When is the right time to tell a woman how I feel about her?
March 26, 2007 8:10 AM   Subscribe

RelationshipFilter: How long after a divorce should I wait to declare my feelings to another woman? Should I say anything at all? Ever?

I am a young (23) graduate student. I am currently in the process of ending a 1.5 year marriage. The marriage has been disintegrating for some time now, and I ended up moving out in January. I have seen an attorney and have the paperwork needed to file for divorce, but I haven't filled it out yet. I definitely plan on doing so in the near future. Without going into too much detail, I'll say that the marriage is ending due to emotional abuse and my growing awareness that it was unhealthy to me and things were never going to change. I've been going to counseling for a few months now to help learn why I put up with this sort of unhealthy relationship for so long. I feel like it's going well.

Now, for the good news: I've met a girl. We sit next to one another in a class, so we see each other every day. Over the course of the semester, I've really started to have feelings for her. She is brilliant, friendly, compassionate, intriguing, etc. She is a fundamentally decent person who cares about the same issues I do and has done real work to help others in need. She knows a ton about film and loves to watch movies, which is really important to me. We also share other interests.

I really like this girl a lot and I have tried, over the course of the semester, to spend more time with her. We've gone to see a couple movies (with a group the first time, by ourselves the second time) and have gone out to lunch a couple times. It's a little hard to get her to do things, because we're both consumed by schoolwork and she's extremely studious. She has declined many offers from me, but always for real reasons; i.e., I don't think she's blowing me off for no reason. When we get together she seems to really enjoy the company and conversation. I just asked her out for coffee tomorrow night, and she seemed really into it. I'm terrible at reading women, though, and I have no idea if she thinks of me in the same way I think about her. It's probably safe to say that she doesn't.

So. I'd really like to develop a relationship with this girl. My friends, family, and counselor all think that she sounds like a great person in general and a great person for me. (They're divided on the question I'm about to ask.)

There are six weeks left in the semester. We are spending our summers on opposite ends of the country, but will return to school in August. So I've been trying to develop the friendship this semester, in an attempt to leave it in such a way that allows us to pick it up when we move back in August. That's been the plan, anyway.

But lately, I've really begun feeling like I should tell her how I feel about her. The thought of leaving the question open throughout the summer isn't appealing to me. I'd like to say something like: "I think you're really great and I enjoy spending time with you. I think I'm beginning to develop feelings for you, and I want to know if it's okay to have these feelings until we meet again next semester." If she says yes, then I know we can resume the development of the friendship in August. If she says no, then I can try to stop thinking about her so much until then. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm tired of having these feelings for her without her knowing that I do.

Some worries:
--I'm worried that my marriage situation will scare her off. I'm technically not divorced yet, and even if I were, it may be too soon. (I think the paperwork will probably take a few months, but I hope for it to be over by July or August.) I should make clear two things: First, the marriage is over. There is no hope of reconciliation and I feel like I have moved on. Second, I made sure to tell the new girl about the divorce back in January. So it's not like it's a surprise to her.
--I'm worried that telling her all this may ruin the great friendship that we've developed so far.
--I'm worried that the small class sizes of graduate school will make it uncomfortable if I tell her all this and she rejects me. (Upperclass students told us during orientation to never date fellow students.) The school is big enough that you can generally avoid people, but small enough that you're bound to run in to them at some point in the next two years.

So what should I do? Should I say something to her? If I do say something, how do I say it to minimize creepiness and awkwardness? Any suggestions or encouragement would be appreciated. Please send personal correspondence to askmefi99@yahoo.com. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fill out the paperwork first.
posted by xammerboy at 7:20 AM on March 26, 2007


After you fill out the paperwork, send it in.

At this point you're on shaky ground. You're clearly trying to date without getting a divorce. She might be fine with that. She might not.

Wait 'till August. Having someone suddenly declare feelings for you as finals gear up is hell.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 AM on March 26, 2007


Personally, I'd just tell her everything. Honesty really does count for a lot, in both friendships and romantic relationships. iIt may not go the way you want but better to work it out now than overthink things and live with "what ifs" in the future.

Seize the moment and all that. Good luck!
posted by twistedonion at 7:25 AM on March 26, 2007


Here is my take on the whole situation. I was married for 2.5 years. It sounds like the exact same type situation I was in. I mean even up to the counseling etc. However, the girl I was interested in worked at the same company I did, but in a different building. We were friends at first, nothing more, but it built into something much more. We've now been married for five years and have a 2 year old and another on the way.

