Is it normal for British men to be romantically retarded?!

Posted on January 12, 2011 by yankeebean

I had an email from an American reader in turmoil looking for advice about, you guessed it, her British man…  She’s long-distance with her Brit and they’re about to see each other again after 2 years of being apart.

While I DO have a prolific long distance relationship history, I HAVEN’T had a prolific dating history because I met Mr. Nice Guy when I was so young, so I’m going to open this one up on the floor.  Here’s her dilemma…

I tell him how I feel via letter. I told him that I was in love with him, that I wanted to be with him, would wait for him…etc etc all of that sappy stuff you hear in films and all…and it’s truly how I feel. When we were on Skype I asked him what he thought. And he just laughed “You know how I feel…I’m talking to you now, aren’t I?”


He’s always like that unless he’s got a bit of a drink in him–then he gets sweet and tells me he misses me, wishes I were there, blah blah… But what I want to know is


When we were together the last time in person, he couldn’t get enough of me. So affectionate, loving, sweet…sure, I get a “You look lovely” every now and then…and a pet name here or there, but never anything worth writing home about. This relationship is not worth throwing away because I am not getting my share of sap, but is it normal for English men to be more withdrawn? I just hope that when we are together in person again it’s the same.

You girls are my only hope! What are your experiences?

I know every relationship is different, but if this was me and Mr. Nice Guy during our long distance extravaganza, it would have freaked me out.  Long distance is friggin’ hard enough even WITH constant reassurance from both sides.  My only piece of advice is to not be afraid to talk openly about it – talking is all you get with long distance, so go for it.  And be honest with yourself about how things are really going.  I’ve always loved Mr. Nice Guy like crazy, but I knew I had to keep an open mind that he might meet someone else and break it off – it’s one of the rubbishy truths about long distance.

But the good news is that it can also work really well :)

So, SNFY chicas… what do you think?

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Ignats August 11, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Beyond a shadow of a doubt, at least the one Brit who I dated, was emotionally retarded. Sorry Brits, but he was. Shut down and closed off. Oh, he had his good side, but jeeze … this went beyond British reserve! I say get yourself a hot Italian or Latino if you want emotion. Even the Germans emote more than my British gent.

  2. Miranda July 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Yes, it is very normal! I’ve been dating my British man for a while. He’s so sweet, perfect, and amazing. But, he doesn’t really know how to express his feelings. I have to kind of talk it out of him. And when it comes to “the dirty” thing, he laughs when I talk “dirty” to him and laughs before doing the nasty. I love him to death, I just don’t know why he’s like this.

  3. Kmisss April 26, 2013 at 2:23 am

    I know this is a little old, but I had to comment. I’m in a relationship with a man from the South of England, and I admit I have never come across anyone like him. I would say “romantically retarded” is a saying best reserved all the terrible American men I have been in relationships with, he’s romantic, tough, very much into chivalry and never over the top with it. I love him to pieces and I came away with the opposite impression with my Englishman however, there are different men everywhere.

    When reading the original post which the woman was concerned, I thought he may not be the best at expressing himself but that alone was more effort then I’ve seen from my American ex husband whose romantic lines consisted of “ok” or ” I dunno” when asked if I looked ok. I love Englishmen’s passion about things, I think American men could use some pointers…

  4. Ms. Lovely April 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    If your romance is going on via the internet, please take note that this does not mean that it will be the same in person. Why do I say this? Well there is something about the internet that is similar to the effects of alcohol. The internet may work as an inhibitor to certain people who have a problem with opening up to others “face to face”. So before making up your mind about how you feel, there is no better way than to spend ACTUAL time TOGETHER… in person that is. The first few months into a relationship are difficult because of the feelings, they are very strong, but it is worth stepping back a bit and just invest in spending way more* physical time with your boy/girl before you allow yourself to jump into any decisions.

    *For example, a week on holiday is not the same as… say, two months, of living together, even a month.

    • peacefulyorkshire April 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      Yes, Ms. Lovely, good advice for any relationship :) Welcome to the blog!

  5. Brit101 April 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Obviously there are cultural differences as far as dating and relationships go, and what I think some of you have experienced is the result of how men think women want to be treated, and not how they actually want to treat you.

    Here in the UK, there is a very common issue of men being romatic and caring towards a woman and her being completely turned off by it. Men purposely try to play it cool and not go too deep with what they say or do. That’s just the way it is sometimes, and the women are to blame for that. Quite often women here like the bad boy rather than the nice trustable guy. It’s all too common. Treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen – anyone heard that phrase before?

