Everyone claims to prefer knowing the truth to lies, but we hardly account for how tricky that can be to apply to emotional matters. When you realize someone has feelings for you, but you don’t feel that way about them, having a difficult conversation becomes your responsibility.
Likewise, when someone you actually like but can’t say you love yet (or ever will) wants a relationship with you. You can also find yourself in a situation where you fall out of love with your partner in an existing relationship. These things happen, and when they do, they often call for those hard, awkward discussions no one rushes towards.
Going along with the flow or actively lying to the person about your feelings are certainly some other options. However, the only way to rid your conscience of possible guilt in the future is to end the charade and have that talk now.
How then do you put it in a nice way that doesn’t hurt their ego or break their spirit? Here are some tips on how to go about telling this hard truth regardless of how far along into a relationship you are with said person.
- 1 19 Ways To Tell Someone You Don’t Love Them
- 1.1 1. Acknowledge if it feels good that they feel that way about you
- 1.2 2. Don’t say it back
- 1.3 3. Pick your timing carefully
- 1.4 4. Consider the place too
- 1.5 5. Let them ask questions
- 1.6 6. Avoid listing their flaws
- 1.7 7. Resist the urge to throw yourself under the bus
- 1.8 8. Don’t give them false hope
- 1.9 9. Be empathetic but honest
- 1.10 10. Compliment them
- 1.11 11. Explain briefly if something changed
- 1.12 12. Explain exactly how you feel
- 1.13 13. Make it quick
- 1.14 14. Just say it
- 1.15 15. Get ready to stand your ground
- 1.16 16. Don’t force a friendship
- 1.17 17. Set some ground rules if you want a relationship with them afterward
- 1.18 18. No need to be a hard girl
- 1.19 19. Wish them well
- 2 FAQs
- 3 To Sum Up
19 Ways To Tell Someone You Don’t Love Them
1. Acknowledge if it feels good that they feel that way about you
Just because someone’s intent and feelings for you are good doesn’t mean you have to like it. In the same way, that you don’t feel the same way doesn’t forbid you from being flattered that someone cares a great deal about you.
If you find yourself on the spot, maybe someone you’ve been seeing casually for a while drops the ‘L’ bomb on you. Or say it’s the other way round, and you’ve had some time to prepare for the conversation. An excellent way to soften the blow is to admit it feels good to be loved and that you appreciate them feeling that way about you and expressing it.
2. Don’t say it back
The ideal thing is that when your partner tells you, “I love you” for the first time, you receive the news with excitement and do not panic. But the very fact that you’re reading this article suggests that it is most likely not your reality. So, you’ve been told, and even though they implied “no pressure,” you feel the need to say I love you back.
If you know you genuinely do not feel the same about this person, telling them you love them too out of pity only prolongs the inevitable. Instead, deflect at that moment and prepare to have an uncomfortable conversation afterward. Similarly, if you’re in a relationship, but your feelings have changed, stop saying you love your partner when you know in your mind you no longer do.
3. Pick your timing carefully
If you are going to be initiating the talk, I suggest you consider the timing. While some people listen to their instinct and pick up on the fact that something is going on with their partner, your person may have no clue what’s on your mind.
Do them a favor and not drop something as painful as your inability to reciprocate their feelings in an inappropriate period. For example, don’t do it when the person has just lost their job, nursing an illness, or is on the verge of a breakthrough on a big project. Choose your moment, and do it when they are likely to lose the least. If you care enough, that is.
4. Consider the place too
As with the when, where you do it can also contribute to how smoothly your conversation goes. Therefore, do the person another solid and try not to blurt it out while hanging out with friends or over a meal in a packed restaurant.
Make sure they are in a place where they are comfortable enough to express their immediate feeling, which may be anything from slight embarrassment to downright dejection. Also, consider your own self, where you are likely to handle it best if they take your news a bit too hard.
5. Let them ask questions
Especially if the person you’re telling is your partner or someone you think you might develop some feelings for in the future. Even more so with the former since that might mean practically breaking up with them and upending their love life.
They may want to know if or where they went wrong, whether you met someone else, how long it’s been since they’ve been in a relationship with themself, etc. Try not to go into too many gory details, especially if the reason you stopped loving them is that you fell for another person, but answer them nonetheless. That way, they are likely to get closure faster than not knowing.
6. Avoid listing their flaws
Is the person in question your partner or someone that was on track to be in a relationship with you? If yes, they may naturally want to know what’s changed between the time you were in love with them and now. Also, if you ever loved them for real, or it was all a ruse.
