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June 21, 2010 10:47 AM   Subscribe

A guy I've been seeing for seven weeks just told me he loved me. I do not feel the same way.

This was supposed to be a casual thing. He propositioned me online, I was in the right sort of mood to say yes. We slept together the first day we met. Since then we've hung out every week and things progressed from creepy once off internet hook-up to FWB to dating to a point where I was considering having an 'are we . . . ?' discussion with him.

This past weekend he said I love you. Under the influence of marijuana, I did not react well. I laughed, made a comically horrified face, and said, "No you don't! There's no way!" He said it several more times and it became clear that he was serious. Once I sobered up we had a slightly more serious discussion about it. He said that he didn't expect me to reciprocate his feelings, that he wasn't hurt by my horrified face, and that he loved me and that I was everything he wanted in his life. I giggled nervously.

I like him a lot. He's funny, weird, smart, and I enjoy spending time with him. He's also attractive and unbelievable in bed. It's possible that I could grow to care for him deeply. In like a few more months. I'd like to continue seeing him and let that happen gradually. However, this is waaaay too serious way too soon for me and is overwhelming/slightly terrifying. I have no idea how to progress from here or what I should even say to him. Plz help.
posted by Tha Race Card to Human Relations (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
That whole last paragraph? that's exactly what I'd tell him. If he's ok with it - yay, operate as you have been. If he's not, then you'll be able to tell and go from there.
posted by lemniskate at 10:50 AM on June 21, 2010 [21 favorites]

If you like him a lot, keep seeing him, first of all. Make it clear that you're not ready to go there yet, and that you're a little creeped out by his insistence, but don't throw away a good thing just for this.

But! Keep an eye out for other slow intimacy encroachments, and be prepared to more assertively resist those than you might otherwise. Like, he loves you, that's cool, but he still can't keep a change of clothes at your place. (Or whatever.) And if he keeps saying it, knowing that you don't feel the same way, that might be a teeny-tiny red flag that he's trying to have his emotional sense of appropriateness override yours. But otherwise? Give it another month and see where things go.
posted by KathrynT at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

He said that he didn't expect me to reciprocate his feelings ... and that he loved me and that I was everything he wanted in his life.

I'm going to assume that, no matter what he tells you, "everything he [wants]" in his life includes someone who will reciprocate his feelings, sooner or later. If he's genuinely and honestly fine with doing what y'all are doing under the full knowledge you may not develop these feelings, fine, you can go ahead and keep seeing him. Love is not always, hell, not usually symmetric, but if everyone's honest, give it a chance.

On the other hand, if he expects you to eventually love him, or sees it as, inherently, a matter of time, bail for both your sakes.
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have no idea ... what I should even say to him.

Yes you do. You just said it ... to me and the rest of us here. Say it to him.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I like you a lot. You're funny, weird, smart, and I enjoy spending time with you. You're also attractive and unbelievable in bed. It's possible I could grow to care for you more deeply. In like a few more months. I'd like to continue seeing you and let that happen gradually. However, this is waaay too serious way too soon for me and is overwhelming and slightly terrifying."

Normally I think the people who say "just print this thread out and show it to them!" in lieu of giving actual advice are dead wrong. But you've worded this really well. Don't print out the thread, obviously; just, next time you see him, and before you break out the bong or hop into bed, tell him exactly what you've told us. Based on the way he handled your initial reaction, he sounds like he'll take it in exactly the right spirit. (Based on the way he handled your initial reaction, he sounds like a keeper.)
posted by ook at 10:56 AM on June 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

In case it needs saying, it's perfectly OK that you're at different places with this. My husband lagged months and months behind me. I eventually told him "Look, if you get to a place where you know this isn't going to happen for you, you need to tell me so I can move on." He agreed, I left it there, and eventually he caught up.

You'll catch up or you won't. Just be honest, and don't buy into the notion that his feelings obligate you in the interim. They do not.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:10 AM on June 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

In case an anecdote is helpful. I had this same thing happen to me a ways back, complete with horrified face and all the rest [though we were dating, not quite a hookup]. We had a nice talk while clothed and sober and then we both sort of left it alone. I think that part is key. He didn't push me and keep saying it and looking/glaring at me for a response. I didn't say "JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M STILL NOT IN I LOVE YOU LAND" and we kept on hanging out and having an awesome time together and hey, what do you know, I fell head over heels for him in my own timeframe (a few months, yeah) and it's been a few years now. I always chalked it up to him being an over-effusive [in my emotional characterization] hippie type and me being a bit of a reserved ice princess and that exact thing is one of the reasons we're so great together. So, I think you're fine.
posted by jessamyn at 11:10 AM on June 21, 2010 [6 favorites]

Have you ever had a man tell you that he loved you? Are you not used to receiving love? I ask this because you were so nervous. Granted, a person telling you he loves you when you do not feel the same can be very awkward. Since you have been seeing him for seven weeks and the sex is incredible you must like him a lot. You told us you like him a lot and that's a great thing. Allow him to love you. Allow yourself to be loved, treat him in the kindest way, and see where it goes from there.
posted by Fairchild at 11:14 AM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

He sounds cool and reacted well to you not saying "I love you" back. It's fine that you aren't feeling the love thing yet; I would give it some time without constantly asking yourself "is this it? Am I in love now? How about now?!".

