Boyfriend said “I love you” and it was really triggering

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Hi all, I am 23 and most likely have cptsd from growing up in a pretty neglectful and dysfunctional home.

I met my current boyfriend about 5 months ago on a dating app. I decided to take things pretty slow with him so we weren’t officially boyfriend/girlfriend until a month ago. A few days ago we were at his house fooling around a bit, and I was trying to get him to talk dirty to me, and I was asking him about what he was thinking and feeling in the moment. And that’s when the I love you came up.

Initially I froze, and then I started shaking and crying. I was totally not expecting it and was kinda freaked out. He’s a lovely guy and I could see us having something more serious but I just wasn’t expecting him to be thinking along that line just yet. I also think that I’ve dissociated love from sex to a degree that I really don’t like and hearing that while doing something sexual really brought that home for me.

Also, I was with my previous boyfriend for a year and said I love you on multiple occasions and he would just not respond to it. What would happen is something like he would give me a ride to work and we would hug and kiss goodbye and it would just come out. He said that he wouldn’t say it to anyone unless they were engaged. Which is fine but he was also not empathic about how much it might hurt to say that and have the other person not respond (he had a general tendency of lacking empathy and this showed up throughout the relationship).

I also realize that I have now done something similar with my current boyfriend and I feel really bad about that. It’s not that I would never want to I just need more time for it to feel right to say.
As I was lying next to him, crying into his shoulder, I just felt like a tiny baby. And what was worse was how alone I felt. I felt like I couldn’t connect with anyone, like I was entirely, surely alone. This happened on sunday and the last few days have been rough.

I’m slipping into some destructive coping mechanisms (binging food and/or alcohol). I’m also upset because I feel like I can’t tell what my feelings are towards him. I think I’m just so wrapped up in the other emotions that I’m processing that maybe that’s on the back burner for a bit. I feel really frustrated that I’m having such a massive response to this. I’ve barely been able to think or do anything useful the last few days.

Any advice or thoughts or just sharing of similar experiences would be appreciated.
Also, for some extra context, he’s Indian and I’m American
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I was raised in an abusive and manipulative household but didn’t realize it until I was around 40. The words “I love you” and “I miss you” are loaded for me. I’m working on this in therapy because my therapist cares for me more than my parents ever did (ever could?). It was such a long process to develop trust and never saying those words actually helps to make it something real. Those words have been tossed at me by too many people who didn’t have my best interests at heart.


Sounds like you need time to let this sink in and allow yourself to feel safe with him. Have you spoken to him about what happened and does he know about the trauma you’ve experienced?


gentle empathy, blackcrowe. i've been married for 42 years and my flight instinct still triggers when i hear those words. trust doesn't come easily for those of us who were betrayed from birth. kudos on the self-awareness which allowed you to spot this phenom so early into your recovery. i hope the awareness serves you well and allows you to heal as you grow.

keep venting, openly and honestly. hope healing happens here.


Trauma in one's history can make love. vulnerability, closeness triggering, stressful, scary. How are things going now?
Well, unfortunately my instinct was totally valid. We were together for 3 months, broke up 2 weeks ago and he barely made any time at all for me. I had to constantly initiate plans and he couldn’t even find the time to text me during the week if we couldn’t see each other. I’m honestly wondering if he just felt pressure to say it in the moment and hadn’t thought about it at all. Which really pisses me off because it’s a serious thing to say. And it’s f*cking awful to play around with someone’s heart like that. I honestly am not sure if he even ever cared that much about me. I know a lot of people say that at the end of a relationship but he was so negligent as a boyfriend that I really wonder if he ever cared. What the f*ck


I’m honestly wondering if he just felt pressure to say it in the moment and hadn’t thought about it at all.

i'm wondering with you, blackcrowe. equally, i'm wondering if the phrase triggered him as mightily as it triggered you. it is a common trigger phrase among older bachelors. just wondering in a not-mine-to-sort sort of way.

gentle support while you sort your own.
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