How do I tell my friend I have strong feelings for him without being too intense?
July 14, 2006 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I've known a great guy for about 5 years and we have all the facets of a wonderful relationship... So how can I find the courage to tell him I want one? It's so hard to just blurt it out, and we have a pretty light-hearted relationship where we laugh more than anything, so I don't know how to be all dramatic and "I need to get something off my chest" - I need to be funny, casual and still genuine.

I'm going to try really hard to keep this short and to the point, but with details that will hopefully help garner the advice I'm hoping for. I met Jim about 5 years ago and felt an instant attraction to him. We started "talking" and hanging out but we lived far apart from each other, and the distance quickly became a problem for our young selves. We decided to keep things "status quo" but continued to stay in touch. Five years later, we're still in touch. We've seen each other pretty regularly over the years, even though he moved to D.C. for school while I stayed in Michigan. I have other friends in that area so when I'd go there to visit I'd always see Jim at least once, for a night at the bar, or a party, or even just lunch.
We're basically the same person in two different bodies - we get along fantastically, have lots and lots of respect for each other, make each other laugh, genuinely care about each other and have great sexual chemistry. But our relationship isn't a "friends with benefits" deal either - we have a friendship first that is "sweetened" with sex, but it's not necessary for us to do it whenever we see each other. We still don't and never have lived near each other (currently about 3.5 hours apart), but we've never lost touch. We've both dated other people and tell each other about the experiences, but nothing has ever worked out for either of us. I want to finally 'fess up and tell him that I "like him" but I feel like it's been obvious all along. Then I think, Well, he acts the same ways toward me and I don't find it "obvious" that he likes me (if he does). So my question is, how do I tell him without being a big cheeseball about it, but so that he'll also know I'm serious, and how do I recover if he doesn't feel the same way? He's been that glimmer of hope for years for me, when other relationships go stale. I don't want to lose that, and I don't want to lose my friend, but I also refuse to let an opportunity pass us by.
posted by slyboots421 to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, you could probably just send him a link to this question....

If not, next time you're talking about someone you dated, you might just mention that you keep comparing the guys you date to him and they come up short. (if, of course, that's true.)
posted by JMOZ at 8:20 AM on July 14, 2006

For a friend of mine I suggested she just say "You know I'm crazy about/love you, right?" It's direct, it's disarmingly cocky, and it's damn near breezy.

EatTheWeak and I talked for 9 years online. We met once and couldn't deny what was happening any more. So we both changed our lives and he uprooted and made the move from Washington to Texas. If he reciprocates your feelings you might want to have a 'how do we get closer than 4 hours apart' plan.
posted by nadawi at 8:25 AM on July 14, 2006 [2 favorites]

Wait for a lull in the conversation and just say "I like you" (or one of nadawi's suggested sentences)? Base what you say next on his reaction.
posted by lampoil at 8:36 AM on July 14, 2006

Be like the breeze baby. Smile. Tell him you like him with a honesty and eye conact and then just keep walking. Don't expect or even look for an answer. You've thought about it and you like the idea. Let the news that you like him hang there an let him play with the idea.
posted by BeerGrin at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2006

be direct. don't play it too light or he could miss the cue. beergrin's advice is right on, but you make sure he knows what you're saying.

why not talk about how to make 4 hours a whole lot shorter?
posted by elsar at 8:55 AM on July 14, 2006

Fourthing the 'direct method route'. I think that We (guys) need blunt and upfront more often than you'd think.

[Also - The question just before this - the link I *thought* I clicked on - is titled 'External Drives Recognized, Not Mounting'. :) How's that for appropos..]
posted by bhance at 9:13 AM on July 14, 2006

Alcohol will ease your dilemma. Go out have a few drinks with him and kiss him. Words are totally unnecessary.
posted by poppo at 9:22 AM on July 14, 2006

Tell him you are going to scare the crap out of him, then ask him to marry you. Get right down to it. If that kind of things scares him after five years, sleeping together, and all that... well, then, you know where you are.
posted by ewkpates at 9:26 AM on July 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

