It might sound like they?re promising you everything that you want, but it?s not really what you think it is.
Photo by Marcelo Matarazzo on Unsplash
by: E.B. Johnson
There is no declaration of love like ?I love you? except for (of course) the infamous: ?I think I have feelings for you.? While this phrase is ambiguous to its core, it?s taken the world-over by hopeless romantics as a sign that things are changing ? despite their intuitive sense of dread. When someone tells you that they have feelings for you, it can be easy to interpret those feelings as love. Emotions are complex, however, and that?s especially true when it comes to romantic love.
While the phrase ?I have feelings for you? literally denotes an array of feelings that might be at play, the eager heart takes it as an eager promise of love returned 100% of the time. The problem is, though, that having feelings for someone isn?t? the same as being in love with them. How can you tell the difference, though, and what does the phrase ?I have feelings for you? really mean? The answer isn?t always clear, but there are some concrete places to begin translating this cryptic promise-all.
Why it?s hard to be honest about our feelings.
Giving someone the old feelings brush-off most commonly happens when we don?t trust ourselves or we?re afraid of disappointing the people that matter most to us. When it comes to love, our fears are very real and primal, but they must be faced with honesty and openness ? that includes the words we share with our friends and the people who love us.
Fear of conflict
Fear of conflict is one of the main reasons we drink down the phrase ?I have feelings for you,? failing to challenge it or compare it against our own visions for a relationship. Whether you suffer from childhood trauma ? or just a bad track record when it comes to confrontation ? fear of conflict is the number one reason we so often fail to get what we both want and need from the world around us.
Fear of rejection
As humans, we have an innate desire to be liked and even more of us have an innate desire to be loved. When you cling too tightly to this need, however, it results in a fear of rejection that can make you desperate; settling for less than you deserve and looking for love in all the wrong places. Part of building our confidence and finding the partnerships we need is getting back to our strengths and realizing that not every ?no? is a heartbreak (or even anything to do with us at all).
Suffering from low self-esteem has a dramatic effect on our lives, and it?s especially corrosive when it comes to our romantic relationships. If you?re someone who thinks you?re worthless, or who has a low opinion of yourself, then you might chase after someone who isn?t interested in getting into a relationship; or, you might find yourself falling for the old hand-off of ?I have feelings for you?.
Bad past experiences
When you have a long trail of bad relationships behind you, it can make it hard for you to accurately process and relate to love when it comes to future relationships. You might have been taught that it wasn?t safe to get close to someone, or you might have learned that you have to cling desperately to those who make it clear that they aren?t emotionally available. However it works out, bad past relationships take a heavy toll on our current partnerships.
What ?I have feelings for you? actually means.
More often than not, when someone says ?I have feelings for you? it is because they are unable to give voice to their feelings or the thoughts that feed them. There are many other meanings this eternally ambiguous phrase could hold, though, and none of them are as promising as ?I love you too?.
1. Our friendship *might* become love
Feelings are a strange thing that can grow, shift and morph over time. In the strangest turn of coincidence we can sometimes find ourselves in love with someone we once considered a friend. In those instances the phrase could give voice to this change and indicate that things are shifting from the realm of platonic to the romantic.
?I have feelings for you,? can imply a growing emotional attachment. It can imply a concern that transcends the traditional bonds of friendship. When someone tells you that they have ?feelings? for you, it hints at a deeper attraction that is characterized more by a desire than a general enjoyment of your company. Could it become love one day? Sure. Is it right now? Eh.
Sometimes, this phrase can mean that love is on the horizon, but it?s important to always maintain that view with a hefty dose of reality. What?s love now could be indifference tomorrow. After all, the real cooking has not yet begun. How you deal with such a response is entirely up to you, but it must first begin with an honest assessment of your feelings, as well as the entire track record of your relationship with the person. Do you feel the same way? Make sure you do before you give them any response otherwise.
2. You need to move on
We don?t always associate the phrase ?I have feelings for you? with a breakup, but it can be used to signal a different, more significant shift in where your relationship is at with someone. Though this phrase can one day signal a love freshly-bloomed, it can also signal the end to something that might have been.
Above all else, someone who uses phrase in a serious conversation is showing a lack of commitment. They don?t know where they?re at, and they don?t entirely know where they stand with you. Though they realize there is some strong emotional bond, they aren?t entirely sure of it?s value. It can be both a cop out and a sign that you?re dealing with someone who is still searching.
Those who want to end things with someone they still care about will often soften the blow by beginning the conversation with ?I have really strong feelings for you,? most frequently followed by a ?but?. It takes some of the responsibility off their shoulder, and makes what comes next seem as though it were entirely impossible to stop. It?s critical to focus on the context, and to compare it against who you know your partner to really be.
3. One of us is more invested than the other?
Sometimes, a person knows their love will never be returned but it just doesn?t matter. They feel compelled to reveal the way they feel and nothing on heaven nor earth can stop them. It?s understandable. Emotions weigh heavy on the human heart and sharing them makes them a little more bearable.
Someone who is more heavily invested in the relationship (or the prospect of the relationship) might try to force their greatest desires by opening up prematurely and revealing their hand before they are sure of their other person?s perspective.
The weight of undeclared feelings is an oppressive on that lives deep, deep inside of us. Though we might be aware that the object of our affections is unavailable and unwilling, that doesn?t make the pining any less real. Letting the other person know is a relief to the psyche, and it?s a relief to the heart as well.
4. A need to be cautious.
?I have feelings for you? can also be a way to cautiously ease into a relationship you?re unsure of or feelings that frighten you. It feels premature to jump in all at once sometimes, and that?s okay. Our experiences teach us that?s better to ease into relationships rather than racing into them.
