My boyfriend just told me he doesn't love me

Love Confidential answers questions about long distance love.

Dear Love,

I started dating this guy who lives in D.C. He is so much fun to be around, he gets me and I get him. Or I thought I did. The other day he sprung it on me that he's moving to Hawaii! I've been OK with living several states away, I have a grown daughter and my work is pretty intense. But he's getting closer to the end of his career and thinking about retiring. Which made me finally ask, after dating about six months, "where do you see us going?" A short plane ride is one thing, but Hawaii? I wondered if he was going to ask me to go there, which I might consider, but he didn't. Instead he tells me, "I don't love you, and this isn't a relationship." WTH?!? This is news to me. He comes here or I go there a couple times a month, we're texting constantly, and when he's around he's a perfect gentleman, always opening doors, insisting on paying for things, and generally being attentive. I love him. I can't believe he'd say that to me. I laughed it off, but he could tell I didn't think it was that funny. I told him, "You're never going to meet someone who cares about you and gets along with you the way I do." Meanwhile, I haven't stopped dating other people, but he's been my main focus. Now I don't know what to do. He's supposed to come visit one last time before he moves, but then he's saying I can come out in the fall. The fall? It's February. That's ridiculous. I don't know if I should let him come at all, or just make a clean break. I'm really hurt, and I don't want things to end on that note. Or at all.

Sincerely, Feeling Loveless

Woman in Hawaii - Unsplash.
Woman in Hawaii

Dear Feeling Loveless,

Those words must have been so painful to hear. I once dated a man who said that same kind of thing to me. It made no sense. We had a lot in common, we had fun together, and the sex was great. What is a relationship if not that?

At the time I was living in Manhattan, where all of life is on display. There are too many people and not enough private spaces, and everything, even what's private, happens in public. Of course I saw sex, masturbation, and public defecation. But there were, to me, stranger intimacies. I once saw a woman who'd roped her arms around the neck of the man she walked beside in Tompkins Square Park. "I love you, I love you, I love you," she kept saying. I cannot imagine having that kind of confidence in the sturdiness of a relationship, I immediately thought. Another time I saw a couple in deep discussion, holding hands and staring into each other's eyes. The man was crying, but they didn't appear to be breaking up. What nightmare is going on there? I wondered. I had to face facts.

I'd been doing a lot of dating, but nothing that really stuck. "I keep picking unavailable men," was my constant refrain.That wasn't true. I was the unavailable one. This didn't dawn on me for a while, after hearing the guy mentioned above tell me repeatedly that we weren't in a relationship. But we were, I realized, and I liked the relationship we had. 

The glue of a relationship isn't about yukking it up over beers, wild sexual encounters, or even mutual love of CATWALK: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit. You need mutualities, of course, but what binds us is our ability to hold safe spaces for one another, where we can be our most vulnerable selves. This can absolutely be developed in a long distance relationship, but is that what's happening here? You don't know he's planning a move. You're dating other people. Presumably he is too. And yet you're thinking he might ask you to move to Hawaii? These things don't quite add up.

The big reveal though, is that when he hurts your feelings, you pretend to laugh it off. Yo even went so far as to say that you could tell that he could tell that you weren't happy. Whether it gets spoken or not, this deteriorates trust. He's not gonna show you his if you don't show him yours. In other words, you have to be willing to expose your weaknesses.

This isn't entirely on you. The willingness to show one's secrets has to come from both sides. There's no use figuring out if he started it, or you started it. The only thing to look at is what you really truly want. You didn't say you wanted to stop dating other people, just that you don't want things to end. You can have that, and probably a sweet place to stay if you're in Hawaii. Because there's one more thing love needs to survive–timing.

I have no doubt that you two are compatible, and he could possibly be move-for-it relationship material. But you are both putting up blocks to intimacy. Understanding why won't necessarily change it, you simply have to do it.

via GIPHY

You will find out really quickly if your relationship is going anywhere when you throw down that gauntlet. I don't mean, "Commit to me, or else." Endless talking about where a relationship is going will make for a quick death, too. I mean letting him know how you actually feel. Not, "But I'm the greatest!" Something more like, "I had a different impression of what was going on here and that hurts my feelings." This is, of course, terrifying to actually do. Or at least it was when I finally decided I did want a partner. I learned to do it sooner, so there was less at stake. 

The other strategy is to ignore what he says and carry on. Depending on what conclusion you come to about what it is you really want, this could work well. I mean, sweet Hawaiin hookup? Not bad.

Love, Confidential

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About The Author

Lisa L. Kirchner

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="5a28746b3cab468d538eb081" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Lisa L. Kirchner is the author of the critically-acclaimed Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar. Her writing has appeared in book anthologies,...
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