How Do I Trust My Girlfriend When She Says That She Loves Me?

How Do I Trust My Girlfriend When She Says That She Loves Me?

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Hi Dr. NerdLove, I’m writing to you as I have been struggling with this dilemma and really need some perspective! I really can’t talk about this with anyone else.

So I M[28] have been in a relationship with this girl F[24] for 7-8 months now. She is the one who initiated the relationship and she was clear about the fact that she is looking for a long term relationship and marriage. It started very well – she was immensely interested in me and couldn’t wait to talk to me any chance she gets. I soon fell in love with her as well.

However, we work close to each other and hence can’t really disclose the relationship to anyone. Our plan currently is for me to switch and then we will disclose it to everyone & our parents and marry.

However, now things are a little different. Although, she says she loves me whenever I ask her, and we often hang out and are physical – I just feel like she isn’t really happy with me.

She never said that she is not happy – whenever I bring this topic she just tells me that I’m overthinking. But I have my reasons why I think this –

1) She often takes long time to respond to my texts; often hours and isn’t always particularly interested to keep up the conversation. But she’s glued to her phone when we’re together.

2) She is still close to her best friend (who she promises isn’t interested in her romantically and even if he is, she’d decline the moment he expresses it) He doesn’t know that she’s dating – complicating the matter further.

He initiates fights – that she doesn’t give much time to her and more painfully for me, she is distraught when they fight. She loses days of sleep when they fight.

This makes me uncomfortable as she seems to be more emotionally connected to him than me. We haven’t had any fights so far but I don’t know if she’ll lose sleep because of me.

As a boyfriend is it wrong for me expect that she is more emotionally connected to me than her friends? Why, if she was so attached with him, approach me at all? I never showed her any attention before; its only after her confession that I fell hard in love.

What confuses me is that why would she even be with me if she wasn’t interested in me. How do I say this to my girlfriend because whenever I bring this up she says that I’m the most important person in her life – but her actions say otherwise.

Thanks a lot!

She Loves Me… Not?

SLMN, can I ask you a couple questions here?

First: just between you and me and everyone reading this… is this your first serious relationship?

Second question: do you want the answer to be “you are correct, she doesn’t love you”? Because it feels like you do. And if you don’t… well, you’re well on the way to getting her to fall out of love.

Let me start with the obvious answer: no I don’t think she loves you. But then again, I don’t think you love her, either. Not because you two are a bad match and you’re just going through the motions, but because you are seven months into this relationship. The average half-life of New Relationship Energy is six months and you’re just on the outside of that range. That’s not really enough time to get to know someone – certainly not enough to know that you two are right and ready to commit to getting married. You’re barely at the stage where you’re going to feel comfortable peeing with the bathroom door open, never mind planning your futures together.

That doesn’t mean that love isn’t in the cards or that you two are going to break up. It just means that you’re just out of the stage when NRE makes everything feel amazing and wonderful and into the stage where the things that were cute at first are going to start being less cute… or possibly even making you grind your teeth.

This is part of what makes me suspect that this is your first serious relationship. Once you’ve had a few under your belt, it’s a lot easier to recognize the difference between the NRE stage and when the metaphorical rubber hits the road. But if you’re not used to it, that’s when you notice that you’re not as rapturously ecstatic in their presence and it’s very easy to start assuming that maybe things are going wrong.

That lack of experience crops up in other ways, too. Let’s take the phone issue. There’re a couple possibilities at play here. The first is, very simply, you and she have different relationships with texting and your phones. The speed with which someone responds isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything other than how close they are to their phone or their computer and what else is going on around them. It’s not a reliable metric of how much they care or really much of anything.

Some people are indifferent texters. They don’t respond instantly, they may not communicate as easily or confidently via text and generally prefer either calls, video chats or talking in person. As a general rule, it’s far better to take people as they are than it is to get upset at them for who they’re not.

But – I hear you cry – she’s always on her phone! Yes… and that’s where different relationships with one’s phone comes in. Some folks – especially people with varying degrees of neruospiciness, such as myself – tend to be stuck on their phones a lot. If someone has a condition like ADHD, autism or other neurological conditions that limit or inhibit dopamine production, the phone is a smorgasbord of novelty and dopamine, constantly providing little hits of the happy chemicals that their brains don’t produce as easily (or at all). It may also be the primary way she connects with some folks, but not others – such as the people who she may not see in person very often.

Now if her being on her phone all the time when you two are together is a problem for you, that’s entirely legitimate. But rather than stewing in silence or assuming that it’s proof she doesn’t love her, you should actually just say something. Tell her “hey, when you’re on your phone, I feel like you’re not really present with me. I’d appreciate it if you’d put it away/ make an effort to be with me, not me and your phone.”

It may take some effort and some mindful effort on her part to be consistent about not getting lost in her phone. But even so, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care; it means she’s trying to break a habit born out of an actual chemical process, not a lack of affection for you.

