how do you not take it personal if someone doesn't want you in their life?
November 13, 2011 7:08 AM   Subscribe

How do you not take it personal if someone doesn't seem to want you in their life?

There's a someone I have strong feelings for, I've been in love with for years. Asking this person out is out of the question. We've been sort of friends for a long time. I've never felt the way I feel when I'm around this person- I feel so peaceful when we do spend time together, & I feel completely high for a week after we do see each other (I've never felt that way before). It's so far & between though, months go by, & it's not due to my lack of trying to initiate contact. It's just not reciprocated. I've gotten mixed messages that this person cares about me- tells me unprovoked that they think about me a lot, & very sweet things, & that they admire me (give me a lot of "me too" looks) & what looks like "longing looks" whenever I say something heartfelt & direct about how much I care about this person. It seems to be mixed messages, as for the fact that whenever I try to initiate spending more time doing things we're both interested in, it gets shot down & never happens. There are activities that this person participates in & tells me about when we do see each other, but never invites me to- though I express that I'm interested in going to see them in these activities. I get a feeling when I do express this, that they really don't want me to go, for whatever reason.

I don't act other than normal when we do spend time together, I really do enjoy their company more than anybody. We have plans to briefly see each other in a few weeks, & I'm finding it hard to handle my emotions of wanting more from this person- wanting to see them more, though I know it won't happen due to the past track record, which breaks my heart. It also makes it hard to handle my feelings of wanting more than just friends, because I know we don't see each other that much anyway, so what would be lost if something more than that was initiated? I'm sure though if I tried for something more it would end our friendship, which isn't too often of an occurrence of a friendship but the thought of never seeing this person again completely breaks my heart, & I don't think I could deal with that. I think of this person first thing when I wake up (automatically- I can't help it), & the last thing before I go to bed.

I would be happy just being friends, but since we can't seem to get that to happen all that much, it makes my feelings harder to manage, because I feel so sad after time passes & I don't see this person. I don't think I'd be a good match anyway- they have a lot of friends & family, I don't. I don't think I would fit well into their life for the most part, maybe that's why they don't seem to want me in it that much. I don't think they know exactly the extent of how I feel & how deep, possibly just a hint of it- but it's never strange or awkward- & it seems to me to be a least reciprocated, but to what level I just can't seem to get a gauge on.

I know you can't make someone want you more in their life, but how do you handle your emotions & not have it break your heart? I really can't think of anyone else, it's really so far and between that I ever like anyone, even in a general sense. Especially someone I feel such a connection with, & love. I would only want the best for someone I love, & truly care about. I don't know if that would be me though, in this case.

So how do you handle feelings of wanting to spend more time with someone? When they don't seem to want that as you do? Do you keep initiating? I also haven't heard anything back to confirm our plans to get together in a few weeks, which with any friend I wouldn't at all accept as that nice of behavior- but when feelings are involved it makes it hard. It seems though that maybe what is said isn't really meant at all, because the actions don't line up with the words (this has happened a lot). Why would someone say sweet things totally unprovoked & express a great interest in wanting to hang out if they don't really mean it? I don't understand that, especially when they express it, even though you purposefully give them a way out to say something like "ok see you sometime", but they respond with a resounding "yes I really want to see you". If you don't want to & the other person has given you a way out of it, it seems strange to express interest to connect if that's not what you want- is that flirting? I don't understand.

So how do you handle this? How do you manage your feelings? The crash, after not seeing them for such prolonged times, the rush of just wanting to kiss them on the cheek impulsively when you're sitting next to them?

So how do I handle my feelings?

