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Saying “I Love You” & Not Hearing It Back: Why It Hurts to Accept It

Unrequited love is never any fun. So, saying “I love you” and not hearing it back can be very devastating. Here are some things to help you through it.

saying I love you and not hearing it back

“I love you” is a huge step in any relationship, and it’s mostly because we fear what the response will be. Saying “I love you” and not hearing it back feels devastating, but you can bounce back from it.

Why it’s so hard

Nobody wants to be the first person to say the L-word because you’re basically going in blindly. You may think your relationship is going well, and they must love you back, but when it comes down to it, you could be wrong!

Maybe they aren’t there yet. Maybe they could never love you because you are too different. It’s safe to say that saying “I love you” is nerve-racking AF.

When someone is the first person to say “I love you” in a relationship, it can make you emotional and scared. You can be terrified by the idea of telling the person that you love them.

It scares you because it means that they could leave you, and you would be heartbroken. It may sound ridiculous, but for some people, somewhere deep within their psyche, they have been programmed to believe that people they love, leave.

Not everyone is emotionally damaged. But now it’s time to talk about you and your “I love you” story… [Read: When to say “I love you” for the first time in a new relationship]

How to overcome saying “I love you” and not hearing it back

Love is a tricky thing to navigate. It only gets worse if the other person does not feel the same way.

There’s nothing you can really do about the other person’s feelings, but you can be prepared for this possible outcome.

1. Know that it’s not your fault

You did nothing wrong. It can be difficult to understand that because you feel rejected. If somebody doesn’t love you, that’s on them.

Either they aren’t in a place where they can love anybody, or they aren’t feeling the connection with you. It’s not your fault, and truly nobody is really at fault, per se. There is just a mixed connection somewhere. [Read: How to pull back in a relationship when you’re giving too much]

2. It could be poor timing

Maybe they are super into you, but they are going through a lot right now and don’t know how to respond to your “I love you.” Maybe they do feel the same way, but in the moment you tell them how you are feeling, they are overwhelmed with everything in their lives.

Be sure to tell them in good time, and in a good situation. It can be difficult to tell at times, but do your best to tell them in an intimate setting. [Read: The first “I love you” – How to say it and get it right]

3. They might not love you yet

Just because they didn’t say “I love you” back, doesn’t mean they never will.

Some people take longer to feel that sort of way, and even longer to express it. Don’t pressure them. Give them time and space to sort things out on their own.

You definitely don’t want them to say “I love you” if they don’t actually mean it, right? Don’t put the pressure on them. Make sure they know that they can take their time coming to terms with their emotions. [Read: How to respond to “I love you” without saying it back just yet]

4. Understand that it doesn’t mean you have to break up

They didn’t say “I love you” back, but that doesn’t mean that they want to break up with you. It doesn’t mean you should assume that either.

Maybe it was too soon for them *not necessarily for you* to say “I love you.”

Again, be patient with them. Make sure you tell them that you don’t need to break up, because it might be assumed by one or both parties. [Read: 10 reasons why saying ‘I love you’ too soon sucks]

5. Maybe you have different intentions

Perhaps you have different intentions. Do you want a serious relationship, and they just want to sleep with you?

Consider this. Maybe they even gave you all of the signs, or even told you straight up but you ignored these signs because you so desperately wanted to make a relationship work with them.

Be realistic. Don’t force a relationship with someone who doesn’t want one. [Read: 15 signs your partner is only interested in sleeping with you and nothing more]

6. You aren’t unlovable

When saying “I love you” and not hearing it back, it can be easy to assume that nobody could ever love you, but know that this is not true. It could be any of the listed reasons or a plethora of other reasons.

Just let it go. You are loveable and you are amazing. You will find your partner in life and it will be magical, maybe this just wasn’t the right one for you.

7. Give them their space

If you say “I love you” and they do not say it back, give them a couple of days to process it. Also, take a few days to process things yourself.

What is the next step, what provoked you to say “I love you,” is there value in your relationship, etc.? “I love you” is a huge statement, so both take your time apart to understand what happens from here. [Read: The four month relationship – What should you expect when you hit this mark]

8. Think about if you really meant it

This may sound crazy, but a lot of people use “I love you” as a means of keeping people in relationships. You might have said “I love you” just for the reaction, or because you wanted them to stick around for a little bit longer. Perhaps, you even hoped they would start giving you more attention.

Or, maybe you said it because you truly meant it. Whichever way, think about it and understand how you really feel. If you love them, your next steps are going to be very different than if you do not love them.

Love vs. attachment

People throw around the words “I love you” a lot. But sadly, some people don’t know what real love is. They think they do, but when it really comes down to it, many have not actually experienced it. [Read: Love vs. attachment – is there a vital difference between the two?]

A lot of how we think about love depends on how our parents modeled it for us. If they fought all the time, and the relationship wasn’t happy, you might think that was love is – because that’s all you saw.