  6. Kimberly P. April 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I myself am not showy in public either so that would not hurt my feelings. I like to play devil’s advocate just to see what he says sometimes. Just the other day I asked him about shopping for lingerie. My ex-husband would never shop for lingerie with me. He refused and was embarassed. I asked my love would he go shopping for lingerie with me and he emphatically said yes. I said “You would not be embarassed?” and he said not at all. I thought that was pretty good considering everything I have read about British guys being reserved in publc with their women.

  7. Katie Seattle April 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    @Kimberly, I am so glad he is affectionate. Just don’t be sad if the private way to be is less than you were expecting.

  8. Kimberly March 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I am late in replying to this topic as well but I wanted to say that my brit guy is very romantic. Complimentary all the time even when we video chat and I think I look like a mess. Even when I have my hair pulled up into a ponytail. BUt not just complimentary with that but also tells me how sweet he thinks I am and that he cannot wait for me to be there with him. We’ve discussed that there is a public way to be and a private way to be. He’s a gentleman but has no problems telling me how he feels. I think personalities vary and it’s not just where they are from.

  9. Yorkshireman March 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Whoao! Hold ya horses… if you think that British men are the only ones that are tight lipped about their feelings, forget that friends.

    British women are the same animal!

    Oh sure, pour a pint or five down their necks and they open up like gifts on Xmas day… but the next day everything that was said the previous night either cannot be remembered or is vehemently denied.
    “No no, I would never say that” or “I can’t remember, I must have had one too many”

    So fret not about your Yorkshire pie eating blokes… the lips are held tight on both sides or the gender fence.

  10. Ross March 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    I’m rather surprised to discover that so many American ladies find British men “emotionally retarded.” Come on, I can’t imagine American men baring their souls after a couple of dates. Perhaps it’s that you are far too open. Nothing scares men off – including American men I imagine- than a lady who is rather too gushing and assumes too much in her approach. The British are very careful at hiding their feelings – men and women. This is because they need to see the lie of the land before rushing into anything or giving an impression that might be misread by somebody else – that would be seen as unforgiveable. Best to adopt the same distance from a prospective partner as he has with you. If he or you are interested in each other then whatever might blossom between you will happen regardless. Don’t force the pace. What will be will be. The mention of British men becoming rather less inhibited when they’ve been drinking is very true, they do. But it might be a good idea to get to know him a bit better before dragging him into a bar and pouring ten pints of lager into him to get him to reveal his inner thoughts!

    • Donna January 15, 2013 at 7:00 am

      My experience with my British man was very hurtful. And somewhat,cruel. We were together for a year. After that year he couldn’t even say I love you..he he often ignored me at party and events…he prided himself to,be quite the ladies man…as I found out .american woman love the accent…he has at least a dozen ex girlfriends he still keeps I touch with, this was difficult for me…the worst part is he is the first person I went out with after 12 years alone…he has been in this country for 30 years and should have learned more customs by now… He’s 65 going on 25…

  11. liberty March 4, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Wow. I’m a bit late chiming in, but I must say that both Katie’s and the original romantic retard stories sound so familiar. I now have a very romantic, very open and wonderful British boyfriend, but some years back I moved here from New York and fell in love with a very charming Brit who was incredibly romantic and open when drunk (which was thankfully often), but who might laugh at the romantic stuff when sober–and could be very distant, especially when it was long-distance, or pull back suddenly as soon as plans about the future came up. My advice: deal with it sooner rather than later, because he might just be too afraid of opening up and commitment. He might not – of course I cannot say in any particular case or particular match, but I will say that its night and day having a gorgeous British man who can also open up for real and without a drink.

  12. Daniela January 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I think men in total are retarded when it comes to romance. I am german, I have dated german, british and american guys and I think that is not just british guys that are lacking in that department.

  13. Katie Seattle January 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

    oh, and my skype is katlin.moore

  14. Katie Seattle January 26, 2011 at 8:43 am

    I am 25. He is 27. It’s not like we are teenagers or anything. He is just an emotional dumba$$

  15. Blair U. January 26, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Katie, how old are u both? I think he cares about you and probably loves you, but maybe he afraid that he is too young and everything is getting too serious?
    I mean the worst thing in a long distance relationship is that you can’t be with your love and imperceptibly make him feel close to you, feel all these incredible emotions and butterflies.. In such kind of relationships guys always have time to turn on their heads and analyse their behavior :)
    I think you should fly to England anyway.. but not tell him and have fun. Do u have other friends there? Then post some pictures on facebook or write him something like..oh i just came to see my friend or i wanted to see Royal wedding..haha)) invent something!
    I don’t think he will loose a chance to see you!
    P.s. If you want to talk, give me your skype)) Hope we all will be happy!

    • peacefulyorkshire January 26, 2011 at 9:56 am

      Hi Katie– I would second Blair, if you are comfortable with it, go ahead and go to the UK anyway… London is a fantastic place to sight see anyway…not worth wasting all that dosh just because your man changed his mind. You deserve a holiday after all that you have gone through with this bloke.

