When Mean Girls' Cady Heron coined the term "word vomit," she knew what she was talking about. Whether you're feeling nervous, embarrassed, excited, or just plain awkward, sometimes you say things you don't quite mean. Usually, these unintentional words are insignificant, but what if you accidentally say the three most significant words to someone? When you're navigating a relationship of any kind, there are a number of different situations in which you might say "I love you" and not actually mean it. But can you take back "I love you"? Is it ever OK to rescind those words?
I spoke to Damona Hoffman, certified dating coach and host of the Dates & Mates podcast, about how you should deal if you say "I love you" and don't really mean it. She says that you can take it back — and it may actually be less painful for your partner if you do. If you don't know where to begin the conversation, there's no need to stress. Hoffman also shared specific strategies to use, depending on the situation. Whether you blurt it out after sex or feel pressured to respond to your significant other if they say it first, here's what to do if you told someone you love them and want to take it back.
1. Try Not To Panic
The first step is to remain calm. Making a big deal out of what you said will only escalate things. "Emotions are changeable and you said 'I love you' because you were feeling something in that moment," says Hoffman. How you move forward from that moment is ultimately what matters.
2. Remember, Actions Speak Louder Than Words
If your partner says "I love you" and you say it back without actually feeling the same way, it won't come across as genuine. "Your actions are going to speak louder than words, so if you said 'I love you' but you truly don’t feel it, your partner will know," says Hoffman. If your partner continues to say they love you with an expectation of a reply, Hoffman suggests responding with, "I'm loving getting to know you," instead of repeating something you don't really feel.
3. Don't Repeat It (Until You Mean It)
In the event that you said it after sex, you're not alone. "It’s common to blurt out an 'I love you' in bed when you are caught up in the chemistry and [when the] oxytocin, the hormone that bonds you to someone and is also released during sex, hits you," says Hoffman. "If you don’t still feel it afterward, don’t bring it up. That should buy you another couple of days or weeks to see if your feelings grow." Continue to check in with yourself — you may be surprised by the eventual realization that you feel the same way.
4. Use Compassion
No matter what you do, be kind about it. "If your partner is falling head-over-heels for you and you aren’t feeling it yet, you can express where you are in the relationship with compassion," says Hoffman. "Phrases like, 'I think I could fall in love with you' or 'I love the way I feel when I’m with you' give them hope you could feel something more and give you time to figure it out." Not everyone moves at the same pace in a relationship, and that's OK. Just let your SO know that this doesn't mean you don't care.
If you've been together for a long time and you still don't reciprocate their feelings, you might want to consider whether or not this relationship is for you. But if you simply need a little more time to get to know your partner, use the above strategies to make the best out of an uncomfortable situation.
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