You might not be ready to say the L-word, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t appreciate the fact that they said it. And when it comes to saying I love you, it’s all in the delivery and meaning behind your words.

I think we all know that saying “thank you” is a huge slap in the face when someone says I love you, especially for the first time. But you do appreciate it.

So here are a few different ways to say I love you when you aren’t ready to say those exact words back.

1. “I’m not ready to say that yet but I know you’re important to me.”Honesty is important in any (growing) relationship. If you’re not ready, it’s as simple as that. You shouldn’t feel obligated to say it, and they know that. It might sting a little, but as long as you can at least make them understand that they are important to you, patience will be a little easier to come by. They’ll appreciate that you don’t take this lightly, and it’ll make the moment you do say it amazing.

2. “I’m so happy to have you in my life.” Say it, mean it, repeat it. If you’re happy with the person, isn’t that a big part of what love is anyway?.

3. “I’ve never felt like this before, so I’m trying to understand it.” Don’t say it unless you mean it. Feelings can be confusing. And scary. And fast. We all have our own pace. Take time to understand it yourself, and you’ll know if and when you’re ready to say it to them.

4. “You make me so happy, and I appreciate you so much.”

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