The truth is, if you're not ready to say "I love you"— and your partner is— there's really no perfect way to respond. It can be really awkward. "Responding to your partner saying 'I love you' before you're ready can be tricky," author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle. "[That is] if you don't feel for them what they feel for you."
But while there may be no right way to respond, there are definitely a lot of wrong ways to respond. Really wrong. And an AskReddit thread let it all hang out as users shared the worst ways to respond to those three little words. Some of them they've said, some have been said to them, but they all have a high cringe-factor in common that will leave you feeling grateful it wasn't you.
There are definitely ways to make it easier when you're in a similar situation where you may not be ready to say it back. Rather than panicking or saying the first thing that comes into your mind, take a deep breath and give yourself a second to think things through. "Tell them the depth of your feelings, in detail," says Winter. "Include the ways in which they make you happy and add value to your life. If you can't yet say 'I love you,' then it's best to describe the growing emotional connection you're feeling your mate. This provides security, as it shows you're both moving in the same direction." Just explaining things fully will help you soften the blow.
And what shouldn't you do? Well, here are the worst things to say back after someone says 'I love you', because they'll make you feel a whole lot better about that time you just blinked a lot.