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
they have a lot of friends & family, I don't

You need to diversify, my friend. You have too much riding on this one person. I'm not saying it wouldn't hurt regardless, but it wouldn't feel like the world is crashing down.
posted by unannihilated at 7:12 AM on November 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

You have to take it personally. That's the only way out. Grieve that you don't have what you desire. Your continued contacting of this person is a way of avoiding the grief, or more precisely, spreading it out over a long period of time--so long that each reconnection starts the cycle over and over again. You must give them up and embrace the pain of loss.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:19 AM on November 13, 2011 [10 favorites]

i don't know, i think grieving at this point would be a little premature. you basically said your friend doesn't know how you feel, right? sounds to me like you need to have a talk with this person. if you only see this person every once in a while, a lot's probably going unspoken. speak up. then listen to what your pal has to say.
posted by chyeahokay at 7:27 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The kind of relationship you have right now is the worst of all worlds. Give them* up completely. Or make your romantic move and be prepared to then give them up, if that's what you want (that would certainly help you hand wanting to kiss this person whenever you are near them).

FWIW, what I suspect is going on is that your crush is not reciprocated. The other person doesn't want to actually reject you (especially since you haven't actually put yourself out there, thus leaving nothing to reject), and pulling away but being nice in person is the result.

Maybe they just don't have time, or one of a million other things, but I suspect if they felt like you did, they would find time to hang out.

*Side note: Removing information to make this question gender neutral probably won't help the quality of the answers.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:29 AM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

This person appears to not want to be with you the way you want to be with them. Someone who was right for you would want to be with you the way you want to be with them. Ergo, this person isn't right for you.

It seems to be mixed messages, as for the fact that whenever I try to initiate spending more time doing things we're both interested in, it gets shot down & never happens.

This isn't a mixed message, this is just a message. I assume you've been direct and said "I'd really like to do that thing with you, why don't you invite me along?" or some sort of question that is direct to see what response you get? You seem to be dissatisfied with the situation you have and yet don't want to ask direct questions for fear of losing what you DO have. And what you do have isn't what you want.

You seem to think that one day this person will suddenly wake up and see you've been there for them all along and suddenly start calling you more frequently and inviting you along to things and want to kiss you. In other works, making their actions match how you've interpreted their words. I think this is unlikely. And I also think your unwillingness to take that step and tell them exactly how you feel [realistically like "I have romantic feelings for you" not "I really enjoy your company"] is you sort of doing the same weird politeness thing and sheltering yourself from the truth that they don't actually feel the same way [regardless of what they seem to be saying]

it seems strange to express interest to connect if that's not what you want- is that flirting? I don't understand.

It is strange, but many people act that way. I don't know if it's perpetual attempted politeness/niceness that is making them continually respond favorably towards you but then not act that way, or if they're more inappropriately stringing you along, but that's not how friends or lovers behave. It's entirely possible to enjoy getting attention from someone and not feel the desire to reciprocate or in any other way change the status quo. That appears to be where you are stuck and if I were you, I'd try to settle things, make a more or an assertion of your true feelings and then realize that once you've made them plain, if they are not reciprocated, then that person is not the right person for you to be pining over because the right person would feel that way in response.
posted by jessamyn at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

It seems like this person already knows how you feel and is trying to establish boundaries with you and be as kind as possible. Even if they don't, this person clearly isn't interested in having a more involved or serious relationship with you.

For your own well being, I recommend not spending time with this person unless/until you have moved on and are not in love with them. This situation will not get better for you and you deserve to be in love with someone who loves you back. Staying obsessed with this person is a way to stay safe and unavailable rather than risk being in a relationship that can actually go somewhere.
posted by Kimberly at 7:38 AM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Many of us have been in similar situations, it is unlikely to change, it's up to you to decide how long you want it to continue. You either have this, this nebulous phase of hanging on, or nothing, ie either no contact or a distant friendship/acquaintance. Neither is what you really want, but as Jessamyn said, it is unlikely this person is suddenly going to turn around and give you what you are looking for in terms of a more involved relationship. It sucks and I'm sorry but it's better to face reality that to hope your delusions (sorry, again, I've been there too) with respect to this person are true or are going to come true later.
posted by bquarters at 7:54 AM on November 13, 2011

yeah, i'm going to read into the gender neutrality here and say that this is a same sex friend crush, which, if you aren't out or glbt identifying, complicates things. the reason it complicates things is because no matter how obvious you thing you're being or have been about your true, pseudo hidden feelings, if the other dude/ lady in the equation has a modicum of modesty they're very likely to make excuses for the behavior, chalk it up to the moon, the stars, the booze, whatever, in particular if you guys are friends.

