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Love isn't just a four letter word
July 13, 2012 6:38 PM   Subscribe

A male married friend recently told me he loved me. A few weeks later he told me again

I’m also in a relationship but not married. (I'm a 28 year old straight women, he's in his mid-30's)

Both times this happened was after we’d been out late with a group of friends and we were saying our goodbyes. However, both times felt somewhat intimate. Neither of our respective S/O’s were around at the moment the “I love you” came out (while we were hugging goodbye.) The second time I told him I loved him too. It was totally sweet, nothing else happened at all… and I’m feeling guilty.

Both our partners are awesome people, and we’re all good friends.

He and I have become closer friends lately, and I believe there is some mutual attraction. I’m OK with that - I fall in the camp of "It's OK to be a little flirty and have crushes sometimes but I would never consider cheating on my boyfriend," but I wonder if saying “I love you,” like this is crossing a boundary.

I have other friends that I say “I love you” to. Yes, many of these friends are girlfriends, but I’ve told other male friends I love them in a platonic way (that felt totally platonic.)

This is the first time it’s made me feel like “whoa, did he mean it like LOVE love?” And that maybe saying I love you to married male friends is not such a great idea.

I'll admit it- it felt good to know he said that- I mean, it's great to know that you are loved! But, this is new territory for me. (Or maybe I'm just making it too big of a thing.)

If you’re married or in a relationship, would you tell still tell your friends (of the gender that you’re attracted to) that you love them? Would this be OK with your partner? I’m confused. Love is a big word. How do you use it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should probably ask your husband how he feels about it? I would stop if it bugs him.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:40 PM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Saying "I love you" to a friend is perfectly fine. If he says, "I'm in love with you," then that's a problem.
posted by xingcat at 6:41 PM on July 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I do tell friends "I love you" regardless of their gender and orientation, but if you don't feel like you're on those terms with him it's really fine to say "Joe, I think the world of you, but 'love' isn't a term I generally use even with close friends."
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:44 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, personally, this crosses the line - particularly if it's not a lifelong friendship or if there's any ambiguity about what the words mean for either party.
posted by SMPA at 6:45 PM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you feel like it was disrespectful to your partner to say this to your friend, that's something to discuss with your partner. If he asks you not to say that to straight male friends, and you're comfortable with abiding by that boundary, you can always either say something like I suggested above, or just say something appreciative of your friendship in response to "I love you," like "I'm so glad we're friends!" or "You're awesome!" or "Thanks so much for helping me out" or whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2012


Yeah, if you want to know if this is OK with your partner, ask your partner. If it makes you too uncomfortable to discuss this topic with your partner, then you have your answer: it's not OK.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:49 PM on July 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Was anybody drunk either time this happened? That's how you'll know which way he means it. Only you and the guy know the answer as to which type of love this is.

Once after a long night out my friend's boyfriend tried to switch midstream from cheek-goodbye-kiss to actual-kiss and I deflected it because I don't want him in that way. You sound a little like you want this dude. If that's the case be prepared for things to get weird one night.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


As someone non-monogamous I approach this from the persepective of what everyone is comfortable with. That means you, this guy, your SO, and his wife should all be okay with you being alone, hugging, in an "intimate" situation, and saying "I love you". Can you genuinely say that you think that's the case? I suspect that you can't. If you're not sure you can always ask everyone if it's okay, but I bet you don't want to because you know that someone will be uncomfortable or unhappy with it. That's an excellent sign that it's not okay. I could be wrong, of course, and everyone could be cool with it; the only way to know that is to ask.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:00 PM on July 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


There are some - very close - female friends I would and have said this to, and have had it said back. These are people whom I have been friends with for years or decades. The reason why it was okay is that be both 100% know it is not meant in a romantic way.

It does not sound like either of you 100% know about this, (and he may know 100% that it is not okay). Your instincts are telling you it's not okay. I would never ever say this to someone with whom I had a frisson of sexual energy, even if I felt it and meant it from a friendship place.

Don't play chicken with this friendship; you need to de-escalate asap. The way to do this is no 1-1's; only hang around in groups and with partners present, talk about partners a lot with each other ("Gary would just love this, you know he blahblahs a lot), and talk to each other's partner's a lot.

Ambiguity, no partners literally or conceptually present, throwing around the l-word is escalating.
posted by smoke at 7:29 PM on July 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the fact that this happened when your SO's were not nearby is the telling detail. That, and the fact that you acknowledge you have feelings for the guy.

