even if he wasn’t saying it because he defines it differently) I want to make it clear and I think I did in my original comment too that she has to ultimately feel okay with this situation. I think she’s actually handled it all very well, she’s spoken up, she has expressed what she needed and she knows that a second chance is okay with her, but she will not be doing a third.

      As for this notion that this man is using the classic: “I told you I was an asshole when you met me” as a get out of jail free card . . . well I don’t know about that. I don’t see the evidence of that in anything she’s said. But she might be leaving things out. I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of projecting of what other men have done in the past onto this man. Literally aside from not saying the words themselves he has done pretty much everything right – he has integrated her into his friends and family life, the sex is good, they see each other a lot, they talk about a future (granted I did make an assumption there that they had discussed a future together not just in general, and that definitely does make a difference, I agree with the posters who said as much. If he’s not talking about a future WITH HER that’s a very different thing). They’ve even established through conversation that what they consider “love” IS different. It doesn’t actually mean that he doesn’t love her the way she loves him, it just means he doesn’t call that feeling love and she does. Remember how above she said she was shocked how much he missed her? A good possible reason for his response could be that despite him explaining that he defines love differently I think she deep down still assumed she loved him more because she uses the word “love”. But he missed her like crazy, and that was very possibly because he actually feels the same way towards her as she towards him, or maybe even MORE, but he doesn’t define that feeling as love. It doesn’t negate the feeling itself though.

      As to “She deserves to be with someone who loves her and doesn’t have issues with expressing that to her”. Yes. I agree. If that’s what she wants and yes that is what she wants, though she has said she’s okay to wait a little bit longer. But for some the words aren’t nearly as important as the actions. There are very healthy relationships out there that are all show don’t tell. Because that’s what both parties prefer. So I don’t think saying that this is inherently unhealthy or abnormal is necessarily true (it might be in his case, I don’t know more than what I’ve read here though).

      Anyway in conclusion: if this guy really is a jerk and stringing her along and using not saying the words as an excuse to then say later on “I told you, I warned you” then totally . . . she’s well rid of him come that time. But I just don’t necessarily think that’s the case. The good news is, the OP has found some pretty awesome inner strength in the last month and knows now what she wants and she won’t let herself be taken advantage of that way. The cool thing about boundaries is that because you are confident in them you can be more willing to see where things go. Because you know you can end things if ultimately they don’t go the way you’d like.

      1. 17.2.1
        Callie

        I will acknowledge that so many people here will think be naive, that people are thinking along the lines of YAG and all that. But I just think words and their meanings and how we express our feelings are so messy and complicated and imprecise that we need to go off of more than just word choice. And honestly 9 times out of 10 I’m the one to say, “This guy is so not worth your time, dump him.” I believe a man needs to be head over heels about a woman, maybe even more than a woman is over the man (I don’t know why, but I tend to see that work best in relationships I’ve seen). And yet. . . there’s something about this case that feels unique and different. And that’s what I’m addressing. Also as someone who took longer to say “I love you” than her boyfriend, I guess I have some empathy towards the different definitions of the word. I have spoken with so many over the years about how they define “in love”. For example with many of my girl friends I have found that most use the term far more liberally than I do, they use it in cases that I would not, even if I was feeling the same thing they were. Which of course has led me to realise that the same emotion can be described so differently by different people. So yeah, I just have spent a while analysing the different ways people define love and personally find it fascinating as well.

      2. 17.2.2
        Stacy2

        Literally aside from not saying the words themselves he has done pretty much everything right …

        I think there’s too much premium that is being placed on these actions. As Evan so eloquently put it, “ignore the positives and focus on the negatives”. What he has done (right) merely demonstrates that he’s not an asshole. He’s a nice guy who treats his g/w well. Nothing else can be inferred from this behavior about his feelings or LT intentions. To drive the point home, the guy who told me that he didn’t love me treated me like gold and introduced me to his family. Another men who I dated who I knew wasn’t falling in love (and who basically confirmed that much upon me breaking up with him) also treated me well and also introduced me to his family which included underage children. This is simply evidence of nothing. Men are wired differently this way. You may call it “projection” but being I am a bit older than the OP, i am merely sharing what I’ve learned about men and their ways. I don’t think they’re actually all that unique and different. Men all behave kinda similarly.

        1. Callie

          And being older I think than even you I too am sharing what I’ve learned 🙂 . And we both come at it from different experiences clearly. I have seen men say I love you but never introduce their ladies to anyone, never actually bring them into their lives at all, treat them like shit really but because they said those words the women stick around “Well he said he loved me!”. I have seen men take advantage of women’s romanticism and say things, and promise things and never follow through. And I have seen men who have a tough time articulating themselves, who are more grunts than sentences, be utterly devoted and take care of their wives and love them more than anything even if they almost never say the words. (that’s not to say I haven’t also seen the things you’ve seen – though I haven’t fortunately personally experienced them, I’m sorry you’ve been through that – I’m just saying I’ve also seen these other things)

          I find it strange that you say the only way one can know about a man’s intentions are through his words, when so often men use words to manipulate women. To me actions have always spoken louder. I think we just come at this differently. And all I hope is that the OP listens to us both, takes both our POVs into consideration and then really examines which better suits her personal situation. Ultimately I just want her to be in a happy healthy relationship. If that means you are right on the money and she leaves him, then that would be fantastic. But if it means I am and they end up happy in a long term committed relationship where he does eventually say “I love you” then that would be fantastic too.

        2. Stacy2

          I find it strange that you say the only way one can know about a man’s intentions are through his words, 

          I think in this case there’s plenty of “actions” by now to go on. His woman is about to walk and he is doing what? He preemptively breaks up with her? Does that look like a man in love? Anybody? And then calls her to lure her back and is still wishy-washy about it? What more proof is needed here?

          I hate to agree with YAG but he’s right on the money in this case.

          PS. and yes, men who tell you they love you but never actually back that up with actions, those we can file under a “typical asshole” category. I would take them over the OP anyday. Way easier to spot and get rid of and they won’t poison you with doubt. They ultimately have less power in a relationship.

        3. GoWiththeFlow

          That’s why you need BOTH words and actions that are consistent with each other.  VM’s boyfriend is doing the actions, but without the words she can’t assume he’s doing them out of love.

        4. Callie

          GWTF: I agree. But I am finding it extremely strange how out of hand people are dismissing the actions. As if they don’t matter at all. Further I find it particularly odd that people seem to think “in love” feels exactly the same for every single person, that every single person defines it the same way, despite the clear facts in the original letter that quite plainly state the boyfriend’s definition of term.

