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I have been friends with a girl at work for more than a year. I have always seen her as a friend and I am pretty sure I never did anything to lead her on. I am going to switch jobs in a couple of months. I told her this a month ago. From that time she has been acting a little strange. She always comes by my desk during work hours, constantly texts and calls me. But I thought she was reacting because I was leaving from the workplace.

A week ago, her sister got married. I was at the wedding and it was amazing. Myself and a few friends at work had the best time! She was really happy. The next day she told me that she had feelings for me. She also revealed that she had a crush on me for more than seven months before we started speaking. She clearly says that she is in love with me and wants to spend the rest of her life with me.

She is a really sweet girl, but I never considered her more than a friend. I would like to tell her "No", without ruining our friendship. She really supports me and helps me in making decisions. Also, her sister has just moved out of the house so she seems a little sad. Yesterday, she brought up the topic again and asked me what my answer was. I wanted to tell her "No" but just don't want to hurt her feelings.

How do I explain this to her without her getting hurt/our friendship getting ruined?

EDIT: She also expects a reason why I am rejecting her (if my answer is NO which it is)?!

UPDATE: Everything went well. I moved to another country after a few months. I told her that she's a great person and I hope she understands that I have other things to do in life and I am not ready for a relationship. Also I told her that we're friends now and will always be. I told her that there is no guarantee that if we get into a relationship, that it will go on forever. But this will go on forever. Its best if things stay the way they are. I also said, I have a great deal of respect for her and she'll always be a special person in my life. She was kind and gracious enough to understand. It's been eight months and we're still great friends. Thanks for all the advice!

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    Do you mean a literal marriage proposal, or a "proposal that we date romantically"? And did she actually say "... she is in love with me and wants to spend the rest of her life with me"? Or is that the impression you got from her saying she had a crush on you? – Xen2050 Nov 9 '17 at 8:13
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    @Xen2050 yeah she was pretty clear in her intentions... Date romantically for a while and then get married and then grow old together – Procrastinating Programmer Nov 9 '17 at 10:32
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    Interesting, I don't know India well, but going from "work friends" directly to "engaged to marry" seems premature... that's worse than proposing on a first date, almost everyone would immediately, instinctively, say no too. You also say "I never considered her more than a friend," but if she had suggested simply dating, would you reconsider? At least you'd have some reasons for saying no, and she'd have reasons for yes/no too. Also, marriage isn't always the life-long commitment it used to be, divorce after a short time is very common, but again I don't know India well-hence only commenting – Xen2050 Nov 10 '17 at 5:04
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    @Xen2050 "if she had suggested simply dating, would you reconsider?" No I wouldnt. I am clear in my intentions. I do not want a relationship with her. Dating would only complicate it further. I will find a way to tell her "No" directly. – Procrastinating Programmer Nov 10 '17 at 9:58
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How do I explain this to her without her getting hurt/our friendship getting ruined?

Okay, that is definitely not going to happen. She is going to get hurt, and your friendship is going to be affected. (Not necessarily ruined, though!)
You can't avoid that, since it comes from the fact that she has feelings you don't reciprocate. She is going to have to deal with it on her own, and no amount of nice talk and beating around the bush can change that.

TL;DR: The only thing you can do is be nice but honest and clear, and leave no doors open. Then give her the time and space to heal, and hope your frienship goes back to normal with time (it happens a lot!).

What you can do for her, to minimize the hurting:

  • Be clear it's not about her. You don't like her that way, but let her know that it's about feelings that aren't there, and not about her quality as a person.
  • Do not leave any doors open. The human mind has a way of being stupidely hopeful, so don't use any excuses like "it's not the right time for me" (classics include "I'm just getting over someone", "I like being single right now", etc) which part of her may hear as "it might change if I wait a few weeks/months/...". It seems nicer and easier to say, but she deserves the right to hear a clear no, so she can start to get over it. It's going to be hard for you because it will hurt her, but if she's your friend you should do that for her.
  • Give her space. I'm not saying to ignore her completely, especially if she comes to you, but try to keep some distance. It's the same as the previous point: you don't want her staying in a pattern of thinking "but he asked how my day was going, and the text was so nice, so he must care somehow!". Do not give her unnecessary words or behaviour to over-interpret.

