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What's the epilogue to my non-Hollywood ending?
January 3, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I recently confessed my romantic feelings to a very close friend and, alas, he doesn't return them. I want to get things back to "normal" between us as quickly is possible. How do I go about doing this, and am I fooling myself into thinking that it is possible to return to "normal" right away?

So, a couple of months ago I submitted this question. After a few more months of unproductive agonizing, I finally bit the bullet and had “the talk” because my frustrations were outweighing everything else and that is no way to live. Well, things went about as I expected they would—he doesn’t return my romantic feelings. I got the whole host of clichés—you are too important to me to mess it up with something romantic, I don’t want to think about you in that way and, of course, the knife to the heart “you’re like a sister to me.” Of course, all of this is bs—if you want to be with someone, you want to be with someone. (And I wish I could kick myself for not pressing him to answer me honestly during the conversation because, like all of us, I really, really want to know WHY, and, well, that window of opportunity has closed.) I do believe, though, that he does value having me in his life and I am important to him, whether or not he wants me in his life as his girlfriend.

My problem is where to go from here. I know everyone deals with these situations differently and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but for others with this experience, are there any best practices? I have already started the process of looking to meet other people (threw myself into the deep end of online dating) and finding hobbies and ways to keep busy, but that doesn’t really address how I should deal with him and having him in my life… or not. If this were a break-up I think in some ways it would be clearer. Clean break, the relationship is over. But we are, everything else aside, friends and have been extremely close friends for the better part of the year (and were just friends before I started to develop these messy and inconvenient feelings). We have a degree of emotional intimacy with each other that we don’t have with other people. He’s a huge part of my life and the idea of that piece being missing makes me sick to my stomach. During the course of our conversation, he told me that any solution that involved me not being a part of his life anymore was unacceptable and that he “refuses to lose me,” but I am realizing that decision isn’t really up to him.

I guess what I am asking is am I fooling myself in thinking that we can just return to “normal” now that all of this is out there? I’m thrilled that it is, because it couldn’t continue to fester, but it has created a whole new set of issues and complications. Yesterday, I was feeling bored and restless and contacted him to hang out because I was missing him and I did think that if I reached out and played it casual it would help us get back on normal footing more quickly. It was a weird feeling of still enjoying being in his company and having fun conversations, but with an undercurrent of tension that I imagine can fade with time. However, am I just delaying the inevitable? Would it be best if I just cut him out of my life, at least for the time being? As I said, the idea of that makes me sick and I hate the idea of losing him entirely because we do click really well as friends. I also worry that in the back of my mind I’d be using it as some sort of passive-aggressive punishment—you don’t want me? Fine, then you can’t have me at all! And then I’d wait for the “I miss you” text or call that never comes and torture myself all over again until I finally break down and contact him (sadly, while I can delete him from my phone, I can’t unmemorize his number or email address). And, to be clear, he was very direct in telling me that us being together romantically was something that would never happen and I fully believe him and accept that.

So, if you were me, what would you do? I can’t keep having state of the relationship talks with him, but I’m in a tizzy and keep going back and forth about whether I’m conflating what I want with what I actually need. I do know that I don’t want to lose having him in my life and would like to get back to our normal hang-out friend mode as soon as we can, but is that possible if there isn’t a little distance first? (And I’d love to tell that to him, too—I just want to get back to normal—but I sent an ill-advised email to him a couple of hours after the talk saying things needed to change and we could only spend time together in groups, etc. etc., but that was born out of the moment than clear reflective thought, but nobody likes constantly having state of the relationship talks and I don’t want to push him away by belaboring the issue, but maybe it would be helpful for him to know that I just want to get back to normal?)

Sorry for the length on this one—this is all swirling and muddled in my head, as is probably quite apparent.
posted by HonoriaGlossop to Human Relations (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
My litmus test for staying friends with someone when the sexy side has either ended or never began (as in your case) is this - how do I feel when I'm around this person? Am I filled with agony and longing, or is it just nice to be around them? If it's more the former, we don't hang out anymore. If it's a lot of both, we don't hang out anymore either. If it's only the latter, we can still be friends.

