Dear The Rev,
Lately, I’ve been dating a guy that I’ve been really into for quite a while. But I keep getting nervous that I might like him more than he likes me. Sometimes, I think I might even love him. But I could never tell him that because I’m way too scared. I know I should own up to my feelings and tell him, but I just don’t know how to be the first one to do it. How can I be honest and not scare him off at the same time?
Confused in Claremont
First of all, my heart is completely and utterly warmed by your question—it’s a reminder that relationships, and life, can be so beautiful. It also shows us that sometimes the beautiful people and things in our lives that make us happy can be confusing at times, so thanks for writing.
Here you are, thinking about this person and your feelings for him, and what do you think he’s doing? Probably thinking and feeling the same way! The major difficulty we need to overcome in relationships is communicating our feelings effectively so that the other individual knows exactly how we feel—not more and not less. This is a very delicate matter, but fear is not going to help you. Sometimes, we become so afraid of rejection that we feel the need to hide and inhibit our feelings. If you feel like you don’t know exactly where they’re at, that’s a communication breakdown that needs to be addressed.
However, this communication is accomplished mostly through actions, not just through words. So while I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t tell him, I’m also not going to say that you absolutely should. There may be a reason why he hasn’t said anything yet, and a reason why you haven’t said anything yet. The point is, you don’t need to put pressure on the idea of “telling” him. What matters are your actions and feelings, and if you’re happy, it means things are working the way you want them to. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Still, it seems your feelings are traveling in the “I love you” direction. So when the time comes to tell him, because it will come at some point, wait until the moment is right. No pressure, but wait until it feels natural. A random splurt will make things awkward and might even shut down communication. When you really feel it, sit him down and tell him the truth. You don’t need to just say “I love you” and then stare—say everything you’re feeling! You know it isn’t actually as simple as those three words make it seem. Tell him truthfully and sincerely just what you said to me: You’re scared your feelings aren’t reciprocated, you don’t want to frighten him away, and you’re really happy with the way things are going. Those are all wonderful, positive things that you should share. That will put your feelings in the right context to be processed and understood. Be ready to talk it out and ask questions, but also be ready to give him time to process, think, and adjust his feelings. Don’t judge anything by his first reaction—everyone’s reactions are different. And definitely don’t take it personally—his reaction is a reflection of his own attitude, not a reflection of yours. Saying “I love you” is an expression of how you feel, and you should say it because you want to say it, not because you want him to say it to you.
Don’t be scared. Your feelings are all you have, and this is the only life you have to live. Don’t waste your time pretending—everything will work out the way it’s meant to be. Good luck!
All peace and love in your life,