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He Said, She Said: The Infamous Three Words

In a romantic relationship, the exchange of the words “I love you” mark a big milestone for the two involved. It may look simple in three words, but it packs a ton of meaning and follows with commitment or the “forever” factor. Professing these words can convey a sense of happiness beyond compare but for some, saying “I love you” comes off very casual or habitual, like saying “thank you” or “goodbye,” especially between friends. But what happens when one person isn’t ready to hear it or mixed emotions get involved? Can those very three words blur and damage a relationship or friendship for that matter?

Image Credit: Getty Images

Image Credit: Getty Images

Sadly, love is one of those four-letter words that can make you content beyond belief or have you retreat with bewilderment into a cave of humiliation. Much of the confusion about saying “I love you” comes from the evident fact that our culture has evolved “love” into many different forms and definitions. For some, love means feeling an undying affection for the other or a form of platonic love, often found in many friendships.

Love in friendship is a many splendid thing! In some forms, it’s almost like a sheltering tree because it helps to have someone there for you, who will stick around through thick and thin. Beloved advice columnist, Ann Landers said, “Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”

On the other hand, saying “I love you” in a romantic relationship can have its drawbacks. Uttering the words too early on can put pressure on the relationship because suddenly the two of you aren’t just having fun anymore or are dating–you’re both in love. It can become more serious and often times, limiting. Love comes with expectations that a new relationship might not have the chance to live up to.

According to a study out of M.I.T, men start thinking about saying “I love you” 97 days or three and a half months into a relationship; and are 61% of the time the first to say the words, though stated they are happier when a woman beats them to it. It seems about right since getting to know someone properly and fall in love takes time, and 90 days gives you a good idea of where your feelings are. The research also suggests that men consider saying those three little words a full 6 weeks earlier than a woman plans to.

If you’re dating, focus on getting to know one another before diving into a commitment of sorts.  If you’re simply friends and your friend is confused by your confession, talk it out with them. Most times, their confusion will speak volumes to the situation.

This week we hear from Jane of Richmond, Virginia who is wondering why her male friend is suddenly very standoffish after she said, “I love you” one night. Is Jane overreacting or does her male friend’s behavior say something much more? Why do men suddenly become so distant after hearing these words? Our writers help her out!

He Said She Said - Jane Sept 11 2013

Sunny says…

Jane, to be brutally honest, it sounds to me like your friend is a little immature.

You said what you said in jest. You didn’t propose or start describing what your future children would look like. You shared a beautiful, organic moment and you loved sharing it with him. Sadly, however, it’s not just him. A lot of [immature] guys hear that word and almost immediately envision being shackled to a white picket fence, surrounded by screaming babies and a smothering wife and completely freak out. It’s a tale as old as time. My guess is that he now thinks you have these deep, dramatic emotions for him and he’s worried because he doesn’t feel the same way. Little does he know, just talking to you about this would probably make both of your lives easier and less awkward.

It sounds like you’ve done all you can, Jane. You’ve tried to contact him, have asked what the matter is and even brought up the uncomfortable L word again. My advice to you is to simply let go. The more you go after this guy, the more he’s going to think you’re madly in love with him. It’s just one of those things that the more you try to fix it at this point, the more it will break. So, just let it be. If he doesn’t want to be your friend over something as small as a casual misunderstanding, he’s not much good to you any way. Save that precious L word for someone mature enough to know when it’s said in jest, when it’s for real or at the very least can discuss things with you without being elementary.

Chin up, buttercup!

Chris says…

Jane, I want to start out by saying that there could be plenty of reasons why this could be happening, but in my opinion, I think that there may have been some misinterpretation by both you and your friend. I think that part of what Sunny said was right: he may not feel the same way. I actually think the kind of relationship, or “flirtationship”, you guys were in was probably very misleading. In these kinds of “no strings attached” arrangements, be it on purpose or not, it is very easy for someone to just go with the flow until someone else’s feelings come up. After that, everything changes, because there are suddenly stakes to be had and lost.

Your friend may be going about it the wrong way, but he might be trying to distance himself from you because he may not want anything serious. Its not to say that he doesn’t like you, but it may just not be the right time for you two.

My suggestion would be to just step away for a little bit. Hang out with your friends, keep yourself busy, and sporadically (once every other week or so) ask him to hang out, as you are. If he doesn’t respond or sounds like he’s making excuses, then its probably a good indicator that he’s not into having that relationship right now. If he bites, and you guys hang out – normally – then there is hope.

The worse thing that you could do is try to push at him, or dwell on the situation.

Good luck to you, Jane.

James says…

Jane, well for starters, one of the bigger misconceptions about guys is thinking we aren’t emotional drama kings. We love drama and we seem to love emotional situations, even though you hear most of us say, “Man, I just couldn’t deal with his/her drama.” For the most part, the truth is we have the same issues girls have. It might not be as blatant, but it’s alive in our subtlety. This could be the reason some guys act funny when dealing with the “L” word.

It sounds like you should wait him out a little longer. The distance he’s using could be a way for him to sort the situation out. Clearly, he feels one way or the other about being in love with you. Give him whatever amount of time you’re comfortable with and then react. Like Chris said, go be with your friends or find ways to stay busy. If the topic is brought up again and obvious sidestepping ensues, you might be dealing with someone not ready for love, even though it seems you both are.

I definitely don’t think you’re paranoid. Love is a big deal and is worthy of attention when brought forward. Again, if time keeps passing and he never addresses it or keeps his distance, then it’s time to rethink time spent with this guy. Sure, we all secretly like the chase, in hopes it will work out in the end and be worth it. But if you’re not comfortable waiting for him to come back around, I’d say it’s time to move on.

Hope for the best,

Karen says…

Jane, first of all, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s understandable when you’re truly enjoying the moment with someone, you get caught up in it. It seems like you do love him, just not in that traditional romantic way. It’s more like you love being with him and the sense of closeness you share with him. However, hearing those three little words can have a profound impact on those who receive them. Personally, if someone I was just in a “flirtationship” with said “I love you” to me, I would wonder if he really did have deeper feelings for me, which can honestly be a bit intimidating even if I did return those affections.

I’m more on James and Chris’s side of this though. I don’t think you necessarily have to let go right away, if you truly care about him as a friend. However, I think you’ve learned the hard way that “flirtationship” means swimming in dangerous territory. So if you choose to proceed, proceed with caution. Since you have already spoken to him about that incident, maybe try a different approach: What if there is something else going on in his life that his making him distant from you? Perhaps family issues, stress from school or work? The next time you meet or are able to talk to him, try to get down to the bottom of it. Maybe then you’ll be able to get a better sense of what’s going on with him and why he’s acting the way he has been.

As my fellow writers have already mentioned, try not to stress out about it too much. Keep yourself occupied and just give it time. He should be the one to come back to you, but if he doesn’t, don’t push it. Know that you did all you could, and move on. Best wishes to you!

* * * * *

If you seek advice from our writers, email us at thehudsuckerblog@gmail.com! Perhaps your question will be featured in our next installment.

While our team of writers have given their advice with the best of intentions, they nor anyone of this site assume responsibility for your actions or the results of them.
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