It’s never easy to make the first move in a relationship. There are more moments in sitcoms and romantic comedies devoted to the awkwardness of the pickup lines than I can hope to count. Even once you’re with a person, moving a relationship forward is cause for much angst. How much is too much? When is too soon? Will I get beaten back? Add into the mix two people who have been burned pretty badly by romance, and these questions raise even more anxiety.
When the bf and I first met, it was online. There wasn’t too much move making to do, just lots of pleasant emailing and exchanging ideas in writing. The most intense it got was video chatting, so we were both safe from having to make any serious advances.
Then I went to England and our relationship was no longer virtual and we had to do something, go beyond internet flirting. Because I’m a) a fairly traditional girl in practice, though not theory, and b) really shy around guys, the first move physically was up to him. That left me feeling safe but anxious–I didn’t know why we could spend all day together and he wouldn’t hold my hand or touch me in any way, let alone kiss me.
Dolly consoled me. We were in public the whole time and he was British. Really, what could I expect? And, she added, he had been single as long as me and knocked back even more because he tried even more. She advised me to be understanding, that he was, in all likelihood, working up to it.
The next day, because she is a matchmaker extraordinaire, she sent him the lyrics to “Kiss the Girl” and offered to dress up as a crab if necessary.
And the following day, we went out for a proper date. He put his arm around me in the movie theater. Then we went back to his place, and after about five episodes of Game of Thrones and a few rounds of mojitos, he finally worked up the courage to kiss me. Then we were rolling (take that as you will), and nothing was awkward anymore. Khal Drogo, I owe you so much. And while I’m at it, thank you for your pecs.
Now though, we’ve been together for awhile, and the L word is rolling around in my mind. This is the next big milestone, and I feel like the emotional stuff is my department. After all, I’m a girl, and American (Italian American at that) where he is most decidedly a British bloke. Sometimes I challenge his bloke status (he wears flowered shirts for crying out loud), but not here. I’ve seen the boy-ness in action. Meanwhile, I’m just built for this stuff. And I’ve got to take charge of some things–I’ve got to be a participant in this relationship, not just a passive observer. Can you tell I’m giving myself a pep talk?
What’s more, I want to say it. Every night when we say goodnight I want to say “Love you” but I don’t. I think of reasons to postpone: I wonder if there should be some ceremony. Perhaps I should wait until we were together. I wanted to say it in August, but it seemed too soon.
If I’m honest, these are excuses. In the past two weeks, I’ve had two chances where I could have–nay, should have–said it. We had two separate deep-and-meaningfuls, and it would have been so easy to turn to him and say “I love you.” It would have been right in both contexts, a proper and meaningful first utterance of the phrase. I certainly thought it, and felt it very acutely. But I didn’t say it. I chickened out.
I’m trying to understand why the words stick in my throat, why I can’t say them. I’m not afraid of commitment. I don’t think of myself as emotionally closed off. It’s certainly not that I’m not sure of my feelings. Nor do I question his–just today we were talking about transatlantic moves and changing my last name to his.
I suppose it must be that I’m afraid. Afraid of what though? Clearly I don’t have anything to fear. I think, though, it’s a big moment. All the future stuff is projecting. I can rest assured that it will all happen one day, in a lovely haze of a future, but not now. I can daydream about happy things and not have to grapple with them.
This though, is real. This is taking a chance, daring to say the thing out loud. That’s still a risk, still opening myself up and making myself vulnerable, really vulnerable. No matter what logic dictates, I always have a fear of rejection, so I can know with my head and even with my heart that when I say the L-word, it will be received warmly. But even as I type this I want to say “and will likely be reciprocated.” Likely…not certainly. Nothing’s certain until I say it, and he replies. And that to me is still scary, despite everything else, because I just don’t have enough confidence. That shouldn’t prevent me though. When I was single, I would cocoon myself up for fear of rejection. Now I’m in a relationship, and I’ve got to be brave.
After all, he was, for that first kiss. And I definitely didn’t reject him. A lesson to bear in mind.