I didn’t say “I love you” back.

When Fox told me he’d fallen in love with me, I wasn’t surprised. There were several moments in the last few weeks where I could feel and see those words shimmering just below the surface.

I’ve thought them myself, usually in the midst of or after sex. But when the phrase “I love him” popped into my consciousness, I dismissed it as partially due to that wonderful drug Oxytocin. Because it’s designed to bind us to someone in this very fashion. I wasn’t ready to say it and certainly didn’t want to be the first.

Why do I resist?

I am keenly aware I told another man I loved him just last week. Now, it was in the process of telling him I couldn’t see him again, but still. I know I will always have a place in my heart for Tony, even if I’m moving on.

All that to say, somehow it felt disingenuous in that moment to tell Fox I loved him.

I don’t want to say it just because he did. How often do we hear those words and feel compelled to respond in kind? You can’t take it back – can’t say “yeah I know I said I love you but upon further reflection I’m not so sure.”

But even more fundamental is my need to process how I feel in this relationship.

As I’ve said before, I feel calm. There is no anxiety. I know how he cares about me. He’s amazing to me. He’s steady and comforting. I’m fully embracing moving to a serious relationship with him. I like how he kisses me and the sex keeps getting better.

But.

He doesn’t make me howl with laughter. His touch doesn’t instantly electrify me the way Tony’s did. He’s not high energy, or an extrovert. He’s a type “B”. He’s tall and relatively slim but not muscular. He’s never been to an Opera (okay the last one is true but irrelevant since he’s willing to go with me).

None of these particularly matter, but it’s not the type to which I’m usually drawn. He gives me so much and yet I worry about the relatively inconsequential things. In the past, I’ve taken chemistry over comfort. Muscles over maturity. Laughter over love.

These were not good decisions, but it’s a pattern I’m familiar with.

I worry as the first man to quench my thirst, I could be blind. I worry about being wrong.

After all, the Platters did say: “when your hearts on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes.

47 thoughts on “I didn’t say “I love you” back.

  1. When I read your last, I thought “Man, I’m such a dude. I would HATE for my partner to say ‘I love you’ so early: I don’t want to hear it.” and in fact my last used to sneak in ways to say it because he knew I didn’t want to hear it (and he knew I wouldn’t say it back, so part of it was his own self protection).

    I fall in love reluctantly, in excruciating slow motion, digging my heels in and fighting it all the way, so the pull of it has to be like some cosmic overwhelming inevitability. And once I’m in, I’m all in, and I’m totally and utterly fucked. And saying it out loud makes it a thing, gives it substance, makes the fact that I’m completely fucked a reality.

    In short: You will know when you are in. All the way in. And if you aren’t sure, if you have one moment of doubt or misgiving, you aren’t there (yet). And that’s okay.

    Ferns

    • Thank you Ferns. I’m obviously trying to work out whether I’m just being rightfully cautious or if it’s a sign of something not being right. My gut says it’s the former, but this is such new territory for me.

  2. Ahh. The ultimate confusion!

    I had the same response with Cern. He’s different to what I’ve been with before and most times I’m always waiting for the shoe to drop. It hasn’t and it’s hard.

    I think that there is not one person that can fulfil everything we desire, laughing hysterically comes with some people, not all. I guess it comes down to measuring what’s more important to you.

    Laughing to me is pretty important. Cern makes me laugh. Yet if you find that you still aren’t sure that’s ok too. I still wonder if this is what I really need or want right now yet when I’m with him I can’t imagine life without him. I don’t know if we ever have a 100% agreement with ourselves about someone and our elusive happily ever after.

    Give yourself time. You may find that is not what you need right now but the stability is. X

    • That’s a good point, Sharn. I’m not sure you ever know – I do believe there isn’t anyone perfect but the key is figuring out what you want vs. need and what is truly good for us.

      Fox is really good for me right now. And I’m trying to focus on that while keeping my eyes and mind open about how I feel.

      • That’s all you can do really!