I was only able to adhere to this after destroying myself emotionally when I tried to stay friends with someone I had been in love with in my early 20s. It's isn't easy. Your plans with making more friends / finding new hobbies are good. Next go round hopefully you'll have more friends you're emotionally connected to - romantic interests are unstable when they're you're only source of emotional intimacy.
posted by MillMan at 10:11 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


I guess if I were you, I'd give this some breathing room and not contact him for a few weeks. Then I'd invite him to do something extremely platonic like get coffee. Then I 'd say casually look I understand that you just want to be friends and I'm cool with that and we don't have to talk about it anymore. But then you've got to hold up your end of the bargain and let it go. My dad asked a woman out three decades ago and she said no and he's still friends with her (and the husband she later married) all these years later so there's hope that you can stay friends.
posted by bananafish at 10:13 AM on January 3, 2011


Act as if you had never brought it up. Appear to be enjoying life - even if this means faking it. He'll adapt.

A woman who "just friended" me later invited me to her wedding. It can work.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry for your suffering. I've seen this happen and most times it seems to work best if you give yourself some space from him for awhile. You had a happy hope, and you've been let down, and that hurts, even though it's no one's "fault". You don't have to make a big production out of it, just... find other things to do for couple of months. Maybe take a long trip? Get involved in a new hobby? Find something you "have" to do; go visit/stay with an elderly relative to look after them/help them, take a course with lots of homework, start a new job (even if you don't intend to keep it long-term). For awhile, just be "too busy" to spend so much time with him. Be polite and friendly when you do talk to him, but get your own life going forward in new directions; it'll help you pass the time while you wait for the hurting to heal a bit. Later, you might be able to get back to the cozy 'just friends' thing, but for right now, take care of yourself and go have fun!
posted by The otter lady at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course, all of this is bs

First of all, if you want to be friends with him, try to get over the assumption that he's lying to you. Sure, he might be, but you're making the mistake of believing if something is true for you, it must be true for him. I can TOTALLY imagine not wanting to mess up a sister-like relationship by adding romance to it, even if I was attracted to the girl. Romantic relationships have great rewards but also great risks. Not everyone will take the risk you assume they'll take.

Not everyone acts on romantic feelings.

It's totally possible for you to have a normal friendship with him again. But the thing is, it takes two to tango. And you can't control him. You can (a) let him know you want to resume the platonic friendship and (b) not put pressure on him. That's about all you can do.

If there's any part of you that's holding out for a romance (maybe someday...), this is going to be hard. It's going to be hard for you to hide that, and if you don't hide it, he'll feel uncomfortable.

The two biggest stumbling blocks (from his end) will be...

1) him feeling pressure to date you.
2) him feeling guilty that he's hurting you by not being your boyfriend.

No one wants to feel pressured or guilty in a friendship. So if you really want to be friends, and you think you might make him feel either of those things, I would advise taking a break until you can REALLY move on. Therapy could help.

If I was in your shoes, I wouldn't be able to get there right away. I'd have to take a break until I knew I wasn't going to do anything passive-aggressive.
posted by grumblebee at 10:18 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Two things you are, in fact, wrong about.

1) Although you really, really want to know WHY, he cannot explain this to you in a way that you will understand. Maybe years from now you'll figure it out, or maybe you won't.

2) You are fooling yourself into thinking that it is possible to return to "normal" right away.

You should probably back off a little for now so that you, on your own, can "move on" from the dream that is not going to be. If you start to worry that you are thinking of this as punishing him, remind yourself that you need to take care of yourself.

I am still good friends with two men and one woman who confessed romatic feelings for me, and it's all normal as pie. Fresh hot apple pie with melted cheese. None of them were, I don't think, as smitten as you seem to be, but time really does help. And you are totally entitled to long, swirling muddled talks with your friends and the internets. Everybody plays the swirled and muddled, sometimes, there's no exception to the rule.

