Why Doesn’t My Boyfriend Tell Me That He Loves Me?

Woman lying beside a man on the bed

I have been dating a guy for over eight months now. At the start he told me he was looking for a long term relationship.   He has yet to tell me he loves me. For his birthday last month, I signed the card “love”. He gave me a thank you card after and signed the card “love”. He does talk about me being in his life in the future. So why hasn’t he told me that he loves me? I thought it was the man who was supposed to tell the woman first.


Dear Sabella,

This reminds me of my list of 10 Secrets About Men:

Saying “I love you” is a major step in a man’s life. That’s why we wait for you to take that step first.

Yes, it’s a joke, but like most jokes, it’s wrapped in a great deal of truth. So why would a guy not say that he loves you?

Let me count the ways:

1) He’s not expressive. Men aren’t taught to share their feelings, blahblahblah. Do you buy this for even a second? I don’t. Everybody knows that women want to hear “I love you.” So what the hell is they guy waiting for? Armageddon?

2) The Chump Problem, My Why You’re Still Single co-author, Linda Holmes, nailed this one in our 2006 book. Essentially, by saying “I love you” first, you’re risking that your partner will not reciprocate, thus making you feel like somewhat of a chump. You, Sabella, took the risk, and here you are asking this question. He, on the other hand, already KNOWS you love him, which is why he’s not risking anything by reciprocating. This leads us to the unfortunate conclusion that:

3) He doesn’t love you. Or perhaps he’s not sure if he loves you. Either way, at this point, your feelings are stronger than his. This has to sting a little bit, but that’s the risk you take when you declare your love first.

Then again, that’s the risk anyone takes when taking any bold action. A guy can go to a bar and gawk at cute girls, but until he risks being rejected and feeling foolish, nothing’s gonna happen. High risk, high reward. That’s the stakes of the love game.

So what does this mean for you? Well, first of all, you learned a valuable lesson: it’s not the man’s job to say, “I love you” first. Especially if he doesn’t mean it. After all, it’s a bit of a dated cliché that a guy says “I love you” in order to get laid. These days we sleep together way before “I love you.” Thus “I love you” instead marks a turning point in the relationship. “Are we serious? Or are we just passing time?” A man who says “I love you,” willingly!, is indicating that he’s serious about a future. …

Ultimately, Sabella, you can’t twist a guy’s arm to say those three magic words, nor do you want to. Better for your boyfriend to make a statement by NOT saying it than to tell you what you want to hear. You don’t need a false sense of security from a guy who’s on the fence. Just know that every month that goes by without a reciprocal “I love you” is another month you’re investing in a very risky stock.

Just know that every month that goes by without a reciprocal “I love you” is another month you’re investing in a very risky stock.

It’s up to you when it’s time to sell.

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  1. 1
    Kat Wilder

    I dated a man for about a year although we both knew, because of life situations, we were not going to be together forever. He never said he loved me (although one morning after some passionate sex, I blurted out the fateful three words. Because I meant it), but he didn’t have to, really; I knew by how he treated me, the way he was with me, that he loved me (or at least had very loving feelings toward me). After we split, he told me he loved me.

    For some men, those words don’t come easily, if at all. But if he talks of a future with you, if he treats you with love and respect and compassion (and passion!), I think that pretty much says it all.

  2. 2

    The stock is too risky, forget every month, every day that goes by, you become more vested in things working out and the strength to say “enough is enough” diminishes. I waited 2 years and FINALLY woke up one morning and packed my stuff and left. If he didn’t love me by then, he never would… Only for him to come crying on my doorstep, roses at work, diamond earrings and the words I wanted to hear for 2 years a few weeks later! A proposal followed shortly there after…

    But do you really want to be with that kind of guy. The guy that makes you wait if he really does love you and if he doesn’t, enough said.

    That stocks too risky and unless you’re 18 and have plenty of time to “hold” it. I’d pick a new one…

    1. 2.1

      Did u tell him why you left him ? i mean
      how did he know that your main problem was him not confessing his love to you?  