          I have maintained this whole time that something will have to give eventually, he’ll have to say the words, and say them soon. But this whole idea that “in love” means one thing, that there is a particular “normal” timeline, and that anything that deviates from those two things means all actions are meaningless . . . I dunno. I’m not getting it. Both are needed. But it seems like the words matter way more to most here. And that I find odd. The saying “actions speak louder than words” is trite, but it exists for a reason . . .

        5. Chance

          Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like Chance agrees with Callie again.  Actions do speak much louder than words.  In fact, on a broader scale, people throw around words and take words way too seriously in our society these days.  Words don’t mean s***, and most of the time, people don’t mean fully mean what they say (for better and for worse).

           

          I’m going to chalk it up to American romanticism.  Us Yanks are an idealistic bunch (hence, our obsession w/religion and outer space).  Also, GWTF said:

           

          “VM’s boyfriend is doing the actions, but without the words she can’t assume he’s doing them out of love.”

           

          I’m not sure that I understand this statement.  Why can’t she assume he’s doing things for her out of love if he isn’t saying he loves her as well?  I would think that consistent behavior would send the message loud and clear.

        6. GoWiththeFlow

          Callie,

          Like Stacy2 said about her ex, the man who said he didn’t love me after 10 months treated me like gold.  He always called, usually drove, was consistent, kept his word, introduced me to his parents, kids, and siblings, remembered me on holidays, took me away on vacation, introduced me to his friends and work colleagues, was kind to and interested in my son.  We shared a religion and had similar upbringings, and were well matched in  many ways.  He was a gentleman and a wonderful son, brother and father.  I did my due diligence in the beginning; he said he wanted to get remarried, and was open to having more kids.

          But after 10 months of exclusive dating he didn’t love me.  So a man can be a perfectly wonderful guy and treat a woman with consideration and respect, want to spend lots of time with her and still not love her.  At some point, in the absence of words, actions are not enough.  Just as I’m sure that at some point words are not enough in the absence of action.  They reinforce and build on each other.  As Jeremy said below, “I think that when a woman says (and hears) “I love you” it is genuinely an expression of internal feeling.  One can not know how a person feels unless he/she expresses that feeling verbally.

          As far as there being a “normal” timeline, well a lot of commenters made the point that hearing “I love you” very early is meaningless.  But most of the women, and a good proportion of the men thought that waiting 16-17.5 months and not getting an “I love you” was too long.

          A core part of Evan’s teaching and advice is that after 6-10 weeks, a man should either claim you as his girlfriend and commit to being exclusive, or he’s JNTIY.  In 2-3 years of exclusively dating he likely knows if he wants to marry you or not.  “I love you” has to happen somewhere in between there if it’s a go.  Some men have expressed that saying I love you comes with expectations attached to it.  But is it reasonable and common for a man to feel that “I love you”=imminent marriage, so he should only say it at the time he proposes?

          In practical terms, what in the world does this man need to experience or have happen to look at this woman he has spent so much time with and surely has gotten to know pretty well to feel he loves her?  Do you think at 17.5 months he would have a pretty good idea if she is kind, honest, affectionate, caring, considerate, respects him, admires him, understands him?  Do you think he would know if he enjoys spending time with her and if he feels comfortable and at peace around her?  At what point should a partner know you reasonably well enough to love who you are and how you make them feel?

        7. GoWiththeFlow

          Chance,

          In the example you gave below,

          “As someone who grew up with a mother who often said “I love you” (but rarely showed it) and a father who never said “I love you” (but always showed it), I can tell you that the latter is much, much more valuable.”

          Did your father literally NEVER tell you he loved you are was it that he rarely said it?  Because even if it’s rarely said, he still said it.  And that’s way more than a person who never hears it gets.

          And while maybe it’s your’s and Callie’s preference that you would rather rarely or never hear the words as long as there are actions, you don’t get to decide that that is how it should be for everyone else.  VM wrote in because not hearing the words “I love you” from her boyfriend was confusing and painful for her.  Her feelings and and opinions on this matter are valid and it’s wrong to just dismiss them and say, “You should feel this way.”

        8. Chance

          Have it your way, GWTF.

           

          “And while maybe it’s your’s and Callie’s preference that you would rather rarely or never hear the words as long as there are actions, you don’t get to decide that that is how it should be for everyone else.” 

           

          No one is deciding how it should be for everyone else…. I’m trying to illustrate how the LW (or anyone else) couild be throwing away a perfectly good partner simply because he doesn’t say “I love you” as quickly as they would like, or as frequently, or whatever.  It’s not everyday that you find someone whom you are attracted to, who is compatible, and who treats you well.

           

          It sounds like some of the women here would prefer to hear a man say “I love you” even if it isn’t entirely genuine (because, again, if a man is saying it within 1.5 years, he’s probably guessing to an extent).  No problem.  I don’t understand it, but that is their preference.

        9. Chance

          GWTF, to answer your question:  I don’t think he ever said it, but I never doubted that he did because of his actions.

        10. KK

          “It sounds like some of the women here would prefer to hear a man say “I love you” even if it isn’t entirely genuine”.

          Nope. Not one woman here has said that. Those aren’t the only two options. It should go without saying that women want to be in a relationship with men who genuinely love them and are able to express that.

        11. Chance

          KK,

           

          “Nope. Not one woman here has said that. Those aren’t the only two options. It should go without saying that women want to be in a relationship with men who genuinely love them and are able to express that.”

           

          My point is that, early on in the relationship, there is a strong likelihood that these are the only two options.  If someone declares his love for another within 1.5 years, there is a very strong possibility that he is either:

           

          Speaking out of infatuation
          Referring to a more superficial concept of love
          Lying to himself
          Lying to you
          Not sure that what he is saying is the truth (i.e., he’s guessing)

           

          Btw, there are many ways to express love.  It’s not just verbal.  Some people are much more conscientious about using the saying “I love you” than others.  If you want to dump an otherwise great guy because of something like this, or because his love language is different than yours, it’s your life.  However, the women here who are being so closed-minded about this could possibly benefit from being more flexible.

        12. Selena

          Chance: It sounds like some of the women here would prefer to hear a man say “I love you” even if it isn’t entirely genuine (because, again, if a man is saying it within 1.5 years, he’s probably guessing to an extent).  No problem.  I don’t understand it, but that is their preference.

