But it didn't just end there.SpuffyGlitz, I think the reality is that there's always going to be ambiguity and debate about whether Buffy really loved Spike because Whedon purposely left it open to interpretation. He knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote their finale scene ("I love you" "No you don't but thanks for saying it") and knowingly left it open-ended. Just as he purposely left their final night together as ambiguous when it faded to black (he talks in the DVD commentary how if you want to believe they fought you could or if you wanted to believe they made love that's fine too - pretty much two polar opposite ideas). Ultimately, I think it boils down to the fact that, as he says in the "Chosen" DVD commentary, after the AR he didn't feel comfortable showing Buffy & Spike being intimate on screen again. He said he felt it'd be "irresponsible." Which, IMO, as far as the televised seasons go, it meant he'd never really commit to Spuffy again. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too by exploring Spuffy as this "grown up and romantic and confusing relationship" but he either didn't having the guts or genuinely felt too guilty or uncomfortable about ever actually showing it. That just wasn't going to be sustainable in the long run.
Luckily for them, the series only lasted one more season anyway so they could get away with skirting around it. But had the series continued in televised form it just wouldn't have worked. They had seriously underestimated the impact the AR would have and backed themselves into a corner.
I actually feel sorry for Spuffy fans in that respect. And I don't mean that in a patronising or condescending way, I just mean that for Spuffy fans actually wanting the same kind of committal that other ships had, they were never really going to get it. Whedon was always going to tip his hat to them whilst simultaneously tipping his hat to all the people outraged that Spuffy was even still a thing in any form. I do understand that there's some Spuffy shippers who genuinely enjoy or even prefer the ambiguity of their relationship but it does also mean you're always going to have a significant portion of fans who will interpret things very differently and Whedon wrote them in such a way that it was very much intended to be ambiguous.
Whedon us still doing the same thing even in Buffy S12. He breaks Souffy up off screen and it's left ambiguous for both sets of fans and open to interpretation.
Hell Spike doesn't even show up until the very back end of S8 and that's only to provide Buffy some exposition and some transportation to the final fight scene.
Can you think of an in universe reason why Spike doesn't go back to her in AtsS5 but instead decides to have sex with Harmony or why Buffy doesn't seem to care about either him or Angel in That Girl In Question 🤷♂️
I know JW retconned that in the comics