Follow TV Tropes


The "I Love You" Stigma

Go To

Robin: It's just, ["I love you"] is a big thing to say to someone, and I don't want to say it too soon.
Ted: What, you mean like I did?
Robin: No, I didn't— Yeah, like you did. I mean, you have to admit it, Ted, it was a little weird.
Ted: Weird or courageous?
Robin: Pretty sure weird. I mean, who gives it up on the first date?
Ted: C'mon, it shows I'm brave and bold, like a knight.
Robin: No, it shows that you're an "I love you" slut.

There is a danger in using the term "Love" when directed towards a person who is not your relative (and sometimes even then). When done properly and the feeling is reciprocated, it ends up as a Relationship Upgrade, but if handled badly or too soon, it can kill the relationship. Because of this, even couples already in an official relationship will sometimes be afraid of using any terms besides "like" or "care for".

In some instances, reaching the "I Love You" place is seen as the point of no return, or at least an indication of a long-term relationship. Ironically, sometimes declaring your love for someone ends up as a Moment Killer, not necessarily because the feelings aren't reciprocated but because the other person isn't ready for that commitment.

In contrast, The Casanova (and perhaps the Casanova Wannabe) tends to use this term so often that it completely loses meaning with them; should they become a Ladykiller in Love, they may not know how to articulate this brand new, profound feeling.

This depends on the language; a direct translation of "I love you" can be a stronger or weaker statement in other languages. A Woolseyism may be needed in translation to get the proper tone.note  And even in English the term can be used casually and in a wide variety of ways, and dating works differently in different cultures.

Compare the Love Confession, Bait-and-Switch Sentiment, Commitment Issues, Cannot Spit It Out, Relationship Labeling Problems, and The Four Loves. The recipient (or the one who'd said it, but wishes to cover up) might use I "Uh" You, Too in response.

