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We have been seeing each other for almost 3 months, she is 24, I'm 26 years old. We did not 'date' in the regular way, but she comes over to my place regularly (weekly), where we usually 'netflix and chill'.

I am really not a good talker when it's about relationships, and I think she isn't either, so it has never been brought up. We just talk about what happened that week and what bothers us at work, usual small-talk stuff.

I fear that if I bring up my feelings about her, that it is either too early or too late. She could have not thought about it enough, or she might have had feelings at the beginning, but due to the fact that I haven't told her that I love her, her feelings have vanished (happened to me before).

Last week we joined an evening activity with several mutual friends, but before we got there she asked me if we could keep our thing a secret for now. Although I would like to make it public, I respected her wish and kept silent.

I love her and hope we will have a lasting relationship together, but I don't know how (and when) to tell her that. When we are together, I feel like this feeling is mutual, but the fact that she doesn't want our friends to know about us makes me really uncertain.

What I want to achieve:

  • Find the right time to tell her how I feel about her
  • Set up a situation where I can tell her
  • Find out if she loves me back

More Information:

Yes, 'netflix and chill' means watching flicks and have sex. She usually stays for the night.

My last relationship was a long time ago (5+ years) and ended because of related reasons, I was not communicating my feelings well enough.

  • 10
    Did you ask her why she wanted to keep "your thing" a secret? Also, when you say you love her, might you mean that you are in love with her. How long have you known her for? – Tycho's Nose Oct 31 '17 at 11:13
  • 14
    Are you sure this is nothing more than friends with benefits kinda thing for her? – Xander Oct 31 '17 at 11:31
  • 13
    How serious are the words "I love you" in your locale? Some people make it out to be almost as significant as proposing marriage, whereas others use it pretty casually. I think it makes a big difference how serious it´ll be taken. – Erik Oct 31 '17 at 13:45
  • 49
    Update: I took Catijas and Xanders approach yesterday and cooked her an awesome 3 course dinner, after which i initiated our first relationship-talk. It turns out that she does have similar feelings for me and the keeping it a secret was to give herself some more time to think about it without external influences of her friends. I said I would give her some more time, but I have a really good feeling about this. @fixerlt – anon Nov 3 '17 at 8:35
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    Update 2 as requested by @NicHartley and StefanS: It went on like this for some months until I set her a hard deadline to decide in january. She was still unsure so I ended it. 1 month later she asked me to go on a serious date, but by then I was already interested in another gal. – anon Jun 20 '18 at 12:50

10 Answers 10

134

You said in a comment:

I don't know how much it means to people in my locale, but to me it's quite serious. I would only use it in a serious relationship. I guess by saying it to her I am kind of trying to set up a conversation where we agree on where we stand.

I think you're going about it backwards.

You are in an undefined relationship right now. You don't know whether or not this woman sees you as a boyfriend or if you're an unattached sexual partner. If what you want is a conversation where you agree on where you stand, initiate one... but don't initiate it by saying "I love you."

You clearly see this statement as a very serious one, so reserve it for someone who is primed to accept it. How? By shifting the relationship. Invite her on a date - emphasis here that you're trying to move away from a strictly physical relationship, so don't make this one of your usual Netflix and chill nights. It needs to be something different where the expectation isn't a hookup but some other sort of diversion.

What that is is up to you - a nice dinner at your place (since she seems to want this relationship to be private) - or up the ante and make it a public dinner and movie event or lunch and mini golf or breakfast and a stroll in the mountains... whatever floats your boat but the most important thing is to orchestrate it so that you have time to have a real conversation about where you stand and what your "future" looks like.

Talk about your feelings (other than love). Be specific. Be you, though. Be positive, smile, make it fun, rather than too serious.

  • Tell her why you enjoy spending time with her
  • Tell her what you get out of your relationship.

Explain that you really enjoy your relationship but want to talk to her about where the relationship is going. Tell her what you want.

  • "I've had a really good time today and I'd like to do it again. I'd like to date you - would you be interested in that?"
  • "We've been having an amazing time together, today and before and I'd really like a serious relationship with you, if that's something you're interested in."

Be prepared for things to not turn out the way you hope - not because it's what's going to happen but so that you can have some responses ready if she has questions. For example, if she declines the date idea, you might need to talk to her about what type of a relationship you have right then.

The most important thing is to be you. Don't use my phrasing up there, don't use my date recommendations. Do something that you and she both enjoy that doesn't involve "chilling". It's completely possible (considering your ages) that she's not interested in or ready for a committed relationship. Be prepared for that and be accepting of her choices. If she wants to think about it, let her think but ask to talk about it again in a week or two. Leaving it open ended can get a bit confusing. People often need a deadline to really work on something.

