Is this friendship doomed?
October 22, 2014 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Was it unfair of me to reveal my feelings?

I apologize in advance for the lengthy story.

A couple of months ago I posted a question about having feelings for a co-worker who's currently in a relationship. I struggled with it for awhile but then we became closer friends outside of work. I had an art show recently which she voluntarily organized. She contributed a lot of her time and was with me the whole weekend and the week before preparing. We met a lot of each other's families who stopped by and visited, including her boyfriend who's actually a nice guy (they've been together for 10 years, she's 25).

We spent a lot of time together alone and we always have a good time. I also felt we connected and we make a lot of sarcastic remarks about each other that border full out flirting. We would say things like "Yeaa, I know the only reason you're helping me with the show is because you want to spend more time with me". We both acknowledged that time flies when we're hanging out outside of work and that we very much enjoy each other's company. But then one night after the show, we both decided to celebrate (alone) and got a few drinks. I know I probably shouldn't have done that but I knew for sure that it was just friendly. It re-ignited my feelings though. Helped by the fact that she was nice enough give me a hand with the show all weekend which she admittedly said was "a lot of fun".

The following day, aware of my feelings, I kept a distance from her. She noticed that I was being distant but never said anything. I couldn't handle the nature of our friendship and carrying these feelings for her at the same time. Later that night, I decided to tell her. I told her I didn't think it was a good idea to work on future shows together (an idea we've always talked about because we work so well together) and she was visibly upset and teary-eyed. She shut down and didn't respond to my confession at all. Only saying that she didn't want things to get weird. And didn't want to lose one of her closest friends. We left and I later got a text from her saying that she shouldn't have left it that way, and that she felt awful and wanted to talk about it.

I brought it up again after work the next day, to casually talk about it. She shut down again. I felt hurt because I was being really honest and she didn't respond to it. I felt really uncomfortable because it felt like I was doing something wrong. I was expecting her to turn me down and acknowledge it, so I can move on but she didn't say anything at all. I texted her later that day and told her I appreciated our friendship and didn't want things to be weird between us. She admitted that she was surprised by the whole thing and didn't know how to respond. She also later admitted that she started questioning her relationship for the first time, that we have a lot in common, and that if she were single - she'd be very interested. We both left it at that and never brought it up again. I felt better.

Since then, I've felt a weird distance between us at work. I'm torn between taking time away from her and being a friend. I feel really angry and hurt and frustrated. Mostly because these feelings are in the way. Will they go away if I avoid her altogether? If I do that, will I lose our friendship? Should I bring this up? Will it be weird?

I feel guilty about telling her in the first place. But I didn't want to hide anything. And I enjoy her company very much. I know that I should avoid her for a bit so my feelings won't grow anymore, but it really hurts sometimes.

Am I a jerk?

Thanks for reading.

Thank you for reading.
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Human Relations (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Never mention it again; just be as easy and as cool as you can. Balls in her court now.

As to your question: you're inviting her to break up her 10 year relationship. I'd be comfortable calling that jerky.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:51 PM on October 22, 2014 [30 favorites]

Well, you certainly didn't heed the advice that everyone was giving you last time, which was to back off and to not tell her.

You told her anyway. What were you hoping to gain? Did you want her to break up with her boyfriend? Did you expect her to say "that's great, and I'm a robot/video game character and I won't let that affect our relationship at all"? Neither one really seems like great options.

You can't just be honest with someone and then expect everything to just work out in your favor. Other people have feelings and motivations that don't involve you in any way.

Anyway, yes, you are probably going to lose this friendship. But in reality, you had to choose between friendship and the risk of trying for something more. The something more just got taken off the table, so it's up to her as to whether she wants to continue being friends, and not you.

Are you a jerk? No, but even good and nice people do inconsiderate things from time to time. When your heart is telling you something it can be hard to resist. But that doesn't make it the right thing to do. It's not useful to think of yourself as a jerk or not a jerk. You're a person who sometimes makes mistakes. Just try to be considerate, and I doubt you'll feel like a jerk anymore.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 4:04 PM on October 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: If she's in an exclusive relationship, you should have kept your feelings to yourself. It's not fair to burden her with your feelings and change the nature of the friendship when you know she's not available.