You seem very self-aware and compassionate so, in the long run, I suspect you will find someone to be with. Unless he’s an idiot, he probably realizes you want to get back to normal and I’m sure he does, too. Slow and steady is the way to go.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2011


Congratulations on getting on trying to date others already - that would be my first advice. Distract yourself, and try to feel romantically toward others.

But also ask yourself, honestly, whether you ever envision spending time with him as just a friend. Will there always be a hint of interest? Will your future significant other have legitimacy in feeling a little jealous about your closeness? If you don't genuinely think you can eventually return to a friendship with this guy that will be clean of romantic feeling, it is probably best to end the friendship, or greatly curtail it, I'm sorry to say. If you CAN envision not feeling romantic toward him, and it's possible, but very rare, then you would probably need some time to cool off, at the very least, and you might want to consider telling him so honestly. "You haven't done anything wrong, but I'm sure you understand that I should probably take some distance for 2-3 months, try to date other people, all that..."
posted by namesarehard at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2011


Hi HonoriaGlossop. First of all, I'm very proud of you that you did that. That took courage and strength to be open and honest. Good for you. Very few people can do that. My hats off to you.

Unfortunately, he didn't return the sentiment. I can imagine this is painful and embarrassing. This happened to me once, as well. You are right what you said earlier: that we're all different and we all would handle it different ways. For me in my situation, I had to cut him off after a while. My feelings didn't bounce back to feelings of friendship overnight just because his were. It took a moment to "get back to friend mode". It hurt me that "he loved me the most in the world" but was not interested in a real relationship. To be honest, I felt like my friend was full of shit. If I was so wonderful, why did he not want to be with me? He just wasn't feeling it and I really felt like he just wasn't attracted. But he gave me flowery bullshit of how he wasn't ready for love. So, to nurse my ego, I backed off. I remember he ended up getting together with this bitchy moron which I found to be insulting. To further add insult to injury, he'd try to talk to me about his feelings about this new girl "since we were so tight, he could tell me anything". Needless to say, this sucked. I just felt the friendship went off kilter after I opened up my feelings to him. It wasn't balanced.

Your case is probably far different, I'm just laying out what happened in my circumstance. Your guy sounds like he could be a better guy and in that case... I'd still give it a couple of days. Suss it out. Perhaps you need time to yourself to see if you can still have that friendship, or if you want to go back to basics after your heart went to the moon.

All in all, its up to you. If it's this amazing friendship and you are willing to not see it go anywhere, despite how you feel, then stick with it. If he gets with another girl and wants to turn to you and open up about her and you feel like that wouldn't be a problem, then yeah, stick with it. But I'm sure one day you will find someone more befitting of your strong courage and love.
posted by boostershot at 10:24 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think one thing to remember here is that, since the romantic feelings you mention appear to have been one-sided, you are probably feeling the majority of the complex emotions. My guess is the breakdown is something like this:

You: hurt, disappointed, maybe a little embarrassed, uncomfortable, sad, etc...
Him: A little awkward and perhaps a bit guilty.

His feelings are likely pretty easy to smooth over. All it takes is a bit of reassurance. Give it a week or two then see him and laugh it off. "Man, I am so glad I said something out loud! It completely took a weight off my shoulders and illuminated the whole situation for me!" The idea is to communicate to him that the act of telling him how you felt set you free from the feeling. If you do that well enough, he should feel absolved of any awkwardness and guilt he feels and be able to go right back into friend mode pretty quickly.

You may need a bit longer to process your disappointment, though. Even so, you are not at all obligated to reveal that to him. He has no way of knowing how you are actually feeling unless you tell him, and most guys in this situation are perfectly happy to believe you are back to normal if you let them off the hook. So spend your time taking care of your heart and focusing on healing and moving on - his side of the dilemma is the easy part.

Best of luck to you! We've all been there.
posted by amycup at 10:27 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Been there. Been there lots. Whenever we admit our feelings to someone we must accept the possibility that things may never be the same after we do so -- and now, you must consider the possibility that, yes, being around this guy is going to hurt you more than it will help you, and distancing yourself from him for a while may help you get over the hurt more efficiently than if you just placed yourself in his company all the time. You have a right to be honest with yourself. You sound sad, disappointed, and anxious, and that's no way to be.

