i am in love with my straight best friend
May 11, 2010 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I am in love with my best friend...but I am gay and she says she's not.

I am in love with my best friend.

We only met about a year ago but we became very good friends very very quickly. We often joke about how we are practically the same person, although we are both aware of our individual differences. We compliment each other quite well. Often times she knows me better than I do, and I feel like I could say the same about her. When I am with her, I feel so free and comfortable, there is not another person like that. A lot of our mutual friends wondered if we were dating. Sometimes we act like we are a couple.

But here's the thing. I identify as gay, and she doesn't. Neither of us have ever been with anyone- men or women. I could see how I might be attracted to a man at one point, but I've never asked my friend if she could be attracted to a woman, because I didn't want her to get awkward finding out I'm attracted to her.

I've decided to not say anything, because I didn't want to risk the friendship. Sometimes I think she's attracted to me, too, but I don't know for sure. But tonight she made a reference about how we can be like romantic couples in movies, so now I can't stop thinking.

What should I do?
I don't really think about having sex with her or anything. I just want to hold her.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Either tell her, or reconcile yourself to the fact that it will never happen. If you do the latter, it's probably better to give yourself space for a while.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:27 AM on May 11, 2010

Find another object for your affections, ASAP.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:28 AM on May 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

You sound pretty young... Are you in high school? Do you have a mentor there or a great counselor? You might want to go talk about how you are feeling. They'll be able to give you (hopefully) great advice. I'd be careful, though; some people aren't going to treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Only talk to someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

Good luck. I know it can be rough. I identify as bisexual, and I know it can be hard figuring out your orientation, especially in high school. I definitely botched a few friendships along the way. You live and you learn. <3
posted by Lizsterr at 9:29 AM on May 11, 2010

Next time she says something about how you can be like a couple in a movie, say jokingly, "If only you were gay, too!" That way, you're giving her an open if she is interested, but avoiding any awkwardness if she isn't.
posted by amro at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2010 [7 favorites]

I wouldn't ask anyone to pick out an orientation. So much baggage and pressure for a little affection. If you were to ask her anything, ask if she is open to the experience. It's a lot less to commit to.
posted by adipocere at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Romance coming between friends happens frequently. Sometimes, it's the end of a friendship. Sometimes it's the start of an amazing romantic relationship. Sometimes, if the love is unrequited, the friends can overcome this and be friends again. But, the worst thing is trying to be close friends with someone who really wants more from you.

It sounds like you're pretty young. If she is such a good friend, I would simply broach the topic with her. But not in regards to how you feel about her. Mention that you might have a crush on someone but that you're sort of surprised about it because it's actually a woman. See what she says about that. Tell her that you don't think you're attracted to guys. See what she says about that. If she's straight, it's best to not make a play for her. If she's not straight and she knows that you're gay or probably gay then she may make a play for you. If she's considering her options, she may make a play for you. The only thing you can do about your part in this is be more open about your sexual orientation.

Also, look for other lesbians to make a move on. I have a friend who seems to be stuck in a cycle of crushing on straight women. I feel like, in a way, it keeps her from having to have a real relationship. It breaks my heart a little bit because I'd like to see her happy.

I had lots of close guy friends when I was growing up and it was always uncomfortable when they wanted something more from me than friendship and I wasn't interested. They'd do all these nice things for me and I'd feel like I couldn't accept them or appreciate them honestly because I couldn't be sure if they were doing them as friends or as hope-to-be-more-than-friends. It really does kill a friendship. But, sometimes that's just how it has to be. I've also told guys that I liked that I probably couldn't be friends with them if they weren't interested in a romantic relationship.

Bottom line, be more open about your feelings regarding women. Be open about your wanting a relationship. You know you can't turn her queer just like you can't force a romantic relationship out of someone if they don't want it -- queer or not.

Good luck -- crushing is hard!
posted by amanda at 9:35 AM on May 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

A lot of our mutual friends wondered if we were dating. ...

But tonight she made a reference about how we can be like romantic couples in movies, so now I can't stop thinking.

The idea is out there. She's hinting at it. Go for it.

Forget about sexual orientation labels. You don't need to label her as "straight" or "gay" or "bisexual" or anything. All you need to know is if she's potentially romantically interested in YOU. (See adipocere's comment.)