You also need to respect your own feelings, though. If you don't share the same relationship goals, your interactions with her are going to get awkward. If she doesn't want to date you and you can't 100% accept that you're only a sexual partner for her, it may be best for you to get out of the relationship entirely rather than hoping at some point in the future she will change her mind. This sort of thing happens all the time and you're often better off either finding someone interested in the same sort of relationship as you are or revisiting your relationship with her at a later date, when she's interested in something more.

21

This could be one of two very different things, and it's near-impossible for us strangers on the internet to tell which it is.

Scenario 1: the one-sided relationship

The first possibility is that she has a very different idea of what this is than you do. It sounds like you're developing some pretty strong feelings; it may be that she just thinks of you as a "friend with benefits" or something of that nature, and this is just a casual hookup to her. She comes over, she gets to chat about her day, vent a little, chill out with a movie, and scratch an itch or two. Enjoyable, but nothing serious.

If this is the case, your best bet is to politely but firmly back out of the relationship. There's no need to cut all ties or stop seeing her, but you need to set a few boundaries. First, you need to set a boundary in your own mind: she is not your SO, and this is not the sort of relationship you want. Allowing yourself to become more attached will only make it hurt more when she explains that the sex is going to have to stop because she's seeing someone and it's going really well.

The second boundary to set is with her: let her know that you don't think things can continue the way they've been going. If you must explain why, just tell her that you don't think it's a good idea for your emotional state, you're not doing very well with the whole "casual" thing, and it's probably better to just call it a day before someone gets hurt.

She may know that it's one-sided, or she might be under the impression that you see the relationship the same way she does. Even if she does know how you feel, she might not be deliberately taking you for a ride; she might just not know how to address it, or be hoping that you'll realise and get past your feelings. Don't assume malice where misunderstanding or awkwardness-aversion are just as plausible.

Scenario 2: the awkward beginnings

The second possibility is somewhat happier: she may be in a similar position to you, just a little behind. It's possible that she has feelings for you, but she's not sure how much, or exactly what they mean, or what she wants to do about them. Maybe she wasn't expecting these feelings to develop, maybe she's conflicted because she saw you as a friend and now this is happening, maybe she used to see this as a FWB thing but now it's something else. If this is the case, then her asking you not to tell anybody is simply a precaution and a defence: she knows that as soon as you say "we're a couple", people will get excited - which she may find a little overwhelming - and start asking questions - which she may not be sure of the answers to.

In this scenario, you'll want to have a conversation about maybe doing some other things besides your usual Netflix-and-chill routine, and evolving gradually into whatever style of dating you two want to engage in. Take it slow, and mostly keep doing whatever you've been doing because it seems to have worked so far.

How to tell the difference

This is generally viewed as the hard part. The solution is actually very simple, but in relationships, "simple" is very different to "easy", and it's often the simplest parts that are hardest. This may be one of those times, because the simplest way to find out what's going on is to talk to her about it.

You've said you're not great at talking about your feelings, and you suspect that she might not be either. I won't lie to you - that's not going to work in your favour. On the other hand, it's absolutely a thing you'll have to figure out if you want a lasting relationship, so you may as well bite the bullet and try it now.

You said that she asked you to "keep our thing secret for now". That's a good start - it gives you an opening. Just ask her - casually, and gently - "hey, I was just wondering about what you said the other day - I don't mind keeping it a secret for now, but what sort of things might make you more comfortable with people knowing?"

You're not asking for a timeline here - do not mention dates or timeframes. What you want is more like a roadmap; stages along the journey from "friends" to "in a relationship". If she says she doesn't want to make it official until you've been on a few proper dates, or something of that kind, then that's something you can work towards. If she says something more vague, like she wants some time to think, or she's not sure what she's feeling, then maybe you could suggest - again, gently - that you go on a few dates, just to see how it goes, and maybe that'll help her work it out.

It might be that the conversation doesn't really bear much fruit. That's fine; if she's really reluctant to talk about it, just let it be and move on to safer conversations, and circle back to it a week or two later. You may have to do this a few times, but that's alright as long as you make a little progress each time the conversation comes up. By "progress", I mean... well actually it's hard to define clearly what "progress" means, but in general if you wait til she's gone and you're alone, and you ask yourself "is anything different to the last time we had that talk?", chances are you'll know the answer, even if you're not willing to admit it. It might be that she's opening up more about her feelings; it might be that she's admitted she feels something for you; maybe she's started taking the initiative and suggesting date-like activities you could do together.