Contrast Platonic Declaration of Love, in which "love" is meant in an entirely platonic manner with no hint of romance attached.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Weaponized in Sarazanmai. When Mabu is brought Back from the Dead, he is forced to not tell Reo that he loves him or his now-cybernetic heart will explode. Reo is unaware of this, and this plus other factors leads him to believe Mabu Came Back Wrong and no longer loves him.
  • The Netflix English dub of Neon Genesis Evangelion changes Kaworu saying "I love you." to Shinji to "I like you." instead.
  • A plot point in Princess Tutu — if the titular magical girl ever tells Mytho that she loves him, she will vanish in a speck of light. She finds a workaround by doing it through dance and pantomime.
  • In Urusei Yatsura, Ataru is so stubbornly resistant to telling Lum he loves her (and not in the way that he "loves" all girls) that he refuses to do so even in the final volume when she's on the verge of leaving Earth forever if he doesn't say the words to her. He manages to find a way around this by showing her that he kept her old horns as a keepsake, which is proof enough for her of his feelings for him, but when she tells him on the final page that she'll get him to say he loves her someday, he replies that he'll only say it on his deathbed.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: In one story, Betty and Veronica put a lot of pressure on Archie to say "I love you" more. Jughead rightfully deduces that they're trying to get him to admit which one he prefers, and offers a solution. The next, Archie tells Veronica he loves her. And Betty, too. And Jughead, and Reggie, and Riverdale High, and standing around talking with all of his wonderful friends, and Pop Tate, and the ice cream he serves, and the football coach... Betty and Veronica storm off in a rage, saying Archie "makes love about as special as the common cold". Archie and Jughead yuk it up from around the corner, Jughead warning "the next time you tell them 'I love you', they're gonna deck you!"
  • Justice: A brief inner monologue reveals that Green Arrow never says "I love you, too" to Black Canary, which annoys her. Oliver considers the phrase to be so important that he refuses to let it slip into a habit or reflexive response.
  • The above example is from Scott Pilgrim. Scott has been going out with Knives (she 17 and him 23) The stigma comes from the fact that Scott is still recovering from the brutal breakup with Natalie V. "Envy" Adams a year prior and one of the reasons he entered a relationship with Knives is out of desire for something simple. While the relationship ultimately fails because of Scott going with Ramona, the implications remain that even if Ramona didn't enter the picture, Knives' Love Confession would've caused major problems for the relationship.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: When Shinji and Asuka argue with Misato about their relationship, both of them point out that neither of them is the kind of person who would say "I love you" to anyone easily.
    "So yes, we're not going to stop being Pilots. Not when we finally know where our mothers are. But... don't try to separate us. We've earned this. You know what I was like. You think I'd say 'I love you' to anyone easily?"
  • A Crown of Stars: Although they became a couple after Shinji's Love Confession, Asuka did not tell Shinji she loved him because she was unsure of her feelings and she was afraid of loving and getting attached to someone after years of emotional and even sexual abuse. She usually said she liked him, wanted him, or even needed him, but she could not bring herself to admit out loud she loved him. Finally, in chapter 73 (two months and nearly fifty chapters after their Relationship Upgrade) she confessed -under extreme circumstances — she loved him.
  • Evangelion 303:
    • Asuka was afraid of saying "I love you" to Shinji for a long while. She did not dare to spit it out until they were engaged, even though they had been lovers for months (and the relationship was actually her idea). Until then she had kept it secret (her "biggest secret", she called it).
    • Shinji is not better. He told out loud he loved her for the first time when he was popping the question. Asuka was shocked and surprised when she heard it because she did not expect it at all.
  • Guys Being Dudes: Until the very end of the fic, Arlo feels weird whenever he says "I love you" to Spark, even in a joking context or when it's to annoy someone else.
  • Princess Zelda in the Zelda/Impa fic In Sotto Voce has this issue. She has trouble admitting her feelings for Impa and goes through mental gymnastics in order to make the false idea of Impa using magic on her plausible. Zelda suffering from this is due to her mother's death as a child. Her mother was Driven to Suicide, and Zelda was the first to find her. Zelda grew up believing her love and her father's love weren't good enough for her mother, though she understands her mother had a mental illness as well. As a result, Zelda has a hard time expressing her love for others.
  • Once More with Feeling: When Asuka asked him bluntly what she was to him, Shinji avoided to tell he loved her because he was afraid of scaring her away. So he settled for telling her she meant a lot to him.
  • The One I Love Is...: Even though she was competing with Rei to win Shinji over, Asuka was unable to tell him "I love you" for a long time. In the first chapters, she was barely capable to admit and tell openly she liked him.
  • In To Romance A Magician, Twilight (after coming down with a serious case of the love bug) seeks out Trixie in Manehattan. After first nervously skirting around the subject until Trixie gets uncomfortable and tries to pardon herself, Twilight blurts out a loud "I love you!" In the middle of a crowded restaurant, too. Trixie goes through a quick show of surprise, denial, anger, and embarrassment, before literally fleeing the scene and leaving Twilight heartbroken. Twilight's friends point out that she just came on too strong.
  • In Spectacular Seven, both Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle deal with this in different ways after they become an item. Sunset, because she's from another world, can't apply to colleges with the rest of her friends, and so can't go with Twilight when she graduates high school. As such, Sunset eventually confesses to herself that she's in love with Twilight, but keeps it to herself to avoid breaking Twilight's heart. On the other hand, Twilight wonders if the things she feels for Sunset are genuine romantic love or teenage hormones, and is almost apoplectic at her inability to scientifically quantify how she feels. Cadance eventually has to tell Twilight that some things can't be explained with science or hard facts and that Twilight will know for sure if it's love or passion soon enough.
  • This pops up in the oneshot Trusting In Faith. Nessarose doesn't like how Glinda is so quick to say that she loves her. To her, the term shouldn't be used for something as simplistic as youthful puppy love.
    Nessarose: "Don't use that word so lightly."
    Glinda: "What, love?"
    Nessarose: "Yes."
    Glinda: "Why not? You don't believe that I love both you and Elphaba?"
    Nessarose: "You use the term so easily. Love isn't something you can just give away to anyone, Glinda."
  • Elphaba has difficulties admitting her love for Glinda in Not Completely, Altogether Here, even after they begin dating. Love, platonic or romantic, is a foreign feeling for her. She has a subpar relationship with her sister Nessarose, has an abusive relationship with her father, and her mother (the only person who openly loved her) died when she was very young. That neglect combined with the Fantastic Racism she receives for being green-skinned has led to Elphaba being very wary of admitting her affections towards others.
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton: After Danny reluctantly kisses Katie Kaboom to keep her from losing her temper and going on a rampage, Katie says she loves him after forcefully kisses him back for THREE MINUTES! It's no wonder he fainted after all of that.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Mariella Smith-Rhodes spent seven years as a student Assassin actively despising her compatriot Horst Lensen and being barely civil to somebody she regarded as an utter asshole. A series of accidents after graduating has their crossing paths frequently. After they fight a battle or two side-by-side, she is forced to admit he might not be as bad as all that. Two sets of parents are also meddling to get them together. Fighting it all the way, five years and another long road trip later, she marries him. Her Witch niece notes that Aunt Mariella still cannot bring herself to say "I love you" in public to Uncle Horst. Mariella makes "You Bastard!" do the job as a stand-in, however, and can make "jy bliksem!" sound like a profession of undying love.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Even after getting together, Asuka is wary of saying to Shinji she loves him due to her emotional hangups, hoping instead that her actions speak louder than words.
    "I never said thank you, did I?" Asuka said after nearly a full minute of silence, her voice so soft she hardly sounded like herself. A tone almost nobody ever heard her use. "I never said I loved you. Those things just aren't me. But you know, right?"
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Misty seemed to have a mild case of this, having difficulty saying out loud that she loved Ash until Anabel and Iris assured her she shouldn't feel ashamed to say it.
  • Naru-Hina Chronicles: Initially, Naruto had trouble saying "I love you" to Hinata, even after an entire year of dating her. Hinata thought it was because he was alone for so long that it was hard for him to really give his love to anyone. It's only immediately after she says that she can wait forever to hear him say those three words that he's finally able to do so.