          No. What you are seeing is the more common experience of having a boyfriend who freely says “I love you” – and means it – within a few months of exclusive dating as opposed to the far less common experience of a man who continues to date someone he doesn’t love for over a year.

          In my personal experience, exchanging “I love you’s” after a few months is an acknowledgment that we have grown closer.  That we are a couple and  we expect the relationship to continue. A proposal of marriage was never expected (nor delivered) at that stage.

          “First comes love, then comes marriage…” they don’t come simultaneously for most folks.

           

        13. KK

          Chance,

          “My point is that, early on in the relationship, there is a strong likelihood that these are the only two options.  If someone declares his love for another within 1.5 years, there is a very strong possibility that he is either:

          Speaking out of infatuation
          Referring to a more superficial concept of love
          Lying to himself
          Lying to you
          Not sure that what he is saying is the truth (i.e., he’s guessing)”

          There are more possibilities than what you’ve listed. If a guy tells his girlfriend he loves her less than 6 months in, it could also mean… “I care about you. I feel connected to you. I’m committed to seeing where this could go”. I don’t think that should be conflated with “I am absolutely sure I want to spend the rest of my life with you”… although, that’s a future possibility IF the relationship continues to progress positively. In a good relationship, I thought it was a given that how each of you feel at 6 months will be different than how you feel at 2 years or how you feel after 10 years of marriage. It’s a natural progression.

          “Btw, there are many ways to express love.  It’s not just verbal”.

          Absolutely! Actions AND words.

          “However, the women here who are being so closed-minded about this could possibly benefit from being more flexible”.

          Feeling loved in a relationship is pretty BASIC stuff here. What’s a BASIC component of a relationship to you, Chance? Sex? So if a woman says after a few dates she’s really into you but won’t be having sex with you for at least a year and a half, you okay with that? What if she says that, to her, having sex MEANS she’s committed for life and wants to be sure. Most women don’t have this standard. Maybe she’s great in every other way and you’re passing up on the love of your life. Are you willing to go without sex for a year and a half to find out? Exactly! Women NEED to feel loved.

           

        14. Chance

          KK and Selena, it sounds like you and I have very different ideas of what “I love you” means to us, and that is okay.  Again, you’re free to do what you want… I’m just presenting a different perspective that may help some women who are struggling to find a life partner.  Take it or leave it, but there’s no need to try to show me why your viewpoint is “right”.  I don’t really care.  I’m not the one who is trying to find a life partner here (I’ve got mine).

        15. Stacy2

          @Chance:

          Not all men are so stingy with “i love you” and I would guess very few equate it with “i am going to spend the rest of my life with you”. So while it’s possible that some men have this morphed view and meaning, that is definitely not the norm. If I had to guess, to most people that means just a feeling of closeness and emotional attachment in the moment. I am having a hard time seeing how a relationship where one person is so freaked out about acknowledging it is going to function well. So, when you give your g/f of 12 months a V-day or a b-day card what do you sign it? “Best, Chance”? When you end a phone conversation, do you say “have a good day” rather than “love you”? I am really curious as to how you can be with someone so long and not express your feelings for them. What kind of a relationship is that?

        16. Yet Another Guy

          @Chance

          If someone declares his love for another within 1.5 years, there is a very strong possibility that he is either:

           Speaking out of infatuation
          Referring to a more superficial concept of love
          Lying to himself
          Lying to you
          Not sure that what he is saying is the truth (i.e., he’s guessing)

          I do not know a single guy who would agree with your stance.  The words “I love you” do not equate to “Will you marry me?” Romantic love is not a commitment.  It is an emotion.   One that a man either feels or he does not, and it does not take 18 months to develop.  I would argue that a man who feels love and is incapable of verbally expressing it is in need of psychiatric assistance.

      3. 17.2.3
        Yet Another Guy

        @Callie

        the sex is good

        I do not see where the sex being good has anything to do with him loving or not loving her.  Sex and love are divorced in men.  He either loves her, or he does not love her.  It is fairly simple.

        In my humble opinion, a guy who truly loves a woman does not let her walk away without a fight, period, end of story.  Having a woman that he truly loves walk away him is one of the few things that will bring a man to his knees.   I can tell you from first hand experience that it is something that a man never forgets, and the women who follow a woman who devastates a man in this way often pay a heavy price.

        1. Yet Another Guy

          *away from him

        2. Callie

          The sex being good was one in a list of things that was working for them. I’m not sure why you pulled that out of context as if I said that and that alone was evidence the relationship was in a good place.

          Also he did fight for her. Yes he walked away but then he WAS brought to his knees. And he did do what it took to get her back. Seems to me he is behaving exactly as you define a man who truly loves another woman.

        3. GoWiththeFlow

          Callie,

          “Brought to his knees”?  In what way?

          As Jeremy said:

          You [VM] shook things up when the 2 of you broke up, so that motivated him to grab on to you again….but didn’t motivate him to profess his love or commitment.  Nor did your being a great girlfriend for 16 months.  So what do you think will make him want to commit, if commitment is what you seek?

        4. Yet Another Guy

          @Callie

          Also he did fight for her. Yes he walked away but then he WAS brought to his knees. And he did do what it took to get her back. Seems to me he is behaving exactly as you define a man who truly loves another woman.

          That is not remotely close to the response to which I was referring.  When I said “brought to his knees,” I meant uncontrollable crying, as in the same response that a parent has when he/she loses a child.   Men are taught to  avoid that emotion from the time that they are little boys.  To get a man to this point, he has to be in over-the-top emotional pain.   VM’s boyfriend merely recognized that he was in a comfortable place with her.  He knows that very few women will not put him on a timeline at his age.  I am placing bets that he and VM will either split within the next six months, or she will still be facing what she is facing today.  I hate to say it, but VM is not the one for him.  She is a placeholder in his life.  As Tom10 mentioned, men pretty much know where a woman falls in the pecking order at the beginning of a relationship.   A woman with whom a man falls in love is so different from the rest that it is difficult to ignore.

    3. 17.3
      KK

      Callie,

      “As for this notion that this man is using the classic: “I told you I was an asshole when you met me” as a get out of jail free card . . . well I don’t know about that”.

      I never stated that. What I stated is that I’ve seen how these things play out. It’s not uncommon for people to play the blame game after a break up. I think if she cries to her friends that he strung her along, he’ll easily call BS… I never even told her I loved her.

