Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about how to share your true feelings for him without scaring him away. In my response, I provide guidance on how to approach telling him how you really feel when you’re scared he might pull away:
Hi, I am 29 year old woman seeing a married man (just moving out from his wife and getting divorced). We are seeing each other for almost 9 months.
At the beginning he was extremely attentive and expressing emotions a lot. He said I am special to him and it is not only about the physical relationship.
His marriage was never good. From the beginning he and his wife had problems and they were fighting a lot but he was trying to give the best to make it work.
When we started our “relationship” he was not thinking to get divorced because he felt big commitment and responsibility for his wife (she has some psychiatric problems and she is very sensitive). They talked in the past about the divorce but she was not accepting it.
After first month of being loving he became more distant and cold. He stopped expressing emotions and he didn’t communicate often as usual. He was still texting but it was colder than before. When I started talking more emotionally he changed the subject and similar.
We started having sex 3 months after we started seeing each other. Around the same time he decided he will move out from his wife and start the divorce procedure (she finally accepted to get separated). He also told me at that time he is very hurt by his marriage falling apart, he doesn’t want commitment and relationship and that he hates emotions.
I felt very hurt but I didn’t tell him that. I told him that I can be very patient and let us see how it will work out, that I don’t want commitment in this moment. Maybe 1 month after this he started to be warmer, I felt he is closer, texting more… During one conversation he even said that if he commits to me he has to be sure I am family oriented and family will be always number 1 priority to me.
After 1 month of being closer he started again to be colder and distant. Also this was the period when he and his wife agreed about divorce and he started to look for new flat for him. When I asked him why he is far he answered again that he doesn’t want relationship and he hates women.
For the past 1.5 month he is again more close to me, warmer, we even went on a few days vacation together. During this time he started asking serious questions like how do I see him as a person, why do i like him, how were my previous relationships different from what I have with him…He also started opening up about the things which were bothering him in his marriage and he said to me to be careful about this things.
I have to mention that he still didn’t moved out from his wife. He rented the apartment 2 months ago but still didn’t moved in.
Still after 9 months I cannot say we are in a real relationship and I don’t know if we will ever be.
I am scared to talk to him since he mentioned few times he hates emotions. Over this 9 months I fallen in love with him and I see him as potential long-term partner.
The reason why I am still with him after all of this ups and downs in his behavior is that I think he is scared of emotions and has fear of being hurt again. He feels that he failed in his marriage and doesn’t want to fail again.
This time with him has been very difficult for me emotionally because i don’t know where this relationship is going.
He is also my boss and I see him every day at work which makes the things even more complicated.
I never talked with him about our relationship and asked him where it is going. I just went with the flow but it is becoming very difficult and I am feeling exhausted from hiding my emotions. Also I am scared that he will again pull back and become distant.
How can I show him my feelings without scaring him?
Please help me to find out if he will ever be able to commit to me.
How can I make him see that I won’t hurt him and I will be always there to support him? What is the best way to approach him and get to know if he has any feelings for me?
Thank you so much for your help.
– Crazy in Love Confused
Dear Crazy in Love Confused,
Thanks so much for reaching out. I feel your heartache and frustration.
You bring up a lot to in your story and I’ll do my best to respond to your concerns about whether he’ll be able to commit and how to tell him how you feel without scaring him away.
I also recently wrote an article that you might find helpful on what to do if he’s sending mixed messages.
What Commitment Is and Isn’t
When we’re in a relationship we often want to know is “it going to work out?” “Is he going to commit?” These are indeed important questions to ask.
But the notion of commitment is also commonly misunderstood.
The short answer to your question “will ever be able to commit to me?” is that everyone has the ability to commit.
But not everyone is ready to or has the desire to commit.
In my article about what is commitment in relationships, I note that commitment is “both a FACT demonstrated by behavior, and an ATTITUDE consisting of thoughts and beliefs.”
Commitment is also a choice.
As you mentioned in your questions, the man you’re in a relationship with said that he “doesn’t want commitment,” “doesn’t want a relationship,” “hates emotions” and “hates women,” and he hasn’t moved into the apartment that he rented over two months ago.
His attitude toward commitment and toward being in a relationship sound pretty clear.
