People do this every day, I've never done it right once. Is there an ideal way to reveal your feelings for someone to them?
February 25, 2010 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out how to do something that I ought to know how to do already at my age. How do you tell someone that you're into them?

Hi. I'm embarrassed to have to ask this question even anonymously. I'm determined to fix my love life, but my experience in such matters has me more than a little gunshy. Every relationship I've been in as begun with the woman involved making the first move and all but one of these relationships have ended in very painful ways. Now, obviously, I'm not blaming these bad ends on the beginnings of these relationships, I only mention this trend to provide a picture of where I'm coming from -- at 30 years old, I'm still not quite sure how to take the initiative myself in seeking a companion. And this embarrasses me so much that I've never been willing to really ask for advice about how to do so until now.

It's not that I haven't tried - I've met a lot of really amazing women throughout my life and tried to get to know them better. On those rare occasions I've been brave enough to attempt voicing my interest in some way, I get some version of the Just Friends speech. This trend has been so consistent that there's nothing to blame but my own conduct - I am the common denominator in all of these situations. For one thing, I had a bad case of Nice Guy Disease for a lot of years that I'm really ashamed to think back on now -- I now carefully monitor my thoughts and behavior for this affliction. I have no virtues that mean I deserve companionship any more than any one else - I know this. I'm not the protagonist in some romantic comedy that needs to end right - I know this too. But knowing this doesn't make me any less lonely or any less keen to do something about that.

Past is prologue, and the net result of my experience is that I dread liking someone. I'm suspicious of excitement now and sort of hate it a little when someone catches my eye, because I've come to expect a pattern where this excitement precedes another painful disappointment. To be honest, I try to avoid getting excited anymore -- and when I do, I think I've started just sort of skipping ahead mentally to the rejection. I feel like I'm shutting down, sliding into behaviors and avoidance that will leave me lonely for life. I don't think any fate terrifies me more.

You may be thinking that I ought to be in counseling, and I am. I've got some work to do on myself, and I'm doing it. But a situation has presented itself which leaves me unwilling to wait for some vague day in the future when my mental health might be restored. I've got this absolutely amazing classmate in college, you see, who I've long thought too stunning and interesting for me to even approach. But we've been working together a lot this quarter and last week she asked me why we don't ever hang out. Since I couldn't really tell her that I think she's so beautiful that I'm almost afraid to look at her, I said "good question" and we made plans to go get drinks.

We had a lot of fun getting to know each other better during this first casual night out. We've always had a good rapport in class, and our recent conversations have revealed vast regions of commonality in our interests and opinions. We share similar ink-black senses of humor and really crack each other up. Often this all means that we're the only pair laughing in a crowded room. I just love being around her, even though it makes me really nervous sometimes. Tomorrow, her divorce will be finalized, but she's been dating here and there during her separation. So this situation has complications beyond my own navel-gazing. I like her a whole bunch and really want to tell her so. And that's what I need help with.

I know there's no way to put yourself out there that guarantees you won't be rejected. I know that doing this kind of thing is always a bit of a risk. But surely there's ways to mitigate this risk a bit. Surely there's better and worse ways to show someone your feelings for them. Surely there's better and worse ways to demonstrate your interest. I like this woman so much that I'm resolved to run right at a deed that terrifies me more than about any other act, but she deserves better than a novice. Thanks to the framing of our interactions, she's largely only encountered me in "class mode," which obscures the nervous wreck inside of me to the point of invisibility. I've been trying to "fake it til I make it" in terms of confidence for some time now. At this point, she takes me for the bold man I want to be. So I know I must be bold now, but I'm not sure how, exactly. Just "going for it" is precisely my intention, but I'm afraid I need more detail than that.

Women of Metafilter, I'm sure many of you have had crushes revealed to you. Who did this well? Who did this poorly? How was it done, in either case? Men of Metafilter, I'm sure many of you have had crushes to reveal and perhaps even suffered anxiety like mine. How did you do it when it went well? How did you do it when it went poorly?

