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He can't say I love you to me but we keep breaking up and getting back together. I don't know what to do

Tagged as: Breaking up, Dating, Online dating, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (4 November 2018) 11 Answers - (Newest, 6 November 2018)
A female United States age 22-25, anonymous writes:

Okay, this is going to be long and I apologize in advance - I’ll try to summarize as much as possible.

Two years ago (August 2016) I started my masters program in a big city. I was on dating apps for fun, mostly, not looking for anything serious. I’d dated some in ungergrad but my first ever relationship when I was in high school was pretty emotionally abusive so I hadn’t wanted to get too close to anyone. Anyway, around October of 2016, I matched with a guy. At first - because I tend to be closed off - I wasn’t super interested in continuing dating but he kept pursuing me. I realized after a month or so how much I liked him. Around my birthday (January) I realized I might be in love with him, which was a big deal for me because I don’t think I’ve ever genuinely been in love with any one I’ve dated. After 6 months of dating, I fessed up. It was late one night, we had gone out with some friends and were just about to fall asleep when I just blurted it out. He said it back. But almost immediately something didn’t feel right. He didn’t say it when he left the next morning. A night or two later, I brought it up and he said he regretted saying it and that he didn’t think he was ready.

I was devastated. I never open up to anyone and the first person I open up to shuts me down. After about a week of spiraling, though, he and I sat down and had a long conversation. He said if I could give him some time, he would try to work out what he was feeling and make it work. I agreed. We dated for three more months. I finally broke when he left to go on a somewhat dangerous trip to the Amazon rainforest and I felt like I couldn’t even say I loved him when he went to get on the plane. It just felt like I was pouring all this emotional energy into “us” and he couldn’t even vocalize to me how he was feeling. I broke up with him in June of 2017.

In September of that same year, he reached out. He said he’d realized what a big part of his life I had been and he had never meant to hurt me. He said letting me go was the worst mistake he’d ever made, etc etc. He still wasnt able to tell me he loves me. We talked rather platonically for about 3.5 weeks before I got scared and ended things again.

Fast forward to New Years Even 2017/2018. He reaches out and asks if he can send me a letter. He does and it’s nine pages. All about how much he tried to make things work. How he’s not interested in anyone else. How he’s been seeing a therapist to try and figure out how to open up to me. He tells me he’s trying, desperately, to change so we can be together because that’s what he wants. We slowly begin seeing other again.

He still can’t tell me he loves me. I try my best to be understanding. I can see that he is trying. Finally, one night he’s at my house and I tell him I’m just exhausted, emotionally. We talk for hours but he doesn’t really seem to say anything that helps me to understand why he can’t give the relationship what it needs to survive. Finally, around 1am I tell him I have to go to sleep because I have to work in the morning. I tell him in the morning, if I get out of the shower and he’s there, I’ll know he wants to try and make things work. If he’s left, then I’ll know it’s over and we can both move on. He leaves. This was March of this year. I assumed that’s the last time I was going to hear from him.

Wrong, apparently. About a week ago, he texts me asking if we can talk. I tell him no. He asks if he can send me a letter and I say if that’s what he needs that’s fine but not to expect a response. In the letter, he explains that after we broke up in March (9 months ago, 9 months of not hearing from him) he moved to Europe. While there, he continued seeing a therapist. He claims to have gone into a state of catatonic grief at one point because of his lingering feelings for me. He says he sees me everywhere, all the time, even though it’s not really me. He says being with me taught him how to appreciate life, how to love the people in his life and express that love and appreciation for them, etc etc. He’s not asking for another chance, but wishes we could do it all again. He says he’s sorry for hurting me.

I know he wants to be together again, but I’m at a point where I just don’t think I can. I know I still love him, even though I’ve piled a lot of angst and sadness and bitterness on top of that love. It’s like I’m on a road and, if there is an end to it, I know it’s him. I miss him in a way that it’s like he’s never even been gone. Like I can never get over our relationship because I just keep assuming it’s not “the end.”

I am not an overly emotional person. I am extremely logical. I don’t do second chances and I certainly don’t do third chances, yet I have this blind spot with him for some reason that just cancels out all logic. I’ve never been this way over a guy before. Ever.

I guess my question is - what do I do? I’m going through a lot of stuff emotionally right now outside of him, I work 10-12 hours a day in a job that requires a lot of my emotional energy (I’m a middle school teacher), I’m having surgery in december, and my grandparents are both dying. I want this to work out. I want us to be together and I want it to be what I’ve always known it could be. But how am I supposed to trust that anything will be different when it’s been the same every time? Did we just never get the timing right? I feel like an idiot already as it is - im only 24, I know there is ample time for me to find someone else I would care about just as much. My friends are tired of hearing about it. I’m exhausted. I just don’t know what to do. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Also, before any snarky or mean comments get thrown out, yes, I am in therapy and I am on anti-depressants. I take care of my mental health. I just want objective 3rd party advice from anyone who doesn’t know me or my guy personally.

