It happens to everyone at some point. You meet someone you want to keep it casual with, you get together for some fun, and then you catch feelings. It’s beyond lust and desire. You like this person. You like like them.
Sometimes it happens before you get naked. You’re chatting, making plans, and damn Cupid and his stupid-ass arrows hit you out of nowhere.
Now that you’ve caught feelings, what are you going to do about them?
You can run the other way. No one says you have to date someone. But if you want to take it beyond some casual hookup, there are things you can do. There’s no guarantee they’ll decide to take it to a new level with you, but at least you’ll know you tried.
Think About How You Really Feel
The truth is that sometimes our feelings aren’t based on reality. It could be the temporary high from good (maybe even mind-blowing) sex. You might be feeling lonely and vulnerable, and this person paid attention to you. They might not even be a good match for you, but your heart’s doing this weird thumping thing and you now know what “butterflies” feel like. (Note: it feels a lot like wanting to puke your guts up.)
Before you declare your undying love, take a few minutes to think and a few deep breaths. Are you sure this person is someone you want to get attached to (assuming they’re interested, too)? Can you acknowledge their faults or do you think they’re “perfect?” Hint: no one is perfect, and if you think someone is, you’ve got it bad and really need to be careful.
Talk About It…At the Right Time
You’ve thought about how you feel, and even though it’s nerve-wracking, you know you want to move forward — or try to. Now you’re going to have to tell them. Timing is everything in these conversations. If you want to make sure you have their attention, let them know you have something you want to talk about and tell them it’s important.
If this is after a first-time hookup, they might be surprised. Offer to meet them for coffee or at a park. Pick someplace casual but that lets you have a little privacy, too. If you’re really feeling shy, write down what you want to say first. Don’t read it like a script, but use it to help you put your thoughts in order so you don’t completely FUBAR them during the conversation.
Don’t Make Demands
Once you confess your feelings, you’re going to want answers. Or you’re going to convince yourself you should have kept your mouth shut. Now is the time to sit quietly and listen. No one is obligated to feel the same way or respond the way you want. But if you don’t let someone think and process what you’ve said, you’ll ruin things before they ever even get started.
Give them time and space to think. Let them know you recognize you’ve thrown a lot their way. Offer to answer questions or to go slowly, if they’re interested. But really, your primary job at this point is to wait as patiently as you can for them to decide what they want.
Accept the Outcome
Disappointment sucks. It’s hard to be rejected or to hear something other than the dream you concoct in your head. Whatever the other person says, you’re going to have to accept it. They’re not a “bitch” or a “skank” if they’re not interested. You’re also not a loser just because someone rejects you. If they say they’re interested too, great! Have fun figuring it out together!
But if they’re not, thank them for listening and stay cool. You don’t have to see or talk to them again (hopefully) and you can nurse your hurt feelings at home or with friends later. Yes, you just put your bleeding heart out in front of someone else, and rejection hurts. But you also did something brave and difficult. You were vulnerable with someone you like. Consider this practice for the next person who feels the same way you do.
Learn from the Moment
Two things can happen: the other person happily agrees and you start down another path together or they reject you (hopefully in a nice way) and you go your separate ways. No matter what, this is a learning moment. This is a time to do the difficult job of thinking about what you really want.
If you’re rejected, it might be time to rethink hookups and whether you really want casual sex right now. Looking for a relationship is a different kind of search than looking for someone who’s down for a fuck. Get real with yourself about what you want. There’s no right answer on this one, but a bit of self-reflection might get you closer to what will actually make you happy — whether it’s something casual or serious.
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