There are few things more painful than having that special someone say, “I love you … but I’m not in love with you.” What does that mean, anyway? Does it mean that he wants to leave? Has he found someone else? Or have you just become so boring that the sight of you makes him yawn?
If your relationship has sunk into the doldrums – or the new one you’d like to have can’t get off the launching pad – it pays to understand what he means when he utters that loathesome phrase.
1) When they say you are just their friend
If you’ve been seeing a man for a brief time, or have only just recently made your feelings known, and he gives you the old, “I love you as a friend” line, well, perhaps you ought to believe him. In their book, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” authors Greg Behrendt and Joy Tucillo look at the supposedly mysterious behavior of men – not calling when they say they will, failing to pick up on obvious greenlight cues, not kissing you when they had an obvious chance to do so – and explain it in one simple phrase: he’s just not that into you.
There may be ways that you can pique his interest (which we’ll discuss below) but for now, don’t spend too much time puzzling over what he means when he says he loves you but he’s not in love with you. Take it at face value – he cares about you, but doesn’t feel that spark of passion.
2) When hot love turns to cool friendship
If you’ve been together for several years and your partner thinks he’s fallen out of love with you, it may just be that he’s reacting to the natural changes that happen in any long-term relationship.
That white-hot passion you felt for each other at first is bound to die down sometime, but that’s no reason to throw in the towel. In his book “Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a
World That Pulls Us Apart.”, author William Doherty encourages couples to hang in there and work together to make it through the cooler periods of the relationship, trusting that it will , indeed, get better.
Doherty blames our “consumer mentality” for our inability to tough it out through the rougher parts of marriage. He says that couples today view marriage as just another consumer choice – like picking a cell-phone provider or buying a DVD player – and immediately think they need to trade it in as soon as it seems “broken.”
A therapist and family social science professor at the University of Minnesota, Doherty writes, “While our contemporary culture celebrates the consumer pleasures of getting married, it undermines our prospects for a permanent marriage. In a me-first world, marriage is a we-first contradiction.” He suggests that couples find ways to connect with other couples so that they can see that the natural changes in their marriage – the cooling of passions after about two years, for example – are normal.
3) Bring back the romance
If the spark has died down to a barely glowing ember, don’t put all of the responsibility for rekindling romance on him. Men need to feel loved and wanted, too, and perhaps the daily grind of work, laundry, dinner, kids and every other little chore that life throws at you has kept you from appreciating him, too. Often, it doesn’t take much to rekindle romantic feelings – a hug for no reason other than you love him, a touch on the arm, a few minutes where you give him your full attention and really listen to him as he tells you about his day.
If you’re hoping to turn a man who only sees you as a friend into a lover, the same suggestions apply. Make a lot of eye contact when you smile at him (reinforcing a subconscious emotional connection), touch him lightly on the arm when you’re talking to him, and occasionally give him a quick, spontaneous hug. If he already cares for you, the reinforcement of physical cues will send his mind – and libido – in a more passionate direction.
4) Become a better, more interesting you
Think about how you behave when you’re around someone you like and want to impress. You’re funny, charming, upbeat, attentive and you highlight only your best qualities. Now think about how you act when you’re around him.
If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, you’re going to see each other at your worst – sick with the flu, stressed over money, losing your temper – but that doesn’t mean you still can’t present yourself in a more flattering light the rest of the time. Take a little extra care with your grooming.
Listen to the tone of your voice when you talk to him – is everything you say starting to sound like you’re nagging? Stop unloading every single one of your problems on him when he comes in the door and treat him the way you would if you were just meeting. You may find that his feelings have changed for you because you’ve changed – if he sees you can bring back the woman he fell in love with, those old feelings will come flooding back.
The same thing works for that “just friends” guy that you’d like to become something more. Treat him less like a friend and more like a date. Don’t tell him about other men you’re attracted to, or talk about your period, or any of the things you’d discuss with a close girlfriend. Present your very best self to him, the way you would if he were a suitor and not a friend. And get him into a more romantic setting once in a while! Instead of hanging out at a coffee shop, meet him for cocktails in a bar with low, sexy mood lighting – and dress appropriately. The change in venue may just change his attitude.
5) What to do with a cold fish
Men are territorial creatures, and sometimes it takes the threat of losing to another man for them to appreciate what they have. Yes, this is game-playing at its most deceitful, but it’s a game that’s worked for women since Cleopatra’s time.
You don’t want to drive him to anger, mind you – all you want to do is make him see you with fresh eyes. If the problem is a husband or long-time boyfriend who’s cooling down, let him know that other men find you attractive – if someone pays you a compliment, say so.
A casual remark like, “You know, at the soccer game Billy’s dad told me I had beautiful hair” is often enough to jerk a man out of complacency. If you make it a one-two punch by dressing a little nicer during the day and putting on makeup just to go to the grocery store, he’ll take notice.
For the male friend who’s a cold fish, the best technique is to date other men! You’ll be busy (making you less immediately available for Mr. Right’s platonic outings), you’ll be getting attention elsewhere, and he may very well realize that you’re a catch! And who knows, you may end up meeting someone else who does appreciate you for the beautiful, interesting woman that you are, and your “I don’t love you that way” fellow will end up on the back burner.
It’s rough when someone doesn’t return your feelings, or when your partner’s ardor cools. But with a little creativity, a bit of romance and a lot of self-actualization, those embers can be rekindled into a roaring fire!