Your Call: Should She Dump Her Unaffectionate Boyfriend?

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We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call by leaving your advice in the comments section below.

My boyfriend of one year and nine months clearly has some intimacy issues. Though we recently moved in together he is rarely affectionate. He has never told me that he loves me (I finally told him a few days ago and got nothing in response), I can count on one hand the number of times he’s ever told me that I look pretty, and things like flowers or romance are clearly out of the question.

To give background on his situation, his family and him do not have an affectionate relationship. He never heard the words “I love you” growing up, but then again neither did I. He also claims that he’s never told any woman before that he loved them. So to give him credit this seems to be a lifelong issue, not just something he’s had with me.

He’s a wonderful man – smart, handsome, intelligent, hard working, kind – all reasons why I hesitate to cut my losses at this point…but I don’t think it’s asking too much to wish for romance and outward affection from the one I love. I don’t know if I can go a lifetime having my partner never tell me that he loves me…and I wonder whether he’ll be the same way with any potential children.

I’ve tried to lead by example by planning nice things for him, telling him how I feel about him, and expressing how happy he makes me, but none of it has done any good.

Please help. Do I begrudgingly suck it up knowing that in most other categories he’s a great catch or search for someone who isn’t embarrassed/closed off to showing emotion?

— Starving for Affection

What should SFA do?


  1. I know it has been a while since the original post, but If anyone else runs across this thread looking for answers I hope my comment helps!
    Either a man or woman are affectionate or their not; period, don’t try to change them. I have been married for 23 years to an unaffectionate man who on the other hand had other great qualities. If affection is important to you then move on if you are not getting what you need! My boys are raised and out of the house as of June and affection was always important to me and my husband made it clear he was not affectionate! I have after 23 years moved on I wish I had realized this earlier, but I wouldn’t have my children, so the relationship wasn’t a total failure! I am just saying move on you will get over him and find someone who meets your needs. I am not high maintenance or I would have left a long time ago, but I now feel like I missed out on a lot. I wish I had gotten this advise when I married in my 20’s! Remember to always put yourself and your needs first or the relationship will never work simply because you will feel the frustrations of never feeling important!

  2. truth is I don’t think He’s cheating . If He was cheating he would have never moved in with you in the first place . I myself am a very unaffectionate person because my father is the same way but that’s no excuse . I try my best to be affectionate with my loved ones but that’s something he needs to work on if He really cares for you .

  3. You love him, so it will hurt, but you need to dump him for your own good. I was in a relationship with the same kind of man for almost 8 years. When you begin saying “Well, he drove to pick me up! That means he cares about me! Right? Who cares if I don’t get flowers…right? Or if he never tells me I’m pretty? Or if he won’t hold my hand for more than thirty seconds?” then you know you need to get out.

    Find someone who gives you what you need. That’s it. You need the affection. You deserve it. You love him, so it’ll be painful to break up with him, but you need to think about your future and your needs.

    The last thing you want is to resent him and the relationship down the road.

    Good luck. I hope everything works out the right way.

  4. I agree with Johnny. If she must leave, it’s because her needs (and emotional needs -are- a valid priority) aren’t being met, but there’s no call for any bitterness or anger. It’s just sad to let a potential relationship go.

  5. ^ Oh come on y’all. He hasn’t cheated, he hasn’t abused her… he’s just under-emotional. Don’t you think “mfa” label is a little strong?

    Dump him if you need to, but it doesn’t sound like there’s any reason to be angry with the guy.

  6. In any relationship you are in there will be things you don’t necessarily love about the other person. You have to decide how important this one thing is to you. If you have tried making it clear to him that this is something you need and he flat out refuses then you have to decide if you are okay with not receiving the affection you crave. If he has made efforts and just not living up to the amount you need you just need to gently let him know what he is doing right and encourage more of it. “I love it when you hug on me or cuddle up to me for no real reason. It makes me feel safe and secure in our relationship. I honestly can’t get enough of it.” When it comes to children I think it’s def not worth raising kids with someone who doesn’t seem capable of showing them love.

