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How Do I Shove Thee?

My boyfriend of six months just divulged that he is not in love with me. This came as quite a shock, since he’d been saying he was all along (the past four months). I made the first move in telling him I loved him. He says he was afraid I’d dump him if he didn’t respond in kind. He claims he has “very deep feelings” for me, and wants to continue the relationship (including going on the Hawaiian vacation we’d planned). Maybe I’m guilty of being too hasty in expressing my feelings. But now, I’m so embarrassed; I can’t tell my family and friends he’s changed his mind. This man is no kid (he’s 37). He has been very good to me, and the perfect gentleman. Perhaps the novelty of the relationship has worn off, and he’s trying to come up with excuses. Now I wonder whether anything he said was true. Am I right to feel hurt and betrayed? What should I do now?

--Liked Deeply

Of course you’re upset. This confession of his must totally screw up your timetable for getting your as-of-yet-unconceived triplets into Harvard.

Clearly, you’re a woman who likes to plan ahead: “To Whom It May Concern, You are the love of my life. From the moment I looked into your deep (insert color here) eyes, I knew you were ‘The One.’” You had the words, you found a man, why keep them apart? Well, if that’s how you see it, you must have great success getting flowers to grow faster by standing over them and yelling “bloom!”

When you’re just two months into a relationship, you’re still reasoning with parts of your body not commonly used for thinking. If you must say you’re definitively “in” something, tell people you’re “in bed.” If you can’t live without hearing “I love you,” buy a parrot or go shout it into the Grand Canyon. The last thing you should do is say it to the person you’re seeing. It won’t make them love you back. It will make them feel pressured into telling you they love you back. Which is probably what happened here.

Of course, when you said “I love you,” you really meant “Do hold still while I attach this ball and chain.” He answered accordingly: “I love you, too.” (“Right ankle or left?”) In his defense, what else could he have said -- “Thanks!” or “Suddenly, I’m reminded of the budget deficit”? Which is why he decided to toss you your “I love you, too” and parse the details later. Unfortunately, before he knew it, you’d talked him up as a sort of romantic bowling trophy to family and friends, and “later” became too late.

It speaks to his integrity that he finally unsaid it. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t care. He’s still there, after all. He might even get to “I love you,” if only you’ll let him do it on his schedule instead of trying to thumbscrew it out of him on yours. This might be your chance to get to know him well enough to see whether he’s the betraying kind, or a guy you could actually love. In other words, stop trying to define what you’re doing with him, and just have fun doing it. It’s a relationship, not a dog. There’s really no need to name it.


Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.