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I'm not a native speaker so I apologize in advance for my bad English. I know the question may seem opinion based but I'm not asking for advice of what to do to fix my relationship, I'm just asking how can I phrase my concerns correctly to avoid being seen as "pointing a finger" at my friend.

Context

There's a boy (let's call him Bill), whom I've been friend with for several years (5 at least), we've always been interested in each other but nothing serious has ever happened between us, because we are in relationships with different persons.

Bill is the closest thing I've ever had to a best friend, we can talk about anything and we've achieved a level of confidence that I never thought I was capable of feeling with another human being.

The problem lies in the fact that Bill's feelings for me have grown stronger with time, and I think we're both guilty because we're used to jokingly flirt with each other or pretend we're a couple when we hangout with other friends. He used to send me messages late at night confessing his feelings and telling me that our situation made him super sad on a daily basis, about 3 - 5 times a week I would receive messages like this.

The Trigger (It all started getting weird afterwards)

Three days ago, our friend group had a reunion and we ended in Bill's house (Bill, another friend - Sam - and me), we were having a great time until Sam got out of the room we were hanging out in. He was absent for about 15 minutes, in this time we started throwing some pillows at each other and joking, everything was fine until a sad expression started showing up on his face, long story short he ended up crying on my shoulder, again confessing his feelings, I just reassured him that I only see him as a friend and reminded him that he is in a relationship with a girl who loves him and blablabla.

The problem

We usually talk everyday via voice chat on a server, two days ago he entered the server and seemed okay but a little serious, he then started making passive aggressive comments about me, I'm a very emotional person so I felt really bad and started crying, he didn't seem to notice this, so he kept going on with the bad comments, I couldn't handle it so I left the server.

Sam talked to Bill about what happened and Bill ended up sending a message saying he was sorry and that he wasn't mad at me or anything. Bill is a really unstable person (emotionally) so I just assumed he had had a bad day, but he apologized so I thought everything was fine.

But yesterday he completely ignored me while on a voice chat with other friends and hasn't talked to me since the incident (we used to talk for hours everyday).

It really bothers me because I really appreciate our friendship and it would be horrible if it ends up destroyed by a dumb argument.

I've tried contacting him via text messages but he doesn't even open the messages. I'm really sensitive about my friends so his indifference is really REALLY hurting me. And what hurts me the most is that I've always been open with him and told him several times that if our friendship was bothering him because of the underlying feelings he has for me I could give him space, or stop talking to him for a while until he gets over me. And he has always refused to stop talking.

The question

  • How can I properly phrase a short message to let him know that the
    situation is affecting me?
  • Or, how could I address the issue via a voice call, avoiding "pointing a finger" at him for his behaviour?

My goal

My main goal is to avoid ruining the relationship, and clarify the situation to find a solution.

Note

We're both 20 years old. Friends for more than 5 years. It's the FIRST time we have a problem (we get along pretty well). I've asked friends in common but it seems like he hasn't talked about this to them.

  • 2
    Since he doesn't read your messages, could you still contact him? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Jan 22 '18 at 17:05
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    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. – Tinkeringbell Jan 22 '18 at 17:13
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    At the beginning of your post, you said "we've always been interested in each other", which suggests you return his feelings. Later you said you only see him as a friend. Which is it? Do you have any interest in turning this into a romantic relationship, or do you want to remain strictly friends? – Kat Jan 22 '18 at 20:02
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    I worry that your goal of maintaining the friendship/relationship may not be very fair. It is making your friend "super sad on a daily basis" – Jesse Jan 23 '18 at 0:23
  • 1
    Have you considered that perhaps talking to you is painful for him right now, so he isn't indifferent toward you, rather he is trying to spare himself pain by not talking to you? – user4788 Jan 23 '18 at 1:01
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I've always been open with him and told him several times that if our friendship was bothering him because of the underlying feelings he has for me I could give him space, or stop talking to him for a while until he gets over me. And he has always refused to stop talking.

