The Underlying Relationship Meaning of “I Love you but am not ‘in love’ with You”

Boyfriend consoling woman

So, what exactly is the underlying relationship meaning of “I love you but am not in love with you”? And how do you respond when your partner tells you that?

This is part 3 of a seven part blog series on the underlying relationship meaning of the words, “I love you but am not in love with you.”

I’ve identified 14 Possible Distinctions for “I love you but am not in love with you.” There are probably many more, but these 14 come immediately to the forefront of my mind as I researched through my clinical experiences with couples.

Let’s tear apart this vague and emotionally encased phrase.

I love distinctions. Making a distinction peels back the layers of an underlying relationship meaning. A distinction helps you understand the depth and nuance of something. A distinction gives you personal power. A distinction eases your pain. A distinction enables you to communicate more powerfully than you can image. A distinction gives you knowledge, and you know what they say about knowledge: knowledge is power.

(It amazes me that you probably have more knowledge and can make more distinctions about your cell phone than you can about the workings of your marriage!)

What could possibly be the underlying relationship meaning of “I love you but am not in love with you”? Let’s explore possible underling meanings.

1. I have lost my sexual interest or desire. Your spouse may be struggling with performance issues related to his or her sexuality. He or she might find him or herself with negative thoughts about sexual performance and desirability.

Your spouse may have a limited or stagnated understanding of intimacy, vulnerability, connection and what it means to develop that intimacy over the course of marital relationship that goes through periods of change and transition.

Yes, “I love you but am not in love with you” may mean your spouse is involved with someone else or is contemplating that possibility. If so, it’s time to confront that issue and move toward some sort of resolution.

Infidelity is NOT the end of the world, nor may it mean the end of the marriage. It may point to a reconstruction and redesign of your intimacy.

2. Another underlying relationship meaning of “I love you but am not in love with you” may be an expression emerging from the confusion of what some call a “mid-life crisis.”

Here’s my take on “mid-life crisis.” You spend the first part of your life (20s and 30s) employing your strategies that you’ve learned and believed would lead to your success (be strong, be aggressive, please people, be smart, be cute, be seductive, be bold etc.) You think you know!

At some point your world unravels. You fail to reach your goals. Or, you reach your goals and they fail to give what you thought they would. You bump into a crisis. You are not whom you thought you were. Your friends, possessions, family and marriage are not what you thought they were or provides what you envisioned. You become tired. You become very weary and question.

And so, “I love you but am not in love with you” may point to the underlying relationship meaning of personal emptiness or confusion and may be a cry for understanding.

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Leave A Reply (5 comments So Far)


  1. Shiwangi peswani
    5 years ago

    I am married for 16 yrs and at this stage of our life, neither me nor my husband say I love you each other but we both know that we love each other. Your words are kind of complicating the things. My be I am wrong or I didn’t get what you actually wanna say.


  2. Carole
    4 years ago

    He said I do not love you like I did when I married you, no I still love you so maybe that is different. He said he wanted something new and different. At age 65 left me and our grown children and our dogs to go on Match.com. Dating lots of women, going dancing and living life on his terms. I still love him after spending 50 years with him since I was 16 but it has been a year and a half, The first 6 months came to see me while cheating after he moved out and this year we e-mail but no more as of November 17th my 66th I cannot take the pain so I guess cutting all ties is my answer. I am a broken woman and still think I want him back after all the things he has said and done but I could never trust again or feel good enough about myself around him again. I have to learn how to heal I have prayed long enough and hard enough hoping we would be back together now I know it won’t happen and he is probably the same, huge ego how good looking he is, selfish, lacks empathy and compassion, yet I still love him how sick is that.

    Than yo for explaining the meaning of I do not love you anymore, I find it hard to believe after 50 years and two children he has no love for me and is adjusting to not having his grown children in his life.


  3. Jennifer Thomas
    2 years ago

    I think all marriages go through multiple periods where one spouse or the other may have this feeling. In my experience, it just means you must take the time to fall back in love with your spouse. Think about all the things you love about them, go on dates and make sure their is physical intimacy. All of these things will help this feeling pass.


  4. Sara
    1 year ago

    i wonder what anyone would advise a wife to do when her husband says these things to her – and things like “you will always have a place in my heart”, etc. He hated his job and was unhappy with being a dad but those 2 things have miraculously turned around so that now he believes the only cause of his unhappiness is his marriage and he and the kids will be happier if we just divorce.

    There is no fighting – discussions for sure but no fighting so there really is no tension. he still holds m hand and kisses me goodbye- perhaps just for show I have to realize but isn’t it a hopeful sign that he’s still willing to do that part at least?

    He has no interest in date nights and he has no interest in getaways so how do we rebuild if he’s not willing to see the benefits of those things?


  5. Nancy
    1 year ago

    What helps me is the thinking that “these are but temporary’. My accountability is in the Lord. We will all die. And when I die i will give account to the One Who Gives and takes Away! I was at the point of being a strong willed person already. But everyday I see a reminder to humble myself before God and men. Remember this: The good we do is never lost! It helps a lot to have that thinking to be accountable first with God, then to myself, then to others.

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