saying I love you and not hearing it back

Saying I Love You and Not Hearing it Back – It May Not Mean What You Think

It can feel truly vulnerable to be the one saying I love you first and not hearing it back. Speaking those words for the first time is one of the first “risky” moments in a new relationship. Depending on how your new love responds, here’s what to do. 

If you’re the one saying I love you first and not hearing it back, breathe. First and foremost, the lack of response doesn’t mean anything. It simply indicates you feel love, you feel like you’re falling in love and you spoke it out loud. That’s the real truth. 

His or her silence definitely doesn’t mean anything about you. That’s the most critical thing to remember. A woman’s mind loves to make up stories about what men’s words mean, or in this case, what his lack of words means. Men’s minds can do something similar.  

The most common problem arises because men speak literally and women don’t. They say exactly what they mean, nothing more, nothing less. Women, more often, embellish or couch their words or speak around the truth, with hidden meaning, hoping he’ll catch the hint. Which is why arguments happen. And, men and women argue differently. 

If He Didn’t Say I Love You Back

Knowing men are literal in their words and women aren’t, let’s consider first the possibility of an unreturned “I love you.” That means you’re the one saying I Love you and not hearing it back. In this case, the most important thing for you to reflect on is the quality of the connection you share. If the two of you have been spending enough time together laughing, playing, and romancing that you’re experiencing that loving feeling, something is happening for them too. Your new companion may also be falling in love and just isn’t clear about it yet. 

A man will speak it when he’s clear. For women, I suggest patience, and most importantly, remaining openhearted. And if you, as a feminine woman, want to say it first, you absolutely can. I simply recommend paying attention to your deepest desire as a woman. If you want to hear it first, you may want to wait, until your heart is nourished by his words. 

Here’s something else to consider. If we’re only willing to love when the love is returned, you’re in for a tough relationship road. If you really are falling in love, love through the silence. Ask yourself, do you really love this person or do you actually subconsciously want to know if they love you? Does their silence suddenly change the way you feel? So again, consider, are you willing to take the chance on saying I love you first and not hearing it back.

Who Says I Love You First?

Anyone can say I love you first. It’s most important to be true to you. Watch for any part of you that might grasp for love and say it too soon. Watch for any part of you that gets caught in the lust and thinks its love. Consider if you’re ready to offer the I Love You first, regardless of what the response is. If you find yourself attached to how you want them to respond, it’s best to wait.

If you do decide to say it first, you’re likely feeling vulnerable because of the actual possibility that you could say I love you first and not hear it back. Getting into a relationship is beautiful, risky business. We do have to be willing to risk rejection, heart-break, if we want to truly know the depths of love.  

In essence, men commonly relate differently to their feelings and emotions. All of us, men and women alike, have faced heartbreak. If a man attempts, in a new relationship, to protect himself from future heartbreak, he may wait longer to express his love. His deeper feeling of fear (that he may not even be aware of) may win over his love, at least in the beginning. As long as it’s not too long, that’s ok. 

For men and women, as we’ll see in a moment, saying I Love you too quickly can lack depth and truth, and even indicate a desperate or needy energy. Some have been wounded and it can take longer to trust. Even without a wounded heart in the past, some arrive at the deeper knowing of love slowly. Others arrive more quickly.  

So, if you say I love you and he doesn’t say it back, be patient. Give him time to find it. You want a man who will always be genuinely authentic with you (a strong man with a sensitive heart, perhaps?)  And, equally important, continue being authentically yourself. Tell the truth. Speak of your love. You can genuinely love a man even if he’s not sure he loves you yet. 

The same applies to a man who is willing to take the chance on saying I love you and not hearing it back. She may or not reciprocate right away. It’s ok. Give her space and, equally importantly, stay true to you. Some people wait too long to hear these very important three little words. Others don’t wait long enough.  

So, soon enough, your love interest will either feel the love too, speaking it. Or they won’t, and you’ll know they are not the right one and be free to move on.

She Said I Love You First, But He Doesn’t Feel the Same Way

Thank goodness you know now and you’re free to move on to find the man who truly loves, honors, and cherishes you. Be gentle with your heart, being sure not to close it off and resist feeling love in the future. Remember the old adage from Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

When He Says I Love You First But You Don’t Feel the Same

Just as we’d want a man to be honest with us and not lead us on if he’s not really into us, we need to do the same for him. If you’re into him and you’re not sure if you love him yet, smile and share with him what you admire and respect about him. Let him know your heart is still finding its way in all of this.  

Or, if you’re not into him, if you know he’s not the one you’re going to fall in love with, you owe it to him to be fully truthful. This gives him the choice to move on and find the woman who will truly love the man he is. To quote the George Straight song, “You can lead a heart to love, but you can’t make it fall.”

Saying I Love You Too Soon

In general, if you stay aligned with your heart and soul, you can’t say it too soon. There are no rules in love. Love at first sight happens. How someone reacts to your expression of love is much more about their emotional wiring and programming than it is about the words themselves or when you said them. 

Too soon can happen when we confuse infatuation and lust with love. Too soon can happen when we’re hoping to get a “hole” in our heart or our soul filled by another. Think “re-bound” relationship or “serial” monogamist. These early “I love you” expressions tend to come from need, desperation or longing. Our heart wants to be in love, so we say it, even though, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we don’t know a genuine deep love for this person yet. True love arises when our heart opens fully and we see the other person beyond their faults and patterns, when there is no need for the love to be returned for us to feel complete.

How Long Before Saying I Love You

If one of you has been saying it for a while, a couple of months or more, and the other hasn’t joined in, this could indicate that you have different goals or long-term expectations for the relationship. This could be the right time to sit down and have an honest conversation about why you’re both in the relationship. In the beginning, did you talk about the possibility of falling in love and long-term partnership or marriage? Is one of you looking for a more friends-with-benefits situation? Are you both moving toward long-term commitment or is one of you, happy just hanging out?  

Alternatively, the one not saying I love you may have been deeply hurt in a past relationship and is simply too scared to say it again. Unfortunately, for you and them, they might feel like saying I love you and not hearing it back is too big of a risk. Some part of them may have decided it’s not worth getting that close and chancing another heartache. In this case, you’ll want to know that up front. Unfinished business, including emotional hurts, from past relationships create serious roadblocks to having a healthy happy relationship now. Either way, if it’s been a few months and you haven’t met “in-love” and you want to, it’s probably time to have that honest conversation. 

Saying I Love You too Late

If you’ve been hanging out for awhile, neither has said it, and it doesn’t bother you, then you probably haven’t even noticed it’s been missing. You’re probably fine. If, on the other hand, you’re sitting around biting your tongue, wondering when he’s going to utter the magic words, then you need to have that “get real” conversation.  Or, if it hasn’t been said because you know the relationship isn’t really going anywhere, ask yourself, “Why am I still hanging out here? Am I playing the better-than-nothing game, even though what I truly want is to be in-love?” It might be time to move on.

If you’re both in it for fun and you’ve communicated your needs, desires, and expectations, then just enjoy!

*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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  1. Trish on June 4, 2023 at 11:09 pm

    My boyfriend and I have been dating a few months and I genuinely feel his love for me. Its even in my contact name on his phone. However, I recently shared with him that I felt that I loved him. Its been 2 weeks and he hasn’t said anything back. I felt that I loved him about a month before I told him. It just took me a while to ensure that it was that and nothing less. Like I said, I truly feel in my heart that he loves me. He just won’t say it. Right now, I’m not quite bothered by it but I am wondering if he is able to reciprocate emotions or if he is unattached to them. That could be a problem in the long run for me.

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