Well, you offered him space before, he may be taking it now. From what I understand, the situation got pretty out of hand this time, and he might need it. It's only been three days, which is a pretty short time for a cool-down. It can take one and a half to three years for the hormones to disappear:

Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including the neurotransmitter hormones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, the same compounds released by amphetamine, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years.

So, I'd strongly advise to calm down a little and don't be bothered that much by it. Of course, being ignored in a group chat/call isn't fun, but you basically offered it. Try and get a conversation going which involves everyone, don't try to get his attention specifically.


If you want to write a short message, I'd focus on getting a confirmation of him that this is really what he wants. Something like:

Hey, I noticed that you're not reacting to me much lately. Is this the time that you need your space, and want to stop talking? I'm not unwilling to do that, but for my own peace of mind, I'd like some confirmation. If there's anything I did wrong, I hope you'll tell me eventually so we can fix it, because I still value our friendship.

Maybe it might be best ask Sam to step in again, but make sure you don't pressure him to be in the middle of you two. Just ask once, nicely, and leave it at that. Mention your appreciation of what he already did, and ask if he would be willing to do even more. Explain to him like you did here, that you offered to take a break from the friendship if it was needed, but now that the moment is there it is making you uncomfortable that it happened so abruptly.


Since it's only been a few days, I'd really advice to give it more time before you confront him in the voice call, with other people present.

It's not a good idea, to begin with. Taking your problem with him in there might eventually break up the friend group if people start (or feel obliged to) pick a side. It really is better to keep these things private.

If it really doesn't improve after a few months, and Bill has not reacted to any message, you might want to send him another message and ask him in the group to please react to it, but don't do anything more.

  • I wouldn't like to talk about that on a group call either, I'm an admin on that server so I could "kidnapp him" from the group call to a private one, or even better talk to the rest of our friends and ask them to leave us alone for a second. Thanks for answering! – Garcia_K Jan 22 '18 at 17:52
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    @Garcia_K both of those choices would be really bad. I would send a message NOT through chat, or talk in person. Chat has an implicit pressure to respond quickly, and texts/email/etc don't usually have that pressure. The final statement in the answer is not the first choice, but a followup, where you DO want some pressure applied. – user3316 Jan 22 '18 at 20:17
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Very delicate question. As you are asking directions about "how to phrase" things (as it belongs here in IPS), let's keep on track and analyze what you said/could say in (near) future.

You said

I just reassured him that I only see him as a friend

while this is undeniably and appreciably honest of you, please notice that it is not reassuring. You told him the exacty opposite of what he wanted to hear. You did have right to say that, but you cannot expect it to end up as a reassurance in his ears.

Now, let's analyze his following behaviour.

First, he

then started making passive aggressive comments about me

and, later,

he completely ignored me

This is a very frequent kind of behaviour with which many people handle this kind of rejection. First, is the "aggressive" phase, where he is only (blindly) perceiving your (rightful) rejection as "you attacking him with a low-blow", so, in his mind, you "deserve" being "mistreated". Then he realizes it's not the case, you can't be blamed for rejecting someone you don't want, so all he remains with is the "passive" phase, were he just defends himself by severing (or, well, trying to severe) the connections with you. You are the source of his own suffering, therefore he cuts the connection with that source of suffering. And, yes, if you ask me, because you

told him several times that if our friendship was bothering him because of the underlying feelings he has for me I could give him space, or stop talking to him for a while until he gets over me.

he could have been more "honest" and actually ask you for space (either definite or indefinite). But well, it was too hard for him, I suppose, and decided he follow the "not-really-honest" path, and we are called here to provide phrasing, so here we go.

As you do look very clear and straight-to-the-point (I personally do appreciate it) while also being very forthcoming (you do care about him) the best you could do, imho, is taking the decision he should have taken and state it with a simple, clear and direct

Look, this is bad for our friendship. You may agree or disagree, but I do see that when it comes to me you are suffering. So I'll do what's best for our friendship and - above all - for you and withdraw, I'm giving you some space.

