November 11, 2009 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I said "I love you." She didn't say it back. I'm totally okay with this. No worries, no pressure, she'll say it when she feels it. But here's my question: What do I do between now and then? Do I never say it again? Do I say it, but infrequently? Some other alternative?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have been on both sides of this - I was with someone where I blurted it out and he didn't say it back, and I was witn someone who said it but I didn't feel like I could say it back yet.

In both cases, the person who said it, said it because of a spontaneous upswell of emotion. We let the moment just be a bit, then had a quick chat about "um, okay, you said it, but I didn't, what's up with that..." just to confirm what page everyone was on. In the first case, my beau made it clear that he just had some weird issues around saying it and just needed more time to be certain how he felt -- but he didn't mind hearing it. I confirmed that I wasn't saying it with any expectation that he'd say it back, it was just an outpouring of emotion that I felt I had to express. Once we both cleared that up, I felt more comfortable saying it when the spirit really struck me, but I did keep it to when the spirit struck me.

That may be the best way to handle it -- rather than worry too much about what particularly prescribed frequency you should be saying it, have a chat with her about "okay, this is why I say those words, no pressure on you, yadda yadda...and how does it feel for you to HEAR them?" and see what she has to say. If she says that it freaks her out to hear them, then toning it back is the best option; but if she says she's okay hearing them, so long as you get she can't say it, then just...let it happen when you feel you have to say it.

But also be clear with YOURSELF about how you feel about saying it, and about hearing it. Or not hearing it. (Think about both.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:11 PM on November 11, 2009

If you're at a point with this person that you can tell them you love them, then you can talk about it. "Hey, it's alright that you didn't say it back. When and if you feel it, let me know? Also, would you want me to keep telling you that I love you?"

Ask your significant other what you should do in the meantime!
posted by battlebison at 9:41 PM on November 11, 2009

What do I do between now and then? Do I never say it again? Do I say it, but infrequently?

You stop overthinking this particular plate of beans, and you say it whenever you feel that surge of happiness and want to let her know that that's what's happened.

"I love you" should always be honest reportage, never some kind of weird formal dance move.
posted by flabdablet at 9:55 PM on November 11, 2009 [13 favorites]

Been there, done that. The ball is in her court so I would not say it again, but I would show it. Then if that's not reciprocated I would dial it down further until things stop being weird. And if you're certain you're in the friend zone, keep dialing it down and set your sights elsewhere because it's not worth your time unless you are ok with the friendship.
posted by crapmatic at 10:05 PM on November 11, 2009

How long have you been together?
posted by Mjolnir at 10:05 PM on November 11, 2009

Figure out what it is that you're trying to communicate when you say it. You may find that something like, "You're so beautiful!" will serve just as well in the meantime, and your partner now knows that she can tell you she loves you when/if she's ready.

This is one of those things that isn't a big deal, but it sure feels like one.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:22 PM on November 11, 2009

Isn't it a bit ridiculous how everyone gets so hung up on three words? Show, don't tell: why not focus on all the small, ordinary things you can do to make your deep feelings and high regard for her perfectly clear?

Stefan Zweig once spoke of a silent kind of love that involves "the performance of those small services that are all the more sacred and sublime in their humility because they are intended to go unnoticed." Say it when you feel like it, but if you really love her, you'll love her without thinking so much of yourself-- completely independent of what she's doing (or not doing) for you.
posted by aquafortis at 10:24 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should stop worrying about it. You should not have some grand discussion with her about frequency, meaning, pressure, etc.

Love is good, even love that sort of bubbles up unexpectedly before the person is fully ready for it. Over-analyzing it is going to grind it into dust. Just let it be. If you feel it, say it. If she's got a problem with it, then she'll tell you.
posted by 26.2 at 10:37 PM on November 11, 2009

Mr Anitanita sent me an amazing letter (that I still have) about 2 months after we had initially met, and three days after our first date; about seven detailed pages that explained why he loved me and what that meant to him.

I was flabbergasted, into silence. I really had no words. Interestingly enough, I think afterwards I may have said something tentative like 'So, I got your letter....", and his response was something very calm and nonchalant, like, "great!"....and that was it.

As I think back on it, after the letter he didn't really mention his love for me again, but instead invited me out, made me laugh, kissed me, told me I was gorgeous, danced with me, and became one of my best friends - even when we are vigorously disagreeing about what it means to leave the toilet seat up. Which dawned on me as the reasons why I respected and loved him as well. Which I eventually told him. There's a lovely space between the time someone tells you they love you for the first time, and the moment you say that back. It really is a gift, like the moment at the top before the first steep drop on your favorite rollercoaster. You put your hands up in anticipation and wait for the feeling of adrenaline to hit you. You're very thoughtful to give that space to her.

All that to say that, more show, less tell! Let her stay without pressure in that warm place (before she says it and where love just unfolds and becomes more obvious to both of you) for long as you can (stand it).
posted by anitanita at 10:47 PM on November 11, 2009 [22 favorites]

Presumably you two are romantically involved?

You should be talking to your partner about this, not us. Ask her--non-confrontationally--where her head is at. Be prepared, just in case, for answers you may not like.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:57 PM on November 11, 2009

I disagree about asking her about this. Are you comfortable with her, in general? It would seem so. In that case, don't make this into a Big Issue, even if it is quite important, and understandably so, to you. Show her that you care, treat her well, and let her decide when and how she'll reciprocate. A discussion is going to formalize things far too much and probably be uncomfortable for both of you. Let this resolve itself naturally and without pressure.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 11:08 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

I agree with the people here who said that for now, show her that your love her rather than telling her. If someone had said the ILY and I wasn't ready to say it back, and then he kept saying it, I would feel stressed out and pressured.

