You’ve been dating a guy for a little while — no more than a month. You get along great, enjoy your time together, and perhaps have had a sleepover (or two). But you’re just getting to know each other, and you aren’t even sure if you’re interested in him long-term, although you enjoy his company. But there are some yellow flags that make you doubt that you’ll be together in six months. You try to put aside your concerns and just focus on enjoying your time together.
Then it happens. As he hugs and kisses you goodbye, he whispers in your ear, “I love you.”
You freeze. While you’ve longed to hear those three words — but not necessarily from him — you are caught off guard. What do you do? Do you utter “I love you” back, even though you know you are fond of him, but don’t quite feel “love” at this point? Or do you convince yourself that loving someone is the same as being fond of them, so it’s okay to say it?
If you hesitate too long, he’ll know it’s an obligatory “I love you,” not a heartfelt one. How do you respond — with “Thank you,” “I know” or “There are many things I love about you, too”? These sound so flat. But if you say those three words and don’t truly mean them, will more harm be done? So should you not say anything?
The quandary is when you know you care for him, am fond of him, yes, perhaps even love him, but you know you’re not in love with him. The former can be felt for anyone toward whom you have affection. The latter is for very few — someone who makes your heart beat faster, you ache for when he’s away, have a mix of excitement and calm when you hear his voice, and get those silly goose bumps when he strokes your arm or kisses you. “In love” is reserved for someone with whom you think you could go the distance, will have your back, and be your partner, mate or husband.
So, what do you say when he says “I love you” and you’re not ready to say it back? Maybe you know you’ll never be able to sincerely say “I’m in love with you,” but right now you have to say something.
At this time, a simple whispered, “Thank you, sweetie” should suffice. But the next time you talk, you need to bring up how you feel. Something like, “I really appreciated your telling me you love me the other day. I like how you are able to express your feelings to me. I want you to know that I am very fond of you, and it takes me a while to feel I love someone. I don’t want you to think I don’t care about you if I don’t say ‘I love you.’ And I don’t want you to feel you can’t say it to me if that’s what you’d like to do.”
But the larger picture needs to be addressed at some point. If you are both seeing this as an activity-partner-with-benefits relationship, then the “love” issue shouldn’t be a problem. But when one of you sees the other as “the one” and the other realizes that s/he probably won’t ever feel that way, best to get that out in the open. If it is you who is not feeling it, then it’s your responsibility to start the conversation and be as gentle as possible. You don’t want to lead him on if he has a different expectation.
However, I also know that this conversation can create hurt and upset, even if you’ve been honest all along that you’re not “in love.” False expectations can build up quickly. So best not to let the fantasies simmer.
Technorati Tags: dating Internet, dating online, senior dating, bbw dating, mature dating, dating over 50, dating over 40, online dating advice, dating after 40, dating after 50, over 40 dating, 40+ dating, dating after forty