What you can do for your friendship:

  • Wait. Be patient. She will not transition from crush to friend immediately, noone can do that, so give her the time to adjust. You'll probably go through a phase where you're more distant, and then hopefully she'll be able to come closer again.
  • Let her decide. You can't anticipate if she will want to stay friends or not. If it's easier for her to have you completely out of her life, respect that, and maybe she'll come around later when she's had the time to heal.

In any case this is not an easy situation to go through, but if you're a decent person you should be fine! Good luck!

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    This is an amazing answer. One thing that I would recommend adding to "give her space" is to also ensure you don't make any attempts to get help from the friend, as that also can give them false hope ("if i'm extra helpful, may be the person will change their feelings") – DVK Nov 10 '17 at 13:52
  • "It's not about her" would be better clarified to something like "It's not about her flaws" - of course it's about here but it's not because there's something wrong with her (which is what I always feel when rejected, by the way). – Apollys Aug 6 '18 at 23:04
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I am Indian & know that feeling; and not from your side of the situation!

Sorry but I don't see you with a romantic eye, you are a dear friend of mine.

This seems to be the reason in your mind and it should be the reply you give her, as kindly and sincerely as you possibly can. This reply is a standard and culturally appropriate way of rejecting this type of romantic proposal here in India because 'dear friend' is considered a high and honorable relationship but completely different from romantic partner. Some girls here even tie a rakhi or say

Sorry but I think of you as my brother.

(Related questions I happened to ask on Stack Exchange:

How will a hypothetical 22 year old feel if he has developed some romantic sentiment for a young person (classmate) age 20, but she unknowingly said that 'I will be your sister always.'

Is it possible for my friend to resume communication with his unofficial sister without earning her husband's mistrust?)

As noted in the earlier answers and in comments, rejection is sure to hurt but it is your duty not to give her false reasons, hopes or expectations.

Your reply needs to make it very clear that she may see you with a romantic eye but you see her with equal seriousness as a dear friend. I think she will be culturally able to accept that reason and I am sure you can make her understand with kind and sincere words that you will always care for her deeply as a friend or brother, even if she cannot continue your friendship.

Post scriptum: be prepared for a sad or defensive reaction. She may shut you out of her life for some days and you should give her the time and space she needs to recover from her 'hopeless crush' which we Indians call 'love failure'.

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I will give you an alternate line of thought:

Just be honestly yourself, and communicate to her with some reality.

All the suggestions from other people along the lines of "don't leave any doors open" or "leave no doubt" or "reject her immediately" are utter nonsense.

The reason is that none of those people is you. Only you can truly give yourself advice that would apply 100% to this situation, because no one else knows the full scope of your history with this friend.

She is a really sweet girl, but I never considered her more than a friend.

Tell her this.

Whatever else you can tell her that is a real communication, from you, tell her.

Don't tell her what someone else says you should tell her. Tell her what you really think and feel.

There is no possible substitute for a real and honest communication of YOUR reality about the friendship.


What follows is my own commentary and more general thoughts, which may or may not apply to your situation; you will have to be the judge of that. (What I wrote above is not my opinion, but a plea for you to communicate your reality, not a stranger's from the internet.)

It is very very strange to me that some people marry a person who they are NOT excellent friends with. It's a peculiarity of our society.

What's called "viewing someone romantically" usually has to do with impulses or feelings or urges or what's known as "chemistry." To hell with all that stuff.

What you really need in a marriage to make it work, is excellent communication and the continuous creation of the marriage.

You certainly don't have to marry her. And you don't have to start a romantic relationship. But you don't have to reject her, either. You can just be friendly and open in your communication. It is possible.

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    What you call utter nonsense is actually excellent advice - if he values the girl. – gnasher729 Nov 11 '17 at 15:34
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    @gnasher729 marrying her is also excellent advice - if he loves the girl. But as only HE knows the full reality of his relationship with her and what it is or can be, any stranger attempting to tell him absolute statements about HIS reality is talking utter nonsense. Reread my post carefully. – Wildcard Nov 13 '17 at 6:42
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Just be clear and let the chips fall where they may. If you are not interested and never will be then say that. If she demands a reason, tell her that there isn't one. Love and attraction don't work that way. It's nothing that she has done or could fix, you just don't feel that way about her.

Your friendship may not survive. But, that's for the best. You aren't her friend right now. From her perspective, you are a romantic interest she is pursuing in her own way. You have a very asymmetrical relationship.

Tell her the truth. Leave no doubt. Let her decide if she wants to and is able to have you as an actual friend.

