The most painful scene in any romantic movie is the one where one person says, “I love you,” and the other responds with something non-committal, or even worse, says, “thanks.”
If the goal is to avoid cringing, how do you handle the awkwardness of being told “I love you” by someone you don’t love?
The most important thing is not to say anything you don’t mean. Don’t be tempted to say, “I love you too,” just to make the situation end.
Instead, try to relay your true feelings to the person you’re speaking to as sensitively as possible.
25 ways to respond to “I love you” when you don’t feel the same
- You know I’ll always love you, but I think I might not be in love with you anymore.
- Sorry, I’m just feeling a bit off right now. I think I might need a little bit of space from our relationship.
- This is a hard conversation to have, but I don’t think this is working for me anymore.
- I really don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t think I feel the same way I used to.
- It’s me, not you, but I think my feelings have changed and I’m not sure we’re right for each other.
- I never wanted to hurt you, but I think I have to be honest about how I’m feeling.
- I’m so sorry, I just don’t feel that way about you anymore.
- What we had was so special, but I don’t feel the same way I used to.
- Oh. I think we might be on very different pages about what this is. I only see us as friends.
- That’s really flattering and so sweet, but I’ve always thought of this as a best friendship and nothing more.
- Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to say that. I don’t want to let you down, but I don’t feel the same way about you.
- I think there’s been a misunderstanding about what this relationship is. I only want us to be friends.
- I’m sorry, I don’t see you that way.
- You mean, as a friend?
- I love you too, as a friend. You’re one of the most important people in my life.
- Wow, how long have you felt that?
- I’m not saying I don’t love you; I just need a little more time before I say it.
- Wow, that gives me a lot to think about. I don’t think I’m there yet. I’m not saying I won’t get there; I just need some time to work out how I feel.
- I had no idea your feelings were that strong. I really like hanging with you, but I think I’m cautious about saying too much because I don’t want to end up getting hurt.
- I’m really moved that you feel that way about me. I also care about you deeply. Give me a bit more time, but I know I will get there soon.
- Those are three very significant words. Are you sure you really mean them?
- Wow. I mean, we’ve only been on two dates, are you sure you mean that?
- Really? That feels a bit soon, don’t you think?
- I mean, you hardly know me, you can’t really mean that.
- Wow, that’s very sweet of you. Just to be clear about where my feelings are, I’m not even near that yet, even though I’m enjoying your company and getting to know you.
Of course, how you respond to a person you don’t love telling you that they love you will differ dramatically depending on the situation.
If your ex-partner, or even your current partner, tells you they love you and you know you don’t feel that way about them anymore, your response will be very different than if the person professing their feelings to you is a virtual stranger.
There is a reason the one-sided “I love you” is such an iconic movie trope. It is because it is one of the most awkward moments in any unsuccessful relationship.
So, you are not alone in feeling unbelievably uncomfortable. That said, this article provides a play-by-play guide of how to approach having someone tell you they love you when you don’t feel the same.
How to respond to “I love you” when you don’t love someone anymore
There will always be disagreement about whether it is better to be the person breaking up with their partner or the person being broken up with.
Whether you prefer to do the hurting or to be hurt, there is nothing easy about having to tell someone you have fallen out of love with them.
We all know that our brain on heartbreak is not happy, and it is painful to have to inflict that state on someone you still care about deeply.
That said, honesty is always the kindest policy. Don’t lead someone on by continuing to tell them you love them long after you have stopped feeling an organic desire to say those words.
1. You know I’ll always love you, but I think I might not be in love with you anymore.
This is a kind and compassionate response to someone you used to love telling you they love you.
What you are saying is that the connection you have is for life, but that you don’t feel romantic love for them anymore.
While this will surely sting in the moment, your partner or former partner will come to understand in the long-term that you were being kind by telling them the truth about how you felt.
2. Sorry, I’m just feeling a bit off right now. I think I might need a little bit of space this week.
If you haven’t given much thought to how you feel about your partner for a long time and are then blindsided by the absence of feelings you experience when they tell you they love you, the best thing to do is take some time to figure out what you want.
