I recently had a friend email asking for advice. He and his girlfriend have been together for a couple of months, and she dropped the LOVE bomb on him unexpectedly. He expressed to me that he really cares about her and wants to meet her needs, but he isn’t prepared to return the I love you quite yet.
So how do you respond in this scenario? Here’s the advice I gave him.
1. Don’t rush it. If you’re not ready to say I love you, DON’T. Saying it before you mean it can lead to a whole escalation of relationship milestones that you aren’t fully prepared for, and all of a sudden you’re in so deep that someone really gets hurt. Plus I can’t think of anything more disheartening than realizing the first I love you was insincere.
2. Share the feelings you do have. Just because you might not have the L-word feelings doesn’t mean you’re immune to all feelings. Be sure your partner knows how much you care and how special you think they are. I once had a relationship where we never got to the I love yous, but he made sure to tell me every day the things he adored about me. I still look back on that relationship and know he was being genuine, and it still has an impact on me. Feelings matter, even if they’re not the four letter ones.
3. Evaluate your feelings and figure out what you want. Your partner is hopefully understanding of your need for a bit more time, but they do not have unlimited amounts of patience. There is a window of time for you to both get on the same page, and if you’re not able to do that then it is important to let your partner know that. Sometimes relationships are unbalanced and that’s ok, as long as you recognize that and allow both people to move on. If you can’t get to the same level, take a step back and re-evaluate.
Have you ever been in a situation where someone said I love you before the other person was ready? How did you handle it?