      I think both VM and her boyfriend have acted with integrity. I don’t think he’s an asshole. I think he’s a man doing exactly what men do. Men do whatever they want. Good men do whatever they want while considering their partner’s feelings. He has considered her feelings. He’s made it clear that he cares about her but that he’s not in love with her. She doesn’t have to accept that.

      I just disagree with your assessment that he “feels” the same way she does. No. He doesn’t. They’ve talked at length about his feelings. He cares about her. He enjoys being with her. But he’s not in love with her.

       

      1. 17.3.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        KK, I hate to wade into this, but you are assuming that this man is like men you’ve dated, instead of, say, men like me.

        The OP is making the right decision – she’s self-aware, taking responsibility for her fear and anxiety, willing to walk away if necessary, and giving him time to choose for himself. If the boyfriend doesn’t make overtures to escalate things in due time, she will be out the door – but she will have not made this decision prematurely in haste. She’s giving herself the best chance to get what she wants instead of sabotaging it because her ego can’t take another second without the words “I love you”.

        1. KK

          Evan,

          I dated ONE man like this. All of my friends have dated ONE man like this. It only takes one to learn your lesson.

          I don’t see how this guy is like you, unless it’s taken you a year and a half before knowing you were in love or not. I thought you had stated it took you about 6 months.

          I think it’s unfair to make this an ego thing. Needing to be told and shown that you’re loved lived in a relationship (especially at almost 18 months) is like needing water when you’re thirsty. It’s a basic tenet of a healthy relationship… Not some outlandish request for ego kibbles.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Well, KK, it seems that the OP has made her choice that so happens to correspond with my professional recommendation. You are entitled to your opinion, as always, but I notice a strong strain from many women here that is based on the theory of overcorrection: “I’ve dated one guy like this, I’m never doing it again, I’m keeping him on a short leash to protect myself from getting hurt.”

          The problem, as you know, is that the man you dated isn’t representative of all men. I’m the first to tell women to dump bad men who won’t make good husbands. Nothing in her post made me think that was the case. He – like me – is just a guy who is confused and doesn’t want to make a big promise he can’t keep. I waited 6 months to say “I love you” (which is different than “I’m in love with you”) to my wife and proposed prematurely at 16 months. I didn’t feel GOOD about my choices until six months AFTER we were married. Which you’d know if you were in Love U. 🙂

        3. KK

          Evan,

          I understand what you’re saying. I don’t believe the female commenters are overcorrecting here. I think there’s some genuine confusion.

          Want to be the CEO of your own love life? YES! Want to make sure you’re not setting for less than you deserve? YES! Do you think that all good relationships should start out easy? YES!

          The ladies here recognize that VM has not been the CEO of her own love life (as of yet, in this particular relationship), that she has settled for less than she deserves, and that this relationship has not been easy.

          So, yes, I am confused. And I will look into Love U before I start seriously dating again. 😊

      2. 17.3.2
        Shaukat

        Men do whatever they want. Good men do whatever they want while considering their partner’s feelings.

        This should be changed to People often do what they want in such situations.

        I actually think that the reason many female posters are having such a tough time accepting  that the OP’s boyfriend may indeed discover that his feelings develop further is due to female hypergamy, which is at its strongest during the courting phase. With the exception of Evan’s clients and genuine female followers, most women hope to feel at least an 8 in the chemistry department early on, and if they don’t they  either toss the guy or relegate him to their friend-zone orbit. So the notion that romantic chemistry and love could grow with time is a bit foreign to some.

        Please note, this is not a blanket generalization and I am NOT alleging that all women think this way.

        1. GoWiththeFlow

          Shaukat,

          It’s a lot simpler than that.  If our long term boyfriends (or husbands) don’t tell us they love us we feel unloved and possibly unloveable.

        2. Yet Another Guy

          @Shaukat

          I cannot believe it, but I am with the ladies on this one (my E2 level must be up today 🙂 ).  The fact that he let VM walk away tells me that he does not love her.  This relationship is one of convenience for him.  He came back because of the pain required to get another woman to this point.  He is taking the path of least resistance.  Several of my friends have behaved in this manor over the years.   Each of these men proposed to a woman who they dated for less than two years after stringing a previous girlfriend along for many years.  One guy I know strung a girlfriend along for nine years.

        3. KK

          “I actually think that the reason many female posters are having such a tough time accepting  that the OP’s boyfriend may indeed discover that his feelings develop further is due to female hypergamy, which is at its strongest during the courting phase”.

          Hogwash.

          I’d be willing to bet VM has had zero desire to trade in or trade up during her relationship. She’s been trying to make it work with her current boyfriend despite not having her needs met. If they break up, it won’t be due to hypergamy.

        4. Shaukat

          You misunderstood what I was saying, kk. I don’t at all believe that the OP has any intention of trading up, and I believe she is committed to this relationship. What I said was that some female poster are having trouble understanding the OP’s boyfriend’s position because they can’t seem to fathom how someone could stay in a relationship for this long without feeling love-intoxicating chemistry, the type that often leads couples to say ‘I love you’ within a couple months.

        5. KK

          “What I said was that some female poster are having trouble understanding the OP’s boyfriend’s position because they can’t seem to fathom how someone could stay in a relationship for this long without feeling love-intoxicating chemistry, the type that often leads couples to say ‘I love you’ within a couple months”.

          Guess I missed that, Shaukat. Unless of course you’re just speculating… and if so, I don’t see any evidence for that. Oh well…

        6. Yet Another Guy

          @Shaukat

          So the notion that romantic chemistry and love could grow with time is a bit foreign to some.

          Do you know a single guy for whom romantic chemistry grew over time?  If you do know a guy who claims that romantic chemistry grew over time, I bet that it was more of a case of him making peace with his decision to settle,  which is what a lot of men do when they are tired of searching for a mate (especially when their window of opportunity to have a family at a reasonable age starts to close).  I have yet to meet a guy who was not yes/no on chemistry from the first date if he is being honest with himself.

           

      3. 17.3.3
        Callie

        “I just disagree with your assessment that he “feels” the same way she does. No. He doesn’t. They’ve talked at length about his feelings. He cares about her. He enjoys being with her. But he’s not in love with her.”

        I’m worried my point, based on the above, isn’t being as clearly articulated as I would like it, that I’m doing a bad job explaining.  For that I apologize. I’ll try again, bear with me 🙂 .

