When we feel the need to constantly reassure ourselves that our partner loves us, it often means more about us than it does about them. And here’s the kicker, if your anthem is “I love you say it back,” it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you either. There’s power in noticing our fears and insecurities, and that power can move you forward into the trusting relationships that you’ve always dreamed of.
In this article, we will look at the indicators you can look for to understand a partner who’s struggling with the fear of not being loved.
What does it mean about me?
It’s normal to have been hurt before; a tough breakup with an old love that you expected to last forever can be incredibly painful. But what’s interesting about the idea of I love you say it back is that more often than not, while we’re struggling in the present to trust our romantic relationships, we learned that struggle way back in our childhood.
We learn how to be in a relationship from our parents as we see them and even relate with them growing up. We understand exactly as much as they know about love and trust, which unfortunately often includes a fear of not being loved.
Even if we recognize from an early age that we don’t want a relationship like theirs, we’ll struggle without a replacement for their way. All to say, if you’re afraid of saying I love you and not hearing it back, you came by it honestly. You don’t want to build suspicion when their tone shifts or when they text a friend, but if that’s how you saw your mom or dad handle the situation, it may be your reaction too.
What does it look like?
Although everyone’s fears will be unique to their lived experiences, there are some common threads to how fear manifests in our relationships and unsettles our sense of security in a relationship. The most common is that knee-jerk “I love you say it back.”
And fear doesn’t always look like someone cowering in a corner. It can manifest in someone expressing suspicion about what you’re doing, who you’re texting, whether or not you like other people more than them, and the list goes on. It sounds like someone is answering your question with a “why do you want to know?.” And frankly, fears can often end up coming across in ways that sound a lot like anger. “Why are you texting her?!” sounds more like an accusation than the actual fear of not being loved they’re expressing.
What does it lead to?
When these fears of not being loved run the show, trust, connection, and the different types of intimacy get pushed into a corner and ultimately discarded. We’ve learned so much about emotion over the last couple of decades, and it’s pretty widely believed now that if we listen to our emotions, they guide the way for us.
These fears can guide us too, but unfortunately, they tend to guide us to what we knew as kids. So if that isn’t what you want in life, these fears can leave us with a lack of intimacy, a fear of sexual intimacy, and trust that we never wanted. Suspicion is sneaky. When we keep that suspicion inside, it fosters beliefs about how a partner simply isn’t trustworthy. ‘I love you say it back’ is a statement of love along with a suspicious assumption that they don’t. And with a belief like that, it’s a downhill ride to a lack of trust.
What can I do about it?
Saying I love you and not hearing it back is scary, but there are things you can do.
If you want to build a trusting relationship, the first step is getting you and your partner on the same team with these issues. A commitment from both of you to choose trust is just the most wildly successful strategy out there. It’s pretty normal to struggle with trust these days, so it’s highly likely that your partner may struggle with trust here and there as well.
There are tons of products out there with I love you say it back as a slogan for a reason. Making this commitment brings the firm foundation that trust is the objective you share, and it gives you some really helpful assumptions for when suspicion wants to hang. The next time you’re thinking, “I love you say it back” try one of these two strategies instead:
It may seem uncomfortable or even rude to share your fears and suspicious thoughts with your partner. So start by ensuring you’re both ready to investigate your fears. With a commitment to trust, fears don’t need to be so scary. They give you information on what positive assumptions you need to feel safe in your relationships. There’s no guarantee that either one of you knows exactly what to do with them already. If you did, you wouldn’t be here. And that’s ok. Check-in with your partner first, let them know that they aren’t responsible for your fears and that it isn’t their fault (reminder- it’s not your fault either), and make sure they’re ready to listen.
Yes, it sounds goofy, but what we mean here is that you won’t know what sticks until you throw some spaghetti at the wall. It might not be perfect, and that’s ok. When you’re sharing these fears, and you’re both committed to trust, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work great the first time because next time, you just try different spaghetti.
Jot down needs from both parties for whichever topic or fear you’re working on first, and then it’s time to get a little silly with it. We’ll write down at least 5-6 ideas of how to handle it all around those needs and start with ridiculous ones that don’t make any sense if you need to get your creativity flowing. Have fun with it!
Then pick one to start with.
It might even look like a practice of saying ‘I love you say it back’. It won’t be perfect, but it’s a step in the direction of building more positive assumptions about your partner, your relationship, and your ability to create the relationship of your dreams.
What if we haven’t said I love you before?
If you’re noticing these fears, you’re already doing great! Don’t be afraid to tell whoever you’re dating that you’re working through trust issues and that you’re scared. Listen to your gut to know when you love them—no need to wait and see if you’re wrong here. If you wait, you’ll be proving to yourself that you’re wrong, and you’ll find reasons to support that. I promise. Your fear is good at finding evidence that you aren’t safe. Want to know how to tell someone you love them? Turning toward the love you feel for someone by sharing that with them is the brave spaghetti that can turn your luck around in love.
If you experience these fears around love and trust and relationships, fear is your default. And the only person who can change that is you. Your commitment to noticing your fears, addressing them, and building more trusting beliefs is hard work. It will pay off in the quality of your relationships. You can take the leap of saying I love you. Because whether or not you hear it back this time, you’ll have the ability to build the kind of relationship that really meets your needs and feels fulfilling.
If you’re afraid to say I love you, remember that you came by it honestly and that you’re in the driver’s seat to create something different. Your bravery is exactly how to tell someone you love them.