    Film — Animated 
  • Parodied on The LEGO Batman Movie, in which The Joker is upset that Batman won't say "I hate you" to him.
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles is hesitant to tell his father that he loves him despite his father's open affection toward him, establishing his immaturity.
  • From The Boss Baby, when the two still really are allies at best:
    Tim: We have to convince them that we're actual brothers.
    Boss Baby: Right.
    Tim: That we lll...
    Boss Baby: Loathe?
    Tim: No.
    Boss Baby: Lll-like?
    Tim: No. That we la-la-la...
    (Both sputter for several seconds)
    Boss Baby: No. No way. No. You don't mean—
    Tim: (whispers) Love each other.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In American Pie, Kevin Myers is as hesitant to say "I Love You" to his girlfriend as she is to have sex with him, and for pretty much the same reasons.
  • From The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:
    Evelyn: Have you told her you love her?
    Sonny: It is because I love her that I must not tell her. She can do so much better than me, madam.
    Evelyn: Women love it when you say that kind of thing. It's a powerful aphrodisiac.
    Sonny: Really?
    Evelyn: No, of course not!
  • In Carousel, the romance between Julie and Billy has them singing a song about what it would be like if they loved each other, and would drive the other away by never admitting it. In real life, even after they get married, Julie only says it after Billy's dead.
    Julie: There's something, I...I never told you. Scared you'd laugh at me. I'll tell you now. I love you. I love you. I love you.
  • Ghost: Sam's inability to say "I love you" to Molly, his wife, is a major plot point; whenever she says it to him, he always replies with "Ditto." He finally manages to get over his fear of the words at the end of the movie; sadly, he's about to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and leave her forever, but it's clear that Molly is ecstatic that she finally gets to hear him say the words before he goes.
  • Despite romancing many women in the movie series, James Bond usually never utters the phrase (though the women utter it regularly). The only exception to date: he says "I love you" when he proposes marriage to Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It does not end well.
    • Daniel Craig's Bond adds two more exceptions. He tells Vesper Lynd he loves her in Casino Royale and Madeleine Swann in No Time to Die moments before he dies.
    • The only man that ever says it to him is Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice; it's his Spy Speak code phrase.note 
  • Rosaline: Rosaline freezes when Romeo tells her he loves her and worries that her reaction was what drove him to Juliet.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: There's the same issue as with Knives, but there's also the issue of Scott being unable to "Say the L word" (Lesbian?) to Ramona. He attempts to do it a little too late and he still messes up by saying "I'm in lesbians with you".

