Is It Too Late To Tell Your Ex You Love Them?

too-late-to-tell-your-ex-your-feelingsThe email response to my post “If You Love Someone Should You Tell Them?” has prompted me to write another post on this particular topic. For all of you who sent me emails, I appreciate everyone of your emails. I was able to respond to some but there just isn’t enough time to respond to all.

The general experience of most people is that being honest with their feelings brought them more pain than love. Telling someone how they truly felt instead of bringing the person closer made the other person run away. This has caused them to question whether revealing ones feelings is a good idea in the first place.

What I should have added to my earlier post is that while emotional honesty is a pre-requisite for any healthy relationship, not all men and women are emotionally healthy and mature enough to appreciate it, respect it, and reciprocate it.

Emotionally unhealthy and immature men and women place a higher value on the intensity/excitement created by emotional stress and find it hard to appreciate let alone reciprocate emotional honesty. While there are many psychological reasons for being drawn to emotional drama and stress, there is no question that the tactics of manipulation and deceit can be a powerful source of adrenaline high. For some (sadly), it’s the only way they know how to interact and relate.

We all know or have known someone like that. Their first contact is confrontational for no reason, they start arguments and fights about nothing and are always suspicious about everyone’s motives. It’s like they enter your personal space and their energy contaminates it with negativity, pessimism, mental and emotional stress. Most are not even aware they have this emotional “dis-ease” vibe about. They keep blaming everyone else but themselves for their inability to emotionally connect with others in a healthy way.

Emotionally healthy and mature men and women have an emotional “ease” about them. They not only seek but thrive in healthy emotional expression, openness and honesty. They’re realistically aware that any relationship with others has the potential for hurt, but are not afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves and do not run when a man or woman to whom they’re attracted professes his or her feelings in an appropriate way.

The key words here is “appropriate”. There is such a think as too much too soon and too little too late when it comes to emotional honesty. When you’re emotionally healthy you have this internal emotional regulator inside of you (some people like to call it “emotional intelligence”), that tells you how much to reveal and at what stage of the relationship. It’s not about dishonesty or manipulation (what and how much can I say to get what I want) but rather “what’s healthy in this present experience?” (now as it’s happening).

Problem is that if your childhood experience with attachment was unhealthy or if you’ve consistently been in relationships in which you did not feel truly loved and cared for, your internal emotional regulator will either be faulty or broken and as a result your judgement on what’s healthy in the present experience will be somewhat inconsistent with reality. Without a well tuned and functioning internal emotional regulator, you’ll tend to do for the people you love what you want to be done to you which in itself a good thing, except that you’ll tend to overcompensate for all the love you’ve never had. The “unhealthy” part of you believes that if you love them the way you were never loved, they will love you right back just as much and that will make up for all those years/experiences of not feeling loved. The “overload of love” (too much or too soon) makes the other person run away.

The opposite of too much too soon, is too little too late. You hold off telling someone how you truly feel for fear that your feelings will not be reciprocated or telling them might scare them away. The effort of keeping a tight lid on your feelings makes you come across as emotionally cold, emotionally unreachable/unavailable, manipulative (playing mind games) or not authentic. That’s enough to make someone want to run away fast.

In summary, emotional honesty is the the gift of “self” (emotionally naked and unashamed). It’s not only the best quality that someone can offer to a relationship, it’s the ingredient that is necessary for deep and meaningful intimacy. Like everything in life, there is risk for potential hurt but the reward so much outweighs the risk.

If your experiences with being emotionally honest consistently cause others to run away, you should look at 1) the kind of people you tend to draw to yourself and 2) how you go about emotional honesty. Sometimes it’s the manner in which you express your love feelings (and not that you express them) that makes someone want to run away.

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11 replies on “Is It Too Late To Tell Your Ex You Love Them?”
  1. says: Bryan

    The hardest thing is loving someone who doesn’t love you back. You just wonder what’s wrong with you. She says I’m perfect the way I am, but I can’t help think that she’s just saying that not to hurt my feelings.

    1. It’s possible that she’s just saying that not to hurt your feelings, but it is also possible that there is nothing wrong with you. It may just be that you are “wrong” for each other — or at least that’s how she feels.

