Curtis came to me with a problem you may be facing now, shortly after his girlfriend of 8 years dumped him. His girlfriend had left him, but still claimed to love him.
“I don’t understand Coach, how can she tell me she loves me but then tell me she doesn’t want to be with me anymore?”
Only a few days earlier, Curtis’ ex-girlfriend had hit him with the “I love you, but I can’t be together with you right now” talk.
While they were having the breakup talk, she made sure to tell him he was an incredibly loving boyfriend, how she loved him for who he was, and how he was her best friend in the world. They cried and kissed, and hugged until she finally told him that she thought it was best for him to go.
A few days later, she told him how he would always have a special place in her heart.
“I will never forget you” she said.
The confusion Curtis felt only added to his yawning chasm of emptiness, as part of him almost wished she hated him or vice-versa. At least that would have made moving on easier.
Her words and her actions made no sense. Curtis desperately needed answers to many questions. But chief among them was the burning question that kept him up at night.
How could a woman he loved so deeply that claimed to love him deeply in return not want to be with him?
Love Isn’t All You Need: Compatibility and Committment Are More Important
I told Curtis what I will now tell you: Love is not the same thing as compatibility. Love is not the same thing as commitment. Women leave men they love all the time.
If that sounds fucked up, it’s only because there’s this idea floating around that “All You Need Is Love” in order to have a functional relationship. Our culture almost fetishizes love as both the primary driver for, and end goal of relationships.
The Divorce Disparity: Is Love All You Need?
A 2013 Pew Research study showed that 88% of Americans cited love as a very important reason to get married, compared to factors like having children (49%) and legal rights and benefits (23%).
Meanwhile, a separate 2013 study conducted by Shelby B. Scott, PhD et. al found that the top 5 reasons for divorce were:
- Lack of committment (75%)
- Cheating / Affairs (59.6%)
- Too much conflict (57.7%)
- Married too young (45.1%)
- Financial problems (36.7%)
Do you see the problem? Almost 9/10 people think love is an important reason to get married, but lack of love isn’t even in the top 5 causes for divorce.
That’s the problem with idealizing love: it blinds you to what really matters.
In my article on the 6 reasons why women leave men, we talk about several of these dynamics and how important they are to a functional relationship. Love isn’t one of them. The dynamics include:
- Relationship maintenance;
To really drive this point home, let’s turn back time to when I had longer hair, more acne and crippling self-confidence issues.
Love Feels Awesome, But It Often Hides The Truth
The first girl I ever dated I loved. When we’d kiss, my head would spin. It was that kind of passionate, all-consuming love that laced every moment we shared together. It was breathtaking.
We definitely had plenty of love.
But that wasn’t all we had. Oh no.
There were trust issues, communication difficulties and more than enough depression to go around. Combine that with my lack of relationship experience and oh boy, it was a powder keg.
And when it went boom, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
We loved each other, but that was really all we had. The love we felt kept us from avoiding the sobering truth: given my stunning level of immaturity and a few issues on her part, we went together about as well as Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell.
In order to understand why your ex-girlfriend says she loves you but doesn’t want to be with you, you need to let go of this idea of “love” as the only thing that matters in a relationship and start thinking about what healthy relationships are actually built on.
A woman can love you, but if you aren’t compatible the relationship won’t work. The same is true if your relationship lacks commitment.
Understand that it is completely possible for her to still love you, but not want to be in a relationship with you because a good relationship requires more than love to thrive.
What Makes A Healthy Relationship?
When Curtis asked me why his girlfriend broke up with him even though she claimed to love him, what he was really asking is where did he come up short?
While it was impossible for me to actually say for sure, I had a feeling that Curtis wasn’t dumped because he was a bad guy. In my opinion, Curtis was dumped because he wasn’t making his girlfriend feel like she was a priority in his life.
While I don’t want to trivialize what makes a healthy relationship like all the snake oil salesmen out there, there is a rough formula for having a quality relationship, and we have a rapidly growing body of scientific evidence to back it up.
One notable study published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences followed over 11,000 couples for at least a year in order to see what factors predict a strong, committed relationship.
The study looked at individual characteristics like gender, age, income, and personality traits as well as relationship characteristics like support, conflict, appreciation, etc.
What Predicts A Quality Relationship?
The study found that the relationship characteristics that best predicted a quality relationship were:
- Percieved partner committment
- Sexual satisfaction
- Percieved partner satisfaction
This study found that relationship characteristics were responsible for ~45% of the current satisfaction with the relationship, while personal characteristics accounted for ~21% of the relationship satisfaction.
The personal characteristics that best predicted a quality relationship were:
- Life satisfaction
- Negative affect
- Attachment avoidance
- Attachment anxiety
*negative affect = how often and how intensely you experience negative emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, disgust, etc.
