Finding the Courage to Say I Love You

Dear Liz,

For the past 5 or so years I have been on and off with this boy. We have never officially been boyfriend and girlfriend though. We would talk like we were, text constantly, and went on dates. The first time this ended he ended up dating someone else so I moved on. Once we were both single again, years later, we ended up right back where we were. That lasted for about 8 or 9 months. During that time period he went to school in another country for 6 months. When he came back things were great, we went on a date, and then after a month things slowly faded away. We didn’t talk like we used to, we were just friends. It has been at least 2 years since we were more than friends. Neither of us dated much. In the back of my head I always thought that the two of us would end up together. These feelings stopped me from being in a relationship with someone I really liked. Now he is in a serious relationship and I don’t know how to move on. For the past 5 years he has also been one of my best friends. Do I have to stop talking to him completely to move on? How can I start this process?

Dear Friend,

You just might have to stop talking with him—not forever, but not for two weeks either.  And here’s why:  you love him.  And because you love him, you need to separate from him in order to gain the perspective only separation can give you.  Regular contact, even just “as friends,” is likely to keep you stuck, emotionally speaking, which will make it difficult for your heart to be open to loving someone else.

There is a second option, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  If he is not engaged or married, then perhaps you can go out on a limb and finally tell this person how you feel….really feel. It strikes me as unusual that the two of you have been doing this dance for five years, yet the question, “so what is this?” never came up.  I suspect that you may have been hesitant to express your true feelings, because doing so would have forced a resolve, and when we fear hearing “I don’t feel the same…” we tend to avoid those important conversations and hope for the best.

Going silent regarding our romantic feelings hardly ever gets us where we want to be (a caveat here:  if you have romantic feelings for someone who is already married/committed to someone else, then going silent on those feelings is the way to go). Starting as friends, discovering the attraction, acting on that attraction, and moving more deeply into intimacy is a natural process that doesn’t need to be spoken about per se, but once there has been sexual intimacy, both should be in a position to talk about the “graduated” involvement.  If not, someone is usually left holding on and hoping for more.

I don’t have a sense of just how intimate your relationship was, but a good rule of thumb is that if you’re ready for sex with someone, then you need to be ready for open-hearted engagement, which includes the honest expression of feelings.

If I were you—if I loved someone but never told that person—I’d tell.  It’s hard, really hard, but what do you have to lose?  There is no shame in loving someone who does not reciprocate those feelings.  If he shares that he didn’t/doesn’t feel the same, you will be hurt, yes, but you will also feel incredibly empowered by your courage to let love lead rather than fear—that sort of courage will wash over you, make you even more beautiful, and strengthen you as you go about mending your heart.

Closure is necessary for all of us, but there is no genuine closure where things are left unsaid.

And remember, there is mystery to this love thing.  Our soul recognizes the other soul who will edge us into our wholeness, our healing, our purpose…if his soul isn’t saying “yes,” then the truth is, he is not the one, and least not right now.

Love, Liz

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