Hey, I just want the community's advice on my situation.
I am 25, my first cousin Z is 21.
TL;DR : If your cousin says she is obsessed with you(its mutual), in the sense that we cannot go much long without talking, and promises that I am and will be the most important person in her life no matter what, is it love or that is just how strong a brother-sister bond is. Because, I have never felt the same way with any of my other cousins. I am just confused.
Scenario (apologies for explaining in detail but I need a proper advice based on everything) :
Part I (The foundation)
From a young age, I always felt a different bond with Z. We were open and used to share many things.I would light up anytime she would text or call. We live on different sides of the country and used to meet once a year in our childhood. She always wanted to "know something about me that noone knew" and would look forward to talk to me. I did feel special when she used to say this, but I used to console myself by telling "She's just a cousin. She is just saying this as a sister, dont start having weird thoughts".
During my last college year, I had visited my aunt's place and when I was leaving, she cried took my hand and put it on her head and just sobbed. She made me promise, I would try moving to her city. That small gesture affected me so much that I made it a mission to find a job there and succeeded. I was 22, she was 17. I just hated myself for feeling so strongly attached to her. Her mood and all her opinions affected me very deeply.
After moving, I used to visit her place on weekends, and we used to just chill like normal cousins. Couple times she would just lay her head on my lap and I would stroke her hair. (Nothing intimate, again I used to console myself "She's just a cousin"). During those times, I realized she had many male friends and used to feel a painful jealousy and insecurity(It was childish, I know). Gradually, I dont know if I created it in my head or not, I started feeling that for her friends were more important than me. I felt really heavy in my heart. Because, she was, in retrospect, quite normal with me, but due to scenarios I had created, I felt hurt that I didn't mean as much to her as she meant to me. I door-slammed her (an INFJ thing, read it here). Completely stopped talking and acting stone cold with her. I thought I did it for my own sanity, as we were just cousins and me catching unwanted feelings was wrong. Cutting ties was the only option I saw. I thought she will understand this. She tried asking me a couple of times what had happened, why was I acting weird, I just made something up and deviated the topic. We stopped talking then.
Forward 2 years, we had barely talked. I had shifted to my hometown. I had made peace that she saw me just as a brother. Then a trip of us cousins was planned. I was nervous but decided to act in a normal "nothing happened" kind of way with her in the trip During the last day of trip, she again asked what had happened. I said it was just some stupid overthinking on my side and its fine now(though it was not). She started crying badly this time. She said I didnt know how much it affected her (I am skeptical of this, as she was active on social media and was pretty normal, while I was the one who became private and started to hate life). I was touched, and I didnt know what to say. I was just always torn if she saw me as something more and till today haven't been able to figure it out.
After a week it was New Years, and she texted telling me to explain what exactly had happened. I told her I felt for her friends were important and blah blah. She was furious. She said she had cried for many days after I had door-slammed her and was not able to trust anyone. She said, I was supposed to know how much I affected her and even now I was more important than her Bffs, BECAUSE family comes first. It was just so damn confusing. But i was also a fool, as I told her that she was the 'little sister' I had always wanted and will always pray for her happiness. It was just me forcefully telling myself she is a sister. We had a nice chat till dawn, we both said that we meant a lot to each other. I still was confused about myself and her too.
Part II (Escalation)
We then started sharing stuff again. I was careful not to fall by blocking any feelings. We sometimes chatted till dawn, when she was alone, we even used to talk on phone till dawn. Random things. I feel happy when we interact, but feel a gut-wrenching pain when I realize, she is going to be someone else's eventually.
Being torn again amidst feelings of love and being a brother, I again started to drift away very subtly. By end of the year, we chatted barely once in a month. She was the one always initializing conversations. During Christmas, she gave a surprise visit with other cousin to my hometown. I was so frustrated. I didnt want to fight those feelings again. But i acted happy and pseudo-enjoyed their stay.
Guess what, again at New Years' she texted me saying it was the best week of the year but she thinks I dont trust her. I slipped because could not control. I told her (not at all romantically), that she was the most important person and will always be my #1 priority forever. Was just afraid of future when we will marry others. I trust her the most and she affects me the most. She reciprocated the same exact feelings. On marriage worry, she said that somehow we will manage. I just couldn't in God's name figure what does she mean. Does she see me as more than a brother !!
We used to write sweet messages when the other one sleeps to wake up happy. She used almost every medium to stay in touch. Text, call, snap. She says she is afraid to go into that space again where we weren't talking. She is very comfortable with me, and never wants my special place in her heart to change.
After a month, I told her I was getting obsessed. Wanted to text every minute, and if she didnt reply for a long time, I was getting restless. She said she was going through the same and was going to confess soon. She was afraid of such thing, but could not control it. I gave her two options - decrease our interaction for a long term peace of mind or choose obsession. She chose the latter. For her, lesser interaction was more scary than obsession. I secretly felt happy but confusion too increased. We both got more close. Been texting a lot. Recently I had to travel for a few days, and we had a fight. So didnt text. After coming back, she said her mood was completely off and she was waiting for my text full time. Checking if I was coming online. I again gave her those two options. She again chose obsession. I asked her if I will remain her #1 no matter what, she said if I dont again do any stupid thing like distancing away, then definitely yes.
Now we are trying to mutually find ways to reduce obsession.
Btw there is definitely some sort of lust involved from my side, though I have skillfully bottled that up till now. And I am just as confused and exhausted about my feelings and hers too.
I need advice on : Do you all think this is a normal brother-sister relation or there are definitely more feelings involved. I am just afraid of opening my heart without getting clear on this first.
Stuff I am sure of, and hence made peace with : Marriage is never going to happen, neither our parents will even remotely accept of this. Its such a taboo, that I will be jailed on some grounds even if I hint at such stuff.
Best scenario : We are in a secret relation, admitting that this is love. True and pure love. (This brings warmth).
Worst scenario : No interaction. I can live with this too. Just sadly. (This brings sub-zero darkness).
Anyone who read the whole thing and advised, I sincerely thank you. You are kind. Getting a third person perspective is all I need right now.