What we can see here is that a relationship is more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just one or two things that predict happiness like love or affection.
As I mentioned previously, here is my rough formula for a high-quality relationship.
A High-Quality Relationship Is One That Is:
- High in percieved committment (which means follow through/proper relationship maintenance)
- Full of consistent appreciation (acknowlegement, praise, and recognition)
- Sexually considerate (are you giving as much as you are recieving in bed? What about foreplay that starts outside the bedroom?)
- High in percieved partner satisfaction (are you showing her that she’s doing a good job?)
- Collaborative with conflict (are you working through conflicts in a healthy way?)
- Made up of two people who are happy with their lives
- Low in negative emotions such as jealousy, anger, sadness etc
- Mostly free of depression
- Low in attachment avoidance (which means neither partner pushes the other away)
- Low in attachment anxiety (which means the love is secure and not coming from a place of fear)
When Curtis and I went through this formula, red flags started popping up left and right. Curtis admitted he had done a poor job of appreciating her in addition to being consistently inconsistent because he had some avoidant behavior.
His ex-girlfriend on the had also been suffering from depression for several years, and they had been fighting more than usual.
Before we move on, take a minute to review your relationship. Be honest with yourself. Was your former relationship lacking in one or more of these areas? Think about it from her perspective.
Okay, If Something Wasn’t Working, Why Did She Tell Me She Loved Me?
Now that you understand that love isn’t enough, in addition to what actually makes a healthy relationship, I can give you the cold, hard truth.
She’s not telling you that she loves you because there’s a chance you’ll get back together in the future. She’s doing it for your benefit because she has already made the decision to move on.
Recommended Read: How Did My Ex-Girlfriend Move On So Fast?
There are a number of reasons why your ex-girlfriend may have told you she loved you but doesn’t want to be with you. It’s impossible for me to know which one defines your individual situation, so you be the judge.
Why She Said “I Love You” Even Though She Dumped You
- She really does love you / care about you as a person.
- She’s unaware of her true feelings – she could be mistaking guilt, or sadness for love.
- She was trying to let you down easy out of guilt for hurting you.
- She didn’t want you to react poorly to her leaving.
- She wants to preserve some part of your relationship (usually friendship)
This is far from an exhaustive list, but I encourage you to use it as a starting point for thinking through what “I love you” really means in context.
Before we move on, I also want to say that everyone has a different definition of what the phrase”I love you” means. Understanding what she means when she says she loves you is important, especially when it comes to finding your resolve to move on.
Saying “I love you buddy” to your dog means something very different than saying it to your girlfriend.
The Greeks understood the difference and wisely identified that there is more than one type of love.
|Type Of Love||Meaning|
|Agape (ἀγάπη)||The love of humankind and the compassion we have for one another / how we wish the best for others.|
|Eros (ἔρως)||Romantic, intimate love, which includes sexual desire and attraction.|
|Philia (φιλία)||Affection between equals – generally used to refer to friends, community, and those whom you respect.|
|Storge (στοργή)||Familial love – especially the love for your children, and your parents.|
|Philautia (φιλαυτία)||Self-love – which has the unhealthy component (your ego) and the healthy component (your self-compassion)|
She can tell you that she loves you from a place of Agape or Philia, for instance, while you may say it from a place of Eros. Be aware of the difference – it can save you a lot of pain.
“I Want To Stay Friends”
If your girlfriend broke up with you and still loves you, there’s a good chance she might ask you to be friends. While I completely understand how tempting that idea sounds, you should always refuse to be friends.
I have an entire article on why you shouldn’t be friends with if she dumps you which you should read if she’s asked you to be friends.
The long and the short of it is: even if you love her to pieces and genuinely want to be friends, you still shouldn’t attempt to be her friend if she leaves you because it will make getting over her much harder. Wait until you are completely recovered from the breakup before you even think about it.
If You Love Her, Accept That It’s Over And Walk Away
Don’t listen to the Dan Bacon ex-girlfriend recovery gurus of the world who promise you that there’s a secret method to getting her back quickly. That’s a dangerous amount of hopium that you don’t need. I know it’s tempting to want to try to get her back, especially if you think she still loves you.
But you must fight that urge – because actively trying to get her back is going to make you suffer more. She made the decision to leave you even though she loves you. Her choice is made. Chasing a woman who has made up her mind isn’t something a self-respecting, masculine man does.
You must continue to remind yourself: that love is not enough. I know it is painful to see a woman you love walk away. But the truth is, to really and truly love, your love for yourself and your mission must be greater than your love for any woman.
Take the time to focus on building your Philautia – which is your self-love. There’s no better time than right now.
Stay tuned here, because I have something big coming in a few weeks which will help you do exactly that.
Talk soon my friend,