View related questions: broke up, emotionally abusive, I love you, move on, text

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A reader, anonymous, writes (6 November 2018):

I am with Wiseowle that you are both addicted to drama. However, for you I think it stems from your genuine feelings and natural attachment. For your man, unfortunately- I think he is in love with himself. I think he fancies himself a great philosopher, who will uphold ultimate truth by refusing to say 3 words as he has not yet found their meaning. Ugh. Please. Most people have learned not to take themselves so seriously.

He would rather write you 9 page letters (and probably poems by the sounds of it) about how he sees you everywhere....yet cannot let go of the POWER it gives him over you to refuse the words you most want to hear. Don't kid yourself, he is not so noble and poetic as he wants to sound. I have been with these types.

It gives him power to fuel the drama he wants. The drama he wants involves him chasing you, the thrill of you giving in, then him playing the same game all over again by witholding love and being distant, then you chasing him, begging for his love, then him running away....and the cycle repeats.

He is theatrical, and he thrives on this energy. He thrives on analysing his own thoughts and loves to go to a psychologist to analyze himself. I'm sorry but all this just supports his strong self-love.

You can give it another go if that will make you feel better. But I almost guarantee this will not last. I have been in 2 somewhat similar situations. 1st yes he did say he loved me but there was always drama, him creating space, him leaving, him writing letters and poetry to win me back, him compulsively lying....it actually took me some years to realize I was LUCKY to escape this one. Because every time he wanted to restart I came running. So don't beat yourself up too much, the drama is VERY addictive when it is supplied by a manipulator like these men.

Situation 2 commitment phobic man....dated for years, and he would always have a different answer about our future. Could never get his real thoughts, and he would make me feel like I was nagging at him when all I wanted after YEARS together was to know where he thought things were going to go. I feel like this has some similarities to your man who makes YOU feel like you are nagging at him to want a most basic human emotion expressed. Again, these men are manipulative and they know how to make you feel like you are overly demanding.

I'm sure your man will play the card that he is messed up from childhood or life's experience, and he is just messed up and doesn't know what he feels, blah blah. It is all self-love and self-serving.

Do you really want to be with someone this self-centered for the rest of your life? Who would rather pick a game of cat and mouse and have drama then perhaps a more boring but more stable relationship?

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A female reader, Andie's Thoughts United Kingdom + , writes (6 November 2018):

Andie's Thoughts agony auntBreak up once and get back together, both actively working on the things that went wrong - preferably with the help of a therapist? You’ve got a chance.

Break up multiple times and keep getting back together, with no change in the relationship? No chance of being compatible or happy.

OP, you’re both addicted to the drama, despite the upset it causes. You know you’re not a good match because you can’t stay together. Time to let go and move on. Be single for 6+ months and, when you start dating again, don’t try to change people. You need to be with someone who’s flaws and habits don’t annoy you endlessly or make you want them to be different.

Being open and honest about feelings is important, but it can be shown, rather than just said. He doesn’t really do either. Don’t trap yourself into thinking “I love you” genuinely means “I’ll never hurt you”. Words are meaningless without actions as proof.

Break up with him PERMANENTLY and block him on everything. This relationship has been sinking for a long time, but neither of you had the guts to jump ship for good - not because you’re right for each other, but because it’s familiar.

Relationships that are this messy are not healthy or worth holding on to.

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A female reader, Miss.Cupid United States +, writes (5 November 2018):

Miss.Cupid agony auntYou sound a lot like me. In my last relationship all I ever cared about was those three words "I Love You" and when I heard it the first time and kept hearing it I knew it wasn't true. I knew he was only saying that because its what I wanted to hear.

Now im in a new relationship with a guy for over a year now and we have not yet said I love you but he does everything for me the last didn't.

What im trying to say is at the end of the day its about showing someone how much you love them. Those three silly words are just words. It doesn't mean he'll never say it, stop being so harsh. This man wrote you a 9 page letter and things about you constantly. For a 24 year old im sorry to hear you're going to therapy and taking anti-depressants thats very unfortunate at such a young age to have to go through that. As for your work life and personal life. I want to let you know no one is ever really ready for anything. Life will always through some sort of obstacles your way its about how you handle it .

