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Love Letters

Why do my ex and I still use the ‘L’ word?

We broke up, and for good reasons, and I moved away. But she still says I love you every time we talk.

Have a question for Meredith? Submit here.

Q. Hi, Meredith.

I was in a great relationship with a fantastic woman for about a year and a half, but we realized it was causing us both to live unhealthy lives, so we decided to break it off. However, we kept coming back to each other with regular hookups and biweekly date nights. At the end of the school year — we’re both teachers — I moved back to my hometown, partly to give us some distance. We went for a few months not speaking, but then I reached out, and now we talk about twice a month.

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I’ve tried to keep everything platonic, but we tend to have really deep conversations, and she always ends our conversations with “I love you,” which I say back out of politeness. Sometimes I’m scared I’ll never connect with anyone as I do with her. Other times I feel I owe it to myself to try something new and move on. So I have two questions: 1) What is she doing? Can women say “I love you” with no romantic intentions? 2) What should I do?

 — Confused

A. Can women say “I love you” with no romantic intentions? Sure. (I still tell my high school boyfriend I love him at the end of every phone call. But it’s our tradition, and we broke up two decades ago. Plus, we only talk a few times a year.)

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But probably not in your case. It sounds like you’re both leaving the door open for something romantic, and the declarations of love are just one of the ways you make that clear.

If you want to find out whether you can connect with someone other than this woman, you should take a break from the twice-monthly communication.

Some exes can move on while keeping in touch, but you two aren’t there yet. You need space in your brain to get used to life on your own — and for someone new.

 — Meredith

Readers Respond

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Remember why you broke up in the first place. It was because you were unhealthy influences on each other. This seems like a continuation of that, no? Right now you are stuck in limbo. Movement in whatever direction is better than limbo. SEXUAL-CHOCOLATE

I think in most cases you have to move on with someone else *before* you can be friendly and maintain a connection with an ex. If you’re saying “I love you” and neither of you has anyone else in your life, this is going to keep you from being fully baggage-free for anyone new. F7677

A woman can say “I love you” without it being romantic . . . but in this case, I think this is her way of keeping the connection alive. MHOUSTON

Um, men do this too. Here’s a question: Do all men respond “I love you” out of sheer politeness, but not because they genuinely mean it? BKLYNMOM

Like Han to Leia, just say, “I know.” NOMORESCREENNAMES

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.
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