While it’s possible to lose feelings for someone out of nowhere, most people who fall out of love with a partner have reasons they can point to as why. From unresolved conflicts to losing touch with intimacy to fears getting triggered, the ins-and-outs often vary.
However, it’s unnecessary to list narcissism, insensitivity, weak sex game, annoying quirks, or their other flaws as the reason you don’t love them. Unless you see you and the person making it work in the future, in which case you might need to get the problem out to trash it out.
Otherwise, you’d only make them feel inadequate even though nothing’s probably changed about their personality since the first time you met.
7. Resist the urge to throw yourself under the bus
It’s all too easy to self-flagellate and call yourself names just so the other person can feel better, but to what end? Love isn’t a do-or-die affair, one should be as free to get out of it as we are to fall in love. So as much as you want to avoid pointing fingers at your partner, friend, or crush, you ought to avoid condemning yourself too.
You’re not a terrible person for not loving your boyfriend anymore. Neither are you an ingrate for not falling in love with someone who’s being so kind to you. On the contrary, being honest about how you feel serves them better eventually. People shoot and miss shots all the time, so try to keep it neutral instead of blaming them or yourself for emotions you can’t control.
8. Don’t give them false hope
The affected individual might ask other questions that, if you’re not careful or prepared, could land you in a bind. They may want to know if there is any chance of you falling in love with them in the future. Or if you are willing to build a relationship despite how you feel and see if something grows from there.
They may ask all sorts of questions out of desperation, even ones that take shots at their ego. Don’t because of this web yourself into an unwanted entanglement. You wouldn’t be doing either of you a favor that way because deep down, you know your feelings aren’t real.
9. Be empathetic but honest
One of the reasons conversations about unrequited love are always so complicated is they require you to be delicate yet blunt. You want to consider the other party’s sensitivity, yet you know you need to be as clear as possible if you don’t want the discussion to come up again.
Although some people interpret that needing to be mean or rude, you can navigate it more healthily with a little kindness. Don’t say things like you don’t love them anymore or never did because they don’t meet your needs.
Instead, ease them into it with something like you both deserve more than either of you can give the other. And that it wouldn’t be fair to you or them if you carried on without letting them know where your heart is. This way, you’d be ripping the band-aid off alright, but without being mean or accusatory.
10. Compliment them
Though you may not love this person, I assume you care somewhat about them because you’re looking for the least painful way to tell them about your feelings. Or lack thereof. It might help to key into what it is that makes you care about them so much.
Is it that they are a generous person that you’d have preferred not to hurt if things were different? Are they always so kind to you and others around them? Are they super intelligent if a little awkward with people? Focus on these good traits and integrate them into the conversation as a compliment before moving on to the main gist.
11. Explain briefly if something changed
If you’re essentially ending a relationship with this conversation, I think your partner might need a bit of explanation to process. While you don’t need to go into the nitty-gritty if you don’t want to, giving them a brief overview may help with the transition.
Instead of just saying you don’t love them anymore and leaving it at that, you can add a sentence that tells them why. It might also help to use statements that essentially convey the same message without saying the words “I don’t love you anymore.”
Consider something that goes like, “You mean a lot to me, but I want to be truthful. I’m not the same person I was when we started, and I’m afraid I can no longer love you the way you deserve.” It’ll still suck, but at least it’d be out there.
12. Explain exactly how you feel
This one is mainly for you if you’re trying to tell someone you don’t love them yet, but might at some point. I.e., you’re not trying to end your relationship as is, just for your partner to know you’re not yet on the same page emotionally. In this case, you can afford to go into details about what you are actually feeling, and maybe a little bit on why you’re aren’t at the love stage yet.
If what you have makes you happy, tell them, and despite not being in love with them per se, if you feel a growing emotional connection, make it known as well. This can help your partner manage their expectations and bring them relief, knowing you can be honest with them about your feelings.
13. Make it quick
Speaking of ripping the band-aid off, it should go without saying, but I feel like I have to reiterate its importance. Whether you are ending a relationship, need a partner to go less fast, or you’re just making things clear for someone who has a crush on you, make it quick.
You may think they can wait to hear what you have to say since no one looks forward to rejection. But looking back, most people prefer knowing as soon as possible to drawing things out. Being quick and clear about it removes any expectation that you might change your mind, thus saving them the time they might spend convincing you.
This applies from planning to the execution because the less time you spend having such a conversation, the better for everyone.