I of course can't tell you what you should or shouldn't do. Im just a person reading what you wrote and judging your relationship only by that. Its obvious he loves you its unfortunate that you feel like he needs to say it rather than him clearly showing you.

Good luck.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (5 November 2018):

He is listening to his own tune and you are not listening to him or you would hear that he chooses to not love you.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (5 November 2018):

Sorry but I am with the other advice you have been given. If he loved you, even just taking aside he can't say it he wouldn't muck you around like he does if he really did love you.

You both sound similar if I'm honest,melodramatic springs to mind. You're wrapped up in something that isn't real and he likes the attention you have given him.

Stop wasting your time on him, that's the best advice you've been given, HE WILL NOT change and quite honestly you don't seem compatible at all.

Trust me you will get over him, IF you take your rose tinted glasses off and see it for what it is, you want what you know you can't have.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (5 November 2018):

You're both addicted to drama. You both love exchanging stories about your anguish and confusion. One upping the other, tit for tat! You love feeling sorry for yourselves. Your relationship is a living soap opera! To forlorn lovers, but one can't say "I love you!" The other just dying to hear the words. Never-mind the fact his actions say otherwise.

His nine-page letter was a nothing but useless ramblings. Did he say anything of real substance, or just give a long drawn-out narrative about his anguishing over your overly-dramatic love-story? You're infatuated with a basket-case! You've got enough on your plate to contend with, without pandering to a baby-man!

End the relationship and completely cut all ties! Go completely no-contact!

He's constantly running from you, while you are relentlessly chasing him! All he can do is tell you all about his anxieties and problems; but he can't establish whether he has deep or real feelings for you.

Why won't you come to terms with the fact he doesn't love you? You're the one putting him through a guilt-trip by being such a drama queen. Languishing over your obsession for him to proclaim the words that he really doesn't feel for you! He likes you, but he's not that into you!

Sorry, this sounds so harsh! You need a good dose of reality; and if you came here, I think it's what you're inadvertently searching for. You need to make sense of this guy! There is none; nor for you, if you continue!

He has become an obsession, and your emotional-addiction. You need to hear him say he loves you, at any cost. He's going nuts avoiding commitment; while you just keep pouring guilt over guilt; until he's nearly ready for a straight-jacket.

End it, before this mess becomes toxic; and you both end-up hospitalized!

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (5 November 2018):

Honeypie agony auntHonestly?

While I know that relationships takes work, commitment, compromises, honesty, truth, openness - there is always such a thing as not a good fit.

You have been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole for a VERY long time, first yourself, then him.

HE isn't GOING to be the guy you want him to be.

One thing is saying I love you to someone, it can be done without LOVING the other person. It is after all just 3 little words. So someone SAYING doesn't make it true.

Another is SHOWING that you love someone. For you, you NEEDED/WANTED to hear it. And he couldn't do that for you. Wouldn't do that for you.

So was it because he didn't love you? Or didn't know what love is?

I think 6 months in you have an IDEA of how you feel about someone. While some might not be ready to VERBALIZE it, others (like you) are. So I think it was fair enough to give him some time to figure out if he TRULY did love you. BUT this much time? Therapy? Break up and letters? Seriously? IT IS NOT THAT COMPLICATED!! (not yelling, but emphasizing what I mean).

While this guy might have had many traits you LIKE in a partner he also had some that made a HEALTHY relationship impossible. Him thinking that if he SAYS those words he is somehow bound to you and only you. Which means he is not only afraid of commitment, but commitment TO YOU.

ON/OFF relationships DO NOT work.

You two kept getting back together even IF the issue that broke you up was NEVER resolved. Writing you a 9 page letter fixes nothing. Changes nothing. It's just him JUSTIFYING his own little angst about relationships and NOT really wanting to let you go either, because who knows?! He might NOT find anyone else who will put up with that nonsense.

It's NOT about "timing", it's about NOT being as good of a FIT as you wanted to be.

Yes, your friends are done listening because it's the SAME THING over and over and over. they are timed of you sticking your hand in the fire again and again when they KNOW - you know, fire BURNS.

WISH him well, tell him no more. And no more contact, letters or whatever. It's done.

YOU are 24, you have your WHOLE life ahead of you. Keep working on yourself, work through this break up and WHY it didn't work out (hint hint - it WASN'T you! It was the GUY you picked!)

Make yourself the focus here. Not the DRAMA of a off/on relationship. That is no way to become healthy.

And add some exercise to your life. Therapy is good, meds should ONLY be a short term solution. Healthy body and healthy mind. That should be a goal.

