Why Do Some People Find it Hard to Say "I Love You"?

There are many people who find it easier to say "I like you" than "I love you". In fact, although their feelings toward you may be deep, they find it difficult to express them out loud. Why is this?
Why Do Some People Find it Hard to Say "I Love You"?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Many people find it hard to say “I love you”. Indeed, these three little words that have been the inspiration behind hundreds of songs, poems, and film scripts can often prove to be rather problematic. These kinds of people may feel it but just can’t say it. It seems that their fears or insecurities put up boundaries and barriers.

Even if those words aren’t said, they should be demonstrated. After all, there are infinite ways to reveal deep feelings. However, at the end of the day, we all like to be told that we’re loved. It’s a way of feeling validated… an emotional caress.

Some suggest that, in these times of liquid love and fragile bonds, the words “I love you” are hardly ever said. That’s because to do so indicates a willingness to make the kind of commitment that certain people simply don’t want to take on. Therefore, it’s easier, simpler, and even less harmful to resort to the classic “I like you”…

Saying “I love you” isn’t easy for anyone but some people experience extreme difficulty in expressing what they feel.

Sad woman thinking about the People who find it hard to say "I love you"

Why do some people have a hard time saying “I love you”?

It’s not always necessary for feelings to be expressed out loud as you often sense when someone’s attracted to you or harbors deeper emotions. They may simply demonstrate it in different ways. However, at the end of the day, you still long to hear out loud that they love you. At the other end of the scale, there are those who use these three words to excess, repeating them to the extent that they almost lose their meaning.

Nevertheless, without a doubt, real loving gives meaning to your life, and few things make you happier than feeling loved.

But is it really so important to be told out loud that you’re loved?  It certainly does tend to be considered the sincerest demonstration of love. Perhaps we should take into account the fact that people who find it difficult to say “I love you” usually possess unique psychological characteristics. Let’s take a closer look.

Our educational patterns can determine us in many ways. Therefore, if no one has ever told us that they love us, it becomes really difficult for us to say it out loud.

The way we were raised

There are those who never heard an “I love you” from their parents. In fact, many children are raised in environments that are deficient in emotional communication. In these situations, their emotions aren’t validated, and their feelings are constantly repressed and contained.

A study conducted by the University of North Carolina (USA) highlighted this fact. This research suggested that parents’ socio-emotional skills determine whether a child is more or less adept at recognizing and expressing their emotions.

Therefore, it’ll always be easier to express what we feel if we’ve been doing it since we were little and our parents have got us used to it.

Fear of being vulnerable (insecurity)

Many people who find it difficult to say “I love you” believe that expressing these words signifies vulnerability. They assume that expressing what they feel out loud makes them fragile. They’re also often insecure and think that to say what they feel would be rather hasty.

They’re personalities who find it difficult to open up emotionally to others. That’s because they’ve spent their entire lives hidden behind armor and defenses with which to safeguard themselves, giving them an appearance of false resolve.

People who don’t want to commit

We mentioned at the beginning that there are those who choose to say “I like you” instead of “I love you”. This practice tends to be used by those who try to avoid commitment. As a matter of fact, they may well be in love, but they don’t want or aren’t prepared for a solid relationship. Instead, they opt for dialectical juggling in what they say and express.

An “I like you” makes it clear that there’s attraction and that they enjoy your company. However, they avoid expressing something deeper to escape a more solid bond or awakening any hopes for the future in you.

Alexithymia: Inability to say “I love you”

The disorder of alexithymia could also be a cause of not saying “I love you”. This psychological condition is defined as a clear difficulty in identifying and expressing one’s own emotions. Hence, sufferers can’t give a name to what they feel, and consequently, will be unable to say “I love you” even if they feel it.

According to a study published by the Ogawahigashi National Neurology and Psychiatry Center in Japan, alexithymia has its origins in neuronal alterations in the limbic and paralimbic areas.

Alexithymia makes it difficult for many people to identify, express, and understand their own and others’ emotions. This doesn’t mean that they can’t fall in love. It means that they can’t understand what they feel. Consequently, they’ll be unable to communicate or talk about it either.

Couple walking

You can’t say what you don’t feel

We can’t conclude this article without stating the obvious. This is the fact that no one can express what they don’t feel, even if they want to. As a matter of fact, deciding not to say “I love you” is an act of maturity and responsibility. Because it’s not correct to deceive anyone or raise false hopes.

Furthermore, if, in the middle of a relationship, you realize that your partner has stopped saying those three little words, and their emotional communication has lost its intensity, it’s evident that their love for you is fading.

As you can see, there are several explanations why people may find it difficult to say “I love you”. Sometimes, it’s the result of their upbringing. At others, it’s simply insecurity or fear or a reluctance to commit. Be that as it may, it’s always advisable to drop those limiting defenses and sincerely express what’s in our hearts.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Castro, V. L., Halberstadt, A. G., Lozada, F. T., & Craig, A. B. (2015). Parents’ Emotion-Related Beliefs, Behaviors, and Skills Predict Children’s Recognition of Emotion. Infant and child development24(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.1868
  • Moriguchi, Y., Komaki, G. Neuroimaging studies of alexithymia: physical, affective, and social perspectives. BioPsychoSocial Med 7, 8 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0759-7-8

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.