Current situation

John and Ashley are friends. They are of opposite genders.


  • Introvert
    Has very few friends. Primarily boys.

  • Tech-savvy
    In an unconventional way. He seeks perfection. Great code quality. Quality over amount.

  • Committed to never being in a romantic relationship with anyone
    He thinks that loneliness is his destiny. It simplifies a lot of things in his life, as it is pretty rough at the moment.

  • Friendly, easy to start conversation with
    If approached, can talk for quite a while, but will not start conversation himself.

  • Likes playing games
    Video games is his place of habitat.

  • Is emotion driven, but he gains discipline to control them.
    Emotions damaged his body, so he knows that controlling emotions is key to survival. His cardiovascular system experienced irrevertible damage. Though his discipline is good enough to get through most of the problems he experiences, but breaking up with a loved one will hit him hard enough to die.


  • Tech-savvy, but not as much as John
    She knows CPU models, knows the difference between byte and megabyte. Small programming skills.

  • Likes playing games.
    Not as much as John. She does it rarely compared to John.

  • What is fun for John is fun for Ashley, and vice versa
    When one makes a joke, the other laughs.

  • Thinks John is cool, that he can one day "change the world"
    She observed him in situations where he showed his peak cognitive performance, and she was amazed.

  • Relies on John in bad situations, such as fixing laptops, blue screen of death, etc.
    She asked him for favors sometimes, and he didn't refuse or put her down. She found him to be very reliable person.

  • Emotion driven.
    She thinks that listening to emotions is always the right way.

John and Ashley

  • Hang out together, once or twice a week.
    Go to cinema, play online games, etc. Possibly with other friends

  • Outsiders think they are in love, even their friends.
    Their friends keep bothering them about it

  • Very rarely get into physical contact, such as touching, hugging.
    John never shows physical attraction to her, though he hugs her when she is in extremely bad mood or had rough day. He never allows her to do that, though.

  • They are from middle Asia.


One day Ashley told John that she likes him. John is committed to never get into romantic relationships, so the comedy turns into a melodrama. John doesn't want to lie or try to start liking her.


How can John let Ashley know that he doesn't share her feelings for him without losing her friendship?

Situation is different

In this question, the characters are more introvert, e.g. they have very few other friends. They have much stronger bonds than usual friends, so they are on a thin line between friends and lovers. Also, the scene is located in middle Asia, not US.

  • If anything is unclear to you, or even more important, offending, please let me know, I'll try to address it as quickly as possible. Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 20:45
  • Possible duplicate of How to gently tell someone that you just want to be friends?
    – apaul
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 21:26
  • @user3169, there was "John is me part", but I removed it since I didn't want people to search for context in my profile. I thought that leaving only the context shown is better. I would appreciate an edit to make it less literary Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 23:24

8 Answers 8


How can John let Ashley know that he doesn't share her feelings for him without losing her friendship?

In short, you can't. The best you can do is tell her the truth and hope that she can be happy as friends.

By Ashley telling John that she likes him she put herself in a vulnerable position because she left herself open to the idea that John would either:

a) reject her and tell her that he no longer wants to be friends.

b) reject her and tell her he still wants to be friends.

c) accept her.

If John tells her that he is not interested in her romantically but still wants to be friends and she rejects this, that is on her. Sorry if that's not the answer you were looking for, but honesty is the best policy. I know this might be hard for an introvert, but this is one of those life situations where a direct response is the best solution.

I'm not sure if it matters why you are not interested in a romantic relationship with her, the point is that you aren't. It would be far more destructive to her emotionally in the long run if you were to lead her along, or pretend to be interested in her romantically when you are not. Just be honest.

  • 2
    The "Only say it if you mean it" is important. Consider it being the other way around. Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 18:36

This sounds fictional - especially the medical condition. I'm not a licensed doctor, but a stress-related condition that would be triggered by a break-up but at the same time wouldn't be triggered by the tensions of 'trying to stop a friendship from blossoming into a romance' seems unlikely.

