“I love you” is a huge step in any relationship, and it’s mostly because we fear what the response will be. Saying “I love you” and not hearing it back feels devastating, but you can bounce back from it.
Why it’s so hard
Nobody wants to be the first person to say the L-word because you’re basically going in blindly. You may think your relationship is going well, and they must love you back, but when it comes down to it, you could be wrong! Maybe they aren’t there yet. Maybe they could never love you because you are too different. It’s safe to say that saying “I love you” is nerve-racking AF.
I was the first person to say “I love you” in my relationship, and, honestly, I cried. My boyfriend was confused about my tears, and he sort of panicked. I explained to him later that I was terrified with the idea of telling him that I loved him. It scared me because that meant he could leave me, and I would be heartbroken. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I think somewhere deep within my psyche I’ve been programmed to believe that people I love, leave.
Not everyone is as emotionally damaged as me, clearly, but, hey, we’re sharing. But now it’s time to talk about you and your “I love you” story… [Read: Heartfelt signs the times is right to say “I love you”]
How to overcome saying “I love you” and not hearing it back
Love is a tricky thing to navigate. It only gets worse if the other person does not feel the same way. There’s nothing you can really do about the other person’s feelings, but you can be prepared for this possible outcome.
#1 Know that it’s not your fault. You did nothing wrong. I know it can be difficult to understand that because you feel rejected. If somebody doesn’t love you, that’s on them. Either they aren’t in a place where they can love anybody, or they aren’t feeling the connection with you. It’s not your fault, and truly nobody is really at fault, per say. There is just a mixed connection somewhere. [Read: How to pull back in a relationship when you’re giving too much]
#2 It could be poor timing. Maybe they are super into you, but they are going through a lot right now and don’t know how to respond to your “I love you.” Maybe they do feel the same way, but in the moment you tell them how you are feeling, they are overwhelmed with everything in their lives.
Be sure to tell them in good time, and in a good situation. I know it can be difficult to tell at times, but do your best to tell them in an intimate setting. [Read: The first “I love you” – How to say it and get it right]
#3 They might not love you yet. Just because they didn’t say “I love you” back, doesn’t mean they never will. Some people take longer to feel that sort of way, and even longer to express it. Don’t pressure them. Give them time and space to sort things out on their own.
You definitely don’t want them to say “I love you” if they don’t actually mean it, right? Don’t put the pressure on them. Make sure they know that they can take their time coming to terms with their emotions.
#4 Understand that it doesn’t mean you have to break up. They didn’t say “I love you” back, but that doesn’t mean that they want to break up with you. It doesn’t mean you should assume that either. Maybe it was too soon for them *not necessarily for you* to say “I love you.” Again, be patient with them. Make sure you tell them that you don’t need to break up, because it might be assumed from one or both parties. [Read: 10 reasons why saying ‘I love you’ too soon sucks]
#5 Maybe you have different intentions. Perhaps you have different intentions. Do you want a serious relationship, and they just want to sleep with you? Consider this. Maybe they even gave you all of the signs, or even told you straight up but you ignored these signs because you so desperately wanted to make a relationship work with them. Be realistic. Don’t force a relationship with someone who doesn’t want one. [Read: 15 signs your partner is only interested in sleeping with you and nothing more]
#6 You aren’t unlovable. When saying “I love you” and not hearing it back, it can be easy to assume that nobody could ever love you, but know that this is not true. It could be any of the listed reasons or a plethora of other reasons. Just let it go. You are loveable and you are amazing. You will find your partner in life and it will be magical, maybe this just wasn’t the right one for you.
#7 Give them their space. If you say “I love you” and they do not say it back, give them a couple of days to process it. Also, take a few days to process things yourself. What is the next step, what provoked you to say “I love you,” is there value in your relationship, etc.? “I love you” is a huge statement, so both take your time apart to understand what happens from here. [Read: Understand the differences between “I love you” and “I am in love with you”]
#8 Think about if you really meant it. I know this sounds crazy, but a lot of people use “I love you” as a means of keeping people in relationships. You might have said “I love you” just for the reaction, or because you wanted them to stick around for a little bit longer. Perhaps, you even hoped they would start giving you more attention.
Or, maybe you said it because you truly meant it. Whichever way, think about it and understand how you really feel. If you love them, your next steps are going to be very different than if you do not love them.
[Read: When should you say ‘I love you’ for the first time? The things you need to know]
Saying “I love you” and not hearing it back is sort of traumatizing and can make it difficult to say “I love you” the next time. Understand, it is not your fault, and you are worthy of love.
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