This isn't a request for advice; it's an "i can't possibly be the only one experiencing this particular dichotomy between friendship and romance; do you guys overcome or just accept fears? How do you feel about it? Does it weird anyone else out entirely?" post.
My therapist has been working with me to remove the blinders i put on myself years ago. i've always been a closet romantic, and when i was a teen i had some issues with seeing romantic intent via actions - i've always placed more reliance on body language/nonverbal communication than on words, because it's a lot harder to lie nonverbally. Because i got in trouble several times over it, i forced myself to write off any actions that didn't have words backing them up as people just being friendly; over the past 4 years, i also closed myself off so badly that i stopped being able to recognize my *own* feelings if they shifted.
With her help, i've been regaining emotional control after having cracked that shell open wide immediately following my and X's breakup, as well as consciously acknowledging my feelings. i've dealt directly with some of them, specifically in regards to one couple i'm friends with. The other couple i'm still on the fence about even sleeping with, much less whether i could manage - or WANT - to shift from "these are friends i'm not doing anything with" to "these are people i'd be okay with dating." i've been on a date, which in and of itself was kind of a big step for my "relationship, THEN date" self :P.
One block i'm running into is the idea of admitting my feelings to a person if they shift from friendship to romance. It isn't always easy for others to tell if that happens, as i'm overtly loving and cuddly with anyone i feel particularly close to whether i have romantic interest in them or not.
When my therapist asked how i felt about telling a person if my feelings had shifted without them speaking up first, i had a full-on catatonic panic attack in her office. So now i'm having to figure out that divide - why do i have no issues at all telling friends i care, being affectionate, being loving, and yet flip my shit at the idea of admitting romantic love?
Is it that part of me still reacts to the whole societal ideal of love being a Huge Big Thing that will Change Your Entire Life, whereas it's unlikely that admitting to love would actually change much of anything, depending on the other person/myself/what (if anything) either of us wanted?
Is it that i'm an introvert who really doesn't like opening up to more than a few people at once?
Is it a holdover from the catastrophic experiences with X, this subconscious feeling that if i admit to romantic feeling, i'm setting myself up to end up shutting off and ignoring my instincts for someone because i'm too afraid to just let them go even if it becomes painfully obvious it needs to happen?
Is it as simple as - i don't feel i have a right to speak up, unless someone else approaches me first?
i've been pondering a lot of questions and not finding many answers, but i feel like the only way i'm ever going to be able to progress in my own healing process, as a poly person, and in exploring potential partners and developing relationships is to somehow get over the fear/anxiety/sense of doom. i just haven't been able to figure out how to do that.