If this guy is the good, valuable friend you say he is, tell him, "I want to let you know that I really appreciate how kind and supportive you were when I told you that I have feelings for you. Unfortunately, I underestimated how strong these feelings actually are, and I believe that they, coupled with my disappointment in finding you don't feel the same way, are interfering with my ability to be as good a friend to you as I've been in the past. I think that I need to take a break for a bit so that I can move beyond this. It sucks to have this awkward elephant in the room. I hope that you understand, and I hope that when I feel better we can hang out just as we used to and pick up where we're leaving off."
posted by patronuscharms at 10:28 AM on January 3, 2011


“you’re like a sister to me.” Of course, all of this is bs

I doubt that that is BS. "You're like a {sibling} to me" means "I really, really like you and I like hanging out with you and yet I absolutely don't want to have a sexual relationship of any kind with you."

So if you want to have a friendship with him, understanding that it's never going to be a sexual or romantic thing, then give it some breathing space and pick back up where you left off.

If you don't want to have a friendship with him, don't keep hanging out with him thinking it might change, because it won't change.

Why doesn't he want a sexual or romantic relationship with you, even though he really likes you and enjoys your company? You'll never know why. It's probably something really random, like maybe you smell like his sister (men who smell like my brother were immediately off the radar in my dating days). Or your eyebrows remind him of the second-grade teacher who wouldn't let him go to the bathroom and so he wet his pants. Who knows? You don't want to sleep with every guy whose company you enjoy; accord him the same degree of agency in his choices.

(Also, this is a bit eponysterical--if you were really Honoria Glossop, you would have ordered him to ask you to marry you!)

It sucks when you put yourself out there and are disappointed. It does. I am sorry. But the test of character is how you handle the moving on. Be kind to yourself as well as to him.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've been on both sides of this equation, and neither is a pleasant place to be. When I've had to let friends down easy, I totally understood their need to not hang out quite so often; I'd try taking a break or at least resisting contacting them quite so much for a little while.

When I've been the one hoping for something more from a friend, I've been successful in lessening the weirdness by:
1: Dating other people and mentioning it in passing, like "Oh, have you been to X restaurant yet? I went there on a date last week and their enchiladas are great! (helps the other person see that you're not pining for the fjords and are actively trying to move on)
2: Doing everything in my power to not let on how sad I am--no sighing, longing looks, etc. (they likely feel pretty bad that they don't return the feeling already)
3: Keeping myself busybusybusy so that there's always something to keep conversation moving (fewer awkward pauses)

Good luck--I know this sucks hard. Good for you for at least taking the risk!
posted by smirkette at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2011


You are too important to me to mess it up with something romantic, I don’t want to think about you in that way and, of course, the knife to the heart “you’re like a sister to me.” Of course, all of this is bs—if you want to be with someone, you want to be with someone.

Those phrases might be a little cliche, but this isn't necessarily BS, not by a long shot.

I feel exactly that way about some of the most important women in my life. Closer than to my biological sisters, in fact. Sex is out of the equation completely, no question or risk there, but I most definitely love them very much, I'm happy to spend as much time as I can with them, and we're very close.

There are more types of valid relationship than "I attach myself to you sexually."
posted by rokusan at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Like many, many others, I've been there.

I haven't thoroughly read all the other comments above, although I think it's a good thing that you didn't get around to asking WHY in your conversation. No means no cuts both ways, and trying to justify why he isn't feeling it turns this into a negotiation, which he is not obligated to do. Perhaps he can't even articulate why he just doesn't feel that way towards you. If he tells you he doesn't know, or tells you frankly because you look a little too much like that his first grade teacher but with better hair, would it make the situation better?

My answer would, of course, be significantly different if participants in an established relationship makes an unilateral decision that affects both of them based on what one party is feeling, but said established relationship changes a lot of things.