  • In The Belgariad, Adara is only able to confess her love for Prince Hettar after she's been shot in the back, confident that she has nothing to lose since she's dying. She's mortified to then find out that she's not dying at all and will be fine with some rest, and Hettar is very interested in discussing this interesting topic, and has no intention of letting her get away.
  • Brought up in The Giver, where the society they live in is an obsessive Utopia that regulates everything from family units to emotions to painful memories, and everything must be kept to a strictly even-keeled norm. While they allow a degree of personal freedom and enjoyment, any emotion above caring for a friend is forbidden. Jonas asks his parents if they love him, and they respond with the standard "Love is an inappropriate term..."
  • Austin from Hollow Places refrains from using the word 'love', thinking himself too broken to ever truly feel an emotion worthy of being referred to as such.
  • In Twig, while Sylvester is able to tell Lillian he loves her, she has difficulty doing the same for him-not because of a lack of affection but because she's genuinely uncertain if she does and needs time to analyze the feeling.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Better Off Ted: Ted blurts out "I love you" to a woman he's just started dating. He tries to cover by claiming he actually said "I love Utah", which builds into an elaborate lie that he's of Native American descent and grew up on a reservation.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Leonard and Penny had a nice little moment in bed where Penny quoted The Empire Strikes Back and knew the reference, which prompted Leonard to say he loved her. Penny's response was a near-catatonic blank stare before saying "Thank You?" The next several days were awkward, marked by increased fighting until Penny decided to end the relationship because she didn't want Leonard longing for her reciprocation when she didn't know when/if that would happen. She mentioned having said the words too early herself in a previous relationship and regretting it, though she didn't elaborate on the details.
    • Almost three seasons later (after a "beta test" reunion), Leonard was acting jealous because Penny was spending time with an attractive classmate. After giving him a hard time about being a Crazy Jealous Guy she says "You're the one I'm with. You know I love you, so can you please relax because you're driving me crazy!" They both froze as they realized that was the first time she verbalized "I love you" to him, they agreed to not make too big a deal of the moment because they were getting emotional and about to cry.
  • This is the focus of the Boy Meets World episode "What I Meant to Say". Cory tells Topanga he loves her despite the fact that they had only (officially) been going out for a few weeks and Topanga reacts with shock and leaves immediately. She later breaks up with him and starts avoiding him. Cory confronts her about the issue and she explains that she was scared of those words and what they meant. Cory explains what exactly he means by "I love you", and she replies that she loves him, too.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • After Spike first confesses his love to Buffy, the Scoobies refuse to associate with him, and Buffy goes as far as revoking his invitation to enter her house. It's not like they don't have good reasons, though.
    • After her disastrous affair with Angel (which involved him turning evil after Their First Time) Buffy never again tells a boyfriend that she loves him until the final episode of the series when she confesses her love to Spike, and even then the recipient doesn't believe her.
    • In season 10, after confusing the nature of vampiric lines to mean each vamp in the line is the same person, Buffy accidentally blurts out in surprise that she'd "fallen in love with the same guy twice?" (referring to Angel and Spike, who belong to the same line of vampires). When Spike tries to clarify if what she said was what it sounded like, she grows awkward and drops the subject. Justified, as they'd only had their Relationship Upgrade the night before.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • A variant: It's not that Phoebe is embarrassed about telling Jason "I love you"; it's that, as a result of her empath powers, she says "I love you too" before he actually says "I love you".
    • Back in season one, a platonic version happens with Prue. The sisters realize they've never heard her say it to anyone, including them, and continually try prompting her to say it. When Phoebe confronts her, it turns out that "I love you" was the last thing she said to their mother before her death, making her afraid of saying it to anyone else. She gets over it by the end of the episode.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor famously never says this (with serious intent; see below) to any of their companions, not even the one they married (River Song) or those they have unambiguously fallen in love with (such as Rose Tyler). In the case of Rose, the Tenth Doctor attempts to avoid saying it (instead waffling with "Does it need saying?") and is ultimately cut off before he can utter it.
    • It works the other way, too: Rose, River, and Clara (and the TARDIS — it's a long story) happen to be the only companions to directly say "I love you" to the Doctor. A side effect of this is that within Doctor Who fandom there is division between those who embrace the aspect of the Doctor having romantic feelings for his companions and those who say no such feelings exist and that the Doctor is simply expressing friendship, despite Word of God and even on-screen actions such as marriage and punching a diamond wall for 4.5 billion years suggesting otherwise.
    • The closest thing to an exception occurs in "A Good Man Goes to War" when the Doctor rages at a military commander, telling him how bad an idea it is to try to "get to me through the people I love." Notably, this is not an expression of romantic love and refers to both Amy and Rory.
    • One notable exception occurs in "Closing Time" when the Eleventh Doctor says "I love you" to his temporary companion Craig Owens; however, this is played for laughs and is established as being a distraction rather than the Doctor expressing genuine feelings.