You know, it's not a joke, and to treat it like one undercuts what you're really trying to say. Sure it's scary to lay it on the line. But that's the right way to approach it.
posted by adamrice at 9:38 AM on July 14, 2006

ewkpates: i love it
posted by rbs at 9:39 AM on July 14, 2006

What? You can have sex with him but you can't profess even 'liking' him. Makes no sense sweetheart. If you love him, bring your entire relationship yearnings immediately to the front burner with him -- more or less a direct frontal assault. You owe it to yourself and are long past due being a cheeseball about it. Give him 10 days to fish or cut bait. Hope it works out for you both, but if it doesn't it's a really, really big, big world.
posted by tuni88 at 9:42 AM on July 14, 2006

Don't take poppo's advice, as tempting as it may be. It works fine when you want a hookup, not so much a solid relationship.
posted by SpecialK at 9:46 AM on July 14, 2006

Sorta similar experience for me, so I second tuni88. You've known him for so long, just jump in headfirst and see what happens.
posted by aeighty at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2006

I wonder why you're so worried about being a "cheeseball". It sounds like you're afraid that he's still in the mode of your agreement long ago to keep it casual and "status quo" and that he harbors no thoughts of taking it further. But if you're really as close as you say, and your communication really is that good, and you've really had all those amazing shared experiences (especially sex...come on), and it's really been five years, then he's probably feeling the exact same way as you are, fears and all.

Just tell him. Don't joke around; you want him to know you mean it. Serious emotions are worth taking seriously, and there's nothing cheesy about it. It's a lot scarier that way, but you can't achieve a meaningful romantic relationship (since it seems like that's what you want) through wisecracks alone.

And if he rejects you, then you'll know that there never was an opportunity to pass by in the first place, and you'll be freed to move on.
posted by markcholden at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2006

If you're gonna do it, you have to just jump in - I wouldn't worry about being "too intense." He needs to understand what your feelings are and what you have to say - and to be completely sure that he does, you should be as straightforward as you can. I like the "You know I 'like you like you'" approach, and you probably shouldn't be drinking when you do it, and be ready to follow up by saying what it is that you want.

There's unfortunately not a big middle ground where if you are sufficiently non-intense then you telling him how you feel won't change the relationship if he doesn't feel it back.

As far as how you would recover if he didn't feel it back - even if your worst case scenario came true, you would recover.
posted by KAS at 10:00 AM on July 14, 2006

He knows how you feel. Stop having sex with him.

we have a friendship first that is "sweetened" with sex

No, you have an intimate relationship, but neither of you will admit it. He'll continue the status quo for as long as he can because it's the perfect situation for him- he gets to be intimate with someone over the long haul with no strings attached.

Once you stop having sex, the reality of your relationship will become unavoidable. That might be a good time to have a conversation about what you want out of it.
posted by mkultra at 10:04 AM on July 14, 2006

Never ask: never know. Might not progress. He's free to date other people. You both get older.

Ask: He says yes. You fall in love. Begin process of living life together......

OR, he says: I can't see you like that. You say, well, it's been half a decade, he should know by now. He knows that I want a relationship and he still says no. I can get better. I deserve better.

Marriage/relationships take a whole lot of committment. If two people really love each other (and after five years (including sex that is seemingly good enough not to have killed the relationship) -- you freaking know. You just freaking know if you love the other person.

And, well, Love is goddam amazing thing, according to the Beatles it's all you need. That four hour car/train ride seems like 15 minutes because of love. You guys gameplan and he can't wait to start a life with you, have you be the mother of his children, and grow old together.....

So, yes, as Mark states, JUST ASK. In an otherwise relativistic world, the answer to your question will always be the same.
posted by skepticallypleased at 10:05 AM on July 14, 2006

we have a pretty light-hearted relationship where we laugh more than anything, so I don't know how to be all dramatic ... I need to be funny, casual and still genuine.

how do I tell him without being a big cheeseball about it, but so that he'll also know I'm serious, and how do I recover if he doesn't feel the same way?

It's a light hearted relationship where you "need to be" funny & casual, but you think you want something serious? That means you are simply going to have to change the dynamic, and accept the risk that comes with doing so. I really don't think there's a way to get around that; you're afraid that he won't want to get serious, but if you don't ask you'll never know.

You know your relationship better than anyone here, so you have to make judgments about exactly how to bring it up and phrase it - you can be brave & blunt and just say, the thing is, I think we should make a go of it; or you can be a little more cautious and ask him if he's ever thought about the possibility of you two having a future together, and see where it goes from there.

some of it may depend on how old you guys are and what the status of other parts of your life are (eg, are you at a point where you are thinking about having a family, or are either of you in school or likely to have move again for work, etc -). If he doesn't go for it, at least you know the truth

h He's been that glimmer of hope for years for me, when other relationships go stale. I don't want to lose that...