Agreed with everyone above; you already phrased it well. In a few months if you still aren't feeling that spark, it's a bit unfair to keep proceeding in the relationship since it's so unbalanced. You could gracefully let him know that you gave it your best shot but that you can't force your feelings. Good luck!
posted by amicamentis at 11:16 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think he's 'insisting' anything, and he sure isn't being creepy - he just feels it's important to share a feeling. OK - shared. Now share yours. I think that's the very limit of it, don't you? You both do the honest, smart thing, and move forward knowing no one's lying or withholding anything too major.

Love is natural, however stupidly people use the word. Your feelings are natural too. Act on them and don't fuck anyone up by hiding, lying, or making mountains out of molehills.

You feel overwhelmed, but that does not mean that the situation is out of the ordinary or out of control. Deal with being overwhelmed by approaching the situation as you are - share what you're feeling, address your shortcomings and everything else, find ways to grow into something with another human being, and bob (or whoever the hell) is yer uncle.
posted by waxbanks at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2010

Also, ignore this potentially debilitating notion of 'catching up' in terms of feelings. It's meaningless and more than a little offensive to those who don't feel they're 'lagging' in time, intensity, or seriousness. You're different people, you'll have different feelings, and what you think of as romantic love needn't go by the same name in his world. Be honest, spell things out, learn to compromise. This is not a goddamn footrace.
posted by waxbanks at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2010

I think what you said here is basically right. Just be careful with this:

It's possible I could grow to care for you more deeply

Don't use the phrase "it's possible." That makes it sound like there's like a 10% chance it maybe might happen.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2010

For what it is worth I laughed, made a comically horrified face, and said, "No you don't! There's no way!" IS a good reaction - it's an honest one, that doesn't mask what you are feeling, doesn't 'play along' with something you are not on board with, and yet isn't total nuclear run-out-the-door-and-change-your-phone-number level revulsion. Do this on your won, and on your own time, whether that means that you get there or not. Just be sure that you continue to be honest to you AND him.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was kind of in your position about ten years ago -- my girlfriend (who I was not in love with) told me she loved me. I assumed I must've misheard and said "What?" and she repeated. I don't remember my actual response, then, because I was busy freaking the fuck out. I assume I said something vaguely noncommittal.

I caught up eventually. We're still together.

I hope this works out as well for you guys.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:30 AM on June 21, 2010

I was going to give some follow-on advice, but I have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'll phrase it as a question instead:

Once the OP has that conversation where they agree to keep on seeing each other, does it make sense as part of that meeting to set some boundaries going forward? The 2 things I'm thinking about:

1. Do you make it clear that you don't want him saying I Love You every day/minute/second - at all? I am totally envisioning the House episodes where Chase told Cameron every Tuesday for a few months that he still loved her and didn't need a response back, just wanted her to know.
2. Do you actually set a date for when to revisit the feelings - like 3 months or 6 months? Or do you just let nature take it's course and be honest enough in some vague timeframe to call it quits if you're not getting there?
posted by CathyG at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2010

I like him a lot. He's funny, weird, smart, and I enjoy spending time with him. He's also attractive and unbelievable in bed.

It could be that he feels the same way but calls it love. I wouldn't get too hung up on semantics.

If, however, it becomes clear that he's just way more into you than you are into him, you'll have to consider (1) whether that's okay with you and (2) whether you should "set him free" so he can find someone who will reciprocate. I don't think there's any rush, though. Take your time (if you want to) and figure out how you feel once the initial frenzied part of the relationship passes.
posted by callmejay at 11:48 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just keep it honest. I'm one of those hella-early "I love you" types. I say it to my friends all the time on the phone, regardless of gender. In my case, I think that it's got a lot to do with having lost people that I love, and knowing a lot of other people who have in more sudden ways. And because it's the best thing people can have in life, I'm not too shy about speaking up. I do understand when other people might have a lot of problems with that, though, and I completely understand why. With the current boy, I said something like, "It's totally early, and you don't have to read a ton into this or say anything back, but in case one of us gets hit by a bus, I want you to know that I love you."

Your reply was honest and good, and it sounds like this guy's cool, so just keep doing what you do. Stay straightforward, and I promise that if you reach a point where you're ready to say it, he'll appreciate it wholeheartedly. If he was cool with your response thus far, you really have no reason to put any more pressure on yourself.
posted by lauranesson at 12:09 PM on June 21, 2010 [7 favorites]

Good advice above. All I'd add to it is that when you tell him that, while you respect his feelings, he respect that you're not there and he not use his feelings to press you about yours.

I wouldn't bother to say it except that "and that I was everything he wanted in his life" makes me a little twitchy. Sometimes people just move at different paces. Sometimes people are kooky and inappropriate. Pressuring you by being repeatedly overly & asymmetrically demonstrative is a warning sign of something bad.

