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How to Respond to the Words "I Love You" so That You Never Have to Hear Them Again

Marcy has lengthy experience in print and online media, including writing for traditional publishers as well as for self-publication.

Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone

An expression of love can be life's greatest gift—or an unwelcome burden. When someone tells us they love us, it may not always be what we want to hear—or it might just catch us off guard. Maybe we can't commit—you know, we've got this "thing." When someone works up the courage to say, "I love you," there are some definitely unwelcome ways to respond. Here's a light-hearted look at a heart-breaking list. Avoid them if you can. Use them if you just can't help yourself.

The Narcissist's Reply

Here's a cheery one: the classic Narcissistic response.

"That makes two of us! I guess we DO have something in common!"

It offers hope by establishing common ground while laying out the ground rules: "I love me. You love me. As long as we both love me, we've got a chance."

A toned-down version might simply be, "Well, of course you do, honey. Everyone does."

The queen-mother Narcissist response, in contrast, is: "Not again! All the women always tell me that!"

The Understatement

"I like you, too!"

This one "damns with faint praise." Normally, we want people to like us. Past the age of 12*, the only time we don't want someone to like us is when we very much want them to love us. Saying, "I like you" to someone whom has just pronounced their passion is a clear indication that you most certainly only like them and, as likable as they are, you don't love them back.

*Since "like" is a synonym for "love" when you're a kid with a crush, saying, "I like you" to your fellow 10-year-old is a declaration of deep and heartfelt love—with an expiration date attached, like, oh, about three weeks.

The Dodge

This is an example of diversion: change the subject, divert the person's attention, and draw them to a new and fascinating subject that is sure to take their mind off the matter at hand. When they profess their passion, you look away and say cheerfully,

"How 'bout them Dodgers?"

The purist might ponder what sporting season it is. Really, you can say this any time of year. The smitten adorer will not rapidly access their memory banks and try to figure out if it is, actually, baseball season (or is it football? Oops … my "recreational intelligence quotient" is showing). The person who has just told you they love you will immediately understand that you just gave them the dodge.

Diversion is a great tactic in training dogs and horses. It's not so great in relationships—unless you're trying to ditch the other half.

Pillow Talk

Different rules apply when two people have just been intimate for the first time and one utters those three important words (no, not those words! Shame on you!)—"I love you."

The "I'm not interested" reply is something to the effect of, "You have to say that since you're still breathing hard." I have, of course, taken the liberty of censoring it appropriately. You get the gist. If you ever want to see this person again, refrain from any versions of it at all.

Do These Sound Familiar?

State of Denial

"No, you don't."

Where to begin with this one? Annoying at best, it expresses a variety of sentiments (none of which are reciprocal love). It implies that the speaker does not, in fact, know their own mind and feelings. It indicates that they are being dishonest. It may beg for reassurance and compliments: perhaps the one who has declared their love is supposed to say it a thousand more times, or produce a gift to accompany it, or profess it more loudly. Maybe it's supposed to invoke guilt: "Of course you don't love me, or you wouldn't treat me like you do."

Either way, it's a definite don't.

Disinterested Acceptance

This one comes courtesy of my husband: "Yeh," spoken in a clipped monotone, without so much as a period at the end. (At which point I usually remind him that he sleeps well, and I'm an insomniac, and I could easily smother him with the pillow as he slumbers.)


The thing is, when someone tells you they love you, the desired response is, "I love you, too." "Yeh" gives them no guidance whatsoever. "Yeh what? 'Yeh' you love me or 'yeh' you don't?"


The culprit.

The culprit.

The Unconscious Coupling Aftermath

Gwyneth and Scott are separating—or, as Gwyneth put it, "consciously uncoupling." Well, for those of you whom may have unconsciously coupled, when you awaken to the words, "I love you," the inappropriate response is a bleary-eyed, "I've got to quit drinking."

Of course, it's probably a toss up as to which is worse: "I've got to quit drinking," or "Who are you, and why are you wearing my shirt?"

Come to think of it, under the circumstances, if you have unconsciously coupled and wake up to an "I love you," perhaps the only appropriate response is to proclaim, "I've got to quit drinking."

The "Really?"

The "really" can be said in a variety of ways: "You do?" (with appropriate emphasis on the "do"). You can simply say, "Really?" with your head tilted like the RCA dog. "Huh?" is the most neanderthal way of expressing the same sentiment. "Come again?" is perhaps the most polite. "What?" is a bit abrasive, but not nearly as abrasive as, "What the …?"

The Challenge

"Prove it."

Oh, boy! This one's downright scary! Someone announces their love, and the other party tells them to prove it. How? By offering carnal delights? Or by "disappearing" the other person's lawfully wedded spouse?

Just don't.

Oh, Brother

This one's got to hurt a lot: "I love you, too, like a brother." It may hurt even worse when it's delivered as, "I love you, too, like a father" (or mother, or great-aunt). Unless you are, actually, talking to your father, brother, sister, mother, second-cousin or child, it's not going to be what the other person wants to hear.

The Lie

Perhaps most inappropriate of all is to lie and pronounce your love for someone you don't, in fact, love at all. That's where people end up feeling betrayed and angry. Better to man up (or woman up) and tell them, "I don't share those feelings," then to get taken by surprise and announce, "I love you, too!"—unless, by some happy coincidence, you do.

© 2014 Marcy J. Miller