Ask Lynn-Does True Love Have To Hurt?

One guy has fallen for an amazing woman—but things are difficult. How can they move forward?

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
I never thought falling in love could be so hard. Things with women have been easy until now, but that’s because I was never truly in love. But with my new girlfriend, everything is different. She is everything I ever wanted; I have no desire to be with anyone else, ever. She says I’m the best guy
I’m fine with that as long as I know she’s not interested in dating anyone else.
she’s ever met and that I’m sexy and smart—no one has ever said those words to me (especially the “smart” part). I love her so much that when I think about it I start getting teary and my breathing gets labored.

Here’s the problem: She wants to go slow because she’s been hurt before — she’s in the middle of a divorce — and I’m fine with that as long as I know she’s not interested in dating anyone else. (She has mentioned that she isn’t.) But she wants to “just date” until her divorce is final, and that bothers me because there’s still that chance that they could get back together (though she says it would take a “miracle”). They’re actually still friends; they talk every day, and she’s still supporting him.

She has said the words, "I care for you so much" and "I care for you deeply" and “You are wonderful," but never "I love you.” I have said the words, "I care for you so much," meaning "I love you." It hurts so much that I’m not sure where her heart is with me. I’m so in love with her that I’m depressed, if that makes any sense. She is in therapy about why she is afraid to have a relationship. How am I supposed to deal with this?

Dear D.,
It isn’t always this hard, I promise. Because it’s not love itself that’s this hard; right now, it’s the timing. As in: She is going through a divorce. Being in that situation — even an amicable one — can make a gal (or guy) glom onto someone else (“You’re not my ex! You are so great!”) at the very same time that it makes her pull away (“Last time I got close to someone, I got burned”). And meanwhile, you’re standing there — in a completely different, uncomplicated place — with your arms and heart open, wondering what gives.

Of course you feel threatened and insecure. You’re ready for more; she’s not. You want her to be 100% available; she’s not. You’re ready to say “I love you;” she’s not. Her ex isn’t supporting himself; she is. That’s all legitimately harrowing. But it’s something she’s got to work out at her own pace. You want her to see and feel things as simply and clearly as you do, but alas, you can’t make her do anything. So the question — as I believe you suspect — is not about getting her to come around; it’s about getting yourself through this.

The trick, I think, will be to do everything in your power — and it won’t be easy — to enjoy the moment with her.
Giving her space to breathe may also give her space to love.
When you’re together, focus on what you love about her — her voice, her strong opinions, that adorably crooked tooth — and what you’re enjoying right then: A meal, a conversation, peaceful silence, a kiss. Listen to what she is saying — “You’re wonderful!” “I care for you deeply!” — and not to what else you’re hoping she’ll say. When thoughts of her ex or the future interfere, drag your brain back to the moment. She is giving you everything she can right now; your job is to be right there with her, in the right now.

Still, you are entitled to share with her your hopes for this relationship. (“Share with her,” not “constantly remind her of.”) If it starts to drag out forever (and divorces can!), you’re entitled — if you can manage — to put some distance between you two. Unappealing as that may sound, waiting in the wings for someone can be easier than waiting in the same room. And it’s not like letting her out of your sight means you’ll lose her; you don’t have to maintain a constant vigil. Giving her space to breathe may also give her space to love.

And finally, though this may sound like dorky advice, I want you to make sure you’ve got other stuff going on in your life besides this relationship. Other friends, hobbies, whatever. Get your friends to make sure they invite you places instead of assuming you’re busy. Catch up on those books you meant to read, places you wanted to see, projects you meant to start. Why? Because otherwise pining can become a full-time job—and one that doesn’t pay very well. But I think you can go from “depressed” to patient and hopeful if you focus on you, your world, and what’s good about it — including, but not limited to the woman in your life — right now.

Lynn Harris ( is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (, of the award-winning website — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times,,, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via Your question may be answered in a future column.
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