There are many other AskMetafilter threads on how to broach this kind of thing with a friend. I don't know if you'll do it by making a big confession, or by going for the kiss, or trying subtler kinds of physical contact, or something else. But you'll try something.

Will you ruin the friendship? It might be different if you were two men. But you have an advantage being female: she's less likely to react badly to the idea (even if she turns you down), and many women's sexual orientation is fairly fluid. If she's not open to it, you can probably go back to normal, and you might even find it easier to be friends with her without all these pent-up feelings.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:52 AM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get drunk and rent Bound.
Worked like a charm for me and my college BFF.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:04 AM on May 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

If you are both very young, then it's possible that even if she reciprocates your feelings, she is not ready to consider what it would mean for her to self-identify as "bi" or "gay". Young people these days face overwhelming pressure to be open about their sexual identity, perhaps before they've even figured out what it is or developed an understanding of themselves as sexual beings.

In the meantime, it's very common for girls to have romantic crushes on other girls without necessarily being "gay". For example, read up on the history of romantic relationships between women in the 19th and 20th centuries; girls' schools were full of romance, they had dances and vied for each others' affections, but ultimately most of these women went on to pursue sexual relationships with men. Were some of them what we'd now call lesbians? Definitely. But many if not most of them were just enjoying the companionship and emotional connections that were available to them at the time, and had no problem moving on to men when opportunities to do so arose.

Don't push your friend to identify as gay. Typically I'd say you should offer yourself as a safe person for her to explore with, but I think your emotional attachment would not make this safe for you. There's no way you would not want, need, or expect more than she can offer. You are much better off preserving this friendship by searching for other romantic interests.
posted by hermitosis at 10:07 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Go for it. I don't know how your friendship works, but you might sit down with her on a couch and point out to her that physical affection is something neither of you have ever really experienced from another person, and that you have a crush on her (since she knows you're gay, this probably wouldn't be too surprising to her) and that you were wondering if she might like to give it a go with you. Then you could try to hold her hand, or lean on her, or something else that would turn into more touching, if she's receptive to it.

If she gets weirded out, tell her that you're not going to start hitting on her regularly or anything, but you just wanted her to know so you could be honest with her. Don't ever mention sex, or love, just words like crush and cute and comfy and cuddle, and see how she reacts. If you guys are as young as you sound, you're growing up in an environment where having a lesbian relationship doesn't always lock you into being one for all eternity, and that's awesome. You should take advantage of this!

For what it's worth, I was the Straight Friend in groups of lesbians all through the end of highschool and all of college. I've had a whole lot of adorable gay girls crushing on me, and I even gave it a go a couple of times. There's only ever been one woman who I've felt sexually attracted to, and she was never into me, and the times when I tried things out with other girls, I never once felt a spark or a hint of sexual arousal. But I also never felt awkward or like I had to never see them again; we always remained friends. I never felt bad about it, and giving them a chance always seemed to defuse a lot of the tension. It also ended up that I got lots of hugs all of the time, which I'm totally okay with. So don't live a lie, and just go for it.
posted by Mizu at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2010

I'm normally a big fan of the direct ask, but in a case like this, I have to recommend pseudostrabismus's strategy. Bound is a good enough movie to be worth watching regardless, and is hot enough to provide an easy segue into smooching if she has even the slightest inclination.
posted by KathrynT at 10:39 AM on May 11, 2010

I don't really think about having sex with her or anything. I just want to hold her.

So hold her.
posted by rokusan at 10:47 AM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

another option in the same vein as pseudostrabismus's suggestion: have some wine and rent Tipping the Velvet. good luck!!
posted by crawfo at 11:05 AM on May 11, 2010

These types of feelings are totally normal. Give a skim through AskMe; there are gobs of questions about having romantic feelings toward a good friend - gay, straight, virgins, experienced, celibate. married, in relationships, single, whatever permutation you can possibly name. It's as if the one thing that truly unites humanity is the occasional crush on a good friend.

The reason all those questions exist is it's hard to sort out what to do. There's always the risk of losing that friendship. The thing to remember is your friendship will change no matter which decision you make. Even if you don't move forward romantically with her your friendship will change, because all relationships change. The decision you're making is how you want to shape your relationship and how much risk you're willing to take.