14. Just say it
While many points of this list tell you to consider the other person’s feelings, remember you have an even greater obligation to be kind to yourself. As someone who has had to have this conversation once or twice, I can relate to how heavy it must weigh on your heart.
All you want is to get it out so you can find relief and move on with your life. In this case, if you’ve tried being tactful, given hints, shown signs, and they remain oblivious, you may have to hit the nail on the head and hope it doesn’t bend.
From experience, I can tell you nothing short of this will work for people who, despite sensing that something is wrong in the relationship, refuse to admit the inevitable truth. Or those who keep hoping that if they pretend long enough, things will go back to the way they were. So again, being straightforward might be your best bet when manipulation and all else fails.
15. Get ready to stand your ground
Now, when you love someone, and they tell you they don’t feel that way about you, you may be a tad reluctant to accept that reality. So, while planning to tell someone the same thing, it’s advisable to prepare to stand your ground.
For example, let’s say they somehow force the reason out of you, and it’s something from their side. They may figure-fixing that thing might make your stay and embark on a futile attempt to work on reviving dead feelings. So unless you believe there might be a chance to love them again, I’d plan to insist.
16. Don’t force a friendship
It’s natural to want to hold on to our investment and keep doing the familiar, but insisting on staying friends with this person might be unfair. While it may help assuage your guilt momentarily, not everyone can handle interacting with the love who got away without being reminded of their loss.
The person might not say no if you extend a hand of friendship right after the conversation because they may be looking for an olive branch to grab. But I’d personally stay clear of asking to remain friends altogether, and if you must, be sure to give them a chance to do it on their terms.
17. Set some ground rules if you want a relationship with them afterward
If, all things considered, you believe you two can pull off a relationship without slipping into your old dynamics, setting some boundaries might improve your odds. After you’ve had the conversation and everyone knows where they stand, you two might want to add what changes and what doesn’t, going forward.
Like do you still say I love you to each other every night? Can you keep hooking up? Does this affect how you relate to each other’s loved ones? These things need to be clear, so misunderstandings don’t come up later.
18. No need to be a hard girl
Conversations about love (or the absence of it) tend to end in tears and heartbreak for at least one party. However, that the other person (in this case, you) initiates it doesn’t mean they are not entitled to feeling hurt by it.
While your initial instinct might be to keep a tough front, feel free to express yourself if you wish things were different. As long as you’re sure owning these emotions in front of your partner won’t keep you from standing your ground.
19. Wish them well
Ultimately, we can’t control how someone handles an unpleasant situation. As much as you may want things to remain practically the same, odds are they won’t. You may want to give that some thought before putting how you (don’t) feel out there.
If you decide to go ahead with it, and they don’t take it well, resist the need to apologize even if you feel bad and just wish them well instead. Even though most of us consider it good manners, study suggests saying sorry may make social rejection feel worse rather than soften the blow.
There is no harm in telling someone you love them even if they don’t feel the same way about you. Unless your love is hinged on the other person feeling that way too, in which case it wouldn’t really be love, feel free to say I love you. Life is short.
Break up hurts whether the person doing it loves you or not, but it can feel worse if done without tact. Try and be honest and straight to the point without going too deep into why you don’t love them anymore. Carefully choose the when and where, be kind and polite while breaking the news but take a firm stand.
As pleasant as it is to say I love you or hear it from your partner, it can feel monotonous over time. In place of those three words, you can expressly state what you love about them, what you appreciate about them, the value they bring into your life, and so on.
Someone can love you and still leave you if factors beyond their control warrant it. However, true love wouldn’t go down without trying everything within its power to remain together. So, if your partner gives up without a fight, their feelings for you may not be genuine, even if they’ve invented different ways to say I love you.
Knowing how someone feels about you goes beyond hearing them say I love you. While expressing emotions verbally doesn’t hurt, actions can even be more telling. Pay attention to how he relates with you; if he respects you, includes you in his life, makes you a priority, and shows other related signs, chances are he does.
To Sum Up
I hope you enjoyed this list and hopefully took one or two things away from it. Remember, people can tell by instinct when something is wrong, so you’d just be prolonging their torment by putting off the conversation. Also, it’s not every day you find someone looking for the best way to tell a person you don’t love them, but it’s more common than you think.
Hence, you may be doing your circle a solid by sharing this article right after giving your opinion of it in the comments.
As hopeless romantic I struggled tremendously in my love life. After many years of searching, trial & error, and countless failed relationships, I finally found my Mr. Right. It wasn't an easy road, but one that has taught me an incredible amount about the workings of relationships between men and women, and this is what I hope to share through my writing on this blog.