19

Background

I am a male in my mid 20s. For about 10 years now I have been struggling with life and severe depression. I never had any friends, my family hates me and treats me pretty bad, my social skills are lacking and I suffer from Aspergers. In October '18 everything that I had left crumbled into pieces and I was completely lost. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to pick up a new job, move to a new place and virtually turned my life upside-down. I was able to completely start a new life from scratch though sometimes it still seems to be a dream. At work I met so many nice co-workers who I really enjoy spending my time with and I am finally able to be in a non-hostile environment where people treat me fair. This helped me A LOT to recover from my depression - I am definitely not "cured" in any way, it surely takes a lot of time to let the wounds heal and make the experiences I wasn't able to in the past, but the positive environment and the new people around me are helping me.

My Current Situation

Currently I work in IT consulting as a developer and I ended up on a project with another co-worker who is a male in his late 20s. We have been working together the past 4 months at the client's office. Over the course of the project we have gotten to know each other and ended up having a lot of fun, spending much time not only at work but in our free time as well. I definitely consider him to be a friend of mine and we've shared a lot of personal details.

Our Friendship

Both consciously and unconsciously I have attributed much of my mental recovery to our friendship and the amount of time we spend together. Together we are having lunch every day at work and occassionally we're going out for a drink in the evening or he invites me for some pizza and beer at his place where we just hang out. I've tried to tell him what the time spent together means to me but it's really difficult to explain what this means to me.

Yesterday we were chatting and he mentioned something about a guy he is currently dating. This is the first time he's mentioned dating someone, though he had previously mentioned that he is gay.

My Reaction

When he told me about the guy he is dating I felt disppointed and sad as if I had lost something. As if I'd been rejected although this isn't actually the case since it's not about getting into a relationship with him. I don't understand why I felt this way, because I am not gay. I don't love him and I think am not interested in a (romantic) relationship with him. It seems to me I am erroneously attributing my feelings to him which makes me somewhat susceptible.

My Goal

I feel like it would be best to talk openly with him about this issue, since I'd like to be honest with him no matter how awkward my situation might sound for him. Frankly, I think he will be considerate towards me and we'll still hang out with each other. I'd like to know how I can talk to him about my feelings without jeopardizing our friendship.

  • 1
    Please don't write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don't use them for other purposes. (cc @Sumyrda - you may want to check out our meta FAQ on frame challenges) – Em C May 19 at 12:27
5

If I were to summarize your question:

  1. you gave your friend a role that he probably did not ask for in the first place.
  2. He is also probably unaware of such important role, and of the responsibilities that you placed on him.
  3. Finally, as he is unaware of all this, he is clearly acting of his own accord and free will and he is living his life.

Now you have a problem with the last point. Probably feel betrayed, and fear the possibility that such an important figure will be lacking in your near future.


Let me explain the issue with a parallel story about which I am more familiar.

There is a local youth orchestra, struggling with managing their budget and their performance planning. One of the local schools opens their hall in the afternoon for the local youth for free to do cultural activities, be it studying, playing music, acting and the such. The orchestra books finds the venue to be very fitting to their needs, and enjoys a moment of great boost. After a couple of months, the school announces that they have established a regular theatre company that will be using this hall on a regular basis three days a week. The orchestra group feels betrayed, and organizes a strike.

The orchestra opinion was that they had booked the hall for so long that they should have some recognition of their presence. Also, not being able to practice as much as they are now used to will severely damage their ability to perform.

The school opinion was that the orchestra was given the same opportunity as anyone else. No preference was made towards them. The fact that they booked more frequently has no bearing, as there was no formal engagement between the orchestra and the school. On the other hand, the school has now its own theatre company and given that the hall belongs to the school, they have absolute precedence over any other activity. As regarding the damages to the orchestra, the school remits it to their inability to properly plan and to actually take advantage of the boost period to reorganize itself to a more functional unit.

The school wins. Sadly for the orchestra the argument soured the relationship between the two parties and the orchestra was unable to use the hall afterwards.

That was my experience.


Could have the orchestra group done anything better?

