first of all thank you that I can ask a question here. I have the following problem: since two and a half years I live again in a relationship. My partner and I are doing well together, we are now even thinking about moving in together.
"Despite my strong feelings for her, I don’t want "I love you" if it doesn’t come naturally to my lips. "
However, there is always a situation that is very unpleasant for me: my girlfriend tells me more often: "I love you", which is also nice. Only, I can’t really answer it somehow. It’s not that I don’t have strong feelings for them. It’s just hard for me to say it, even more so at such a moment "on command", so to speak.
But I think she expects it when she says it to me. I then feel in a dilemma: I don’t want to disappoint her, but also don’t want to say "it" if it doesn’t come naturally to my lips. She is then not really angry, but I realize that the moment is then somehow spoiled if I do not say "I love you too". I already think I am showing her that I like her and she is important to me. But to express it in such a way, is just not me.
What do you think about my situation? I would be grateful for an assessment, because I do not really dare to bring this up with friends.
Answer from Psychologists Online
Thank you for your openness. "I love you" – these three little words have a great meaning for many people. What does this sentence mean to you personally? You wrote about inhibitions to say "I love you" to your girlfriend as well. If you stay with yourself for a moment: what do the words of your girlfriend trigger in you?? Say the three words out loud in a quiet hour alone – how does it feel?
Good reasons for not saying I love you?
Perhaps it will bring you relief to get to the bottom of your inhibitions more strongly. There are often good reasons why we feel and act the way we do. So why could it very well be that you are feeling this pressure? You could assume that it is an important signal of needing more time. Or it could be a good sign to be careful with the built up trust in the relationship. Perhaps expressing your feelings with care has already worked for you in the past. What are your hypotheses? Don’t see your current inhibitions as limitations, but as valuable idea generators for what you need in this moment.
Your expectations with "I love you
Now about your partner. Let’s say your expectations of what your girlfriend expects at that moment trigger this uncomfortable pressure. Do you find it easier to get ahead of her? So expressing your feelings for her without her saying anything first?
And assuming they’re not ready to say the words "I love you" just yet, what could you do alternatively to express your feelings? Either through other words or through gestures – taking her in your arms, bringing her something nice, … After all, there are different languages of love. Show her how it feels right for you personally to show love and connection.
Honesty as a sign of connection
Reading your answer, I thought the most important thing for the relationship and your partner seems to me that you have strong feelings for her. Let’s assume that your girlfriend also notices your inhibition to say "I love you". I can imagine that it can be relieving for both of you to talk openly with her. It would be interesting to know how your partner notices your feelings. How else will she feel that you love her?
Can your partner live with the fact that you first "only" show your affection through other forms or does it necessarily have to be the "three words"? How important is the reply to her? So it’s also up to your partner. Try to exchange ideas with her on these topics. It takes some courage. And it can show your partner how important the relationship is to you.
I would be happy if my thoughts could give you some ideas.
Bettina Kappe is a systemic therapist and coach and lives in Holzwickede near Dortmund, Germany.