Partners Who Are Incapable of Feeling Love

Broken Heart Courtesy Wikipedia

Broken Heart Courtesy Wikipedia

Each person who enters your life has a unique lesson to teach you

What if your partner is incapable of feeling love? Chances are they have a deep-seated fear that if they love you (or anyone) that will give you the power to hurt them, deprive them, and to abandon them. What he or she is feeling and thinking is what causes extreme fears, not what a you are saying or doing. To ease these fears this person will strip you of self-confidence to make you weak so that you are afraid to leave the relationship. To calm fears of being abandoned they will make you a focus of their rage, panic, fears, and inevitably their hatred. These behaviors effectively sabotage the relationship. Your partner controls the relationship abandonment through abuse because they are terrified of your ability to leave them. The partner incapable of love sets-up their own abandonment. The fear of rejection runs profoundly deep.

Falling for someone incapable of love locks you into whatever false image the person is projecting. You fall in love with an illusion. During the honeymoon phase of the courtship you see a person who seems to want and needs love.  Once you commit they begin to ignore your emotional needs and sometimes are unfaithful. Suddenly the partner begins to withdraw and provoke arguments. You wonder how could your partner who seemed to love you change so totally toward you. The relationship becomes too close for comfort for the person who is incapable of love. You as a person are not seen as a separate self with needs and a separate identity. This means you end up taking part in the relationship at the cost of not being yourself.

Why do you stay with someone incapable of loving you? Usually something in your history has led you to this place and what keeps you in a loveless relationship. Being loved is what most of us really want and often we are afraid of love without consciously knowing it. This is especially true if you have a history of over functioning and avoid worrying about your own personal goals and problems by focusing on others. This caretaking becomes a way of managing anxiety in relationships under stress. Developing a clear and authentic self means you can be pretty much be who you are. When you are not able to leave an emotionally painful relationship the tendency is to construct an explanation to make sense of your experience, “He just can’t deal with intimacy” or “She had a bad childhood.” The cost of not leaving may include chronic anger, resentments, feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or even self-blame (i.e., “I am such a loser for not leaving”). When you sacrifice your well-being you might also experience sexual problems, physical complaints, or compulsive behaviors. This leaves you angry at how badly you are being treated and with an overwhelming need to hold on to your relationship no matter how it is hurting you.

Acknowledging that your partnership is destructive and deciding to leave is not easy. Often there is regret, disappointed dreams, and damaged self-esteem. You may feel leaving is wrong and a sign of failure, especially if children are involved. In truth, what is wrong is to accept cruelty, abuse, and unhappiness. The abuse is a deal breaker.  The relationship will be more painful in the long run than the temporary pain of leaving. If you don’t take responsibility for your life, you aren’t really living. Establishing a good relationship with yourself allows you to find love with others. If you are afraid to leave the relationship, please give yourself permission to ask for help.


Thank you for reading this post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.


14 thoughts on “Partners Who Are Incapable of Feeling Love

  1. Hi,
    Your article sums up my husband and i who have been together for 10 years. Im the caretaker type who keeps trying to excuse/fix and have my own upbringing issues that has placed me in this role. We are engaged in marriage counselling and it has been helping.
    Im wondering how to love myself enough to not need to find someone who needs to do that for me. If he does the same then maybe noone has to leave. Theres no abuse and he “cheats” with marijuana aka his mistress.
    My question is… Is “leaving” or “ending difficult relationships” the only way to happiness?

    • Dear Hannah,

      Were you happy before you married your husband? That is better barometer as to whether you can be happy again. Marriage counseling is smart. I would spend time making a list of things that make you happy and do something each day that brings you pleasure. Discuss your caretaking/codependency with your therapist and invest in yourself by learning about it. You can be happy, but it is always an inside job. I am wishing you much grace and freedom from your sadness.


