Q&A: My boyfriend says he loves me, but he doesn’t act like it

Dear Jennifer:  I have been in a serious relationship for two years now and I love my partner dearly. He says he loves me too but he flirts with other women and I suspect that he has had more than one affair. Yet when we are together he tells me how much he loves me and he wants to be with me. I am hurt and confused with his behavior and don’t know what to do. Does he love me and if he does, why doesn’t he act like it?

Jennifer’s Answer:  I am sure that he does love you as much as you love him, but that isn’t the problem. The problem is being in love doesn’t mean to him what it does to you.  And he has a fear intimacy, so he gets close to you, but not too close. These two situations will continue to bring you heartache unless you are willing to stop expecting him to meet your expectations. You can try to wait for him to change (which is not the best idea) and even if he says he will, that may not be enough for you because unless he releases his fears, you will never feel like he really loves you because for you, it has a different meaning than it does for him. And while he is willing to get close to you, there is a limit to how close that can be, for him, and you are already there.

Two partners in a relationship must have the same kinds of expectations of each other, of love, and of intimacy (which involves trust, not sex), for the relationship to be stable, committed, and fulfilling. For you, when someone says ‘I love you’ it means that you are the only woman for them, they are faithful, committed, the relationship is exclusive, you can trust them to be monogamous, they don’t want to look at other women or flirt with them, and they do things that confirm their desire and intention to be with you. Behavior that indicates they don’t love you is what he is doing, flirting, sleeping around, being untrustworthy, and filling you with doubt about his true intentions.

To him, being in love means having feelings of love but that doesn’t include intimacy and connection. He feels comfortable being around other women because he doesn’t love them. Keep in mind, though, it doesn’t mean the same thing to him as it does to you. I’m sure you have noticed a pattern where things are going well, he gets close and then does something to hurt you so you pull away. Closeness, sharing, caring, and fun awaken his fear of intimacy and then he needs to create distance. He would be hurt and angry if you left him but he also wouldn’t understand your reason for wanting to do that. He may even accuse you of overreacting when you are hurt by his behavior because he feels that telling you he loves you should be enough.

You chose this partner and his behavior has strong lessons for you. Why did you choose someone who couldn’t commit or be intimate? What are you fears in this area and are you ready to release them? Do you have fears of abandonment or betrayal which he is helping you address now? When you are ready for a committed, intimate relationship with someone, you will find a partner who has those qualities. Instead of wondering what is wrong with your boyfriend, go within and ask yourself what you are trying to learn through your choice of this partner. The final choice is up to you; he is being who he is, is that enough for you and does it meet your needs? If not, find someone else but first, complete the lesson being presented to you with him because it will help you ensure that your next partner is someone who shares your expectations about love, intimacy and commitment.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Jennifer Hoffman. All rights reserved.  You may quote, copy, reprint, translate or link to this article in its entirety as long as you include the author name and a working link to this website.




  1. Hi there

    thanks,that helped me a lot since im in the exact same situation.

  2. Weird. That sounded exactly how my bf is.

  3. Christine says:

    Thank you for this. In a round a bout way, I am going thru the same thing. I was very unsure how and if I should accept this behavior. The sad thing is I love him dearly and knowing that my love and his love is different. I admit that I’m not dumb and kinda knew and at times I shut myself away from him but it doesn’t seem to matter to him. Cutting him off is the hardest thing for me to do because I do sincerely love him. Very sad

    • Accept his behavior Christine, because it is what he is doing. Just don’t expect him to act any differently. Use your own needs to set your boundaries for relationships. What you are seeing is the best he has to give you; if that is not enough, and I suspect it is not, then you should find someone else.

  4. That is such great advice Jennifer, my bf, whom I have been with almost 3 yrs has cheated on me also and then been full of regret and remorse and treated me better than ever, but thst behavior doesnt last forever. I do believe he loves me more than anyone, wants a longterm life with me. We do have a very special connection, one thst I do not find with many, but I will always expect and want more than he is able to give. I am trying to break away, it hasn’t been easy. The reality is, I know that things will not change… I need to find somebody who is as commited to me as I am to them, someone who meets my expectations or else I should plan on being alone… Constantly feeling letdown sucks.

  5. Hi Jennifer that is helpful advice. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 2 years now and pretty much everything you said is spot on with regards to our relationship except he has never cheated on me and I think our main problem is he let’s me down. I am constantly thinking of cute things I can do for him or something he will appreciate and he says he tries as well but I don’t think he does. He has said before “today I am going to make all about you” and then gets home from work and says it was a bad day so disregard what he said or “I was planning on finding the perfect piece of jewelry you’d love, but I got to lazy”. It’s not about the gifts or things he says he’s going to do for me that make me upset, it’s that I feel like he doesn’t try in our relationship anymore.

  6. My BF of 3 years now says he loves me but we have not been intimate in a year .He tells me I`m being dramatic when I get upset over him not showing me the same affection I show him.He sidesteps any conversation I try to start on the subject.I am sur he is faithful but question his activity online because he deletes all his brousing history.I am very confused and could use some good advice.

  7. Hi , Jennifer… I am 25 year old female and I can totally relate to this except no cheating that I’m aware of …. But he has never been a big affectionate person even in the beginning we have been together a year now and I’m so confused as to whether or not we should remain together he is 32 years old and has a illness that will never go away , I love him so much at that is what breaks my heart but he treats me more like a friend than anything but says he loves me and is just not a big mushy guy but I can’t live without affection and sex so I’m at a crossroads trying to figure which way to go.

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