16

Context:

I met a girl named Anna in a class at my university just under 2 years ago. Only toward the end of the semester, when we were working together as part of a group project, did I start to develop feelings for her. After that semester, we didn't see each other often, but we did connect online and play games together when we had time. Any time that we did hang out was with a couple other mutual friends from the class we had together.

Another semester passes and I was leaving for work in another state (U.S.) until the end of the year. The first couple months I did not have internet access, so Anna wrote me letters (I gave her my address before I left). She wrote me more often than my other friends/family, and on one occasion sent pictures as well. I really appreciated her taking the time to write letters and stay in touch with me, especially since she was about to graduate and had a lot of other things to take care of. It felt like we were making a good connection even though we couldn't even see or speak to each other. Then after the first couple months, I had internet access again, and we regularly stayed in touch online.

The direction of this context implies something: I assumed Anna was single. This assumption was based on what I could see on social media, and the conversations we had (e.g. never once mentioning a boyfriend, no relationship status). I never asked her about it explicitly, since that's not how I typically approach it, unless I feel it is appropriate. In this situation, being away for most of the year, I personally did not feel it appropriate to ask Anna about her relationship status or to ask her out.

Fast forward to the end of last year, I was a month or so away from finishing work and returning home. One day, Anna shared a picture of a guy that I noticed she hangs around with somewhat often, and said that they were going to move in together once they started working. I decided it was a good opportunity to ask if they were dating, and she responded that they were. I also learned that they've been together for 3+ years. It surprised me since I assumed that I would hear about him at least once in the 2 years that I've known her. I've also made my interest in her quite apparent over the course of the year, so keeping her relationship a secret had been giving me the wrong idea.

Once I returned home, I wanted to meet up with Anna, to see her in person and to talk about my feelings. The discussion went very well; we both equally shared our thoughts and reasons on the matter and I felt like I got the closure I needed to move forward and continue being friends with her. From what I gathered, she didn't know how to tell me that she was in a relationship so she decided to keep quiet about it until I asked. Since then we've been enjoying our friendship with no hard feelings.


Currently...

I've been having lunch with Anna the last couple weeks. This is the first time she's wanted to sit down with just me (usually we invite some mutual friends). I learned that she has recently moved out of the place she was sharing with her boyfriend, back home with her family. She only mentioned that she did so to help take care of her injured mother (which I don't doubt). I thought it was a temporary thing, but she said she's no longer going to move back in with her boyfriend.

I think Anna has recently ended her relationship. I noticed that her relationship status on social media has also changed to single, but since then it has become hidden again. She also appears more receptive to activities I've suggested, with just us two.

I have given this a lot of thought, and decided that I'd like to give her another shot. However, I still don't know for sure if she's actually single now, or if she'd be genuinely interested in being in a relationship with me. Furthermore, I understand that if she had ended her relationship recently, it may still be a sensitive idea/subject.

Question: How do I approach her about her relationship status, or learn about it, such that I don't unintentionally offend her or make her feel uncomfortable?

This would be the next important step for me, after which I believe I can explore whether or not she'd be interested in dating me. I just don't want to get my hopes up and repeat the whole previous year all over again.

Note: I've tried to provide sufficient context while cutting out unnecessary bloat. If there's anything that could be improved or clarified, I would be happy to do so.

20

Just ask her.

Seriously, it's that easy. If she's really your friend, then she won't mind being honest about her relationship status. If you really want a romantic relationship with her, then you will both have to learn to communicate clearly and honestly. You won't gain anything by dancing around the issue.

I understand the desire to minimize awkwardness and hurt feelings, but avoiding a topic usually makes those things worse in the long run. What if she has broken up with her boyfriend, and she starts dating someone else, and never mentions either? What if she has a romantic interest in you, but feels she blew it with her behavior before, and is too scared to bring it up? What if she's going through a tough time with her boyfriend and would really appreciate your support, but feels awkward talking to you about it? Some of those scenarios are more in your favor than others, but you'll never what the truth is if you don't talk to her about it.

If you jump straight to asking her out, that will probably go poorly. However, there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't ask her how things are going with her boyfriend, and how she feels about it if it's gone south. If they did break up, and she's not ready for a new relationship, and you think you will still be interested after giving her some time, then you should tell her that too.

You can be respectful of her feelings while being honest about yours. Do so.

  • I'll add to this: If she's still not available, then simply state that you asked because you were thinking of asking her out. It is not a crime to be romantically interested in someone who is single. – EvilSnack Sep 2 '18 at 2:22
5

To allay your fears, put yourself in the other person's position. If a woman who was just a friend quietly expressed a desire to get to know you better, would you be insulted? Probably not. Even if you weren't interested, you'd be at least very flattered.

However... if she's getting out of a relationship, and when a couple living together move to separate living spaces that usually indicates a split, she may not be ready to dive back in. Even when relationships go sour and the other person was a complete jerk, there are lingering emotional conflicts.

If she isn't bringing her relationship status up directly (and it's not the sort of personal detail that you'd ask of another person if they don't volunteer it), it tends to indicate that she's not comfortable discussing the subject at this time.

You might just try being a good friend. Talk about anything but that guy or being in a relationship, to take her mind off of that. If she is experiencing some amount of emotional turmoil over an impending or current breakup, that's probably what would do her the most good.

If after a month of that, she sighs and says - I wish that guy had been more like you - then your patience paid off.

4

Since you don't want to ask directly - show interest in her and her life, let her know you're there for her to talk and share, and let her be comfortable to share with you about her boyfriend.

Since it sounds like you care about her and have a lot of interest in her, and clearly beyond just the romantic relationship (surely that's what you want but as understood, you also enjoyed the relationship with before and you had a good connection), I would suggest you to show interest about the topic, in the form of asking her about how is she, how is it going with the boyfriend right now etc.

Some examples

  • How is it going with your boyfriend now that you moved back to your parents' house to help your mother? Is he supporting? Do you still have time to meet each other?

  • If you want to talk about something, such as how it's going with your mother (how does she feels, how are you with taking care of her, ...), how do you feel after moving out from living with your boyfriend (do you miss him? do you manage to keep your relationship with all that happening? etc.) - just know that I'm here for you if you need someone that will listen or just be there for you.

  • Something about the boyfriend - such as how is he, how is it going for him at work, what are his plans for bla bla, etc.

  • What are your plans for XXX holiday/vacation? Going to be with your family? Be with the boyfriend? Maybe you want to do something together if you don't have any plans or have some extra time?

The thing is, since you don't want to ask directly - try to show interest and let her tell you about it. It will work if you are really interested, if not - it will be noticed. (Also, if you're not interested in her life right now, it's another problem.)

That way, you'll also show interest, learn about her, and won't ask it specifically in case it's a sensitive topic at the moment (since you don't know anything about the current status).
From what she'll tell you, you will be able to understand her status (emotionally, romantically etc.)

Notes

  • The questions about the boyfriend are more/less suitable depend on how well (if at all) you know him or heard about him.
  • Try to use the boyfriend actual name, and not just "boyfriend" as it can show more sincere interest (of course, if you know his name and heard a bit about him, and it's now going to come out of the blue).

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