Eric Foreman from "That Seventies Show" comes immediately to mind - remember this gem?
There were so many great, painful responses on that thread. These are a few of my personal favorites:
Seen at 9:04 pm
"Just sign the papers, honey."
"Damn. I was afraid this was gonna happen."
"Take it back."
"Whoa - I thought it was just physical."
"I wish I loved you."
"I'm still unplugging the machines, grandma."
Okay, so that last one was a little harsh. There were tons of cringe-inducing stories on the thread as well, and plenty of stories of socially awkward people who said it all wrong but meant it anyway.
I am guilty of the "I love you" shutdown myself. Only did it once, and ironically, it was with the guy I ended up marrying. I was just coming off a really intense, really toxic relationship with his roommate, and I had him firmly in the friendzone while I figured myself out. He was always there, hanging out, flirting like mad, letting me know that whenever I was ready, I didn't have far to go.
One night he invited me over to his dorm room for daquiris (he had a blender) and he had a little too much to drink and told me he was in love with me. I was more than a little fuzzy-brained myself, but that brought me to instant, startled lucidity. I looked him right in the eye and I said "No."
Don't love me. You don't want to be in love with me. I'll hurt you. I'm not in a good place right now and I don't know when I will be. I've got nothing for you, and you deserve better. I can't give you this.
He was very obviously hurt, and I said an awkward goodbye not long after. The next day, he was calling me to hang out and acting like the whole thing had never happened, which was fine with me. I didn't know then, of course, that he handled all confrontation and awkward, unresolved conversation like that. Just ignore it. It'll fix itself.
His strategy paid off, though. Eventually, he just wore me down and I agreed to give him a chance because I felt like I owed it to him for working so hard for it.
And it's easy to sit here and wonder what my life would have been like if I'd stuck to that "no," but I can tell you without the slightest reservation, I wouldn't go back and undo what came after. I can't imagine not having my kids, or the good years we did have - and we did have some. It's the hand I played and it worked out like it worked out.
Unfortunately, because it worked out like it worked out, I think there's probably a good chance of me having a hard time with those words again - both the saying and the hearing of them. It's not going to be so easy next time. If there even is a next time.
And I'm not really sure there will be, even though I know deep down inside that I want there to be.