He Won't Say 'I Love You' -- What Does That Mean?

couple talkingI love you. Those three little words mean an awful lot to all of us. Saying "I love you" for the first time is a major relationship milestone, one that a lot of men (and women) have a hard time reaching. Just ask former Bachelor star Juan Pablo Galavis. He STILL won't tell his girlfriend/final rose recipient Nikki Ferrell that he loves her after almost a year.

I know it's silly to care -- but you don't have to be a fan of the show to know that we all do. Why is that? What does it MEAN when he can't say "I love you" for the first time -- or afterwards on the regular, for that matter?

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The easy answer is that he's obviously just not that into you. But is that really the case for everyone? Love and sex educator Dr. Kat Von Kirk doesn't think so. "Usually there's some other underlying core issue," she says. Here's what else may be behind a man's reluctance to say those three magic words.

1. He's afraid of vulnerability. "Maybe he doesn't want to expose his soft underbelly," says Dr. Kat. Saying those words means opening yourself to the possibility of being hurt. That scares some men.

2. He never learned to say it. A man's reluctance to say he loves you could come from never seeing his parents say it to each other. "Maybe his parents weren't very demonstrative. Kids pick up social cues from that, and it can delay your ability to express your feelings," Dr. Kat says.

3. He's not ready to take on the responsibility. "For some people, men in particular, when you say 'I love you,' you're copping to greater responsibility," Dr. Kat points out. Some men deeply revere that level of commitment and want to be very sure before they take the leap. Then again, Kat concedes, some guys are just commitmentphobes.

More from The Stir: Is Saying 'I Love You' Every Day Really Necessary for a Happy Marriage?

4. He's a doer, not a sayer. "Lots of guys say they love you by doing things for you," Dr. Kat says. And they're more comfortable expressing themselves that way than verbally. A good friend of mine has that kind of boyfriend. It took him ages to say it out loud, but in the meantime he devotedly nursed her back to health after she had surgery. She knew exactly how he felt, even if he couldn't say the words.

5. He doesn't feel like he can live up to his standards. "Everyone has a standard of what it means to have someone tell them they love you," Dr. Kat says. "If he puts people who say it up on a pedestal, he may feel he's suddenly going to be held to that standard, too." And what if he fails to measure up?

As an example, Dr. Kat says her husband's parents never fought. So when they got into their first arguments, it was deeply unsettling for him, because they weren't living up to the impossible standard set by his parents.

6. He thinks you're great, but ... Welp, maybe he really just doesn't love you. "There's always the possibility that a guy can appreciate you and cherish you but not necessarily be in love with you."

Regardless of the reason, Dr. Kat says, "It's a good time as an individual to examine your own motives, what your needs are, and why it's so important to hear those words." She also recommends having a conversation with your guy -- "not necessarily to get him to say those words, but so you can understand each other," Dr. Kat cautions.

And if you're past that first "I love you" but he still rarely says it, you can still use this as an opportunity to have a conversation about a sensitive topic. "The more conversation you have about it, the more you normalize it. And then you can decide what makes sense for your relationship," Dr. Kat says. "Most of all, it's important that you talk about what makes you feel loved. "Individuals have to be upfront about what their needs are."

Are you still waiting for that first "I love you" -- or do you wish your boyfriend or husband said it more often?

 

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