When we tell someone we have feelings for them, without committing to that big l-word, we protect ourselves and the delicate thoughts and emotions we?ve been harboring.Our disappointments teach us to be cautious, but our hesitation gives us the time to think things through.
If ?I have feelings for you? feels better than ?I love you,? then it might be a sign that you need to take things slower and give them time to cultivate naturally. When someone tells you that they have feelings for you, they could be telling you ?I really like you, but I?ve been hurt before.? If you?re on the receiving end of such a statement play gentle and honestly, remembering that we all have feelings and we all have scars that haunt us every day.
5. I?m in ?lust? with you.
It?s an uncomfortable fact to admit, but sometimes ?I have feelings for you? is no more than ?I want to get physically intimate?now.? Our sex drives can push us into some ridiculous places, but they can also push us to say some hurtful things. When we want to get our rocks off, some of us will do just about anything to get there, including promising love that we don?t have to give.
Someone telling you that they have feelings for you could simply be their way of getting you to give in to their physical or intimate desires. That?s not to say their feelings aren?t always genuine, it?s just to say they may be differently aligned to yours.Their focus is on getting what they want, not connecting meaningfully. It?s a difference that?s important to note.
People use these kinds of half-hearted pseudo-promises to get what they want. It?s manipulative, but to some it?s just the natural instinct. Remember: it is actions that speak the loudest when it comes to love, not words. Let them show you that they love you if you can?t get the story from the horse?s mouth. Don?t rely on physical intimacy alone. If they truly want to be with you, they?ll display it by talking to you, wanting to be in your presence, asking you things, leaving you notes, etc. Sex is not love and love is not sex; though both remain foundations of one another.
6. I have strong feelings for you that are not romantic love
Oddly enough, we don?t take this phrase often for what it is: an expression of genuine human feeling and compassion. Just because you have feelings for someone doesn?t mean those feelings are romantic love. Strong feelings for a person can encompass any number of emotions, not least of all companionship, empathy and conviviality.
These feelings are just as ? if not more ? rewarding than love, yet we don?t seem to place them on the same altar. While feelings like this can morph into love, they are fulfilling enough on their own, and having them in our life makes us better for the experience.
While it may not be the fairytale response you wanted, getting a confirmation of strong and passionate feeling (however it manifests) is a gift to be treasured, not disappointed by. We already live in a world that is barren enough in those elements; we should appreciate them as and where they manifest in our lives and relationships with others.
7. I?m not ready to commit
A phrase like ?I have feelings for you? could be a sign that the person that you care for is starting to lose their emotional equilibrium or it could simply be a sign that they aren?t ready to commit yet.
Not wanting to commit, but also not wanting to lose someone, can lead us to look for compromises that aren?t always the best fit for our partners. Honesty is the best policy here, and that means honesty from within and without.
Non-committal phrasing like this is used often by those who are scared to be alone but too scared to commit to one person. Make sure you can tell the difference between soft-hearted warmth and unwillingness to settle down. Both things are damaging, but one of those things can be lethal.
What to do when someone says they have feelings for you.
If someone has told you that they have feelings for you, there are some things you need to do to follow up. Dig deep, and get honest about how you?re feeling, but also make sure they?re being honest with you. We work through feelings by talking them out, and we find the truth by looking for it.
The first thing you have to do is take a step back and honestly assess how you feel and how you want to proceed. Fully consider your emotional temperature, and compare that against where you ideally want to be. Is this person worth taking a side track or wasting time getting to where you want to go? Only when you?re honest about how you feel and what you want can you demand the same from them.
Too often, when it comes to relationships, we chase the other person and lose ourselves in the process. Have enough respect for yourself and the things you need to walk away from someone who is using ?I have feelings for you? as a cop out to waste your time or make things more convenient for them. Not everyone has good intentions, and not everyone is worth the heartache. Let go of people that would let go of you before they would help you.
Ask for more explanation
Usually, a phrase like ?I have feelings for you,? is the start of a conversation, and one that?s best had in stages and in phases. Once you?ve had a chance to honestly assess how you feel and what you want, ask for your partner (or potential parter) to do the same. Request that they delve deeper into their feelings, and explore them openly with you ? so that you both come down to the decisions that work best for you both. Though you both love each one another, it doesn?t mean you share the same level of love or even have the same goals for your future.
Knowledge is one of the greatest things we can arm ourselves with, and that?s especially true when it comes to our romantic relationships. When someone tells us they have feelings for us, it can be confusing and bring up a lot of different emotions. It?s important to explore those feelings deeply, and on our own, in order to come to terms with our true emotional truth. Educate yourself on romantic love, and the ways in which we attach and bond with those around us. Many times, by further exploring what we don?t know, we discover things about ourselves we never knew existed.
Putting it all together?
Though we don?t like to admit it, the phrase ?I have feelings for you? doesn?t always mean what we want it to mean. There are a lot of reasons we mask our true feelings, but this is one of those non-committal phrases that helps us do it best. Knowing the different between a brush-off and a hesitation is key in establishing the relationships that help us bloom.
Be aware of the differences behind the meanings of someone having feelings for you. Be honest about your own feelings and encourage the other person to do the same. The more honest and open you are about your own emotions, the more candid you allow others to be. Be able to decipher when that ?I have feelings? really just means, ?I can?t commit to this,? and know when it?s just an excuse to stave off something worse. Love is hard but it?s even harder when we can?t speak our truths. Remember to speak your truth at all times and remember to embrace your feelings with open arms. Only when we get cozy with our emotions can we start getting cozy with others. Open up to yourself and encourage others to open up to you, so you can discover ? together ? what tomorrow might bring.