I have this friend, I could easily call her my best friend. We see each other at least twice a week usually, have travelled together etc. About 6 months ago she confessed that she has feelings for me, but I don't feel the same way.

I don't have any issues with the fact that she feels that way, and I'm still very keen on continuing our friendship, however it seems to be having an impact on us. I'm in a committed relationship (I'm female and bi), and whenever I mention anything involving my partner to her, she gets upset. She doesn't yell or cry or anything, but becomes very distant. I can tell that I've upset her and that in turn makes me feel awful, and every time it happens we have a 'talk' about it. It normally starts like this:

Me: Oh yeah, so last night we went to that restaurant near my place.

Her: Oh.. that's nice...

Me: The food was pretty good, so maybe you and I should go sometime.

Her: Mmm...

After which she'll continue to be distant, and then for the next half hour I'm trying to remedy the situation, apologizing and telling her it's ok, that she's still important to me. She also gets upset whenever we don't see each other for more than a few days, and when we see each other again we inevitably end up having another one of these talks. We get along really well otherwise though, and we've both agreed that abandoning the friendship is not an option.

I've seen the question Reject a close friend interested in dating me? but I feel that this is different, as I've made it very clear to her that I'm not interested in a romantic relationship, and I don't feel like she's pressuring me into one. We are very close friends, and I want to stay that way, but I do feel like it's straining our friendship.

Up until now I've gotten by by just not mentioning my partner at all, but this is getting increasingly difficult as they become a bigger part of my life and I'm unable to talk to my friend about important things happening. I would like to be able to have a normal friendship where I'm not inadvertently upsetting her all the time, but I need to be able to talk about my life too.

In addition, she's not out. This is new for her and she has mentioned it's the first time she has felt this way about anyone.

What can I do to help her feel better about the whole thing? Is this something that just needs time? Am I just being selfish here?

up vote 61 down vote accepted

Sounds like your friend is in love with you. Despite it being an unrequited love, and you being plain about that, it's going to be hard for her to turn those feelings off. Seems like she's entertaining the idea that you two will be together some day.

You're not being selfish and it's probably going to take time. But it's not something that you can really help her with, beyond not accommodating the fantasy. By not accommodating the fantasy, I mean, don't avoid talking about your relationship. Don't treat her differently than you would any other close friend.

My best friends in the world is someone that I dated once upon a time. Shifting the frame of the relationship took time and effort, it was hard to talk about our new relationships for a while, but eventually it became something of a focal point in our friendship. We know each other really very well in a romantic context, so we're sort of uniquely qualified to offer each other relationship advice. (Not a one for one comparison to your situation, just pointing out that it's possible to get over the feels.)

Something that may help the situation, is to have a sort of "break-up" conversation with her. I know you two never dated, so it may seem odd, but bear with me... Rather than avoiding uncomfortable conversation, steer into the curve. Have a direct conversation about what you're noticing and how it's detrimental to your friendship. Start with something like:

Hey, it seems like you're really uncomfortable hearing about my relationship. I need to be able to talk to my best friend about this stuff, but it feels like I can't.

Putting your cards on the table will probably be uncomfortable, but it's kinda necessary if you two are going to get past this stuff. It's what friends do, ya'know?

She may need some time to process her feelings, she may need some space to do that, but avoiding the issue isn't going to help.


As this is her first serious same sex crush... Things are likely going to be a little harder for her. She feels safe with you. Safe enough to take a pretty big step into being queer, and that changes things a bit on her end... You still gotta do what you gotta do, but please be gentle. Rejection in this situation is a little more fraught.

I remember my first crushes in my journey. Once you've exposed your stuff to someone, and you're not really at a point of self acceptance... It's easy to get hung up on them. As if they're the only fish in the sea. The only person who knows you and accepts you.

Again, in these cases, please be gentle, but be honest. Being honest means being completely honest and not shielding them from the truth, but it also means doing a little hand holding.

You have an opportunity to help them find their way in their journey. Makes for some really deep meaningful friendship stuff. Show them the ropes when you're able, and they're ready to hear it. Remind them that you're not the the only fish in the sea.

Damn... This is hitting close to home...

I guess, just be the person you wish you had when you were first figuring this stuff out for yourself.

You can help her get over you, by not trying to remain friends with her, at least in the short term.

Her feelings for you are not the same as yours for her, and this will always cause angst, until she resolves these feelings, which takes time.

Trying to continue the friendship too soon, without giving her enough time away from you, could lead to resentment, and harm the friendship long term.

The jealousy is a clear indicator that she is not in a place yet emotionally where she can be friends with you.

