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Socially awkward human seeks advice on friendship.
June 7, 2014 10:08 AM   Subscribe

A while back, my friend sent me a message confessing his love for me. Awesome, right? Not so much. I failed to reply because I am a socially awkward human being and it was overwhelming at the time and now he has stopped speaking to me entirely. I'm not sure how to fix this, and honestly, I'm not sure if I even want to.

I've been friends with this guy for 4 or 5 years - we are both in our early 20s now. He and I live approximately 1000+ miles away from each other and have never met in person. Our friendship was entirely Skype/text/etc. based. He isn't the type of person I would typically be friends with, but we got along quite well and would talk for hours sometimes. I have never had any type of romantic feelings for this guy (who we will call P, I suppose). P doesn't have a job, doesn't go to college, doesn't have a car or a driver's license and lives in the basement of his parents' house. Last year he actually moved out and started college but just stopped going to class during his first semester because he felt like he wasn't learning anything important and moved home when his loan money ran out. He smokes a really large amount of marijuana on a daily basis to treat his anxiety, and quit the job he finally got because it was interfering with... something or other, I really can't remember - plus he was drinking 40oz of malt liquor every night after work which was a point of contention between us. As someone who lives alone, works 40+ hours a week and is a full time student with a 4.0 GPA, his complaints got on my nerves a little bit and his living situation and lack of motivation is my #1 reason for not having any romantic interest in him. I do understand that anxiety and depression are probably a factor in his behavior, but he hasn't made much of an effort to seek treatment.

Despite his shortcomings, P was a pretty great friend and gave some good advice to me as well. We would chat about all sorts of things and vent to each other. He was sweet and funny and we had a lot in common. I was in a relationship during our entire friendship, and while I suspected he may have feelings for me, I never thought he would actually act on them because we live 1000+ miles apart and for all the reasons listed above. A couple months ago he sent me a big message telling me that he was in love with me and that he didn't tell me because he valued our friendship and didn't want to lose it, etc. I had been dealing with some family issues and a lot of personal issues from past relationships and my own battle with anxiety/depression, plus stress from both my jobs and school and figuring out how to pay for grad school so I never replied. I kind of hoped that it would just go away and we could stay friends but that never happened. I know it was rude and inconsiderate to ignore the message, but I just couldn't deal with it at the time, I guess. It sucks to be put into a situation where you have to tell one of your best friends "I'm sorry, I don't love you back". I am also the kind of person who has a hard time truly trusting people until I meet them and know them in person for a decent period of time. I don't think it is possible for me to fall in love without meeting a person. Anyway, we talked normally for a couple of months after he sent the message and I really thought it was all going to be okay and then he just stopped replying to me and has unfriended me on Facebook without any explanation.

Basically, I don't quite know what to do now. Should I leave things be and just let the friendship be finished or should I try and message him to apologize? Even if I were to message him I have no idea what to say or where to begin - that's another reason I never replied to him originally. I don't have a lot of close friends so I always really valued his friendship and made sure he knew that.
posted by sarahgrace to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If he unfriended you several months after his confession of love, could it be due to something else?
posted by Mistress at 10:26 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Oof. There's a lot going on here. I'd say that it's probably healthiest for both of you that this friendship has come to an end.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 10:27 AM on June 7 [24 favorites]


I would let it be. It's hard to be suffering with unrequited love and try to continue to be close friends. Generally the only thing that helps is creating space between yourself and the person of interest, which he's done. If he decides he's ready to re-initiate friendly contact, he'll do so. I agree with sevensnowflakes that both of you are likely best served by finding companionship physically closer and better aligned drive-wise.
posted by Candleman at 10:28 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


This is a really important part, and it's buried a bit:

Anyway, we talked normally for a couple of months after he sent the message and I really thought it was all going to be okay and then he just stopped replying to me and has unfriended me on Facebook without any explanation.

1. You don't have romantic feelings for him. That is perfectly ok. You are not required to reciprocate someone else's interest.

2. You didn't end the communication, he did. It wasn't great to ignore his profession of feelings, but you did and you also tried to keep the friendship going while sending a fairly clear message that you weren't interested.

3. He's the one who decided he couldn't take the status quo. That's perfectly ok, too.

4. So what, exactly, would you be apologizing for? For not returning his feelings? That's not something you need to, or should, apologize for, because you have a right to your own feelings. For ending the friendship? You didn't do that, because you kept communicating as if you were friends.

You could apologize for not sending an explicit "No thanks," but where is that going to get you? He didn't try to maintain the friendship when it became clear that you knew his feelings but weren't interested, and rather than licking his wounds and then realizing he still wanted to pursue the friendship, he cut off all contact. Which, again, is his right, but it's a pretty clear indication that he cannot be friends with you if you do not return his romantic feelings.

