Relationship anxiety-- Unable to express my true feelings to my friend
June 20, 2016 7:38 PM   Subscribe

I know it;s normal to be nervous, but my level of anxiety is too much and I need help

I feel like the protagonist in the Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

I have a friend which I have become closer with recently and who I care deeply for. We met about a year ago, but became very close in the past month and a half since I broke up with my ex. We also see each other 3 times a week because we go to the gym together. we've had lots of deep conversations about our values, emotions, parents, dreams and previous relationships and I feel there have been plenty of moments for me to express my feelings for him, but it's almost as though I have a mini panic attack each time these moments come up. I have no problem discussing intimate topics with him -- he is so empathetic, kind, and understanding that I love sharing myself with him and hearing his perspective. But this one detail, about my feelings for him, scares the shit out of me.

I am pretty sure he interested in me at least for some kind of romantic connection (he is an open minded person, recently single, flirty and seems really curious about me). It's not so much that I am afraid of rejection (though I'm sure that is part of it). It's more that I am afraid of the confrontation, the change in the relationship, the unfamiliarity of it, and afraid of making a bold move because Ive never been the one to initiate something like this.

To give you an example of all the opportunities I've missed, we see each other 3 times a week, and have been for the past month. Nearly every friday after working out, we go back to his place , each have a shower, and go out for dinner. Every time we go to the gym, we walk back together for half an hour. I literally spent 4 evenings with him last week. We even went to the vigil for Orlando victims together and I had literally the perfect moment to give him the most beautiful and political hug imaginable ( he is transgender), but I chickened out. I have ample alone time with him and have on numerous occasions vowed to tell him the truth, but each time I get tongue tied with a sense of dread and impending doom and my whole mood is ruined (i have an anxiety problem).

I'm serious, my anxiety is through the roof and if I can't find an easier way to say it, I may avoid it forever, or start avoiding seeing my friend anymore, or find a distraction until my feelings go away. Yes, I'm in therapy, but no, i don't have medication. It's getting to the point where I can't take it anymore. I've tried analyzing the reasons why 'm worried and it doesn't help because this seems to be a visceral, physiological feeling of doom which has no reason. I feel as though I am about to be hit by a car and my brain completely shuts down.

How can I make this easier for myself? I know it's supposed to be hard. But do any fellow anxious people have tips, tricks, or shortcuts that can help me to actually accomplish this and get it off my chest? I'm so concerned with actually accomplishing this, that I haven't even thought of the outcome. What scares me is this inability to act- I can't live like this. Please help
posted by winterportage to Human Relations (10 answers total)
this seems to be a visceral, physiological feeling of doom which has no reason

That is pretty much the definition of anxiety that should probably be addressed with medication. Don't do it because of just this particular relationship, do it because it will vastly improve your life and the lives of those around you.

That said, when I've found myself really anxious about making the first move with a guy it was generally because I had a gut feeling that he want really into me the way I was into him. The Catch 22 though is you won't know until you ask him.
posted by MsMolly at 8:25 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's kind of like trying to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together, or getting into a pool by toe dipping one millimeter at a time, but a very cautious way to start expressing interest is just to compliment him a lot and throw in some lingering eye contact. Then you can (if not too blinded by anxiety) assess whether he is pleased by the compliments or whether he tries to politely back pedal in order to not lead you on. (If he's shy, he may not get your hints, but it's a fairly low risk strategy for you.) (Disclaimer: I don't date because I am old and married, so my theories are out dated for sure.)
posted by puddledork at 8:54 PM on June 20, 2016

I think touch is the way to go-- a nice deniable touch. While you're walking, take his hand and hold it. Squeeze it a bit. If he's not interested, he'll consider this just a friendly gesture. If he wants to take this further, he'll take this as a signal you're open to it.
And can I just say I am so glad to hear about a relationship that isn't being conducted primarily in texts. You work out together! You go to dinner! You talk! You walk! You already have a much deeper and more fulfilling relationship than all those who sext and text to each other and never seem to need some physical touch.
He likes you. You like him. You already are so together in so many ways. Just take his hand and hold it a bit longer than you'd hold a friend's hand. (You could even look deeply into his eyes at the same time.)
No matter what happens, you're having a fulfilling experience. Be happy!
posted by my-sharona at 9:56 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whoa, grabbing his hand is definitely escalating things too much too fast, in my opinion.

He sounds like he likes you.

I think eye contact is a great idea. During a lingering moment during a conversation in his or your apt, if it's flirty, I would look for a pause and look at your eyes and during it, ask: "can I kiss you?"

....and that will be a good barometer.
posted by pando11 at 10:36 PM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you need to take this slowly and define a bit. You say it's a relationship and you hang out, but is it clear these are like, dates? Or are these "hang and out and we flirt" things?

Take baby steps. Use your (small) words first and ask him on a date.

"Would you like to go on a date with me to [get dinner / see movie / shop the farmers market] this Saturday?"

If it helps, do it via text - which isn't ideal and I think real conversations are best - but at least it may help you get it out there.

I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself and thinking there needs to be a huge rom-com style confession or embrace here. I think part of your anxiety is coming from the fact that neither of you has really clearly asked each other out - unless I missed something.

It's not confrontation or a "big bold move" to advance slightly in terms of defining if these are dates and if he is interested in you in a dating sense.