On the other hand, if these conversations start to get repetitive, or if she keeps shutting you down whenever you try to ask, then it starts to become more likely that you're actually in Scenario 1 and she's trying to keep you from figuring out so she can take advantage of it for a little longer. It might also be that she's just really unsure and averse to talking about it, but to be frank, I wouldn't advise starting a relationship with someone who's that unsure whether they want to be with you, and unwillingness to discuss her feelings with you is rarely a good sign, so either way your course of action is the same: revert to Scenario 1, set boundaries, and get out.

Some small observations

Two things I want to pick up on.

First, when you went out with some friends, she asked you not to mention it to anyone. That indicates that she's aware that you feel there might be something to announce, which suggests that she is at least partially aware of your feelings. I'd advise against reading into that, but it's worth bearing in mind.

Second, you seem to be heading into classic new-relationship-overthinking territory. You're trying to figure out how she's feeling, you're coming up with scenarios ("she might have had feelings at the beginning, but due to the fact that I haven't told her that I love her, her feelings have vanished"), and generally analysing the whole thing in great detail. You've even come to ask the internet for advice and assistance in how to proceed.

I'm not criticising you; this is normal, and just shows that you feel pretty strongly about her. All I'm saying is that by doing this, you're complicating things, and it's making you miss the obvious solution: if you want to know how she feels, ask her. Be honest, be open, and be gentle. Tell her you've been thinking about your relationship, and you're not sure what it is or where it's going, so you'd like to get her take on things. She can answer that question way better than any of us strangers on the internet.

19

I wanted to touch a little on the whole secret thing. You replied to my comment that this relationship is not just physical, which could very well be true. Keeping a relationship secret is also a really good way to nurture it without any external influences. Keeping it a secret gives also time to all involved to figure out what the relationship is without making it public knowledge.

You say you're not too big on expressing your feeling verbally, perhaps you're good at expressing you feelings through cooking. Consider preparing a lavish dinner that you cooked for her or even prepare together. Enjoy your dinner and then when you move to the couch to relax, share your feelings.

If you're not good at cooking, you could also take her to a restaurant for a romantic dinner. You need to break away from the "netflix and chill" mentality if you're going to move this relationship forward. Once you're done with your dinner, take a walk, sit at a bench and talk. The build-up alone will give you a feeling about how the whole thing will go.

After you express your feelings to her, be prepared for the fact that she doesn't reciprocate. The fact that she didn't say it back doesn't mean she doesn't feel it. You should not clam up and make things awkward, just give it time.

12

A lot of comments are about how you need to play relationship games in order to progress (be less available, date other girls etc)

I'm an orthodox I guess when it comes down to it. If you want to achieve long term happiness and generally not turn your life into a lifelong RPG where your happiness is tied to outwitting you partner, be honest, simple and straightforward about the relationship.

Tell her that you enjoy her company and like spending time with her and that you want to discuss where it is going. Next step depends on how she responds.

WARNING: It is entirely possible that you are her comfort buddy and nothing more so be prepared for a harsh blow if it comes down to it.

PS: Do not say that you love her. You like being with her and it's a good idea to keep it at that for now.

8

Well, to assume that she is exploiting your company for selfish reasons just because she wanted to keep a secret is a little too much. There can be several reasons why she asked you to keep a secret. Maybe she is just not sure yet, because neither of you had make any movement to something more official and serious.

Anyway, there's a lack of communication between the two of you. To talk about it is the best way to understand each others feelings. You can start by asking her what is this relationship that both of you are living in right now. Is it just for fun? Are there feelings envolved? What's the label? Is there any?

Bring the subject in some favorable moment and procceed from there. Hopefully, you'll learn what's is going on from her perspective. Depending on how things go, you'll feel confident enough to tell her you love her and that you want to build something else by her side. Or, in a worst scenario, to move on without her.

8

Interestingly, yesterday I happened to be reading stuff I wrote when I was your age, on this very subject.

I agree with the other posters who say (based on your limited description) “that’s not a SO(backup link).

First of all, when you get together, do you talk? You mentioned “small talk” about what bothers you at work and stuff, but is it a minute of social introduction, or do you have long conversations and exchange philosophical views and personal anecdotes in some depth? Do you — can you — spend solid hours just talking? Do you know what major events shaped her life, and what her goals and dreams are?

If you don’t talk, really, to this extent, then I would say you don’t know what love is yet and what you’re feeling is infatuation or attraction (the desire to become closer). I would call this talking as the activity in itself, not “small talk”.

