Likes Not Loves

Q: My girlfriend and I have been together for 16 months, and lately I feel like I am the glue to this relationship. We were friends for a year first. I thought she was the one for me, and when she laughed and we hang out, I was always so happy. I knew she had some issues with relationships, but her friends told me they have seen a huge change in her after she started being with me. But after every cute thing I've ever done, she takes me for granted. But now I don't know if I can do these things anymore. She also doesn't love me but she told me she'd tell me why she's like that another day. I've been hearing that for a year, but all she'll say is she "likes me a lot..." I will never do the things I did for her for anyone else. She is also quiet around me, doesn't really talk much anymore. What is her problem? She will talk to anyone but when she talks to me it's not the same, there's no laughing. I cry sometimes when I think about it because she means the world to me and I can't just give up. What should I do? - Mike, 20

Dr. Susan: I wonder if your girlfriend has some baggage from a previous relationship, something she doesn't feel comfortable telling you about. I'm less concerned that she won't use the word "love," but that she isn't laughing with you anymore. The relationship sounds as though it's gotten heavy for her. Either her feelings have changed and she doesn't know how to let you down softly, or your expectations have gotten higher and she feels pressured. I do think you're trying a little too hard. For such a young man, you're already saying you won't do for others what you've done for her. I'm not sure what that can mean. You say she's not responding to the "cute things" you do for her, though you also imply she never did give you much credit for your efforts. But you shouldn't have to feel you're working so hard and feel that you're giving so much. Sure, relationships are hard work sometimes, but that means you have to work at communicating clearly and at putting yourself in your partner's place. It doesn't mean you do and do and do, and she still won't come halfway. My only advice is to try to get her to open up. And if that doesn't work, put your efforts where they'll be appreciated.

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