        They have talked at length about both their feelings, yes. But here’s the thing. They have both acknowledged that they view the meaning of “in love” very differently. She has said that her version of “in love” is clearly not the same as his. That for him “in love” is basically in essence a proposal. Saying “I’ll be with you forever”. And that’s not what to her “in love” means (she hasn’t defined it, but I assume since she doesn’t think it means that she think it means something with a lesser level of commitment). So how can you know that they actually feel differently for each other? You don’t know that. You know that they define what they feel for each other differently, but you don’t know (nor do I) whether or not her “in love” and his “I am into this relationship 100% but not in love yet” are the same or not. I’m saying they very well could be at the same place emotionally considering that he considers “in love” to be something very extreme, vs how she doesn’t. It is very possible they feel exactly the same ways about each other they simply define it differently.

        That’s my point. Is that clearer? I hope so, it’s tough I’m finding to put words together to make this make sense in writing, even for me.

        1. Marika

          Hearing you loud & clear, Callie.

          Also this from your comment above makes a lot of sense: I have maintained this whole time that something will have to give eventually, he’ll have to say the words, and say them soon. But this whole idea that “in love” means one thing, that there is a particular “normal” timeline, and that anything that deviates from those two things means all actions are meaningless . . . I dunno. I’m not getting it.

          I think people are conflating a guy who’s not sure yet and doesn’t want to say something unless he’s 100% sure about it (and being committed, as well as honest & vulnerable in the process), with one of those guys who strings a woman along for ages when he’s not that invested. I actually think that people are being very caring towards VM, not wanting her to make the same mistakes they did wasting time on the wrong men. It’s nice. But I agree with you that the points you (and Evan) are making, are getting lost somewhat.

          Also, I think before commenting it’s worth people reading VM’s follow up. She’s decided to give it a go, for a finite period (at least) to see what can develop. She has decided he’s worth holding onto. She seems like a balanced and reasonable person who isn’t completely naive or somehow being taken advantage of. That says it all. She doesn’t lose out waiting for at least a few more months to see where things go.

        2. Callie

          Absolutely. And I do agree about how people are being very supportive of her, it’s coming from a really good place. Totally.

          I do wonder if commenters are reading VM’s posts. She has been very clear with what she wants, how the relationship is progressing, and her own personal timeline. And I find it very odd that so few of her posts get replies while conversations about what she may or may not be feeling (ditto her boyfriend) go on around her.

        3. Evan Marc Katz

          You nailed it, Callie. I’ve had any number of posts where the majority of commenters disagreed with me, then the OP came back to give an update, which got completely ignored while people continued to berate me for my stupid advice that actually worked. It’s somewhere between maddening and amusing. Kind of like the White House.

  18. 18
    Marc

    To all the recent commenters on here- Yikes!

    VM’s talk and *his* decision to break up and return is probably the butt kicking he needed to start seriously thinking marriage in *his* future.

    I’d place money that 3 months after the blowout (6 weeks from now), he’s either scoping rings or calling it off entirely. I was that guy, I speak with authority.

    1. 18.1
      KK

      “VM’s talk and *his* decision to break up and return is probably the butt kicking he needed to start seriously thinking marriage in *his* future”.

      I think you’re missing the point, Marc. No woman on this earth wants to enter into a marriage or an engagement because of a butt kicking (or an ultimatum). It’s much easier to just find someone else who actually wants to be with you… no butt kicking necessary.

  19. 19
    Karen

    This subject matter came at the right time for me. The man I’ve been dating for 2 years and I have a middle distance relationship. We see each other every weekend and have been on several holidays together and numerous getaways. I love him and he loves me. However I did try to end things between us last year, due to the fact that I believed (falsely) that he was happy to continue our present situation indefinitely. I became anxious and resentful that my needs weren’t being met. I told myself I needed a ‘plan’ simply because he didn’t seem to have one. I gave him a time line, although I failed to enlighten him on this matter. Over the ensuing months I began pulling away from the one man who has supported me through many of life’s ups and downs. I then realised that I can’t control what he may or may not do regarding our future together but I can always control what I do.  I kept over analysing trying to get clarity on our situation, feeling that this was a problem that I  needed to fix. Finally I talked to him and he expressed similar thoughts he had been having. Neither of us had thought to speak to the other! At that time I felt time was running out, I’m going to be 50 this year and I guess I just wanted to feel ‘ settled’. Life has no guarantees and marriages do fall apart. I found out in my case after 25 years.

    I was ultimately attempting to push this relationship to where I thought I should be at this point in my life. Unfortunately I failed to address my concerns with my partner. Communication is key. I know that I am a work in progress and I have the love of a good man. I don’t know what the future will bring but my present is pretty amazing.

  20. 20
    Jeremy

    I’d love to know how old this guy is. I know she  is 30 – is he? Many 30 year old men  aren’t  in the head space of marriage. Does she want to hear I love you or does she want to marry on a time line? Does he not love her, or does he not want to promise marriage when he isn’t ready? A good question might be ” what she do you see yourself wanting to get married? ”

    1. 20.1
      Jeremy

      *what age do you see yourself wanting to get married? *

    2. 20.2
      GoWiththeFlow

      Jeremy,

      I can’t speak for VM, but for myself, I wouldn’t expect a man to consider proposing until after 2 to 3 years of a solid loving relationship.  The thing is, it’s not a loving relationship without saying “I love you” at some point into it.  For me that point is somewhere before a year.  Being in love with someone and sharing that is an important step in a growing deepening relationship.

      After nearly 18 months, I’m at a total loss as to what VM’s boyfriend thinks he needs to feel to decide he’s in love with her.  Is he expecting to be hit by a lightening bolt of intense love?  Why after realizing he was miserable without her did he not call it love?

      I don’t think VM is making a mistake by giving him some more time.  She is young and can afford the time as long as she can accept the concept that he doesn’t feel he loves her.  But that’s not a choice many women I know would make, and my brother and other male friends would be the first to advise me to walk away.

      1. 20.2.1
        Jeremy

        It’s interesting the way different people perceive the “I love you” message.  I’ve written in the past that many men prefer to hear “you’re awesome” from a woman rather than hear “I love you.”  I know I do.  And I think it has to do with the difference between male and female socialization as to the importance of action versus states of being.