        Plus i honestly think you can live someone even though they don’t tick all your boxes and you know they don’t. Gods, I wouldn’t have such a long line of bad exes otherwise πŸ˜‰

        As long as you are happy the other bits can be looked at after a time, nothing wrong with being self aware. Just enjoy it as well. Xo

  3. I have to admire your willingness to jump in after what I would personally consider a short time after divorcing. Maybe the span of time is a relative factor to having a better. I’m not sure exactly how long you’ve been divorced. I am of the mind that long relationships will leave an imprint and if the relationship had problems, clearing those up before moving on will stop them from instantly repeating. I don’t think that’s always true but it does seem that without thought to one’s part in what went wrong, familiar patterns are like train tracks one follows. This not feeling what you’re used to sounds like you’re doing something right. : )

    • I agree that long relationships leave an imprint. And we need to wonder why it wasn’t successful if we want to prevent it from happening again. I know that’s one of the things I’m busying myself with. I like the train tracks simile.
      But Ann has been apart from her ex for quite a while, even though the actual divorce hasn’t been final for long.
      This said, I also have the example left by my dad. He was miserable in his marriage to my mom and made her miserable too (and she let him). She eventually threw him out when she learnt of him having a mistress. He is now happily married to that mistress, a changed man. There was virtually no time between the time he moved out and the time he got involved with her, since he’d been involved *before* the end of his marriage. Yet it still worked out πŸ™‚

      • I haven’t looked at statistics for an average of how long it takes women to get over or move on from long term or meaningful relationships but it can’t be compared to men’s stats. Men just don’t harness the emotions we women do ( generally speaking ). It’s so common to see repetition in relationships by people who don’t examine the role they played in the dynamic. Seriously, how long does it take to change our attractions and familiarities for partners? For some men it’s easier to move on because they are more literal. The end is the end – move on. It’s logical and it has nothing to do with how important the old woman was to him. We make it personal, imo.
        I do think that a man having an affair and then divorcing the wife and continuing on with the affair is in a different category completely. He’s already let go of something.
        My take on Ann’s post is that she’s doing what she should be doing for her… and not saying I love you back was a hesitancy that she understands which tells me by her own admission that she isn’t on her regular and known tracks. She’s consciously making decisions not just finding what’s always felt comfortable. I admire that.
        But Dawn – I have no real facts to base anything on because there are always exceptions so making sense of relationships is a waste of precious time – especially in relationships. I think you just have to try and if you find another who tries as hard as you do – it’s a match to go so far…maybe all the way but there are no guarantees ever. Is that pessimistic or optimistic? : ) It was nice talking with you though. : )

        • I’m not sure about women putting more emotions into relationships as men do.
          I think (from my experience), the reason men move on faster than women is because they don’t even want to look at the problems, at what their role in them could have been.
          I look at my ex, even Ann’s Will I’m pretty sure didn’t think too hard before moving in with his new partner, considering how long they’ve been together and how long he’s been apart from Ann.
          I think the length of time needed to change our atractions and familiarities for a partner has a lot to do (for men as for women) with whether we’re the one walking away, making the decision, or not. If we have to incur a split that we were not ready for, then it’s going to take much longer than if we are ready for it. I am the one who broke it off the last two times. Part of the reason I recovered so quickly (as opposed to my mom who still suffers decades later) is because I had thought about it for a while before, the decision maturing, taking its time, weighing options of what was best for me… and finally taking the step.
          I’m still far from healthy, in regards to relationships. But every day I’m getting better at it, I think.
          I have since accepted the idea that a relationship is to be lived in the now, not in the past nor the future. We can’t be sure of anything that will happen next, so we should remain open to possibilities and take things as they go. Letting go is one of them.
          I don’t know if your stance is pessimistic or optimistic. Realist? πŸ™‚
          Yes, it was nice talking with you πŸ™‚

          • No, not that I’m aware of. And not that I would care like my mom did πŸ™‚
            I’m the one who had a FWB for a few weeks…
            Why?