If you do talk, then talk about movies. Do you watch old romantic movies with her? Discuss them, and the relationships portrayed. A perfect example is the 1957 version of An Affair to Remember, when Cary Grant waited for Deborah Kerr at the top of the Empire State Building until midnight. How he changed his life around in order to have a meaningful relationship.

Talk about your pasts, and what you want for your futures.

Talk about what love means. The ancient Greeks had four different words for love: storge, philia, eros, and agape.

What I posted nearly 23 years ago:

The word "love" can be used for a lot of things. You can love ice cream, love your best friend, love your relatives, love the time you spend at a favorite activity, love you dog, love your spouse.

But, your question indicates a specific use. A line I heard in a TV show once: A person told her best friend (of opposite gender), "I love you. I'm just not in love with you."

So, what's it mean to be "bonded" in a romantic relationship with someone? The above would indicate that it's something more than the normal use of ‘love’ as meaning a strong affection.

So, given that feeling "love" makes you high, what happens next? My "SO" would be a best friend. This would be the kind of friend I could discuss anything with, share secrets, comfort and take comfort from, share in common activities with, and in general be the first person I think of when wanting to share some joke or idea. Lying would be impossible. I don't mean I would not want to do it, but rather than two people who know each other that well would know how the other thinks. An outstanding lie (such as trying to hide a surprise party) would influence other thoughts and behaviors to the point where I noticed the discrepancy from how she reacts to something vs. how I thought she would. Close couples seem to read each other's mind, because they know how the other thinks and will know what the other might have thought from some stimulus.

There are best friends and there are Best Friends. My wife would be the latter. But, as is being discussed on another thread, being close friends is not all there is to it. Sex is just the icing on the cake, or so we like to believe. But physical attraction still plays a role. Physical contact should be pleasant, and the relationship should be intimate on the physical level.

What I did, with a long-distance relationship that was only long discussions, was discuss this very subject for a while. So when I did say those three words (at the end of a real-life date), she knew I wasn’t being frivolous and exactly what complete romantic love meant to me. It was still difficult.


Especially considering your last line, you need to communicate your feelings with each other. Not just the in-the-moment feelings towards each other, but everything. Again, can you tell us now what her 5-year plan is, what are her long-term goals in life, and what are her dreams? Do you know her family dynamic in some detail, and how it’s the same and different from your own?

Finally, what do you want in a relationship? Do you understand that yourself, and, just as I ask if you know her goals and family dynamic and such, does she know what you want in a relationship, too?


When it comes to providing for a shared experience, movies are only so-so. Sure, you both see the same show, but without following it up with discussions it doesn’t really let you know the other person. There is no interaction.

So plan other activities where you do things together. Perhaps eat in, but fix dinner together. Go to local attractions like (this time of year) the Christmas lights and community presentations.

5

Give her little romantic presents every day for a week (flowers, box of chocolates, teddy bear, etc.). If she wasn't thinking about you as a potential romantic partner, she will now. Then you can tell her how you feel.

It won't blindside her and you'll get an answer to you question. Just keep in mind that it might not be the answer you want. My suggestion is that you don't try to "convince" her to like you by trying to find the perfect combination of timing and words.

5

I want to tag three quick things ...

  1. Assumptions - your life is going to suck if you assume things about what people are thinking or try to imagine their motivation for doing something. Like the secret relationship. Trying to guess this stuff is a surefire way add stress to life.
  2. New relationship energy - This stuff lasts up to 2 years ... its basically where you are riding the emotional good feels, regardless of facts. You seem pretty thoughtful, but it happens to lots of people.
  3. Communication methods - These are important, because if you pick the wrong one...ie something meaningless to her - she won't understand what you are trying to do. You are searching for ways or suggestions to do things. You should read 5 languages of love ... then figure out what type of methods work best with her. Start small. The 5 languages isn't super great, but being aware of it makes your life easier. The suggestions in there for each type are pretty good. If you're worried about how to talk to her, check out the non-violent communication techniques in the Book.

The most important thing is that you try to view all dating as finding the right person, at the right time in both of your lives.

Secondly, keep in mind it's not a game, where the right moves will get you the girl - that's bad teen movies junk - because all that does is cloud up & confuse realizing if the two of you are a good fit.

An example, pay attention to those warning signs - if you're anxious a lot about her - even if she likes you, her controlling the situation and information might be a red flag to her not caring about your emotions as much as her own. Sitting down to tell her how you feel when she tries to hide you & asking when/if/how you two will share that you hang out as more than friends is a really good idea, whether you are intimate physically or not ...

A final closing thought, when I read your "Find out if she loves me back", I think that's definitely a step in the right direction, in that you are getting ready to either step up the relationship or make room in your life for someone who will want the next level of relationship. I feel like saying, "love" is a bit premature in of that you aren't even in an official relationship, nor have you lived together to figure out if you still 'like' each other after the fights.

