“I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” What does it mean?

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You’re a bit confused. And quite rightly so.

Your partner or someone you’ve been romantically involved with has told you they love you, but they’re not in love with you.

For the life of you, you can’t figure out what they’re trying to tell you.

What do they really mean?

What’s the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone, anyway?

And where can things between you go from here? What’s next for your relationship? Is this the end, or is there a way back?

Let’s take a deep dive into what it could all mean for you and your relationship with this person.

What’s the difference between loving someone and being in love with them?

As human beings, we have an incredible capacity for love, in all senses of the word.

We can love people in all kinds of ways, and the love we feel for family and friends can be just as powerful, or more so, than romantic love.

But when it comes to a romantic relationship, there’s definitely a line between loving someone and being in love with them, although that line can be hard to draw.

People often feel like they’re not in love anymore when they lose the desire to spend time with their partner, and run out of things to talk about. Feeling like you’re in love with someone is often closely linked to sex too.

If someone says that they’re not in love with their partner but they still love them, that probably means the elusive spark has vanished.

Somebody might feel this way after the first flush of romance inevitably fades and things start to settle and become more serious and committed but less exciting.

A lot of people really struggle to adjust and feel let down that that thrilling, hormone-fuelled period is over.

But some people might decide they’re no longer in love a lot further down the road, when they’re in a committed, long-term relationship.

That doesn’t mean they don’t still deeply care about their partner, but just that the extra glue that binds romantic relationships together so closely has come unstuck. 

Does it always mean the end of a relationship?

The short answer here is yes probably, but not necessarily.

The context around this and both of your intentions are what’s important.

If they’ve told you that they still love you and want the relationship to work, but they’re no longer in love and want that to change, then it’s not necessarily the end for the two of you.

You’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of you to come back from this, but this relationship could definitely still survive and thrive.

Some people, entirely legitimately, feel that ‘just’ loving someone is enough of a foundation for a strong relationship.

If they’ve chosen to spend their life with someone, then they might not worry about the fact that they’re no longer passionately ‘in love’ with them. After all, as time passes, it’s natural for our love for a person to change, develop, and mellow.

But if that’s not enough for you and you’re both still committed to the relationship, then with plenty of hard work and bags of understanding, you could start to rekindle things between you.

On the other hand, this might be your partner’s way of ending things between you.

They might have decided that the love they feel for you now isn’t strong enough to underpin your relationship and that this change in their feelings means it’s over between you.

This probably isn’t a decision they’ve come to easily. If they still care about you deeply, they’ve probably been struggling with their feelings for a long time and have finally accepted that things have changed.

It’s probably as difficult for them to say as it is for you to hear, so try to remember that, even through the hurt this is bound to cause you.

How can you figure out the subtext in your particular case?

In cases like these, there’s no point sitting around worrying trying to read between the lines of what they’ve said to you.

You can talk about it with your best friends all you like and do all the Googling you like, but you won’t get a clear answer.

You have to ask.

If your partner has left you feeling confused and not sure where you stand, you need to sit them down for another talk and clear things up sooner rather than later.

You might not get the answer you’re hoping for, but at least you won’t be stuck in this strange kind of painful limbo.

How can you move forwards?

Whether your partner wishes to try to start over in your relationship, or whether they have decided to end things, here are some tips to keep you moving forward.

1. Assess your own feelings.

Whatever you think the other person might be trying to tell you, the first step here is to try to assess your own feelings.

Try not to let what they’ve said color things, but be totally honest with yourself.

How do you really feel about this person?

Can you put your hand on your heart and swear that you’re still totally in love with them?

Or is it a different kind of love you’re feeling for them now?

Are you willing to put in the work that this relationship is going to need to thrive, or do you know deep down that it doesn’t have a future?

Take some time to really examine your inner monologue and figure out what your feelings are.

Only then can you consider their feelings and intentions and decide what your next move should be.

2. Think about what needs to change, and commit to making that happen.

If they’ve made it clear that they don’t want this to be the end of the relationship, then you both have a lot of work to do.

Listen to what they have to say about the issues with your relationship and how things need to change. If you’re serious about making this work, then you need to listen without an ego and do your very best not to take things personally.

Think about the areas where the relationship is not meeting your needs and be honest with them about that too.

You both need to commit to working on your relationship and reconnecting with one another as you move forwards. It’s not going to easy, but it might be worth it.

You might well find that you need professional support to get your relationship back on track, and there’s absolutely no shame in going to couples counseling.

It’s a way to signal to yourself and your partner that you really are serious about making this work and having an outsider’s perspective can make all the difference.

3. Accept the situation.

If you’ve realized that this is their way of breaking up with you, then I’m really sorry.

A breakup is always incredibly hard, especially if you wouldn’t be breaking up if it were up to you.

One of the main things in a situation like this is to hang on to the positives in it all.

Although it might be painful to go your separate ways, hold onto the fact that there’s still a lot of love between you.

They love you and want the best for you, just as you do for them. You’re just no longer right for each other romantically.

So, don’t let this breakup taint your memories of your time together. Just because it’s come to an end, doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time or that the relationship was a failure; it’s just run its course.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be friends. When someone uses this line to end a relationship, they’re often desperate not to lose the other person, and cling onto the prospect of replacing the relationship with a friendship.

If you’re okay with that, great, but don’t feel any obligation to maintain a friendship with them.

If you were still in love with them and they’ve broken up with you then developing a friendship will be hard, at least at the beginning, and you might well feel like you need a clean break.

Whatever you do, just be kind to yourself, and know that a future full of all kinds of love is waiting for you.

Still not sure what your partner means when they say they love you but are not in love with you? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.