    • Clara Oswald self-imposes this stigma upon herself in "Death in Heaven" when she makes a promise to the soon-to-be-Killed Off for Real Danny Pink to never say those words to anyone else. In Series 9 she sticks to this promise even in circumstances where it would have been appropriate (such as just before her death). Zigzagged on two occasions, however: in "Before the Flood", Clara says to the Doctor — who is resigned to the probability of dying — "If you love me in any way, you'll come back", and in "Hell Bent" there is a moment where Clara and the Doctor engage in a deep conversation that is kept secret from everyone — including the audience — with the context of the scene implying the potential for Clara to say something of this nature. (Ultimately, though, this remains a mystery.)
  • Drake & Josh had Josh having a nice moment with his girlfriend Mindy, and at a goodnight kiss at the door, Mindy told him "I love you." Josh was flummoxed and awkwardly hurried her away, and after an episode of misunderstandings and mind games they had a more honest conversation about the ordeal. Josh said he wasn't sure what loving someone actually meant and Mindy admitted to feeling weird after saying it. They agreed to be Just Friends for a time so they can better understand their feelings, and they get back together in the Grand Finale.
  • Frasier:
    • Frasier learns that Roz's current boyfriend is one of Niles' patients and that he has a pattern of breaking off relationships as soon as the woman says "I love you". After struggling with the ethical implications of violating confidentiality Frasier rushes to Roz's apartment to warn her...but it's too late. Roz tried to tell the boyfriend she loved him only for him to dump her.
    • Martin breaks up with Sherry out of the blue. While the boys are initially delighted, they're surprised to learn that he'd told her he loved her for the first time only a few days earlier. When Frasier digs a little deeper, it turns out that Martin did actually feel that way, but he felt deeply guilty about saying it to another woman for the first time since the death of his wife. After working through that, they get back together.
  • In Fresh Off the Boat, whenever anyone in the family says "Love you", they assume something's wrong, and it usually ends up being the case.
  • Friends:
    • When Ross dates Mona, they have the talk about moving forward in their relationship. They evaluate symbolical value of (not) sending holiday cards together, giving a key to their apartment, and getting locks changed. Mixed signals much? Finally, Ross tells Mona he loves her (though he doesn't feel it) and Mona tells him she loves spending time with him too (which was deemed to be a slap in the face by Monica and Phoebe).
    • Chandler says it to Monica twice. The first time he blurts it out and then takes it back in a panic because he's not ready. The second time he yells it out in front of all their friends and refuses to revoke it. This time, she happily says it back. Before they got together, they were so close that they mentioned they loved each other on several occasions. However, the relationship — and declaration — was platonic. It's only after they started having sex that Chandler began panicking about their emotional bond; something Monica had anticipated as she was very well-versed in his Commitment Issues.
  • Gilmore Girls: Dean says it to Rory. She freezes and doesn't say it back. He doesn't take it well.
  • In one episode of The Golden Girls, Sophia tells a man she loves him after rushing into bed with him. When he doesn't return it, she is outraged at him (and Blanche, who pushed her into sleeping with him). At the end, it turns out he does love her, but just hasn't told anyone he loved them since his wife passed away.
  • On Happy Endings, Brad wants his dad to say he loves him, so he tells him "I love you" when he's at the hospital for his physical. Dad thinks he said it because the doctors found something wrong and freaks out. After his near-death experience, he starts saying "I love..." to everything... except to Brad.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Ted says "I'm in love with you" to Robin on their first date in the pilot episode.
      Robin: I think I like your nose. (leans in for the kiss)
      Ted: I think I'm in love with you.
      The Gang: (in bar afterwards) WHAT?
      Ted's kids: (in the year 2030) WHAT?
      Robin: (then and there) WHAT?
    • Ted's quick love confession gets called back to in the next episode:
      Barney: (to Ted) I was trying to think, 'What's the quickest way to get rid of a girl you just met?'
      (a few seconds earlier)
      Barney: I think I'm in love with you.
      Works-with-Carlos girl: WHAT?
      Barney: (back to Ted): Thanks, bro.
    • "First Time in New York" revolves around this stigma for Robin, as apparently she's never actually said it to anyone before.
      Old Ted: (narrating) And then there's the moment you know you know it, and you can't keep it in anymore.
      Robin: Ted?...
      Ted: Yeah?
      Robin: ...Falafel.
    • Invoked in the season four finale. After a year of pining for Robin, Barney's about to confess his feelings when she beats him to the punch. She deliberately does it to turn him off, and Marshall even deems the move "Mosbying".
    • In season seven Ted reaffirms his feelings for Robin and she finds herself unable to respond in kind. Future!Ted reveals that moment was the last time he told a girl he loved her before he said it to the Mother.
  • In its spinoff How I Met Your Father Sophie is put off by Jesse sleepily telling her he loves her the night they get together, though he stands by this since they had been friends for a while before making it official.
  • Last Man Standing: Eve is caught off-guard when her boyfriend Rob tells her he loves her while they're hanging out. Mandy and Kristin tell her that if she's not sure how she feels, she has to dump him. When Eve tries to do so, Rob reveals the only reason he said it was because his older brother told him girls like it when guys do that. They agree to just pretend it never happened and ignore any advice their siblings give them in the future.
  • My Boys downplays the trope by using it as another stage of a relationship instead of some big, dramatic event. P.J. and Bobby decide to buy a condo and move in together because they were distracted by having a nice day in the middle of winter. P.J. started to second-guess herself by realizing they hadn't even reached the "I love you" part of their relationship yet. She confessed her feelings to Bobby and they back out of moving in together, but reach the "I love you" part.