Overall, It sounds like you are thoughtful & a good guy - either way, I wish you luck in life!

  • 1
    Although its not a real answer to my question, I still appreciate your inputs and will try to remember them. Thank you. – anon Oct 31 '17 at 15:34
  • Your welcome, it's a difficult question! As the way you ask sheds light on a mindset that is potentially pretty toxic in stress & anxiety for you. If you pop the 5 languages of love book before you get married - you will be doing yourself a huge favor, the dividends from both books is pretty exceptional. – Mirv - Matt Oct 31 '17 at 15:59
4

I'd suggest (and this would apply to any future relationship of yours too), that you regularly "check in" about the health and status (if applicable) of the relationship.

What this would look like: Every once in a while (once a month, once every two months, whatever) when you guys are in a good mood and location to talk; ask: "How are you doing? How are you feeling our relationship is going?" This can be continued with questions such as "Is there anything you feel is lacking?", "Where do you see our relationship in xx months (6 months/1 year/5 years/etc)?", "What do you want out of our relationship?".

By asking these kinds of questions you open up a conversation and in theory she would respond with her answer and then ask you for your opinion/perspective (if she doesn't ask though, you can always give your answer anyways).

Having an open dialogue is important. My husband and I refer to the conversation(s) we had at the beginning of our relationship as "DTR" conversations. "Define The Relationship" conversations :)

You also said that you have trouble expressing your feelings. It may help you to read a book called "The 5 Love Languages". The premise is that there are 5 "languages" of love: Words, Touch (sexual and non-sexual), Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gifts. Every person has one (or more) of these languages that is "their language". The default language a person has is the way each person will by default express love and interprets love coming from others. For example, a person who's language is "Gifts" may pick up little trinkets for their SO all the time, leave notes, pick a flower for their SO that they saw on their walk, etc. But if their SO's language is say... Touch, they may wonder if the person loves them because they would rather hold hands, hug, etc and the gifts may be mostly meaningless to them.

In general a person's language is the default way that THEY express love but may not be how their SO interprets it. For your previous SO, I'd assume that perhaps hers may have been Words and I'd assume that "words" is NOT your language if you have trouble expressing your feelings. The book helps to illustrate ways that people can make efforts to express love in their SO's language: in a way that their SO can "understand".

Regarding your immediate problem though, I also vote for "start dating her properly". Take her to the movies, take her for coffee, dinner, wander the mall together, go hiking, exercise together, play games, discuss books, cook meals together, etc.

  • Those DTR conversations sound like a good idea, i will definately keep those in mind. Also, this is the second answer that mentions the book "The 5 Love Languages", maybe i should give that a read. – anon Oct 31 '17 at 17:58
3

Saying I love you is always a big step in a relationship. From reading what you said I am seeing the strong possibility that you want to say "I love you" to her to seal the relationship up. Or as a way to add some definition and security to the relationship. What you will be doing is forcing an issue, and when that happens it could go either way for you, might end up screwing up what you have or bring you joy and bliss or you may look back and find that Netflix and chill was the only great thing about this relationship.

The best relationship advice I ever got was, you should always be ready to walk away. This just means a little detachment. It is not unhealthy to be sure that you have what you need from a relationship. The way to get that is to talk to her. No tricks, no BS (and I think telling her you love her might be a little BS), just step up the relationship, with something simple like letting her know that you want to step up the relationship. How you do that should be they way you want to do it, with flowers, seeing her more, more conventional dating, meeting parents, whatever it is your comfortable expressing honestly and without to much BS to it, and makes you feel sure she understands the intent here. But you do need to express that your fondness is growing before you throw the I love you grenade. You will know the day I love you is right, and will be able to say it easily as simple truth, and not as an expression of insecurity with the terms of your endearment as they currently are.

If your ready to walk away, its just like buying a car, everything is going to go easier for you. Your going to get the car you want, or your going to find the car you want. With a mate, the only thing you should never want, is a person that does not want you pretty much as is.

Step up your game, let her know, tell her what your feeling, and/or show her what your feeling. If your willing to walk away, you will be comfortable walking away from the notion of a long term committed relationship with her, and maybe still maintain that short term recreational relationship with her.

And if it doesn't work out, please get out more. Five years in your early twenties without a relationship is recipe for relationship dysfunction in the future. Every time you go out, every relationship you have, rather successful or not, teaches you something about yourself and what you like, that definitely makes you better for the person you will hopefully find someday.

protected by A J Apr 6 '18 at 4:39

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