Remember that time you told a girl “I love you” and the whole world seemed to stop as you waited for her to look you in the eye, open her mouth, and say the words you long to hear…
…but she didn’t?
If that exchange has ever left you wondering why she held back on saying those three words—and we’re sure it did—this writer and four other women who’ve been there are here to help demystify what was really running through her head the moment you sprang your love on her. Read on, take down notes, and as you dare say “I love you” to a girl again, may the odds be ever in your favor.
Reason #1: She doesn’t feel the same way.
We know it sucks, but there it is.
Anna, 31, recalls an experience with a friend who, to her, was just a friend and nothing more: “A blockmate told me he loved me during a block inuman. Back story: I thought he liked another blockmate of ours, so I just kept teasing him about her. I guess he got tired of me making tukso, so he told me he loved me. I panicked and said, ‘Ganda ng fireworks sa bintana!’ Pero there were no fireworks!”
Anna admits that things got weird between them after that ill-timed admission. She says, “It became awkward for me to hang out with him. Super ayaw ko maiwan na just the two of us.”
Anna’s advice: Anna says to “give subtle hints before saying ‘I love you,’” otherwise you might catch her off-guard and she might end up spewing nonsense that would put you both in a state of perpetual humiliation around each other. If you send feelers out first, you can gauge whether you actually have a shot with her before putting your heart on the line. And if, after gauging, you conclude that a snowball has a better chance in hell, you can just cry quietly in your room, brush yourself off, and move on to better things.
Reason #2: She doesn’t throw the L word around that easily.
Isabelle, 23, says she she’s “not an ‘I love you’ slut” and that it takes a lot for her to fall in love. No wonder when a close friend said those three words to her, she shut him down. Hard.
“I knew he had feelings for me, but I just wanted to stay friends with him,” Isabelle narrates. “One day he told me he loved me. I remember saying, ‘No, you don’t. You can’t love someone you’re not or haven’t been with.’
“Realizing that was mean, I just tried to reassure him that we’re good friends,” Isabelle continues. “Now, we’ve remained good friends!”
Isabelle’s advice: Even if you don’t get the reaction you were hoping for, Isabelle says you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it, because a sincere admission alone deserves a slow clap. “You did well by being brave enough to confess your feelings,” she says. “You were honest with yourself and with her. Never regret being honest.”
Reason #3: She’s just not there yet.
Maybe she’s not in the same starry-eyed state you’re in for a number of reasons: she might be in a wait-and-see kind of stage because circumstances aren’t ideal at the moment, or she might be more careful now after having risked her heart in past relationships, or she could have feelings for you, only they’re not the full-blown, feel-it-in-your-whole-body kind of feelings. For Roxy, it was all of the above.
“We were in the middle of getting to know each other over long distance, so it was a lot of Skype conversations and back-and-forth on messaging apps,” Roxy relates. “The attraction between us was pretty strong, but it wasn’t at a depth that would really be called love. I was caught off-guard when he said ‘I love you’ after I had said something funny. All I could say was, ‘K lang.’”
“K lang.” Let that sink in.
Like Isabelle, Roxy refuses to throw the L word around with abandon. “I couldn’t say it back because I can’t be insincere when I say ‘I love you’ to anyone,” she explains. “Love is a big word to me, and I had already faced problems in other relationships when those words weren’t reciprocated to me personally.
“We still talk and we are still attracted to each other, but because of distance and time differences, we couldn’t pursue a ‘real’ relationship, and that is another reason why I couldn’t say those words back.”
Roxy’s advice: If you really like her, Roxy suggests staying patient and not losing hope right away, because her position could still change. Roxy recommends “pursuing gently and patiently, and maybe she’ll reciprocate whatever it is you want her to reciprocate.”
Reason #4: She needs time to think about it.
Well, duh. Of course she does. Once you blurt out those words, she’ll have to consider what it will mean for the two of you. Will you be exclusive now? Will you have to change your relationship status on Facebook? And more importantly, does she even want to be with you in the first place? It’s too much pressure to put on a girl!
Trish experienced exactly this kind of paralyzing pressure when a man she had been seeing put her on the spot with his declaration…only to take it back and leave her going, “Huh?” Now 48 years old, Trish reveals that the unresolved exchange came back to haunt her a decade and a half later.
“When he said ‘I love you,’ I remember replying, ‘Wow. That’s, uhm...interesting,’” Trish recalls. “Then I asked him if he was sure, serious, and sober. His answer? ‘No, no, no.’
“I was a bit confused because I thought he meant what he said. I replied that way because, being the pragmatist that I am, in my head I was evaluating what he just said.
“After that fateful night, we drifted apart. He didn’t call. I didn’t call him, either. The next time I saw him was about 15 years later. He was still single and he said those three words again. I told him I was in a relationship.
“That was eight years ago. I haven’t seen or heard from him since. I do hope all is well with him, and that he’s in a happy relationship. I just wish I had the chance to explain the situation. We were good friends. We still could have been good friends if he had known the story behind my non-responsive response.”
Trish’s advice: Trish warns against jumping to conclusions, because the silence that greets you might just be her mulling the possibilities in her head. “Please don’t run away,” Trish says. “Still keep in touch. Because some women, upon hearing those words, are just like deer caught in headlights.”
Reason #5: She doesn’t understand her feelings yet.
I’m going to assume that you readers are of legal age and not, like, pimply kids who haven’t gone farther than first base, so the possibility that the object of your affection doesn’t understand how love is supposed to feel is rare. But it could happen, particularly if she hasn’t had much experience with relationships.
When I was in high school, a boy gave me a letter. In it, he rather sweetly professed that he loved me and that he always would. His words sounded beautiful, and he really was a great guy, but as I was only a clueless 14-year-old then, I didn’t understand what it meant to love someone, so I couldn’t react positively. Nor did I react negatively. I just did nothing.
Maybe if we had both been older and wiser, with a few character-building heartbreaks already behind us, we would’ve been able to recognize love better and used the word more correctly. But back then, I didn’t even know if he meant it; he was just a few months older and I was pretty sure those few months didn’t suddenly make him privy to the secret mysteries of love.
My advice: Only say “I love you” if you’ve thought hard about it, have decided that you truly mean it, and are prepared for any consequences that may come—including rejection. People’s hearts are too hopeful and too fragile to be lured with a love that might only turn out to be premature.
And if you do swear on your lola’s grave that you mean it yet she still can’t reciprocate, move on. You owe yourself a shot at real love with someone who not only understands how you feel, but feels the same way. (And who hopefully isn’t a clueless 14-year-old, because that would just be wrong.)