I am 25 years old and I’ve been dating my boyfriend for 3 years. I’ve had a couple of relationships before him, one was serious. He’s had several relationships before me but he told me he’s never been in love.

We have a good relationship, we do lots of things together, have the same friends, we like watching sports together, we have a really good friendship. We do have some pretty bad fights, some important and some ridiculous, but we usually bounce back pretty fast. I really love him.

Up until a few nights ago, he never told me he loved me. I’ve been going through a rough transitional period and feeling very insecure. He just started a new job as a teacher and his life seems pretty set.

We’ve had conversations in the past about marriage and he would always say he wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me, but he knew he wanted to be with me. I never put any pressure on him to tell me he loved me or marriage or anything else.

I’ve been really depressed about my life lately and the other night we had a fight and after we were talking things through. He went to bed but then called me over to lie down next to him. He said: “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about you and our relationship, and I want you to know that you really mean a lot to me. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before and I want you to know that I do love you. You deserve to be loved.” I started to cry a little, hugged him and told him how much that meant to me. He said he doesn’t want to say it all the time, only when he feels it and that he never wanted to say it unless he was sure he wanted to marry that person. I’m positive that he still doesn’t know if he wants to marry me.

My question is:

Does it sound like he told me that to try and make me feel better, because he felt bad for me? I want so badly to believe he really loves me but I’m starting to think he said it because he felt he had to and thought it would make me feel better. I have a tendency to over analyze things and I don’t want to ask him a million questions and make him regret telling me that. How can you tell if your boyfriend really loves you? I know I must sound crazy. I’ve been going through a rough time and I’ve been having trouble processing thoughts and emotions. I would appreciate any thought or advice you might have to offer.

Thank you,

Lisa

William Goldman said this about Hollywood, but I’d say that it’s more apropos in describing matters of the heart:

“Nobody knows anything.”

That’s right. I may be a dating coach, but I’m not omniscient. I certainly know less about your life and your boyfriend than you do. So whatever I’m doing here is just making an educated guess.

I’ll admit, I was a little choked up when you got to the part where he told you that he loved you. It’s really hard for some guys to say those words, and that’s not just an excuse for my gender. Since women place such great meaning on “I love you”, men have learned to adapt in one of two, super-logical ways:

Saying they love you without really meaning it.

Not saying they love you until they’re really, really sure.

Sounds like your boyfriend is in the second category. And yet, you’re not sure if you even believe him. Well, what could he tell you that would make you believe him? “I love you-will you marry me-here’s a ring-do you believe me now?”

You’re really asking two different questions here, Lisa.

You want to know if he means that he loves you.

You also want to know if this means he wants to marry you….

I would say that, from what you wrote above, I do believe he loves you and that he doesn’t know if he wants to marry you. Understand that this is not a contradiction. Love happens before marriage. That doesn’t mean that marriage results every time two people are in love. If it did, most of us would be married a good three times before we’re 35.

The reason I believe that your boyfriend loves you is because he did make a big deal about not saying it unless he meant it. And if it took a moment when you were feeling sad and vulnerable to allow him to express his feelings, so be it. Men want to make you feel good. They want to be your heroes. Trust in that.

The problem is that you’re looking for clarity. You’re looking for definites. But there’s no value in asking a question to which you can never actually know the answer. It’s a ticket to paralysis.

Think of it like religion. You can either 1) take a leap of faith, 2) agonize over not knowing, or 3) accept the fact that you’ll never know. I choose the latter. After all, nobody knows anything. We’re all just guessing.

I get why you want to know if he’s in love, but the truth is that he probably doesn’t even know. He said it once and I believe he meant it.

But just because he loves you now doesn’t mean he’ll love you forever, and just because you love him now doesn’t mean you’ll love him forever.

There are too many variables, too many unknowns.

So don’t spend your time questioning him. You’ll just drive yourself (and him) nuts. Continue to love him, continue to let him invest in you and open up to you, and if you’re not getting the consistent feedback you need to feel secure, you know what you need to do.