In your case, does your friend know you identify as gay? If not, start there. Then decide if you want to push toward a relationship.
posted by 26.2 at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2010

It sounds to me as though the feelings might be mutual. There's every chance that I'm wrong, but for what it's worth, this is how my first girlfriend and I got together. We both identified as "straight" at the time and we'd never had feelings for women before. we just fell in love with eachother. Once one of us finally brought it up it was like this huge weight had been lifted. We were young, and the relationship ended eventually, but we're still good friends to this day. She may not be ready to label herself "gay" or "bi" but love is love. I don't think it would hurt the friendship to at least bring it up. Don't push her or anything, and let her know that the friendship is the most important thing to you. Who knows? She may have been waiting all along for you to say something.
posted by a.steele at 11:42 AM on May 11, 2010

One other thought: if you are young, as in 18 to 20-ish (and I agree with others that you do sound young), you especially shouldn't assume that however she happens to define herself now is all there is to her sexual orientation. You might actually be doing a wonderful thing for her by helping her discover who she really is. And even if she's older, I'd say the same thing -- some people are later than you might think to realize they're gay or bi.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:46 AM on May 11, 2010

This happened to me over and over in high school and then some in college, where I was on the receiving end of the awkwardness. I lost one of my closest friends because she became so bitter and angry at me for not returning her feelings. It was awful and ugly. And she tried some of the stuff mentioned above--renting lesbian-friendly movies for us to watch together and then trying to make some moves. Just like when straight guy friends who I didn't fancy that way tried that tack, it did not end well. Be straightforward but calm and open (as in, to her feelings) with her, or keep it to yourself and stay friendly and yeah, find someone else to crush on ASAP. Weigh how much you value continued friendship and contact with her versus expressing this and demanding some kind of resolution. I'm still upset the friends who cut off contact with me over their infatuation couldn't ever see the forest for the trees and threw our relationships--some which went back into childhood--away.
posted by ifjuly at 11:51 AM on May 11, 2010 [9 favorites]

Seconding ifjuly. I'm all for the delicate dance of ambiguity if you have not much to lose and are not terribly close to someone. But this person is very close to you, a huge person in your life. You may upset her if you try to tell her in a subtexty way. It could leave her wondering what comes next and whether she's always going to have to be watching for hints being dropped.

Better to just come out with it and emphasize that your friendship is a treasure in itself just the way it is, that you'd be happy to carry on as you are, and that you won't react awkwardly if she doesn't feel the same. And if she does say no, be prepared to take that on the chin and to change nothing about your outward behaviour, even if it hurts inside.

I do think you might as well ask because if you don't ask, you don't get.
posted by tel3path at 1:28 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's much better to bring it out in the open and cast aside all doubt, rather than revving your engine in neutral and living in your own internal monologues and dialogues. You'll feel better knowing, and you'll have a much better idea what the next step is after that.
posted by not_on_display at 2:02 PM on May 11, 2010

I am gay and she says she's not.

If she identifies a particular way, you need to respect that. What would you think of a male friend who confessed he had feelings for you despite knowing you identify as gay? On the one hand, there is sometimes value in being open if keeping the secret is damaging your friendship; on the other hand, there is little possibility that the other person will reciprocate. Whatever you do, have enough respect for your friend to believe what she says about herself more than you believe what you think you can read into your interactions.

I think you would be wise to consider that many young women's high school and college friendships can be intense and intimate--not romantic, but perhaps appearing that way from the outside, acting like a couple in some ways. My best friend in high school and I had exactly zero sexual attraction between us, but joked about acting like a couple because we were so inseparable, so honest with each other, etc.--if I'd been inclined, I could have read into that. I don't mean to rain on your parade, and it's possible that your friend is genuinely attracted to you but hasn't said so yet, but when I think about my own friendships from that time and I think it's easy to misread things if you have a bias to do so.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Next time she says something about how you can be like a couple in a movie, say jokingly, "If only you were gay, too!" That way, you're giving her an open if she is interested, but avoiding any awkwardness if she isn't.