The argument of the school is quite relevant. They could have used the moment in which everything seemed to work well to set a footing further and arrange their independent practice. They could have realized that the main benefit was given by the extra hours of practice rather than by the use of specific (convenient perhaps) premises. They could have invested all the energy that they put into the strike in arranging for alternative practice venues. They could have also proposed to the school to start an orchestra group.


Back to you. A foreword: I am not suggesting to hide your feelings. I am just suggesting to clarify to yourself what they are and why you have them. Mine is just an interpretation of what you have written.

First and foremost, be thankful that you have this friend, who perhaps unknowingly did so much for you already. Perhaps the most important lesson is that having a regular social interaction was what helped the most, rather than this one single specific human being. Think about expanding your universe of friends. Maybe you could ask your friend whether you could come along and meet their partner, and their partner's friends. You could also mention you do not have many friends but that you are willing to make more, as you cherish this particular friendship very much, and should have no reason to believe that other friendships should be any less meaningful or beautiful than this one. In doing so you have told them how much they mean to you, what they have done for you, and that you have no intention of letting this friendship go, and also that you may be insecure, and need a push, but in no way you are going to stand between your friend and his life choices.

In other words, be the one ready to open your wings and fly, rather than the one who wish that the other never had wings in the first place.


And the orchestra? They are not so young anymore, but they still play. The group reduced to half. They arranged to meet elsewhere, and practiced, practiced, practiced. The future looks good now.

  • Thank you very much for your insightful parable. It is indeed a very interesting story with many parallels. You mentioned I "fear the possibility that such an important figure will be lacking in [my] near future" and indeed this might relate to the sudden realisation my feelings were irrational in the first place which basically boils down to your description. – AtypicalGuy May 21 at 17:44
  • I decided to accept this answer since it pretty much contains the most valuable explanations that specifically fit to my particular case. Thus I ended up writing a letter for my friend and I was able to read it to him which ended up being more difficult than expected due to my tension, but it ended up positive. – AtypicalGuy May 24 at 10:52
  • alright on #1, when's the last time you've been asked if someone can be your friend? I'm willing to bet it was after someone turned you down for a date, or kindergarten. Also The school didn't win; they stood to lose the most; and they did. – tuskiomi Jun 14 at 12:26
14

The way you've written and explained in this post, to me it doesn't sound like you are having any problem with this being a gay relationship, and you are quite sure that you are not interested in a romantic relationship with your friend, so I'm going to skip over that.

It sounds to me like you're afraid of losing your best friend because they've entered into a romantic relationship. This happens quite a lot with friendships when one friend enters a romantic relationship, that the person in the relationship cuts down on time that they spend with their friends, and spend more time with their partner. I've also felt rejection when a friend starts a new romantic relationship.

Depending on your relationship, you might tell your friend that you feel like you will no longer spend time with each other. That will get the situation out in the open and you can discuss your fear of losing your friendship. My guess, if they're already this close a friend, you'll be getting some reassurances that you won't be ignored.

If your relationship isn't quite at that level, your best bet would probably be to ask to meet your friend's new partner and befriend them as well.

Don't take this situation as a guaranteed loss of closeness with a friend. Sometimes when people enter relationships you end up with another friend instead.

As a fellow person with Aspergers, I understand your position well and it's compounded your feeling of rejection. People with ASD tend to only maintain a few close friends and rely on them quite significantly and you have less other friends to fall back on.

Your feelings of rejection and loss are normal. Don't forget, this will also be a fear of change/routine, which will disappear once you've gotten into the groove of how your relationship will work from now on.

Remember, treat this as a chance for a new friend, and be brave! You can't control everything and sometimes you just have to see how things will turn out. Just make sure you don't act jealously and treat your friend's new partner with respect and friendship, the best you can.