You really were unfair to her. You misrepresented your feelings and motivation as friendship. Then, when you couldn't handle your feelings any longer, you withdrew from her. Then, the confession. Do you see how you were dishonest almost from the beginning about your true intentions and feelings and put the burden of this on her now that she's developed a friendship with you? It's really a betrayal of her trust. You need to manage your own feelings better than this. You made your inability to deal with your feelings her problem.

She would be right to drop you for this. You manipulated her and waited until she had invested a lot in the friendship before you made your true intentions known. You embroiled her in a set-up. If she does decide to remain friends with you, never ever bring this up again, and be very respectful of her and her choice to be in a relationship with her boyfriend. Now's your chance to be a real friend to her instead of having selfish ulterior motives.
posted by quince at 4:19 PM on October 22, 2014 [33 favorites]

Your question history suggest that you are lonely and struggling. This is horrible - but hardly unique and this is not your destiny.

This is a regrettable mistake. The friendship may be doomed, or perhaps you can salvage it by not spending time with her outside of group settings.

You can't undo this. I think you need to work on moving on and learning a lesson.

Your needs are no more important or serious or profound than anyone else's. Try to keep that in mind.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:38 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Geez, tough crowd.

Here's what I think: When you have feelings for someone in a relationship like this, you get one chance to clearly tell them how you feel, but after that it's out of your hands. This is what you've done and where you are right now. You haven't done anything wrong, but you're not out of the woods yet. You now have a choice: You still have the chance to completely screw this up and be a jerk and shit on everything you've done right so far, by continuing to hang around her and bringing up your feelings and indulging further discussions on the friendship and whether things are weird now and all that stuff. Or, you could walk away with your dignity intact.

It's normal that you're hurting--this stuff hurts. It will probably still hurt if you avoid her, but it's the right thing to do. Having endless conversations about your feelings won't help. Don't feel guilty, but DON'T bring it up again--you'll only make this worse, for her and for yourself. Let her work out her feelings on her own, without pressure from you. You might lose the friendship, but you took that risk when you confessed to her.

I'm sorry you're hurting. Take it easy.
posted by sunset in snow country at 4:56 PM on October 22, 2014 [34 favorites]

OP, I should have looked at your posting history. I'm flagging my original answer and hoping the mods delete it. I was very harsh.


I'm sorry if you are lonely. I get that.

Seriously, though, what you've done isn't OK. This woman is in a committed successful relationship. What kind of friend tries to break up a 10 year relationship?

Even if you didn't have bad intentions, it was still wrong.

I think it would be awesome if you got a new job.
posted by jbenben at 5:17 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

You are acting like a jerk. The heart is a viscious feral animal and will destroy anything and everything to get its way. You have only the most threadbare leash upon it and if the kinder moral part of you wants to play fair you need to get away from this situation. The chemical love only lasts for so long, and novelty and the forbidden are powerful aphrodesiacs, perhaps nothing but self restraint on your part stands in the way of a love affair. If you end up that way you will have graduated from jerk to bastard. And everybody loves a bastard except for ex boyfriends. But think of what it would be like to be him maybe will be like to be him. In short: why don't you try harder to find someone unattached?
posted by Pembquist at 5:18 PM on October 22, 2014

Best answer: Was it unfair of me to reveal my feelings?

Sort of? I know you're having a tough time but I think the "I can't do anything if I don't tell her" thing to do would have been

- tell her
- tell her it's your problem not hers and you'll work on it/handle it
- give her some space to process this as she wants to

You are no longer "just a friend" to her, both in your own mind (she knows how you feel) and in her mind (your closeness represents a threat to her relationship, possibly) so you need to just walk away from this for a while and process and manage your feelings on your own.

