I like her, she doesn't like me, but she won't go away.
September 21, 2005 8:07 AM   Subscribe

DatingFilter: She knows I have feelings for her which she doesn't reciprocate, but she won't leave me alone.

I met her in August 2004 - she worked in the same office as me (as a peer, but one year below in seniority). We quickly hit it off and became friends. I wanted to take it beyond friendship, but it didn't happen (my approach was definitely sub-optimal). What did happen is that we had several stretches during which we became unusually close friends and did things that an outside observe might have confused with the activities of a couple (one-on-one outings that seemed very "date"-like, long phone conversations, etc). These would last a couple months until she decided I was getting too close and woudl give me the cold-shoulder - I would respond by leaving her alone for a week or so. The week would turn into longer periods of awkward avoidance that lasted for weeks or months. This cycle repeated itself about 3 times (we didn't talk during the months of October, December-January '05, and April-August). The last instance was pretty direct - she asked why I was ignoring her and I responded that my unreciprocating feelings for her made me frustrated. She asked if I could get over it and be friends - my answer was no and silence ensued. So, doing the math, we spent more time avoiding each other than we did actually being friends.

I moved to the opposite coast in July. Out of the blue, she called me a couple weeks ago. I, being naively optimistic, took her call and we've been exchanging calls/emails ever since. She's planning a vacation to visit her family (who live in my city) for passover and her birthday at the end of this month. She's talking about cancelling her birthday plans with family/friends to go out to dinner and a show with me alone (her idea, not mine). Again, a very "date"-like activity.

My question is: does she think my feelings will have changed over the last 5 months? They didn't change over our previous periods of silence. And if she still assumes (correctly) that I have feelings for her and doesn't have feelings for me, why does she want to start this cycle all over again?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (61 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
For whatever reason, she enjoys toying with you. Maybe she just likes the attention.
posted by callmejay at 8:15 AM on September 21, 2005

My question is: does she think my feelings will have changed over the last 5 months? They didn't change over our previous periods of silence.

Um, maybe? You'd really have to ask her that, not us.
posted by delmoi at 8:15 AM on September 21, 2005

I don't want to ruin your day, but I went through a very similar situation a number of years ago. I was quite young at the time, 17 or 18, but I couldn't resolve it without cutting her out of my like completely. It's the only way to regain control of your life.
posted by ascullion at 8:16 AM on September 21, 2005

It's unlikely she thinks your feelings of frustration will have changed. It is possible that she might want to start a more-than-friends relationship with you. It is possible that she is someone who goes through gloomy/unconfident periods, and has her confidence boosted by being in close proximity to someone who is attracted to her.

It's totally obvious that you're hoping 'this time, something might happen'. Yeah, it might happen this time, but then again it may not. So you've got to weigh up the pain of rejection with the pleasure of something happening between you.

I'd advise you cut off contact with her. But personally, I'd be full speed ahead with her because I have a hopeful (naive?) personality.
posted by pollystark at 8:19 AM on September 21, 2005

What callmejay said. Also, needless to say, you seem like a nice guy and deserve better than that.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 8:20 AM on September 21, 2005

same thing happen to me. lasted about 5 years, then in the sixth year we finally were a couple in a real romantic sense. We were on the road to being married. And then I dumped her because I really realized that I couldn't spend the rest of my life with a crazy manipulative blood sucking bitch.
posted by CrazyJoel at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2005

It's a holiday, she won't be around forever. I suppose face to face for a little while would be a good time to sort this situation out and, with her being your friend and all, I wouldn't discount the idea that she's thinking the same thing. Who wants to let good friendships die out?

"does she think my feelings will have changed over the last 5 months"
Sounds like she's hoping. How do you want her to find out?
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:23 AM on September 21, 2005

This is your "When Harry met Sally" relationship.

If you can deal with just being friends, then see her. If you want more, tell her. If she's interested great, if not, don't see her. It can only end badly for you.
posted by szg8 at 8:28 AM on September 21, 2005

My best charitable guess is that she assumes that your tacit acceptance of her offer means that she thinks that you are telling her that you can be friendly with her without being frustrated. She may be waiting for you to "get over" your feelings of frustration at not being able to date her. This may not be cool, and it may be unrealistic, but your retelling of the events say that to me. Sometimes time heals this sort of unrequited longing, so it's not completely out in left field, but you need to look out for yourself first.

Clearly [to me] she wants you as a friend without benefits and likely misses you in a "Where was that great friend I used to have?" way. I think it's extremely unlikely that she is now suddenly romatically interested in you without being more explicit than going out to dinner and a movie. She may be from a culture where this sort of thing is a normal thing that friends do. You may be from one where it is not. I have been in this sort of situation many times [on both sides of it, I call it the celibate boyfriend routine] and I sympathize because it is never easy and hope does spring eternal. Sometimes time really has helped me get over someone, sometimes pushing the envelope on the situation has made it easier to deal with for both of us. Always after long periods of back and forth and flirting/withdrawal we did NOT get together. It does not seem like she is playing hard to get, just maybe being a bit clueless about the depth of your emotions for her. Both of you hope that there will be a change in the other person [my my reading of this] and you both keep being disappointed.

At the end of the day, if she just wants a sort of pseudo-boyfriend, and you hate this, then you need to stop playing the role. This can look sort of callous in a "Why are you throwing away a good friendship over this?" but really it's NOT a good friendship if it's making you feel lousy, or confused, or just unequal in your friendship. Maybe you can use this opportunity to clear that up with her once and for all without hard feelings, since you no longer live near each other.
posted by jessamyn at 8:28 AM on September 21, 2005

Yeah, she's toying with you. I have to say I have seen this behaviour time and time again - from both men and women I hasten to add. Here's the deal: people like it when someone fancies them. The fact that they might not fancy that person back doesn't alter the fact that they still get a helluva buzz from being fancied. They like being around the person who fancies them.

However. Nice, decent, thoughtful people realise that it hurts the person suffering from unrequited feelings and they have the decency to back off and let them get over it. Shallow, vain, selfish people on the other hand like the buzz of admiration too much to let it go. They particularly hate it if it ever starts to look like their puppy-eyed admirer is actually getting over them. So they get back in contact after the gap has become too worrying and suggest a nice friendly catch-up. Oh, and they'll have a whole raft of perfectly righteous and honourable self-justifications for their behaviour. Or they'll make it sound like it's somehow your fault for being unable to get over it. Sometimes they even believe these rationalisations themselves. It's quite funny once you're free of the bloody curse of them.

Pattern sound familiar?
posted by Decani at 8:34 AM on September 21, 2005

Two things are possible:
1. She is the type that pollystark said: she feels bad about herself and then likes being around guys who like her.
2. She maybe has feelings for you and wants to see if you still like her.

As a woman, I'm betting on #1. Many women are like this. It makes us feel good & sexy ("I've still got it.")

If you are still interested, I would go out with her that one time, be friendly (but not obvious) and see where it goes, but don't get your hopes up. If it seems like the same old thing, have a nice evening but don't let her string you along. If she emails/calls you again, just say "I'm tired of being here to make you feel good about yourself." She will get angry and indignant, but only because you've FINALLY called her bluff and she knows it. It will then be over, unless she REALLY figures out she wants you at some later date. Then if she contacts you, it's probably for real.
posted by aacheson at 8:34 AM on September 21, 2005

She's playing you. She doesn't really like you, but she likes the positve attention/self-esteem affirmation that she gets from being around you. She's crazy and manipulative, and the sooner you cut her out of your life completely, the happier you'll be. I'd plan on leaving town the weekend of passover, just to be safe.
posted by junkbox at 8:42 AM on September 21, 2005

Run. Run fast.

People who are like that don't change if people who are like you keep enabling the behavior.

It is the best thing to do for both of you.

Having suffered through way too many pseudo-boyfriend-type relationships in my life, I realize that part of it was not feeling that i deserved to be loved and needed in return, and was perfectly happy to give of myself and get zilch in return (emotionally or physically) by convincing myself that it was enough to have someone that needed me around. This does nothing for you and just enough for her.

Those of us who are slow to take and quick to give tend to attract what i generiously call attentionwhores like flies to...well...you know.

OK well maybe I'm still a little angry about it :)
posted by softlord at 8:50 AM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

What decani said. It makes her feel good to be around you because you like her and presumably treat her well. You could try questioning her directly about her intentions with you before making a decision about her invitation, but then there would be the possibility that she'd tell you what you want to hear in order to get you to see her when in fact she feels no differently than she did before. My instinct is to avoid her and save yourself the distress.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:51 AM on September 21, 2005

Alternatively, she might genuinely want you as a friend, and thinks that surely by now you've gotten over that attraction thing.

...I've seen that happen (and, having spent quite some time talking with both parties, separately, I'm quite sure that this is what happened).

Now, it doesn't change the fact that it's manipulative regarding your feelings, but at least it's possible that she's not doing it intentionally. If this is the case, then she might feel manipulated when you "pretend to be friends".

My solution, therefore: contact her, apologize for the short notice, say you're not as over her as you'd thought, and that therefore you think it would be best if you not see her yet.

How she responds will tell you a lot about her thinking.
posted by aramaic at 8:51 AM on September 21, 2005

I have to agree with the other posters who are saying that you're being played -- maybe not intentionally, but being played nonetheless. If it's rough being around her, I'd cancel or at least ask what her intentions are. If you're like me, though, you'd go anyway because it's really hard doing the smart thing.
posted by jzb at 8:52 AM on September 21, 2005

I'd ask yourself, frankly, why you need one more girl in your life who you are "friends" with, instead of having a girlfriend. I don't think it's any more complicated than a lack of physical attraction on her part for you, since you've already determined your compatibility. If you genuinely enjoy her friendship, then keep it up. If you are continuing the friendship out of a persevering hope of something more, I think you will feel a hell of a lot better down the road knowing you had the courage to send her packing. This sort of thing just seems like the something we learn in adolescence and if we're lucky spot it a mile away before it happens again in adulthood. Life's too short.
posted by docpops at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2005

You have nothing to lose in a confrontation. You two don't live in the same city anymore, and you're in the process of building a new life for yourself. Clear the air once and for all and then move on. She's being a jerk, and you deserve a straighforward answer from her.
posted by Sara Anne at 9:02 AM on September 21, 2005

Holy cow, this pseudo-girlfriend thing sounds exactly like what happened to me several years ago. I call this the "fourth zone -- not really "friends", not really "intimate", and not really the dreaded "friend zone". I kind of chalked it up to being put in a zone where the pseudo-girlfriend could move me to the other three on a whim. I don't think she ever figured out what she wanted, and she seemed to busy with other things to want to commit.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2005

anon, the world is too big a place for you to be fixated on one girl whom nothing ever even really happened with. you're young, you've moved somewhere new. forget her. as soon as you go on a couple dates with someone you like even just a little you'll forget all about this girl.
posted by poppo at 9:22 AM on September 21, 2005

Just to repeat what others have said: I've been in a similar situation, and there is a certain familiarity or comfort that you bring her. You need to respect yourself and "one last time" affirm that she's only interested in receiving attention and comfort. If she's not interested than anything more but receiving the pedestal treatment do yourself a favor and erase her from your memory.

posted by AllesKlar at 9:23 AM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Sorry to pile on, but it's the truth. You need to take a pass on this woman. It will never be what your imagination thinks it could (or should) be. Her relationship with you will be more of the same, forever.

Let me play devil's advocate here. Imagine the most outrageous fantasy came true and she confessed her love and you two were married. She would still do this cold-shoulder-followed-by-don't-you-love-me? crap. Only it would be happening in a marriage. Just end it now.

You're pulling off a Band-Aid and then reapplying it and pulling it off again. Just take it off and leave it off.
posted by Pliskie at 9:26 AM on September 21, 2005

If you live elsewhere, I'd just meet up with her, be guarded, take it stlil that she doesn't want anything and just be friends.

I have had something like this, and if someone who I was in "the fourth zone" with (as rolypolyman skillfully put it) contacted me to visit me on a holiday, id look forward to being friendly, then saying goodbye at the end of it.
posted by jwhittlestone at 9:30 AM on September 21, 2005

These people are a cancer. Cut them out of your life.
posted by dobbs at 9:32 AM on September 21, 2005

Don't tell her you're still interested, but cancel the neo-date regardless. If you wish the measure of her, tell her you're cancelling because you have a date that night. If she never speaks to you again, she was never a friend in the first place.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:40 AM on September 21, 2005

Toying with you. She might not even think she's toying with you but my guess is she is. It seems like she's thinking "anonymous was pretty good I really should have given him a shot" good intentions and a path to hell. Despite what the Beatles sang there's more to love than wanting to be loved. She want's to try on your feelings for a while to remind her what she really want's to wear. If your able to distance your self from the emotions of the situation you might be able to have a good time with her, but I wouldn't guess you'll be able to do that (which by the way is a good thing.)
posted by I Foody at 9:40 AM on September 21, 2005

I recommend you don't meet her. You don't sound as if you're over the problems this has caused you, and that's not a good position to let yourself be in. Not for a friend, not for a family member, and especially not for a girl who's treated you shabbily.
posted by rebirtha at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2005

She's using you, although she might not mean to. From your description she sounds like she's all take, no give. If she really cared about your feelings, she would have the decency to put herself in your shoes and quit jerking you around.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:50 AM on September 21, 2005

Take her bowling, get her drunk, and bend her over the ball return. It's the only way to know for sure.

Really, though? See her if you want to see her and she lives out of town anyway. But don't expect anything. Cut her loose afterward. Forever. Unless she has a thing for rented shoes.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:52 AM on September 21, 2005

Agree with all above.

Yet, I've also accidentally been her. It's sometimes not-so-intuitive to realize that you should dump a friend for whom you care a great deal "for their own good."

I still miss that formerly close friend.
posted by desuetude at 9:53 AM on September 21, 2005

aramaic: "My solution, therefore: contact her, apologize for the short notice,say you're not as over her as you'd thought, and that therefore youthink it would be best if you not see her yet.

How she responds will tell you a lot about her thinking.

I completely and wholeheartedly agree with this one. You get to save face either way, and if her reasoning is purely manipulative then it will become apparent. If she isn't being manipulative consciously, default to cutting your losses unless it strikes a serious mental revelation in her.
posted by mystyk at 9:58 AM on September 21, 2005

Bandwagon time!

Seriously, though, there's absolutely no way that this ends well. Since others have pointed out their similar stories, I'll add mine:

I met her in college, she was a year older. We became inseparable friends and, eventually, got into that fuzzy area where onlookers would likely have assumed we were dating. I fell madly in love with her. She didn't feel the same way, but absolutely loved the attention and affection. I would tell her that it couldn't work that way, that the repeated blurring of the "just friends" line couldn't work and that she needed to pick one side of the line and stay on it. We would fight. We would refuse to speak to each other for months on end. The cycle would repeat.

At one point, late in the story, she told me that she did, in fact, love me and always had. But absolutely nothing changed after that. She still couldn't settle on what she actually wanted from me.

All told, this went on for three years. Finally, after the last ride through the cycle, she got back together with one of her exes. I chose that point to cut all lines of communication. A few months later I moved to another state (for business reasons), and left no way for her to find my new contact information. I've not spoken to her in over a year, and through the whole sorry fiasco finally just ending it was the smartest thing I did.

She may tell you that she'll change. She may tell you that she'll stop doing the things that drive you crazy (and believe me, if you let it go on long enough it will drive you crazy). But unless and until she actually does change, those are just words. And telling you to "get over it and just be friends" when she continues to behave in a way which pushes your buttons is not what a "friend" does. The best thing you can do is put an end to it now.
posted by ubernostrum at 9:58 AM on September 21, 2005

One more Run like hell

If you feel you can put up with it..tell her to stop contacting you unless she means for it to be more. That, no, you cannot be friends. I'm not going through my sob story too.

Just cut it out. You're just something to make her feel good about herself...on her birhtday no less.
posted by filmgeek at 10:14 AM on September 21, 2005

These people are a cancer. Cut them out of your life.

I love Metafilter.

I also went through a semi-similar experience. Eventually, I just went cold turkey, and it was both hard and very worthwhile.
posted by gsteff at 10:31 AM on September 21, 2005

Wow. Some of you guys are seriously harsh. Men and women can be friends with each other, good grief! All you "she's playing you" and "run away!" people are being way too negative in my view.

This sounds to me like she genuinely likes you and enjoys your company and wants to be friends with you. If you can't get over your unrequited feelings for her, then I suggest you do as aramaic says and just flat out tell her that you still have feelings for her and that you wouldn't be comfortable seeing her on a "just friends basis". There doesn't have to be any unpleasant ulterior motive to what she's doing, the most likely explanation is that she misses you (as a friend) and wants to see you. My best friend in the entire world (other than my husband) is a guy, we do "date like" things all the time (dinner, movies, long walks), but you know what? They're only "date like" if you hold the silly, blinkered view that every time a man and a woman spend any time alone together they're dating, which is pretty narrow-minded and inaccurate to boot. Men and women can have satisfying, rewarding, deep, emotional friendships which are only "just friendships" if you think that the only real value in spending time with the opposite sex is if you're gettin' some, and that, my dear friends, is immature, chauvanistic and plain old stupid. Good friends are exceptionally valuable, of course she likes that you make her feel good about herself, that's what friends do, and odds are, if you weren't still dealing with your unrequited feelings, you just might find that she makes you feel good about yourself TOO!

If you actually like her as a person, then figure out how to get over her so that you can be friends. If her only value to you is in whether or not she reciprocates your romantic feelings, then do both of you a favour and tell her that. Sheesh.
posted by biscotti at 10:32 AM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Men and women can be friends with each other, good grief!

Not if one of the party's have painful romantic feelings for the other, biscotti. Your answer is, respectfully, quite naive.
posted by ascullion at 10:46 AM on September 21, 2005

What ascullion said. Men and women can have good friendships only if that's what both parties are genuinely after.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:58 AM on September 21, 2005

ascullion, biscotti's point was that the girl might just want to have a good, close friendship with anonymous. Her motive may not necessarily be an attempt to fuck with his head - rather, she honestly wants him as a close friend, and thinks there's a chance he's gotten over his infatuation. Doing things one on one, having long conversations with someone - to me these don't seem "unusually close," although for some people that may be way more intimate than they get with people they don't date. Sounds like to her they're things that friends can do together too, and she probably doesn't intend them to be date-like activities. In any case, just because you're attracted to another person now doesn't mean you'll always and forever have painful romantic feelings for them. Furthermore, it is possible to be just friends with someone you have romantic feelings for. Depends on the person, and on the friendship, but I think biscotti is generally right on. Seems to me like the girl is trying to keep the possibility open of having a close friendship with someone she really trusts, and she's trying to keep in touch with anonymous so that if/when he gets his feelings under more control they can be friends again. 5 months is a relatively long time, and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that there's a possibility that someone's feelings might have changed in that period. At worst, it looks to me like she's misjudging whether or not anonymous can manage a close but non-dating friendhip yet, but I don't think that necessitates a "Run, she's bad news and toying with you!" response.
posted by ubersturm at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2005

Tell her you still have feelings for her, and that if you see her again it will be because she shares them and wishes to pursue a relationship. What she does then will give you the answer you're looking for.
posted by cali at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2005

Men and women can be friends with each other, good grief!

Yes they can be, but that's not the point! If he could just be friends that wouldn't be a problem but if he feels more and can do nothing about it and can't shrug off his feelings it has the potential to be really horribly painful. I have plenty of female friends and can go out with them in groups or just as a two and it's no problem. The same applies I think to a lot of people who have answered this question. The problem comes when you want something more and the other person doesn't. plenty of us seem to have someone in our pasts who we've got on great with but while we want more than friendship they haven't. This can be incredibly difficult. One might try and stay friends with the person but it places a strain on the relationship and on the individual. some people may be able to move on from it, perhaps by developing another equally deep relationship with someone, perhaps some other way, but often it just gets worse and worse and becomes eventually intolerable. The only way to deal with it is to give up on the other person altogether. If there's no future in the relationship the sooner this happens the better. Even if you still get on great together when you're with each other it can be painful to consider what you're not going to have together.

It may not be a 'fucking with your mind' thing as ubersturm points out, it may lack any malice, but that doesn't mean it can't be pretty painful. Stretching it out will only make it worse - but that doesn't make it easy to say no to seeing her.
posted by biffa at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2005

I think her behavior, as anon has described it, shows a marked lack of respect and understanding for his feelings. She may not be consciously aware of how she's controlling the situation, but her actions have so far lacked the kind of empathy and understanding I would expect to find in a real "friendship." She has maintained this relationship solely on her terms without giving emotionally or making compromises, and continues to try and do so even though he's broken off contact and moved to another city. That's not a sign of dedicated friendship; it's a sign of a selfish and narcissistic personality.
posted by junkbox at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2005

ludwig_van, I really have to disagree. I've certainly been friends with people I was very attracted to - it wasn't necessarily easy, but I understood that they just wanted to be friends, I knew that I valued them as a friend and as a person and that it wasn't just attraction, and I've been careful not to overstep any boundaries. It required a lot of honesty with myself, of course. The attraction can fade over time. Again, not easy, and perhaps it's not something that everyone can do, but I don't think it's impossible to have a good friendship even if there is unrequited attraction on one side. It does, however, require you to decide that the friendship is valuable enough to try to keep going despite the internal angst. Perhaps the poster is not capable of doing that, or isn't capable of doing it right now, and the girl thinks that he is. If he does think that he might want to be friends in the future, it's worth telling her that right now, it's too painful to try to keep a close friendship going, but that if things change he'll contact her [or, alternately, that they can keep talking and doing some things together, but he'd like her to observe certain limits so that she doesn't give him false hope.] If he doesn't think anything but a romantic relationship will ever be OK, what cali says is probably the best thing to say.
posted by ubersturm at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2005

I'll assume that the woman in question is really a great person who really wants to be friends with anon.

The trick for anon is not to avoid her, it's to get over her. Find somebody in your own time-zone who reciprocates your feelings. Once you've done that, perhaps then you can happily be just-friends with that woman.

The movie Swingers illustrated the way this works (except that was with an ex-girlfriend, not a fourth-zone friend). Go rent it.
posted by adamrice at 11:21 AM on September 21, 2005

I'm with Biscotti all the way on this one. It baffles me to see men lead themselves on this way. That's right lead themselves on. It's either pathological masochism or a must-win-at-all-costs esteem hang up. If a women wants more than friendship you know about it! She refused a more intimate relationship in the very beginning and rather than deal with that, you allowed yourself to interpret your resultant friendship as some bizzare mating ritual. Having dinner together, long phonecalls, going to films and gigs, sharing secrets etc are all things GOOD FRIENDS do, they are not "date-like activities". To me that highlights your skewed perspective on this whole sorry affair. You obviously aren't able accept this girl as a friend only so please take everyones advice and cut her loose. And do the decent thing before you do and be honest with her and take responsibility for doing so. She will be doubtless be very sad to lose you.
posted by brautigan at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I would agree with jessamyn and biscotti. Very harsh and quite possibly unjustified.
posted by Morrigan at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2005

Well, here's my story. It's a bit different than the other ones.

I've been in a WHEN HARRY MET SALLY relationship too. We met in college and hit it off amazingly as friends... but while I was head over heels in love with her -- she's a smart, beautiful, funny gal, and weirdly compatible with me as a friend -- she sent continually perplexing/frustrating mixed signals. She had other boyfriends, but we were very close, in that same netherworld mentioned above of being "just friends." She even gave me WHEN HARRY MET SALLY to watch at one point. After watching it, when I asked her why she lent it to me, she told me she thought I looked like Bruno Kirby. I don't look much like Bruno Kirby.

We went through on-again/off-again cycles of friendship, mixed signals, and my outbursts of frustration, almost exactly like you described. She wanted to be friends, but I wanted her to be my lover, and it just wasn't happening. After a final especially severe argument about this, we cut off contact (at least for a while). She met a new guy a few weeks after. She moved to a different school. She got married to him. She moved to California. I dated other girls (but never found one I was into nearly as much as her). I relocated even further away. But through all that, we kept in touch with the occasional call, the occasional E-mail.

10 years later, she got divorced. And after 10 years, we still had feelings for each other. Whatever blocks were keeping us apart in college had evaporated. Both of us were a bit older and more mature -- in many ways, we were better for each other than back in the day. Yet, that crazy romantic spark present in college was still there.

We're living together now.

It's so completely awesome.

My only regret? I wish I had told her in more blunt terms back in college that I loved her. I told her I was frustrated by the mixed signals, and that I felt slighted that I was just a friend, but I only came out and told her point blank I was *in love with her* late in the game. I hadn't used the actual word love, and I'm not sure you have, either. I should have done it much sooner.

