Experts Break Down Why It's Sometimes Hard To Figure Out If You Like Someone

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if you could always accurately identify your feelings about someone? If you just weren’t into that coworker who invited you out to drinks, you could gently let them down before wasting anyone’s time. If you were falling for that Tinder match after a handful of dates, you could make that known without having to overanalyze everything with your besties. Why is it hard to figure out if you like someone? Well, feelings are complicated — and to boot, there are many different internal as well as external factors that can impact them, as well as your ability to recognize them.

According to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist in Los Angeles, there are a number of understandable reasons for this phenomenon.

“Maybe your last relationship didn't end well and you are feeling a bit ‘gun-shy’ about pulling the trigger on a new relationship,” he tells Elite Daily.

If you just survived a brutal breakup, it makes sense why it might prove a bit more challenging to identify your feelings. When you experience heartache and other forms of hurt toward the end of a relationship, you may feel a bit hesitant to start another relationship. You may feel especially protective of your feelings — which would explain why you're still scratching your head over whether you like that cute guy from your yoga studio even after you had a couple of stellar dates with him.

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Another factor that can complicate your feelings is if you haven’t defined what you want, or if you’re caught off guard by someone who doesn’t fit that description. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve figured out that you have a “type,” and that type is tall, nerdy and goofy — but then you meet someone who’s short, athletic, and serious-minded, and the chemistry is cray. It would make sense that this could confuse your feelings and therefore, that it might take a little extra time to wrap your mind around whether you like this person or not. Because they weren’t what you thought you were looking for.

“If the person is very different from the type of person you usually date, then it might be hard to picture yourself with them,” Pricilla Martinez, CEO of Regroop Online Life Coaching, tells Elite Daily. “You may also be dismissing what you’re feeling because they aren’t what you pictured for yourself.”

Dr. Brown notes that it can also be hard to tell if you like someone if they cause you to re-examine your desires as far as dating goes.

“Maybe you’re still using one or more dating apps and you are beginning to have thoughts that you might want to see someone more exclusively” he explains. “Or you thought you would just like a casual hook-up, but now you aren't so sure.”

Say you had consciously decided to stick with casual dating and no-strings-attached sex at this point in your life. Then, you go on a couple amazing dates with one of your Tinder matches, and before you know it, you find yourself wondering (OK, worrying) about whether they’re still active on their apps or not. Wait a sec — does this mean you like this person? Or is it just jealousy rearing its ugly head? But then again, why would you be jealous if you didn’t really like them? Woof, I know. Feelings are nothing if not bewildering little buggers.

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According to Dr. Brown, one of the main reasons why it can be tough to tell if you like someone, however, is it you don't trust your own judgment. If you have a tendency to doubt your own feelings a lot — for example, questioning whether it’s valid to be upset or angry about something — then that may mean you don’t fully trust your own instincts and emotional responses. Naturally, this would make it pretty difficult to determine whether you actually like someone or not.

“Of course, there’s also the added fear that you may be alone in what you’re feeling,” adds Martinez. “It can be even more confusing if you aren’t sure that your feelings or theirs aren’t rooted in some outside circumstance. Is this the first time you both happen to be single? Are you bored? Those factors can actually play a part. So, you have to ask yourself: if circumstances were different, would you still be attracted to this person?”

There are also situational factors that can complicate your ability to identify your feelings — for example, if your crush is a friend, coworker, or your bestie’s ex. In these types of scenarios, there are obviously some risks involved in pursuing your crush. You could potentially compromise a friendship. Or, if you work with them, you could make things pretty awkward around the office should things not work out. In other words, it’s totally understandable that you might not be able to acknowledge or admit to yourself that you like someone when you feel like they’re “off-limits” for whatever reason.

“When there’s a preexisting relationship that’s meaningful to you, the thought of losing it or the uncertainty of how it will change can be terrifying,” adds Martinez.

Has someone in your inner circle expressed disapproval of your potential crush? Susan Trombetti, CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, says that can be a factor as well.

"When you know that your family or friends would disagree with you dating them, sometimes it's hard to acknowledge that you have feelings," she explains.

Fortunately, experts agree that there are some telltale signs that you like someone. Unsurprisingly, according to Dr. Brown, one sign is if you think about them a lot, and miss them when you’re not around them. If you’ve imagined this person in your future (and had positive thoughts about what that would look like), Dr. Brown says that’s also a strong indicator that you like them. He notes that if you feel pangs of jealousy when you see them with someone else, that could mean you like them. Trombetti adds that if you feel nervous before seeing them, that could indicate you like them as well.

If you’re still having a tough time figuring it out, Martinez has a test she always poses to clients who are struggling to identify their feelings about someone: She asks them to reflect on whether they can see themselves with this person for the next forty years just as they are.

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“Many times, a client will answer yes but it’s contingent on some factor changing,” she explains. “If your partner would be perfect if they had a different job, sense of humor, personality, or level of ambition, they aren’t perfect for you.”

Experts agree that sometimes, your fears about relationships can make it especially hard to tell if you like someone.

“Perhaps you are afraid of commitment in general,” explains Dr. Brown. “Oftentimes, these people are also afraid of ultimately being abandoned or of making the wrong choice to begin with.”

Martinez adds that if you’ve had a traumatic experience in a breakup or relationship, that can confuse your feelings as well.

“A lot of people spend an enormous amount of time avoiding pain and few things cause the kind of pain you feel when you lose someone you love,” she says. “The complication of transitioning into a new kind of relationship can put you in a vulnerable state as well. You have to ask yourself if it’s more frightening to take the risk or miss the opportunity entirely.”

If you suspect that fear is the culprit behind why you can’t determine whether you like someone, Dr. Brown suggests doing some soul-searching to explore those internal barriers that may be inhibiting your ability to identify your feelings and/or pursue a relationship. Here’s the thing: There are so many reasons why you may struggle to figure out whether you like someone or not. And you know what? Maybe it’s a good thing that you can’t identify your feelings right off the bat. Sometimes, a hesitance to acknowledge certain feelings is simply your own way of protecting yourself from pursuing someone who is ultimately wrong for you. Sometimes, it’s your instincts kicking in without you even knowing it. Sometimes, it’s your way of weighing out the risks with the rewards. By taking your own sweet time to dig into your hesitance and suss out whether you do actually like someone, you can ensure that you ultimately make the right move for you — whatever that may be.