A less-awkward way to execute this brilliant idea is to say "Hey, we'd be just like x and y" (where x and y are characters in some movie you both like, or at least know, where x is gay and crushed on y, and y is not gay.) If she asks "which one am I?" then you're 99% of the way there, and if she just laughs, then you're "1%" of the way there, and if she looks at you and says "Wait, you're GAY?" or "Wait, you think I'm GAY and IN LOVE WITH YOU?" then your communication isn't as good as you think it is, and now you can fix that problem.
posted by davejay at 3:59 PM on May 11, 2010

I don't know why I put air quotes around 1%. ignore those.
posted by davejay at 4:00 PM on May 11, 2010

Just tell her.
posted by Nattie at 4:51 PM on May 11, 2010

she says she's not.

The famous saying here is, "Believe what people tell you about themselves." I'd be pretty annoyed if someone told me that I don't know my own sexual orientation or tried to convince me that I've got it wrong or that maybe I'd change my mind (as if I chose it). Have you ever experienced something similar? Did it annoy you?
posted by Houstonian at 5:34 PM on May 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't know, sexual attraction is pretty common among friends, especially close female friends (in my experience) even if they are straight-identifying. Women of university age (and younger) experiment all the time. I've had a number of "ambiguous" friendships. So I don't agree that someone who has no sexual experience and is young, and identifies as straight, means that identity is set in stone at all. I've also known a number of people who have identified as straight, and then fallen in love with someone of the same sex at a later point. So I think if you feel there is some chemistry and attraction between the two of you, you should go for it.
posted by bearette at 5:56 PM on May 11, 2010

The famous saying here is, "Believe what people tell you about themselves."

Believe anyone who says they're straight? That won't be very accurate. Anyway, we don't know how the OP's friend phrased it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:58 PM on May 11, 2010

Believe anyone who says they're straight? That won't be very accurate.

If I self-identify in a given way at this moment, until I say otherwise, it's pretty disrespectful to say, "I don't believe that you understand your sexuality as well as I understand your sexuality." Yeah, sometimes people say they're straight and later come out, and sometimes people think they're gay until they fall for someone of the other sex. But that doesn't mean you get to preemptively speculate that someone has their own sexuality wrong, that you know better.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:20 PM on May 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

The famous saying here is, "Believe what people tell you about themselves." I'd be pretty annoyed if someone told me that I don't know my own sexual orientation or tried to convince me that I've got it wrong or that maybe I'd change my mind (as if I chose it). Have you ever experienced something similar? Did it annoy you?
posted by Houstonian at 7:34 PM on May 11 [+] [!]

I said I was straight for 25 years of my life. Until I wasn't anymore. Things can turn on a dime, I know from experience.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:24 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I self-identify in a given way at this moment, until I say otherwise, it's pretty disrespectful to say, "I don't believe that you understand your sexuality as well as I understand your sexuality."

No one, including the OP, is saying that the OP understands her friend's sexuality better than her friend does. She's just wondering -- based partly on hints from her friend and others -- if her friend isn't totally straight. The vague reference in the question to her friend not being "gay" -- which we're not given any context or detail about -- doesn't mean her friend wouldn't have an interest in being with a woman.

I'm surprised at some of the comments here that seem to be assuming that everyone's either "gay" or "straight" and that it's all clear-cut and transparent. There's a whole spectrum of sexual orientation, and it's often not possible to know someone's sexual orientation based on their own statements.

Let's keep in mind that the OP and her friend could be, say, 18-year-olds in Alabama. In other words, they might not be in this ideal environment where everyone goes around making statements that perfectly reflect the full scope of their sexuality. The OP has enough basis for wondering if there's more to the situation than meets the eye that, IMHO, she should give this a shot and see what happens.

And Meg_Murray, I do understand that you're straight and have been uncomfortable when female friends of yours have come on to you. But that's just life: people get crushes on other people and get bold enough to act on them, and sometimes it's unrequited and awkward. That doesn't mean a gay person has some special obligation to limit her overtures to people who are 100%, definitely, certifiably gay.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:46 PM on May 11, 2010

I was most certainly not made uncomfortable by my friendships in high school. I was trying to get at the fact that young women often have intense, deep friendships with other young women. Mine were not romantic, but they were intimate. My point to the OP is that that type of intimacy can be extremely misleading if one person develops romantic feelings for another. If I had developed feelings for one of my close high school or college friends, I could easily have found things--things she said, touches, gifts, looks, etc.--that seemed to indicate reciprocation.

