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On Finding The Right Words At the Right Time [Dear DBN]


I miss you, I love you, I’m sorry.  How impactful words can be. Even within one language, they mean so many different things to so many different people. This week, we tackle when to use the words that could change everything. 

For the past year I’ve wanted to apologize to a boy who I treated unacceptably and who didn’t do anything to deserve my carelessness. The main reason I haven’t gotten in touch and apologized is because he finally had enough and cut me out of his life completely. Is popping back in, after so long, to apologize selfish; should I just let things be? Also, is an email issued apology a no-no? You’re classy and considerate, so I trust you will set me straight.

I found myself in a similar situation and I delayed an apology for years. I had been so manipulative when we knew each other that I didn’t want an apology to be misconstrued as a conniving attempt to get him back in my life. Five years later, he reached out to me, congratulating me on my writing and my apology vomited onto the page. Thousands of miles away over the safeguard of email, I could finally tell him I was so, so sorry. He forgave me and I basically spent the rest of the day dancing. Five years of guilt finally relieved!

And that’s when I knew that had I reached out any other time, it would have been wildly selfish. That apology was guilt driven. Yes, of course, I think he’s wonderful and I don’t want anyone to mistreat him the way I did, but I knew he’d long gotten over my abuses.

If you’re far enough removed from the situation and you believe he is, too, then go ahead and apologize over email. Email is fine in this situation. It’s an apology. You’re not telling him you gave him a disease. When issuing apologies, really ask yourself who it’s for and who it will benefit. Words, however kind, have a way of opening old wounds.

What’s your opinion on the right time to say ‘I love you’?

Say “I love you” when you feel it, assuming when you feel it is sometime reasonable. I’m not saying you can’t fall in love in a day, but just try to keep that sh*t on lock for a bit. Love is a little word with a thousand meanings for the most complex and confusing of human emotions. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m infatuated with you,” in the meantime. And when you tell someone you are in love with them, it’s important to distinguish between saying it because you want them to know it and saying it because you want to hear it back.

Think of it like writing a fan letter: you’re doing to express gratitude and appreciation. They’re likely not going to write back saying your letter was so good you deserve a book deal and a role in their next show. We can all hope for that, but don’t expect it. All you can do is be kind, be lovely, and hope for the very best.

CollegeCandy is excited to announce that we’ve partnered up with one of our favorite Tumblrs, DateByNumbers, to bring you some of her very best advice. Each week she’ll tackle your questions. Life, love, sex, the real world…nothing will be off limits. To submit a question of your own, visit her “Ask” page and keep an eye on CollegeCandy every Thursday afternoon!

I've written for Teen Vogue, Thought Catalog, Leveled Magazine, College Candy, How About We, and have been featured on several HuffPost Live segments. Creator and leader of Bold Moves October featured on xoJane and Neil Gaiman's blog. Both Neil and Jane appreciate boldness. I specialize in pep talks, very long bike rides, and matching my lipstick to my heels.