Not Ready To Say ‘I Love You’? Here’s How To Respond When A Guy Says It First

Is there anything more awkward than a guy professing his feelings for you when you’re simply not ready? Uttering those three little words for the first time is a big deal for many people, some more than others. You shouldn’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with just because he’s a few steps ahead of you. If you need some tips on what to do when you’re not ready to say “I love you” and he is, read on.

  1. Don’t let him pressure you. Even if he doesn’t pressure you with words, the way he reacts to your silence could be just as bad. Seeing that disappointed look on his face is enough to make you feel bad. It can also make some women blurt out those three words before they truly mean them. That’s not good for either one of you.
  2. Give him a hug. A little physical affection goes a long way to show him you’re not completely freaked out by what he just said. Him saying the L-word should bring you closer together, not create distance between you. Physical affection can be incredibly reassuring and help you reinforce your strong bond.
  3. Assure him that you care about him. This is a vulnerable moment for him, so don’t hesitate to let him know you care. It’s a good thing that he’s in love with you, so you don’t want him to regret saying it. Let him know how much you care about him and wouldn’t want to imagine your life without him.
  4. Be honest with him. Lying to him about how you really feel is only going to backfire later. Chances are, he can tell if you’re not genuine anyway. So, there’s no point in saying “I love you” if you’re not ready and don’t mean it. Just tell him you’re not there yet but you’re sure you will be soon. He should appreciate your honesty.
  5. Treat him how you’d want to be treated. Think about how you would feel if you said “I love you” to someone and they didn’t say it back. Pretty scary, right? So cut him a little slack if he needs a little time to process that. If you’re understanding then he’ll most likely come around.
  6. Make sure to let him know you’re headed in the same direction. Just because you’re not ready to say the words right now doesn’t mean you will never be. You probably often think about the possibility of saying them in the future. A lot of the time, hearing those words has a way of forcing your hand a little bit. Are you in this for real or not? Again, reiterate that you’re headed in the same direction as him, you’re just traveling along the road a bit more slowly.
  7. Don’t act weird around him after. If you act awkward and uncomfortable around him, it’s only going to make him regret saying I love you. You don’t want him to feel rejected and start worrying he scared you away. Just act the same as you were before. It doesn’t have to be awkward unless you make it that way.
  8. Don’t say something awkward like “thank you.” Sometimes, when we’re caught off guard, we blurt something out just to fill the silence. But, a couple of seconds of silence is better than having to backtrack after saying the wrong thing. Take a second to think before you speak and you won’t regret it. You’re not ready to say “I love you” now, sure. However, you may never get the chance if you screw up your response.
  9. Say “I love a lot of things about you.” Try reminding him of all the things you know you love about him, whether it’s his humor, good looks, or personality. He can’t get too upset at you for not returning his “I love you” when you’re showering him with compliments. It helps him see how strong your feelings are without needing to directly say that three-word phrase.
  10. Quote your favorite movie. You want to think of something to say that the two of you will look fondly on for the duration of your relationship. After all, the first time you say “I love you” in a relationship is memorable, no matter who says it or how it goes. Consider making the moment special by quoting a romantic line from your Netflix movies together. Try “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” from “The Notebook.” Or, how about “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you” from “The Fault In Our Stars”? The opportunities are endless!
  11. Be honest with yourself. After you make sure he’s okay with you not reciprocating on the “I love you” right away, take a minute to think about how you really feel. If he caught you off guard by saying it, maybe you just need some time.  Consider if you feel the same way. It’s okay to be cautious about saying “I love you” because it’s a big deal. You owe it to him and yourself to only say it if you mean it. That being said, if you feel like you’ll probably never be on the same page, you should be real with him and say so. Honesty is the best policy, after all.

Not ready to say “I love you”? Here’s why it’s so hard

When a guy tells you he loves you and you just can’t get the words out to say it back, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with you. Why are you struggling so much? Don’t be so hard on yourself. There are plenty of reasons you might not be in the right place to return the gesture (at least not verbally) just yet.

  1. It makes things really real.  When you say “I love you,” suddenly your relationship goes to a whole new level. You’re no longer casual and you can no longer act as if you’re just “hanging out” and “having fun.” Things go deeper than that. Loving someone and telling them about it gives the other person power over you, and that’s scary. The stakes are much higher once you say those words. That can be really complicate things and make them much intense.
  2. You’re scared of being hurt. Again, saying “I love you” whether you’re ready or not is terrifying. It means that you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to potentially get hurt. If you had a slew of negative relationship experiences in the past with someone you loved and they knew it, it makes sense that you’re more reserved with future partners. However, don’t forget that old saying: nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can eventually have to find the courage to put yourself out there if you want to enjoy the love you deserve.
  3. You’re in denial about your real feelings. Maybe you’re telling yourself that this is all just a bit of fun. It’s super casual, it’s not that deep, you’re not that into him, it’s not serious, etc. That’s a great defense mechanism because it allows you to distance yourself from the guy in order to protect your heart (or so you think). It’s possible that you’re not ready to say “I love you” because you haven’t yet admitted the depths of your feelings for this guy. Again, this is probably because you’re scared of being hurt.
  4. You don’t trust him. Is it possible that you’re holding off on any grand declarations of love because you don’t necessarily trust him yet? Sure, he told you he loves you, but do you believe him? Do you think he’s being genuine or do you suspect he has ulterior motives? Even if this is an unfounded paranoia based on past relationship baggage, it’s definitely something that could be holding you back.
  5. It closes off all other options. When you tell someone you love them, all bets are off. You can’t keep dating other people and keeping your options open. You love him, so you’re dedicated to him. When you have such a deep feeling for a guy, you wouldn’t ever want to do anything to hurt him or to betray him. That means you’re definitely exclusive even if you never discussed it previously. If you’re not quite ready to close off everyone else, that could be holding you back from declaring your feelings.

How to gather the courage to say “I love you” if you’re scared

Maybe you actually do love the guy but are just having trouble gathering up the courage to say it back. Whatever the reason, here’s how to get over yourself and tell him exactly how you feel.

  1. Start with actions before words. You might not just wake up tomorrow morning ready to blurt out those three little words. That’s okay! You can start small by showing him how you feel rather than telling him. That can come later. Do something romantic for him like making him dinner or planning a fun date doing his favorite activity. Go out of your way to do something that will make his life easier. Truly listen to him when he talks and remember the things he says. All of this will leave him with no doubt about where your head is at.
  2. Live in the moment. Maybe what’s keeping you from vocalizing your feelings for him is the fact that your head is running away with you. You’re going too far into the future instead of enjoying things exactly as they are. When you project too far ahead, it keeps you from being present in your life as it’s happening and you end up missing out on so much good stuff. Don’t worry about what telling him you love him might mean a year or five years in the future. You feel this way now, and that’s worth telling him about.
  3. Allow yourself to take a chance. It takes courage to put yourself out there and say “I love you” back. Maybe things will work out or maybe they won’t, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Be brave and take a chance. It just might pay off bigtime.


By day, Courtney is a digital marketing copywriter living in Toronto, Canada. By night, she's a freelance lifestyle writer who, in addition to, contributes regularly to, IN Magazine, and SheBlogs Canada. Want to chat about relationships, Stephen King or your favorite true crime podcast/documentary/book? She's on Twitter @courtooo.