Imo this is better said by voice or in person. Use a tone to make it clear it's a statement, a decision you took, not a request for opinion. With this statement, you

  • prove you care for him
  • go straight to the point (as I think it's very suitable and fitting for the way you've always handled it 'till now),
  • take a decision he's apparently unable to take,
  • go along with his "passive" phase of severing connections from the suffering source and, consequently, likely healing.

After that, stick to it. Give him time. If this is something that can be healed by time itself, he will come back.

I am telling this on personal experience. A girl I liked told me straight and went into oblivion: that quick communication and that space did help me a lot.

  • I also thought about him deciding to take a break from the friendship, it's just that I'm an overthinker so I went nuts with the theories on my head, I think I'll give him the time he needs to heal. Thanks for answering! – Garcia_K Jan 22 '18 at 17:51
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The thing is he probably wants to hurt your feelings. He has been hurt by your rejection of his romantic advances and he is trying to hurt you back.

It's a common tit for tat strategy that I've seen people do all the time in different forms. We human beings have a strong tendency towards reciprocity including in the negative. You deprived him of you romantic love, so he is depriving you of his friendship.

The best way to resolve this behavior is to:

1) Point it out.

Bill I know you're hurt by what I said, and you're trying to get even.

2) Tell him it is inappropriate and that real friends don't behave that way.

Maybe your don't realize that this is what your doing but it's not the way a true friend behaves. Please don't do this anymore.

3) Don't tolerate it.

If he ever does this again you should tell him that if he repeats this behavior it will ruin your friendship. If you make the threat be prepared to follow through. Should he keep treating you this way you should cut off contact with him until his behavior improves. This is enforcing your boundaries.

  • I kinda knew something like this would happen eventually, it just hit me hard that it was so abruptly and without consideration. Thanks for answering! – Garcia_K Jan 22 '18 at 17:51
  • @Garcia_K I hope it helps. I'm curious, what signs did you see that led you to believe this would eventually happen? – Dan Anderson Jan 22 '18 at 18:24
  • @AytAyt Ya I try but I'm still terrible at that. thank you. – Dan Anderson Jan 22 '18 at 20:33
  • Well, he started behaving even more obsessively than usual about 4 months ago, when I started dating my current boyfriend, he said it was a "character" to make jokes but I low-key knew that he wasn't being honest with himself he started trying to make me feel guilty about his overall depression to end my relationship and give him a chance, we talked about it and "fixed" the situation but his behaviour came back shortly after. – Garcia_K Jan 23 '18 at 17:41
  • @Garcia_K, I'm sorry that's a real bummer. It's good that your proactive. Have you considered letting him go as a friend? He seems unwilling (or unable) to get over his romantic feelings for you and he seems to cope with them poorly. The kindest thing to do may be to not associate with him anymore. Just something to consider. Should he continue using these manipulation tactics (guilting you over his feelings, or not talking to you) It might be in your best interests as well. – Dan Anderson Jan 24 '18 at 15:03
4

You've gotten some great answers already, and I'm going to be repeating some of what you've already heard, but maybe in a slightly better packaging.

You see; I've been that guy. I've been that guy who just won't give that girl a break - that girl who's a significant part of my life and whom I just can't stop thinking about in that way. The girl whom I intellectually know I should probably do my best to get rid of my feelings for, but whom I meet so often and whom I feel so close to that it just doesn't happen. I've been the "friend" who went into a jealous fit of passive aggressive idiocy when she got a boyfriend. I've been the "friend" who put so much psychological pressure on her that she started finding excuses to not see me. I've been the "friend" that just couldn't take a hint.

I know what this guy is feeling. He's carried a torch for you for so long. By now, he's most likely convinced himself that you're the only one for him. Relationships with other girls probably don't last very long - they can tell he's not giving them 100%, and there's more than likely been at least one argument where they worry about what the two of you mean to each other. He's told half the truth, saying you're "just friends", wishing with every fiber of his being that it wasn't so.