I would give yourself a little breathing room, and tell him as such--"Hey, I don't fault you for turning me down--that's cool. But, I do really like you, so I need a bit of time to get out of that mindset and back to friends-and-nothing-more, so I might be a little bit distant in the coming days. Is that cool?" If he's anywhere near as good a man as your post makes him sound, he should understand. And 'be distant' will be completely on your terms, whether that means just cutting back hanging-out time to one day out of a week or not talk to him entirely for two months. That part is up to you, and whatever feels best to you; no one else can decide that.

Be kind to yourself, and good on you for being brave.

For my version, I faked it 'til I made it--we had 2-3 days of silence and then he called me for homework purposes and we picked up where it left off with the same regularity of contact and everything. It stung horribly for a while, but then summer vacation rolled around and I got over it after not seeing him every day at school. That may not be the best approach for you, but it was for me. We remained friends until he moved to the other side of the continent, after which we drifted apart from distance; I still think of him very fondly from time to time and am exceptionally glad I was able to count him among my friends.
posted by Hakaisha at 10:57 AM on January 3, 2011


smirkette is totally right about dropping mentions of dating other people, crushes, etc - you don't want it to be too obvious that that's what you're doing, but a little reassurance that you're not pining after him would be nice. And if you ARE pining after him, well, stop. (may take some effort and restructuring of thought patterns, stopping any casual flirting you were doing and so on.)

Also, there's really NOT always a 'why' - sometimes you just don't feel it. I have a guy friend like that, we're very close and friendly and the thought of dating him makes all sort of 'hell, no' alarm bells go off in my head. WHY? How on earth am I supposed to know that? It's just the reaction I have.

The reason 'why' may also be exactly what he told you. I have a number of friends who have distinct policies against dating anyone in their social circle because of the way a breakup can split up groups of friends. It's not the way I roll, but when so many other people tell me, in private conversations about mutual friends, "I think she's cute but I would never date her because she's part of our social circle, and everyone in that circle is out of bounds" I really have to take them at their word.
posted by Lady Li at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tell yourself these two things:

1. There is nothing more desperate than unrequited lust.
2. Somebody not being into you is the mother of all dealbreakers.

I know these two positions may sound extreme, but really, they're not. Especially the second one. It's easier said than done, for sure. But when it comes down to it - when it comes down to making somebody feel the love for you in the way you feel for them - well, you can't do a whole lot about it. It's unfixable in ways that even views about children, politics, sex and health issues and personal development aren't. And it's not good enough in ways that complementary outlooks on life, fiscal responsibility, healthy minds and bodies are.

One of the biggest components of A Good Thing is liking the person you get to be around this other human. If you get to be fun, sexy, desired and all the things you want to exemplify, in roughly the amounts you require to be a happy, balanced person, then it's worth holding onto. But if they're not into you in that way, you don't get to be those things. That should be the biggest turn-off that ever was. (It may take some time to incorporate this concept into your view of relationships...and longer to shift that requirement up the priority list, so it's pretty much first and foremost, as it really should be.)

None of this is going to happen quickly. Take some time away. Seriously, get away. He doesn't need to see you make a mess all over the place while you sort your head out. He doesn't need to hear every iteration, step and stumble of your progress. Sometimes things need to lay exposed and not quite right, and you just need to walk away from it. Right now, you're effectively shining a big spotlight on the mess. Stop with the state of the relationship talks. This isn't one of those times where openness and (over)communication is going to do you favors. Give it a few weeks or months if you need. If your friendship is so great, it will survive a month of radio silence. And you'll both be better friends to each other for it, trust me.

As for him...think about this space away as something he might need too. So he can get over his awkwardness and sort out his feelings about it all. You are so wrapped up in your side of things that you're just throwing all this energy and thought at him and it is probably overwhelming and smothering. At some point he's not going to be able to hear ANYTHING you say or do. Don't let it get to that point.

