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…but I am not in love with you May 23, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Family Science.

Relationships can get complicated. They are not always complicated, but when they get complicated they can produce some very confusing language in order for the people within the complicated relationship to try to express what they want, how they feel, and what they intend to do. The more complicated the relationship, the more unusual the language.


My personal favorite is this one: “I love you, but I am not in love with you.” Ever hear that one? Ever say that one? Does anyone really know what this means? It kind of sounds like, “If you were on the train tracks and a train was coming, I hope you don’t get hit, but I am not continuing this relationship,” or “I am going to smash your fingers with this hammer, but I just don’t want it to hurt you.” It could also mean, “I don’t have lovey dovey feelings for you anymore and since the foundation of this relationship is all emotional, I will go elsewhere for my emotional boost.” Or it could mean something like this: “I’m done with you, but I want to save face as I am dumping you.”


Whatever it means, it is not something you want to hear in your relationship. It usually means either the end is near, things are much, much worse that you think they are, or it could mean that there has been a slow diverging or wearing away in the relationship for a very long time such that it can no longer be ignored or repressed.


Although these words are usually spoken in calm, thoughtful, and generous tones, there is almost always the sense that some kind of resolve has been accomplished – the kind of confident resolve that is unlikely to get thrown back into confusion or ambivalence. The person who says, “I love you, but I am not in love with you,” has made a decision to create distance in the relationship – more distance. Perhaps permanent distance. This person has probably been communicating this message for a long time nonverbally without much success, so finally capturing what they want to say with this phrase is an escalated effort to create this distance.


Sometimes (but certainly not always), a person cannot choke out these words until the affair has begun, the new party friends have been found, or until that person has overcommitted into a hobby, second job, or ministry in their church or service in their social club such that they are now “essential” to the group or organization. Somehow it seems easier to say what you really want to say by doing what you really want to do. The problem is that these efforts, nonverbal and verbal alike, only offend the relationship and create a power imbalance which not only damages the relationship, but influences the other person to decrease the distance between the two with even more persistence.


These words are a relational checkmate which can be resisted by the person receiving them, but only to the net result of strengthening the checkmate. The person receiving these words is in a no win situation. If you try to close the gap, the other tries harder to create it. But if you allow the gap to widen, then it will widen beyond recovery. When these words are uttered it is either the death knell for the relationship or it means there is significant work to be done and at least one people needing to do the hard work has little interest in trying.


What really needed to happen in this relationship about six years prior, when things probably began to deteriorate, was open and honest communication, free from judgment or penalty. If each person in the relationship were free to share struggles, concerns, and hurts before the real damage was done, it might prevent the slow six year drift that finally asserts itself in therapy or divorce court.


For people in this situation right now, seek help, even if you don’t feel like it. If there is any chance not only to love, but to be in love again, then you are going to need the assistance of someone else. You know that you have been trying to do it alone for years and it has not worked. Falling back in love is possible, it does happen, and there are no regrets in trying to make it work.




1. Keith Brenton - May 24, 2006

You know … I think there was a time when my life pretty much said that to God. Which really meant, of course, that “I am more important to me than You are.”

That is a really creepy thing to admit.

2. Joel Maners - May 24, 2006

Meon once said that God not only loves us, He likes us as well. In many ways I want to be liked and not just loved. You can be loved in the abstract and at a distance, but to be liked, you have to be known intimately. It’s the same way with my wife. I will always love her, but I also really really like her. I enjoy just being in her company. God loves us and likes us like that. It’s that intimacy that ultimately changes us.

3. Beaner - May 24, 2006

I am living proof. In just 1 year’s time, I have gone from walking out on my husband to building a solid relationship with him (and with God), which is better than we ever had before (and we’ll be celebrating our 10 year Anniv. this Oct.!)

4. fajita - May 24, 2006

This kind of splitting between “love” and “in love” is very dangerous. It seems infer that there is a way to love without committment or care. There isn’t. This statement cheapens love. It would be better and more honest to say “I hate you.”

I am so glad to hear that Beaner was able to rescue herself/berescued whatever, from the clutches of this lie. You are certainly heroic and courageous. The lie is insidious and next to impossbile to unravel when you’re locked into it.

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