I think it was a smart plan to say that you guys shouldn't do future shows together. It was a lot less smart to turn your declaration of feelings for her into an obligation on her part to act in a certain way so that you would then feel better. I get how it was and I know that you may not have felt that you were pressuring her or slopping your emotions all over her, but the ok part was you saying how you felt. The less-OK part was turning this into a thing where she had a responsibility to respond in one of a few ways (turn you down, leave her partner) and when she didn't, you got frustrated. Which hey, that's a feeling and feelings are okay to feel, but now you don't have her as a friend to help process those and that's the downside sometimes of this.

I think it will shake out over time. Either it will shake up her relationship and that might do something, or it clearly won't and you'll get the implicit turndown that you were hoping for before. It's okay if you feel uncomfortable with things being uncertain. But I'd give time a chance to do some work here and not have any more "I don't want this to be weird ... is this weird?" conversations with her for a while.
posted by jessamyn at 5:23 PM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

You found someone you get along with--great! You are now dumping your feelings on her in a way that is making all about your needs and erases her and her longstanding relationship--this is not so great. There is nothing she can say to you at this point, so I understand her response.

If you value the friendship you will work on your own or with a therapist to get past the feelings dump. Either that or you were only interested in her for pantsfeelings. That's for you and you alone to sort through. That is not her problem.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

The true high road would have been not to mention your feelings to her and to distance yourself from her. You can't be friends with someone who you have a huge crush on, not legitimately.

Instead you told her you wanted to get some distance because of your feelings, which has put her in a very awkward and confusing situation, but I understand why you did it. Couldn't handle wondering what could have been, and all that. I wouldn't call that jerkish, it was a little selfish but it wasn't downright wrong.

If you continue communicating with her and "being a friend", though, the way you have been, you cross into jerk territory. You aren't being her friend by trying to ingratiate yourself to her or "comfort" her when what she's upset about is you. These are more selfish moves. Leave her alone and let her be comforted by her real friends, the ones without ulterior motives for their friendship. If she breaks up with her boyfriend and contacts you afterwards, then you're free to act as you please. But if she stays with him and just tries to contact you for more tortured soul-searching, please, just tell her that you're not the right person to talk to about these things and step away. It won't end well.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:24 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would suggest backing off until you are well and truly over your feelings (3-6 months, perhaps) and then giving friendship another shot.

Her reactions have made it clear to you that she's not interested. She wants a friendship and nothing more. Best to respect that, or back away if you can't.
posted by zug at 5:25 PM on October 22, 2014

Read "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Goethe to learn a huge list of impulses in this department that are known not to work.
posted by rhizome at 5:28 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, it's doomed, but not because she doesn't like you. It's doomed because you can't just be friends with her. It's not "friendship" if you're sitting there nursing feelings the whole time and months pass and you know it's uncomfortable for that person and you're still not letting it go. This doesn't make you a bad person, but it is presently making you a really bad friend. Go find other friends. I mentioned in the last question that spending time alone with this person was a really terrible idea. Do you believe me, now? It's a really terrible idea. You tried it and it didn't work. You can't keep doing the same thing that doesn't work. That doesn't mean you can't be friendly when you see each other around, that sort of thing. It means you stop putting yourself in positions where your inclination is to think of her that way. Your alone time has not been a "friendship" thing, and you're going to have to give it up, because it isn't healthy.

It is totally possible to get over this sort of things and be friends later at some point, but what you have right now is not friendship and you need to stop trying to make it continue, because it isn't just not very nice to her, it's clearly horrible for your own feelings. Be nicer to both you AND her and go make some real friends instead.
posted by Sequence at 5:28 PM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not many relationships that start at age 15 are fated to last much past the mid-twenties – that's a pattern I've seen among people I know. Maybe that's crossed your mind too. But there may well be exceptions.
posted by zadcat at 6:00 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I think it was imprudent and selfish of you to unburden yourself in the way that you did, you had my sympathy right up until I got to this line:

I feel really angry and hurt and frustrated.

While I completely understand the hurt and frustration, the anger seems both unjustified and unattractive. Whether you end up in "jerk" territory depends, I think, on how well you manage this anger. I would encourage you to think about processing your feelings through a journal or hitting a pillow or something. And, as others have noted, you need to just stay away from this woman at work.

