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7 Ways to Cope When He Can't Say 'I Love You!'

Updated on November 13, 2017
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Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

Help! My partner can't tell me that he loves me!

How do you stay in a relationship with someone who has a hard time saying 'I love you'? If you are committed to the other person and know in your heart that he loves you but he just can't say so, then there are things you can do to increase your own sense of security within the relationship. In doing so, you might learn more about the person you care about so much and in the end, strengthen the bond the two of you have.

Can your relationship last if only one of you says 'I love you'?

You've said 'I love you!' Why can't he say it back?
You've said 'I love you!' Why can't he say it back?

1. Ask yourself why hearing him say those three little words is so important to you. Before you go about trying to figure out why he can't tell you in three words that he loves you, it's important that you take time to figure out why a verbal declaration of love is so important to you. Will it make you feel more secure in your relationship? Is it because you believe that words are the most important way to express love? Did you grow up in a family where you rarely heard any of your family members say they love each other and you feel like you've missed out? Being able to cope with something that's causing you heartache often becomes easier when you listen to yourself and hear what your heart is telling you.

2. Acknowledge when he is making an effort to tell you he loves you but can't seem to do it verbally. Encouragement and recognition of our efforts from our partners can make all the difference in the world when we are struggling with something. Your partner deserves to be recognized if you notice that he is trying to find his own way to say he's in love with you. Rather than sulking or giving him the silent treatment (two very unhealthy relationship habits), let him know that you see how much he loves you even if he has a hard time saying it. The more you support and encourage him in kind and loving ways, the more you open the door for him to take a risk and express himself without the fear of rejection. He needs to know that you won't laugh at him or dismiss him or reject him when he finally does say 'I love you!'

3. Understand the difference between someone who can't say 'I love you' and someone who won't say 'I love you!' Someone who can't say 'I love you' may have a fear of being rejected when they express their feelings. Perhaps when they were growing up they didn't hear that phrase often from their parents and so they have a hard time knowing when and how to express their feelings verbally. Someone who can't say 'I love you' may one day learn to speak openly about their feelings.

On the other hand, if he is someone who won't say 'I love you', he may be choosing consciously to not say those words. Take the difference between the phrase 'I can't swim' and 'I won't swim!'. One sentence suggests the person lacks the skills to swim and the other one suggests that the person is choosing not to swim. Someone who lacks the ability to say 'I love you' may be able to one day learn how to say so openly. But if you're in a relationship with someone who chooses not to express himself, even if he knows it hurts you, then you don't need tips on how to cope when he can't say he loves you; you need to figure out if this is a relationship worth staying in.

4. Find non-verbal ways to express your commitment and devotion. How do you tell your partner that you care deeply about him? Is it only with words? Or do you find creative ways to express your love and affection beyond just saying those 'three little words'? While you are waiting for him to verbally tell you how he feels, he could be waiting for you to express how you feel in ways that are non-verbal. That might be what he needs from you to take the next step in demonstrating how much you mean to him. The bottom line is that there are so many different ways to let someone know you love them, why limit yourself to just three words? Open your heart and mind to all the possibilities!

Holding hands is a non-verbal way to express feelings of love.

When he reaches out and touches you affectionately, that could be one of the wordless ways he has for telling you he loves you.
When he reaches out and touches you affectionately, that could be one of the wordless ways he has for telling you he loves you.

5. Focus on all the good things in your relationship. If the fact that he can't articulate how he feels about you is the only major hurdle in your relationship, are you failing to see all the things that are going well for the two of you?

6. Read books on how people express love in ways that don't actually involve words. When you are struggling with marriage problems, reading highly regarded relationship books can help you get out of your head and start looking at the situation from a new perspective! For me, reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman changed the way I was able to give and receive love in my marriage. I discovered that my husband not only verbally said he loved me, he told me that he loved me through gifts of service, that is, by doing little things for me that he knew would make my life easier and more enjoyable. Reading the book and learning how to focus on myself and take responsibility for my feelings rather than trying to change my husband gave me deep insights into how saying 'I love you' is only one small part of my relationship.

Besides saying those 'three little words' how do you express your love to your partner?

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7. Decide if his inability to say the three words you want to hear are a deal-breaker for you. Ultimately, you have to decide if you can live with someone who has trouble verbally expressing how he feels about you. It's possible that you might be waiting a very long time before he is ready to tell you what you want to hear. Making a decision on what you can live with over the long term can help you enjoy living in the here and now even when he can't tell you he loves you. Making a decision about a difficult matter, particularly a difficult matter about love, can sometimes feel quite liberating.

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It's not easy for some people to say 'I love you!' Perhaps your partner is more comfortable expressing his love for you through small gifts and loving gestures.
It's not easy for some people to say 'I love you!' Perhaps your partner is more comfortable expressing his love for you through small gifts and loving gestures.

© 2016 Sadie Holloway


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