When "I Love You Too" is the Wrong Thing to Say
By Thao Nguyen
I love you too.
There are fewer words that are better to say or hear. The security and happiness in knowing that your love for someone is reciprocated is hard to be topped. When those words are spoken and heard for the first time in a romantic relationship authentically, the fairytale feels are SO REAL. Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, vomit on sweaters. But note that I said authentically. The most important part of saying “I love you too” is the genuineness behind the words.
That’s because there are two times when I love you too are the wrong words to say. The first is when you don’t mean them. The second is when you only love someone because they love you.
We have to remember that love isn’t just a feeling. It’s a decision that we have to make and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Just because we’re inundated with love songs, rom-coms, and endless social media posts about love doesn’t make love and statements of love any less important or monumental. Telling someone you love them (too) has enormous emotional repercussions on both parties when one person isn’t as sincere as the other.
I’m pretty sure we’ve been conditioned since our Barney and Friends days to say “I love you too” when someone says “I love you” to us. For those that we actually do love, that’s not an issue. Even on days where we’re mad or upset with those people and we don’t mean it as much, there’s still truth to the words. But for romantic partners or for others in our lives we don’t actually love (yet), saying “I love you too” as a knee-jerk reaction to their profession of love is unhealthy and detrimental to the relationship.
It’s been said again and again and in many different ways that honesty in communication is the most important aspect of keeping a relationship healthy and thriving. This is especially true when it comes to something like expressing the depth of affection you have for the other person. Don’t feel obligated to say “I love you too” to someone just because they’ve been telling you that they love you. Lying to them or leading them on is ultimately worse than letting them know that you don’t feel the same way. If you feel like you could love them eventually, let them know that. There’s no timeline and it’s absolutely not a race either. And if you find yourself feeling like it’s unlikely that you’ll ever love that person, it’s probably pertinent that you revisit and reconsider that relationship.
Saying “I love you too” out of a sense of obligation will take its toll on you. It will only make you feel more pressured to rush to actually feel the same way as your significant other and will probably force you to overlook a lot of the things that are going on in the relationship in order to “catch-up.” On the other hand, leading someone on when you know you don’t and won’t feel the same way is selfish and inconsiderate. Don’t be the kind of person who plays with someone else emotions just because you can’t be honest with them. Be genuine and truthful, even though it causes momentary pain, it’s better than the pain you will both feel when it’s revealed that you were lying all along.
Love is NOT Selfish
Telling someone you love them when you actually don’t because you feel obliged to isn’t the greatest thing you could do in a relationship, but perhaps just as bad, or possibly even worse is loving someone only because they love you.
We all have a yearning to be loved. It’s a natural part of human existence. It doesn’t matter if it’s familial love, platonic love, or romantic love, that feeling of being wanted, appreciated, and adored is something we will always crave. But sometimes that desire can be warped and we become selfish about it. In situations like this, the only reason we say “I love you too” to someone is because they said “I love you" first. And I don’t mean that we’re instinctively reacting to what they’re saying. What I mean is that we only “love” this person because they love us. Our desire for them only exists because they desire us. We selfishly only love them because of what they can offer us - they’re only useful to us as long as they make us feel lovable. If this is something you think you do, I urge you to reflect. Would you still love this person if they weren’t so passionate about you?
I’m not saying to love someone who doesn’t love you. But you shouldn’t be making your affection for someone contingent on the fact that they wanted you first. If the only thing you like about someone is that they love you, you’re being selfish, whether its intentional or not. A person is worth so much more than how they make you feel and how much they want you.
It’s important to remember that the reciprocants of our “I love you toos” are human beings with feelings and emotions. It takes a lot of vulnerability to admit your love to someone. Be careful to respect that and be sincere in how you deal with it. Love isn’t ever self-serving. Keep your motives in check. I love you and I love you too may be very common phrases, but they should always, always be earnest.