  • In the Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide episode "The Bus", this is the episode's A-plot as Ned is trying to get back a note he wrote Susie Crabgrass saying he loves her. As Moze points out, saying I Love You too soon is like picking out a wedding cake on your first date.
  • Noah's Arc: Ricky hesitates to tell Junito he loves him over the fear of him saying it changing things for the worse (as well as some deep-seated difficulties with commitment).
  • On The O.C., when Marissa first tells Ryan she loves him, he replies with a very un-smooth "Thank you."
  • Parks and Recreation
    • In "Harvest Festival", April tells Andy she loves him and gets angry at him when his response is "That's awesome sauce!" Subverted in that he actually did love her too, but he just didn't realize this was THE Love Confession because he's an idiot. When Ron tells him explicitly why April is mad at him, he tells her he loves her too and clarifies his original remark: "That's what makes the sauce so awesome!"
    • A lighter example in the episode "Women in Garbage": Ron lets slip that he loves his new girlfriend Diane, causing Ann, Jerry, and Diane's young daughters into fits of laughter due to the usually stoic and manly Ron expressing emotions of this kind (with Ann herself finding it the cutest thing ever).
    Ann and the kids: *singing* Ron loves mommy, Ron loves mommy!
    Ron: I LOVE NOTHING! *flees the scene*
  • Schitt's Creek: In the Season 4 finale, the Romantic Comedy storyline climaxes over the issue of saying I love you, with big deal "I love yous" eventually shared between David and Patrick, and Ted returning Alexis's affection after she had said it in an earlier episode.
  • Scrubs:
    • An early episode has Turk generally grumpy, especially towards Carla, and there isn't any real excuse for it. Carla, expecting him to break up with her, eventually just demands he say what he wants to say and get it over with. Turk marches up to her, tells her how annoying he finds her then says "I love you, I want to spend every annoying minute with you." This is a great surprise to Carla, who responds in kind. The following episode was actually about a degree of fallout with them expressing their love for each other, as Carla started panicking about where this relationship is going. They eventually get married.
    • Dr. Cox started seeing his ex-wife Jordan on a regular basis in a Friends with Benefits sort of way, eventually having a family together despite not being married. They acted on the idea they were embracing a long-term non-committal relationship, but by the end, Dr. Cox flat out stated that they did love each other and were tired of pretending they didn't.
    • It was a point of contention for Elliot when Keith was able to freely say "I love you" but she found herself unable to respond in kind because she was afraid of being vulnerable and admitting to herself that their relationship was that serious. He told her that he didn't mind, and that he was willing to wait to hear her say it, but it made Elliot paranoid that she might eventually drive him away if she didn't say it. When she does finally work up the courage to say it, she tries to blurt it out casually and hurriedly, and quickly looks away so that Keith wouldn't see her crying.
  • George's subplot in the Seinfeld episode "The Face Painter" is entirely about this trope. After discussing how big a step the "I Love You" declaration is, George goes ahead anyway and says it to his date. The next day, the following conversation takes place:
    Jerry: Those damn 'I love you' returns.
    George: Well, it's all over. I slipped up.
    Jerry: Oh, you don't know.
    George: You have any idea how fast these things deteriorate when there's an 'I love you' out of the bag? You can't have a relationship where one person says, "I love you", and the other says, "I'm hungry. Let's get something to eat.".
    Jerry: Unless you're married.
    George: I mean, now she thinks that I'm one of these guys that love her. Nobody wants to be with somebody that loves them.
    Jerry: No, people hate that.
    • Mind, that wasn't the first time George had said "I love you." He had also said it once, to a dog. Which licked itself and left the room.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has an awkward platonic version. In a moment of drunken candor, O'Brien says that people tend to have a love-or-hate relationship with Bashir. He himself hated Bashir when they first met, but now he, um, doesn't.
    O'Brien: Really. Now that is from the heart. I really do... not hate you anymore.
  • On That '70s Show, Eric answers Donna's "I love you" with "I love cake". His next attempt is "I love," complete with a shoulder punch.
  • In Two and a Half Men, Charlie confesses his love to Chelsea, but she only says "Thank you" in response. Charlie believes this means she now has the upper hand in the relationship and goes as far as proposing to her solely to force her to say it back. They do stay engaged for a season after this, however.
  • Glenn of The Walking Dead struggles with this throughout the second season with Maggie. When she says "I love you" to him, he is unable to say it back because the only women that ever told him that were his mother and sisters. Given that he's only known her for a bit, his reaction is justified. After a horde of walkers overruns Hershel's farm, he's finally admits to Maggie that he loves her and they are established to be in a healthy relationship as of Season 3.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex always hesitates to tell Dean she loves him. Instead, she ends up saying "I love...this card" or "How do you think of flip-flops? Thinking about going casual this summer?".
  • Young Sheldon: In "A Virus, Heartbreak and a World of Possibilities", Jana is mad at Georgie because when she said "I love you" he responded "Samesies."
  • Throughout You're the Worst, Jimmy and Gretchen adamantly refuse to call what they have an actual boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, even after they agree to become exclusive with each other. In the episode "Try Real Hard", Jimmy admits he's not comfortable saying "I love you" because he associates it with a promise/verbal contract that he's not ready to make (not helped by the painful way his previous girlfriend rejected his marriage proposal). In the end though, he admits he does love Gretchen, and she loves him too.

