I’m in a real bind.
I decided sometime in college and post-grad that I’m not a “relationship guy”. It’s not something I was 100% closed off to, but I decided it was not something I would actively pursue either. I’ve been in several casual relationships since then, some which ended ok and others not so great. But I remained fairly certain I was not ready for a commitment of any sort.
This has changed somewhat with the current woman I’m seeing, let’s call her Em. When we first met, I had just gotten out of a casual relationship that ended really badly and left me very hurt. She basically ghosted on me and it really sucked cause we were very close. So when Em mentioned that she wasn’t looking for a relationship, that it’s something she did a lot before but wasn’t feeling anymore, I was cool with that.
Then we had our first date, and I totally fell for her. We clicked on a fundamental level. We joked and laughed the entire time and I don’t think either of us stopped smiling for long. Not quite love, but I felt a strong connection and wanting for her. Usually I keep my options open when I’m seeing someone but I knew then I only wanted to see Em.
Confession time: we do work together and she is technically one of my managers. I realize the risks in seeing someone you work with (or under) but I decided it was something I was willing to risk. We make it work for the most part and I’m only including this detail cause I feel it’s relevant to the situation.
We went on more dates and things were going great. I’m feeling these impulses I’ve never quite felt before, and I’m putting an effort to be romantic more than I ever have. It just flows naturally when I’m with her, and she seemed receptive to all of it. Little by little I started to open up to the idea of being with her long term.
Then one night I text Em saying that I really like her. She responds by saying that I should know she’s not looking for a relationship or anything, that she definitely likes the time we spend together but wants to make sure we keep it casual.
After some brief thought, I told Em I was cool with that, but I admit was kind of blindsided. Not because I didn’t think she meant it when she said didn’t want a relationship, but because I was under the impression from our interactions that like me she was maybe warming up to the idea of “being together”.
It’s also confusing because the way we interact when we hang out feels a little more than casual. We do what I would consider more or less “boyfriend/girlfriend” things: We go out on dates, we have dinner and drinks (sometimes breakfast). We snuggle a lot and don’t go just straight to sex when we spend time together. And the sex itself is great, and feels (to me at least) emotional and meaningful. We text almost every day. She also does nice things for me, and vice versa. I’ve bought her little gifts just to cheer her up a bit. One night after I had a truly awful day at work, she invited me over and talked me through it. She has a busy schedule and we both had work early the next morning but she let me spend the night with her anyway. None of this seemed to be a problem until I told her I really liked her. I admit that I became quite emotional over this as well, wondering if there’s something wrong with me, or if what I feel for/from her is “real” or imagined.
Truth be told we have only hung out outside of work six times in the last two months, though I do see her every day at work. We flirt and joke a bit but, since we have to be secretive it’s tricky. Are my feelings just moving way too fast? I just moved alone to a new city just under a year ago (she also moved out here recently) and I might just be bringing that baggage into this, plus the baggage from my last casual relationship.
Em’s response made me pause and rethink what exactly it is I’m looking for. All I know for certain is that I want to keep seeing her, and doing what we’re doing. I figure I’m getting about 70% of what I would want from a potential relationship with her anyway, minus seeing her more often and literally calling her my girlfriend. And honestly, I do feel that she genuinely cares about me from how she treats me. And I know I genuinely care about her.
I just worry that “casual” to her might mean “I see an expiration date on us, and will leave when I’m bored”. But if it’s casual meaning “I want to keep things uncomplicated and not have to plan my life around another person”, then I can make it work as that’s more or less what I would consider a healthy kind of “casual”. I also don’t want to inadvertently get my hopes up for her changing her mind. I know some relationships start off casually, but I feel that hoping for that is an easy way to get real hurt.
Thing is, for this to work I have to actually tell her all of this and have the dreaded Talk. I just have no idea how to tell her everything I just said without totally scaring her off. What do I do Doc? How do I have the Talk with her?
Doesn’t Wanna Ruin a Good Thing