Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I met my boyfriend at the end of this summer. At first, our relationship was very successful. He's a natural-born leader and heavily involved in local events and organizations. In contrast, I tend to be more of a follower in relationships (or independent when single), and have struggled to make connections since moving to Alaska. I love that he has included me in his life and introduced me to new people and hobbies. I feel that having him in my life is the catalyst I need to become the person that I want to be.
However, there's one problem: He won't say "I love you." Our relationship has progressed very quickly. I've already moved in with him, we've vacationed together, we've met each other's families. Yet because he won't say the "L" word, I sometimes feel like the "trophy girlfriend" -- someone to have on his arm at events and maintain the home front when he's busy, but not someone whom he's emotionally invested in. He says 1) that he shouldn't have to say it for me to know his feelings (i.e. "actions speak louder than words"), and 2) he's never said "love" to anyone. It's true! I've heard him say that he loves his dog, his house, his truck; however, he doesn't even say it to his parents. He also says that I can't force him to say it, so I try not to bring this up too often.
So what's a girl to do about not feeling loved? It's true that his actions do speak very loudly. However, am I expected to go my whole life without ever hearing "I love you" from my partner? Or is it not as important as I'm making it out to be? He says that it will happen when he's ready, but his parents are still waiting after 32 years, so I'm not exactly holding my breath for it.
Waiting on Love
By my math, you've only been dating four months or so. Based on timing alone, I wouldn't be so concerned that he hasn't dropped the "L" word just yet. For some, it simply takes time.
I am, however, alarmed that he hasn't said "I love you" to anyone, ever. Not even his parents? That's just not normal. The backbone of any relationship is communication, which requires talking and vocalizing one's emotions and needs. If you're committing to someone who isn't historically comfortable verbalizing his feelings, you could be in trouble.
You also need to make sure you are on the same track emotionally, with the same expectations. A relationship needs balance to thrive. In college, I dated a guy who, six months in, still hadn't told me he loved me. I called him on it and he admitted he wasn't sure if he did. By the time he said it, a year had passed, and I had already started to emotionally distance myself out of doubt and self-preservation. The relationship was DOA.
You could find yourself pulling away as your doubts and your boyfriend's silence grows. If you sincerely fear you're investing more in this relationship emotionally than your boyfriend, better to find out sooner than later.
You make some powerful points, Waiting -- you shouldn't have to spend your life with someone who doesn't express their love to you; actions don't always speak louder than words; and how the hell can he love his house but not love you?!
This might come as a surprise, but your big, tough, detached dude is actually scared. Seriously. He's scared of relying on people because they'll eventually let him down. He's scared of truly trusting someone because at some point they'll leave him. And he's scared of loving someone because they are going to break his surprisingly sensitive little heart.
Who knows how he became this way. Maybe he had disconnected parents. Maybe all his boyhood friends moved away. Perhaps a girlfriend dumped him in spectacularly embarrassing fashion. Maybe it's his wiring. But there's hope because there's you -- the all-expressive, thoughtful, caring and dedicated girlfriend. If anyone can chip away at this wall he's built around his heart, it's you. Just don't change who you are or what you want, and don't be afraid to retire the chisel if you don't eventually see daylight.
Full disclosure: Most men agree that four months is long enough to get to know someone, go on some adventures together, meet some friends and parents, and get pretty intimate. But four months isn't exactly draw-a-line-in-the-sand time, especially if things are generally going well. If your man wasn't thinking love and partnership before you came in the picture, he's probably just warming to the concepts now. So be patient and persistent, as long as you still believe he's worth it.