I'm sorry that you are lonely, but when people respond to romantic frustration and disappointment with hostility they tend to make their situation worse by repelling people who might otherwise have made a good match.
posted by girl flaneur at 6:04 PM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think you need to consider that she doesn't have that much experience with guys. She's been in one relationship since she was 15. Cut her a little slack with not knowing how to deal with
1. guys who have feelings for her
2. who it sounds like she genuinely likes and doesn't want to alienate but now she has to to be a good girlfriend.

Don't unload all of this on her lap and then expect her to do all the work of pushing you away.
Keep your distance for awhile and maybe your friendship can recover after you're not working together anymore. Tell her you're very sorry, that she did nothing wrong and that you would like to go back to being friends after you're not working together anymore.
posted by bleep at 6:13 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm going to go a different direction with this and suggest that you choose this woman to pursue precisely because you knew it wasn't going to work. You wanted your hopes to be dashed. None of this is about the woman in question except that you needed someone who you were absolutely sure was going to turn you down and allow you to indulge in feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration. You wanted that because that is how you maintain this belief that there is no one out there for you and you are not worthy of having a relationship with anyone. I think you find it easier to reinforce these beliefs about yourself than to go out and take greater risks in meeting people and forming friendships and further relationships.

In one of your previous answers, you said something along the lines of leaving therapy as a last resort. If that's still the case, this is it: Zero Hour.

If you don't have a therapist, find one, stat.

The kind of behavior you're currently exhibiting is beneath you and you need help to figure out how to stop engaging in it.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 6:29 PM on October 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: She also later admitted that she started questioning her relationship for the first time, that we have a lot in common, and that if she were single - she'd be very interested.

Ok, people are being awfully hard on you, but I'm not sure it's entirely justified. I've been in this girl's position and she is sending you some mixed signals if the sentence above is an accurate characterization of what she said - I don't get the impression that she's "simply not interested" at all. She's turning you down because she's in a relationship right now, but she's also signaling that her relationship is not 100% solid, and that she's been reconsidering things. She didn't want to turn you down explicitly because she still isn't sure she wants to do that in the long run - if she's thinking of leaving this guy, she might not want to close the door with you entirely. That's consistent with my experience in her role in this same kind of situation; sometimes intense chemistry with another person can highlight what's missing from your current relationship, and it can be really difficult to know how to handle your feelings, your partner's feelings, and the "new" person's feelings while being fair and good to everyone involved.

That said, you are definitely rushing her too much. Best-case scenario, even if she's trying to signal to you that she is thinking of leaving her current partner and that she's into you, it's going to take time - and especially since this is a 10-year relationship! Do your level best not to get angry or frustrated, because I 100% guarantee she isn't doing any of this to hurt you. If anything, it really sounds to me like she returns your feelings in some way but has NO IDEA how to deal with that in the context of her current relationship, which makes sense given that it's her first relationship and it's lasted ten years so far. If this is how she feels, she's trying to juggle her (confusing and changing) feelings, his feelings, AND your feelings while doing right by all of you. It's hard! So cut her a little slack if you can. She's not trying to send you mixed signals, she's trying to work out her own feelings, and sometimes those feelings that she's trying to ignore or work out will show through even if she is actively trying not to express them.

Another thing to keep in mind is that she would be showing you some significant red flags if she were to start things with you while she was still committed to her partner, anyway. If she's willing to cheat on him, she'd be willing to cheat on you, so it's actually a good sign that she wants to treat her current partner with respect. If you were in her boyfriend's position, you'd want her to treat your relationship with respect until she decided to end it, right?