Anyway, my pops, who is the wisest man I know has a saying, "the answer is always no, if you don't ask". I say tell her, what's the worst that can happen? She rejects you? What I am getting at is that you can't live in fear of what might happen, don't borrow trouble. Tell her, if the worst thing that she does is reject you, no worries, there are plenty of more fish in the sea.
posted by Berts76 at 7:28 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why not play it by ear? If the right time to tell her how you feel comes up you should take the chance. However, if it doesn't happen and you have to wait until August you have little to lose. If you have been to the movies alone it is very possible that she has a good idea that you have romantic feelings for her. I've always found little use in formal declarations of love. Hang out with her, continue to spend time with her and if she feels the same way things will happen naturally.

Also, I know you feel that you are already over your marriage, but go easy on yourself. Feeling about these sorts of things can sneak up on you.
posted by Alison at 7:29 AM on March 26, 2007


1. relax.
2. sign the papers.
3. stay in touch with her.
4. wait.
5. hang out in august.
6. reevaluate.

if she's as great as she sounds, you don't need to burden her with all your rebound emotions. go, be single for a while. besides, declaring your feelings just as she's going away for the summer will probably freak her out.

and saying you're interested is one thing, but it's better to show it. just stay in touch with her while she's away. it's unlikely that she's going to meet the love of her life this summer, and if she does and it's not you, well, at least you walk away a little less hurt.

you are young. don't feel compelled to put labels and status reports on everything. just enjoy her company and see where it goes. she'll be back in the fall.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:30 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's almost as if you are determined to make sure that both you and this girl have the most miserable, endless summer of your lives. And that's if she actually likes you.

One thing at a time. You have a marriage to end. End it. Then when the new semester starts you will have a clean slate to draw on, as well as the confidence of having spent months alone without some new person to fixate on (hopefully). And you really do need that kind of time alone in order to appreciate the function of a relationship in your life. I know some people who, as of their 30's, have never known a time when they weren't either in a relationship or actively pursuing someone, and it seems to me a numbing and restlessly unsatisfying way to live.

Why would you need to avoid someone if they reject you? If you are cool and respectful about it, there's no reason that a "no" would stand in the way of your working with or around each other. If you feel that a rejection from her would interfere with your graduate work, then you need to seriously evaluate your own emotional stability before proceeding.

Spend this summer becoming the kind of person that someone would want to date; when she returns, you'll have all year to figure things out. In the meantime the urgency you are feeling is inappropriate.
posted by hermitosis at 7:33 AM on March 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


For the love of God say something! Nothing risked, nothing gained. What are you? Morman? Is she? I've been in a similar situation to you. Abuse, stayed anyway, wasn't married though. If you moved out in Jan then the relationship was over long before that. Right? Add on that you've started the divorce process and you're essentially single.

I'm worried that my marriage situation will scare her off. I'm technically not divorced yet, and even if I were, it may be too soon. (I think the paperwork will probably take a few months, but I hope for it to be over by July or August.) I should make clear two things: First, the marriage is over. There is no hope of reconciliation and I feel like I have moved on. Second, I made sure to tell the new girl about the divorce back in January. So it's not like it's a surprise to her. < -- if the divorce situation scares her off then she wasn't right for you. the person that is right for you will see through a piece of paper that doesn't mean anything to you anymore and that you are actively trying to get rid of.br>
I'm worried that telling her all this may ruin the great friendship that we've developed so far.
I'm worried that the small class sizes of graduate school will make it uncomfortable if I tell her all this and she rejects me. (Upperclass students told us during orientation to never date fellow students.) The school is big enough that you can generally avoid people, but small enough that you're bound to run in to them at some point in the next two years.
< -- it is as weird as you make it. don't be an idiot and it'll turn out ok. try something like this:br>
"I think you're really great and I enjoy spending time with you. I think I'm beginning to develop feelings for you, and I want to know if you feel the same. If you do, and nothing major changes over the summer while we're apart, I'd like to take our relationship to the next level. If you don't feel the same, I understand, and I'd like to go on being your friend because you're friendship is having a positive effect on my life."