Which sucks for everyone involved, I know. But this seems like a situation where everyone is actually being fairly honest about their feelings and is doing what they need to do to take care of themselves (you're not leading him on, he's not pining but pretending everything's ok). It just doesn't work, and it's not really anyone's fault. (Unless he's using the cut-off as a way to guilt you into a romantic relationship, in which case he would totally be at fault. Which is the only way I see things "working" if you apologize to him.)
posted by jaguar at 10:32 AM on June 7 [31 favorites]


He's the one who cut ties with you; I would just accept this as one of many people who will come and go over time in your life and move on. If you're truly not into him romantically, if nothing else I wouldn't want to make it seem like you're pursuing him, giving him false hope that his feelings are shared by you after all.
posted by SquidLips at 10:33 AM on June 7


I hang out in an advice-giving place that gets this question from his side of the situation constantly, and the advice is always the same: you're not going to get over this by scrutinizing every word of her Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/email/texts. Go no-contact until you've got a hold of yourself.

Let him be.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:50 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Hi sarahgrace, that's a tough situation to be in and I know how hard it is to tell a dear friend you do not see a romantic future with them. From your question it sounds like you either to do not respect him (based on your comments on his living situation, marijuana usage, education level) or you are wary of red-flags in his lifestyle, possibly as you are concerned he is only fond of you for what you can offer materially.

Having been through similar situations in a face-to-face context my best advice to you would be, because you are not interested in a romantic relationship with him, that you should just leave him alone and move on. It is obvious he has feelings for you, whether it is based on fantasies of his where he puts you up on a pedestal, or whether it is because he is a genuinely good person in a bad situation who wants to be with you. Maintaining a friendship will just string him along and cause him more grief. Sometimes it is an ego boost to know you have someone who adores you and is willing to patiently just be friends until the time is right, but this is cruel and will prevent him from meeting the right partner. If he is fine in being friends, you may discover when he does meet a partner he will have no time for you and it is a strange feeling. Would you be okay with that? Would you feel comfortable asking him to spend more time with you as a friend knowing the strange history you share? Will he turn on you in anger over his "bad" treatment at your hands? Will his partner resent you and not want him speaking with you? It will be even worse if you grow to love him and he decides to move on. These are things I dealt with on both sides of the equation and it is an unpleasant experience.

Also, just because his lifestyle is not ideal by society's standards does not mean he would make a terrible partner. If that is what is holding you back, realize that many people in their early 20s go through similar trials. It does not make him a failure or loser. People judge when someone chooses a mate outside their social group / level. Do not likewise judge someone based on superficial standards of what makes a good and loving partner. I can assure you that money, education level, and living arrangements say nothing of a person's character.

It may be worthwhile to meet him face to face as well... It is very easy to build up feelings for someone through phonecalls or skype or such... But when you actually have to spend a weekend with them you quickly realize they are all wrong for you and you never want to talk to them again.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 11:13 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Leave it as it is. He cut the ties.
posted by quince at 11:34 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


It's important to realize that whatever sort of obligation or guilt you may feel towards this man (to continue the friendship, to return his romantic interest) is only a side effect of valuing your self image as a good, caring person who wants to treat her friends well. And he's kinda taking advantage and relying on that.

Here is a guy who is only interested in putting forth the minimum of effort in life. He isn't going anywhere and spends a good portion of his time being inebriated in one way or another. And he has a female friend he pipes into his living space via the internet, whom he naturally will pursue romantically because she is the option that requires the least amount of effort to pursue. Do not feel flattered by his attention (not because you aren't a lovely person - I am sure you are!). But you realize that he would develop feelings for any other woman in your place. You are just someone that happens to fit in the woman-shaped hole in his life labeled "girlfriend", so naturally he will pursue to get that desire filled for himself, sort of like when he feels hungry he orders a McDonald's cheeseburger.

Do not take his pursuit personally. Do not feel obligated to "give him a chance". I would bet good money he will come back in your life in dramatic fashion pretty soon, because he is a bored person who needs drama to entertain himself, and internet friends are (forgive me) easily converted to drama takeout. He's escalated drama by confessing his feelings and then blocking you, and he will continue to go back to you to get a "drama hit" off you as long as you allow it.

Leave him blocked and if (when) he tries to get in touch again, just cooly say that you are really busy maintaining your 4.0 and you aren't interested in being friends anymore. And stick to it. You really don't owe him anything. You did have a friendship, and it had good points, and now it is done.
posted by griselda at 1:34 PM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Should you try and re-initiate contact? Meh, probably not. Unless you and he had a uniquely -- and mutually -- satisfying friendship, that you simply can't find closer to home. He made a move (genuinely or desperately/randomly), and was tacitly rejected. It's his prerogative if he wants to put some healing distance between the two of you. Or, sulk/make a point, as the case may be.