          • I think the reason your mom is still wounded would be – could be altogether different than a spouse who was not left for another. One is a clear and definite betrayal and or rejection. Yeah, divorce can be that too but an affair has tangible evidence, imo, and then roles just sem to be more complicated but like I said – I don’t know. There’s always someone with a different outlook or experience. We can only think for ourselves. I like hearing the different kinds of things because in some weird way, it means there’s always a way to do better in my own thinking or actions and that’s really all I can do. You know, start with the person in the mirror. “Be the change you want to see in the world and all that shit. haha Intimacy is a task master. : )

          • I didn’t leave my husband for another… and I think it makes it harder for him. I left because of him (at least in his mind), not for someone else. It’s a hard one to swallow too.
            I think that no matter who left and why, everyone has the option to make the best for themselves. Some choose to do it, others choose to wallow in despair for years or decades, and others still decide it’s easier to fault the other one entirely and/or go on to find someone else who’ll take their place.
            Everyone has difficult circumstances at one time or another. But everyone also has free will and can choose to change their path.
            So yes, be the change you want to see and so on πŸ™‚

    • I split from my ex a little over two years ago. But we were done long before and we both immediately started dating afterwards. I wasn’t ready for a relationship until recently. The impact of Tony has made it more difficult for me to jump right in with Fox, but overall I feel I’m ready for a serious relationship.

      I do think I’ve done a good job of not repeating old relationship habits lately. I’m aware of the pull of people and behaviours that aren’t good for me and can point to several times where I know in the past I would have done something different.

      I’m sure there are patterns in my relationship behaviour that still need to get sorted, but I’m looking forward to trying it all out πŸ™‚

      • 2 years seems like a long enough time but that amount of time must be relative to your experience, right? Do you recognize those times of making “better” decisions when they happen. I write that and think you do just from what you share in your writing. It sounds like this post is one of those times. But, writing about this stuff and living through it are different experiences. I can feel a heat rise sometimes – nerves on fire – when I know I need to be vulnerable in order to not muddy or bury feelings I’m experiencing. I have to trust the process and not be afraid of losing someone I really don’t want to or of exposing my feelings because they can be trampled, you know? Fear of that built secure walls which eventually closed in on me. I kind of shudder at that old habit. : ) I think you’re doing fantastic.

        • I do recognize the times when I’m making a different decision, usually because it feels uncomfortable! Honestly the blog also helps, because I’m writing about what I’m going through, and the feedback also makes me look at things a bit differently.

          I suppose it’s helped with perspective, which is something we can lose easily when we are in the heart of the matter.

          And yes, being vulnerable is huge. I recognize what you are saying – put up the walls and it’s safe. But being safe isn’t necessarily the best thing for us, is it?

          • No, being safe, for protective reasons is the sure way to death : ) Besides, I think that challenging ourselves is where the excitement and growth is, right? I like that saying about doing something every day that scares you.

          • Yes! I’ve always liked that attitude. The other one I like is that you should tackle things such that every six months when you look back you think “wow, I never thought I would do / achieve that”.

            I hate to be stagnant.

          • That’s a good one. I have to think seriously about that 6 month goal. That seems daunting right now but I know my outlook is weak so I have to strengthen that. Then I also think of very challenging or difficult things to do. I have a couple and one I am doing on a 3 month timeline. slow but still moving.

          • If I think about it as a 6 month goal it freaks me out. Instead I focus on little and big things – decisions – that I have every day such that in aggregate, I look back and think “wow”.

  4. Maybe he knows all that? Maybe he doesn’t need to hear the words from you? Maybe hearing the words back would kind of scare him?
    I know it’s probably not the case (that last one). But I know it is for me! For now, I’m willing to say those words, because I’ve kept them bottled up for so long, they’re literally hurting my throat, but I’m not sure I’m ready to hear them back. And I certainly don’t expect him to say them back. I would rather he feels certain before he says it.
    Like you, I have been scalded by a wrong marriage and I am weary of falling back into the same patterns. So I have waited a long time to make sure these words are not coming out as a habit. After all, I did tell my ex I’m not sure I ever loved him. How could I, I didn’t know what love was. (though he’s probably taken it as me being deceptive all these years, because it suited his need of thinking me evil). I don’t want to make the same mistake.
    So now, I think I’m ready to say these words, because having observed what I feel for a long time, I think this is really what I’m feeling. But I’m not sure I’m ready to hear them back.
    The reason I’m telling you this is just to say: don’t feel pressured by your moral compass into saying them, lest you lose him. Maybe he’s like me, ready to wait, or even happy to wait before he hears them?
    He has had a lot more time than you to figure out what his feelings are and how they feel for him. He’s been divorced much longer.
    Also, I think expecting someone to say the words back to you is a bit of a manipulative spirit. Or being insecure. He doesn’t sound like he’s either. πŸ™‚
    And lastly… did you consider that not being ready to admit to your feelings may be because of patterns of protection you put in place as a child? I’m reading this book… πŸ˜‰ don’t want to bore you with this, nor to play the game where you read something and all of a sudden, you can see it in everyone around you πŸ™‚
    I’m sure there was one last thing, but it seems to evade me right now. Maybe it’ll come back to me later πŸ™‚