I don't think his pace is inappropriate but a little caution is never a bad thing.
posted by phearlez at 12:58 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had this about two years ago. Now I live and share my life with said person. I tried to convince him he didnt like me, I tried to make him see other women but one day I just clicked and that was that.
At the time I wasnt ready for anything and now I have come to understand it was a fear of a relationship rather than dislike of him in any way.

Give it a chance, you might end up like us.
posted by Neonshock at 1:05 PM on June 21, 2010

Just be careful. I am another person who wasn't ready to reciprocate when my now-husband announced he'd fallen for me. And later, of course, I was ready to commit to him for the whole rest of my life.

But having said that, in the time before I met my husband, I also turned down quite a few marriage proposals and left quite a few relationships with men who said they loved me. Sometimes the timing really isn't right -- I wasn't ready to settle down with anyone for a long time. And sometimes the person isn't right, no matter how fun they are in bed or how cool they are. I dated a guy who was a photographer for awhile -- he could not have been more talented or admirable or kinder or sweeter, but I still knew I'd never fall for him, so when he started using the "l" word, and made it clear that he was really serious about it, I didn't feel right about being in the relationship. He wanted and needed and deserved a response I wasn't going to be able to provide -- ever.

So, think a little on this. If you know you aren't ready and won't be in the foreseeable future, or this guy for some reason will never be the one for you, then be kind and let him go. And if you just aren't there right now but you might be, then give it a chance without giving him false hopes.
posted by bearwife at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had about 6 "I love you" relationships in my life. I'd say about a third of the time I said it first, a third of the time she said it first, and only once or twice was it truly mutual. This happens all the time and it's no big deal. I thought your question was going to be how to preserve his ego after your rejection, but it sounds like he handled it well (if true, that's actually quite endearing isn't it?)

Just another data point, the woman I wound up marrying I pursued/waited for --not pressured-- for a long time before she reciprocated an "I love you." That was (oh my god!) 14 years ago.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:31 PM on June 21, 2010

"I like you a lot. You're funny, weird, smart, and I enjoy spending time with you. You're also attractive and unbelievable in bed. It's possible I could grow to care for you more deeply. In like a few more months. I'd like to continue seeing you and let that happen gradually. However, this is waaay too serious way too soon for me and is overwhelming and slightly terrifying."

seconding what ook said. it sounds like he's not delicate, touchy, or pushing to have you reciprocate. this is a perfectly reasonable, fair, and even flattering thing to say.

i am frankly a little surprised this hasn't come up before. did you always know you loved someone at the same moment they realized they love you too? for myself, it has always been at different times. if you don't love someone when they love you, its not a big deal unless you feel strongly that you could never love them and this will always be just booty. if it could feasibly be down the road for you, roll in the clovers and enjoy being loved.
posted by nihlton at 1:50 PM on June 21, 2010

I had a similar experience about 5 years ago. I was hanging out with a guy that I had been seeing for a couple of months. We were both sick as a dog, and watching movies on the couch.
I noticed he was acting a bit odd, and asked him what was the matter. He said "nothing," but then blurted out, "I'm in love with you."

It took me so much by surprise that I started laughing uncontrollably. He did not take offense, and laughed a little bit too. Then I took a deep breath, and told him that I liked him A LOT, but I wasn't there yet, and that I take 'I love you' very seriously and did not want to say it back to him just to say it - I wanted to mean it with all of my heart.

He was completely understanding, and actually even continued to tell me he loved me when he felt like it, without expecting me to say it back (although really, I could have probably done without that). But a month or two later, boom, it smacked me in the face that I was in love with him. And told him so.
I told him out of nowhere, much the same way he told me.
(And yes we're still together.)
posted by couch fort dinner party at 2:14 PM on June 21, 2010

Just go back to your regularly scheduled displays of affection. No need to have a TALK about it. He knows what's up and obviously is okay to take the risk that it's not mutual, and is enjoying your relationship anyway. Sitting him down and having a TALK about it is probably just going to make it more awkward for him.

I was in your boyfriend's place recently (d'oh) and it's really not that big of a deal but it does seem to make people feel really guilty if they don't say it back, way out of proportion (in my opinion) because those of us who like to bust out the "I love you"s super early are probably okay with the risk that it won't be mutual. That's part of the fun and excitement of being the first to say it instead of waiting around!

Now that he doesn't have to hide it, you know where he's at, and being around you probably feels more honest and relaxed for him now.

(This could all be massive projection, so, beware)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:12 PM on June 21, 2010

I agree with the first response. Express to him what you told us in your last paragraph. Regardless of how much two people may or may not be in love, if their relationship cannot survive honest expressions of emotion, then the relationship may not be worth saving.

It seems you think this relationship is worth saving and, in fact, that you might decide you love him in a few months. That hardly seems a trivial matter. Accept his profession of love as a wonderful thing, something you deserve, then be honest with him and keep going. If he really does love you, he won't disappear over the course of a few months.
posted by justcorbly at 4:18 PM on June 21, 2010

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