i've been on the receiving end of friend infatuation and was kind of blind-sided when said friend broke down and finally told me, and it was a big explosive kind of telling, too. the kind of thing where it was like, "how could you not know?" well, at points, i wondered, sure. but i wonder about a lot of things, imagine lots of fun, bizarre realities where anything can and does happen. plus, there was an element of performance to the relationship. if the bromance ever felt a little too romantic, i thought it was for show. i thought it was funny. and when stuff got a little real, i was totally surprised. i needed some time to process. but ultimately, things settled and we worked stuff out. i was glad to be told. i wished i'd been told sooner before things got melodramatic.
posted by chyeahokay at 8:07 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can't be friends with someone you are in love with. Period. You cannot get over them romantically as long as they are even tangentially in your life, reminding you of how awesome they are. You need to dump them as a friend and go cold turkey, at least for a year/until you find someone else/possibly forever. It's the only way to get over them.

Yeah, I know, you don't like that answer. Nobody does. But this absolutely isn't working for you now, is it?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:30 AM on November 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

You say your heart will break if you lose the friendship. What you need to realize is that going through a long period of self-torture LIKE YOU ARE DOING NOW, where you can't express your feelings or be with them, get mixed messages, and have a constant unfulfilled longing to see them, is a much worse thing for you. Honestly, it sounds like your feelings are just not reciprocated and you need to let go of this person. It will be much better for your mental health in the long term, and it will open your eyes to other people and other relationships that will be a lot more fulfilling.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:53 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you've actually talked to your friend about any of this. It seems a little unreasonable to expect your friend to magically pick up on things.

Like the angling for invites---have you just said " hey, that sounds like fun! Can I come too?" rather than just hinting and hoping?

And, yeah, you might learn that the friend isn't romantically interested. But at that point you could decide what to do with the new information.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:56 AM on November 13, 2011

This person likes you but not 'in that way.' They aren't sending mixed signals; they aren't interested in you and with spending more time with you. You need to move on and fill your life with other people and activities. Stop acting like you're 12 and acknowledge what is really happening, not what you'd like to have happen. If you're a glutton for punishment, let the person know how you feel but be prepared to get your feelings hurt and there is always the tiny chance they feel similarly. Your heart will break and only time heals that. Don't have any contact for a good long time.
posted by shoesietart at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2011

From nickrussell in a previous post related to your dilemma:

In the experience of most people that I know, when it's on, it's on. When a woman is interested in a man, she will make it happen. And likewise. It's supposed to be easy. If it is not easy, you are on a quest and whilst you may make something happen, it will probably not be what you want. Actually, it will probably be quite terrible for the reality is that you and this woman are not an appropriate match.

How you proceed is to live your life and find someone with whom dating is easy. It doesn't have to be your life partner, it can even be a few dates where you understand what a natural, bidirectional relationship is. What you are doing now is obsessing and it will be to your demise.

Granted there may be a Hugh Grant love story in here somewhere but that is not the common experience. The common experience is ongoing deep pain and frustration because you are trying to make this something that it is not.

posted by moiraine at 9:10 AM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your crush is emotionally unavailable.

The reason doesn't matter. What matters is why you are investing so much in someone who is emotionally unavailable instead of trying to find happiness with someone who is able to share it with you. You deserve that happiness.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:37 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I disagree with comments that your friend might not be aware of your feelings. I think it's nearly impossible to completely disguise feelings this strong, and most people are perceptive. Consider that every action you take involving this person comes from the place of wanting to win their love. That motive has got to show.

I had a similar experience once where I was in love with a friend/acquaintance who didn't seem that into me. I was more naive then and thought if I confessed the depth of my feelings, my crush would suddenly realize the "amazing potential" we had. Heh. So I sent them a long email laying it all out there. Crush was freaked out and cut me out of their life.

