Loving Someone who Can’t Love Back

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve formulated a friendship with a man who has admitted to me he has a personality disorder (the name of which I do not know). He has told me he is incapable of love. He is, however, empathetic and charismatic. He loves people and surrounds himself with them at all waking moments. When you’re with him he is 100% in the moment, and will focus on whomever is in his presence entirely. However, when you leave his presence, it’s like you no longer exist to him. I tease that it’s “if a tree falls in the forest syndrome” He experiences horrible migraines, and treats himself with diet, and Effexor. He also sees a therapist.

My problem is this: we’ve kept our relationship strictly as a friendship so far. We have an intense chemistry, but have not acted upon it. I feel madly in love with this person, even though I know he has told me he’s incapable of love. I’ve tried to distract myself with other men, and with work, but nothing seems to stop me from wanting to be with this man. I know it’s my brain’s chemistry telling me this, but what can a person in my situation do? Is the only option to run? How can a healthy person love someone incapable of ever returning love to them? Can someone in their 40 some odd years of existence, whose never loved, one day love? Is it possible to have any kind of healthy relationship with someone that has a disorder like this?

A. I am not aware of any personality disorders in which one of the symptoms is the inability to love. It would have been helpful to know more about his understanding of the inability to love. That phrase may have many different meanings.

It’s odd that he is capable of forming friendships but doesn’t believe he’s capable of love. He apparently makes a distinction between friendships and romantic love relationships. If he is capable of engaging in friendship-type relationships, then he should be capable of other types of interpersonal relationships.

You have very strong feelings for him. You can’t help how you feel. It will be difficult for you to continue your friendship without sharing your true feelings. You should tell him how you feel.

Until you better understand what his psychological problems may be, you cannot determine whether a deeper relationship with him is viable. You need to explore his “inability to love” in more depth. Ask him to expound upon what he means by that phrase. Does he have examples? Did he try to love someone and it was a struggle? Where did the idea of incapacity of love originate? Don’t rule out the possibility that his “inability to love” is his polite way of saying that he is not interested in a romantic relationship.

Ultimately, you need to gather more information about whether he’s capable of being in a romantic relationship and whether he’s interested in doing so. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Loving Someone who Can’t Love Back. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/04/05/loving-someone-who-cant-love-back/