ACCEPT that he isn't going to change. ACCEPT that he isn't good FOR you. Then work on WHAT you want in a partner and what you can OFFER in a relationship. But first, FOCUS on you and being the healthiest mind and body you can be.

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A female reader, Anonymous 123 Italy + , writes (5 November 2018):

Anonymous 123 agony auntYour friends are exhausted, you're exhausted and so am I, a third-party, from just listening about this whiny ex of yours!

To love someone is the simplest thing in the world and it doesn't have to be so complex, so complicated, so painful, so emotionally draining.

If a guy loves you, then nothing or no one can stop him from wanting to be with you and for this to happen, he will do anything and everything that he can. And if he's just not that into you, well, there will always be an infinite number of excuses.

What's stopping this guy? What's stopped him for so long? Why does everything have to be so difficult with him? And what makes you think that he's suddenly going to change?

Just completely cut him out of your life. Block his numbers, block his emails, don't respond to his letters... don't even read them. He will have nothing new to say.. It will just be old wine in a new bottle. How depressed he is without you, how meaningless his life is blah blah..

And yet, nothing.

You have to stop being silly and just shake him off. It's not working out .. It never did. Life is too short to spend crying over someone who won't cry over you. Stop romanticizing things so much. He's not a great loss, trust me.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (5 November 2018):

Does his actions show that he loves you? If the answer to that is yes then why can't that be enough? Why is it so damned important to you that he verbalizes it to you?

Some men are just not very good at expressing their feelings. Many times it's because they grew up in a household where they were taught by their dad or other male figure in their life that men expressing their emotions freely is a sign of weakness.

If he shows through his deeds and actions that he loves you then that should be enough. He shouldn't need to verbalize it in order for you to feel that he does.

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A female reader, Youcannotbeserious United Kingdom + , writes (5 November 2018):

Youcannotbeserious agony auntIs this all down to him being unable to vocalize how he feels about you? I ask because that is what your post sounded like to me. If so, then you need to remember that not everyone is good with words, especially the "l" word. He has been honest and open in the past regarding how he feels; would you rather he lied to you and told you what you want to hear? Perhaps he genuinely doesn't KNOW how love feels. That is not as strange as it sounds. I personally feel we bandy around the "l" word far too much these days, to the point where you can use it flippantly with friends and colleagues. True love comes with time. It comes with being with someone through thick and thin, seeing their weaknesses as well as their strengths, but wanting to be with them regardless. I would seriously question that YOU felt "love" for this guy after such a short time together. You may have felt attraction, lust, even a connection of some sort, but love? Really? What had you been through together in such a short time that made you think you loved him?

How does he treat you when you are together? Does he show you respect and empathy? Is he kind and generous with his time? Is he thoughtful? All these are ways people SHOW someone they love them. Words are cheap. I could tell you NOW I love you but it would mean nothing (to me, at least). It is not WORDS that matter but actions.

Before you drive EACH OTHER crazy with all this to-ing and fro-ing, you need to decide, once and for all, what is important to you. Do you need someone who will tell you what you want to hear, or do you want someone who will be honest? Ideally it should be both but we don't live in a perfect world. You fell for him quite hard early on in your relationship and then spent the remainder of the time trying to mould him into what you wanted. He has refused to BE moulded. He has remained honest and genuine to himself. He is obviously quite a strong and honourable man. Do EITHER of you know what love really is?

How did you feel when you thought you would never hear from this guy again? Devastated or relieved? How did you feel when you got back together? Weary or happy?

You need to decide, once and for all, whether you two can be happy together or not. If not, then you need to stop all contact and move on. Perhaps dating others will help you put this relationship into perspective and work out what you really want?

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A male reader, N91 United Kingdom + , writes (5 November 2018):

N91 agony auntWhat are you expecting to change? Seriously? How many times now have you let him back in and the same outcome has occurred? When do you ever need to force yourself to say you love someone else? If you can’t do it naturally then it’s not love.

I’d say that I’m someone who has struggled to be in touch with their feelings for a large portion of my life, but now I find it easy to tell my girlfriend that I love her and talk about plans for the future and the like. It was hard at first because I wasn’t used to it, but I can do it now because I WANT TO and that I needed to be able to do so because that’s what it necessary to have a healthy relationship, if this can’t physically cannot do it then he deep down doesn’t want to and is just messing you around.

There is no such thing as timing. You either want to be with somebody or you don’t, you would move mountains for somebody if they were the right person, timing is absolute rubbish and it’s just a cop out excuse for not feeling strongly enough for someone. You’ve wasted a year of your life on somebody that can’t commit, how much longer will you waste?

If he wanted to be with you, he would be. Block him and move on. He’s had enough chances.

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