  3. 3

    This is the problem with the way relationships go these days. We become intimate way too soon; become comfortable as a ‘couple’. Women being women we think of things like emotions and feelings. Men just don’t because they don’t have to. Women need the security of knowing where they stand. At several points in a relationship you have to take stock, find out where each of you stands and decide if continuing on is in your own best interest. In a healthy, mature relationship this is easily done. When partners don’t communicate their state of mind, it can be hard and a big risk.

    1. 3.1

      This is how I feel , very unsure how to proceed.

  4. 4

    There’s a lot of comments on blogs such as this along the lines of
    “It’s men’s job to ask women out, pay for dates, initiate sex, say i love you first etc.”
    By this logic, do women have any things in a relationship that it’s there job to do?

    btw, despite how it might come across, i don’t intend this as a rhetorical question.

  5. 5

    I’ll never say it first again. Evan, I ONLY disagree with you in that her signing “love” on a card is not nearly as risky as the 3 words. So he might still be scared. That said, the chump factor is massive. I’ll never do it again. Like Jerry Seinfeld said, “if you don’t get the return, that’s a big matzo ball hangin’ out there”.

  6. 6
    Marc F.

    If he ain’t saying it, he probably ain’t feeling it. You already said it so it’s not like he needs to be afraid of the Seinfeldian Matzo ball hanging out there that Markus referred to. Writing it on a card is the easiest thing in the world. Means nothing.

  7. 7

    Markus, just because one woman didn’t reciprocate doesn’t mean that another wouldn’t. It sucks but it’s a risk and that’s what you have to do if you want someone in your life.

    I disagree that a women should have to say it first – the beginnings of a relationships the guy is supposed to impress the woman to win her affections. If she makes it too easy for him he’ll get complacent too soon and the relationship will fizzle. Guys, you can disagree with me all you want but the truth is that once you meet a gal you’re crazy about let’s face it – you’d do anything to win her over. And that’s how we know you’re into us and when we start reciprocating. If we start first we’ll just be too easy for you and you won’t respect us. Say all you want about equal rights and equal pay but the mating game took years to evolve.

    Same thing with saying ‘I love you’. I know with some guys it does take longer bu like Marc F. said, if he’s feeling it he will say it. or express it somehow in a meaningful way – not just sign a card ‘love’.

  8. 8

    My husband used words like “girlfriend” “commitment” “exclusive” — but hadn’t said the three classic words at the three month mark. He would say to his cat in front of me things like, “Why is it so hard for me to tell her I love her?” in a light manner, but I knew he was semi-serious. So even though it “goes against my religion” to say it first, since he virtually had said it already anyway, one night I murmured to him, “I do love you.” And he immediately said it back. I could tell it was a big relief. Turns out he had never said those three words to a woman before and meant it, and because he did mean it with me, for some reason it was really hard to get out (life milestone and all that). He proposed three months later. So Evan knows whereof he speaks. If you haven’t heard the words aloud by the nine month mark, go ahead and be the one to say it first. If you don’t hear it back immediately, then you know what you have to do.

  9. 9

    I agree signing a card “love” doesn’t mean much. Think about it–how would signing a card “fondly” come across to someone you’re sleeping with? Not very well.

    So, signing a card doesn’t mean he loves you.

    Talking in terms of the future, but not actually planning one, doesn’t mean he loves you either.

    I’ve always known by 3 months if I loved the person I was dating or not, and they had always said the words by then…Or not. 8 months? Seems a long time to go without the love declarations. In fact, it sounds like someone comfortable just the way things are–only semi-serious.

    If you want something more than semi-serious, I think it’s time to speak up and say so. Start by looking into the man’s eyes and saying “I love you”. If he doesn’t say it back, then you know it’s time to sell the stock unless you’re content being only semi-serious indefinetly.

  10. 10

    I had quite a few relationships through my twenties. In every case, the man said “I love you” within about 2 months. I, of course, was waiting and hoping for this, but held back. When I occasionally did blurt something out too soon – not I love you, but other things, I always regretted it. It is a shame it works that way, but if a woman utters too much, too soon, it turns the man off.