Your task is to keep on with your own growth and progress, not give a ton of attention to his. I say this because roughly a quarter of your question was given over to explaining all your reasons for not loving him back. You really didn't need to do that, since you summed up nicely with mom's basement --> tons of weed --> dropout --> refuses to work (+ bonus: LDR and depression). I suspect most of us got the picture immediately and understood why you didn't have feelings, or felt it unwise to explore the possibility of forming new ones, in return. Don't beat yourself up.

(To be clear: If he'd matched up with your life path more closely, and ticked all of your boyfriend boxes, you still wouldn't be obligated to love him.)

Also, just because his lifestyle is not ideal by society's standards does not mean he would make a terrible partner. If that is what is holding you back, realize that many people in their early 20s go through similar trials. This is really true. Kinda. I was very much like your friend, at his age; although I was a sweet guy, didn't mooch off of my family, and always worked hard at whatever job I had, I did drink too much/take a lot of drugs and largely refused to take responsibility or risks. And I lost several girlfriends, who all loved me quite a bit (before they couldn't take it anymore, anyway). I was gently rejected as potential mate material by as many more, and although it hurt at the time, I totally get it in hindsight.

Basically, you and this dude are on such different trajectories right now -- even without the distance issue -- that this would have never worked. As he starts to get his life a bit more together, he'll start to see this and whatever pain he's experiencing will fade. If he doesn't ever do that, it's really not your problem. You are off the hook.
posted by credible hulk at 2:30 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


" I kind of hoped that it would just go away and we could stay friends but that never happened. "

I think a lot of women hope this. I don't know of any guys that would prefer to stay friends after he or someone else had a crush going on between the two of them. There was only one time when a guy agreed to stay friends with me after I rejected his advances and it turned out that during that time he was telling people behind my back that we had gotten together... then he stole some money from me because and I quote he "felt resentful" towards me because he had been "such a nice guy and" I "didn't appreciate that." In other words in his screwed up mind I owed him sex because he was "nice" to me. Trust me you shouldn't bother with this and just walk away. He broke the friendship off which means there might be bitter feelings towards you or even if he doesn't he obviously can't deal with you not reciprocating his feelings. You're better off letting him go.
posted by manderin at 3:32 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


He wanted something you couldn't give him. It's possible that he still wants something you can't give him. Neither of you is a bad person, you're just not compatible. Contacting him, especially after he unfriended you on Facebook, will just stir things up again.

He's sending you the message that he's not interested in what you're actually offering. Cutting ties with someone so you can get over them is generally a good idea. He's handling this in what is possibly the best possible way - he seems to have realised that it's not going to work for him, and rather than continue to moon after you and likely make you uncomfortable, he's doing what he needs to do to let the crush (?) die down.

There is nothing good that will come of messaging him. Make some new friends now. Also, some people will read too much into a lot of emotional sharing and see things that actually aren't there, especially when the person they're seeing is aligned with the type of person they're sexually interested in. There's not much you can do about that other than be clear with the other person that you're not offering what they think you're offering, and be ready to cut ties.
posted by Solomon at 3:52 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


"A while back, my friend sent me a message confessing his love for me. Awesome, right?"

This is basically never awesome. It's selfish. You tell someone you love them when you've spent time together developing a mutually-satisfying relationship. You don't spring it on someone in a dramatic confessional. Life is not a movie. It's not possible to respond to this non-awkwardly; it's not just you. He was wrong to do this to you.

If you feel like it's really important, you can message him and be like, "Hey, what's up, haven't seen you around for a while, hope you're doing okay!" (If he's like "I LOOOOOOOVE YOU" just repeat, firmly, "I'm sorry, I don't feel that way about you, and I don't want to talk about it any further.") But I think you're really better off just leaving it lie.

This guy's got a lot of problems, and I think griselda has a really good read on the situation. It's not likely you guys can, at this point, have a reciprocal relationship of equals because he just needs too much.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:00 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


I failed to reply because I am a socially awkward human being and it was overwhelming at the time and now he has stopped speaking to me entirely. I'm not sure how to fix this, and honestly, I'm not sure if I even want to.

You solved your own problem. Are you posting this here to get support or what? You do a fairly good job trashing this person.

Basically, I don't quite know what to do now. Should I leave things be and just let the friendship be finished or should I try and message him to apologize? Even if I were to message him I have no idea what to say or where to begin - that's another reason I never replied to him originally. I don't have a lot of close friends so I always really valued his friendship and made sure he knew that.

Well you kinda bailed on this friend, and dont value the friendship enough to talk to him for however long its been. Why do you want this back?

If it seriously is because it would be beneficial for you, i suggest looking at it from another point of view.

You kinda ditched your friend when he said something which made him feel vulnerable. Do you really think its good for this person to have you as a friend?