Basically, I don't think anything is going to turn this person around, whether you make a move or not. They will continue to slowly extract you from their lives. If you confess your feelings now, the cut will just be swifter.
posted by timsneezed at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2011

This is the hardest thing you'll ever have to do but be very honest with them. Being in love is hard but if you don't have open discussions, you'll never see past your love for them. Don't keep your feelings to yourself. Please express them so this way everything is out in the open. You'll feel a weight off your shoulders if they either reject or accept. But they have to know! You don't want to go on feeling this way forever, trust me. If they don't respond to your directness, then you must grieve and move on.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:39 AM on November 13, 2011

You're using reasoning and trying to work out some sort of logical approach when none is called for. You need to accept the way things are and stop thinking about all this could-be I-want.

I don't know you and I don't know your exact situation. I can tell you that when I was in exactly the situation you describe, feelings and obsession-wise, I was pretty deep in an unmanaged depression. I viewed her as The Solution, even if I wouldn't have worded it that way. In the end, for me, I had to cut off contact, get treatment, and let time go by.

She and I are friends now, over a decade later, and as much as I adore her I look back with amazement that I was so hooked on the idea that we should have been a romantic item. What an unmitigated disaster that would have been. But it took getting better and a stretch of a few years to see that.

Maybe you have something in common with that situation, maybe not. But I know that you cannot reason romance into being. I'd wager this person knows full well your interest and simply wants it to stop. S/he may like you as a friend and wish to have contact with you but only you can know whether that's something you can pull off.

Make the move if you feel like you have to know; there's a lot to be said for regretting the things you try than the things you don't. But you have to accept the way things are regardless of how much you might think you should be together or that it would be good. That's not up to you. Relationships are a partnership and they are only what BOTH parties want them to be.

Then get on with your life however you need to, with or without them. But this holding pattern is a waste of your time and unhealthy.
posted by phearlez at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Asking this person out is out of the question.

Why? Is it because:

they really don't want me to go, for whatever reason.

To be honest, it doesn't to me sound like you have a friendship, so much as a close acquaintance-ship that picks up and drops off repeatedly. I also think you are not being honest with yourself that you are okay with just being friends... you clearly want and continue to want more despite a lack of encouragement on their part.

Personally, especially since this is someone you don't see or have contact with often, I would either: just let them know how I feel, and be prepared for whatever happens or
b: cut this person out of my life. (Very good chance that one would lead to the other anyway, but you never know). To me, it sounds like this person likes having your attention and doesn't want to give it up, but isn't interested in giving much back. And to answer your question, no, that's not flirting. That's manipulation, actually. Or someone who is very, very slow on the interpersonal relationship uptake.
posted by sm1tten at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2011

To me, it sounds like this person may know you're crushing on them and be spending intermittent time with you because they feel like they have a social obligation to not be "mean" to you.

Or maybe that's reading to much into it and it's just a casual acquaintanceship to them in which they are entirely unaware of your feelings.

I think you should do what sm1tten tells you. Disambiguate, and end contact entirely if you don't get the answer you want.
posted by tel3path at 11:11 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have this theory that when feelings are unrequited for too long they take up residence, fully, unhealthily, in your prefrontal cortex where they lay down belabored pathways like dog's feet in a too-small yard.

So then, in addition to your own intrusive thoughts about this person (thinking of them first thing, last thing, in addition to every other thing), any action or behavior on their part becomes another one of your thoughts, but fails to initiate any action or behavior on your part. So, a healthy response to a person who enjoys hanging out with you every once in a while, who at time breaks plans or fails to get right back to you, is to acknowledge their boundary and understand that you'll see them when you see them, or when there are activities that you both enjoy. If this person is also someone who inspires romantic feelings but has cut a boundary, the healthy response is to think about what it was in yourself that this person inspired you to love more about yourself, or to understand the lesson of it all and grieve. Unrequited love is, at first, unexamined love you have for yourself, and then as it takes up obsessive residence in exhausted tracks in your brain, it unfortunately becomes evidence of your own shortcomings--shortcomings that actually do not exist.

I am sad to see that you have begun to believe, for example, that you would not be a good fit because this person's life is full of people and yours is not. I see this as your thoughts assigning something that is very neutral about yourself as a shortcoming simply because your thoughts have little choice but to constantly compare yourself with this other person's life. Relative to my beloved, I don't have a tremendous crowd of people in my life, but his respect for me interprets that as little more than my own natural introversion, not a flaw.

