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

woman looking at her boyfriends picture while holding a phone
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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. 41
    Liz

    Thanks for this post; I just broke up with/took a break from my boyfriend (of 4 months). When he told me that he was going to have to move to another state for his job, I was very willing to at least try to maintain a long-distance relationship. We had talked about a future together about 1-2 months into the relationship, but after noticing a few red flags over the past couple of weeks I realized that he may not feel the same attachment that I feel for him. In our subsequent conversation he said that he felt that an attempt to continue dating after he moved would be too much effort and cause the relationship to fizzle out, and I indicated that if he did not have any intent to try at the very least, the longer we continued to date (before he moved) the more I would become attached to him and the more I would feel hurt when he left. He understood, and we broke up. I actually did ask him if he felt that he loved me and he said no, but that he might’ve gotten to that point if we had dated for a couple more months (*sigh*). My situation is nowhere as painful as VMs or other people’s, but most everyone’s comments have helped me affirm that I did the right thing by taking a break. If he has a change of heart over the next few weeks and wants to make it work, we could start over again (with better boundaries this time)- and I have the opportunity again to find someone is going to be more willing to face the inevitable challenges in our relationship. VM, best of luck to you. It seems like your boyfriend has invested a lot into your relationship; I can’t imagine anyone putting in that amount of effort and not loving his SO.

  2. 42
    Danielle

    I found this post 10 months ago after experiencing the same thing with my BF. After 9 months together i asked him if he loved me and he said no. Other than that he was perfect, i felt loved and he treated me amazingly. Just like this senario, he said that he saw a future with me and felt that love would come. I followed Evan’s advice and stuck with it but gave myself a timescale of 18 months to review the relationship again. The 18 months has come and i still haven’t had an I love you and after asking again he has said he doesn’t so i have left the relationship and am in the process of healing and moving on. I don’t think there is any fool proof way to deal with a situation like this. You have to set a limit for yourself of what you can handle and stick to it. My heart was breaking from having not heard those 3 words and from the lack of romance that i needed and if i hadn’t finished it the resentment would have killed us anyway. If he really does love me then hopefuly he will come back. If not i have the opportunity now to find someone who will love me.

  3. 43
    Lifeisworth

    Omg!! This is my favorite blog in all times! As of this week I find myself exactly like VM in similar situation after 14 months with my boyfriend! He is 49 years Old just getting divorce after 3 years separation and two kids. And I am 41 years old divorced 3 years ago with One child. He is the most supportive, attentive, affectionate man. With flowers and all kind of attention for me always. We are best friends, we shared all points on commun and had an incredible connection. Lately he is under lots of stress work, finance, houses divorced related. 2 weeks ago he decided out of the blue out of Schock that he needs 2 weeks alone to get his head together about this new business he is starting and 2 huge contracts he needs to deliver. I was completely devastated as 2 weeks off for me mean suddenltly a push to the side of someone who has always been there for him bad or good. Then this week we spoke and he said he cannot imagined a life without me but feel like we are not at the same levels of feelings. He knows I love him cause I have said ealier on but he is not in love with me. He wants me in his life with my daughter but he cannot fall in love with me. He feel sad he is letting me down but he wants us to stay together and make it work. I felt heartbroken, baffled, used, hearing him saying that. I do not need the “I love you all day long” but at least I had hope that after all this time he would have developed more deeper feelings or more fall in love with me. I said to him” I cannot wait another year 2 years for him to have his feeling checked, or come around as if this was too happened it would have Happened already” . He is not happy to let me go and doesn’t want to. But I told him that I could never see him again the way I used to before as my man TOGETHER for goods and bad in a relationship. And I broke it off. I feel as if I am dying inside with the thoughts he will no longer be part of life. But feel so low as a woman who did not succed to have the man she loves and wants to be in love with her. Where do I go from there

  4. 44
    JJ

    Yeah I waited on a guy for 9 years for him to turn around and dump me. Then he was married the following year. Just move on.

  5. 45
    jo

    While I don’t often generalise about men-women, one positive thing about men IME is: when they’re in love, they know. No guessing. No second-guessing. No third-guessing. If VM hasn’t left this man, she should. He doesn’t love her, and probably never will. His coming back but not saying he loves her is taking her back completely on his terms: getting what he wants from her but not committing to her and not filling her emotional needs. Unless she leaves him, he’ll just keep her around till he finds the woman he does love, and it won’t take 16 months. It just won’t.

    Here I’m in complete agreement with YAG, Stacy, Jeremy, and especially Marie. Like Marie, I’ve been ‘that girl’ – both the one who wasn’t truly loved and the one who was truly loved by different men. Men know when they love a woman, and when they don’t. It’s much better to be in a relationship with a man who loves you. While this ought to be obvious, evidently it isn’t.

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