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For some people, those three little words make the world complete.
For others, they induce sheer panic.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t think your response will be “I love you too,” don’t worry – you’re not alone!
Whether you’re not ready to say “I love you” back to your partner for the first time, or you’re in a long-term relationship and feel weird saying it every.single.day, we’ve got some alternative ways to respond…
If you’re not ready to say it back…
These are some great responses if you have feelings for someone but don’t quite feel ready to say those three (or four!) words to them.
This is totally normal. We all move at different paces and develop feelings at different times, so don’t feel like you need to respond with “I love you” straightaway!
1. “I love spending time with you.”
This isn’t as big a fob-off as it sounds, we promise you!
This is a nice way to give them a compliment back without feeling like you have to say those three words to them.
Admittedly, it’s not as great to hear as “I love you too,” but your partner will understand what you’re saying and will still like hearing this.
It’s important to let them know where you stand and this is a good way of taking some pressure off, slowing things down a little, and still showing you care.
2. “I just need a little more time, but I feel it too.”
If your partner is the right person for you, they’ll totally understand if you’re not ready to say it back just yet.
They’re still allowed to be a little bit hurt, but they should acknowledge that your feelings are valid and that you’re being honest with them. Much rather that than you lie to them, after all!
It’s fine to say that you need a little bit more time, but that you’re on the same page as them.
This is actually a great way to communicate how you’re feeling to your partner – it makes them feel secure because you’re saying you’ll be ready in the near future, and it lets them know you feel the same, even if you can’t quite get the words out just yet.
3. “I’m falling in love with you.”
This is another good way to respond to “I love you” if you don’t feel able to say it too.
It lets your partner know you care about them and that there are feelings of love.
It also shows that you’re on the ‘right track,’ so to speak, and that you’re essentially working up to saying it back to them.
Also – who doesn’t want someone they love to fall in love with them?! I think this might actually be even better than someone saying “I love you,” as it highlights how active this feeling is and how it’s happening continuously.
If you’ve said it a thousand times…
These are for the established couples! If you’ve been with someone for a while and you’ve done a lot of back and forth “I love yous,” you’re clearly both on the same page. That doesn’t mean you need to say it repeatedly, however.
4. “I’m crazy about you.”
If you’re used to just saying “I love you” to your partner, it might soon lose its meaning.
If you want to mix things up a bit while still letting them know how you feel, you could try talking about how much you love them in other ways.
Letting them know how much you care about them and how often you think about them is great, as it tells them how attracted you are to them and how much you love spending time with them.
You might also subtly encourage them to start doing the same with you. Of course, hearing “I love you” is amazing, but so is being told how much someone fancies you!
5. “That makes me so happy.”
This is a cute way to remind your partner how good it feels to hear them share their love for you.
It will also serve as a good reminder of what they’re actually saying – we sometimes get so used to saying phrases like “I love you” or “I miss you,” that we forget what they really mean, and how they make people feel.
By letting them know that you like hearing them share their feelings, you’re also making them think about what they’re saying and why.
This might lead to more sharing of other feelings and different ways of expressing love. It will also give them a confidence boost – who doesn’t love making their partner happy, after all?
6. “Ha, you’d better!”
Don’t be scared to joke around. There’s a bit of a myth that “I love you” has to be met with a somber, heartfelt “I love you too” every time.
It really doesn’t!
Half the fun of being in a healthy relationship is having the trust and comfort to know you can play around and be a bit silly with each other.
You not responding with “I love you too” doesn’t mean you don’t love them – on the contrary, you joking with them shows a whole other level of comfort and trust, truly showing the strength of your love.
It’s also just fun to tease each other sometimes! As long as you can also openly and honestly communicate your genuine feelings when it matters, you should definitely get comfy being silly with each other.
If you’re not interested in them like that…
Being the subject of unrequited love is so much harder than it sounds. It can feel flattering, but it can also make things awkward, and you may feel guilty for not feeling the same way back, which makes these kinds of situations even trickier to handle.
7. “Maybe we should talk about this.”
This may sound harsh, but it’s also an honest way to approach this. If someone is telling you they love you and you don’t feel the same way (and don’t see it ever happening), you should be open.
It’s good to let them know as early as you can that you don’t feel the same, however uncomfortable that may be at the time.
Letting someone down gently can feel so awful and you’ll probably both get upset, but it’s important to do.
You can explain that you don’t feel the same, and that you’re sorry if you’ve led them on.
They may want some time alone to process, and may get angry or sad and feel a bit rejected.
Hard as it is, it’s best to give them this space and let them come to you as a friend when they’re ready.
8. “I think you love the idea of me, not actually me.”
This might sound quite contrived, but it can be quite helpful in terms of helping people understand how they really feel.
A lot of us get attached to the idea of someone, or we romanticize them and create a ‘perfect’ relationship with the perfect version of someone else in our heads.
If someone is telling you they love you and you don’t feel the same way, or are completely surprised and have no idea where it’s come from, it could be worth saying this to them.
It might help them realize that they are just fantasizing about you more than really falling for you.
9. “I really value our friendship.”
Again, this might not sound great – but then, what does in this situation?
A lot of people will automatically feel rejected and upset that you haven’t replied in the way they either wanted or expected.
By letting them know you care about them, you’re at least not completely rejecting them. It shows you still value them and still want them in your lives, just not in the way that they had hoped.
Again, they might need some time to realign their feelings toward you and get back to being ‘just friends.’
Let them take the lead on this and don’t push things just because you feel sad not having them in your life for a bit! That can quickly become really confusing and may lead them on and upset them further.
Honesty is key – as is being fair about other people’s feelings. Don’t lie and say something just because you feel guilty or want to make your partner feel good.
If you’re falling out of love with someone or no longer feel the same way, you owe it to them to communicate this. They’re trusting you with their heart, after all.
Make sure you’re clear with your partner about how you feel, do your best to be open about your feelings, and try not to be scared of the hard conversations – they’re the ones you need to be having.
Equally, don’t be scared to shout your love from the rooftops (as long as they’re comfortable with it, that is!).
Telling someone you love them can be an incredible feeling – and the fact that they’ve gone first makes it even better.
It takes courage to be the first to say it, so let them know how much it means to you that they’ve taken that leap and show them how much you care.
Still not sure what to say back when someone says they love you? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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