If it's fiction, I'd recommend having John believe that his condition & risks are exactly as you describe, but maybe weave into the story arc his becoming aware that it's somewhat of a false limitation he's putting on himself, and explore why he would do that, how he grows struggling with this, etc.

However, if this is a real-life situation, I would advise "John" that he needs to put this relationship question on the back-burner & concentrate on getting more info, 2nd-opinions, etc. to best manage his cardiovascular condition. Being honest about this will probably be a good solution to the relationship question, at least for a time.

  • 3
    From the question I got the vibe that drugs of some kind were involved (and that the damage came from them) and that John would risk relapsing if he had to break up or was broken up with. Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 16:20
  • 3
    That makes sense, although I still think he's making a dubious/dangerous assumption if he relies on avoiding close relationships as a long-term strategy for staying out of that situation again. If drug use or other destructive coping habits are involved, I guess I'd advise John to take it slow on the relationship & seek out people (other than romantic partners) to talk things thru with while he works on himself. Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 18:22
  • 2
    Agreed. The more I look at it, the harder I find it to understand what's going on and what concept of relationships (and physiology) the OP has. Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 10:01

Through the conversation in comments it sounds like John may be in a catch-22 situation. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. John has a circulatory system problem that could be triggered by depression...

John avoids romantic entanglement because the stress could literally kill him. Actually being able to die from a broken heart is painfully poetic by the way...

I say it's a catch-22, because losing a close friend could be equally troubling and depressing as losing a lover.

With all that out of the way, it sounds like John's only hope for survival is to tell Ashley the truth and hope that she understands and sticks around as a good friend. This is entirely possible, but keep in mind that John is asking a lot of Ashley, it's hard to get past romantic feelings once they've taken root.

John's best bet is to tell Ashley the whole truth, explain his medical condition, and why it makes him reluctant to enter into potentially stressful romantic relationships. Hopefully Ashley will understand.¹

¹It may be a good idea to have this conversation near medical help, as the conversation may be very stressful.

  • 1
    John has a great discipline. Otherwise, he would have died many times over the period of midterms, finals, and moving into dormitory. He just needs to control it and not lose focus. Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 22:21
  • 2
    @Incomputable Great, but that just makes it sound more fictional. Even if the story is partially about you, it still is off topic here and should be moved to Writers.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 14:15

John should just be honest.

If, in fact, you really have decided not to ever be in a romantic relationship with anyone, tell her that, but also tell her that, despite not wanting a romantic relationship, you respect her and value her friendship. Tell her that you hope this doesn't change your friendship.

At least this way, she knows that it's not something about her that you're rejecting, but rather that you've just made a decision not to be in a relationship with anyone. And she also then knows that, while you don't want a romantic relationship with her, you do care for her as a friend.

Of course, it will ultimately be up to her whether she's ok with continuing to just be friends or not. You can't make that decision for her, but you can let her know that you do still want to be her friend.

Note that, even if she is ok with still just being your friend, things may be a little more awkward than usual for a while and/or she may need some space for a while. If this does happen, though, things will probably eventually return to normal if she shares your desire to continue being friends.

For what it's worth, I've been in a couple of similar situations and I'm still good friends with both women. Just because you don't want a romantic relationship doesn't necessarily mean your friendship is doomed.


Emotions damaged his body, so he knows that controlling emotions is key to survival. His cardiovascular system experienced irrevertible damage.

John seems to be confusing "affairs of the heart" with actual physical heart problems. He needs to seek help, probably counselling. It just isn't possible to go through life without experiencing emotions, some of which will be sadness and grief.

"Controlling emotions" - what does that mean? Not experiencing them? You can't do that. If John declines to get into any sort of romantic relations in his life he is likely to be lonely. And loneliness can kill.

One day Ashley told John that she likes him.


How can John let Ashley know that he doesn't share her feelings for him without losing her friendship?

Telling someone you like them isn't inviting them into your bed. If Ashley says she likes John that should be taken at face value. He has a friend who likes him.