In the very beginning, how did this person find a way, or what did they find, that made you fall in love with some part of yourself? That's the real value, and what deserves your nurturing, not the person themselves. I don't mean that this person isn't valuable, or deserving of love in general, but what I think you've lost is that you are too. According to my theory, your initial love for this person was, at least in part, about how they made you feel about yourself. When the romantic aspect of your appreciation of that was unrequited, your thoughts turned to how you must fail to measure up, somehow, and you lost what it was that was truly inspiring about what they saw.

You asked how to handle the feelings and internal struggle of let down after they leave, of being right next to them but unable to act physically on your feelings. My suggestion is that if you can find your way back to nurturing and developing the inspirational parts of yourself, you won't have to. My thought is that their physical presence is a reminding echo of something good in you and that the reason it hurts when they leave or when you can't touch them is because it hurts to have lost access to what you really love about yourself.

Thoughts are powerful and convincing, and as you are experiencing, can take over your actions and beliefs. But that's good news, too. New thoughts, even if they feel strange or challenge your beliefs, at first, can also become a powerful force in your favor. Maybe you'll need a partner in this endeavor, via therapy, so you can focus on what's right about yourself instead of all the ways you think you're not enough. You already have the energy and focus you need to do this kind of work and come about, and I really wish you the very best. You obviously have a lot of tenderness, love, patience, and appreciation to offer and I bet it would feel incredible if you offered those gifts to yourself.
posted by rumposinc at 11:37 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

It won't happen the way you want. The only positive non-excruciating relationship you can have with this person might happen several years from now when you're no longer in love, if you avoid making too much of a mess of things now. To get over the unrequited phase you will probably need to cut off contact for years. You have to convince that entire part of your mind to give up. Which is one of the most painful things in the world to do. We've all been there and are sympathetic.

Your friend might be willing to help you get through that if you explain that you're in love with them, you know it's not reciprocal (it's not), and you need them to help you disconnect. But understand that the result of that conversation will be "the end of your self-torment, and transition into period of years-long disconnection, grieving, moving on". Understand that is the best you can get out of this situation. The worst is carrying on as you have, for years more.

The best you want isn't going to happen. It won't happen the way you want.
posted by ead at 12:34 PM on November 13, 2011

I'm going to approach this from a slightly different perspective that may or may not be (okay, it is) based on my own experience.

Sometimes you can like someone a great deal and send out mixed messages not because you want to let the person down easily but because:

a) they think you only want to be friends and they want something more.

b) they think you want something more and they only want to be friends.

"tells me unprovoked that they think about me a lot, & very sweet things, & that they admire me (give me a lot of "me too" looks) & what looks like "longing looks" whenever I say something heartfelt & direct about how much I care about this person"


"whenever I try to initiate spending more time doing things we're both interested in, it gets shot down & never happens."

Tells me it's fear coupled with bad universe timing.

"I get a feeling when I do express this, that they really don't want me to go, for whatever reason."


"they have a lot of friends & family, I don't. I don't think I would fit well into their life for the most part, maybe that's why they don't seem to want me in it that much. "

Suggests to me that you don't feel worthy enough of this person. First step - you are worthy enough to have a relationship you want. You may not get THIS one - but you have to tell yourself that you are worthy enough of the things you want in life.

"I don't act other than normal when we do spend time together, I really do enjoy their company more than anybody. "


"even though you purposefully give them a way out to say something like "ok see you sometime", but they respond with a resounding "yes I really want to see you"."

Suggests that YOU'RE also not making it clear enough to them (aka sending mixed messages) so they're unsure about how you really feel. They could be thinking - so do you like me more than everyone else or what?

So how do you feel?

Work out what you want and then try to make it happen. You might get it, you might not, but at least then you've tried.
posted by mleigh at 12:54 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

« Older What to put in a holiday hamper for my vegetarian...   |   I'm being flogged publicly my accuser... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.