Thank you so much for your help. Please forgive the length of this message - since I'm doing this anonymously, I wanted to provide as much context as possible. If the need arises, is the throwaway address for this question.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
You don't need to "tell" her, you need to show her. Subtle difference. Giving her a speech that includes some of the stuff you said in this post ("she's so beautiful that I'm almost afraid to look at her", "I just love being around her, even though it makes me really nervous sometimes", "I like this woman so much that I'm resolved to run right at a deed that terrifies me more than about any other act") would probably scare her off. But asking her out for another date, and then another, and then another would let her know what you're thinking without being overly intense. It sounds like you went out for drinks last week, so you're still in the perfect window to ask her out again. Go to dinner this time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Friends of mine and I have been on the receiving end of words to the effect of, "I have a crush on you, will you be my girlfriend?" For my friends and me, this worked extremely poorly as it puts serious pressure on the situation.

Something like, "I have a crush on you, can I take you out to dinner this Friday?" seems sweet and honest. Even if the woman isn't totally sure she's interested in you, she might accept your invitation to go on a date.

On the other hand, something like "I've had a crush on you for so long and I can't hide it anymore" or "I have a crush on you, will you be my girlfriend?" are too much and too sudden. Unless the woman has been secretly crushing on you, too, she needs to make a decision right then and there as to whether or not to enter a relationship.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Hey--do you want to go out sometime?"

Don't tell someone you have a crush on them until you are in a relationship, and then laugh together about it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Hey, so a couple of things. You sound like a nice guy and really in to this girl, but you've been in to other girls before and you will be in to other girls in the future. So while just go for it may sound pretty vague and not consisting of enough instruction, there really isn't anything more to it.

I wouldn't reveal your crush, that probably isn't going to get you anywhere, but act like a guy who is genuinely interested in getting to know her better. Interest is sexy, extreme interest is less so. She asked why you guys don't hang out, she's interested in outside of work friendship at the very least, and possibly something else but she may not know you well enough to make that decision.

So! Ask her to a nice dinner or hike or well any number of comfortable date activities, you'll do fine, and if for some reason it doesn't work out how you envisage it's not the end of the world, friendships tend to grow and evolve and there are lots of smart, funny, attractive potential partners out there.
posted by iamabot at 10:31 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think you need detail. I think you need courage.

I have two ways of summoning courage:

1. Think of a hero. To use an extreme example: Jean Moulin was tortured to death by Klaus Barbie without ever betraying the French Resistance. All you have to do is smile warmly at a pretty girl and ask "Would you like to have dinner with me this weekend?"

Which leads to...

2. Think of the absolute worst case scenario. "She'll wrinkle her face with disgust and then laugh cruelly at me while her friends join in!" Very unlikely, of course. But what if it did happen? Would it kill you? Would it be worse than having a loved one missing or seriously ill? Wouldn't it be more of a judgment on her than on you? Wouldn't you at least feel a nugget of enduring pride at having overcome your fear?

Or just remind yourself that far more of life's regrets come from what we did not do than from what we did.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:34 AM on February 25, 2010 [11 favorites]

I agree with The PinkSuperhero. There is certainly no need for a Big Reveal of your affection, you will scare her for sure (this happened to me once, it was very scary and awkward). Ask her out again, this time for dinner, and go someplace a little special but not anniversary or marriage-proposal fancy. Try to keep the intensity in check - you can look on chowhound or yelp or local websites for good first-date restaurants in your area, and try to be casual. If you'll forgive the cliche, you want to let the relationship blossom at its own pace instead of trying to force it with the power and intensity of your love.
posted by hungrybruno at 10:36 AM on February 25, 2010

You are thinking too far ahead. Don't think of the relationship. Think only of the moments you are sharing with the person, and the relationship will follow. If you are thinking about winning the game instead of playing the game, you won't score.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Women of Metafilter, I'm sure many of you have had crushes revealed to you. Who did this well? Who did this poorly? How was it done, in either case?