  16. Katie Seattle January 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Oh lordy, that sounds so familiar! I visited in September 2009, and met Mr. Charming- he has the whole package: sexy, funny, great body, good job, amazing in bed, and of course the accent. *swoon* While I was there he was the most affectionate, sweet, complimentary, and attentive guy I had ever met.

    We made plans for him to come visit for Christmas. In the mean-time it was constant emails, facebook comments, texts, and phone calls. He came for Christmas and was it amazing. Lots of cuddles, kisses, sweet words, plans for the future. I, being me, feel head over heels in love with him. I made the mistake of telling him that, right before he got in line to go through security at the airport…. I know I am a genius with tremendous timing. His response was a very tight lipped “wow, I am so flattered.”

    After he got home he got a little distant- emails less often, texts, less often, and a hasty “I have to go” whenever I got too emotional for him to process. He still talked about the future and what we could name our kids, but in a teasing way. The only time he was genuinely affectionate was when he was drunk, then I was amazing and he couldn’t imagine life without me. I was in too deep to see how much the frigidness was hurting me.

    Fast forward to July. I had my ticket, the time off work, and only three weeks to go until I could see my prince. I got an email saying “I really don’t know how I feel about you, I don’t think you should come.” That would have been handy information before I dropped $1200 on a plane ticket.

    Now that he can’t have anymore, he is suddenly affectionate again. I don’t know what to do because I still care for him, but I am terrified that he’ll change his mind again.

  17. MDA January 24, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Hi, nice blog :)
    I’ve heard about British men being not the most romantic men in the world, and even when stories like Bridget Jones diary and Pride Prejudice describes that kind of man, I find my English boyfriend always me telling how much he loves me, which of course as any other guy didn’t say after some time we had become a couple.

    I remember though at first it took him some time to realise his feelings for me, maybe because he had never felt this before for anyone else, he said that, I was willing to wait for him because I had fallen for him some time before he did or realised at least, I’m usually complimenting him and telling him how much I love him and so is him. We are patient with each other when we said something that might hurt the other one, we apologise and forgive, he’s lovely :)

    We are currently in a long distance relationship, we are in contact everyday and I’m moving to England soon :)
    In a relationship like mine where we are not physically together, it’s nice to hear my boyfriend say lovely things on the phone, message or skype, I would feel confused if he said something like what your boyfriend told you, would ask him what he means by that or I would start being paranoid.

    Just ask him how he really feel and tell him your thoughts otherwise how could he know things aren’t well with you? Maybe he things it’s normal, guys are not mind readers.

    Hope I help a bit x

  18. Blair U. January 21, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Your blog is absolutely brilliant! Helped me so much.. Had u published the book? i would definitely buy it :)
    I need your advice,because i feel so sad and terrible right now. I have met my Charming Brit one month ago, we haven’t contacted a lot that day(he lives in London, and i was returning to Cambridge) ,but he liked me so much that he found me on Skype that day :)
    We talked a lot, found that we have so much in common and he told me all the time how gorgeous i am and that i am the most beautiful girl in the world for him.. well he melted my heart :) The problem is that i am leaving for my homeland on Sunday and maybe i’ll never have a chance to see him again :( (( So we used this chance, he asked me out last weekend , i went to London, we had a lovely date…spend 2 days together.. He was very caring and told me a lot of sweet things,BUT at the end of the second day,when i was going to leave, he became very cold, looked sad, but told me that everything is fine and he is just tired. He kissed me very reservedly and didn’t gave me really warm cuddle or told me that he’ll miss me..nothing. It was so depressing, because he is my second man and i slept with him so soon.
    He wrote me sometimes that he already miss me and that’s it. These 2 days he wasn’t contacting me and it’s killing me! I know that he works hard, but anyway.. u can always find a time for one bloody message. Do you think he is just reserved and thinks that i am not into him (i was so scared to show how i felt, that told him that i don’t think we’ll meet again because we’ll probably have gf’s and bf’s) or he just got what he want and now he is not interested?
    I don’t know how to act. do i need to show him when i’ll fly away, that he mean a lot for me and talk with him every day on skype or… Are British guys really not romantic and probably he doesn’t feel that way, because there wasn’t much time to feel something?

    p.s. and what surprised me a lot: when he drinks, he is so sweet and funny, much more having fun. he even told me that he want to be my boyfriend so badly.. But our goodbye and his last days behavior just confuse me!

    Sorry if i wrote too much and so clumsy… It just hurts :(

  19. Jenny January 19, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I’m currently in a long distance relationship myself, and I have to say that this kind of response from my British boy would totally freak me out too. I dont know if it’s characteristic of british men or not, but it is uncharacteristic of my guy, who is usually totally sweet and romantic, even if he does possess that sometimes acidic, irreverent British humor that I often take all too-seriously.