And given the fact that he said he “hates emotions” and “hates women,” it sounds like he might have some healing to do around sharing his emotions—such a resolving some of the bitter feelings from his divorce—and learning to trust women again before he is really ready for a relationship.
If he is going into his relationships hating emotions, hating women and not being expressive, he’s going to have a very hard time having a successful relationship.
A note about mixed messages: It might feels as though he is sending mixed messages when he’s telling you that he “doesn’t want a relationship/commitment” yet he is still asking to see you, or wanting to sleep with you, or wanting to be close to you.
But, as I mentioned in my previous article, mixed messages aren’t really mixed messages.
Mixed messages give us very clear information about a man’s intentions (or lack of intention) and his readiness (or lack of readiness) to be in a relationship.
And it’s up to us to decide what we want to do: whether we want to tolerate it or move on.
So to answer your question: will he commit?
He will commit if he first changes his attitude about commitment; he will commit if he decides that he wants to commit.
And second, he would also have to take conscious action toward getting ready for a new relationship, such as moving out of his marital home and into the flat that he rented two months ago.
He has not left his home that he shares with his wife so he has not taken further steps toward separation and toward being more available for a relationship with you.
The Key Ingredient for Relationship Success
I emphasize in my articles the importance of getting clear on what you really want in a relationship.
You mentioned that you see him as potential long-term partner. So I would encourage you to first think about:
- What would a deeply fulfilling long-term relationship look like for you?
- What is your vision for your life?
- What really matters to you long-term?
- And would he be able to support your vision?
- What do you need and require in a relationship in order for it to be deeply fulfilling?
- Do you want a long term relationship or are you dating just for fun and recreation?
Neither kind of dating is “better” than the other, it just depends on what you want.
It’s important to get clear on these things because the answers to these questions will help you to be highly intentional about the choices you make in your relationships and will guide you to the kind of relationship that you really want.
As they say, you have to know what you’re aiming for or you’re never going to hit it.
Also, the fact that he is your employer does complicate things.
If advancing in your current career or current workplace is something that is an important part of your life vision, you’d have to think about whether this relationship is helping or hurting your career advancement options, and whether you are able to do your job well while being in this relationship. Ultimately think about, is this relationship aligned with the vision that you have for your life?
Whichever path you decide to take, whether to stay in the relationship or leave the relationship, you would have to decide whether you’re comfortable working for him, and think through what options you have if you’re not comfortable working for him (such maybe moving to a different department if you are able to).
How to Tell If He Has Feelings for You
In my free guide, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Dating a Divorced or Divorcing Man, I really emphasize the importance of paying attention to your lived experience.
If you’ve been seeing each other for nine months, have slept together, have gone on vacation together, there’s definitely “something there;” he’s spending time with you for a reason.
But you said that he’s also blowing hot and cold—being warm and loving one moment and distant the next—so that might be an indication that he might not know what we wants or he might not be ready for a relationship.
To know whether he as feelings for you, you have to observe your experience with him.
Another way to find out if he has feelings for you is to ask him.
Let him know how much it is means to you to know how he feels.
How he responds to you about that question will give you valuable information.
How to Tell Him How You Feel Without Scaring Him
The truth is that you cannot “make him” not be scared or “make him” get where you’re coming from.
He has to choose to hear and see your point of view.
He has to choose to change his perspective.
We can’t change other people.
The most that you can do is to tell your truth to him; tell him how you feel. How he chooses to perceive it is not within your control.
If you’re going to tell him how you feel, you can tell him by speaking from your heart and coming from a place of love, authenticity and truth.
Take a deep breath.
Ground yourself before you have the conversation.
Tune in to what you’re really feeling.
Turn in to what feels true for you.
This will help you not speak from a place of fear and desperation, but from a place of love and truth.
The Danger of Denying Our Feelings
Have you ever wondered why some people brush off rejection and think to themselves “Oh well, his loss,” while other people internalize rejection and blame themselves for how the other person reacted? (I was certainly the latter part of the group and tended to blame myself every time a relationship didn’t go well)
Instead of saying “Oh well, his loss,” I agonized over what I did wrong,”What did I do to drive him away? How can I get him to stay? How can I make him see…?”