not including all the dudes who work or hang out outside the delis in my neighborhood, at any given time there are about five to six guys in my immediate social circle that have crushes on me. women are not as oblivious to social signals as men are; most of us can tell immediately when you have crushes on us even a) you think you're being discreet and b) if you have zero plans or zero balls to do anything about it.

from experience, a big reason you're getting the "let's just be friends" talk is that you've waited far too long between when a woman became aware that you liked her to when you actually told her you liked her; we get tired of waiting for you to do anything and put you in the friend zone, which is pretty hard to escape. i have had to have the "let's just be friends" talk with multiple guys that i would've totally gone on dates with had they just asked me out within the first month or so of us hanging out.

honestly, all you have to do is say a variant of this: "i enjoy spending time with you and i think you're swell; would you like to go out to dinner sometime?" and then if she says yes, don't be vague—immediately pick a date in as near the future as your schedules allow.

if she says no, get on with your life and try it out on the next woman you're interested in. it won't always work—it wouldn't even if you were the most handsome, confident, smart guy in the world—but there are a lot of women out there and some of them will say yes. so ask them out!
posted by lia at 10:45 AM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Since I couldn't really tell her that I think she's so beautiful that I'm almost afraid to look at her,

Why not? When a friend I thought was cute and I both ended our relationships at the same time, I set up a thing where we all could go out. She started talking about why her relationship ended and I replied "He was probably scared. You're really cute, stylish and smart, and that can be scary for some people." Boy did she want to hear more about my theory after that.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on February 25, 2010

"I think you are one of the most interesting people I have met in a long time. Would you like to have dinner Friday night?"

Yes, it can suck when you put yourself out there. But if you like her that much, don't you owe it to yourself to find out what might happen?
posted by Silvertree at 11:08 AM on February 25, 2010

We've always had a good rapport in class, and our recent conversations have revealed vast regions of commonality in our interests and opinions. We share similar ink-black senses of humor and really crack each other up.

It sounds like you already have something good going. For me, sharing a sense of humor has always been hugely important. No need to confess anything. Ask her to dinner. And I don't know what Nice Guy Disease is all about. I guess some women are attracted to jerks but really-you're a nice guy, so be a nice guy.
posted by violette at 11:15 AM on February 25, 2010

I agree with ThePinksuperhero and HungryBruno, take it slow n easy. Ask her out to dinner and keep the intensity in check. No big reveal of how you have a crush on her. Showing genuine interest in getting to know her would be nice. If you can pick an activity to do together, like bowling or hiking which is fun that would be good too. Good luck and take it easy!
posted by VickyR at 11:18 AM on February 25, 2010

"I have a crush on you, can I take you out to dinner this Friday?"

You want to take her out to dinner and that's all she needs to know. And frankly, that's probably all she wants to know at this point too.
posted by grouse at 11:25 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Very slowly. Be subtle. Think of it like you see a deer in the forest. Do you run at the deer to get closer to it? No. You move closer slowly. Let out small hints. Smile at her. Find things you like to do together and do them.

Ideally, if you tell her you have a crush on her at all (which if you handle this right you won't have to) it will be at a point where you're pretty much already dating.

Warmed up proclamations might work in the movies, but in real life, not so much.
posted by elder18 at 11:55 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

a point where you're pretty much already dating.

This is the opposite of bold. Anon wants bold.

Women--people, really--are not, in general, scared of being asked out on dates. And women are not shy woodland creatures who are frightened by a straightforward approach. Look through the AskMe archives and you will find many, many "Does s/he like me?" or "Was that a date?" or "What's going on here?" questions, frequently from women who have no idea what's going on with a male friend of theirs. Small, subtle hints like smiling or continuing to make vaguely date-like plans ("Let's hang out!") might be perceived as the beginnings of a dating relationship, or might confuse the woman, or might seem like the beginnings of a great friendship. If you follow that course, you continue to build up your own feelings for her, but you don't know if she's doing the same. By the time you actually get around to saying it out loud, thinking, "Well, we've been on enough dates, she has to know how I feel by now..." you might find that she says, "What do you mean 'all the dates we've been on?'--we've never gone on a date!"

