There are few worse things in a new relationship then hearing your boyfriend say, “I love you,” and then feeling confused about how to respond to this revelation. Instead of giving your boyfriend mixed messages or being disingenuous by saying it back but not really meaning it, consider addressing this issue head on and explaining your point of view to him.
Be Upbeat and Positive
If you feel comfortable, talk to him directly about your discomfort as far as saying, “I love you” back to him. Focus on your positive feelings toward him and the great things about your relationship with him. You can say something as simple as, “Wow. I really appreciate how open you are about your feelings toward me, that is one of the things I really value about you. But, I don’t feel comfortable saying, ‘I love you’ back yet. I really want to mean it when I eventually say this to you.”
Be Extra Gentle
The bad news is that there is probably no way around your boyfriend feeling hurt by the fact that you don't feel the same way as he does at this time. But if you focus on saying this to him in the most gentle way possible, then he will probably understand. If he becomes angry and uses this conflict to break up with you, then you'll know that his feelings about you were not love. However, if his feelings are hurt, but he respects and understands your perspective, then this conflict sets the stage for dealing with future relationship issues maturely.
Give Him Privacy
Sometimes a less direct approach is best for discussing delicate issues in a relationship. You might just want to just hug your boyfriend when he actually tells you that he loves you, but address the issue later in in a way that gives him time to process how you feel in his own way and in private. Writing a letter may be one of your best options. A handwritten letter, rather than a text or email message can be especially meaningful. You can then give him the letter and allow him to read it without worrying about having a reaction to the news in front of you. In the letter, you can go into depth about your feelings for him and tell him gently that although you value the relationship and want to move forward, you don’t feel comfortable saying, “I love you,” back just yet. You can ask him to respond to your letter by writing you back or speaking to you.
Be True To You
Whether you decide to address your discomfort directly or indirectly matters less than making sure that you stay true to yourself. Romantic relationships always call for both people to try to understand the other person’s perspective while not compromising their own values and beliefs.
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