The riskier than saying “I love you” is having to respond to it when you don’t feel the same way back. In that situation, it’s important to avoid the worst responses to ‘I love you’ in order to spare the other person’s feelings.
Saying those three little words are easy when it’s your mom or your best friend. But when you’re in a new relationship — the kind of relationship that makes your heart swell and your knees buckle — it can be hard to know when it’s time to say “I love you.”
It seems like a simple enough thing. You’re just telling them how you feel, right? But love is a reciprocal emotion. Love wants to be fed with more love.
So, if you put yourself out there, making yourself as vulnerable as possible, and your partner doesn’t feel the same way … it hurts. Oh man, does it hurt.
There are things we want to hear and things we don’t want to hear when we tell someone that we love them. Hearing “I love you too” is the ideal, but often, people are thrown by declarations of love and say some really stupid, careless, and hurtful things in response.
Whether you’re preparing yourself for the worst-case scenario or want to avoid harshly rejecting someone, here are 20 of the worst responses to “I love you.”
1. “Thank you.”
It’s not a gift, it’s the rawest of emotional declarations!
2. “You’re sweet.”
A thank you card is “sweet.” A declaration of love isn’t.
This is the worst one. Hands-down.
4. “I have strong emotions for you too.”
Unless they’re a robot that doesn’t have the word “love” in their digital vocabulary, this is an unacceptable response.
5. “I know.”
Might work if they’re a Star Wars fan, but they’re going to expect their “Return of the Jedi” love reciprocation moment.
Love isn’t something you just acknowledge and move on. It’s love, not a new tablecloth.
Yes, it’s a bad thing to say “I love you” too soon in a relationship. However, no one wants to hear that they’re the one who jumped the gun.
8. “What is love anyway?”
Hey, Socrates, you’re not being deep. You’re just being a jerk.
9. “I know you think you do.”
Sounds like a power move, but it’s as cruel and condescending as they come.
Might almost win points for being self-deprecating, but still stings.
11. (Gives you a hug)
Um, I can still tell that you didn’t say anything back. You know that, right?
12. “I don’t know how you want me to respond to that.”
Yes, you do.
Awed surprise is nice, but only if it’s quickly followed up by an “I love you too.”
14. “Good to know.”
This isn’t a fact-finding mission!
15. “Dude, shut up. That is awesomesauce.”
You can only recover from this if you’re Chris Pratt.
16. “I know you think you love me.”
Because you want your partner to treat you like a dumb kid in that moment.
Um, I’m not a kitten.
18. “I love you as a friend.”
It’s the wrong kind of love, not the love you were looking for, which hurts.
19. “Why would you tell me that?”
It’s always great to feel shamed and scolded for putting your heart on your sleeve.
20. “I’m sorry.”
This is pure heart-destroying awfulness — when they suggest that they pity you for thinking that you might love them too. Nothing hurts more.
How do you respond to ‘I love you’ when you don’t feel the same way?
The most important thing is to be honest. Don’t just say I love you back to satisfy the other person. That will only lead to more heartbreak for them to realize you lied about something so important. Be honest, but not harsh.
Here are a few examples you can use:
1. I care a lot about you, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.
2. I don’t think I can give you what you want.
3. I’m not certain what I want yet.
4. I’m not looking for a committed relationship.
5. I care about you, but I don’t love you.
Tom Burns is a writer and has served as a contributing editor for 8BitDad and The Good Men Project, and his writing has been featured on Babble, Brightly, Mom.me, Time Magazine, Reading Rainbow, The Huffington Post, xoJane, and various other sites.