I think you shouldn't let this happen again. Down that path lies drama.
posted by jbenben at 8:28 PM on July 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


saying I love you to married male friends is not such a great idea

I'd say you're right about that, unless it's in the presence of your significant others.
posted by bricoleur at 9:10 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can clarify this if he says those three little words (or makes any other sort of ambiguously romantic overture) to you again. You grasp both his hands and say, "Jasper, you are very dear to me too. I value our friendship immensely." Then you smile and let go of his hands.

The tone you're aiming for in this speech is something along the lines of "Oh, Mrs. Cuthbertson, having you as my third grade teacher changed my life forever. I can't think of how to thank you enough!"

Flirting only works properly when both participants are clear that the flirtatio is purely a pleasurable end in itself and not the prelude to something more carnal (or, for that matter, spiritual.) So until you are clear on his status, probably being polite and cordial is as far as you want to extend yourself.

That said, my gut feeling is you have nothing to worry about. One thing that is close to a hard and fast rule about guys is that even if they're head over heels, the last thing they're likely to say is "I love you."
posted by La Cieca at 10:06 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems like he could mean one of two things. 1) "I love you, buddy. You are awesome." 2) "I am deeply, madly, truly in love with you and want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Before you make your husband worry over what might be nothing, I would chat with the friend about what is going on. Either way, it is going to be a bit awkward so do it in public and have an escape plan.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:18 PM on July 13, 2012


This is the first time it’s made me feel like “whoa, did he mean it like LOVE love?”

Instead of worrying preemptively that you crossed a boundary or he crossed a boundary or what your spouse will think or what our spouses would think...just talk to your friend.

"Hey, about those "I love yous" when we were saying our goodbyes the last couple of times we were out...? I do love you, platonically of course, but my head is kind of second-guessing what you meant. Instead of getting all weird about it, I figured I'd just check in with you. Are we cool?"
posted by desuetude at 11:36 PM on July 13, 2012


Loving someone else romantically beside SO/spouse is not cheating. Love is an emotion and cannot be controlled. Cheating is an action and can be controlled.

Tell your friend what you really feel about him whether it is friendship love or romantic love. If it is the latter I strongly suggest not to lie about it, but simply tell him that you cannot be with him.This way you will both know the truth about your situation and will be able to appropriately control it. Don't let it hang, whatever it is.
posted by przepla at 1:00 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that the barometer of appropriate here is whether or not you'd feel comfortable doing the same thing in front of both of your SO's, talking about it with your SO's, etc. If you feel like it needs to be secret... well, there's your answer.

That said, I think you should talk about it both with him and with your guy. It doesn't have to be heavy or super-serious, just straightforward. Letting things fester will make you crazy.
posted by windykites at 4:42 AM on July 14, 2012


I love me some of my male friends and would totally say it to them. However, I also know my partner would be 100 percent OK with that.
Check in with yours. Some people are funny about the words.
posted by corb at 6:41 AM on July 14, 2012


Depends on how far it goes. One of my relationships ended basically for this reason because once the "love" precedent was set, my SO could justify spending more time with that person and less time with me. I'd tred carefully.

Also, like corb says, I'm VERY literal. So if you did that to me, especially now, I would not be okay with it. I wouldn't be able to say it to any female friends of mine without really meaning it, and that would be a problem for me if I was in a relationship.

I'd be honest with your SO, and let them know it happened. Let the friend know the same, if you truly feel it's not something you're comfortable with.
posted by neveroddoreven at 6:46 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a straight male in a relationship. The only women I say "I love you" to, besides my girlfriend, are women who I have been close friends with for a very long time, and with whom saying "I love you" predates my current relationship. I would feel very weird saying it to someone else.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:37 AM on July 14, 2012


Saying "I love you" to a friend is perfectly fine. If he says, "I'm in love with you," then that's a problem.

xingcat, you're assuming a technicality of usage is universal. "I love you - I mean, as a friend, of course!" is a sort of weasel-word phrasing I've known some people to use to make a pass/propose a relationship without crossing explicit lines.

Talk to your SO. Secrets like these aren't good for relationships (assuming your SO isn't heavily pushed by jealousy issues).
posted by IAmBroom at 7:04 PM on July 14, 2012


If you wouldn't be comfortable with it being said (by either of you) in front of his wife/your bf, that's your answer.

My relationship is open and therefor it's a different situation, but I'm cool with saying it to other people (m/f/whatever) both on my own and in front of my partner. I would not do it just the first way.
posted by Nabubrush at 3:38 PM on July 16, 2012


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