If you haven't already, I'd also start talking to her about your marriage/divorce etc, what you went through, and how you're going on with you advice. Ask her for advice etc.
posted by ChazB at 7:35 AM on March 26, 2007


finish the damn paper work and then tell her how you feel. there's no reason in approaching another girl if you're not willing to end it with the previous one. and i'm not talking about 'wanting' to end it, actually end it. you'll be able to give this new girl the attention she deserves. don't get hung up on your marriage.
posted by Stynxno at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2007


Personally, I'd just tell her everything. Honesty really does count for a lot, in both friendships and romantic relationships. iIt may not go the way you want but better to work it out now than overthink things and live with "what ifs" in the future.

Seize the moment and all that. Good luck!


I second that advice. It's going to take some time to finalize the divorce, potentially well beyond the end of the summer. I would file the paperwork before approaching her though. "I have already filed for divorce" sounds much better than "I plan on filing for divorce."
posted by caddis at 7:43 AM on March 26, 2007


Forgot to add, make sure you follow through with the divorce papers as or before you are telling her all this. Otherwise, in her mind, you're no better than any other married man that is "divorcing" his wife.
posted by ChazB at 7:43 AM on March 26, 2007


Don't wait until the paperwork is filled, don't wait until the paperwork is submitted. Wait until the court date has come and gone and the ink is dry. Then wait a bit more.

It doesn't matter why the marriage ended, doesn't matter whose fault it was - when that day in court comes around it's going to be emotionally turbulent and you (imho) don't want anyone else to be along for that ride.
posted by devbrain at 7:46 AM on March 26, 2007


If you haven't already, I'd also start talking to her about your marriage/divorce etc, what you went through, and how you're going on with you advice. Ask her for advice etc.

Tacky, and counter-productive. Nothing says, "I'm not over my marriage," like rehashing it with the person you're trying to woo. You might as well literally hand her a red flag.
posted by hermitosis at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know how many times the earnest confession of feelings has worked for me? Zero! So, if you want her to turn you down that's definitely the way I'd go.

I'll tell you a little story: I liked this girl one time, I thought she was super great, etc. Like you and your girl, we had hung out a few times and she seemed to enjoy my company, but I didn't know whether she wanted to date me. So, I told her how I felt, and, guess what, it totally didn't work -- she wasn't into it.

Like you, I'm a grad student, and soon after this conversation I went home for the summer for about two months, and during this time the girl and I sent each other a few emails and talked on the phone a little, and, guess what, she figured out that she missed me! When I came back, she totally came on to me and we dated for a little while. (Disastrously, I might add.)

So, keep hanging out with her before she leaves. Over the summer, see if she seems interested in exchanging flirty emails or text messages. She'll be less busy and have more time to think about how great you are. Then, when you both get back in the fall, you'll see where it goes.
posted by myeviltwin at 7:50 AM on March 26, 2007


Thinkingwoman and hermitosis have it right. Take some time for yourself and for the end of your marriage. Even though you know your marriage is over, the filing of the papers and getting the decree may be more emotional for you than you think. Get through that, then get to know this woman better before making a declaration.

She either feels something for you or she doesn't and a declaration by you isn't going to affect that one way or the other. Stay in touch this summer and wait til the fall to see how it all plays out. Good luck!
posted by BluGnu at 8:12 AM on March 26, 2007


I got divorced in grad school...but I didn't even try to meet anyone. I wasn't ready for it until it was too close to graduation and moving to bother looking. Ask yourself if you're really ready, or looking to rebound.

If you want to go ahead, I might propose, for your consideration, making the divorce and delay tie together. Let her know you're interested in her, but that you can't in good conscience pursue until you're more clearly split--which, as it works out, is when you will see each other again.
posted by stevis23 at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2007


I'm female and I'm really put off by "declarations of feelings", especially if it's not clear what the other person expects to happen as a result of the declaration. How about working out exactly what it is that you think such a declaration will achieve, and then just ask for that directly?

For example, if you'd just like to not lose touch over the summer, just say "Can we keep in touch over the summer, I'd really like to hear how your vacation goes"? Keep in touch, send flirty emails, phone her up and talk about how you're doing. If you'd like to meet up after the holiday to do something or other, ask her if you can do that.

Then you also neatly avoid questions of whether talking about relationships is appropriate when you're still married.

If you were to ask me something like "I'd like to get snuggly with you, but not until after the holiday, how about that?", about the best answer you could expect would be "I don't know, ask me after the holiday", in which case you're back where you started anyway. In this case I recommend not bothering and putting up with your ambiguous status for six weeks.