Her best friend… well that’s another matter. Specifically, this is a you problem, not a her problem. Her caring about her best friend, being upset when they fight or otherwise making her a priority in her life doesn’t say anything about her feelings for you. The same with his being upset that she doesn’t seem to have as much time for him. That’s not him positioning himself as a romantic rival, that’s him saying “I miss my friend and feel like I’m not seeing enough of you”. He may well be feeling a little abandoned… especially if he doesn’t know you two are dating.  

I will tell you this: she absolutely loves her best friend. He wouldn’t be her best friend if she didn’t. a lot of this comes from the fact that he’s an important part of her life. She loves and cares for him because they’re friends. It’s understandable that she’d get upset about fighting with him. They have history together – more than you and she currently have. That matters.  

That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you, nor does it mean that he’s a threat (in the sense that you imagine) to your relationship. There’re many different kinds of love; the ancient Greeks had words for many different types of love, from eros to agape to filios to storge and so on. You can love your best friend but not love them romantically, just as you can love your family without falling into weird “Flowers in the Attic” territory.

Just as importantly, love isn’t a zero-sum game, where there’s only so much to go around. Her love for her BFF doesn’t take away from how she feels for you; it’s not pie. If you can love your father and your mother without taking away from one or the other, then you can surely understand how she can love her friend without having less love for you.   

Honestly, if you think that her being in a romantic relationship with you means that she should give up her time with her friends or care less for them… well, you’re not going to be in this relationship for long. Nor will it if you continue to assume that just having male friends who are important to her are somehow an indication that she has a romantic connection to them that supersedes yours. Men and women can be friends without sex or romantic love “getting in the way”, after all. But if you’re going to start being suspicious about her friends and her relationships with them, you’re going to end up damaging your relationship with her before you realize what you’ve done.

And speaking of damage… my dude, you need to stop asking constantly if she loves you or if she’s upset with you or not. Right now, you’re refusing to take “yes” for an answer and that is going to end up being more of a problem. Every time you ask, she says “yes, we’re fine, yes, I love you” and you effectively call her a liar. There’re only so many times that someone can provide reassurance before they start wondering why you won’t believe them. There comes a point where you have to start talking yourself off the metaphorical ledge and not looking for more reasons to get back out on it.

If I may be blunt: I’ve already said that this feels like first-relationship problems, and I suspect that a lot of it stems from your not understanding about NRE and the early stages of relationships. It’s almost certainly not helped by the apparent need for secrecy (which I don’t get, but whatever; not my circus, not my clowns). I think you need to take a couple steps back, take some deep breaths and realize that you’re the author of a lot of your own misery here.

I also think that you shouldn’t be talking marriage – certainly not when you’re having problems like this, this early on. If you two are going to make this a priority, then I’d strongly suggest a very long engagement while you work on your communication and build the trust and respect that a successful long-term relationship requires. Because honestly, you don’t trust her right now. That’s relationship poison. If you can’t learn to start managing these jealousy issues, that’s going to end up pushing you apart… no matter how much you care for one another.

Good luck.

Dear Dr. NerdLove: I’m 57 years old, never had a long-term relationship. I’m gay, so that creates a dating-pool problem right there. I’ve been in love a few times, falling hard and fast, and have had my heart seriously broken. A lot of guys I’ve dated have gone on to someone else and have had long relationships, to the point that I feel like I’m the stepping-off point for others. Or else they vanish from the pool altogether; one decided he was asexual after a few dates with me, and another guy I dated a few times died suddenly.

I’ve had a rough time with mental health; I was bullied very badly in school, had family problems, been in therapy twice, and am now on anxiety meds which seem to help. I’ve realized that I’ve hung out with toxic people, including one “friend” who lectured me about how it was all my own fault people treated me badly, because I somehow “forced them to.” I was in a toxic work situation that really did a number on my self-esteem. I’ve dumped those “friends,” have a new job with a healthy environment, and am on my meds…and wondering about being screened for ADHD and/or Asperger’s. I’m trying to start off dating again but am finding guys few and far between.

The guys I meet who are my age group seem to be universally in relationships, or not interested in any kind of romance. I’ve had guys come on to me but I find out they’re just interested in sex or are already married and are just looking for a side piece. A lot of my gay friends are in open relationships.

I haven’t slept with any of them yet, I’m not much of a casual sex person. I like to get to know someone a little first, and that seems to place me as an outsider. I wonder if I should just go ahead and do it…It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve had sex, to the point that I feel like it would be like losing my virginity all over again. A few friends tell me it will take the edge off and keep me from falling too hard, but I don’t know.

I realize a problem I’ve had in the past is that I’ve viewed every guy I’ve dated as my Last Chance Ever and I’ve held on far too long, so I try to remind myself that there’s lots of fish in the sea. But my longtime singlehood has been an issue as well…I’ve met guys who are shocked and give me odd looks when I explain, and one guy I thought promising told me that he felt I wasn’t a good prospect as I obviously didn’t “get” the give-and-take of relationships.

