Don’t Tell Her How You Feel

Back when I was in college the show ER became a sensation. One of the best parts about it was that the characters were believable. One of the intriguing relationships that developed on the show was between Doctor Mark Green (played by Anthony Edwards) and Doctor Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield).  They were both sort of the “good guys” in the ER.  They also developed a sort of friendship/relationship.

In the third season Susan decided to move away.  In her final episode, Mark had to decide if he should (or could) tell her how he feels.  They were great friends and had chemistry and it’s been obvious for years.  Dr Ross (George Clooney) tells him, “Tell her what you’ve wanted to for years.  Tell her how you feel. . . ”

Then comes the scene I’ll always remember.  Mark leaves work and goes to her house but he’s too late.  Then he goes to the train station.  I mean it’s an epic deal.  He goes to the wrong place as the train’s leaving point changes.  But he makes it just in time.  He calls out to her.  The train is about to leave.

He tells her that he loves her and should have told her long ago, and he wants her to stay.  I’ll never forget her response to that.  She says that she knew, he is her best friend, and that she is leaving.  Then she gets on the train, waves good by and says, “I do love you.”

I remember watching that scene and just being smacked upside the head.  For years I thought about that scene because it pretty much defined me.  Always the friend of the girl who I liked. Always carrying some sort of hope that at the right time, if I just shared it in the right way, everything would change.  That scene was a picture of how I felt.

The mistake I made though is that I saw my identity in that and thought that it was just the way it was – I was just “that” guy. Whoa is me. I failed to realize that I didn’t have to be that guy.

There are some very important things here that single men need to get a hold of.  And we in the Church need to quit essentially lying to guys about how to go about this.

First we need to establish two simple truths.

1. Being the nice guy is not attractive.  I’ve written an entire post on this and I plan to write more later.  But, bottom line, for the most part, being the nice guy as an approach doesn’t work.

2. Being friends to get the girl is not a good plan.  Once you are in the friendzone you are done.

You can ignore these truths, complain about how they aren’t fair, talk about how it shouldn’t be that way, tell me that the only other option is to be a “player” and so on.  No amount of denial or over spiritualization will make them not true.  They are true period.  They will lead you to the Dr. Green moment over and over again.

But what I want to tackle today is this idea that you should “tell her how you feel”.  Should you express how you feel about her and if so when?  Or in “Christian Courtship” language when should you “tell her your intentions”?  Ugh I hate Christianese.

Do not tell her how you feel if you are not dating.  Ask her out.  Asking her out is telling her how you feel, or at least all she needs to know about it.  If she says no, do not tell her more.  This will not help you.  It would be better to ask her again later than to tell her how you feel.

What a lot of nice guys think (remember this was me so I’m not attacking anyone) is that somehow if the girl really knew how much they liked her, that would change her mind.  Um no.

“Will you go out with me?”

“No” (usually some form of “I like you as a friend” “I’m busy” or “I’m dating Jesus right now”).

“But wait, I really, really like you.  I think your are so awesome.  I see us together . . .” Barf

“Oh Ok then I’ll go out with you” – yeah that never happens.

Look gentlemen. This is for real, brother to brother. Stop doing this to yourself!  Don’t lead with telling her how you feel.  Just ask her out. Don’t friend her.  Ask her out.  If she likes you she will say yes.  If she says no, walk away.  You can maybe ask her again later.  But don’t try to talk her into it – ever.

From the “Christian” side of things, one of the things I’ve heard a lot lately is how you need to tell her your “intentions” right away.  I think this is sort of counterproductive on several levels not the least of which is it throws pressure on the situation right away.

You don’t need to say some version of, “I want you to know that my intention is to only go on first dates with people who I can marry.  That’s what this is all about.  To find out if I can marry you.”  Nothing says fun like a first date to find out marriage-ability.

Now look, you can take this too far the other way.  I don’t think you should get into long term relationships without purpose and without being intentional. In fact I’m not suggesting you don’t be intentional.  I’m saying be intentional in a way that might actually be effective.

The time to tell her how much you like her is after you are dating her . . . for a while. . . not when you ask her out.

Here’s the video – the epic chase starts at 4:03.  If you just want the final scene it’s at 7:30.

8 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Her How You Feel

  1. Good article. And that clip — ouch (I was too young to watch ER when it was being produced, so I hadn’t seen it before.)

    I suppose that men don’t ask women out because they are afraid of rejection. And so I’d say that a Christian woman should yes to a date with a Christian man if he asks her (assuming he is not known to be a jerk or a bad man.) Men might ask more if women said yes more.

    • I don’t think women should say yes just because they got asked out. If you’re not attracted to someone or don’t have interest in dating them, then you shouldn’t lead someone on.

      I do think it would be nice for Christian guys to ask girls out more though. I understand that they’re afraid of rejection, or maybe just don’t know how to do it right (some of Justin’s blogs have been great on this), but rejection is a part of life…

      • I think it’s partly the rejection issue, but it’s more the intentionality issue that Justin brings up. We’re so conditioned on making sure that our intentions on dating as Christians are different than secular intentions – and that everyone involved knows that those intentions are different – that the process becomes infinitely more complex and more involved, especially when involving near-strangers (with less of involved communities than in the past, many of us don’t see many other single Christians of the opposite sex often enough casually; it’s either get to know them well or ask out as basically strangers, which each have their tensions). Plus, while everyone’s all “guys need to ask women out more,” they then usually react to the men who do in a church community as if we’re being predatory (so we’d best ask the right woman the first time around, or we’re out of luck and viewed with suspicion ever after, given how the church often looks at single men anyway).

        If it was as simple as being told No and having her get on a train out of town, that would be a relief!

  2. Yes, these are great points. Never tell a woman everything the first time you meet her. You are ultimately setting yourself up for a rejection. And there is nothing wrong with being a nice guy by any means but there has to be more than that. You have to have substance. Intellect, humor…you cant get by just on being nice alone, even though that is a wonderful attribute. It’s unfortunate but the case for most people.

  3. Great post. I would say that women do the same thing but in a different way. We try to guess why the guy doesn’t make a move, because there is no way that the reason is that he doesn’t like us. So we try to “help” him along. I’ve been there. Not good.

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