And, as a result of fearing his rejection and blaming myself if he withdrew from me, I always tiptoed around my words, I never came out with what I really thinking and feeling. I was afraid I would turn him off.
Here’s the thing: when we fear telling people the truth, it’s not so much that we fear their reaction.
What we really fear is:
- being rejected, and
- what rejection might mean about us.
I hear you that denying your feelings is really exhausting.
I encourage you to think about:
- What thoughts or fears are coming up in your mind when you are driven to deny or hide your feelings?
- What is it costing you to hold back your emotions?
- What is it costing you to not express what feels true to you?
Denying our own emotions in order to get someone to do something is exhausting (and unhealthy) because it is ultimately a form of control—a form of manipulation—whether or not we’re aware we’re doing it.
When we hold back and deny our own emotions and needs, or when we are not truthful about how we feel in an attempt to try and produce a certain outcome from someone…we are, in effect, trying to control the other person’s perception of us.
Denying our needs and our feelings IS indeed exhausting; when we try to control other people, it’s a losing game every time because we ultimately can’t control other peoples’ reaction.
And it does not get us what we want in the long run.
Each individual is in charge of his or her own emotions and perceptions.
When you deny your needs and feelings in your relationship, the end result is: your feelings will never get acknowledged and your needs will never get met.
We have to bring our feelings and needs to light if we hope to have them met. We have to make our feelings and needs known.
And I understand where you are coming from. It can feel like a very scary thing because we’re thinking “what if he rejects me? What if he pulls away?”
That’s a very valid concern.
And yes, you are certainly taking a risk when you tell your truth.
The risk you take is that he won’t want to meet your needs and he won’t want to acknowledge your feelings.
Well, if that is the case, would you still choose to be with him?
We minimize risk of rejection by choosing relationships that are highly aligned with our vision and aligned with our needs and relationship requirements.
If you tell your truth and find that your truth is not received with support, compassion, and the possibility of having your needs met, you then have some hard choices to consider.
One option would be to move on and find someone else who might be able to better meet your needs.
Another option is to let go of those needs but stay in the relationship.
But if those needs are really important to you and you tried to let go of them, will you be happy in the long-term?
A happy, healthy relationship involves feeling safe to voice our needs and feeling safe to tell the truth about how we feel.
How can we hope to be happy in our life and relationships if we can’t be self-expressed?
How can we hope to be happy with someone long term if we ultimately can’t be our self?
Standing in your truth, is the ONLY way you’re going to get what you REALLY want.
Showing up as your authentic self, is the only way you can attract someone who can love and celebrate who you truly are.
Dating a Divorced or Separated Man and Need Personalized Relationship Help?
All relationship situations are different, especially if you’re involved with a separated or divorced man. There are complexities you may not have dealt with before in a dating situation. His kids. His ex. His marital status. And all the drama in between.
How do you overcome the dreaded “waiting”?
Does HE lack boundaries with his ex and kids, or are YOU the one who’s being intolerant?
How do you get him to prioritize you and your relationship??
I totally feel you. I’ve been in the same boat. I’ve dated my share of separated and divorced men back in the day.
And…I’m happily married to and have kids of my own with one, too!
If you’re feeling stuck, confused, or frustrated in your relationship and want personalized solutions, I can help.
If you’re suffering, you don’t have to continue suffering. I promise. Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. Let’s talk about how to overcome the relationship challenges you’re facing.
In a private 1-on-1 Relationship Clarity Session, you’ll get personalized dating and relationship help for your specific dating issue so that you can successfully navigate the complexities of dating a divorced man and know exactly what you’re getting into, overcome the challenges, and consciously create the deeply fulfilling relationship you want!
Ready to improve your relationship and overall happiness? Click the button below to get all the details, view my calendar (I usually have some openings every week), and conveniently book a session:
How to Decide if He’s Right for You
Download my free Relationship Choice Assessment to help you get started. In my free guide you’ll discover:
- 30 questions to ask yourself to help you decide if you should give him a chance or if you’re wasting your time
- 22 red flags you should be aware of if you want to avoid heartbreak and painful surprises
- How to assess your compatibility with your partner to know if your relationship has long-term potential
Download my free guide Should You Stay or Go? Relationship Choice Assessment: