How Can You Tell If Your Boyfriend Really Loves You?

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I am 25 years old and I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 3 years. I’ve had a couple of relationships before him, one was serious.   He’s had several relationships before me but he told me he’s never been in love.  

We have a good relationship, we do lots of things together, have the same friends, we like watching sports together, we have a really good friendship. We do have some pretty bad fights, some important and some ridiculous, but we usually bounce back pretty fast. I really love him.

Up until a few nights ago, he never told me he loved me. I’ve been going through a rough transitional period and feeling very insecure.   He just started a new job as a teacher and his life seems pretty set.  

We’ve had conversations in the past about marriage and he would always say he wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me, but he knew he wanted to be with me. I never put any pressure on him to tell me he loved me or marriage or anything else.  

I’ve been really depressed about my life lately and the other night we had a fight and after we were talking things through. He went to bed but then called me over to lie down next to him. He said: “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about you and our relationship, and I want you to know that you really mean a lot to me. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before and I want you to know that I do love you. You deserve to be loved.” I started to cry a little, hugged him and told him how much that meant to me. He said he doesn’t want to say it all the time, only when he feels it and that he never wanted to say it unless he was sure he wanted to marry that person. I’m positive that he still doesn’t know if he wants to marry me.  

My question is:    

Does it sound like he told me that to try and make me feel better, because he felt bad for me? I want so badly to believe he really loves me but I’m starting to think he said it because he felt he had to and thought it would make me feel better. I have a tendency to over analyze things and I don’t want to ask him a million questions and make him regret telling me that. How can you tell if your boyfriend really loves you? I know I must sound crazy. I’ve been going through a rough time and I’ve been having trouble processing thoughts and emotions. I would appreciate any thought or advice you might have to offer.

Thank you,

Lisa

William Goldman said this about Hollywood, but I’d say that it’s more apropos in describing matters of the heart:

“Nobody knows anything.”

That’s right. I may be a dating coach, but I’m not omniscient. I certainly know less about your life and your boyfriend than you do. So whatever I’m doing here is just making an educated guess.

I’ll admit, I was a little choked up when you got to the part where he told you that he loved you. It’s really hard for some guys to say those words, and that’s not just an excuse for my gender. Since women place such great meaning on “I love you”, men have learned to adapt in one of two, super-logical ways:

Saying they love you without really meaning it.

Not saying they love you until they’re really, really sure.

Sounds like your boyfriend is in the second category. And yet, you’re not sure if you even believe him. Well, what could he tell you that would make you believe him? “I love you-will you marry me-here’s a ring-do you believe me now?”

You’re really asking two different questions here, Lisa.

You want to know if he means that he loves you.

You also want to know if this means he wants to marry you….

I would say that, from what you wrote above, I do believe he loves you and that he doesn’t know if he wants to marry you. Understand that this is not a contradiction. Love happens before marriage. That doesn’t mean that marriage results every time two people are in love. If it did, most of us would be married a good three times before we’re 35.

The reason I believe that your boyfriend loves you is because he did make a big deal about not saying it unless he meant it. And if it took a moment when you were feeling sad and vulnerable to allow him to express his feelings, so be it. Men want to make you feel good. They want to be your heroes. Trust in that.

The problem is that you’re looking for clarity. You’re looking for definites. But there’s no value in asking a question to which you can never actually know the answer. It’s a ticket to paralysis.

Think of it like religion. You can either 1) take a leap of faith, 2) agonize over not knowing, or 3) accept the fact that you’ll never know. I choose the latter. After all, nobody knows anything. We’re all just guessing.

I get why you want to know if he’s in love, but the truth is that he probably doesn’t even know. He said it once and I believe he meant it.

But just because he loves you now doesn’t mean he’ll love you forever, and just because you love him now doesn’t mean you’ll love him forever.

There are too many variables, too many unknowns.

So don’t spend your time questioning him. You’ll just drive yourself (and him) nuts. Continue to love him, continue to let him invest in you and open up to you, and if you’re not getting the consistent feedback you need to feel secure, you know what you need to do.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Becka

    yeah, Marie’s conclusion and suggestions makes sense indeed! But how can u let go of the man u really love? I wish it was so easy. 🙁 my bf and i are almost a yr now on our relationship. But he seems to be like your bf and sometimes i want to break up with him. He said he is not ready yet to have a baby.we are both 35, his wife died 3 yrs ago and they have an 8-old girl. I have done so many things to work this out but i feel i am the   one who is only in love. he doesnt say i love unless i say i love him. He says i love you on text but not verbally. I am an emotional perso that i often times what’s the next chapter of out lives. Maybe because i am getting older and wanted to have a baby which my bf said he is not ready yet.. Omg.:;
    i dont want to lose him bec love hin.i have done my part loving him ang his child.sometimes   i wanna give up… This is so sad…………………..
      

  2. 22
    Anma

    I do not believe three years is that long my parents have been married 20 + years, and are at each others throats, they would be better off divorced, anyway I think it has so much more to do with then just love, marriage Is a huge commitment, people change and today the person you might love may not be the same in 10 years, your goals and views on life might change, the way you believe in raising children might not be the same, ect… Marriage is more then just love it cannot survive on just love, you both have to be willing to compromise with holding a grudge in your heart (like my parents)

  3. 24
    Lucy

    My husband proposed to me after 4 months. We were married after 7, had a baby after a year. We had another baby 18 months after the first. We are still together 30 years later and the kids are nearly 30 and 28 and successful professionals. I am sorry, but a man definitely knows if he wants to marry someone within months of dating that person. If he truly loves and wants to spend his life with them, he will propose. They do not wait indeterminate years to discover this. The older they get, 2 things happen. 1. They get set in their ways and are reluctant to commit. 2. They are desperate to commit because all their mates are married and have kids etc.   and they are getting on. Your boyfriend clearly falls into the first category. Any woman that has to ask a guy they have been with for years, if he wants to marry her, already knows the answer. Its a resounding NO. I know this, because my husbands girlfriend prior to me. dated him far longer than I. They even had a child (admittedly, it was not planned, but neither was ours). Their relationship went no further. When history repeated itself and I fell unexpectedly pregnant, he took control and dried my tears. rushed me down to the jewellers and bought me an expensive engagement ring and booked the wedding. We were married in registry office. It does not take mega bucks.  There you have your answer. No one is unsure if they are with the right person.

  4. 25
    1K

    Lisa,

    I feel terribly sorry for you – it is a very difficult thing to go through. Being with the uncertain, ambivalent, lukewarm partner creates a unique kind of crazy that is much worse than being cheated on or told directly that you are not wanted. Because at least that is clear; something to hold on to while one says to oneself “here, this is what I am dealing with”. I suspect your depression has a lot to do with being on the receiving end of that uncertainty for so long.

    Your question is whether he said that he loved you to make you feel better. Without more information it is difficult to say for sure but this:

    ““I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about you and our relationship, and I want you to know that you really mean a lot to me. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before and I want you to know that I do love you. You deserve to be loved.”

    …does not sound like the words of a man in love. He does sound like a man with integrity but there isn’t much passion here and that is really what you’re asking about, isn’t it?

    Evan is right in that no one can know for sure what the truth is of your boyfriend’s feelings. He probably doesn’t know the whole truth himself. But after 3 years in this situation, you do know the truth of YOUR feelings so I suggest you ask a different question: if this is all you are ever going to get from him, can you see yourself ever being truly happy with the status quo?

    Find yourself a good therapist and talk about this until you can be happy either way. I wish you the best

  5. 26
    Amy

    He doesn’t know if he wants to say it all the time??!!! Heeelllooo. Does anyone else think that’s not a HUGE red indicator of being emotionally unavailable. Run honey Run! Damn, Freud would have a field day with this one…..

  6. 27
    Rachel

    Lisa, I understand what you were feeling and going through because I have gone through the same experience myself. Firstly, the most important thing is to focus on yourself and taking good care of you. You mention that you are feeling depressed and I think you need to look at the reasons behind it. Why are you feeling depressed and how long has it been? What kinds of goals can you set for yourself to make each day a little better? I suggest that you see a therapist or doctor if you feel your depression has been impacting your life such as work or school. I went through a similar experience because I was with my boyfriend for 5 years. We ended our relationship mutually. Throughout our relationship, I felt that he did not truly want to be with me through his actions and he said he was not thinking of marriage. I  began to feel very insecure about myself and feel depressed as well. Instead of feeling trust and security in the relationship, I began becoming both myself and him. And I resented him for making me feel that way, to be honest. But I kept hanging on because I kept waiting for the moments of reassurance or “I love you’s” that were a fleeting sense of security because there were times I was happy.. When the relationship gets to this point is honestly bad for the both of you. Lack of trust is destructive on both ends. I do believe that he loved me looking back and I loved him, but a relationship should foster a sense of mutual growth. We did care deeply for each other, we were not growing in the same direction so it was happier for the both of us if we ended things. Is hard to break up but imagine the joy you would feel when you are with someone in the future who meets your needs and makes you feel loved and happy. You deserve it!