  2. Thank you so much for writing this article. It’s the first thing I’ve read that explains some of what I’ve gone through. I was in a relationship with my first boyfriend for a year before he decided to leave me. I knew I loved him at three months or so but prolonged telling him because I was afraid he wouldn’t say it back. I told him at six months and he couldn’t return it. I was heart broken, but he told me he knew he would love me some day and he begged me to stay. On more than one occasion in the following months I talked about being worried that he couldn’t love me back, and again he begged me to stay. I wanted to wait until we both loved each other until we had sex, but it was taking too long for him to say it so I had sex with him anyway. He still didn’t love me. He also never introduced me to his parents. I told him it was unhealthy for us to have such an imbalance in our relationship and he told me that all relationships have one person that loves the other more. He kept telling me that we were not that different from each other in the way that we cared about each other, and he wanted to love me and was trying, he just needed time. In the end he broke up with me saying that we were incompatible and I was right, time wouldn’t change anything and he would never love me. Now I don’t know what to do because I am so sad and I can’t get over all of it. It happened five months ago.

    • Megan,
      It sounds like your ex is not able to love himself. You obviously have an open heart that does love well. The healing process takes time. Have you forgiven him for not being able to love? That is not an easy process to complete. Grief tends to come in waves. The holidays, especially the first one apart is the hardest. Be gentle with yourself. Learning to fully grieve your loss is not for wimps. Feel your pain, accept, and forgive, eventually you will feel joy and love. My heart goes out to you. I am wishing you an abundance of self-compassion.

  3. Hello There
    I feel like this article sort of perfectly describes my situation but at the same time i can’t really tell what my situation is.

    I’m a very caring person and i know that for a fact but the only true love i know of is what i have for my parents and siblings. don’t get me wrong i do care about my girlfriend much but i don’t think i love her the way i love my parents. I’ve seen a lot of my friends cry over heart breaks or seen a lot of girls who cheat and maybe as you said i have this fear of being one of this people and i dread it so much. I’m not violent with my girlfriend but i do give the silent treatment quite a lot
    Somehow i keep convincing myself that i need a relationship but when i get into these i feel like they love me too much and I’m not giving enough back. i did break up with my previous gf after two years because i believe i got bored but after a while i realized its because i couldn’t stand behaving the way i was with random mood swings consistently. i really wanna be a better person for my current gf but i have deep trust issues and can’t seem to just fully love and let go. I’m generally a happy person and nice to people but i can’t keep doing this in relationships to them because i also don’t communicate great. you mentioned something about falling in love with an illusion and perhaps thats why my previous and current girlfriends fall for because they all seem to assuming I’m this amazingly loving person even though i am sometimes but once i get in i just keep acting this way and it hurts me too. i have told her about it and breaking up but she seems to want to stay with me..i really want to change and love someone fully but i can’t let go fully. i lost my dad when i was 9 and his brother practically betrayed him and my family after his death to take over his company and sometimes I’m led to believe perhaps my deep trust issues come from there but i don’t know what else it could be. sometimes i have too much of an ego when we fight to be the first to text and I’m led to believe is because i know they love me more and will eventually talk to me. maybe i need someone who calls me to my bullshit (excuse my French) and lets me know they can’t take that but even when I’ve been threatened like that in the past i don’t seem to care much and seems as if I’m hoping the person leaves

    Please help me because i want to love and i know i need to recover from this

    • Ken,
      Thank you for writing to me. I respect your willingness to look at the painful relationship behavior. The following is from my post “Curing Your Fear of Intimacy in Relationships.” Most everyone carries fears about intimacy and being vulnerable. We are afraid of being hurt, abandoned, rejected, humiliated, or betrayed. We still want intimacy, but are afraid of depending on someone and then getting wounded again. These experiences are a driving force in ambivalence about intimacy. The more painful and unresolved our earlier experiences are the more we crave intimacy and the more we feel threatened by it. This is demonstrated by “come close,” “go away” relationship behavior. We get close, get afraid, find fault with our partner, feel hurt and sabotage the relationship. We then find ourselves alone, crave closeness again, and the repetitive behavior starts all over. So if you sabotage intimacy and see it as a negative behavior you want to change, focus on the fear that fuels your actions. You might find this change process easier with the support of a therapist.
      If you love your girlfriend and want a decent relationship, you can learn how to create intimacy better. Find out what your partner needs and how to support those needs. If you pay attention and care about her feelings, you can learn to be a healthier partner. Crossing the “I don’t care anymore line” must stop. If you stay in this relationship over time you can build your capacity for intimacy. I am wishing you the best on this journey.