This is a bad reason not to ask. Do not live in delusion. Find out if your 'glimmer of hope' is real or not. If it's real, the result will be a hundred times better than the vague daydream, and if it's not real, it will free you to find something that is.
posted by mdn at 11:35 AM on July 14, 2006

sorry about my comment...I missed the part where you have already had sex
posted by poppo at 11:55 AM on July 14, 2006

I'll confess I'm inclined to agree with mkultra on the guy's awareness of this, or at least lack of interest. You've been open to him in every way and this has gone on for a while. If he was interested in something more he'd have made it known, I think.

But nobody knows but him, so you have nothing to lose by making it clear. You have everything to lose by not doing so. Not getting what you want is nowhere near as painful as looking back and knowing you didn't try. Just broach the subject, and as others have said, be serious - ha ha just kidding maybe sucks.

Good luck, it's a hard road to be on. Rest assured it's worth the effort to get through it, one way or the other.
posted by phearlez at 12:59 PM on July 14, 2006

I appreciate everyone's comments and thoughts so far, they are definitely helpful! Thank you so much!
To respond to phearlez and mkultra, I have to emphasize, in my own defense, that we haven't lived near each other in all of these years. I've not said anything because it never seemed realistic or feasible, and I'm inclined to think that he's been the same way. This could be blind naivete on my part, and I have thought the same thing ("He would have said something by now") - but then, I haven't said something by now either.
Now that we're at the points we are - he just graduated in May, I graduated in December '04 - and neither of us are settled in our careers or locations or anything. He's doing a summer job, I'm stuck in Detroit in a career-minded place I don't want to be. So we're both flying by the seats of our pants at this point in our lives. I guess there is no time like the present to figure out what to do when we both have paths ahead of us leading any and everywhere!
posted by slyboots421 at 1:26 PM on July 14, 2006

I suggest you bring it up with him, and soon, and in person.
One way to do it, besides proposing (which I actually think is a good idea, too), would be for you to say to him flat-out:

"I really like our relationship, and I'd like it to be something more. I'm going to start looking for jobs and apartments in D.C. [or wherever he is now], so we can date like a normal couple. Do you have any suggestions for rental agencies?"

This will give him the opportunity, if necessary, to let you down before it gets way too late, or to make it clear he feels the same way. It will also make your intentions clear.
All that without shopping for a mangagement ring.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:39 PM on July 14, 2006

Ewkpates idea of asking him to get married is a good one. You might soften it up by telling him that you're looking at a job/career move in whatever locale he happens to be in and make it the culmination of looking for someplace to live when you do move. The screen writer in me imagines that being a pretty funny conversation, actually. One of you is going to have to move and it looks like you're going to be the first. Maybe you could both move to San Francisco or something and start something big .
posted by ptm at 1:48 PM on July 14, 2006

Here are two different questions:

1) If you just happened to end up in the same city, does he think that he might want to start getting more serious with you and see how it went?

2) Is he already so sure about his feelings for you that he wants one of you to move to be with the other, with all the risks that entails, and he's just been waiting for you to suggest it?

The question you really want the answer to is obviously 2), but be sure you're clear on that before you ask. Otherwise the ambiguity itself is going to be confusing. "Do you like me?" or even "Do you love me?" is not the same question as "How would you feel if I moved here to be with you?" or "Can I be your girlfriend?"
posted by bingo at 2:30 PM on July 14, 2006

Touch him. A lot.
posted by alby at 3:41 PM on July 14, 2006

"I really like our relationship, and I'd like it to be something more. I'm going to start looking for jobs and apartments in D.C. [or wherever he is now], so we can date like a normal couple. Do you have any suggestions for rental agencies?"

Any guy who just graduated from college would immediately run from this statement in a blind panic, possibly after wetting his pants. Please, do not do this.

2) Is he already so sure about his feelings for you that he wants one of you to move to be with the other, with all the risks that entails, and he's just been waiting for you to suggest it?