Oh, and anitanita definitely has the best (and most uplifting) answer!
posted by emd3737 at 3:58 AM on November 12, 2009

I would advise not saying it again - she might feel pressured to say it back or might feel like you're trying to "rub it in." She knows you love her, 'nuff said for now.

(Or, what anitanita said much more eloquently than I could.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:10 AM on November 12, 2009

anitanita ftw.
posted by nihraguk at 5:22 AM on November 12, 2009

Don't make it a big issue, but as others said, talk to her about it. Let her know she doesn't have to say it back, because you don't want her saying it just to make you feel better.

The only reason I am saying to ask instead of waiting it out and seeing what happened, is that I've dated one guy for 1.5 years, and I told him I loved him about 7 months into the relationship (we were friends for a while before too, so it didn't feel like it was too soon), and I was sure that he felt the same way from the way he treated me and acted around me, he was wonderful. However, because I asked him where he's at with the whole "I love you" thing, he explained to me that he will never be in love again because of a girl that messed him up years ago. Stupidly, I thought "that can't be true, look how good he is to me!" but no, it was true. I wish I would've listened to him because he never did fall in love with me over the next 8 months of us dating, no matter how much I thought he would. So it's worth talking about it, just in case of something like this. If I had to do it over I probably still would've stayed with him anyway, but it was better to know about it sooner rather than finding out a year and a half into the relationship and being even more shocked and hurt.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:54 AM on November 12, 2009

Agree with flabdablet 100%, at this stage only say it when you really FEEL it. i was in this situation too, and I said it before I was actually (mentally) comfortable with saying it, but I just had this burst of emotion that I couldn't control and HAD to say it. If you really are in love, those bursts will continue to happen, and hopefully it will happen for her soon too.
posted by the foreground at 6:48 AM on November 12, 2009

"I love you" should always be honest reportage, never some kind of weird formal dance move.

This is my answer, just much more eloquently phrased than what I would have come up with.

Tell her you love her when she does something you love and you want to let her know. Make it clear it's not that you are trying to elicit a response, you just want to communicate the feeling to her:

"See, I love that you knew to hand me the pepper. I was just thinking this food needed something extra"

Wait until she does unexpectedly awesome and respond "Holy crap! See, this is why I love you" and move on before she even has a chance to reply so it doesn't become awkward.

In time, if she feels it, she will start to do the same thing.
posted by quin at 10:34 AM on November 12, 2009

As most people have mentioned, there's a difference between discussing it and making a big deal out of it. Discussing it briefly and not belaboring the point is good. Intense discussions about it or making her feel bad about not responding is bad. It doesn't sound like you have a problem with maintaining a chill and healthy approach, however, so I think you're already good on that front.

If you haven't talked about it at all, then I think you should definitely let her know that you are okay with her not responding in kind, and ask if you should refrain from saying it for the meantime. I wouldn't make it anymore complicated than that. If she's fine with you saying it, as long as she's not feeling pressured, then share it when you are just overcome with how awesome she is and how happy she makes you, particularly in that moment. It will keep it special and fresh, and will hopefully lead to her having those moments as well. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2009

I didn't say I Love You back for a few months in my first and current relationship. It's hard to remember my 19 yr old mindset at the time, but basically I think I was under this impression that it was a cliche thing for females to say in order to "trap" men, and that I should not say it under any circumstances lest I be seen as trying to emotionally manipulate this guy. (hilarious, I know!) So I held out, always with a thank you when it was said to me, which was somewhat regular in spite of my lack of reciprocation. It was only a little weird, but he knew I felt strongly about him and I let him know his feelings were valuable to me. We didn't have any extended discussions other than I explained that I felt people in general used the phrase too soon in relationships. I wouldn't advise you engage in "big talks" about it with her. Give her space and be chill. A well-timed "it's okay you don't say it (really!)" would work well and would let her know you're not hurt. (I bet she feels self-conscious about not saying it back and this might alleviate that.)

I'm unsure about the "i love that you knew I wanted pancakes!" approach. Without any logic to back me up, I'll state from the above POV that it seems forced, pushy, and may exacerbate any awkwardness. From this point until her reciprocation I'd keep the statement in question to when you really^10 - I mean it - can't keep it in. I bet money she likes to hear it if she feels romantically about you, but keep it few and far between. "I love you" is so formulaic. Warm and comforting and sure, feels great, but really, when you can, find alternate, creative ways to express yourself, which is an awesome habit *anyway!* (but can be helpful if the l-word is too pressuring) "You're wonderful;" "[point out X behavior/attribute]...I'm so lucky;" "I missed you," even better "I missed [X; eg holding you in my arms]." Specificity and creativity! Show it in considerate, generous actions (without being ove-the-top-selfless or stalkerish. Space and chill here, too) I'll stop giving examples before I get redundant, or melt into a puddle in my chair.

A hearty "Here here!" to everything aquafortis and katemcd said, and to the general idea that overanalysis is unproductive and not the same as thoughtfulness.
posted by mostlybecky at 1:42 PM on November 12, 2009

I said it first, and he steadfastly avoided it, using a variety of affectionate terms instead. I said it whenever I felt like it all the same, though it did start to make a bit of a crazy itch in the back of head when a year had gone by and he hadn't said it back yet. At which point I sat on his head* until he conceded that the more general terms he'd been using back did indeed stand in for That Word.
Now he never stops saying it. hee!

*not literally.**
**well, not entirely.
posted by Billegible at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2009

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