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He Doesn't Say "I Love You" Anymore?

Hi Dr Matt:

I'm Chelsea from Chattanooga. I am 30 years old and single. I need advice on the following please:
You know how they say “you don’t know what you have until you see it lost”?  Well I have been with my boyfriend for like 7 months.  Lately, things are not going well for him. His business is not doing well and he is afraid of losing his house. He is very stressed out, worried and depressed.  He has been different with me lately too. He stopped telling me "I love you" and has also quit saying sweet things to me generally.

He told me that he needed a break, to think about his whole life and our relationship. When we took that break, I freaked out and felt scared that he might decide to break up.

I did a lot of thinking and realized how much I missed being with him and how I couldn’t live without him anymore. I realized I was in love with him and how how special he really is. I thought about all the beautiful qualities that make him who he is and I had never told him any of these things before. I just never knew how important he was in my life until he said he wanted to take a break. I didn’t say the words “I love you” very much either. I just wasn’t sure if I did love him, I guess.

I asked him if maybe he fell out of love with me and he said "no." He said he loves the passion between us lately, but he is a little confused now on whether he really loves me or not, because he doesn’t understand why he doesn’t say "I love you" anymore. He thinks it’s the stress and worries he is going through that are causing him to stop expressing himself to me.

My question to you is if this is possible. Can someone who is going through what he is, with his business not doing well, worried that he might loose his house, the pressure of that and all that stress cause him to get a little distant in a relationship?

Can he still love me but find it hard to say?

I don’t know if I should continue to be patient and wait for things get better, or if I am just wasting my time and should step away. I just don’t want to make a decision that I will regret later. What if he really does still love me and all this pressure and stress that he has on him is making him act a little distant?

Please help.


Dear Chelsea:

If this man really did love you, then, he would not have to think about it, and wonder about it. If this man loved you, . . . loved you with the highest kind of love, then saying "I love you" would flow from him naturally and spontaneously--saying "I love you" would NOT be hard for him to say. And the fact that he is having a hard time saying it, points to a problem.

Further, if he really loved you, . . . loved you with the highest kind of love, then through the moments of stress that you describe, he would actually draw closer to you, and your "love" would grow deeper. That's what adversity does between two people who really "love" each other with the best kind of love--it causes them to draw closer to sources of strength, support, and encouragement.

The fact that he is drawing away from you during these moments of stress, and the fact that he has to think about whether he loves you or not, sends the message that his connection with you is not stable; it is a clear indication that whatever he feels for you, is NOT the highest kind of Love—the Love that Stands.

More likely, his love for you, at best, is the "Love that Falls." The following words that you have written, aptly describe the most likely foundation of your relations with him, from his perspective:

"He said he loves the passion between us lately."

If this "passion" represents sexual intimacy, then most likely, the physical pleasure you give to him is what he primarily wants from the relationship—sexual pleasure that he wants from you, while he is still figuring out whether he loves you, . . . or not.

Do I need to tap dance on your head to communicate what is happening here? He's "making love" with you, yet he doesn't know for sure whether he is "in love" with you?

Your own words indicate what is going on: "I asked him if maybe he fell out of love with me." Chelsea, the only kind of love that people can "fall out of" . . . is the very same kind of love that you "fall into." And this so-called "love" is not the highest kind of love. The love that you "fall into" may bring physical excitement for a time, but it cannot deliver long-term contentment and commitment. Getting clear about the Highest Kind of Love will help you come to solid conclusions about what you should do:

To find out if he wants you mostly for sexual pleasure, you can test this quite quickly:

Simply tell him that you want to develop your friendship to a higher level, and that you feel that sexual intimacy should be reserved between two people who absolutely know that they love each other, and are firmly committed to each other. You might remind him that there is a reason why they call it "love making"—the premise is that there is "love" to "make."

Intimacy enjoyed at it highest levels, is the celebration of love between two committed partners. When there is no "love" between two people (or that love is being questioned or doubted), . . . then there isn't really any "love" being "made" during moments of sexual pleasure—it's just sex, that's all. And this can leave a person feeling empty and used.

His reaction to the invitation that you'd like to nurture your friendship with him, will tell you where he is with you—in a hurry!

Why would you want to nurture your friendship with him? Because FRIENDSHIP is the firm foundation upon which all great relationships are based. Remember, after the "honeymoon is over" and sexual pleasure begins to become routine, and less exciting, . . . what you HAVE at that moment . . . is your friendship. And if you don't have that . . . you don't have much.

Truth is . . . when you have a great friendship with a person; that friendship is what nurtures and develops the highest kind of love: The Love that Stands.

The term "in love" refers to the Love that Falls. This is the fragile love that fluctuates up and down; the unstable "love" that comes today and tomorrow . . . goes away. Whereas, the Love that Stands is a committed Love. It does not go away tomorrow, because the Love that Stands is NOT an "emotion" or "feeling" . . . but is based upon a "decision"—a commitment!

When you have this kind of Love, the Love that Stands, it is then you can confidently exchange vows of Holy Matrimony—with no doubts or seconds thoughts. When you have this highest kind of love in place, sealed with vows of commitment: This is when you can best enjoy the celebration of sexual intimacy. When your Love is based upon a secure commitment, a Holy vow, it is then that intimacy becomes bonding and reinforcing to the kind of Love that Stands.

In the mean time, I suggest to you, that you weigh the degree to which you are compatible with this man. Carefully ponder the each point of compatibility in this Compatibility Check List:

Take some time to "translate" exactly what "in love" really means. Here are some possibilities:

        *  I like the way you look physically
        *  I like your handsome/beautiful face
        *  I like the shape of your body
        *  I enjoy your personality
        *  I enjoy being with you, you are fun
        *  I treasure the way you treat me
        *  I treasure time we share just talking
        *  I love the gifts you give me
        *  I love being seen with you in public
        *  I am elated when you are kind and attentive to me
        *  I am elated when you say "I love you"
        *  I am excited by being close to you
        *  I am excited by your touch
        *  I love kissing you
        *  I love the physical passion we share
        *  I am completely committed to you, and always will be
        *  I will stay by your side, no matter what happens

The words "in love" will translate to concrete and specific moments that you like/love in your relationship. The previous points may be indicative of the Love that Falls and/or the Love that Stands. But here's the problem with "falling in love." When those elating and exciting moments disappear . . . the basis for being "in love" has left. It is then that you FALL out of LOVE just as you FELL in LOVE.

Now, recall how you "freaked out and felt so scared" when your man quit saying "I love you" and you feared he might end the relationship. This tells you the kind of "love" that you have with him. In contrast, the Love that Stands . . . Stays . . . because it is a love based upon a decision, a commitment, a holy vow.

Do not be worried that this relationship will end. Worry is wasted energy. Whether your relationship ends, or not, is NOT within your complete control. If he chooses not to want a relationship with you anymore, then you will not be able to MAKE the relationship continue. This is the way I say it in my book Changing Your Stripes:

"It takes the commitment of two to make a relationship, but only the decision of one, to break it."

Again, I advise you be a friend to this man, and invite him to develop a friendship with you, and if he sends the message that he wants sex instead, then you will know exactly where you stand—and it will be crystal clear what you must do in regard to this relationship.

Best Regards,

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

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