This is tricky just because John is so sensitive to emotional triggers. But because it would probably be worse to leave this unresolved, it seems like a good idea for John to explain to Ashley what he can, without pushing his comfort zone much more than necessary.

In particular,

  • If John explains that emotional stress has harmed him and could do further harm, and that he had already decided not to pursue romance with anyone, Ashley might understand that John is not simply rejecting her specifically.

  • If John explains that he does not wish to lose Ashley's friendship, this might clarify the situation and slightly strengthen the friendship.

    • John might support this by explaining what specifically he enjoys about being Ashley's friend and spending time with her.

No matter what John says, there are no guarantees about how Ashley will react. In the best case, Ashley and John can then discuss how they can both move forward in a way that best supports the well-being of both of them. In all cases, John can know he was kind, fair, and honest.

However, if John's discipline at controlling emotions comes up, I'd advise him to describe it as his habit or viewpoint, and not as a simple fact. This might confuse or concern Ashley, since it's not humanly possible for such a discipline to do less harm than good. Still, it's a valid thing to want to explain to a very close friend. John might be super-human, but I am not, and I once also believed discipline could protect me from emotional harm. This belief, though, is usually a sign of extreme anxiety, and my anxiety and my resistance to emotions both made my life much more difficult than it had to be. The only way to overcome anxiety is (perhaps paradoxically) to gradually approach what one fears, beginning with baby steps. This is not easy, but a professional therapist or counselor can help, and did help me. I still work on these things, but these days I'm much happier mindfully participating in my emotions and enjoying life. I'd hope John might some day reach a similar place.


"Change the world" is codeword for madly in love. I dont know if you're quoting movies here but this seriously smells like fiction and if you're actually going through this, I'm sorry that your life resembles something like this.

I think I'm talking to John here who if does have a heart condition, made the post in the most detached manner possible (third person) to not get too emotional.

A romantic closeness does not always have to be extreme. It does not always need to cumulate into a relationship right away. They can both acknowledge that they like each other but hold back due to John's problem. Being part of each other's life as friends and living on.

Careful though, this would require John to be honest with A about his situation meaning that there's a chance that A might take it as if John's giving her an excuse to reject her. So if John does decide to do so, he must tell A in the most convincing manner possible, and do so with proof. They can both admit their likeliness for each other and then put it aside for the moment. Maybe in the future, John might need someone? Other than that a best friend for life is not bad?

In the event John just chooses to be friends with A without revealing the real reason, A might choose to go out with other guys or be out on her own. If John really does not have any real feelings or is able to live with this fact then this is fine. If John, on the other hand cannot live with it, and will in fact feel hurt seeing A with other people then John should be careful.

Talking to a doctor

John can talk to a doctor about what people in his situations do when faced with high stress situations like romantic situations? Are there medications / stress relief techniques present? Again, is it all worth the cost of a failed relationship?

All the best to John.

PS: John also needs to understand that he needs to give us an update about this afterwards


Truth-1: John cannot go alone rest of his life. Because then he'll die of loneliness.

Truth-2: Ashley can easily find other men if John says no to the romantic association which in turn will lead to John being alone = possible death.

Truth 3: John is emotionally wiser than Ashley.

John should sit with Ashley and explain her that he has a health condition and possibly he is not the best person for her in long-term romantically, but as a friend, he can stay with her long-term. This is one part of the discussion.

The tricky part is if Ashley decides to sacrifice the friendship part with John for romantic association elsewhere John will be left alone.

To avoid this the second part of the discussion should be, why Ashley is not the right person for John. i.e. her excessive emotionalism makes her a big potential health risk to John. Therefore, if they eventually do pursue a relationship it has to be a strictly contained relationship with a clear set of rules and expectations, to manage both:

  1. Ashley's excessive emotionalism.
  2. John's inability to accept that nothing lasts forever.
  • The last sentence seems interesting. I'll think about it. Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 8:22
  • 'Because then he'll die of loneliness.' Is this a thing? He'll die alone, eventually, but would that be the cause of death?
    – JAD
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 11:01

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