He will never, ever say he loves me

Tell Me About It: ‘He says it is not in his vocabulary. But I have heard him tell his kids he loves them’

PROBLEM: Following divorce, I lived alone for quite a long time. I dated a little but finally met a guy I click with on so many levels. He is, in many respects, a really lovely man and one year on, we have a really good relationship.

He was married and has a family with another child from a second relationship, a lady he really loved but who broke his heart, it seems. He is a loving, caring supportive father and partner, except for one thing.

He will never, ever say he loves me. This, he says, is not a word in his vocabulary and he says I will never hear him speak it to me (but it is – I have heard him say it to his kids!). I have tried explaining that it is a reassuring word, that I would love to hear it from him, to me. It’s the cement, but he says it is something he will never say.

I feel the love between us but he will never speak its name and I guess I will never be sure if he feels the same? Or am I just a friend with benefits? (Which I absolutely don’t want to be.)

Should I let go of the urge to have this validated and accept what we have as great? Or should I move on and find a man who will say those words but possibly risk losing the love of my life?

We already took a break for a few weeks and I missed him terribly. I’m confused.

ADVICE: It is really hard not to be, or not to feel, number one in your partner’s life and you are currently in this position. It seems that he has been clear that he loved the woman of his second relationship and that its ending has scarred him to such an extent that he does not want to be so vulnerable again. Yet, he has entered into a serious relationship with you but he is withholding. The question you are facing is whether you can cope with that or not.

You would need to be non-judgemental to hear him out and you will need your own supports

Your letter suggests that you feel loved, and you certainly seem to love him, so perhaps this is a situation where you accept that this is where the relationship is at and choose to enjoy it for what it is. However, this would require you to manage your own sense of lack of validation and this might take some untangling. You would need to understand your partner’s hurt at his previous rejection and to understand how he decided to never open himself up to such pain again. Perhaps if you comprehended this, you would be far gentler in your desire for words of commitment and you might find the patience to allow his healing to continue. Inviting your partner to express these emotions about the relationship would require a great strength as you will invariably hear of his huge love and loss with his previous partner.

However, this will also increase the intimacy between you – if you can bear your own comparison with his past love. You would need to be non-judgemental to hear him out and you will need your own supports. Do you have someone who will listen to your struggle without directing you in some way? If you do manage to have a meaningful exchange about the issue, then you are giving this relationship a great chance of survival, though it may not work out the way you wish.

This is your decision to make, based on what you know and have experienced and not on the words you are hoping to hear

We can not be certain of any relationship but we keep going on the intuition that it is good currently, that the evidence of today suggests good things in the future and that our friends and family approve. Do you have all of this? If the answer is yes, then you can risk staying in the relationship longer and trying to help your partner to trust in the good things that are happening and that the rug will not be pulled from under him. Love stretches us, it makes us less selfish and more generous and, if necessary, more able for challenges. You have this possibility but you can not nail it down so that you feel more secure, so continuing the relationship is a risk that you must decide is worth taking or not.

This is your decision to make, based on what you know and have experienced and not on the words you are hoping to hear. Can you trust in yourself and then take the next steps to either move the relationship into a more intimate footing or let it go knowing that you have considered everything?

Either way, your emotional scope will be expanded and this can only be a good thing for you in the long run.