Dear Melvin, My boyfriend won't say the "L" word...
I have been dating a wonderful man for a little bit over a year. He is handsome, has a great job and is really funny. In that time, we do a lot of things that boyfriends and girlfriends typically do: sleep-overs on weekends, long walks in the park, weekend trips out of town.
About six months into our relationship, I told him that I loved him. Instead of saying "I love you, too," he sat there silently. Since that time, I have been patiently waiting for the L-word, but... nothing. One time, he told me that he cared for me a great deal.
My friends are evenly split. Some say that men rarely express their feelings, so I should give him more time. (By the way, I can see the love in his eyes without him even saying anything). But another friend has suggested that I stop wasting time and run for the hills.
Who is right?
Best, Patiently Waiting in the Bronx
Dear Patiently Waiting in the Bronx,
You can say a lot with silence. If the question "will you marry me" is met with silence then the answer is (hell) no. If the question "am I fat" is met with silence then the answer is (hell) yes. See the power of silence?
There is only one proper response for a man upon hearing his girlfriend say I love you for the first time and that response is "I love you (too)." Silence means he does not love you. Now as you read this Patiently Waiting, I can sense your back stiffening and your shoulders tightening in defense. "But I can see the love in his eyes,'" you proclaim. I would like to know what that look looks like. Because you have already admitted you're not hearing the love. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say you must not be feeling the love very strongly or you would not be writing me. Let's dismiss these antiquated notions that men don't express their feelings. The last of that generation of men died off with President Nixon. Men today are a lot more expressive. If your boyfriend has told you he cares for you then he clearly can express how he feels. And he's not feeling the same emotion that you are. Sick patients are "cared for." You want to be loved.
Now you may ask, if he doesn't love me, why does he spend so much time with me? He may be using you as a place-holder. As social creatures, we all enjoy the comfort of regular companionship and sex. And we will sometimes use place-holders to receive those benefits until we find The One who inspires feelings of actual love. You are probably nice, cute enough and convenient. So he is using you as a place-holder. How do you know if you are The One versus a place-holder? The One gets told "I LOVE YOU" whereas the place-holder hears "I care for you."
Whether you stay or leave depends on what you are willing to settle for. Sometimes people give up on finding The One and settle down with the place-holder. If you are comfortable remaining in this type of unbalanced relationship where your feelings for your significant other will always be stronger than his feelings for you, then have at it. But if you want a man who is as passionate for you as you are for him, then you need to bail.