Dating in New York City – Holding Hans with Brian Hansbury: the “L” word!!

Q: My girlfriend is really into me.  I know this because after three months of dating, she just dropped the “L” word.  I’ve never told anyone I loved them before and I don’t think I’ll be saying it to her anytime soon.  Is her earnestness a sign of craziness or am I just a cold guy?  Should I tell her I don’t love her?  Remember the first American Pie movie?

A:  Acting like I know the appropriate time to drop the “L” word would be like me telling someone how to raise his kids.  Sure, the tyke might have mysterious bruising, lice and rusty, homemade braces made of razor wire, but it’s just not my place to say anything, especially to the cops.  On the other hand, even though I’ve never been good at standing up to child abusers, I’m pretty good when it comes to love…and sayin’ it.

Telling someone you love them is uniquely personal.  Of all the expressions humans make it is the most idiosyncratic.  After all, what does love feel like to anyone else (to me it should feel like the Giants have just won the Super Bowl every time I see her)? We can witness and recognize anger or sadness; a fist punched through a wall or tears down a cheek are good indications of these emotions.  But expressions of love (kissing, intercourse, the giving of flowers or pre-paid phones) can easily be confused with the currency of lust.  Most everything a person does when they are in a giving, loving relationship are the same things they would do in an exploitative attempt at getting laid.  Have you led her on by letting her call you her boyfriend so that you can get a piece?  Or is it that you honestly care for her in the short term, but in the long term you believe she’s not “the one.”   You’re not at fault for never having felt love for her just as she isn’t at fault for falling so early (though, she may still be crazy).  What matters is how you treat the situation now that she’s opened up a can of awkward.

I once fell in love in a relationship that only lasted 5 months.  The girl and I were both living at home after college and since everyone else we knew had decided to grow up fast and get “real” jobs and stop living in their “parent’s” house we spent an inordinate amount of time together.  I never told her I loved her, but I tried to spend as much time as I possibly could with her because nothing felt better than being with her.  She didn’t feel the same way (a friend of hers informed me she felt smothered, which was really awkward to hear) and instead of telling me as much, she cheated on me.  I ended up crashing my car on the way back from receiving the news (I was crying with the ferocity of a dying werewolf and was so blinded by tears I couldn’t see the road).

So, are some people (even Hans, at times) helpless romantics who dive in head first despite it not being a good idea at all?  Totally.  Does your girlfriend seem like this type?  Definitely.  Is that severely off-putting?  Absolutely.  The decision to express your love for someone should be something you give at least a little thought to and it seems like she’s not so great at reading you (or she’s crazy).  It’s hard, but do the right thing and let her know how you feel.  After all, you’ve spent the past three months with her for some reason.  You enjoy her company.  You like the way the two of you fit.  Her ass feels good naked.  However you want to phrase it.  But let her know that you have never been as free with your emotions as she seems to be with hers and that, at this point, you just aren’t comfortable saying “L” back to her because you don’t want to cause further confusion.

My favorite quote is by Camus: “Live to the point of tears.”  It implies passionate impulsiveness, never looking back, giving it your all and ignoring consequences.  This is a romantic, wildly exciting way to live.  But for most people, the circumstance is often not worth the tears they are shedding.  Let this girl know where you stand so that a year from now, when you still don’t love her, she isn’t crying for months over something that could have ended with some friendly goodbye sex (also, you’ll want to avoid an involuntary manslaughter rap if she happens to cry and drive as manfully as I do).

One last bit of advice for the hopeless romantics.  If you’re compelled to say, “I love you,” wait a full two months after that first impulse to actually blurt it out.  Who knows, by then your partner may have said it already.

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