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 personally think if you have a partner who loves you treats you with respect but is not romantic or physically effectionate, cut your losses and stick with that person as they are a keeper. MOST overly romantic men or women are psychopaths. The ones who loves bringing you flowers and chocolates and showers you with gifts ……… BE CAREFUL …. they have a hidden agenda.
    Rather find things that you can do together and that strengthens your bond with each other. Love is after all not sex (sex is just something that proceeds out of your love for someone) – True love is caring, loyalty, respect, support, protection, kindness, compassion.
    LOVE IS A VERB … not a bush of flowers or chocolates, or pretty little meaningless words like

  2. Unfortunately, I have been in the exact same situation for 6 years and 11 months. YES! And every bit of those 6 years have been spent trying to change a man that will not be able to ever be affectionate. My wonderful man is exactly that…he is handsome, smart, hardworking, kind, likeable, healthy, adventurous, giving, can fix anything, and an amazing lover to boot….but not affectionate, never says I am beautiful, does not hold me close, look into my eyes and speak to me, rarely just says “I love you so much” and this is why. etc etc. It is so hard, I was married to someone for 18 years who was wonderfully affectionate and I honestly thought that either all men in love were just that way, or I had the ability to cause a man to be that way….I was so far from wrong. So, now that I don’t have that quality in a man….it is missed and at this point I have stopped being affectionate myself. I don’t like it at all, but have no idea what to do.

    1. That’s a bummer. But it sounds like he has so many other awesome qualities. Some people just aren’t that affectionate — not because of some dissatisfaction with the partner or the relationship, just because they’re built that way. We would ask this: Does he show you that he cares and loves you in other ways, ways that might not be as affectionate as you like but that nevertheless prove his commitment to you? If the answer is yes, then you may just have to accept his low level of affection (but don’t let that stop you being affectionate with him — maybe by modeling affection he’ll pick up some good habits. though after 6 years, we wouldn’t hold our breath!). If the answer is no, then that’s a more serious situation that will require some hard questions, like “Do you want to continue being in a relationship you’re not getting very much out of? ” Good luck!

  3. I’m in the same situation and I don’t know what to do. I started dating this guy for four months. He doesn’t touch me at all its having a very bad mental image it’s giving me. I’m now becoming insecure. I never would have known he was like this. I never dated a guy who is this unaffectioate. He constantly complains he is hot but I don’t know anymore what’s going on. I do know I can’t stay I this relationship if he doesn’t change

    1. Have you talked to him about it? Does he get defensive? Like we said before, some people just aren’t touchy-feely. But since you’re relationship is fairly new and you’re in the new crush-y stage of a relationship when many couples would typically be all over each other, then you might consider whether him withholding affection is his way of slowing things down, keeping things from getting too serious too soon for him, and avoiding “serious boyfriend” territory. The only way to know is to ask. It sounds like you know what you want and that lack of affection is a deal breaker for you — better to move on than to stay in a relationship that isn’t making you happy. Good luck!

  4. 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!

  5. 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 .

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