Last month, a good friend broke up with her boyfriend of eleven months. Why? See if you can discern the reason from the following interaction.
Friend: Have fun at the game. I love you.
Boyfriend: I know. *door closes*
This is not the first time that his response to an “I love you” left a lot to be desired. They had been dating for seven months before she told him that she loved him. His response? “Me too.” Other responses to those three little words included: “Thanks” and “Ditto” or, usually, just a peck on the cheek and awkward silence.
After a few months of this rigmarole, my friend asked a group of us what we thought she should do. My advice?
Talk to him about it. Ask him why he doesn’t say, “I love you.” Maybe there’s a good reason (I couldn’t imagine what that might be, but I was willing to be surprised.)
His response to said discussion? That over the course of his life, he only wants to say “I love you” to one woman, and he wasn’t sure that that woman was her. But he wanted to keep dating to figure out if he did or could feel that way.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
He knows that she loves him. They’ve been dating for almost a year, and he doesn’t want to break up, but he’s not sure that he loves her, and can’t say with certainty that he ever will.
This situation (written about with IB’s permission, of course) got me thinking about saying “I love you,” reasons why we do, why we don’t, how early is too early, etc. But the question that has been discussed most among my friends since the situation occurred has been who should say it first. The consensus among a lot of women in their late 20s and 30s seemed to be that IB should not have said it first, because had they been dating seven, eight, nine months and he hadn’t said it, she would have realized that he didn’t feel as strongly as she did and broken up with him.
I suppose that’s true, but in my mind, saying “I love you” is like jumping off of a cliff with a parachute that may or may not open. You think the person will say it back. You hope the person will say it back. But not hearing “I love you” in return is the risk that you are running to be honest about how you feel, and maybe take your relationship to the next level.
But some people aren’t willing to take that risk. I once dated a man who, after several months of being involved, looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Belle, do you love me?” What a coward. He wanted me to say it first because he felt that was my role, so he tried to goad me into it. He wanted to be loved, but the risk was too much for him to bear. Needless to say, we didn’t stay together long after that.
So I’m interested to hear what you ladies think about this entire conundrum. Do you feel like the man/woman should say it first? Have you ever said it and not heard it in return? Do you think there is a time limit on saying it? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.