    As for the card, I wouldn’t read too much into it. I remember reviewing and reviewing correspondence from a boyfriend, trying to read something into it. Sometime the person in love just wants to see everything as a sign he loves you. But things can change, even within a day or two. I’ve had correspondence full of love and other such sentiments, only to never hear from the guy again.

    If he takes much longer, I would say that it unfortunately is because he isn’t sure. In the case of men who I knew did love me, they didn’t take longer than 2 months to express it. Now, I apologize if I’m going beyond your question here, but …I founde that the engagement ring would follow within 6 months to a year. A lot of women wait, but women just don’t sadly have the time to wait that long. Men can stand to wait – their options don’t plunge so quickly as a woman’s. Men are often considered desirable and distinguished in the 40s, while most men won’t even consider asking for a woman over 40 in their online profiles. If you are going to wait around over 3 years for a proposal, and the man is pretty clear you are expecting it, then you may just be dealing with someone who doesn’t want a commitment in that way.

    I had a friend who lived with a man 5 years, waiting for a marriage proposal. She was model like, the guy she was with was short, pudgy, employed only part of the time, and had an unpleasant personality. Didn’t matter – he just strung her on for years. Finally she had to give him the ultimatum, secretly praying he’d come begging with a proposal. He didn’t. Luckily she was only 26 when she ended it.

  11. 11

    Li-Ann, your logic applies to women of ANY age – if a guy is into you and is serious about wanting to be with you he’ll express it. And he’ll know within the first couple of months. I’m in my late 30’s and have had the same types of experiences as I did during my 20’s. And I have friends older than I who got married after 6 months of meeting someone.

    NO woman should have to wait around for any guy if she’s not getting what she wants. It’s not a ‘biological clock ticking’ thing, it’s reality. If a guy is serious he’ll show it. And if you want that from him and he’s not giving it to you then don’t allow him to waste your time.

    Think about it if the tables were turned – would any guy really put up with a situation where he’s not getting what HE wants? so as women why should we?

  12. 12

    I’m perplexed by the whole idea of waiting any amount of years for a proposal. It’s been my experience that when you’ve become serious with each other, after some time you naturally discuss possible marriage TOGETHER in terms of the future. You might reasonably not want to marry within first year of knowing each other, but after a year or so, it seems odd that the subject wouldn’t ever come up–even if it is to say one or the other of you aren’t sure. And waiting 3 yrs. or more for a proposal? I don’t get it, unless you started dating the person when in your teens.

  13. 13

    If a guy doesn’t say he loves you, it’s not because he doesn’t. It’s because of all the connotations associated with ‘love’. He may have been heartbroken once before and therefore is scared to admit he loves you…it’s not that he doesn’t, it’s just that he doesn’t want to say it. I wouldn’t stress about it.

    1. 13.1

      i am glad to hear this.. let’s just hope this is true

  14. 14

    JimmyE Dec 13th 2007 at 11:06 am 4
    There’s a lot of comments on blogs such as this along the lines of
    “It’s men’s job to ask women out, pay for dates, initiate sex, say i love you first etc.”
    By this logic, do women have any things in a relationship that it’s there job to do?
    btw, despite how it might come across, i don’t intend this as a rhetorical question.

    I noticed that nobody answered this question. I am not surprised. I tried to think of how I would answer it as either a man or a woman.

  15. 15

    JimmyE, let me see if I can say this without sounding snarky (just like you didn’t want your question to sound rhetorical).

    You ask, in short, whether it’s “always up to the man” to take steps to move a relationship forward.

    It sounds a bit like you’re angry and resentful because you feel that men are doing all the work.

    However, despite time pressures (biological clock, you all — men — describing over-21 women as “old hags”, blah blah) in our current society that women face that men don’t, women are shoved JUST AS HARD into the “Don’t Act” box as men are into the “Must Act” box.

    Women have to SIT and WAIT for men to take risks — all the while taking the risk — in the face of the time pressures stated above — that you WON’T take the risk to invest effort in relationships with us.