But that isn’t necessarily love. Just because two people are together doesn’t mean that they really love each other.

You see, sometimes people are just attached to one another. In other words, they’ve been together for so long that they just assume they still love each other. But it could be more that they are just used to being together. Plus, one or both might fear being alone.

So, back to you and the fact that you said I love you and are sad about not hearing it back. [Read: What does love feel like? 33 signs you’ll feel when you’re in love]

You might think you love this person, but are you sure it’s love? Could it just be that you have grown attached to them? Could it be feelings of inadequacy or not wanting to be single?

You really need to think about some of these things to find out whether you really love this person.

Being “in love” vs. real love

Of course, there’s no better feeling than saying I love you and hearing it back. But, another common misconception is that being “in love” is the same as real love. But it isn’t.

Falling in love is really easy. A lot of hormones are going wild inside both of your bodies. The physical and mental attraction can be overwhelming. [Read: New love – should you say I love you for the first time or wait to hear it?]

In fact, researchers have proven that when a person is in love, their brain looks the exact same way that it does when someone is high on cocaine. The same pleasure centers light up – just like you’re on drugs. That’s probably why sometimes people say they are “high on love.” Because their brain literally feels like it is on drugs.

But those hormones that make our brains overwhelmingly stimulated don’t equate to real love. That is only temporary, and it wears off, just like drugs wear off. It takes a while, but that’s why they call it the “honeymoon phase.” That’s the “in love” state of a relationship. [Read: The honeymoon phase and how to calculate how long it’ll last for you both]

Real love is what happens when you are with someone for quite a while. It’s not always rainbows and lollipops.

Real love happens when the two of you are completely committed to each other – for better or for worse… literally. That doesn’t mean that you have to be married to feel real love, but there are some very specific qualities of real love that you need to know. [Read: Love advice – 15 big love lessons your own experiences can teach you]

What is real love?

Now that we have distinguished the differences between attachment, being “in love,” and real love, let’s take a look at what love really is. Because then, you will be happy when you say I love you and you are hearing it back.

1. No expectations

We all have expectations of other people. We want them to act the way we want them to act. Maybe we went them to hold our hand more, or to be less shy, or to want to climb up the corporate ladder.

But all of these things are expectations. But true love has no expectations – it simply loves the person just as they are with no changes.

2. No blaming

Real love involves working together as a team. You don’t blame your partner, because you have the ability to look at yourself and take personal responsibility for your actions.

When you forgive and stop blaming someone, you stop taking things personally. That is part of true love. [Read: Unreciprocated love – 25 to move on when love isn’t returned]

3. It’s an action, not just a feeling

Most people think that love is simply a feeling. But it’s not. Sure, you do feel good when you are with the person you love.

But real love requires you to show the person that you love them, too. Doing nice things, and treating them with respect at all times is a must. [Read: How to show someone you love them with more than just words]

4. Putting the other person’s needs first

Selfishness has no room when it comes to love. You can’t really love someone and be completely selfish.

You need to put the other person’s needs at least equal to – if not before – your own needs. It requires you to be selfless, and they should be too.

5. Love makes you feel good

Many people have been in a lot of toxic relationships, and they think that is love. It is not! Love does NOT make you feel bad. Real love only makes you feel good.

So, any person who disrespects you – either verbally, mentally, emotionally, or physically – does not love you. In fact, they don’t even love themselves. That is not real love! [Read: Why do we fall in love? 15 reasons – some fate, and a mix of science]

6. Love has empathy

Empathy is essential to love. The definition of empathy is that you can see the other person’s perspective, even if it’s different from your own.

It requires you to “walk in their shoes” and feel what they feel. That’s what real love does. It feels the other person’s emotions and wants to make them happy.

7. It’s unconditional

Unconditional mean NO conditions. Yes, that sounds obvious. But most people’s love is conditional. They only love the person if they act the way they want them to. And that’s not what real love is. Real, true love is unconditional.

Now that you know all the characteristics of real, true love, do you still feel like you love this person? Really and truly? [Read: Are you in love? Clear signs you’re past lust and really in love]

List what you love about them

Many times, when people say “I love you,” they don’t really know why they love the other person. It might sound crazy, but they have never given it any thought. For example, a lot of women who are in a toxic, abusive relationship will say they stay with him “Because I love him!”

But what could you possibly love about a person who abuses you? That’s not love!

So, in order to know if you really love this person, write down all the reasons that you do. And then write down all the reasons maybe you don’t *or at least you’re questioning*. This will give you a much better idea of whether or not you truly love them.

[Read: When should you say ‘I love you’ for the first time? The things you need to know]

Saying “I love you” and not hearing it back is sort of traumatizing and can make it difficult to say “I love you” the next time. But hopefully, now you know what the definition of real love is, and if you are actually feeling it – or if you just think you do. Regardless, understand, it is not your fault, and you are worthy of love.

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...