17 Signs Your Partner Cares For You, But May Not Be In Love

by Kristine Fellizar
Originally Published: 
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There should be a word in the English dictionary for that feeling you get when you tell someone you love them and hear it repeated back to you. Whether your partner is saying it for the first time or the hundredth time, you want to believe they actually mean it. Chances are, they do. But there are some cases where people will lie and say "I love you" even if they don't quite mean it. If you're unsure of whether or not your partner means it, experts say there are some things you can pay attention to.

If you're someone who takes those three little words seriously, lying about being in love may not make a ton of sense to you. But as Celia Schweyer, dating and relationship expert for DatingScout, tells Bustle, people do have their reasons.

For instance, some people think it's love, but realize later on that it's not. In this case, Schweyer says they'd be "unconsciously lying." Others say it in hopes to convince themselves that they really are in love. In more toxic situations, some will say it just to get something from you.

It's not always easy to tell whether someone's being genuine with you or not. So here are some subtle signs your partner is lying when they say "I love you," according to experts.


They Can't Look You In The Eye When They Say It

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You can tell a lot about the sincerity of a person by looking into their eyes. "Most people have a hard time keeping solid eye contact when they are lying or trying to manipulate a situation," Shelley Meche'tte, relationship expert and certified life purpose coach who specializes in helping women, tells Bustle. Eye contact is all about making a connection. It's even more intense and intimate, when you do it while saying "I love you." So if your partner is just saying the words but can't connect with you in a more intimate way, like looking in your eyes, they may be lying.


Their Body Language Is Saying Otherwise

"When someone loves you and loves being around you...their body language can't help but speak," Meche'tte says. For instance, they'll always smile at you, lovingly touch you, hold your hand, and find ways to be close to you. According to Meche'tte, these are all simple yet significant signs that your partner means what they say. But if they claim to love you, but they're never affectionate or they subtly try to push you away when you try to be, they may be lying about their feelings. Keep in mind, there are some people who aren't comfortable with touching and affection. If that's the case, you should have a discussion about it early on. But, if they used to be affectionate and now they're not, that can signal a problem.


It's Always Followed By An Ask

You can tell that someone may be lying about their love for you if they only say it when they want something. Their "I love you" is always followed by some kind of request. If this happens a lot, you may be dealing with an emotional manipulator. "When an emotional manipulator says 'I love you,' what they really mean is I love how you focus on me above all others, I love how easy it is to keep you focused on my needs and desires, and I love what you do for me," Christine Scott-Hudson, family and marriage therapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. If they sense that you're waking up from their toxic "spell," they may use the words "I love you" as emotional currency to keep you around. If you give in to their request, they know they still have you hooked. Leaving this type of situation can be difficult. It's easy to get sucked back in. So if you feel like you're being emotionally abused and you're looking to get out, help is out there for you.


They Say It Very Early On In The Relationship

"'I love you' can be said early on as a strategy of bringing a level of seriousness or commitment to the relationship, without necessarily having an in-depth conversation about where the relationship is at," Dr. Catalina Lawsin, PhD, a therapist with a speciality in relationships, tells Bustle. Someone may say this to you as a way to show you that they're serious about taking things to the next level without really meaning it. Everyone falls in love differently and at different times. But if they haven't taken the time to get to know the real you, it may not be love just yet. In this case, Lawsin says they just might be the type of person who throws the phrase around. There's nothing malicious or manipulative going on. They may not value those three words as much as you do. So don't feel pressured to say it back if you don't feel it just yet.


They Only Say It When You're Mad

"Look at the timing of the 'I love yous' and if there's a shady pattern to it, then look into this further," Lawsin says. For instance, saying it before asking for something is a sign that you may be dealing with a manipulator. But saying it before, during, or after a fight, can also be a red flag. According to Lawsin, those three words immediately elicit a reaction. "During times of tension, this can be used as a way to diffuse the situation or a distraction," she says. Someone may use this to immediately end a potential fight before it begins. Others may use this as a way to get in your good graces without having to really apologize.


You Always Say It First

If they only say it as a response to you saying it, that's a red flag to pay attention to. "Sometimes people say those words because they are unsure of what they feel, especially when the relationship has been around for some time already," Schweyer says. They may be feeling pressured to say something so you won't leave them. They may even say it as a way to fake it until they make it. By saying it, they hope to convince themselves they they really do love you. You should never pressure someone into saying those words. After all, you wouldn't like it if they did that to you. If you've been together for a while and they still aren't saying it first, you may want to have an honest discussion with them about how they really feel. They may just need some time to figure things out.