As for whether it's acceptable to have feelings - it's always acceptable to have feelings. It's what you do about the feelings that's acceptable, or not.
posted by emilyw at 9:18 AM on March 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


Seconding the seconding of hermitosis. "I have feelings for you... now let's not see each other for three months" is a terrible, flirtation-killing obstacle to set up. It puts tremendous, flirtation-killing pressure on both of you for September. It makes any conversation you try to have in the meantime flirtation-killing awkward.

Add the fact that you're still married, and it's just a really really really bad idea.

Flirt with this new woman, stay in touch with her over the summer, but don't get all meta "Where is this heading?" until your slate is a bit clearer, and you two are going to be in the same place for more than six weeks.
posted by occhiblu at 9:26 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree, get everything worked out before trying to date her.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 AM on March 26, 2007


If you really like this girl, spare her the weirdness of dating a guy whose has almost, but not quite,divorced his wife. It's only fair that she get your undivided attention. If she likes you, she'll still be willing to see you after you've sorted out your shit and are standing on firm, uncomplicated ground.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm usually in the go for it camp, but in this case, I agree with all the people who are saying wait till the summer is over.

"I think I'm beginning to develop feelings for you, and I want to know if it's okay to have these feelings until we meet again next semester."

Someone who said this to me would get a very quizzical look and a response like "Hey, they're your feelings, why are you asking my permission to have them?"
posted by ottereroticist at 10:31 AM on March 26, 2007


Give yourself some time. It's nice to be excited about someone, and certainly there is uncertainty in a divorce that might be ameliorated by pledging yourself to someone so soon, but since you'll be apart anyway you should wait until the fall to make your move. Do stay in touch, but let it go at that.
posted by OmieWise at 10:40 AM on March 26, 2007


Women don't like men who start their sentences with "My wife..." Just be friends for now and see what happens next year.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:59 AM on March 26, 2007


I realize you're 23 and probably can't help it at this point but really, telling someone about The Feelings You Have For Them is just pointless and weird outside the context of a relationship - and sitting next to someone for a semester and going to one movie with them is not a relationship.

This isn't to say I don't think you should be clear to people who you meet and like that you like them, but there's a world of difference between "I always enjoy talking to you, let's keep in touch over the break" and "I'm developing feelings for you." (which, let's be honest, is a slightly less creepy "I'm starting to fall for you" but has the same future implications)

You're not even halfway extricated from a marriage that you entered into about the same time you were legal to drink. You should take this opportunity to try living in the moment and stop doing all these things that are sweeping and about next year.
posted by phearlez at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2007


Give yourself some time.

Seconded. It was quite some time after my divorce before I was fit to go on dates. Of course, my marriage lasted longer than yours, but still, divorce is a terrible experience and screws you up badly, regardless of how well you think you're dealing with it (and frankly, the fact that you have the paperwork but haven't filled it out yet suggests that you're not doing too well). Wait and hope that after the summer you're capable of dealing with a relationship (though that seems awfully soon to me). Important fact to keep in mind: if this doesn't work out, there will be other women you like just as much. Trust me on this.
posted by languagehat at 1:20 PM on March 26, 2007


Get your marriage sorted out as soon as possible.

After the holiday continue to hang out with her, but don't get your hopes up - if you've already been spending a bit of time together, and nothing has happened, it's fairly unlikely she has romantic feelings for you. Every time a guy has told me he likes me that way, it was when I thought we were just friends, and it made me feel awkward and uncomfortable, and I stopped hanging out with them. With relationships where the feelings have been mutual, things just progressed naturally , and there was no need for declarations.
posted by Sar at 7:10 PM on March 26, 2007


The best relationships are built out of the best friendships. Sometimes it can be hard, but keep your pants on and do your best to really get to know her as a friend, then in the fall see if you still feel the same way.

I once dated a guy that was going through a divorce, it ended up being the worst relationship of my life, I was his support through it all. Afterwards he told me that he couldn't feel the same way about me because I reminded him of the divorce. (He also ended up being a complete loon, but thats beside the point.)

Good luck!
posted by trishthedish at 7:27 PM on March 26, 2007


She has declined many offers from me, but always for real reasons

If she was actually interested in you, she would have found ways around those real reasons. She is trying to let you down without hurting you, but she's being indirect enough that you're not getting the hint.
posted by WCityMike at 10:05 AM on March 27, 2007


why do your tags include 'race', 'biracial' and 'interracial'? What does that have to do with anything, especially as you don't mention them in your post?
posted by jacalata at 8:52 PM on March 27, 2007


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