I kind of hoped that it would just go away and we could stay friends but that never happened. I know it was rude and inconsiderate to ignore the message, but I just couldn't deal with it at the time, I guess. It sucks to be put into a situation where you have to tell one of your best friends "I'm sorry, I don't love you back".

Seeing this, maybe it would be better for both of you if you didn't contact this person anymore. It seems like any problem you face becomes about you, and you don't consider how others are affected by it.

Just consider this issue closed. Good luck in the future, and maybe this can be a learning experience.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:50 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Friendships end once one person states that they want to have sex with the other one, and the other one does not also want to have sex with them. It's very rare when that inequality doesn't ruin everything. And frankly, I think you are better off without this guy around anyway. There are so many red flags in his life that I honestly don't think he's up to making a good boyfriend to anyone, much less someone who's on the other end of the country.

"Also, just because his lifestyle is not ideal by society's standards does not mean he would make a terrible partner....I can assure you that money, education level, and living arrangements say nothing of a person's character."

I beg to disagree a bit here, because the impression I get of this guy is that he's several years into adulthood and either has no idea or inclination (more likely the latter) to survive on his own. He won't go to school or work or do anything to not live in Mom's basement (and no ability to drive hampers someone's ability to do that stuff anyway even if he wanted to, which he doesn't), where he spends all his time getting wasted and chatting up girls on the Internet. If the OP expressed romantic interest in him, what would probably happen is that he moves to her apartment and does the same thing of camping out and doing nothing but getting wasted and chatting up girls on the Internet, and she's financially supporting herself and someone who won't lift a finger to help himself or her out. We call people like that "scrubs" for a reason. This is not to say he doesn't have his charms, but again, right now he makes for one shitty boyfriend, and the older he gets, the worse it gets that he's being a drunk basement bum and the harder it is to dig yourself out of the basement if you want to. Which at least right now, he doesn't. Sure, it's relatively okay to be an early twentysomething basement bum, but time flies and if he doesn't lift a finger to change, he'll be a thirtysomething basement bum.

Please just let this one go. If you try to talk to him again, he'll be pressuring you to be his girlfriend and it will only be more and more uncomfortable for you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:13 PM on June 7


I am saying that is as someone who has been on the receiving end of unrequited affection a few times. You don't owe him what you think that you do, and you are not responsible for the demise of the friendship based on a lack of speaking some words of acknowledgment.

A few things come to mind that might be helpful for processing this:

1. Just because someone unloads feelings on you does not put you in a position where you are required to respond, or at least not such that it becomes morally weighty that you do. One might be able to say that it's polite to respond, even with a no, but not responding is not the end of the universe. It might warrant a follow-up, but not necessarily on your end.

2. Regarding #1, why did he not follow up? Did you get my email, and what did you think? Anything like that? If not, it's an immature style of communication (not just for this, but for anything) that says that once someone initiates, everything related to that discussion is on hold until the other person returns the volley. I think of these relationship perspectives as sort of like ping pong, where there's a sense of moral responsibility for some people built in to communication in which there's an exchange of goods and services, but the currency is conversation initiative. You don't carry the entire burden on the topic he raised simply because he dumped on you and never mentioned it again. A healthy conversation can have a person initiate more than once, if it's important to them.

3. Your silence, in a way, is an implicit answer. Men sometimes don't get that lack of response is often a "not yes." If he wasn't clear on what your silence meant, he could have followed up again, tactfully and with sensitivity to your potential feelings.

4. You were a good friend to continue the friendship with him, and this should have further communicated the boundaries of what you wanted. It sounds like he's walked away from this based on whatever his reasons are (and they may have been good ones for him), and it's okay to reach out to him if you want, as good friendships might do that. But it wasn't wrong to let it go, either, if you think it will encourage healthier boundaries.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:15 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Money and education and sobriety say many different things about a person, but no money, no education and pothead/boozer say one thing: worthless loser. Initiate no contact, and if he re-initiates himself, let him know in no uncertain terms that you were insulted by his presumption.
posted by MattD at 6:17 AM on June 8


[Folks, this needs not to become a debate among commenters on whether a person with or without X characteristics is okay as a person or not. Just stick to helping the OP with her question, please.]
posted by taz at 6:59 AM on June 8


If you feel all right about leaving things as they are, then there's nothing wrong with letting this friendship disappear - you didn't do anything wrong and don't need to feel guilty or apologize. However, if you want to be sure he knows the door is open to being friends again in the future, you could send him a note along the lines of:

"P, I'm sorry you've decided we can't be friends right now, but if you need time and space to move on from your feelings for me, I certainly understand that. Though I don't return your romantic interest, I value your friendship very much. I don't expect a response to this message, but want you to know that I would enjoy resuming our friendship in the future if there is a time when you want to get back in touch."
posted by unsub at 12:38 PM on June 8


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