         

        I think that when a woman says (and hears) “I love you” it is genuinely an expression of internal feeling.  One can not know how a person feels unless he/she expresses that feeling verbally.  Whereas for many men, when they hear a woman say “I love you” it triggers an automated “what does she want me to do?” response.  It triggers a feeling of obligation and some degree of performance anxiety.  It is more than an expression of emotion, it is an expression of expectation.  I think that for some men, this can be taken to extremes.  The “I love you” is more than a feeling, it is a promise.  And for a man whose word is his bond, he does not want to make a promise he isn’t sure he wants to keep.  And the more pressure he feels from her to say the words, the less likely he is to want to do so.  That doesn’t mean he necessarily lacks the feeling.

        1. KK

          “The “I love you” is more than a feeling, it is a promise.  And for a man whose word is his bond, he does not want to make a promise he isn’t sure he wants to keep.  And the more pressure he feels from her to say the words, the less likely he is to want to do so.  That doesn’t mean he necessarily lacks the feeling”.

          That’s understandable. BUT… switch genders and replace ‘I love you’ with ‘You’re amazing’ or ‘wonderful’ or ‘I’m so proud of you’.

          Like you stated with some men, it’s also possible that some women feel this way about their husbands (boyfriends) without verbalizing it. You’ve stated previously that men need to know that they’re admired and respected. So no matter how she feels, if she can’t express that adequately, he’s not going to feel admired and respected. Women either understand this or they don’t. The women who understand this will have better relationships. Same goes for men when it comes to ‘I love you’. Men that understand that women need to feel loved, by actions and words, will have better relationships.

          When you love someone, you WANT to make them happy. If that means I brag on my boyfriend to my friends while he’s in earshot to make him feel good, who cares. If VM’S boyfriend can’t or won’t tell her he loves her when he really does because he feels pressure to do so, I think he’s looking at it the wrong way. This shouldn’t be about a power play. It should be about making the woman he loves happy. Unless he truly isn’t in love with her, which in my opinion, is true. I just think he’s conflicted.

          IMO, the onus is on the people who have trouble expressing how they feel. Like GWTF said, my brothers and male friends would tell me to run from someone who hasn’t declared their love for me in a reasonable amount of time.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          KK,

          It’s not your place to tell him “he’s looking at it the wrong way,” nor to suggest that it’s a “power play.”

          Next, you said it’s his job to make her happy. Guess what: the OP IS happy; she just hasn’t heard her three magic words yet. That’s why she’s writing. She’s conflicted because the relationship is great but his words are not matching his actions.

          Finally, opinions are like assholes. Just because your brothers would tell you to run from someone doesn’t mean they are “right”. It means they have the inability to see things from the OP’s boyfriend’s point of view. I CAN see things from his point of view. I’ve BEEN in his shoes. And I think that once the OP gets past her anxiety, she will be a better and more secure girlfriend that her boyfriend will WANT to commit to. Giving him guilt, pressure and arbitrary ultimatums are no way to get what you want from a guy.

          The defense rests.

        3. KK

          Sorry, Jeremy! I meant to address that to you. 😊

        4. KK

          “Giving him guilt, pressure and arbitrary ultimatums are no way to get what you want from a guy”.

          Evan, I NEVER suggested she should do ANY of those things!

          VM stated she is “temporarily happy” because she feels the power has temporarily shifted in her favor. What myself and others have noted is that it hasn’t. He merely re-stated his position. She FEELS validated (temporarily) because he broke up with her and then wanted her back. But it’s on the same exact terms. His.

          If she ends up hearing her three magic words and continues a blissfully happy relationship with him, that’s great!!!! I just think it’s unlikely. GWTF and quite a few others have the same opinion. So, if we end up being “right” what does that mean? Does it really matter who’s right? Why am I wrong for not wanting to invest years into dead end relationships or advising others not to do so either?

        5. Evan Marc Katz

          1. No relationship is on one person’s terms. The OP has just as much power to leave as he does.

          2. No one is telling anyone to invest in dead end relationships – least of all me, since I’m the only one here with a reputation to uphold. I just try to parse between a guy who needs time and an objective dead end. This is not an objective dead end according to me, nor the OP. So your opinion only describes what you’d do. I can tell you if my girlfriend pushed me at 16 months, she may not have gotten a ring. I had to choose on my terms and timeline. That’s the POV I’m speaking from.

        6. GoWiththeFlow

          Evan,

          You say you have been in the boyfriend’s position before so you understand him, but wasn’t that when at 16 months in you were unsure about whether you and your then girlfriend (now wife) should get married?  But you did tell your wife you loved her at 6 months in?  Maybe it’s a question that can’t be answered, but would your wife had stayed in the relationship up to the point where you proposed if she told you she loved you but your response was “I’m not sure.”

          I think most reasonable women understand that it’s around a 2-3 year timeline before a man knows if he’s ready to propose.  I just don’t think many women are ready to wait the same amount of time to hear their boyfriend loves them.  The thinking seems to be I Love You= marriage proposal.

        7. Evan Marc Katz

          If the boyfriend associates “I love you” with the desire to get married, then the two are intertwined as much as MOST people separate them.

      2. 20.2.2
        Emily, the original

        KK,

        VM stated she is “temporarily happy” because she feels the power has temporarily shifted in her favor. What myself and others have noted is that it hasn’t.

        Unfortunately, when one person wants more and is more invested, the other person has the power. She has clearly stated what she wants from him, and now she has to wait for him to decide if he will give it to her.

        1. KK

          Emily,

          “Unfortunately, when one person wants more and is more invested, the other person has the power. She has clearly stated what she wants from him, and now she has to wait for him to decide if he will give it to her”.

          Yep! And I don’t think that what she wants is unreasonable. Nor do I think that any woman who isn’t willing to wait around for a year and a half to get to ‘I love you’ is unreasonable either. My opinion (which is wrong, apparently… Lol) is that there shouldn’t be a power struggle in a relationship. If both people aren’t getting what they need, I don’t see the point. I thought the start of relationships were supposed to be EASY.

          I also think some of the pushback to what Evan is saying is because it FEELS like he is saying she needs to be a better girlfriend. Huh???? She IS a good girlfriend! Why is it always the woman who has to give more than she receives? Sorry, not interested.

        2. Emily, the original

          KK,

          And I don’t think that what she wants is unreasonable.

          I don’t either. And what he wants isn’t unreasonable, either, but because they aren’t on the same page and on the same level in terms of investment … idk. I just don’t have the emotional bandwith to chase someone’s attention. I just know that when you invest more in someone, you get more invested in them, they don’t necessarily get more invested in you.