  • In the Brad Paisley song "Come on Over Tonight", the singer mentions all the things he believed would happen before he ever admitted to loving anyone, including flying pigs, money growing on trees, lightning striking the same place twice, etc. The song is about him inviting his girlfriend over that evening, presumably to tell her he loves her...but the actual words "I love you" are never mentioned in the song.
    Come on over tonight, we'll sit on the swing
    Watchin' the pigs fly by, flappin' their brand-new wings.
    Just sit back and relax and watch me eat my hat.
    See the premiere performance of "Demons on Ice"
    As I say the words I swore I'd never say in my whole life...
    Say, come on over tonight.
  • Gabrielle Aplin's "Please Don't Say You Love Me" is basically the rationale for this trope in song form.
    Heavy words are hard to take, under pressure precious things can break
    And how we feel is hard to fake, so let's not give the game away
    Just please don't say you love me, 'cause I might not say it back
    Doesn't mean my heart stops skipping when you look at me like that
    There's no need to worry when you see just where we're at
    Just please don't say you love me, 'cause I might not say it back...
  • "Something Stupid", most famously covered by Frank Sinatra is about how the singer ruined a nice evening by saying "I love you" too soon to his date.
    Afterwards we drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two.
    And then I go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like: "I love you."
    I can see it in your eyes, that you despise the same old lies you heard the night before.
    And though it's just a line to you, for me it's true, it never seemed so right before.
  • M2M's "Don't Say You Love Me" (featured on Pokémon: The First Movie's soundtrack) is about a girl taking issue with her boyfriend telling her he loves her too soon.
  • In Reba McEntire's "Fear of Being Alone," two recently broken-up people connect at a bar, and end up talking all night. In the morning, the singer begs the other person "don't say that word" because the feelings aren't genuine—they just fear being alone and are on the rebound.