  5. I’m away and commenting from my phone (disclaimer if I make less sense than usual) but I really like how this relationship is evolving. Enjoy the journey with all its moments, Ann, and let it just unfold rather than trying to steer and drive it. Maybe you look up one day and feel in love with Fox and it surprises the hell out of you; maybe you don’t ever reach that point and wonder why not. None of that potential outcome will diminish what you are sharing and enjoying right now. It’s still early, this relationship is in its infancy, you’re still learning and discovering each other. It’s perfectly okay not to have all the answers or the full range of emotions on the spectrum.

  6. I have to say I am quite impressed with this post and I give you many props for not saying it back since your not feeling it completely(, yet, if ever). I wanted to know exactly everything you said here after reading your last post but it was such a nice post I didn’t want to complicate it with questions.

    I have always mentioned in my comments about sweeping you away and in many ways I don’t think the Fox has done this for you. I think you like all the positives about the relationship with him, and love the idea of everything, but the actuality of it is much different. I like what Sharn writes above…”Give yourself time. You may find that is not what you need right now but the stability is.” I think this is what you need right now and you deserve a “good” relationship, but I am not sure this is going to be “it” or “the one” for you in the long term. I personally think not being swept off your feet says a lot, that said, it also could be a simple result of the Tony situation and subconsciously your looking for a reason this won’t work. Only time will tell and I do think he is doing a wonderful job so far and I am cheering for him.

  7. i understand the impulse to compare Fox to Tony, but enjoy Fox for himself in all ways in each moment. Let things happen organically, relieve yourself of any pressure to respond to the ‘I love you’ and try your best to grow and have fun with Fox and forget about ‘type’. Welcome the potential and enjoy what is, knowing that you might break past behaviors with someone new.

    It will be a year together next month for LM and i and everything i said above i learned with and because of Him. Such lovely and affirming lessons! ~~ tashaπŸ’œ

  8. One does become wary and it is not a bad thing. But as a guy it somehow is a needed thing to hear.
    We men are a weird bunch.
    It is even said that men would know, if they wanted to marry a girl, within the first three months.

    No need to rush follow your own feeling. If it is real it would always be felt without saying.

    Just two pennies of thoughts.

  9. How did I miss the post about your talk with Tony?? I’m glad you were able to put some closure on that…even if it was painful. As for Fox – I don’t know what to tell you. Every sensible thing says that it’s good to get out of those old habits, that calm and content is better than intense and uncommitted…but I do understand about wanting someone that makes your heart skip a beat when they walk into the room, who makes you laugh and gets your sense of humor. It will be interesting to see if your feelings intensify as the relationship goes on – it does seem like he is a good man.

    • My posting has been rather sporadic lately so I guess it can happen!!

      I am glad I had the conversation with Tony; it’s allowed me to take the final steps toward really moving on.

      And yes, you nailed it. He’s a good man, kind, consistent, even keeled. He’s also putting in a great effort to make sure physically things are good.

      So it’s not that we are devoid of chemistry; there’s no way I’d be with him if that was the case. But it’s a natural offset of the benefit of his being calm – he’s not high energy, we don’t have the intellectual banter I have had in other relationships. Do these things matter? Don’t know. That’s what I have to work through.

What do you think?