      There is someone out there who will love you back just the way you are. But if you feel that there are things that you want to change to make yourself a better you, then change them so you don’t feel like you are not “enough” for someone. Do it for YOU!

  2. says: Kevin

    This is a long complicated story, the summary of it is that I broke up with my gf 2 months ago because of both of our issues. I can not get into details about. Although I was the one who broke it off, I felt just as much hurt as she did. I thought that showing as little emotion as possible would make it easier for her to move on but seeing how miserable she still is breaks my heart. She’s told people she thinks I never loved her and thinks I lied to her all this years, which is not the case. I truly meant to make this easier for her, and I don’t know what to do. Please help!

    1. If this is about her telling people you never loved her and lied to her, you are being selfish and one-dimensional. But if this is about you making it easier for her to move on, then call her up and be honest with her about everything. It’s not always that a woman meets a guy willing and able to allow his vulnerable side to show. It might just be the beginning of healing both of you need.

  3. says: Slane

    I used to be one of those people too afraid and ashamed to reveal to someone that I was attracted to them and want them. The fear that I will be rejected made me keep my feelings to myself. I was so tired of being lonely and unhappy, so I put myself out there. It was scary at first and I got many rejections but it also led me to the love of my life. The reward of putting oneself out there is so much more. I’d never hide my feelings ever again.

  4. says: Tony

    Emotional honest is the gift of self. This is so true. I know exactly what the author of this article is talking about. Once you’ve been in a relationship with a woman who is secure in herself, knows what she wants, is totally open with her feelings and knows how to communicate what she wants, it’s hard to accept anything else. My ex was that kind of woman but I was so emotionally immature to appreciate her and some lucky guy who appreciates her now has her. I’ve been trying to date again but no woman out there comes close to my ex. I regret not realizing this much earlier.

  5. says: Heidi

    Are you saying that we should not reveal our feelings to someone who will not appreciate or reciprocate? And how does one identify such a person before revealing feelings to them?

    1. I’m saying that emotional honesty is important whether or not we get “something in return” from being open and honest. When we’re not emotionally honest, we are the ones who suffer because we can’t have the relationship we deep down desire and long for. We may manage to “keep” the person around for a while by hiding how we truly feel, but we won’t feel truly loved — and most times the relationship is rocky.

      Unless someone is so obviously emotionally unstable or immature, it’s hard to identify someone who can’t appreciate or reciprocate honesty right from the beginning. There are some tell-tale signs but overall, I wouldn’t advice going on a first or even third date with the intention of figuring out who’ll appreciate or reciprocate emotional honesty. “What’s in it for me” dating 1) isn’t fun and 2) isn’t healthy.

  6. says: Leyah

    I love your site and what you stand for. I’ve been accused of playing mind games when in actuality I’m just afraid of getting hurt. My ex dumped me and according to him he never knew how I truly felf about him. I told him when he was breaking up with me that I love him with all my heart and he’s the only man I want to be with, but it was too late. He has been seeing someone he says is does not play games.

    I am learning to accept that is there is a risk/reward to everything in life. It’s up to me to decide which risk is worth it for me.

  7. says: Stu

    I’m a victim of the risk you talk about. She and I were together for 4 years. We had many wonderful times and sex was great but we never really talked about how we felt. Every now and then it\d be obvious that there were some compatibility issues but we preferred not to deal with them. She started seeing a therapist and me afraid that she would leave because I wasn’t an emotionally open person asked for a heart-to-heart talk. My intention was to be honest with her and really tell her how I truly feel. What happened is after 10 hours of talking about all the things we had never told each other in the 4 years we were together, she broke up with me. She said she had always felt we were not right for each other but went along because she did not want to hurt me. My revealing to her that there were some things I was not happy with in the relationship freed her to do the right thing. And the right thing was to break up now rather than later. There goes emotional honesty… Never again will I tell a woman how I truly feel.

    1. The choice to tell a woman how you truly feel is yours…

      The reality though is that both of you were hiding concerns you had about the other. The honest conversation just helped bring that truth about your incompatibilities into the light. If you had not been honest with each other, you would have stayed together for a while longer only to regret just how much time each of you had wasted with someone who wasn’t right for you.

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