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Girlfriend said she loved me, I replied with silence...
Yes, it's another relationship thread. Don't murder me.
Concise version of the issue, which is a bit complex:
I was hanging out with my lady a couple of weeks ago. We were having a nice, quiet evening. We were watching some movies and drinking a bit. She is much more toasty than I am. We start talking about random things and get on to the subject of how we feel about each other. She tells me that she loves me. She had her back to me at the time (we were laying down and spooning), so she didn't see my face change to abrupt shock. She was both tired and drunk and went to sleep shortly after, so we didn't discuss it that evening.
We hang out the next day and says she doesn't remember having the conversation, being both sleepy and super-duper panda like she was (yay for rum). I let it go at that, hoping that what she said was just her drunk self and not her true self. Before the day ends, she soberly reveals the same feelings. Seeing as she is in the right mindset to discuss such a thing and being that we have always been completely honest with each other, I tell her that while I certainly appreciate the sentiment, I am not at that point yet. I very much enjoy her company and I do like her, but it is much to soon for me to say such a thing to her, especially since I don't feel it. "I love you" is a phrase that changes relationships is a major way and I don't use it lightly.
A few things before I get to my question:
* We have only been dating for 3 months
* She has never been in any good relationships. Of the two major relationships we've spoken about, both were physically and emotionally abusive, including rape at one point. Part of me thinks she only feels like she loves me because I'm awesome in comparison to them (not me patting my back here...just that her last guys were complete assholes)
* I have a bit of a white knight complex and feel the need to protect her and keep her safe from horrible boyfriends/being hurt/etc. As such, my first natural reaction was to tell her I loved her in the beginning to keep her from being hurt by me not reciprocating her feelings. I held off on that because I realized it would be amazingly stupid and would create more problems than it would solve. But I know it hurts her and the nice guy part of me feels guilty for not feeling the same way about her.
So my questions are these, H/A: Have any of you been in this situation, either on the receiving end or the giving end of having "I love you" brought into your relationship when one side didn't feel the same way? How did you handle it? Were any of you way too nice for you own good like me and did you feel guilty about not feeling the same way, even though you knew there was nothing you could do to change your feelings?
I just want some perspective on the subject. Thanks ahead of time.
PAFC Top 10 Finisher in Seasons 1 and 3. 2nd in Seasons 4 and 5. Final 4 in Season 6.