  • In Bell, Book and Candle, Gillian gets evasive when Shep asks her if she's in love with him: "I like you more than I can say" and "I'm more in love with you than I've ever been with anyone" are her answers to that question. The crucial point is that witches lose their powers if they fall in love.
  • In the last scene of The Moon is Blue, Don starts telling Patty about what life will be like living together. Patty asks if he's proposing to her, and Don says, "What else can I say?" Patty insists on him just saying the three words directly, like when her father proposed to her mother: "He wasn't ashamed to come right out and say 'I love you.'" Don finally takes the hint, and takes her face between his hands, saying: "I love you, Patty—I love you very much—even if you are a screwball and even if you are a little bit nuts."
  • Anne of the Thousand Days:
    Anne: I could have said, "I love you, I love you, I love you!" I didn't say it. Because I don't. And whether you love me I don't know.

    Video Games 
  • The first Galaxy Angel trilogy shows a variation of the trope on Mint's route. Rather than having difficulties admitting her feelings for Tact, she's embarrassed about saying the words out loud in front of other people. This puts a heavy strain on their relationship when Tact tries to get her to admit that she loves him and she refuses.


    Western Animation 
  • Parodied on Dan Vs., when Dan is pulling an Of Corpse He's Alive with Chris (who's not dead, just extremely close) to make him "agree" to go along with his revenge plot. At one point he fakes Chris saying "I love you," then acts uncomfortable before hastily changing the subject. Note that this part happens when nobody else was even around to trick.
  • In Dragons: The Nine Realms, rather than saying "love", the characters say "Like like" when referring to romantic attraction.
  • Hey Arnold! had Arnold trying to attract Lila and get upgraded from an "I like you" to an "I like you like you." Still not quite using the term (they are only 8-9), but the implications behind it are the same.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Perfect Pear," this gets a quick parody during the flashback to Applejack's parents. Buttercup sings a song she wrote for Bright Mac, which ends with "I love you," and she gets extremely embarrassed. Bright jokingly pretends to be angry since he had been planning a big romantic moment to say it first, and then she said it by accident.
  • In Total Drama Island, Owen gets down on one knee and says "I think I'm in love with you" after Izzy eats 98 marshmallows and then makes a small tidal wave with her burp. Izzy immediately throws up. Though to be fair, most people would in that situation, and Owen doesn't seem to take it as a sign of rejection.

  • Porn films and videos are criticized for many reasons, one of which is the fact that — with the exception of actual porn movies with plots and characters, and even then it's not ubiquitous — the phrase "I love you" is rarely uttered.
  • A true story printed in Reader's Digest had a man recounting his decision to say "I love you" more. It was funny in a rather sad way — his wife wondered if he was covering up an affair, and his mother reacted as though he was expecting her to drop dead at any moment.


Video Example(s):


Ted's Accidental "I Love You"

Ted gets into an elaborated lie when he accidentally blurts out the L-word.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheILoveYouStigma

Media sources: