Getting over someone without cutting contact
December 30, 2011 6:42 AM   Subscribe

How do I get over someone without cutting contact?

I'm in love with my best friend and told him a month or two ago but, sadly, it's not reciprocated. He says he loves me, but he thinks our relationship is better than dating and doesn't want to stuff it up. We've had issues with this before and got through it ok. This time it's a little more complicated because we're about to go away for a week on holidays together and he's also started dating a woman who he seems really into. He says he doesn't want anything to change with us and wants to continue to hang out together as much as we did before. It's too late to cancel the holiday plans and I do enjoy spending time with him, but it's hard when he's messaging his girlfriend and I tend to fall to pieces the moment he leaves. He's the only person I can completely be myself around, so I don't want to lose him as a friend. Does anyone have any tips for getting over someone when you are going to be seeing them everyday and don't want to cut contact?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Start actively dating people who are not your best friend.
posted by phunniemee at 6:54 AM on December 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I used to be like this. For me the woman in question was a very close friend from childhood; we shared a somewhat emotionally fraught summer together in our hometown after our freshman year of college with me wanting to date and she stubbornly disagreeing, and it was really pretty miserable. What worked for me, though it's sort of odd, was to just make an arbitrary deadline: if she didn't change her mind about dating by the time I went back to school then that was it, it just wasn't going to happen. The deadline came and went, she didn't change her mind, and I gave up on the idea forever.

Not only did it work, but that was the last time I conflated romance and friendship. Afterwards something finally clicked in my head and I understood there was a difference.

We're still very close, and there's nothing remotely weird between us anymore -- she was a bridesmaid at my wedding. Of course we had the advantage of spending a semester several hundred miles apart following the passing of the deadline, which (despite your reluctance to cut contact) really does make things a lot easier.
posted by gerryblog at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

If he is your best friend and he knows about your feelings, I think it is completely reasonable to ask him to stop texting his girlfriend in front of you -- at least during your trip. He has got to know it stings.
posted by murrey at 6:59 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I disagree with Murrey. Part of getting over this is accepting he's in a romantic relationship with someone that is not you. He may be the only person you feel like you can be yourself around right now, but it doesn't have to be that way permanently. Do everything you can to meet new people.
posted by missmerrymack at 7:16 AM on December 30, 2011 [25 favorites]

I know you want to keep contact, in my case, it was never possible for me.
And lordy, was I willing to do anything to have my cake and eat it too.

But ultimately, it was the distance apart - no talking, e-mailing, any type of communicating - that gave me the chance to breathe a bit and see the world around me without my objects of affection blocking my view.

And dating other people does indeed help, but it doesn't only have to be that (trust me - a short, scrawny cash-strapped, low-self-esteem guy like me didn't get too many dates). Just start to live and love to live without him in the picture.

So the TLDR prescription: Cut all communication for a few months (i.e. 3-6). Learn to live your life without him. Go back to resume the friendship. Repeat as many times as necessary.

Good luck!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:24 AM on December 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I also disagree with murrey. I have seen friends try and put limits on other friends' romantic relationships and it never goes well -- if he has to choose between you and her, well, he is unlikely to chose you, and, assuming you are his friend and not someone-hanging-out-with-him-until-he-realizes-how-romantically-awesome you are, you really shouldn't want him make that choice.

Frankly, I would drop the holiday and cut way back on contact; it's sad, but why go on a holiday that will make you more miserable and tired than staying home?

I also endorse trying to meet new people; getting a wider circle is the best way to get over a crush gone wrong. Well, at least since the French Foreign Legion stopped being an option.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:26 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


We've had issues with this before and got through it ok.

I would actually advise you to both not go on this holiday and stop being best friends with him until you can develop and maintain appropriate boundaries (not necessarily stop being friends but just, more space between you), because I only forsee this being a painful and depressing experience for you; but since that's not what you asked..

I don't actually think you can get over someone that you are pining over when you're spending a ton of time with them, especially when on holiday, especially when you are going with just that person. Maybe during this trip you can remind yourself that his not choosing you leaves you free to pursue someone who does see you that way.
posted by sm1tten at 7:32 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

You think this is true love and fate and destiny and the only person you can ever be yourself around. I promise you that this is not. One of the weirdest things about having enough relationships/crushes/etc to see a pattern in my life is the realization that I can be completely, terribly gone on someone for months or years and then have that feeling simply evaporate as if it never was. I know about the huge crush that I had on Friend a couple of years ago - I remember how painful it was, etc etc - but honestly, there's nothing left in my feelings for Friend except fondness. If Friend suddenly fell in love with me or something, I might be able to rebuild some of those feelings but the intensity is gone forever.

I had a whole bunch of feelings and no shared habits or relationship to anchor them, so they did not grow or develop or stabilize as they would have if reciprocated.

When it's unreciprocated infatuation, it's mostly about you. I find this fact difficult, because I was socialized to believe in true love and so on, and because the feelings themselves are so powerful.

That's not to say that your best friend isn't a great guy, or even to say that you couldn't have a great relationship if he were into you. But I promise you that these feelings - these unbearable miserable feelings - are not some kind of foundational, underlying verity about the universe and your place in it.

Pretty much every time I've had a horrible, unbearable crush on someone, it was about my own need to change myself, often in a way represented by the person. (This has resulted in some serious confusion in actual romantic relationships! But I'm over it now.) Brilliant, charismatic philosophy person with a happy childhood? My desire to be that kind of person, to be happy, to be liked. Oddball, driven activist with unconventional gender presentation? My own drive to be a better activist and sort out my gender stuff.

I truly believe that women often grow up mistaking the desire to be for the desire to have - we want to be strong or clever or interesting or have brilliant careers or nice hair or be able to bench press our own weight, and we project that onto the men who do those things, as if by "having" the men, we can incorporate the attribute. This feels like love, or more precisely it feels like obsessive infatuated need. We've often been made to feel (usually semi-consciously) that we can't have those things because women can't be [funny; scientists; public speakers; popular at the pub, whatever] so we get hung up on men instead. It's the flip side of men wanting women as status symbols/things in a homosocial competition.

Note that I am not saying that there's no such thing as love, or that we only love people because we want to be them. It's just that often obsessive, painful and unreciprocated love isn't about love as much as about our own unmet wishes and needs.

Anyway, I find it helpful to remind myself that this too shall pass - every time I think "Oh, I am so in love, I shall never find another person like unto this person", I remind myself about other crushes I've had and how they are gone now. I also make fun of myself gently by doing my internal monologue in a silly voice and language: "Oh, if I do not have Person, I shall die, surely I shall! If only our True Love could blaze like diamonds at the stars!" Doing this repeatedly helps a lot.
posted by Frowner at 7:32 AM on December 30, 2011 [85 favorites]

2nding Frowner.

I've been looking back a lot lately, and realized how many good men I have known -- men that I pushed away by not appreciating the incredible friendship we had and desperately, achingly wanting MORE. I've found myself wishing I had spent less time imagining what an amazing boyfriend they would be, and more time focusing on . . . anything else. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about yourself 'in love', to figure out what thought processes might be fun but are ultimately harmful, that sort of stuff.

And now you have a metric to measure against -- you can decide that future relationships need to have at least as much [intimacy, relaxation, laughter, etc] as this friendship.

I wish I'd spent more time repeating "If it doesn't stop, it's not your train."

And just once I was lucky enough to have the realization that, 'if this person was mind-blowingly wonderful, how mind-blowing was it going to be to have this kind of fun with someone who loved me back?' It produced a kind of wonder and optimism that was helpful.

But yeah, it hurts like hell, and it takes time spent distracting yourself to move on.
posted by MeiraV at 7:47 AM on December 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

Is there any way you can distract yourself when the texting starts? Like, for example, popping off to look at shops nearby (if you're out somewhere together) or doing a bit of washing-up (if you're self-catering) or what have you? I know this might not be practical all the time, but if you know there's going to be a Big Text Session say at lunchtime or in the evening, try and get busy doing something else beforehand.

It's also not clear whether it's just the two of you going away together or whether you'll be part of a group - I assume the latter, so if that's the case, can you co-opt another friend to whisk you off into doing / seeing / talking about something else? It might make things a bit less uncomfortable for you if there's someone else whose eye you can catch and who will then take the initiative to bustle you off.

I do agree with others that it's going to be a little bit awkward to ask him not to text when you're around - it depends on your relationship I suppose, whether you think he'd be amenable to that sort of request, but I think he'd have to be pretty easy-going for it not to at least give him pause and make him super-conscious and thus a bit awkward himself.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 8:03 AM on December 30, 2011

"He says he doesn't want anything to change with us and wants to continue to hang out together as much as we did before."

That's great for him, but what do you want? Seriously and honestly, what do you think is best for you? Why is it too late to cancel the holiday? Do you really want to go because you think you'll have a great time, or are you going because you don't want to lose a deposit or make him angry that you are canceling?

I think it is possible to still be friends with this guy, but I think, as others have said, you need to get a bit of distance first. I asked a very similar question not too long ago (just about a year, in fact--must be the time of year for this sort of thing) and people told me it was hard. They were right. I tried to keep things "the way they were” for about a month—largely based on him also telling me that I was too important for him to lose and he wanted to keep things as they were, and it just didn’t work. By not changing anything about our dynamic, I also wasn’t able to make significant and necessary changes to my thought patterns. I stopped hanging out with him, started going out on some dates, spent more time with my other friends, and basically didn't see or talk to him for three months. He made overtures and I’d politely tell him that it just wasn’t possible to hang out right now. And you know what? I got over him.

I think part of wanting to keep up contact right away comes from a few places: 1) we are socialized to put others’ needs first and he’s said he doesn’t want things to change 2) it feels mean to cut off a friend through no fault of their own and 3) you want to tell yourself that you are emotionally strong and can handle it. If people always observed one and two, nobody would break up with anybody if they were generally unhappy, even when they were miserable (you wouldn’t counsel your best friend to stay in a situation that was making him emotionally miserable, would you?). And as to three, well, the emotionally strong thing to do is to take the steps necessary to take care of yourself. And it doesn’t sound like you are taking care of yourself since you say that it is hard to watch him communicate with is girlfriend and you fall to pieces as soon as he leaves.

Finally, you say that this has come up before and you guys “got through it.” But did you? The issue is still there. You still have feelings for him that aren’t going away when you are spending time with him. Maybe that should tell you that you might need a little distance for yourself and your own well-being.

All of this feels sucky and wrenching at the time, but it does pass eventually. Take care of yourself. Not him, not his wants, not his expressed wishes, but you.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 8:11 AM on December 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Get laid with someone else, a lot. If not that, at least find new friends.

One thing worth reflecting on is that this friend is not helping you with something that is intensely painful to you. Maybe he can't. Maybe he doesn't want to. Either way, the relationship is "stuffed up" already and he's pretending it's not. It hurts you. It might help you get over him to realize that with the status quo, he gets what he wants while you get hurt. Is that friendly of him?

A little indignation can go a long way to justifying time apart.
posted by ead at 8:15 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds like he wants to have his cake and eat it too, and so do you. Stop thinking of his feelings for a minute. You really do need to reduce your contact with him to get over him.

But really I think that the only way to really get over someone is to realize that there is no hope of you guys ever getting together. This is something that you have to come to realize in your own time, in your own mind. It tends to be easier when you don't see or talk to the person, because that contact reinforces the idea that they want to spend they're time with you and there is thus a chance of them suddenly realizing that they are, indeed, madly in love with you. When you aren't contacting them, it's much easier to understand that you never will be in a relationship with them.

I had one ex that I worked with -- he was my peer when we started dating, but was later my boss. When he broke up with me, I had to see him every day and it hurt, but I had to deal with it. I think I only truly got over him when he got into a serious relationship with another woman and I realized, deep down, that there truly wasn't the basis for any kind of romantic relationship with him. Now, he is the only ex of mine that I'm friends with and I went to his wedding.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:24 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

People can control their feelings, but the question is, right now, can you? I think you need to figure out what you want out of this relationship in the future and want you need right now. Is part of you is in this relationship because you will always be waiting for him to "wake up" one day and make it romantic, ultimately? Is the emotional intimacy not enough for you?
Really good friends who you can be completely comfortable around, who accept you for who you are, who will be there for you, they are valuable. Maybe you need time to get your head straight about how you feel about this person and what you want from them, and maybe that means time and distance.
Do you want to go on this holiday and can you actually enjoy it, or is it going to be a series of small emotional devastations you feel obligated to endure? There are ways to deal, but is it worth it? Do you want to?
Figure out what you want and need right now first, because if him simply having a girlfriend is a problem, you need to deal with that issue in order to sort out how you feel about this friendship.
There are lots of ways to cope, mail me and I will go on, but is it necessarily what you want to do?
posted by provoliminal at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2011

Your question might as well be: "How do I stop being an alcoholic and still drink and I really don't want to miss the big, drunken bender I have planned next week." There are people who are wired in such a way that they can binge like hell, be totally destructive to their body and soul and then wake up one day and let it all go. There are people with addictive personalities who have to walk away from their vices and triggers forever to become whole again. A lot of people posting in this thread are from the former group with respect to love addiction. But if you are at all prone to love addiction, the advice of those who are able to let go doesn't apply to you.

It seems like you are a love addict because you pursued this insane love after already "having issues like this before," with him. There's the old bon mot that only crazy people do the same thing over and over and expect different outcomes.

It's absolutely silly to say that you can only be yourself with this one person. All that tells me is that you're hiding your true self from other friends and possible lovers. So as long as this crush is an important part of your life, you will never be able to share all 100% of yourself with a new love.

He's also kind of a cad for going through with this holiday in the first place. It's insensitive to his girlfriend and it's insensitive to you. This is one of those moments where a person with any emotional intelligence at all would read the situation and, despite any sunk costs or even permission from one's significant other, would gently call off the holiday. You have the opportunity here to be the bigger person and bow out.

But, Hell, if you do decide to go on the holiday you might as well go big or go home. Your friendship is doomed anyway, so aim for a big blowout where you push the seduction full on. Leave nothing to doubt. You'll go down in flames but if you're too weak to walk away amicably, forcing the issue may be the one thing that will make you move on.

Sounds like bad advice? Then follow the good advice and cancel the trip.
posted by Skwirl at 9:04 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

He's the only person I can completely be myself around, so I don't want to lose him as a friend.

I'd start your recovery by discarding this belief. Obviously there are others out there that you can also be completely yourself around. Find them.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 AM on December 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

I also recommend cutting contact, but you have to be prepared for the possibility that it will end the friendship in the long run as well. Although, if he cares about you, it may not, and if he doesn't, you're better off without him.

(I had a similar, very intense crush on a friend many years ago. Cutting off contact helped me immensely, though it took some time to fully get over him. We stopped being friends, and that hurt, but it also helped me realize that our friendship wasn't as deep as I imagined, so a relationship would be doomed anyway.)
posted by redlines at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree your denial sounds like an alcoholic who still wants to drink without suffering all the negative consequences here. And your guy 'friend' is enabling this by continuing to make plans with you alone as if you are a couple when you aren't.

If you can't cancel the holiday plans, is there any way you can bow out and give your spot to the girlfriend? Or he could bow out gracefully and you could go with another friend? Because this is going to be much tougher on you than I think you even realize.

You are going to be alone with this guy you think you love, a guy who wants nothing romantic whatsoever to do with you. Reading between the lines, saying you've been through this before with him makes me think the two of you have tried hooking up on occasion. I think that, no matter how great a guy he might be, he really served you poorly by even giving into that, because he does not feel the same way.

The most charitable reading I can give is that he was confused about his feelings, too, but I don't think that's how it went down. I feel like he just took the easiest course for him and took advantage of you until he found someone he actually wanted to be romantically involved with.

That doesn't make him very loveable, honestly. I know you hate hearing it, but it doesn't make him much of a friend, either. This guy who 'knows you better than anyone'? Should have known better than that. He should care how his actions make you feel. Some friend.

This vacation is a HORRIBLE idea. You are better off losing your deposit or whatever than going through with it.

Find a way to bow out, for your own sake! A real friend would accept that it is too hard on you. Otherwise, I see you making yourself miserable, either wallowing in depression as he texts and chats with his actual girlfriend when you are supposed to enjoy your holiday, or making a move on him and getting rebuffed. Ugh.

Or, worse still, making a move on him and actually hooking up--until he gets back home to his girlfriend and the 'but I just want to be friends with you' story gets trotted out again. Which will make you feel worse than you do now, by about a factor of a thousand.

I'd like to think he wouldn't go there, but I'm really not sure just how much of a friend this guy is to you.

Please put some distance between the two of you and try spending more time with other 'friends', or even meeting new guys. It is the harder road initially, but it will make you SO much happier in the end. Trust me on this.
posted by misha at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

I disagree:

Go on the trip. Such a trip could very well seed desire in his heart for you. When you change the scene, you can change the outcome. It happens all the time.

It's easy for strangers to passionately advise you to "do the right thing." But, many of the same people would not follow their own advice if they were in such a situation. You know the nuances, and we can only infer from a far distance.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2011

Romantic love and cocaine have a lot in common in how they affect our brains. I always use this information to look at my crushes as a sort of physical addiction. It helps take the drama and self out of it, at least a little bit.

Love, Pain, and Cocaine

Looking at things from a biological perspective helps me to not make it so much about 'me' and allows me to get a better grasp on handling it when I start to feel those feelings when I shouldn't, or when I am trying to get over a romantic relationship.
posted by Vaike at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

This time it's a little more complicated because we're about to go away for a week on holidays together and he's also started dating a woman who he seems really into.

Have you met her? Does she know about your holiday plans, and the fact that you are (still) in love with him?
posted by iviken at 12:00 PM on December 30, 2011

you are best friends with this person because you say you can be the unabashed YOU around them. but if your best friend can't text a romantic interest in front of you, can your bf feel just as unabashedly themselves around you?

i mean, there is a difference between infatuation and best friendship and you need to acknowledge it, and perhaps adjust your labeling of the situation accordingly.

best friends respect boundaries. they do not absolutely never ever ever deliver ultimatums to one another--"choose between me or her," you know?

if it has come to that, your relationship has become something else. thinking about a problem with it and the "bf" in question really requires thinking about the relationship in more precise terms.

if this sounds frank, maybe you need to get frank with yourself. your friendship depends on it.
posted by chyeahokay at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2011

Such a trip could very well seed desire in his heart for you

OP, if you are going on this trip with that hope in mind, I *promise* you, you will regret it.
posted by misha at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Go on the trip. Such a trip could very well seed desire in his heart for you.

Based on my own experience, DO NOT DO THIS.

Also based on my own experience, the longer you keep dragging this out, the longer you'll eventually spend beating yourself up about it once you manage to get your head clearer.

It's not going to happen. He doesn't want to be your boyfriend. He doesn't want you to be his girlfriend. The fact that he's currently seeing someone else actually has nothing to do with this — "wants to be with OP yes/no" is a completely different axis than "is dating somebody else yes/no" and one does not affect the other. I say this from having been on both sides of the situation: I've been Person A hoping that Person B would wake up and fall in love with me, and I've been Person B wishing that Person A would accept that I didn't want to be romantically involved with them.

Your chances for long-term happiness are improved by cutting this guy out of your life completely until you really and truly have no more expectations of or investment in his romantic life than you would a best friend you weren't attracted to. If the thought of observing him texting his girlfriend gives you a pang, you're not ready to see, talk, or be around him yet.

Doing the harder thing now will make things easier in the future. Continuing on as you are, wishing and waiting and hoping for something more, will lead to more unhappiness and, in my experience, a loss of self-respect that will take longer to get over than a broken heart due to cutting things off.
posted by Lexica at 7:09 PM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

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