Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Can You Live With Someone Who Never Says "I Love You"? Part 1

Is it that he can't say it, or that he won't?

Can you imagine living for three years with a man who doesn't say "I love you"?

This question assumed more than an academic place in my life when I lived with a man who had a sort of hysterical inability to make this most obvious declaration of affection. I spent a long time thinking about the question.

Now I'd re-phrase the question this way: How do you talk yourself into living without what you want?

If you're like me, you convince yourself that he simply cannot say three short words, despite the fact that he inevitably has recourse to the first and second (and even uses the "L" word) in daily conversation. ("I'll be home for dinner, and I'd love to have lasagna"). You tell yourself that he is just not the kind of man to show affection openly; you tell yourself that words are cheap, throw-away things, that the real, genuine love between you is beyond language. You tell yourself that anyone from his: 1. under (or over)-privileged background; 2. distant( or smothering) family; 3. over (or under)-pressured work situation could never be expected to live up to the romantic fantasies you created during your ridiculous adolescence. You convince yourself that you are to blame for wanting such absurd declarations. You allow yourself to stay in a situation by avoiding confrontation with your own dissatisfaction.

Your "enabling fiction" will then permit you to live three years with a man who does not say I love you because you have convinced yourself that he cannot say I love rather than (as you do know somewhere inside you and all your friends know rather more definitely) that he will not say I love you.

It wasn't until I was in a different relationship a year later where I was the one "unable" to say the Three Magic Words that I finally understood: I couldn't say it because I didn't feel it. Bingo, the light-bulb appeared over my head like in a cartoon.

You might want to consider the possibility that the person who doesn't say "I love you" doesn't love you. 

Once you get some perspective, what's impossible to face is often easy to see.

Enabling fictions tell us there are no good jobs (so why bother looking), no good apartments (ditto), no better men (so stick with the one you've got), no way to change anything because that's the way the world works (and always will). Enabling fictions tell you that he needs to take a holiday on his own because he is, after all, a man who needs solitude to create his: 1. art; 2. music; 3. critical theory; 4. financial game-plan; 5. pottery. Or get away from his office, practice, classroom. Not that he wants to get away from you. No, no, no. Anyone who suggests that simply doesn't understand the way your relationship works, doesn't understand that he will appreciate your relationship even more after he returns, will be more affectionate and receptive.

Does the same work with bouts of infidelity? The reason he thinks its all right to sleep with another woman is because he loves you so much--("Honey, I'm so secure in our relationship that I know it can withstand some silly little affair that means nothing, absolutely nothing, not compared to what you and I have made together. So, really, this shows how much I believe in us. I know that nobody can come between us, so don't let this get to you, okay? You're the only one for me. She doesn't count"). The complexity involved in creating this argument is worthy of the most subtle murder mystery. That man standing over the body with a gun? No, officer, he just happened to walk into the room after hunting polar bears and that's why the gun is smoking and nobody knows who the girl was anyway. We'll do anything to dance around the obvious.

 

to be continued...

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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