You don’t have to say too much in the moment. After all, you may just be having an off-day or be in a weird mood for some other reason.
However, you should take the lack of emotion you feel seriously. Reflect on what you want so that you don’t lead your partner on unnecessarily.
In the moment, just saying you feel off and temporarily need a bit of space is plenty.
3. This is a hard conversation to have, but I don’t think this is working for me anymore.
If you’ve been thinking about sitting your partner down to have a serious conversation about the direction your of relationship for a while, you can use this moment as an opportunity to do just that.
Let them know that the conversation is a hard one for you to have and then tell them you don’t think your relationship is working.
They are sure to be hurt in the moment, so make sure you use a compassionate and calm tone of voice.
If you are going to breakup with someone, do it in person. Don’t make someone go through the agony of thinking about how to respond to a breakup text.
4. I really don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t think I feel the same way I used to.
If someone you used to be in love with tells you they love you and you don’t feel the same, you couldn’t give a clearer response than this one.
One thing that many people say about breakups is that it is hard when the person ending the relationship isn’t clear about what they want.
Often, we try to sugarcoat the truth to soften the blow of what we’re doing.
Unfortunately, this usually just ends up confusing the person being broken up with.
Remember that they cannot read your mind. So, don’t backtrack. Say what you mean and leave it at that!
5. It’s me, not you, but I think my feelings have changed and I’m not sure we’re right for each other.
Telling someone that your feelings have changed allows you to say you are no longer in love with them without having to use those harsh words.
There will be no ambiguity, and your partner will get the message.
So, if you would rather avoid living with the memory of saying, “I don’t love you,” why not opt for the easier “my feelings have changed.”
6. I never wanted to hurt you, but I think I have to be honest about how I’m feeling.
This is a good response to “I love you” if you have been going back and forth about whether to tell your partner about what’s going on your mind.
Forcing the words “I have to be honest” out of your mouth will ensure that what follows is actually true.
Once you’ve opened the floodgates, there is no way you’ll chicken out of telling your partner what you’re feeling.
7. I’m so sorry, I just don’t feel that way about you anymore.
While some people might tell you not to apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong, this seems a harsh line to take.
If someone says, “I love you” and you aren’t going to say it back, what you are apologizing for is not what you’re feeling, it is how what you’re feeling is going to make them feel.
Essentially, you’re apologizing for the fact that they will be hurt, not for the action you are taking that is hurting them.
Apologizing shows sensitivity and compassion.
8. What we had was so special, but I don’t feel the same way I used to.
Saying something kind before you breakup with your partner is not going to make everything okay, but it may soften the blow they feel when they think back on your conversation later.
So, instead of just coming right out and responding to their “I love you” by saying you don’t feel the same, why not start by telling them that what you had was special?
It might seem a minor thing to say, given what you’re about to do, but it will surely stay in your soon-to-be ex-partner’s mind when they think back on your relationship.
How to respond to “I love you” from someone you see as a friend
Let’s be honest, none of the situations covered in this article are going to be comfortable or fun.
Having someone declare their love for you when you don’t love them is always going to be an awkward experience.
Unfortunately, you may have friends tell you they love you.
This can be tricky, because you risk losing a friend if they take offense to the fact that you don’t feel the same.
The best approach to take when someone you think of as a friend tells you they love you, is to let them down easy while being clear and compassionate.
9. Oh. I think we might be on very different pages about what this is. I only see us as friends.
Try to avoid saying something hurtful that puts the blame for the misunderstanding solely on your friend’s shoulders.
If you say, “you’ve misread what’s happening,” or “why would you think I like you?” you risk alienating them and making them feel foolish.
Instead, tell them you are “on different pages” about the situation.
This phrasing leaves the question of blame out of the equation all together. Any suggestion that the situation is someone’s fault would surely be unhelpful.
If there is something concrete you have done that you can identify as a reason why they might thing you share their feelings, you can discuss it.
For example if you respond to kissy-face emojis your friend sends you with heart emojis, you could let them know that that’s just how you text all your friends, and that those symbols don’t mean anything to you.
10. That’s really flattering and so sweet, but I’ve always thought of this as a best friendship and nothing more.
If you feel that the person telling you they love you really should know that you don’t feel the same way, you don’t have to be too generous with your wording.
You can be confident in knowing that you’ve given them no reason to suspect you want anything more than friendship.
11. Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to say that. I don’t want to let you down, but I don’t feel the same way about you.
You may feel genuine shock at a friend’s confession of love for you. If you do, you don’t have to try to hide this. You can say, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to say that.”
Seeing that you were not expecting them to say that may be a valuable learning experience for them, so you should not feel that you have to shield your true reaction.
Follow this up by letting them know that you simply don’t feel the same.
12. I think there’s been a misunderstanding about what this relationship is. I only want us to be friends.
You couldn’t be any clearer than this answer if you tried.
Without placing the blame on anyone, you’re expressing that your friend has one understanding of your relationship and you have a very different one.
Then you’re setting out what your interpretation of the relationship is, namely that it is a friendship.
It would be hard for anyone to object to any aspect of this response, and if they do, then quite frankly, it is their problem.
13. I’m sorry, I don’t see you that way.
Perhaps you feel that this friend or acquaintance of yours has been ignoring all your hints for months that you don’t want anything romantic.
You might feel that you have already made it clear that you have no interest in them.
If this is the case, you don’t need to mince your words. Just tell them you don’t see them that way and leave it at that.
14. You mean, as a friend?
It is possible that you won’t be sure what your friend means when they say they love you. After all, many friendships are littered with exclamations of “I love you!”
If you aren’t sure whether your friend is confessing a deep secret about how they truly feel about you or is just telling you they love you as a friend, then ask!
You could also use this response to give them a way out of a foolish confession.
If you suspect that they do mean to confess their romantic feelings to you, but you want to avoid having to deal with the fallout, you can subtly hint that you don’t want them to be doing this, by allowing them to say, “oh, yes, of course. As a friend.”
15. I love you too, as a friend. You’re one of the most important people in my life.
You could also pretend to take their expression of love as an expression of friendship love, even if you suspect it wasn’t mean that way.
Once you have said “I love you too, as a friend,” they are hardly likely to persist with their declarations of romantic feeling.
How to respond to “I love you” when you aren’t sure how you feel
While some people sit firmly on the “not ready for a relationship” side of the dating spectrum, others are only too happy to say I love you after only a few weeks.
What do you do if you have been dating someone for a while––maybe you’re even in a relationship––but you haven’t quite crossed the “love line” yet?
Imagine this: They tell you they love you.
For some reason, you just can’t get yourself to tell them you love them too. You might wonder why this is. After all, you’re happy and things seem to be going well!
Whatever your reasons, subconscious or conscious, the most important rule about the “L-word” is that you only say it when you really, truly mean it.
Once you have told someone you love them, you can’t take it back.
And loving someone is no small commitment. You’re basically promising to unreservedly dedicate your care, affection, and resources to them.
When should you say, “I love you”? Basically, only tell someone you love them if you think you might die if you couldn’t be with them!
16. Wow, how long have you felt that?
It may be that the question on the tip of your tongue is, “how long have you loved me?” That is a fair thing to want to know.
After all, if you aren’t quite sure how you feel yet, you may want to assess how your feelings match up to your partner’s. If they say they have loved you for months, you may feel that you need to take a step back, since you are clearly in very different places emotionally.
17. I’m not saying I don’t love you; I just need a little more time before I say it.
You may feel that while you can’t quite get yourself to say, “I love you too” just yet, you are actively falling in love and will surely want to say it soon enough.
If so, just let your partner know that you need a little more time.
You can ease the blow of not returning the all-important three words by saying that you aren’t saying you don’t love your partner.
This will certainly reassure them that the two of you are more or less on the same page.
18. Wow, that gives me a lot to think about. I don’t think I’m there yet. I’m not saying I won’t get there; I just need some time to work out how I feel.
Maybe you know that you aren’t in love yet and aren’t totally sure whether you will actually fall in love with the person you’re seeing.
If this is the case, don’t overcommit. Avoid saying that you’re sure you’ll get there. Instead, just say, “I’m not there yet.”
Tell the person you’re seeing that you need some time to work out how you feel and leave it at that.
Then, try to change the topic of conversation so that the awkwardness doesn’t linger.
19. I had no idea your feelings were that strong. I really like hanging with you, but I think I’m cautious about saying too much because I don’t want to end up getting hurt.
If you are surprised that your partner has told you they love you, let them know that you weren’t aware of the extent of their feelings.
Tell them you enjoy hanging out but are cautious about saying too much.
They will surely not hold any of this against you.
And in any case, you can’t help how you feel!
20. I’m really moved that you feel that way about me. I also care about you deeply. Give me a bit more time, but I know I will get there soon.
If you know that you are falling for the person you’re seeing and are truly touched that they love you, tell them you will get there soon.
This is a good thing to say if you would like to tell them you love them but can’t quite seem to get the words over your lips.
It could be that you are nervous about the weight of that kind of commitment.
Either way, there is no need to rush yourself. Take all the time you need.
21. Those are three very significant words. Are you sure you really mean them?
If you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a little while but aren’t sure that you are developing true and deep feelings, you may be surprised to hear them say they love you.
If you find yourself in this position and don’t feel that your partner really behaves like they are in love with you, there is nothing wrong with asking whether they are sure they mean what they just said.
You can also point out how significant the words “I love you” are.
Of course, you don’t want to offend your partner by questioning their integrity, so you will have to ask this question in the correct tone and in the correct moment.
Unfortunately, some people seem to think “I love you” is a great thing to say if their girlfriend is sad. So if you suspect your partner has said “I love you” to cheer you up, you can call them on their bluff.
How to respond to “I love you” said too soon
There are some people out there who seem to struggle to tell the difference between infatuation, lust, and love.
If someone you have only be seeing for a very brief amount of time tells you they love you, you could be forgiven for doubting whether they truly mean what they’re saying.
You might also be a little freaked out because they are telling you they love you before they properly know you.
That said, some happily married couples of many years have stories of confessing their love to each other within the first few weeks of their relationship, so don’t rule anything out!
Here are a few ways you might respond to someone telling you they love you too soon.
22. Wow. I mean, we’ve only been on two dates, are you sure you mean that?
There’s not much to say about this one. It is self-explanatory.
If this sample response applies to your situation and you want to get to the bottom of what is going on with your date of two weeks, go ahead and ask them!
23. Really? That feels a bit soon, don’t you think?
Instead of getting too serious about your date’s declaration of love, why not keep the tone light-hearted.
Simply jokingly query whether they mean what they’ve just said to you. Who knows, they may be able to redeem themselves with a funny response.
24. I mean, you hardly know me, you can’t really mean that.
Perhaps you suspect they are trying to use I love you as a pickup line, and don’t appreciate their deviousness.
If this is the case, simply call them out on their behavior.
Depending on how much you enjoy this person’s company, you can adjust the tone with which you deliver this message.
25. Wow, that’s very sweet of you. Just to be clear about where my feelings are, I’m not even near that yet, even though I’m enjoying your company and getting to know you.
If you are touched, if a little shocked, by their declaration but don’t consider it a dealbreaker, see if you can salvage the situation.
Tell the person you are seeing that it feels a little soon to say, “I love you” and that you aren’t close to feeling that level of affection yet.
Then let them know that you do really like hanging out and enjoy their company.
What they do with this is up to them, but you’ve given them a chance to keep getting to know you and redeem themselves.
Hey, it’s me, Steven. Dating and relationships have always fascinated me. On Dategosu, you will find my best tips to make sure your next date is a great success!