Abigail SilvermanGetty Images
As someone who has had many crushes, I know firsthand how freaking terrifying it can be to admit that you’ve caught feelings. Actually, it’s so scary that I pretty much avoided doing it my entire life. The few times I did do it, I was either four glasses of wine in, or doing it via text, and spoiler alert: Neither way is the best way to have this convo.
I’m in a relationship now and can’t go back in time to undo all of the times I messed this convo up, but what I can do is stop you from reliving my (v normal) mistakes. Next time you have a crush, just go through these five extremely easy, expert-approved steps.
Step One: Get crystal-clear on how you feel.
Before you tell someone you’re into them, you should probs be sure your feelings are serious and this isn’t just one of those temporary crushes that’s going to fade within a week. In other words, do you just think they’re fun, or do you really see yourself in a relationship with them? It’s worth saying something “if you sense that there is something substantially stronger than just hormones,” says Gary Brown, PsyD, a couples therapist in Los Angeles.
Obvi telling someone you have strong feelings for them can be terrifying and majorly risky, but Brown says the conversation is well worth the anxieties. “If he or she is truly a potential lifelong partner, you should definitely give it a go,” he says. “If you don’t, you may wind up looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life and regretting that you fears overcame your desire for love.”
Step Two: Choose your moment wisely.
While Brown says there’s no “right time” to admit you have feelings for someone, there are definitely a few factors that play into deciding when you should and shouldn’t initiate this convo.
For starters, Brown says it’s super important that you’ve spent enough time with them to really get a feel for who they are: “The time to tell them is after you’ve spent enough time with them to get a true sense of who they are and if you sense that the two of you are compatible in the most important ways that you value,” he explains.
That being said, sometimes outside circumstances might force you to wait a little longer than you’d like to. “For instance, if either one of you is recently on the rebound, I would absolutely wait,” warns Brown. “If there has been a recent traumatic incident such as the death, serious illness, or injury to someone close to either one of you, then it is better to wait until your emotions and thoughts are more even.”
Step Three: Get the location right.
Unfortunately, Brown says this is not one of those convos you can just casually have over text. Yep, that’s right: Even if the thought of it makes you want to gauge your eyes out, you’ve got to power through the fear and have this conversation IRL. Specifically, Brown recommends having it somewhere casual and relatively quiet in public.
“I recommend a casual setting,” he says. “Maybe take a walk in the park, meet at the beach, or any other casual setting where you can both feel free to speak openly. I highly do not recommend going to crowded public places, and certainly not in a bar or a busy restaurant. You want to be in a setting where you are both comfortable as you can be and that is conducive to having an intimate conversation.”
Oh, and when you invite them to hang, don’t make it weird. Just casually ask if they want to go for a walk in the park or whatever. Brown says warning them that you want to “talk about something” might unnecessarily freak them out.
Step Four: Say the words.
Once the two of you are hanging at your quiet, public location of choice, it’s time to tell them how you’ve been feeling. I know initiating the conversation can be terrifying, but Brown says it really doesn’t have to be a huge, embarrassing profession of love. Just find a natural lull in the conversation and bring it up.
“Simply let them know that you’ve been noticing that you find yourself enjoying their company more and more,” he recommends. “Perhaps let them know that when you think of them, you find yourself smiling. It’s even okay to be a bit silly. If the chemistry is mutual, this may not be all that hard to do to begin with.”
If you tried to initiate the convo and it didn’t go exactly as you had hoped, don’t sweat it. “All of this may naturally come out in one conversation, or it may come out over several conversations,” says Brown. “You don’t need to ‘do this perfectly’ in order to be heard and understood. Be gentle with yourself and appreciate the courage you are taking, no matter the outcome.”
Step Five: Proceed accordingly.
So this conversation probably went one of two ways.
Option One: They felt the same way – yay! In this case, Brown says you should enjoy and see where the conversation goes from there. “If they are feeling the same, you may both want to explore seeing each other more, and possibly even being exclusive — if that feels natural for both of you,” he says, adding exclusively is something you want to make sure you “don’t push” at this stage.
Option Two: They didn’t feel the same, in which case Brown says you should be grateful that they were honest with you, and that you now have the freedom to move onto someone who does feel the same about you. Don’t get your hopes up too high, but Brown also adds: “it is also possible that they may grow to develop feelings for you, just not at the same time that you did.”