You Get The Feeling They Don't Really Mean It

"Most of us can sense when things just don't feel right, especially in our relationship," Meche'tte says. You may notice little changes in the way your partner says "I love you." For instance, it may not have as much passion behind it anymore. If your partner begins acting differently towards you, that's usually a sign that something is going on. When you notice that things feel off, it's important to check-in with your partner to see how they're really feeling. Don't assume to know what's going on. Maybe they're just a little bored, and a weekend away can rekindle the spark. Maybe they've fallen out of love, and there's nothing you can do anymore. Once you have the truth, you can work with them to figure out what to do next.


They Only Say It Over Text

According to Nancy Ruth Deen, breakup specialist and relationship coach, you'll never truly know if someone's being authentic when they say "I love you" if they do it over text. Those words should be expressed during "loving moments of intimacy," ideally in person, she tells Bustle. And if that's physically impossible, FaceTiming or talking on the phone can provide you with better options than texting.


They Don't Consider How Their Actions Affect You

Sometimes, the key to figuring out how your partner truly feels about you is examining their behavior. And if they don't consider how their actions impact you directly, they may not really be in love. "When you truly love someone, you care about how they feel emotionally and how your actions shape their reality," psychotherapist Meg Gitlin, LCSW, tells Bustle. "A more superficial connection may not have that kind of empathy or concern and could signify a lack of deeper love."


They Flirt With Other People

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Although some people are naturally flirtatious, if your partner's behavior bothers you and you've communicated that to them, they should act more mindfully. "They won't seek attention from people outside of the relationship and would be concerned with how this behavior would affect you, rather than how they could benefit from it," Meredith Silversmith, LMFT, couples therapist and co-host of The Simply Great Relationships podcast, tells Bustle.


They Won't Talk About The Future

If you've been with your partner for a while, but they avoid talking about the future, they may not be all-in. According to Lawsin, a partner who truly means it when they say they love you will want to know where you see the relationship going. By setting long-term relationship goals together as a unit, you'll be equally as invested in your growth and maturity as a couple.


Your Relationship Isn't A Priority

According to Silversmith, "If you notice a pattern of them opting for spending time with others over doing something together with you often, that may be a red flag." If you bring up wanting to spend more time with them, and they still don't make a real effort to change, that may be an indication that they aren't taking your relationship seriously.


Your Connection Feels Forced

Not everyone is a romantic, but you should feel loved by your partner. According to Fecik, if you feel like you have to force your partner to act with kindness toward you, they may see your relationship as an obligation. Loving you shouldn't be a "hardship" for them, she says.


They Always Have An Excuse

If your partner always says "I love you," but hesitates to take your relationship to the next level, they may not feel truly committed. According to Fecik, your partner may be using the phrase to manipulate you or keep you hooked. Diverting your attention to another topic or changing the subject quickly can all be signs that your SO isn't as invested in the future of your relationship as you are.


They Don't Initiate Affection

Some people get into the habit of saying "I love you" even though they're emotionally checking out of the relationship. If you notice any major changes in your partner's behavior, experts say something may be up. "Usually early in relationships we can see the bid for connection in asking to spend time together, or showing affection," Holly Anderson, clinically licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "If a relationship has less of this there could be important issues not being explored." Check in with your partner about how you've been feeling, and seek out clarity on where you both stand.


They're Being More Critical

Changes in your partner's behavior can be very telling. If your SO is getting more frustrated by the little things you say and do, Anderson says there may be a few underlying issues that need to be discussed. "Your partner can still care about you but their feelings can also shift," Anderson says. If you find yourself concerned, open up a dialogue with your partner about why this behavior hurts you.


You Feel It In Your Gut

As Meche'tte says, "most of us can sense when things just don't feel right, especially in our relationship." You may notice your partner is acting less passionately or more distant toward you. Regardless, if things feel a little off, it's important to talk to your partner to see how they're really feeling, instead of assuming you know what's going on. Once you're on the same page, you can work with them to figure out what to do next together.

Keep in mind that "I love you" can mean different things to different people. It really comes down to your intuition. If you feel like your partner is being sincere, they probably are. But if something doesn't feel quite right, these signs can help you figure out if your partner is lying about their feelings for you.


Celia Schweyer, dating and relationship expert for DatingScout

Shelley Meche'tte, relationship expert and certified life purpose coach

Christine Scott-Hudson, family and marriage therapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio

Catalina Lawsin, PhD, therapist

Meg Gitlin, LCSW, psychotherapist

Meredith Silversmith, LMFT, couples therapist and co-host of The Simply Great Relationships podcast

Nancy Ruth Deen, breakup specialist and relationship coach

Kristina Fecik, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Relationships Within Reach, LLC

Holly Anderson, clinically licensed marriage and family therapist

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