  7. 32 years. It’s been 32 years of marriage and I have yet to hear, “you look beautiful!.” If I ask him he’ll say I look pretty. He says “I love you” and holds my hand but is not very affectionate. He is a good husband in a lot of ways and very sweet and a great father and affectionate with the kids. We’ve been to marriage counseling. He tries. Go to counseling. Better yet, have HIM go to therapy and find out why he is so repressed. Otherwise…fagetaboutit. It’s now or never.

  8. I’ve been in this kind of relationship for 10 years and it still isn’t happening. We haven’t gotten past being companions. If this is okay with you, fine.
    Otherwise find someone who will be able to provide more. And do it soon. I waited too long.

  9. Here’s what is confusing to me about this: You say you have wanted him to say “I love you” to you, and you yourself have not said it until a few days ago? Isn’t it possible that he could have had the same complaint about you until you very recently told him that?

    Since it has only been a few days since you’ve said this to him, I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for him not to have responded in kind yet. Telling someone you love them is a very difficult thing for some people, and he has told you that he has never told a woman that before. Give him a bit of time. Say it again, if you feel like you should. And if it continues to be an issue, just sit down and have a conversation about how much this bothers you.

    Some people are not good at expressing themselves in this way. This doesn’t mean they are incapable of feeling love or caring as deeply for a person as someone who can say “I love you” ten times a day. He might be a person who will love you very much but rarely express it verbally. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re okay with that or not.

  10. sometimes a person’s early childhood experiences are obstacles that one simply cannot or will not overcome. sorry to say it but he’s damaged goods. I’ve recently come out of a relationship that is pretty much word for word the same as your situation. living with a man like that for almost two years is two years too much.

  11. Have you tried talking to him about it? Just sitting him down and saying something like “I would appreciate it if you told me you loved me”
    Don’t sound whiny, or like you’re accusing him- make sure he knows he’s done nothing wrong and its just something that’s been bothering you a bit

    The other thing I’d like to say is maybe he doesn’t say it but he might be showing it in his own way x

  12. If he knows you have these needs and he’s not trying to change, DTMFA. If he doesn’t know, or if he’s making progress to change (or willing to, say, go to counseling with you), then give him a chance. It’s a skill and it can be learned, by the willing.

  13. I don’t see not being able to say the words as hugely important, I know how I feel about my BF and how he feels about me, but neither of us is good at expressing it vocally so it tends to only get actually said at very emotional moments.. But, we do express it, in thoughtful gestures and affection, I know by how he looks at me and what he does even if he stumbles over the words.. (incidentally he does tell his children, who live with his ex everytime he speaks to or sees them because he knows how important it is that they know that) So what I think I’m saying is, look to his actions, if he acts like he loves you, even if he doesn’t show it how you would like (my guy is more likely to spontaneously get me something I need, like the lawnmower he got for my allotment than a fancy valentines gift because society says he should) he probably does and maybe you have to live without the 3 little words ;0) If you’re not even getting that much then I don’t see how you’ve got this far?

  14. DTMFA – you’ve made it pretty clear this is important to you. You’ve moved in together forgoodnesssakes. If he’s either too dense or too selfish to give you what you need, move on.

  15. First of all, though we wish it weren’t the case, a majority of the time “leading by example” gets lost on the wind. Have you talked to him about this in terms of your relationship? It’s valid for you to do so. Saying something along the lines of, “I need to know if we’re going to work on this (note the -we-) for this relationship to go anywhere.” Does he -want- it to go anywhere else? Talk to him in terms of the future, in terms of team goals, and in terms of what you need. It’s okay to have needs. If he wants the relationship to grow, and he wants to work on his issues with you, stay. If he seems uninterested in a changing relationship and isn’t able to acknowledge your needs, you need to leave–for both of you. And my warning is this: if he does decide to work on things with you, it may take decades. Are you prepared for that? If so, stay. If not…just think about it. The fact that you’re sending in this question to strangers in the first place and not putting the elbow grease into your relationship with him instead says something to me about your desire to actually stay with him.

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