Be naively optimistic. At the right moment, tell her you love her, calmly, seriously. She may be toying with you as other people have mentioned above, but she also may have had unreconciled feelings herself for whatever internal or external reason and handled them poorly. Things change. For the better sometimes, cynics be damned. (I never, ever expected things to play out like this. It's a dream come true.)

But if she still tells you she doesn't feel the same way after you lay it out, and you feel that frustration will consume you, tell her that you need to keep your distance and hold her to that. Cut her off. It's natural and normal to be confused and undecided about love, and everyone (everyone!) makes pretty crappy mistakes -- but nobody has the right to continually manipulate you.

Good luck.
posted by eschatfische at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2005

Been there, done that.

I cut off all ties with the girl and spent that time going through the greiving process. After a year and a half we became friends again. BUT we did it very slowly and I constantly checked myself and my motivations for months until I felt I could relax.
She's in another city not far away, so our contact is limited to occasional visits. I purposely orbit at a distance and I'm happy with the way things are.
Basically, I believe a big part of wisdom is knowing how much psychic damage you're doing to yourself and being proactive about avoiding that.
Only crazy people do things exactly the same way, expecting a different result. The world is a big place and life is too short to miserable. All the time and energy you expend on this woman could go to somebody who will really love you.
Think about yourself. If her visit is going to hurt you, don't do it!

Again, good luck!
posted by black8 at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2005

Thank you everyone for all the responses. I'm quite shocked at the number and, especially, the quality (not because AskMe lacks quality, but that my problem deserves it). While these answers probably seem like common sense to some, I'm glad to have them because I tend to view advice given to me by friends/family as biased or at least unobjective.

I also realize I'm no longer anonymous, but I had to say thanks.

My plan is to go through with the dinner. I think cancelling now would be overly rude and, also, we're going to Jean-George and I've never been before (new to NYC). After that, I'll see how I feel about being her friend and getting over the romantic urges but it may require at least another multi-month to permanent break before I really get over it.
posted by mullacc at 12:23 PM on September 21, 2005

I've gone through a very similar experience that I'm just getting over. Anon, you need to clarify your relationship with this person, so follow Cali's advice (or Aramaic's, if you want to leave open the possibility that your feelings really may moderate to "friendship" eventually).

I agree with Biscotti that men and women can just be good friends, but as with all friendships, that kind of relationship needs to be consented to by both parties.

It baffles me to see men lead themselves on this way... It's either pathological masochism or a must-win-at-all-costs esteem hang up.

brautigan, that comment is almost up there with CrazyJoel's. A little about my own situation: I also became infatuated with a co-worker, but I was unable to act because she was married at the time. She was very friendly to me, so I thought there was a possibility she was interested in me as well. A year or so later she divorced her husband and moved out of my department, so I asked her out to dinner -- we went out, but it was apparent that she was a little uncomfortable with the situation, so I backed off.

However, she still wanted to be very friendly with me afterwards. Because I was lonely, I became a bit obsessive over her until I found out she was in a new relationship, and I'm just now getting to the point where I feel comfortable being friends with her again. She's a wonderful person and I would miss her if she was gone from my life, but I also went through a lot of pain. I think some of it could have been avoided if I had been upfront with her about my feelings. By coincidence, I'm going to a barbeque at her house this weekend (with a bunch of her co-workers), and I'm looking forward to it.

On preview: eschatfische, great story!

(My first response on AskMe, and it's about relationships? Allow me to fall off my chair.)
posted by steadystate at 12:35 PM on September 21, 2005

On second preview: mullacc, your question is obviously of the kind that most people can relate to, hence the number of answers. Enjoy your dinner!
posted by steadystate at 12:38 PM on September 21, 2005

(probably rosh hashanna and not passover though)
posted by mirileh at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2005

I think I may be in the minority opinion here, but I say, who gives a crap? She lives thousands of miles away. If you like spending time with her, do, then she will leave and life will go on. If, perchance, she wants to get together because she misses you then fine, why not? Go out, then she'll leave, life will go on.

Maybe her feelings have changed. Rejecting people does funny things to them sometimes. Anyway, go out, say goodbye at the end of the "date" and then if she wants to actually start something then leave the ball in her court. If she doesn't, well, then there are plenty of other folks that don't live thousands of miles away to get caught up with.