And then came "The Trigger", as you called it. Most likely, he'd been thinking about you, or there was something in that moment. Maybe it was a "I'm having so much fun with her - why don't I ever have this much fun with my girlfriends?", or maybe it was something else. The fact of the matter remains - he reminded himself that he wanted you, nobody else.

He was crying, meaning that this is either something that makes him sad or that makes him feel pain. The difference is small in this scenario, but the origin of both feelings is the same - we're experiencing something that is different from the "ideal" world that we imagine in our heads. His sadness is based on the fact that reality is worse than his imagination, so he wants to force his imagination onto reality. Since reality always wins in a fight with imagination, the next step is frustration.

And that's what happened next - He probably noticed how the passive aggressive comments were affecting you but just didn't care. In fact, he probably wanted you to hurt a little bit at the time. After all, you've just made him hurt a whole bunch - at least, that's how he sees it - so isn't it only fair that he makes you hurt for a while, too? His way of ignoring you afterwards is just more of the same - you took yourself away from him (again - that's how he sees it), so now he's taking himself away from you.

Listen; I'll be honest with you here. In your own words, he's emotionally unstable, is doing some very emotionally manipulative things (consciously or unconsciously) and is the kind of person who would remind you 3-5 times a week about how miserable he is because he is "just" your friend.

This is not a good person to have in your life.

If he ignores you like this - fine! Ignore him back. You've got lots of great people and things in your life to keep you busy. If he wants to sulk and be a drama queen, just let him. The only result you'll get if you come running back to him and want to smooth things over, work things out and try to "save your friendship" is to convince him that you do care. "Only if she really, really, really loved me would she care so much about me! She just doesn't know it yet! She'll understand. I just have to be more persistent!"

You're not responsible for his emotions. You never have been. Stop taking any form of responsibility for them.

Cut him loose and move on. It might be a hard pill to swallow now, but I think that in the end, it's going to be the best for both of you. You don't need that kind of an emotional anchor in your life, weighing you down and making you miserable - and he needs to stand on his own two feet and get some emotional maturity so that he stops pestering people with his poor self-insight.

  • Correct. I was writing my sob story but you nailed it way better than I could ever do. Being that emotionally unstable guy who did emotionally manipulative things unconsciously, I would give the same advice to not talk to him. The more she will talk to him the more he will feel compelled to continue doing these things. Even keeping friendship is harmful, he will always have this "love" thing in the back of his mind and he might do crazy stuff to get his "love" (I did, I regret it for life of mine). Cutting all ties is doing a favor to him. – user47771989 Jan 23 '18 at 0:58
  • _ "Only if she really, really, really loved me would she care so much about me! She just doesn't know it yet! She'll understand. I just have to be more persistent!"_ - This definetly sounds 100% like Bill, know I understand that our friendship is toxic for both of us I might need to cut him off my life for our own good. Thanks for answering! – Garcia_K Jan 23 '18 at 17:43
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I want to add to other answers that it is quite possible that Bill has already accepted the rejection, but simply gets extremely depressed if he is reminded of you. He might even be accustomed to getting rejected, but was hoping for things to be different with a good friend who doesn't see him as being weird, nerdy, awkward, ugly, etc.

A combination of emotional outpour combined with sudden need to ignore you, likely indicates that he is trying his best to push you away from him. This means he might think it is best for him if he were no longer reminded of you.

If you distance yourself from him, he will find his way in time. It is important not to push yourself in to his life at this time for you will simply open the wound. Try giving him some space, he will likely at some point give in to weakness and send something negative or rude to you. Ignore this. Don't even give him an "okay..." Don't even give him the checkmark that you read his message.

If you really want to help him, the best you could do is try to avoid running in to him and instead ask his friends to hang out with him instead.

Now comes the hardest part, or you risk losing your friend forever. You must find a way to reintroduce yourself in to his life. It is possible that there never will be a time for this, or that he will never be completely fine with being near you, but it is also possible that he at some point wishes to apologise and wish you the best in your love life.

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