Gay people don't have an obligation to make sure someone is 100% out and proud before they ask the person out. But here the question is, "My friend says she's straight but I, a girl, have a crush on her, what should I do?" If the question were, "My friend says she's gay, but I, a dude, have a crush on her, what should I do?" the issue would be the same. Part of the appropriate response in either case is to respect what the friend says about herself. This doesn't mean it's wrong to disclose her feelings for the friend, it's just something to consider.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:41 PM on May 11, 2010

I was most certainly not made uncomfortable by my friendships in high school.

Woops, I was mistakenly thinking that you had written an earlier comment that you didn't actually write. So, the last paragraph of my previous comment is incorrect. I should have double-checked this before making a personal reference to someone. I'm sorry.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:12 PM on May 11, 2010

I've been on the other side of this several times. I'm a straight guy, but I've had gay men crush on me several times. One time it went well, and that's because two things happened 1) He told me what he felt, and 2) when I said "nope, sorry, wrong team." he respected that choice. I've been friends for yeas with that guy. You need to be prepared to do both of those things. Otherwise what will happen? Well, in my case, when guys didn't do #1 either they acted wiggy and freaked out around me or simply jumped me (ugh. Just ugh.) which both drove me away. If they ignored #2 and kept pressing it that also drove me away. No means f-ing no. I understand you're interested and if I change my mind I'll let you know. Quit bugging me in the meantime. If anyone knows what team I bat for it's me. Trust and respect that choice. Thanks.

Hope the view from the other side helps you to best handle this for both of you.
posted by Ookseer at 2:14 AM on May 12, 2010

Since everyone else is recommend lesbian sexytimes movies, I'll go against the grain and suggest watching Kissing Jessica Stein for an example of how this might NOT work out even if your friend initially goes for it.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:10 AM on May 12, 2010

Ask her if she could be sexually attracted to a woman, even if she isn't at the moment or has never been. If she flat-out says "no", then that's your cue to start coming to grips with that fact. (She could always change her mind later, but no sense in hoping against hope.) If she says otherwise... well, what ifjuly said above could still happen. Even if you want to go the lesbian-movies route, making the first move is probably a mistake.
posted by Deja Stu at 12:04 PM on May 12, 2010

I could have written this question two years ago. In my case, I was at a boarding high school and I was madly in love with my roommate.

(Always wonderful when your life resembles the premise of a cheap porno.)

Anyways, this, unfortunately, will be a cautionary tale. For us, most everything was the same as your question--we were best friends, we knew each other better than anyone else, etc.--except that we were both pretty deeply closeted. Through a remarkable battery of insinuation and self-deception, we ended up together: we held hands, we made out in various states of undress, we shared a bed and held each other as we fell asleep. We were in love.

For the six months or so that this lasted, life was wonderful.

At the six-month mark, I finally came clean to myself and to her and asked her to be my girlfriend. She admitted that she was attracted to me, but for a variety of reasons (parents, her own issues with bisexuality) couldn't be in a relationship with me. She pushed me away. Because she was my best friend, I lost my main center of emotional support; because she was closeted and wanted to keep our relationship (as it were) a secret, I couldn't turn to anyone else for help. The following months--basically, until I went to college and was able to remake a friend circle--were awful.

This is how things are now, a year after I confessed: Both of us have recovered and moved on to new, healthier relationships. While I'm now openly bi, I think the experience shoved my friend even deeper into the closet, and I doubt that she'll ever come out of it. We still talk occasionally, but are no longer nearly as close as we were before. Basically, even though I partially succeeded in satiating my crush, eventually I lost both the relationship and my best friend.

YMMV, but I would avoid this scenario. As amazing as it is to love and be loved by someone who knows you better than yourself, there are better ways to obtain that than going after your straight female best friend. If you are still set on going after her, please be honest. Tell her about your crush and directly ask her if she'd be willing to give a relationship between you two a go. Most people are actually pretty cool about having their friends crush on them (my friend was fine with me crushing on her; she was just not fine about herself crushing on me), so you probably won't lose her friendship; nevertheless, realize that you may become less close as a result. Don't try to make out with her while watching a movie, since if she has issues with her sexuality she's going to be even more messed up after that kind of move.

Best of luck to both of you.
posted by flawsekno at 11:21 AM on May 13, 2010

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