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Unfortunately, rejection always hurts.

What you can do now is give her your answer truthfully, but emphasize that you wish to remain friends.

I feel honored that you feel that way about me, however, I see you as one of my best friends, and I hope you will always be. Can we be best friends forever?

If you have valid reason to refuse her proposal (for example, you are already engaged), you can mention that, BUT do not hide or get around the fact that you don't feel the same way about her.

Personally, I will get to the point and try to cut it short, but I will never leave her alone crying.

  • Thats the thing! She wants a reason. But I don't have any. I just dont see her that way doesnt sound like a good reason, does it? – Procrastinating Programmer Nov 8 '17 at 10:14
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    @AlexT it is the absolute reason why you should NOT accept her proposal. – Vylix Nov 8 '17 at 10:17
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    @AlexT Don't make up reasons, you can't explain feelings or their absence. It is the best reason. Just explain that to her over and over, it's a hard thing to hear because the human mind really likes reasons... she just needs time to accept it. – Kerkyra Nov 8 '17 at 10:44
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    @AlexT You only told us "because I only see her as a friend". We aren't really here to make up reasons for you. – JMac Nov 8 '17 at 11:37
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    @AlexT that fact that you don’t have feelings for her IS a perfectly valid reason. Simply tell her you see her as a friend and enjoy having her as a friend. I’ve been on the receiving end of such a statement and while it’s not nice it is the best course of action. – Notts90 Nov 8 '17 at 15:12
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Falling in love with someone isn't about being a good or a bad person.

I don't feel like you need to feel bad or to apologize in this kind of situation. You just need to be respectful, and I'm sure we are all capable of doing this.

If you feel like you are absolutely sure that you will never see her in a romantic way (and by absolutely sure I mean absolutely sure), you need to make her understand she doesn't fit your romantic needs. If she isn't the most sensitive person, there is no way she would not understand. Not experiencing mutual feelings isn't anyone's fault. That's not cool and inconvenient for everyone, but this is something you need to deal with and have to accept.

Also, I'm not going to lie, I have trouble to think your friendship will be the same after that episode. I am not saying this is impossible, I'm saying it's complicated.

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    "and by absolutely sure I mean absolutely sure" __ I like that very much @MonsieurTruite: after rejecting this girl OP should not wake up one day soon to the realization that he actually likes her romantically! How complicating would that become: so your answer I upvotes! – English Student Nov 8 '17 at 16:16
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    Good point. Monica and I were "just friends" and had to tell wanna-be matchmakers to stop meddling. Finally they gave up, and we continued as friends for a few years. Then, suddenly, perhaps surprisingly, we fell in love and married in only a few months. People are weird that way. :-) – WGroleau Nov 8 '17 at 17:20
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    Don't put why you edited your post in the post. Just make the edit. Generally speaking no one will care, but if the edit is more than a certain time after making the post (I think 5 minutes) you'll get an edit history anyway. – Clonkex Nov 8 '17 at 23:06
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    This is the only answer I can upvote, as this is the only answer that recommends that the OP consider carefully whether he ever could love her. You didn't cover the other case, though: what if he does see even a dim possibility? I will write an answer for that case. – Wildcard Nov 9 '17 at 3:26
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There are plenty of fine answers here and I wasn't going to add my own.

But consider this: If you do not let her know unambiguously that you do not feel that romantic chemistry and never will, and she holds on to hope that you will, then she may not be able to move on and find the happiness she wants in another relationship.

Her feelings are not your responsibility. Yet, especially since you do care about her on some level, you have an opportunity to help her move on and seek what she really wants. She can't have what she wants with you, because her feelings are not reciprocated, and the chemistry she seems to feel is one-sided. On a related note, it would be selfish of her to insist on a one-sided relationship, and I doubt that she would really want that if she clearly understood that it is one-sided.

Romantic/sexual chemistry is chemistry. It's a fundamental, instinctive thing. It isn't everything, for sure, but I wouldn't want to start a lifetime commitment without at least a little bit of it.

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To preserve your friendship and teamwork relationship, will take more than a polite no. If you can grab a cup of coffee with her and show her how much you value your relationship with her, without using the word friendship too much at first, because that really hurts, you may be able to navigate this with minimum damage. But it will take time. Seven month is not seven days. Were there signs that this was going on? Signs that you missed? I hope it works out. Keep us posted.

protected by Catija Nov 9 '17 at 14:24

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