What to Do When Your Partner Doesn’t Return Your “I Love You”

You’ve been dating your partner for a while now, and you’ve finally worked up the guts to say those three magical words. Three words and eight letters may not seem like much, but the first time you say “I love you” is a significant event. It’s not only frightening to express your emotions, but you’re also not assured to hear them back. So, what happens when you tell someone you love them and they don’t respond?

While it may feel like the worst thing in the world at the time, experts advise you shouldn’t be concerned.”It’s really scary for a person to venture forward and say ‘I love you,'” says clinical psychologist and author Dr. Carla Marie Manly to Bustle. “In fact, many new couples play an unconscious game of ‘feeling it out’ when (and if) the other person is falling in love at the same pace.”

If your partner didn't say i love you back, try to understand where they're coming from.

Dr. Manly suggests a few things to do first if you feel ready to declare “I love you.” First, figure out what you’re truly feeling. According to Dr. Manly, it’s easy to confuse love with infatuation, passion, or simply the fun of dating in the early stages of a relationship. When you confuse passion for love, your “I love you” will not be real. Instead, it’s most likely coming from a place of insecurity, and your partner may not react positively to the circumstance. But if you’re truly in love and want to express it, go ahead and do it. And if you find yourself saying “I love you” but not hearing it back from your partner, here’s what experts recommend you can do.

When you tell someone you love them and they don't say it back, it's important to let them process w...

1. Take Some Time Off. When you tell someone you love them and they don’t respond, it’s easy to feel bad about yourself. However, as certified psychologist Victoria Elf Raymond, PhD tells Bustle, “you are only human.” “Of course, it feels much better for your partner to reciprocate,” she says, “but just because you didn’t get the response you desired doesn’t mean you were wrong for expressing yourself.” Instead, be proud of yourself for finally saying it, because not everyone is as brave as you. It’s also preferable to having to consider all of the “What ifs?”

2. Maintain Your Calm. If they don’t say “I love you” back, don’t get angry, licensed therapist Ieshai Bailey, CMHC tells Bustle. Although it is normal to press the issue or question their response, doing so can put your partner on the defensive. Bailey emphasizes the importance of remaining cool. Refrain from responding or leaping to conclusions. Remember that if they don’t reciprocate straight away, it’s not necessarily a red indicator. According to relationship and communication expert Chloe Ballatore, your partner may simply be unprepared to respond. “It is completely typical for one person to say ‘I love you’ first and not receive a response. That happens roughly 50% of the time in my practice.”

He didn't say I love you back — what do I do?

3. Allow Your Partner Time To Think About What You Said. While hearing “I love you” back is lovely, it should never be expected when you’re saying it to someone for the first time. “We are all so different when it comes to how and when we show love,” Dr. Raymond explains. It’s possible that your spouse is wary of falling in love because of past experiences, or they’re simply more comfortable telling you how they feel.

“People who have been hurt by serious relationships may be more reluctant to allow themselves to experience love and acknowledge it verbally (i.e. saying I love you out loud),” relationship consultant Courtney Boyer tells Bustle. “If you grew up in a home where ‘I love you’ was never or rarely said, you may be less likely to say it when your partner does.” Allow them time to comprehend the issue, regardless of the reason.

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