I don't want to sound dismissive of your problem, but I think situations like this can have as much or as little drama as you are willing to put into them.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:34 PM on September 21, 2005

These people are a cancer. Cut them out of your life.
posted by dobbs at 9:32 AM PST on September 21 [!]

That's a bit harsh. I think many people are confused and afraid about relationships these days. We don't know what her motivation/situation is. The point is to stand up for yourself, make a clear decision and stick to it. My feeling is it's 99% sure that she's not interested in you romantically.
posted by Radio7 at 2:48 PM on September 21, 2005

Wow, you people suck.

Let's assume the worst. Let's assume she's a shallow, "blood sucking bitch" who just likes to torture you.

So what?

You've got nothing to lose by meeting with her and everything to gain. Perhaps you'll find that absence has made her realize she really does like you in that way. Or you'll find it is possible for you to be friendly with her without being frustrated. Or you'll have a really nice dinner rehashing the past.

What's the worst that could happen? She turns you down again? Big deal. Been there, done that, you can handle it.

Personally, I don't understand where most commenters are coming from. I can't think of any reason to turn down an evening with a beautiful woman. Even if God came down and said, 'if you have dinner with a beautiful woman tonight I'll kill all the kittens in the world', I'd probably still do it. I don't really like kittens all that much; they're cute yeah, but they scratch everything. The point: stop analyzing the situation so much: go, try to enjoy yourself, and see what happens.
posted by nixerman at 4:28 PM on September 21, 2005

I'm sorry man, but here's another thinking that no good will come of this (unless you *are* willing to give up romantic interest).

Take it easy, try to have an ok time with her, tell her honestly what you think, she'll be on her way and you won't have to see her again after the holiday.

Also, I think aacheson's post deserves a big gold star.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:17 PM on September 21, 2005

The only way you can possibly justify keeping this appointment is if you first ask her outright if her feelings have changed. None of this 'she asked me to a movie, and that's a date-like activity' nonsense. You're bullshitting yourself and you know it.

But here's another thing that I don't think anyone else has mentioned. Suppose that you ask her, and she answers 'Yes, I have rethought everything and now I want you.' She comes to town and you fuck like bunnies. Congratulations! You're now in a hugely fucked-up long-distance relationship with a tremendous amount of baggage.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to look yourself in the mirror, say 'I am not a stupid pussy,' and mean it?
posted by bingo at 5:40 PM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Let's assume she's not a bitch for a minute:

She might be oblivious. She might think that time and distance have helped you get over her and that you can be friends now. She might think that your continuing contact with her is an acceptance of the fact that you're friends and nothing more, since you haven't told her that you still have romantic feelings for her (and she's the one getting called out for not being honest?)

You've got to tell her about your feelings, you know. And you can't accept her offers of friendship until you're willing to accept that they're for friendship only. Otherwise you're just lying to the both of you, and that won't end well.
posted by stefanie at 6:46 PM on September 21, 2005

That's a bit harsh.

It's only harsh if you interpret it to mean "She's doing it on purpose" which is not how I meant it. I don't care if she's doing it on purpose or is just naive or is just ignorant of the ways of the human heart (of either gender).

People who are so out of touch with the effect they have on others (whether that be negative or positive), especially after it's been explained to them are people you do not want in your life, period. Little good and lotsa bad comes of the relationship.
posted by dobbs at 8:52 PM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

She may be using you as a substitute boyfriend to fulfill her intellectual needs when her significant other is not around. Or she may be forcing a friendship to alleviate her own guilt and need to feel like a good person. In either case her motives would be selfish.

I would suggest ending the relationship completely and moving on.
posted by tut21 at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2005

Having put the kibosh on a situation similar to anon's this year (after 6 years of angst and "..will-he, won't-he commit?"), I have to agree with those who suggest putting some distance between you and the other person; it really does help with the hurt (and the feelings of co-dependence, I found)

Good luck, anon.
posted by highrise at 2:43 AM on October 16, 2005

A bunch of girls have tried this with me over the years. After the first or second time around, you learn to blow them off and don't grab for what seems like the tempting apple when she comes back and does everything but let you know that she wants to be with you. Because she doesn't.

The answer to the problem? Volume dealing. Date anything that you find even slightly attractive. If something doesn't develop relatively quickly with someone, be sure to break it off so that you don't become just like that girl.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:06 PM on December 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

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