She will need to get to a point where she can comfortably see you in the arms of your significant other, and not feel jealous.

  • 1
    Hey, thanks for taking the time to write this, but I'm having trouble seeing how this answers the OP's question - the OP has stated that she does not want to abandon the friendship. Could you please explain how this answers the OP's question? – Arwen Undómiel Aug 17 at 6:40
  • 12
    I haven't said the friendship needs to be abandoned, but that it may take time. The chances of being able to maintain the friendship, I believe depend to a large degree on allowing the other person time to "get over" her. – user1751825 Aug 17 at 6:44
  • 13
    Rather than being abandoned, I think the friendship needs to be put on-hold to a certain extent, until the romantic feelings, and jealously can naturally fade. – user1751825 Aug 17 at 6:49
  • 4
    This is the advice I'd offer, having been the person on the other end of a similar equation. Honestly, the only point I actually got over my romantic feelings was when we started seeing less of each other. Felt really crap at the time, but afterwards I saw it as the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. I should mention that we're no longer close friends, but that's as much due to distance as anything. If we lived closer, I'd still count her as a friend. – Ynneadwraith Aug 17 at 14:35

First, I agree with @apaul's answer as a first approach. If that's not sufficient, I have some further perspective to add.

I've been in a VERY similar situation that your friend is in now. What I can say for my personal experience was that I would read into normal best-friend interactions as if they were romantic in nature. This was an extremely hard believe system to break.

What I was looking for in a relationship was quite similar to a close friendship: someone to spend time with, talk about feelings with, share aspirations and fears, etc. Despite the person with whom I was infatuated being clear about the fact that they were not interested in a relationship, I would perceive those normal interactions as "hints" about their "true feelings". This was, of course, incorrect.

Like your friend, any mention of my friend being interested in another person would be met with terrible feeling from myself. It was extremely hard to deal with. Despite being very hurtful, even that wasn't enough for me to get the point.

Given that perspective, I suggest being wary of the idea that telling the friend, no matter how directly, may not be sufficient for them to get the idea. That didn't work for me, and may not work for your friend.

If the behavior continues after being direct with them, you may need to end the friendship. I went through several years in the position of your friend, which continuously negatively impacted my mental health. It wasn't until the friendship was ended that I was forced to truly face the fact that no relationship was ever going to happen, and FINALLY move on. You may, at some point, be able to begin a new friendship, but that may not be guaranteed.

Remember, allowing your friend to stay in this sort of position is not helping them.

The "friend zone" is a terrible place.

It's obvious she wants something you don't want, but it doesn't seem to be obvious to you that you want something she probably doesn't want. She doesn't want to be your "just friends" best friend, she wants to be your lover.

By keeping her close-but-not-that-close because that's what you want, you're friendzoning her. The way to help her get over you is to not friendzone her. As in, don't fill your time and space with her. Let go.

The way to help her get over you while still getting the friendship you want from her is - Give her time and space to get over you, for there to be any chance of a healthy friendship at some point in the future. There's no chance of it now. So meanwhile, let go.

  • Stop making a big deal out of it.
    Just continue the conversation as you normally would.

    If she's a bit (or very) distant and you make a big deal out of it, that's going to highlight the reason she's distant, and thinking about it will probably reinforce those feelings.

    It will also make her more self-conscious about it, and make it more difficult for her to give a "natural" response any time you mention your partner.

    Such conversation also generally aren't pleasant, so regularly having such conversations could lead to her associating any unpleasant feelings the conversation itself brings with you mentioning your partner.

    If you don't make a big deal out of it, she should become less and less distant each time.

    Changing the subject could help, although this would ideally involve a fairly natural transition. If it's painfully obvious that you're now changing the subject because the current subject is uncomfortable, that will lead us back to the same problem (although to a lesser extent).

  • This has a risk of making the problem worse, if her feelings means you can't be friends.

    Although I'd argue this is something she needs to figure out on her own.

    Giving up on your friendship instead (or putting it on hold) would, to me, imply you don't think she's capable of making decisions based on her own feelings (which is certainly possible, although I wouldn't start with that assumption). Giving up on the friendship because her behaviour as a result of the feelings is making things unpleasant for you is, however, perfectly reasonable.

  • This isn't "avoiding the problem".

    As I read it, you've already spoken about this, multiple times. Continuing to do so will only make the problem worse. You don't scratch open a wound repeatedly, you leave it alone to let it heal.

  • If, however, you haven't made it clear that no relationship will ever happen

    ... you should definitely do that first.


Also, do be careful about reading signals that aren't there. "Oh.. that's nice..." doesn't sound particularly distant. Although you're a much better judge of whether or not she's being distant.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.