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Parallax - Advice            December 11, 2000

  She says, 'I love you'

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I am a twenty-year-old African American woman. I've been dating a thirty-year-old white man for almost seven months. We'd known each other for a year before we started dating, and we have a really good time together. A while back, I told him that I thought I was in love with him. He didn't say it back, and I didn't expect him to.

I didn't bring it up again until our six-month anniversary. By that time, I was sure I loved him and asked if he could feel the same about me. Although he couldn't explain himself, he said he felt it was wrong to love me. Naturally, I was upset. He explained that since his parents never showed him love and affection, he doesn't know if he can love another person.

He says it has nothing to do with our age difference or racial backgrounds. He says this is the best relationship he's ever had and that I'm special to him. He's affectionate and sweet, but it hurts that our feelings for each other are not on the same level…and may never be.

I love this man very much, and I don't want to break up over three little words. However, those three little words are important to me. Am I making a mistake by staying with him? Should I just wait and see what happens? Or is he just making excuses?

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Her view:

Dear Waiting,

First of all, six months is not a very long time. I think you're trying to push too hard on this one. Why don't you allow yourselves to settle into what sounds like a pretty good relationship? Those are just 'three little words,' as you say, but they are very meaningful (and often more meaningful to the female in the equation). Why don't you tell him that you love him all the time? Leave him little 'I love you' notes all over. See if that helps him get more comfortable with saying the phrase, and acclimated to throwing the word love around. Who knows? He might respond, and he might love you - he just hasn't said it yet.

I'd give it a solid year. Just be happy during that time and see if he comes around. If you love him as much as you say you do, you'll regret not giving him the opportunity. So give it a fair shot. However, if you become increasingly frustrated and upset by the relationship asymmetry, then you should go. And if you give up, go swiftly.

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His view:

Dear Waiting,

It's hard enough to say the four little words 'I don't love you,' but to hear someone say that it's 'wrong to love you'? I've certainly never heard that line.

It's quite possible this guy is just making excuses. Saying he doesn't know if he can ever love someone sounds a bit too 'soap opera' for me. I wouldn't be surprised if it's BS.

However, it may also be that he truly feels that way, and is being honest with you. If he is, then you're left with a man who doesn't feel as strongly about you as you do about him. You could give him more time and see if he can learn to love you - after all seven months is not that long. More time might also help you learn to live with his version of 'love.'

In the end, I don't see this working for you. I think you'll always struggle with the emotional imbalance in the relationship, and if you don't break it off first, he might - once he meets someone else who won't be 'wrong to love.'

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