  7. 28
    Amika

    I’d say to Lisa too that if she was okay with this behavior the first couple years but isn’t anymore, that’s also okay.   I’ve found that what you can accept in the first 2 years or less on just a relationship basis, can turn unsettling once time commitment really starts to add up; you’re ultimately looking for more (commitment, emotional passion, etc.) because you think engagement/marriage might be the next step…but you’re starting to realize that you’re not all that comfy with that idea because you feel something’s missing…likely his emotional commitment to you and his ability to make you FEEL LOVED.   You’re thinking does HE want to marry you? But even if he did, is that something YOU want? Being that he holds back the “I love you.”? Are you getting your emotional needs met by him? May not be the case once you look deeper in yourself…

    And I say all of that through very recent experience…my now ex-bf would say I love you(probably initially coerced by me. lol The first option on Evan’s list.), but so many other things/words/actions were missing that the idea of marrying him terrified me even though he had no qualms about taking that step, but after my own depressive period and questions upon questions, I realized I just didn’t feel any emotional security from him…I felt like marriage would crush us since he seemed so emotionally unavailable to me and I needed that security that clearly wasn’t there. I could’ve dated him for years I’m sure, but could never marry him, since marriage and kids takes SO much more than just being boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Just be sure to listen to your own needs too…

  8. 29
    Lisa

    My experience is that people can say what they want but love true love is shown not said.   Many people confuse love with lust or infatuation particularly young people, I did in my 20s.   Looking back I know there are some men I thought I loved at the time I did not, it was selfish but did I mean it when I said it? Sure I did whole heartedly.   And there were also some men I did love in my life that I had no idea I did at the time.   Look at some marriages people say they love you one day and their actions are different the next.   Focus on his actions not his words and you will know the answer.   Because words are meaningless.   If you push him he will say them but that won’t change a darn thing.   Watch him.   I am the least religious person but if you listen to the words written about love in the bible they are some good words no matter who wrote them.   Is he patient with me is he kind to me?    Is he happy for me when things go well or I achieve things or is he envious?   Is he arrogant or does he prioritize us over him? Is he rude to me or does he respect my wants and needs my likes or dislikes?   Does he put my needs above his even when they are detrimental to him? Does he rush to anger easily? Does he forgive me or does he hold grudges? Is he honest with me? Does he trust me and does he protect our relationship?   This type of love it is said never fails.   Religious or not these seem things to me show love whether you hear words or not!

  9. 30
    GL

    Evan is right. I don’t know what happened to me lately but I got out of some debt that was causing anxiety and I feel reborn. I dont feel as needy about certain things and I can let the drama pass me by like a sailing ship. There are no guarantees in love…so just believe him! 3 years? Guys ditch out fast when they don’t want you anymore. The guy I like asked me if I missed him…I made him tell me first if he missed me…he said: ‘slightly.’ This was actually progress. Is it Romeo professing his love while I listen demurely from the balcony? No…but I know him and it’s hard for him to be vulnerable. So when you feel secure you might look back at this moment and remember how sweet this is.

  10. 31
    lil

    Hmm Lisa l am being comprehensive abt yur situation coz. am going thru th same based on the original post if if probably wants to marry yu 3 yrs more thn enough fr one tu decide whtr they re sure or not

  11. 32
    Stephanie

    I believed you until you said “married a good three times times before 35” when my bf is ALREADY 35!!!!! way to way down my path in life…

  12. 33
    kate

    Hi, i have been dating this guy for 3 months now, he is fine and all that but i feel like he holds bak, i did speak to him one and he said to me he takes time to open up and that i must give him time, which i have been doing sine he has never said to me he loves me if i don’t say it first then his response is i love you too. I find it disturbing cause i love him bu the seems like we no tin this for the same goal, i am 28 and he actually turned 32 today, he slept over at my place last night so today we can spent his birthday together after work, then in the morning when we left to work he sent me a message saying hey babe please don’t get mad i’m gonna post videos of my friends sending me birthday wishes, i didn’t understand and told him i don’t understand what he means by me being mad, few minutes later i saw a lady in a gown singing for him on his whatsapp status, and it was just one lady all day, but he had said to me his friends not friend and mind you i don’t even know the friend or never heard of her and that he has female friends. I had bought him a birthday cake and everything,i do everything for him even though we don’t stay together, he comes to my place over weekend with laundry so i must do it for him but when i asked him is that your friend you were talking about he said well if you an also sing for me you might follow on the uploads, i mean like really, i woke you up singing for you but now i have to “might follow on your status”

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