    I have, however, experienced that sort of response from American guys.

    Im not sure its about nationality at all, its just a personality issue. If that sort of statement isn’t in line with his usual personality, you may want to step back. he may just be a bit intimidated and unready for that conversation. my boyfriend knows I need to be reassured regularly, and if i somehow let him know im worried or dont feel loved, he’ll usually write a really sweet (but usually not overly sappy) email to me letting me know what he feels. Just be patient, see if he doesn’t come around :)

  20. TheMysteriousHat January 19, 2011 at 12:49 am

    I’ve just been reminded of this post about the difference between Britains and Americans in giving and receiving complements. It’s probably relevant here.

  21. SJ January 17, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Yes. But I don’t think your man is one of them.
    He sounds lovely and is definitely a keeper.

  22. justAmericandesigned January 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Oh wow! My British man has been anything but “romantically retarded”… I always thought it was just American guys who seriously lacked romance! It’s always been my feeling that his romantic tendencies, especially over Skype, get me through my days without him around, but it can definitely be different for some couples. The only difference is that he will only speak to me romantically when alone, and rarely in front of his mates (which is perfectly understandable).

    Main point is that it’s all about your comfort zone. And like Megan alluded to… communication is key!

  23. TheMysteriousHat January 13, 2011 at 1:33 am

    And chipping in another thought, in many subcultures in of British, fulsome complements are automatically perceived as insincere, so “I get a “You look lovely” every now and then…and a pet name here or there” might equate to something to write home about in UK terms.

  24. TheMysteriousHat January 13, 2011 at 1:20 am

    If I can throw in a response as a British man, I have to say I read the details and he didn’t strike me as particularly emotionally retarded. So on this entirely unscientific sample size, yes he’s normal.

  25. saucymint January 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Maybe it’s because my husband is Scottish, not English, but my experience has been the opposite. He was head-over-heels romantic from the start, even while we were apart, which took me by surprise. We’ve been together seven years now, and I still couldn’t have asked for a more supportive, compassionate guy…. American or British.

    I admire your patience. I hope you can get a better sense of his true feelings towards you when you’re finally together in person on a more permanent basis.

    Emotional distance is the last thing you need in something as tenuous as an LDR, and it certainly won’t help if you move over to be with him. (You’ll need all the emotional support you can get.) Just make sure you don’t dismiss it as a “British” trait and put up with it if it’s stressing you out and making you miserable. It’s his personality, not his nationality.


  26. Megan January 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Just wanted to add that this doesn’t mean you should settle for it! Speak up and tell him to make with the reassurances!

  27. Megan January 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I’m Canadian and I’ve lived in the UK for almost four years now. I haven’t dated many British men, so I shouldn’t generalise, but I’m going to go ahead and say YES, it’s normal. My friends here all joke about their ‘stiff upper lip’ and how they’re emotionally constipated until they get a few pints in them, and I’ve found that to be totally true. I dated a guy who was the absolute prototypical Brit – he was actually Welsh, but still – with a posh accent, collared shirts, tea breaks, tweed jackets, the whole deal. He would never say how he felt and was always calm and collected, and I told him at one point that it was going to soon become a deal-breaker for me. That night, he got plastered and I found I had a sobbing, broken, emotional mess on my hands. He had no trouble declaring his love at that point, sure, but the whole thing seemed pretty repressed and dysfunctional to me. That’s an extreme case, sure, but I’ve seen variations on a theme with the other Brits I’ve dated, as well as my British friends.

  28. peacefulyorkshire January 12, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Oh dear, I experience the same thing with my British fiancée…a huge lack of romance if one goes by the American sense of the what being romantic means.
    I ranted about it in a previous post which generated some interesting comments from our readers! Check it out when you get a chance, and thanks for writing us ;)

  29. tami curtis January 12, 2011 at 9:17 am

    this occurred often during my long distance relationship – i was the emotional one (shocker, i know) and he was always the one who kept his head. i’ve noticed many brits are very reluctant to really show their emotions until they are at the boiling point and by then, its too late, you’ve gone where no man should go . . .

    I wish i had listened to my gut feeling though, i honestly thought this was something that would change once i moved over here, that surely no one could exist with no emotions . . . haha, as you can see i was very much the naive one. Brits are famous for not showing their emotions, its a title they arent afraid of and i’m sad to say, i dont see it changing any time soon. If this bothers you now, get out while you can. Sorry to be so blunt, but dont waste time trying to fool yourself into thinking this is only temporary. I had an especially rough time adapting to the changes over here and i thought (at first) well, at least i have my husband to hold on to and help me through it all . . . oh, i was so sadly mistaken.

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