    And for the most part, we have to do that sitting and waiting because doing ANYTHING ELSE spooks you all and then you run off like scared rabbits.

    And then we’ve wasted all that time in a relationship with you and have to start over with someone else.

    Sitting and waiting, when you’d rather take action to move something along, is just a different kind of effort.

    (Remember when you were waiting for the offer for your current job, and you wished they’d hurry up and get on with it, and you wanted to call them up 70 times and tell them so, but you knew then they’d perceive you as desperate and withhold or withdraw the offer, so you sat on your hands and waited but you gritted your teeth the whole time???)

    Since men and women are in fact different, we have different kinds of pressures on us when it comes to forming relationships.

    But trust me, it’s JUST as hard.

  16. 16

    Steve, you’re so impatient.

  17. 17

    Steve, a woman’s ‘job’ is to be happy and make the guy feel like he’s #1; a man’s job is to make the woman happy.

    As indicated earlier, when a woman makes the first move, many guys view this as a turnoff. Guys like to feel as if they’re in control. Say all you want but if a woman tries too hard in the beginning or is too forward it’s not going to work.

  18. 18

    Yes, our job seemingly is to sit and wait patiently, as we are taught (or learn from experience) that if we try to be assertive when it comes to dating we may be perceived as too needy, too pushy, or too controlling.

    Women are a bit more likely these days to do some of the “firsts” in dating, but many of us are hesitatant out of fear of pushing the guy away.

    You could also say “our job” is to look as good as possible. We tend to spend alot more $$ than men on things like clothes, shoes, accessories, hair, make-up, manicures, pedicures, jewelry because if we don’t, we are perceived as plain, uncaring about our appearance, or downright slovenly.

    Weight is another one of our jobs. Maintaining a slender body requires a good bit of deprivation and often more exercise than we would prefer to do. It’s alot easier to be comfortably round, but again so many men view that as plain, uncaring about our apearance, or downright slovenly.

  19. 19

    m Dec 17th 2007 at 06:42 pm 16
    Steve, you’re so impatient.


    m…., I like what you had to say. The job analogy was a good one. It seems that both sexes have a dirty end of the stick in dealing with the mating game. I remember reading a Ray Bradbury story as a kid, “Frost & Fire” where people were born, matured, had their life, grew old and died within 7 days. They would just look at someone and knew if that person was destined to be their mate, friend, enemy etc. That sure would be convenient for dating and avoiding the battle of the sexes, wouldn’t it?

    downtowngal Dec 17th 2007 at 07:07 pm 17
    Steve, a woman’s ‘job’ is to be happy and make the guy feel like he’s #1; a man’s job is to make the woman happy.

    Downtown Gal;

    Just to be clear, I did not ask that question, but I liked your answer anyway. If the greeting card industry can create/promote Valentine’s Day into what is, maybe they can use their power to create a once a year “Christmas Time Truce” for the battle of the sexes, especially for singles. Just go out, meet someone, they don’t you BS, you don’t give them BS, everyone just enjoys everyone else’s company.

    Okay, time to get off of the crack and get back to work 🙂

  20. 20

    Ok, I have read over everything people have said and I have to tell you that we are in a messed up, game playing society that puts more emphasis on good sex making the relationship work than love. If he hasn’t said it, you can’t force him to. If he doesn’t want to, you can’t make him. Instead of complaining about why he hasn’t said it, maybe you should ask him when there is a good time to talk. Sit him down and say “I love you and want to know where you stand.” In my experience with this approach he will probably clam up, say “I love being around you. But I want to take things one day at a time.” No matter how long it has been, that is how most guys think. They don’t get why we feel the need to know everything. We are born to nest and feel we need to make sure our plans to nest work with our mans plans to just be. Thus we start freaking out when we haven’t heard those three little words by a certain ordained point in time that some ridiculous group of people came up with. Just ask him… “Do you love me?” If he freaks out, then he probably doesn’t, if he says yes, then tell him you need to hear it sometimes.

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