Then if it's clear you're dating then you'll naturally be getting to know each other in a more romantic sense which takes the pressure off any sort of big bold moves. He may even makes some moves. But take small steps to start and things will probably fall into place if you actually like each other and do well together.

And ooof, please don't do a random hand grab to express your feelings. That's just awkward even if you like each other but haven't had other physical contact, especially if you haven't used your words or defined a relationship. I would always advocate for a more mutual touch in any situation and randomly grabbing someone's hand isn't mutual.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:58 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Try writing him a letter. I know it sounds really cheesy but writing it down can help enormously. It'll help you organize your thoughts, figure out what you actually want from him, what you're actually looking for, and how to communicate those things. Keep it less than a page long. Anything more than that and it's just you talking to yourself, not to him.

You don't have to give him the letter. Sometimes having written it down can help you say it out loud.

If you want to give him the letter, do it at a time when there will be maybe two days before you see him next but he's not super busy, either. That will give him time to absorb and think through his response, and if his response is an immediate "yes! ditto! i want to put my face on your face in a romantic way!" then he can call or text you sooner, but if he needs to take some time he can count on a predictable time he'll be able to speak to you next.

The other way that is kind of nicely structured would be to find an event outside of your usual spaces that you'd both be interested in attending and ask him out to it. Use the word "date". "I'd like to take you out on a date to [event]." Then he might say something like "" and you would say "yep!" and he might say "I didn't think you liked me like that" and you would say "I do! but we can also [attend event] as just friends if you'd rather." By this point you're probably hyperventilating or curling up into a tiny ball inside or shattering into a million pieces. But he'll have the chance to still spend time with you doing the stuff you've been doing as friends until [event] occurs at which point he can switch to date mode, if he wants to. And if he's really into the idea of being with you romantically, once you open that door for him he can walk through it if he'd like to and start flirting and touching you and all that good stuff.

I think part of the trouble here might be that it's been a relatively short time since you both were in relationships, so even if he's into you there might be a concern that he doesn't want you to be a rebound or he's not ready for a relationship or he's worried you aren't ready even if he can tell there's something really good between you. So I think you need to make sure he knows that you're an option and that you think of him as an option. Everyone's different so I don't know how it would be best to communicate that, but that's what needs to happen before things can progress.
posted by Mizu at 11:10 PM on June 20, 2016

Here are my tips as a fellow anxious person:

Tell him you have a crush on him or ask him out on a date, but keep it short and simple and do not make any big declarations of feelings. It's much easier to stay friends (if he's not interested in dating) when you haven't explained to him in great detail how you are falling in love with him. Do this using whatever medium you are most likely to actually use. Texting isn't ideal, but it's better than doing nothing.

While you are working up to doing that, next time you are walking home together, walk a little closer to him so that your arms brush occasionally when one of you is gesturing. If he doesn't move away and make the distance bigger, stay there so your arms keep brushing. When you sit across from each other, in the course of the conversation, reach out and put your hand on his forearm for a moment. If he doesn't pull away, or look uncomfortable, do it again a little later. See if he reciprocates. If you are sitting next to each other, edge a little closer so that your knees are brushing. If all of these little bits of physical contact go well, they can build into something more, and you may get to the point where kissing each other just feels like the natural next step and not like any sort of huge, scary decision.
posted by colfax at 2:55 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Perhaps start by articulating exactly what your feelings are, to yourself. Your 600+ word question here refers to your feelings and "the truth" but doesn't say what that is. In fact the only specific thing you refer to is regretting not giving him "the most beautiful and political hug imaginable."

So before talking to him, talk to yourself. Define what you feel and what you want. What is it that you hope to achieve by breaking your silence? A romantic relationship? A deeper friendship? A partner for an LGBT-related project? You've built it up into something unnameable, which naturally increases your anxiety about it. So tackle that part of it first. Open a dialogue in an honest and articulate way with yourself, where there's no chance of rejection, and clarify your feelings and desires. Just doing that will likely remove half of your anxiety, because you've given it a name and made it normal.

You might even find that your feelings are platonic and you don't want a change, you just want to acknowledge how important he is to you. Or you might find that you're overwhelmed with gratitude that this friendship developed following your breakup, but you don't want to rebound with him. Or of course you might find that your feelings are romantic and you want to date him. Or even something else. But between recent breakups and working through the Orlando nightmare together, you two have been through a lot in a short time. Intense feelings can develop from those experiences, and exploring them can re-ground you. Good luck.
posted by headnsouth at 6:09 AM on June 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm serious, my anxiety is through the roof

I had this feeling (unusual for me) in the past about a particular guy I was deciding whether or not to date, and after a lot of reflection it was because my heart wasn't fully into it even though on paper I should have been. I wanted to want to be with him, but I didn't actually want to be with him.
posted by sallybrown at 12:16 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a fellow anxious person, I would like to point out that it's possible to confuse excitement with anxiety. Or rather, something you are anxious about (possible rejection, losing a friendship) colors a more benign anxiety (fear of the unknown, inability to see the future). If I were in your position If do some journaling, and talk with your therapist, to see if you can't separate the two. You list fears that don't seem like anything more than a fear of change, which is natural! But it's getting all mixed up with the nerves of coming clean to your crush.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:41 PM on June 21, 2016

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