I'll come back to my earlier point- either this guy is a complete manipulative douchebag, or he's got legitimate feelings for the poster. Let's assume the latter.

slyboots421, here's the deal. Guys in their twenties want to get laid more than anything. A girl who will have sex with you on an ongoing basis without requiring you to invest in any of the work of actually being your girlfriend is like nirvana. He's not acting on his feelings because it works out better for him if he doesn't.
posted by mkultra at 3:45 PM on July 14, 2006

Someone above wrote the perfect phrase without knowing it: "Can I be your girlfriend?"
It's funny, it's honest, it will get a yes or no answer.
That's what you want, right? To be his girlfriend? Not to marry him or anything, but to have a relationship?
There you go.
posted by klangklangston at 6:58 PM on July 14, 2006

Um, yeah -- However you do it, just do it.

All the.. he said that, so that must mean, but then again he did this other thing, and I said this so maybe he thought ... is a whole lot of nothing.

You want to be with him.
Does he want to be with you?
Ask him.

You don't want to be me, five more years from now.
Maybe your friendship would survive if a romance wasn't going to happen, but I think the chances of that go down each year you spend in Limbo.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:14 PM on July 14, 2006

I know it's been a few days since anyone's posted any more answers on here but I just wanted to say in my own "I'm not a slutbag, I swear!" defense, that our relationship is not at all based on sex. If I may put it all out there: He was my "first" years ago (I was a bit of a late bloomer, I guess) after we'd known each other for almost a year. For a couple of months when we'd get together it would happen. Then from that point on (about 3 years) when we saw each other we didn't sleep together. One time we slept in the same bed after a party but that was it. The whole time he was in D.C. for school, we weren't sleeping together and our friendship remained as strong as ever. I saw him over Memorial Day weekend and we did sleep together, and then I saw him again over 4th of July weekend and we didn't. So, I just wanted to add that, so no one thinks I'm a delusional girl who's getting manipulated or "pulled one over" on. I've never felt like he was using me because I know he could get with any other girl, any other time, without dragging some long-distance pal into the mix. It just tells me that we're still attracted to each other after all these years; maybe that's naive of me too. Who knows. :)
posted by slyboots421 at 12:14 PM on July 19, 2006

I didn't think he was taking you for granted before, but after reading your update today, I think he's taking you for granted and I think you should move on.
No more convenient sex, and no relying on him for emotional support.
He's just not that into you.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:26 PM on July 19, 2006

Sprout, could you elaborate a little bit more on why you think that? I'm open to any wisdom/perceptions you have, I just think I did a bad job of explaining this. Or maybe you're right and I'm in denial.
Either way, what made you change your mind??
posted by slyboots421 at 12:37 PM on July 19, 2006

For me, a red light went off when I read the pattern. It's a very on/off pattern with no momentum or vector; you've been on/off for years with no 'progress'.
The fact is, your first sexual encounter together was years ago and he hasn't sincerely pursued a relationship with you at any time since. I think he thinks you two are just good friends, and he won't want anything more.

That said, I also think it would be very good for you to confront him about it, so you can get your true feelings in the open. If he doesn't have these feelings for you, it will be easier for you to move on once you know that for certain, directly from him.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:17 PM on July 19, 2006

Chiming back in -

I am with Sprout as far as the pattern goes - I don't necessarily think that he is taking you for granted, but I am concerned that the relationship is on'off without progress.

I am also with Sprout as far as getting your feelings out in the open.

One additional piece of advice - awhile back I said to a friend of mine, "[this boy] and I have great sex and a great friendship - that's the perfect combination, so why doesn't he want to 'date' me??!!" Before you ask him, make sure that *he* is really what you want, completely honestly, and not some idealized vision of the two of you together. I offer that based on *my* experience, I'm not saying that you don't have a realistic expectation of what a real relationship with him would be like.
posted by KAS at 2:30 PM on July 19, 2006

KAS has a really good point. It's dangerously easy to idealize the notion of a romantic relationship with someone you've been close to for a long time, without being able to see how wrong you are for each other.

The way I learned that was when I read Gone With The Wind. Seriously. Scarlett's obsessed with this idea that Ashley would be so perfect for her, but in reality, he is completely wrong for her. She's blinded from reality by the ideal.

I'm not saying that's what's going on in the poster's case here, I'm just saying everyone can learn a valuable lesson from Gone With The Wind.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:06 AM on July 20, 2006

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