If you want to be bold, be bold. Ask her out on a date. Confessing a crush isn't the key here; she doesn't need to know (and probably shouldn't know, at least at first) the extent of your feelings. This is about telling a woman you're interested in dating. (By all means, if you want to just wait and see what happens in the friendship, do that, but if you want to tell her how you feel you'll have to use words.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:27 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

What lia said.
posted by ecsh at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2010

I have lots of ideas how to keep you out of the Just Friends Zone. For instance:

Be forthright that you find her attractive. This doesn't mean you have to put yourself out there emotionally, but if you act attracted to her and tell her you think she is attractive, it will put attraction in her mind. Someone (Mae West?) once said, "A man is more attracted to a woman who is interested in him than to a woman who has beautiful legs." This is true for us women, too!

Walk her to her door (if she's okay with that). Only friends drop each other off and drive away.

When you make a date, be sure she knows it is a date.

Give her the feeling of being cared for in some subtle ways - kill the spider, open her car door, call the waiter over if she needs something.

You have now set yourself apart from all her male friends.
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:09 PM on February 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Here's another little comment, and if it does not apply to you, I hope it will be helpful to someone else.

People want to feel special. So what does that mean for a man dating a woman?

Imagine this scenario: Your female friend comes to you feeling bad, because she just got broken up with by the guy she was dating. He decided he didn't want a relationship right now. You both think, What a jerk. But you - you also think, Why doesn't she date nicer guys, someone like me, someone who wants a relationship?

Certainly it makes more sense for a woman who wants a relationship to be on the lookout for a man who also wants a relationship. Occasionally, though, a woman might get sidetracked by someone who makes her feel special in this way: He was clearly a guy who was more interested in doing his own thing and playing the field, but when he started to focus on her, she felt special. Perhaps she should have known better.

So you see, a nice guy who is giving off the vibes that he really wants a girlfriend can have a harder time making a woman feel special because she thinks that he will take anyone, any female, he doesn't care, he just wants to get a girlfriend. In reality, this is probably not true and he is much more discriminating than that. But it's all about perception.

Who would make me feel special? A man who is confidently doing his own thing, living his life, and then he meets me and goes, "Oh, you are really great and interesting. I'm attracted to you and I want to get to know you and see where it goes." He doesn't necessarily need to hide his interest in a relationship (I would want him to want one) but he doesn't need to advertise it to the point that I wonder if it's really me he is interested in. That's why a man who acts too interested too soon would scare me off. I would think, He barely knows me and he acting all ga-ga; he must just be desperate for a girlfriend.

So in summary - Be straighforward about your attraction to her and that you think she is special. You were really struck by her. You've never met anyone quite like her before. Don't say you have a crush or act overly invested in the outcome.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:03 PM on February 25, 2010 [6 favorites]

Seriously, don't treat a woman like a freakin' woodland animal. Just let your actions speak for you. Ask her out, have a great time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And seconding violette: I have no idea what Nice Guy Disease is.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:08 PM on February 25, 2010

When I'm asking someone on a date, I try to use the word "date" if possible -- because otherwise, as Meg_Murray says, it can be really difficult for the other person to know what they're agreeing to. If a male acquaintance asks me for coffee, I might want to say "yes" if it's just a friendship thing, but "no" if it's a dating thing... but it's REALLY awkward for me to say "oh, I don't want to date you, but if you're asking as a friend, then okay." And it's even more awkward if I say "yes," hoping it's a friendship thing, and then he tries to kiss me at the end of the night.

I know it's tougher, because saying "date" makes your interest explicit, and that's scary. But it's much easier for the other person to handle it gracefully if they know what you're asking, and ultimately, that's much less awkward for both of you.

Try it! "I'd like to take you on a date sometime, if you're interested. Are you free on Friday?"
posted by cider at 7:13 AM on February 26, 2010

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