        3. KK

          “I just don’t have the emotional bandwith to chase someone’s attention. I just know that when you invest more in someone, you get more invested in them, they don’t necessarily get more invested in you”.

          Same here, Emily. Agreed.

  21. 21
    Karen

    Jeremy,

    How spooky that’s the first word I thought of ‘ obligation ‘ when I read her original post.

  22. 22
    Stacy2

    Evan, the OP is not happy, she is in denial. She think is she gained some kind of power by attempting to break up with her b/f while all the signs point to her being played.

    You assumption that he is a good guy like you is no more valid than our assumption that he is like “that guy we dated”. We have ALL dated that guy. There’s no mystery here. Could he miraculously wake up in the next 3-6 months and realize that he’s madly in love with the OP? Sure. Stranger things have happened. But I will take an under on that any freaking day of the week. I will bet the farm on it, in fact.

    1. 22.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Stacy2,

      1. The OP is happy. It’s not your place to say she’s in denial. That’s you projecting how YOU’D feel if you were here.

      2. There IS mystery here. Otherwise, there’d be no question or debate about the answer. You’re POSITIVE you’re right. I THINK you may be wrong. And since the OP has 16 months invested, she wants to give this the best chance to succeed. And that begins by being the cool girlfriend and leaning back and seeing if the relationship makes her happy later this year. If not, she should dump him. You can’t overreact to every situation with dumping out of fear of wasting time.

      3. “Madly in love” is a worthless term. You don’t need to be “madly in love” to get married. You just have to want to get married. “Madly in love” describes early-phase intoxication, not the stuff of which 40 year relationships are forged.

      4. Be glad that there are no farms involved and that your reputation is protected by your anonymity. I stand behind everything I’ve ever written on this site with my name at the top. And I have the results to prove it.

      1. 22.1.1
        Marika

        We should also try to be supportive of VM’s choice, someone who admits to being anxious and who has decided to take a chance on love growing with this man. Rather than telling her it’s all about to crash and burn. That’s just going to make her anxiety worse. Giving advice before we knew her choice is one thing, but now she’s made it clear she’s giving it a go, I say all the very best to both of you.

  23. 23
    Chance

    VM,

     

    FWIW, I think you are with someone who is very conscientious, and I think that this is excellent.  Personally, I believe what is a much bigger problem is that waaay too many people throw around the term “I love you” like it’s candy waaaaaaaay before it is truly possible to even know if they love the person.  I think it often takes several years to gain a solid understanding of whether or not you love someone with the level of conditionality that is requisite for lifelong commitment (i.e., not the hormone-infused “I love yous” that are all too common).

     

    As someone who grew up with a mother who often said “I love you” (but rarely showed it) and a father who never said “I love you” (but always showed it), I can tell you that the latter is much, much more valuable.  It sounds, by your description, that this guy is more like my father because he is demonstrating that he is committed to you, while being extremely careful of not saying something that isn’t 100% sincere.

     

    More people should be like him, IMHO.

    1. 23.1
      Marika

      I think that’s a good point, Chance, but bear in mind that women need both. At some point (I’m not saying before it’s warranted) we definitely need to hear “I love you” and reasonably regularly after that, ideally, to be truly happy & content in our relationship. Actions alone are not enough. I’m not sure if men fully appreciate the importance of this to women.

      I’m not even so much referring to VM, here, just in general. A girl growing up without hearing “I love you”, even if it was implied, would not be happy. And I’m sorry to hear that your Mum didn’t show love in her actions, that must’ve been tough.

      1. 23.1.1
        Chance

        Hi Marika,

         

        That’s fair enough, but I would venture to say that when a man declares his love within a year, or 1.5 years, etc., he’s guessing to some extent (at best).  He may be in love with a woman, but I would argue that he doesn’t really know if he loves her.

        1. GoWiththeFlow

          Or he loves what he knows at that point in time.

    2. 23.2
      KK

      “As someone who grew up with a mother who often said “I love you” (but rarely showed it) and a father who never said “I love you” (but always showed it), I can tell you that the latter is much, much more valuable”.

      That’s sad.

      As someone who grew up with a mother and father who both said, “I love you” often and showed it, I can tell you there’s no need to settle for less than both in a relationship.

      1. 23.2.1
        GoWiththeFlow

        Same here.  Both parents said “I love you” and showed it regularly.  I strive to do that for my kids and other important people in my life as well.

        VM is choosing to give her boyfriend more time to get on the same page as her feeling wise.  That’s not an unreasonable decision to make.  She’s young and as she said, she will not let the situation go on indefinitely and their short time apart showed her that if they do break up, it won’t be the end of the world, she will move on.

        That being said, waiting 17 1/2 months to hear “I love you” from an exclusive boyfriend is unusual.  Yes it’s not worth the air the words float out on when someone tells you that after 17 days, but most men will feel it and say it (it it’s true) before the year and a half mark.  This really makes me wonder if other girlfriends in this man’s past have broken up with him several months into a relationship because he either wasn’t saying it or when it was brought up he said “I don’t know.”  I would imagine his extreme reserve or very tightly drawn definition of love is not an effective relationship strategy for him.  Sure the women are losing out on the chance he will come around by breaking up with him, but he is losing out too.

        1. GoWiththeFlow

          One more thought.  How many men would continue to see a woman if he told her he loved her many months in and she said some version of “I’m not there yet”?

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Plenty. Love is a pretty strong emotion.

          Missed you on the Love U More call tonight.

        3. Chance

          GWTF said:

           

          “How many men would continue to see a woman if he told her he loved her many months in and she said some version of “I’m not there yet”?”

           

          Wouldn’t know.  I’m not so insecure that I would press her for that kind of information.  If she’s with me, I assume she’s open to it one day.

        4. Emily, the original

          GoWiththeFlow,

          I strive to do that for my kids and other important people in my life as well.

          I think kids need to hear it. I once overheard a male friend ending a phone conversation with “I love you.” I assumed he was talking to his girlfriend but he was in fact talking to his daughter. “She needs to hear it from me,” he said. Touche!

        5. GoWiththeFlow

          Evan,

          It’s my daughter’s birthday today and we’re getting ready to leave on a major international family vacation Thursday.  So today is laundry, suitcase packing, last minute errands, birthday cake, and presents.  Haven’t seen any tv today and I’m taking little breathers checking in on the blog while getting things done.  It’s either that or see what scary stuff is going down in Washington, DC  😉

  24. 24
    VM

    Wow, strong feelings here! I really appreciate that so many people who have been in similar situations that ended badly are trying to protect me from feeling the same hurt, I do, and I’ll take your advice to heart. A lot of assumptions are being made though.

