I have been spending time with a man for about six months. We’ve had lunch, gone to sporting events, etc. Sometimes he asks, sometimes I ask (I asked first). We started out in a business relationship. I’m attracted to him so I would be interested in our friendship developing romantically. I don’t know how to let him know without making things uncomfortable if he doesn’t feel the same way. – Carole
I hear stories like this from women a lot. There are basically two possibilities about this man, assuming that he’s heterosexual and unattached romantically to anyone else. One: that he’s attracted to you also but is afraid to make the first move. Two: that he holds friendship-only feelings for you.
Let’s take the number two scenario first. If you tell him you’re interested romantically, he will probably feel uncomfortable for a while and maybe even be a little distant. Eventually, though, if he values the relationship, he’ll want to resume your friendship. The way you communicate your feelings will make a difference also.
In the number one scenario, if he hasn’t made a romantic overture yet it’s probably because he doesn’t think you’re attracted to him. In that case, telling him that you are will free him to pursue you romantically.
Here’s how I recommend you say it (modified to fit your own way of speaking): “Bob, we’ve been spending time together for quite a while on a regular basis and I want you to know that I value your friendship very much. No matter how this conversation goes, I still want to be your friend first and foremost, as well as keeping a good working relationship. Lately, I’ve begun to notice you in a different way, that I’m attracted to you. I’ve started to wonder what it would be like to explore the possibility of a romantic relationship. I’ve wondered if you have any kind of feelings like that about me. If you want time to think this over, that’s okay. But I wanted you to know that if you’re interested in me that way, please know that it’s okay with me. If you find that you’re not, I hope you won’t be put off by this conversation. My feelings are mild at this point and it’s no problem for me to continue as a friend and business associate, so please don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings by telling me the truth.”
Once you’ve expressed this in a non-threatening way, just let it drop and continue to act the way you normally do. If he’s interested enough, he’ll pick up the ball and run with it. At that point, it’s important to let him do some romantic pursuing. Yes, be a reciprocal partner as this maintains a balance of energy that is vital to the health of the relationship. But if you begin changing over to romantic, hold back just a little until you see that he’s really interested and not just being nice or trying for the sake of trying. Also, you may want to reconsider the business relationship as it could be very complicated to try to do both.
Nina Atwood is a licensed therapist and nationally known dating coach with three published self-help books on communication and love. Her website is www.singlescoach.com.