Q: I have been dating a man for roughly 11/2 years. A few months ago I told him I loved him. He said it too, but only in response to me having said it. I noticed that that was the only time he would say it, so I stopped saying it with the hope that he would notice and eventually ask why. He never did and he also never told me he loved me first.
I finally talked to him about it and he said he thinks people say “I love you” too casually. I really care for him and believe he feels the same. We have fun and enjoy being together. We are in an exclusive relationship. Am I being too concerned that he cannot say he loves me?
Dr. Pepper Schwartz: I think you are too concerned. He is telling you that the word “love” is loaded for him and he is not in a place yet where he can express it honestly, or at least spontaneously. “Love” is an extraordinary word. For some people it’s just a feeling, but for others it is a commitment — not just to be together, but to feel something deep and profound that you would act on (perhaps even to the extent of risking your life for that other person). The bright side of your guy’s reticence about saying “I love you” is that you know he takes it very seriously. When and if he does say it on his own, it will mean a lot. I actually think that is better than someone who says it so easily.
Give him time. For some people, it will take more than a few years before they trust their own emotions and recognize love. We don’t know what the magic number is for him, but your best strategy is just to keep the relationship healthy and loving and let it inevitably lead to his deeper sense of attachment, affection and, yes, love.