I’m not sure what to do. I fight off feelings of failure for still being single at my age, of being damaged goods, of being so fundamentally broken that I’m a hopeless case. I’ve rejected that whole “You’ll find someone when you’re not looking” fairy tale and am networking with friends, and I’m starting to shop around on the apps, but my fundamental shyness and low self-confidence always trip me up.

Is there any advice you can give for us middle-aged single guys trying to find something special? I’m kind of a mess, trying to make things better, but I know guys who are bigger messes than me and THEY have partners….so why not me? Someone once said that folks say “All the good ones are taken,” which leaves those of us who aren’t taken wondering if we’re just not one of the good ones. How can we fight this?

Left Behind

OK, you’ve already put your finger on two of your bigger problems, LB: your shyness and low self-confidence. Those alone are going to make it a lot harder to find and connect with folks. It’s hard to forge a relationship with another person when your relationship with yourself isn’t great; you not only make it harder to find or accept love from others, but it also makes it easier for shitty people to latch onto you.

So the first thing I would suggest is to start working on your relationship with yourself. As weird as it may sound, sometimes the first love of your life needs to be the love of your life – loving yourself and the life you’ve made for yourself. It’s much easier to find healthy relationships when you’re coming from a place of satisfaction and self-acceptance than when you’re looking for someone to validate you or make up for the ways other people have hurt you in the past.

And believe me, I’m utterly sympathetic to your having dealt with so many toxic people. They can put a whammy on you that’s hard to escape, even when intellectually you know they were shitty people. But this is one more reason why healing your wounds should be a priority over relationships. When you don’t have those old ghosts dripping poison in your ear, you’re far less likely to assume that people are not dating at you and have a much easier time recognizing that sometimes you’re not a good match for one another. That’s not anybody’s fault, it just means that you’re looking for different things. If you’re looking for dim sum, you’re not gonna find it at your local Burger King; that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the Burger King, it’s just not where you want to go for dim sum.

Case in point with the dude who you thought was a good prospect but he didn’t because you didn’t “get” relationships. What that tells you is that you and he weren’t a match. It also tells you an important fact about him – that he’s not someone you want to date.

His opinion about you is more about him than it is about you; he obviously doesn’t know you well enough to make an informed judgement. He doesn’t have magic insight that you lack. It hit you this hard because it lines up with the things you’re already afraid of.

A mistake you’re making is that you’re looking at other people – those bigger messes you mention – and assuming that there’s a comparison to be had here. There really isn’t, nor is there anything to be learned from that. Relationships aren’t morality meters, where only the Worthy find love. The fact that people who have different problems than you – whether in scale or in kind – are in relationships doesn’t say anything about you or your deservedness of love. It just says that those people found relationships. It’s a neutral data point, not a judgement.

The same thing applies to the whole “all the good men are taken”. When someone says that, they’re lamenting that the people that they wished would like them are in relationships or are unavailable. It’s the same thing you’re saying when you lament the number of men in open relationships; it’s saying “I like this person and I want them to like me back, but this other thing makes it unlikely/a poor fit for me and that makes me sad.”  

What I wouldn’t recommend is going looking for casual sex if that’s not your bag. I’m all in favor of no-strings flings when that’s what people want, but it’s not for everyone and that’s fine! I suspect that if you accepted a casual hook up when what you really want is love, you’d find that it leaves you a little more empty and sad than before. Again: that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you, it just means that you’re not a casual fling kinda guy.

This can make things difficult when dating in the gay community.  Anyone who sleeps with men (gay, pan or straight) will tell you that it’s easier to find men who will want to have sex than who necessarily want to date. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not out there; it just means that you have to put specific effort in to find them. And that in and of itself can be exhausting. It can get pretty tiring to kiss a whole bunch of frogs in hopes of finding a prince in the mix.

But this is also why I’m a big believer that the key to getting lucky is to put yourself into fortune’s path. Luck is the intersection of random chance and preparation, and fortune can’t find you if you’re holed up in your apartment. So in addition to getting on the apps – and making it clear that you’re looking for a monogamous, committed relationship, if that’s your thing – you should be doing the things that get you out and interacting with other folks in the queer community. If there’re gay amateur sports leagues or hiking groups or, I dunno vinyl collectors in your area, then go take part in them. Find where your people hang out and go hang out with them. The people you meet and the connections you find there make it that much easier for serendipity to strike.

Oh, and one more thing: when people are surprised you’re still single or haven’t had a lot of relationships, that doesn’t mean that they think there’s something wrong with you. If they were nodding thoughtfully and said “ah, that makes sense”, then yeah, that’d be worrisome. But when someone is surprised that you are still single and have been for a bit? That’s them being surprised that someone as awesome as you are is still single. Take it as the compliment that it ultimately is and just shrug your shoulders and say “just haven’t met the right guy yet.”

Spend a little time being kinder to yourself, unlearning all the toxic bullshit that got fed to you early on and then go put yourself in fortune’s path, LB. I promise: you’re not broken, you’re not left over and you’re not damaged goods.

You’re ok. I promise.

All will be well.