My boyfriend and I have been together for about eight months. We definitely love each other. However, when we're in front of other people he won't say he loves me. I say, "I love you" and he'll say something goofy back like "Back at ya" or "Ditto," like from the movie Ghost. If he's with one of his guy friends, he'll mumble something unintelligible or just laugh and not even respond. I always know when there's someone else around when we're on the telephone, because he does the same thing. If we're alone together then he seems to have no problem expressing himself although he never says he loves me first.
I'm beginning to think maybe he doesn't love me, and he's just saying so to avoid an argument or just to make me happy. Sometimes I just want to scream, "Do you love me or not? Because if you don't, stop saying that you do!" He even said he loved me in front of my parents.
So why can't I get a consistent response? I guess the rest of our relationship is good, but this one little thing is like a black cloud over us.
-- In Need of Love
Dear In Need:
This probably isn't what you want to hear, but I sympathize with the boyfriend. "I love you" doesn't come easily from my lips either. Not with my parents, friends nor boyfriends. And the more I actually feel it, the harder it is to say. Why? I don't know. Not everybody expresses their love in the same way. Lack of verbal acknowledgment doesn't mean it isn't there.
In your case, I'm sensing you're putting a little pressure on the boy. How often do you need to hear "I love you"? Apparently he says it sometimes. I don't know how old you are, but perhaps his friends tease him and give him a hard time if he's spewing romantic sentiments to his girl. Many people don't feel the need to put their love life on Front Street. What he does or does not feel for you is between you and him, and I can understand his not wanting to express himself in front of an audience.
Of course, we must examine the worst-case scenario. Maybe he isn't shy. Maybe what you suspect -- that he's trying to keep the peace -- is the correct assumption. He may very well be happy in the relationship and like you a lot, and he's tossing you the occasional "I love you" to keep in your pants and in your life. I've certainly said those words in the heat of passion or to keep the peace. It's an expression that is tossed around so casually that it can lose its effectiveness. If he doesn't love you, you'll find out soon enough, when you keep pressuring him and he finally explodes with his true feelings.
I think the real problem isn't what your boyfriend isn't saying, but what you aren't feeling. You don't feel loved and need constant reassurance. Hollow words aren't going to fill that void. I think you have a gut feeling of what is really going on.
It's time for the dreaded relationship talk with your boyfriend. You might not hear him say he loves you, but you might hear some honest words about the state of your relationship.