  • Thanks for your input even though I might have to disagree slightly on the point of "losing your best friend because they've entered into a romantic relationship". I can definitely see this being a common issue in this scenario, however the more I think about it and read your and the other answers the more I think the sudden realisation that my feelings towards him were irrational is what made me upset. Actually he's not to blame for anything here. I gave him a vast significance that was definitely going to cause issues... – AtypicalGuy May 21 at 17:50
  • That's great to hear that you've narrowed down what was causing your anxiety! I know I can struggle with even working out why I feel anxious in the first place. – Mister Anderson May 23 at 0:38
1

First, kudos to you for realizing the feelings you're having are irrational and that your friend hasn't done anything wrong.

I'll be blunt : this is solely a you problem, so you should deal with it and not burden (too much) your friend with it. It doesn't mean that you can't be open and honest with your friends, but in this particular situation there's already the risk you gave your friend a significance in your life he's not aware of, and asking him to help you get over those irrational feelings you're having will be a lot for him. Even if he reacts well to this, you'll be asking a lot of emotional labor from your friend, whether you want to or not. So although I'm not against you talking to him, it looks like you're looking at him as the sole source of support, which isn't fair to him.

Also, he's not just a friend, he's also a colleague, handling things badly could have repercussions in your workplace, which would add an extra layer of awkwardness/tension/... And since your work seems to be part of your new balance, I'd be careful about this.

So if you want to talk to him about this issue, I would focus on your friendship instead of your friend's relationship. See it like this : instead of having this problem : "You dating is making me feel insecure/rejected about X", you'll be able to talk about that problem : "Something recently has made me realize I'm insecure about X." It lessens the burden on his actions (him dating) and you're able to have a conversation on yourself and/or your friendship. You say you don't want to date the guy, so it's much more likely him dating has just triggered something in you that has actually nothing to do with your friend dating.

Try to spend a bit more time to find what is making you upset. The fear to not spend as much time with him ? Or to discover this friendship is much more important to you than it is to him ? The fact that he's dating and you're not ? The more you can pinpoint what is making you react this way, the more you know what you need to feel okay, and the easier a conversation like that will be. For example, if what you need is a reassurance that your friendship is strong, you could say something like :

Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something that's been bothering me lately. It's silly, but I realized recently how much our friendship means to me, and I've been wondering if you consider me a good friend or not ? Would you be ok if I told you I consider you my best friend ?

As you see in this scenario, you don't even mention his boyfriend. If you can't pinpoint why you're feeling this way, I'd strongly suggest talking to another friend about this, or see a therapist (since you're dealing with depression, my guess is you're already seeing one ?). That's because discussing his dating life and making it the cause of your feelings of rejection will make things weird and uncomfortable. Even if your friend is super cool about it, he probably will from now keep some stuff from you, if only to spare your feelings.

  • 3
    This answer doesn't really address the stated goal of the question which is "I'd like to know how I can talk to him about my feelings without jeopardizing our friendship". The OP isn't looking for ways handle or deal with his feelings, he's looking for conversational skills. While we do allow for frame challenges, our guidelines for them do ask that the frame challenge still work towards the goal of the question. – Rainbacon May 20 at 13:41
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    @Rainbacon I understand, but then by that same standard the upvoted answer should also be pinged to expand on that. It's a good answer, I upvoted it, but it doesn't answer that question : it reassures the OP about their feelings, says that they can talk about it with their friend (without giving advice on how to have that conversation) and encourages OP to also befriend the boyfriend and get an extra friend out of this. – MlleMei May 20 at 13:53
  • @Rainbacon If we should answer the question "how I can talk to him about my feelings without jeopardizing our friendship", basically I said "It's very difficult to, so I wouldn't try it" and Mister Anderson said "Depending on your relationship, you may try". There's no advice on how. Could you explain to me what is the difference where I should change my answer and not Mister Anderson ? (Not trying to be difficult, I genuinely want to know, because to me that post has the same issue as mine) – MlleMei May 20 at 13:55
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    I only commented on your post because it came up in the review queue. When I have time I can go and look at the other answers to see if they need similar commenting. If you see answers that you think are lacking, you can always flag them. That will put them into a review queue the way yours was. – Rainbacon May 20 at 14:27
  • @Rainbacon OK, thanks – MlleMei May 20 at 14:29

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