Good luck and work on the idea somebody being into you as a turn-on (and their lack of interest in you as a turn-off and a dealbreaker), as a pretty much up-front requirement for romance. It will work and you'll get to a point where somebody not being into you makes it really easy to move on right away.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been there. I told him how I felt and then I cut him out completely. But I still thought about him a lot, and missed him a lot, and cried about it and blah blah. Six months later we resumed contact, two months after that he came out of the closet, and last week I saw him for the first time in over a year. It was weird on some levels, I won't deny that, but the heartache is gone. And I don't think the whole fiasco really affected him much at all.

So, as cliched as it is, time heals all wounds. It will get better and things will go back to normal eventually. You may just need to take a step back for a while. If he's a good friend he'll understand, especiallyif he knows that you'll be back soon.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good for you, Honoria. The truth hurts, I know. Sorry you didn't get the answer you wanted.

As others have said, he probably meant what he said and it's highly unlikely he was BSing you.

If you could get right back on that horse and resume all normal activities as if you'd never said this - and I do mean never, no sighs or longing looks or dropped hints about how it sucks to be single and when will you find etc etc - I'd say do it. Can you?

If you can't, the next best thing is to say you need some time to get over it and will be back in touch later in the year, but you still value his friendship just as much so he needn't worry you'll be gone forever. Can you do that and mean it?

If not, you may have to say, sorry, I'm more disappointed than I thought I'd be and I have to call time on our friendship because we don't want the same things out of it. If you do this, be VERY careful that you are not saying things you don't mean to give him a taste of his own medicine. You could end up doing damage that couldn't be undone.

Take a couple of days and think over the options, then see which feels the closest to the truth.
posted by tel3path at 12:06 PM on January 3, 2011


Sorry this hasn't worked out as you hoped. The biggest thing that has helped me get over any sort of relationship fug, be it back in my single days when I got broken up with, even to just having a sort of falling out or disappointment in a platonic friendship of either sex (I'm a married straight male) is to SPEND TIME WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Make some new friends, renew/maintain some other acquaintances you may have let slip. I wouldn't shut the guy out altogether, but I would keep it VERY light for now. He needs to sense that you're not pining for him; you need to - not pine for him, and it's easy to do, even subconsciously. Distance, and the company of others, will help. And nthing - don't continue to hope that it's going to come around romantically. You got it on the table, and got shut down. Men aren't generally much on "hard to get" - if he said he's not into you that way, accept that he's not into you that way.

I'm not keen on online dating, but that's another topic - I'd focus on friendships (other than the one you have with this guy) for now, and getting your head wrapped around the realities you now understand. If he's really your friend, eventually things will seem comfortable again.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:37 PM on January 3, 2011


Wow, I've also been there! It's so brave of you to have said something, that's amazing. While it may have been embarrassing, the best thing is that now you know! It's so much better than limbo. (why is not important as many others said, and I think you just have to take his words at face value if you can.)

It is absolutely possible to go back to normal.

As a young person I was once totally infatuated with a very close friend, and we had once had a hot makeout and some dates, so I had some material for fantasy - we never really discussed why it didn't work out and just started hanging out a lot as friends from then on. Once I got jealous of some dating he did, and that led to a fight and clearing of the air over my feelings. We didn't hang out as much for a few weeks, then started being friends again. We remained very close and the friendship was far more valuable to me than feeling hot for him (he was just a hot guy, it was hard not to!) so I'm actually grateful the whole thing happened.

Another situation (later) was more complicated because the feelings were returned, but the timing was way, way off. It became a big cluster and I was extremely hurt by the whole thing, so we never really resumed the friendship. (though we did meet recently and at least it made me stop thinking of him as "the one that got away")

I think you just need to be honest about how you feel, and "fake it till you make it." Friendship is so important that it's worth holding onto if you can drop the romantic feelings. I'm basically just saying what Tel3path already did.
posted by rainydayfilms at 12:50 PM on January 3, 2011


I think it's great that you put it on the line and answered for yourself, at least, whether this could ever be more than a friendship. I'm just as sorry it didn't work out. There's little doubt you're going to find that someone special one day, but in the mean time, I'd be encouraged by the fact that this friend really did treat you like a friend--he didn't take advantage of you and did as much as he could to let you down easy.