  4. This explains the relationship I am currently ending 100%. We have been together for 4 years and have 2 children. He constantly tries to cheat on me and is always having another girl on the side that he is talking to. I just finally couldn’t deal with it anymore. I love him and its hurting me so much to leave but I just finally realized, even more so after reading this, that it’s never going to get any better and he isn’t going to change. Thank you I feel really emotional after reading this but it really made me feel better to find something that I can finally relate to.

    • Torey,
      Thank you for writing to me. My heart goes out to you. I hope you will get or have support to make a clean break from your painful relationship. The first few weeks, months, year is the most challenging for grieving. Once your partner knows it’s over, he is likely to attempt to hook you back in by making empty promises to change. You might find some of my other posts beneficial to read and most especially the comments from readers who have escaped purgatory. Your children’s well-being depends on the decisions you make as you are the only one who can change. Enduring the short term pain of leaving will be life changing. I do understand how hard it is to end an abusive relationship when you are a loving person and children are involved. I am wishing you the strength and courage to find your way out of the nightmare. You will be okay and are strong enough to face whatever happens.

      • Roberta, I wasn’t sure how to search or make contact for these tips so here I am. I just read this post and I’ve come to a horrible realization. Well that’s not true… I’ve known for quite sometime that the negative figure you’re referring to in the post, is me. I’m causing the pain. I’m worried there’s a lot more going on in my head than I think. It’s all a mess and I don’t want to feel like a monster anymore. I do love her, very much I know I do, but the behavior is awful. I can’t seem to explain this to the people I pay to talk to. I don’t want another medicine. I want to stop being a torn over emotional horrible human being. My partner doesn’t deserve this pain. She should leave but claims she doesn’t want to. That and in the long run, I won’t let her. I don’t want to let her go

        • Laine,
          Thank you for having the integrity to admit you are abusive and asking for support. Taking responsibility for your abuse is the first step. You have to want to change and you have to be capable of changing. Crossing the “I don’t care” line in an argument can no longer happen. Letting go of the denial over the abusive nature of your actions and attitudes and its effects on your victim(s) has to stop. Self-hatred and feeling powerless fuels the cruelty. Abusive behavior is ingrained and a coping strategy usually learned in childhood. Accepting that your problem behavior is more powerful then you are and getting help is necessary. It sounds like you want to stop saying or doing something harmful to your partner. Finding a new therapist with a specialty in the prevention of violence (domestic violence) can help you with the thoughts and excuses that allow you to deny doing anything wrong. It’s important to recognize it is the behavior that is defective not who you are. New behaviors can be learned. I am wishing you the strength and courage to stop your violence.

  5. I can’t explain how perfectly this article describes my relationship with my girlfriend. In the beginning I was the object of her affection, the love of her life, the man of her dreams. A couple months down the road and I start seeing a change and hearing about her past with her father that left and and alcohol issues and abusive exes. I wanted to be the one that makes her see differently but it has come at the cost of my happiness and sense of self. She acknowledges that she needs to seek therapy but does not have insurance and no way of funding therapy. I would love to stick it through because I do get a glimpse every now of the girl I fell in love with… Should I stick it through? Maybe try and back off or completely walk away?

    • broslice100,
      It sounds like you are in one of those in-between places of acceptance, which isn’t fun. You do not have the power to change your partner or save her. She has to want to be responsible for her own actions and capable of changing. She may not be ready for the journey and the choice is not yours. Ask yourself what you want and need to take care of yourself and move forward with your life. You might have to leave your girlfriend behind for a better life. You can love and encourage her, but that doesn’t mean you accept abuse or mistreatment. It is not okay to hurt yourself. My heart goes out to you.

I love to hear your thoughts, Please reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s