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Carolyn Hax: Reader advice on being in love


While I’m away, readers give the advice.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On people who say they’ve never been in love, four men with four very different takes:

My late wife and I had a somewhat stormy but wonderful marriage. She once told good friends — who had known each other since second grade, were married, had never been “head over heels” and were experiencing midlife difficulties — that it was unfortunate they had not had that early romance to rely on.

That may be true, but I think she overstated the case. This couple are now in their mid-70s and their marriage is a success. I also know another couple the same age and in similar current circumstances. The wife once remarked that she was puzzled over all the hoopla about “love”; she had never felt that way. Her marriage is stable and satisfying.

Perhaps the never-in-love boyfriend is emotionally healthy and not subject to what I would call “the romantic psychosis” of our current cultural norm. Perhaps his girlfriend is a true friend of his. Perhaps he should marry her. Perhaps a matchmaker of yore would approve of this pair as a “couple.” Perhaps.


Some men don’t have the vocabulary to describe emotions clearly.

Here’s an analogy. My wife can easily distinguish between sea mist, pea and grass green paint. To me they are all just light green. Olive and forest green are dark green to me. I recognize the various shades, but I don’t have different names for them.

So maybe the girlfriend is saying “sea mist” and the boyfriend is saying “light green.” They both might mean the same thing, or not, but the boyfriend can’t explain it any better. He literally doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe it any better.

Working on It

Never really been in love, not sure what it’s supposed to feel like, never saying “I love you” — I have been the same for most of my life. I was horribly abused emotionally and once sexually, according to a psychoanalyst and a psychiatrist I required because of it. My wife and I have been married for 53 years now, and I have long recognized she is my best friend even though I have rarely mentioned it to her. I started telling her I loved her only in the past 10 years or so and let the chips fall where they may. (Actually, it didn’t hurt at all.) I only recently started calling her “honey.” I think she’s a saint for bearing with me.

Can a boyfriend who says he has never been in love be induced to talk about his abuse, if it is there? With loving parents, he should know what love is.


Wow, and boom! The guy who has never been in love was me at age 30. My hetero “affairs” generally lasted about two years, but I never experienced burning passion. A strong “like” was the best I could do, and it was generally sexual boredom that ended each relationship.

It was only when I was yanked out of the closet and accepted my gay sexuality that I was able to experience real passion.


Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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