By the by, where I come from, a guy likening a gal-pal to a sister is a big compliment. I have a lot of female friends, some of whom were once lovers, but I have only one who falls in the "like a sister" category.

As far as keeping the friendship alive: that's up to you since his explanation amounted to "I'm trying to spare your feelings so we can still be friends in the future." I'm a big fan of not mentioning it too much and moving on. Keeping your distance and minimizing contact at first, until you're ready to deal with it, are sane. I would take great care not to seem as though you're punishing him. If you find it necessary to explain, it's not far from the truth that your then-feelings overwhelmed you and while you might regret certain things you said, you're glad you had the conversation and glad that he treated you respectfully.

As for moving beyond it, dating is great if you want to be dating. There the key is not to "hang out" with these gentleman but to date them. That should help you avoid the "friend" category. Otherwise, charitable efforts and social activities are ways to do something enjoyable while maximizing the chance of meeting someone with similar interests.
posted by Hylas at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2011


And I wish I could kick myself for not pressing him to answer me honestly during the conversation because, like all of us, I really, really want to know WHY, and, well, that window of opportunity has closed.

You say this like it's an aside, an unimportant detail. But I think it's actually really important for what's going on here. I can't explain why, exactly, but I've seen it several times with my friends - the need to know why just destabilizes the attempt at friendship. As far as I can tell, here's the faulty chain of logic it activates: if there is a reason that you aren't being told, then maybe it's a reason that can be fixed, which means that the two of you can still be together.

Unfortunately, this just isn't the case. I don't think he was bullshitting you, exactly. I think he just didn't really know the answer himself, and wouldn't, no matter how much you pressed him. Haven't you ever just been not into someone? There often is no reason to point to. For no reason at all, he doesn't feel the same way. Call it pheromones - it's as good an explanation as any. Now, can you accept this? Really? Accept that you and he will never be together? If I tell you that a year from now, you'll both be in relationships with other people, and all four of you can hang out together with no problem, does that make you happy, or sad? If it's happy, then I'd take some time away from him and resume your friendship in a couple of months. To do this, though, you need to really accept that there is no answer to your question. There's no reason why he doesn't return your feelings - he just doesn't. Friendship will be impossible as long as this unanswerable question is running through your head.


If it makes you sad, you might need to give up this friendship, but that's for the best because it was making you miserable.

I'm sorry you're going through this. We've literally all been there, but man does it never stop sucking. Good luck.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look, you can love someone platonically and not be attracted to them one iota. When I was young I had a young man in my life who I would have given my left arm for but whom I constantly turned down marriage proposals. I literally did love him like a brother, loved spending time with him, but thinking of romance felt icky-almost incestuous.

If you can be okay being friends with your friend do that but if it is too painful for you you should put some space between you for awhile.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:45 PM on January 3, 2011


I know that when something like this happened to me, being around the person in question made me heartsick and deeply unhappy. We are good friends now, but it took so long for us to get here, and I have regrets about the time I lost in fruitless melancholy; so I've wondered if there was a better way to go about it.

With that said, I tend to be somewhat maladjusted in general. Your post impressed me as emotionally mature, so it wouldn't surprise me if you were able to handle things better. Without knowing more about your personality, the best advice I think I can offer is to simply try it and see what happens--spend time with your friend, and see if its bearable. I don't think that you'll be able to figure this out just by considering it in the abstract.
posted by Maxa at 3:29 PM on January 3, 2011


It's possible in some -- but not all -- cases to return to a close friendship. The biggest thing, I think, is that you need to accept that he doesn't want a romantic relationship and get over it. Wanting to know why (and further, questioning his explanation) is unproductive and betrays precisely the wrong mindset.

Absolutely, tell him you want things to return to normal. But if you need time, take time. It sounds like you're not ready to return to your old relationship because you're still harboring romantic feelings for him.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:12 PM on January 3, 2011


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