    First of all, the idea that giving this a chance means I’m inevitably sinking years more of waiting in a dead-end relationship and will be devastated when it ends is a bit much. I’m not waiting around at his mercy. As Evan has noted, I can leave anytime. This relationship is just as likely to end because I walk away as it is because he walks away, and either would be fair and neither would be the end of the world. I know that I love him; I don’t know that I want to marry him. He’s got a great deal of what I want in a husband, but I’m still gathering information.

    What I do need to see and feel, as many other commentators have noted, is that things are progressing toward a shared future. Since we got back together, I feel that. If I stop feeling that, I’ll leave. I think – I don’t know, of course – that the “I love you” is coming. He’s recently slipped up a couple of times and called me a pet name that means “my love” in one of our other shared languages. Most speakers of this language use that phrase liberally but I’ve only ever heard him use it with his mom, so I know he doesn’t throw it around.

    Also, while I know another breakup will be tough, I don’t see why it needs to necessitate a long recovery time. I’ll lick my wounds, take some time to process and move on. This relationship, if it ends, will make me very sad, but it won’t be the end of my world and I know the split would be as peaceful as possible.

    1. 24.1
      Callie

      This all sounds really positive to me and I think it looks like there is some lovely forward momentum on his part. I wish you both all the best! And regardless what happens you sound like you know what you want, and have a good sense of boundaries and how to enforce them, and that will always hold you in good stead 🙂 .

    2. 24.2
      Malika

      Better to give it a thorough chance than none at all. What heartens me is that you have a finite amount of time wherein you want to feel that he thinks you are important to him and that he wants to share a future with you.

      The words i love you can be overused by some people, and underused by others. Yet that doesn’t say anything about their intensity of feelings towards their partner. It’s up to you to see whether he feels what you need in order for this to be a happy relationship. I wish you lots of luck nd that his works out for you.

  25. 25
    aly

    The answer to vm’s dilemma depends on her personality and what she is willing to put up with. I agree with some others, this isn’t six or twelve months. I know I would be going crazy if my boyfriend didn’t tell me he loved me every night after 16 months. Some others it probably wouldn’t bother. To me it’s kind of like deciding to move in or get married… ar you seeing forward motion, pick a deadline in your head and stick with it.

  26. 26
    Adam

    VM,

    You are very lucky to have such a great guy in your life. Be the excellent girlfriend you know you can be; give him the emotional and sexual support that he needs. This is how he will come to verbalize his love for you. I can say verbalize because he probably already feels that way:)

  27. 27
    Marie

    Hi VM, I’m a bit torn in how to advise on your dilemma based on the updates on how you both reacted after your break up and get back together.  I’m not convinced either of you are really in love with each other. There’s just way too much rationalization of the entire thing on both your parts.  You may love him as in care for him, but that deep companionate love that people have, just not seeing it here.  This does not mean he won’t go out and buy a ring, that you won’t get married even.  People can get married to someone they care about but not necessarily love.  I would think very carefully if this guy ever does propose to you, whether YOU are really in love with HIM.

    I was that girl – not the one who was strung along, but the girl whose husband fell in love with her after being a serial monogamist to women whom he just couldn’t ever pull the trigger on.  He was a very caring and attentive boyfriend to them, incorporated them into his family, they went on trips with his parents, he even thought that he loved them but something held him back.  He tried so hard to rationalize himself into it and they tried so hard to convince him. Finally his last gf broke up with him and he met me 3 weeks later. Two months later he fell in love with me.  It really hit him out of the blue – he said it was literally like he was going along and then oops when he wasn’t thinking he fell.  And it wasn’t until he fell in love with me that he realized he actually wasn’t in love with his past gfs – cared for them yes, even loved them, but not in love. He proposed to me 8 months after that and we are happily married.  If his ex asked me what I did to make him fall in love I would say nothing, did absolutely nothing other than probably got in my own way at times even.  It’s just kind of a natural thing as breathing and it just grows and grows, deeper and deeper.  I like what YAG said – I know for a fact that if I ever left him or something tore us apart it would bring him to his knees. I am not sure that you and your bf would have the same reaction and that is why I am concerned that you are still in this relationship.  Some things just cannot be forced no matter what.  In time you may convince him that he loves you. But will that actually be the case or will it just be because neither of you have met the person who is your true love??

  28. 28
    Sparkxx

    Back to the basics, at what point do a man and woman say they are in a relationship?
    In my opinion, it is the point where they acknowledge that they:

    1. love one another ( and yes a verbal expression is an absolute necessity). In comparison, I seem to recall an earlier post about a man not ready for marriage and most commenters observed that ” it’s just a piece of paper and a ceremony”why not just do it if he really wants a life with her and since he knows it means a lot to her.
    In the same way, one “could” say that if he really wants her, he should say the words since he obviously knows they mean alot to her.
    Only in the OP’s case the man said ” he doesn’ t love her …yet”. Really? Almost 2 years later? Come on now.

    I stand corrected but in the current state, that sounds like a fling to me. Nothing more than friends with benefits.

    2. Lastly, again IMHO, it’s only a relationship if the two people involved share common dreams and aspirations. I guess you can do that without the three magic words like some claim to have done, but if the OP goes ahead, there will be an ever growing resentment both from:
    a) the OP for not getting what she wanted to hear
    or
    b) the man for having to consistently deflect or pivot or eventually have to say it under duress.

    Either way, am with Stacy 2 on this one. This situation seems untenable.

  29. 29
    Stacy

    Sorry, but if a man does not grow to love me in 16 months who I am spending so much time with, I’m gone.Evan, you said it in 6 months….way different scenario.He sounds like a good guy who likes her for her good qualities but feels no chemistry.There is no way you feel sufficient compatibility and chemistry and claim to not be in love for so long.I would prefer a man not settle for me so yeah,I would be out of there.

  30. 30
    DinaStrange

    Am on Evan’s side here. It’s extremely hard for me to say “I love you” to a man, unless its a man i am thinking about marrying. Words “love” had been cheapened by too many saying it, and then breaking up and or divorcing. I know we can’t predict future, but why not be cautiious. So in that case, i understand that guy. Either you give him time to decide by himself or you exit the relaitonship now.

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