I really get where you're coming from in your confusion of how to act at work, though - it's a really touchy situation, with no obvious answers. I think you should give her space during work hours so that she can avoid you if she wants, but if it were me, I wouldn't avoid her altogether - it sounds like you two could be great friends if you can accept your feelings and accept that they aren't going to go anywhere for a little while. Just take a step back and focus on being her actual friend right now. By "actual friend" I mean learning more about her as a person, what she likes, who she is, her family, etc. and spending low-key time together, even with her boyfriend if you can handle it. Try really hard to pick up on her cues, specifically how she signals that she's done talking and wants you to leave her alone. Don't do any of this with ulterior motives, if you can, just try to be her real friend. If you two really click, the friendship will be worth it regardless. People you click with can be few and far between, and especially if you're lonely, it's worth holding onto those people if you can just get over the immediacy of your feelings. Just make sure that you're doing these things because you like her as a person and want to be her friend, not because you're making an investment in some future relationship or trying to win her over or whatever.

Definitely stop bringing up your feelings immediately, though - she knows how you feel and it won't help anything to go over it again. That includes coy flirty jokes that cross the line into making her respond to your feelings. Give her time, let her work out how she feels about her current relationship, and try your best to be cool with the whole process. If you find yourself hurting too bad to be friendly with her some days, that's fine, everyone has off days. Just don't make a huge deal out of it and turn it into Her Problem.

As far as dealing with the feelings, meditating might help. What you want to be able to do is to sit with your feelings until you don't feel like some ACTION must result from those feelings or else you'll explode. Accepting your feelings, recognizing them as you experience them, and then being able to let them pass through you without becoming too attached to those feelings is the key. I'm not saying that it's easy - it's completely impossible some days! - but ultimately it's just something you have to practice. It's a skill that can serve you in myriad situations but it's especially helpful for this kind of thing. If you can get to the point where you can experience a moment of longing for her, notice it, and notice it pass, you will be in much better shape.

Finally, I don't think you're a jerk. I think you're crushing hard on this girl and that she's sending you slightly mixed signals and that it's really difficult to be patient in circumstances like this and that maybe it was a mistake to confess your feelings (she probably already knew anyway). But you are in danger of acting like a jerk if you continue to push your feelings instead of trying to be a friend to her first and foremost. Just try to treat your feelings as an unfortunate nuisance that's interfering with your ultimate goal of being friends with her. The rest will follow if she's into you, and if not, you're still ahead because you've made a good friend.
posted by dialetheia at 7:10 PM on October 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Didn't expect everyone to be kind of hard on me. I understand completely that I have been making selfish decisions but I will back away now. And not bring it up again.

She's still interested in spending time with me as friend, but I will set boundaries. I'm always having trouble controlling my feelings. I've been in such a lonely place for awhile and this connection we've made is really nice. I felt really uneasy after confessing to her, and felt it was unfair. I should have known better.

It's going to be really hard to get through the shame. But I'll keep my distance.
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune at 7:30 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have read the other posters and see that you made a decision but wanted to weigh in my 2 cents from another perspective. In a nutshell, I was in a similar situation as the woman you are interested in. I had been with my husband for 14 years (since I was 17) when I met someone and became friends. We emailed daily, met for coffee sometimes, and this occurred for about a year. I became aware that the person was interested in me romantically (by his admission), which didn't change my feelings toward him as a friend, and I genuinely enjoyed our communication as friends. We could chat about anything, serious issues or even a new candy we saw at the store. I was under the impression he wanted to be friends rather than nothing at all once he realized there was no romantic future for us.

Then, about a year after we began talking, I noticed a distance with him. Taking a long time to respond to an email, being curt. I thought it was due to personal issues (he was out of work and not having dating success, etc...). Then, after about 3-4 months of this perceived distance that he never really explained to me past being tired or some-such, he, out of the blue, decided he couldn't talk to me anymore via an email. I gave him a chance to change his mind, told him how much I valued his friendship, but he stuck to it.

It's been 5 years, and my husband jokes that I'll be going to the grave bemoaning this person stopping talking to me. I am under the distinct impression he did it because he couldn't handle having feelings for me that would not be reciprocated on a romantic level. But what hurt the most was I really valued the friendship and, no, I have not managed to replace the friendship with someone else in all these years (ie: have not gotten over losing it). I still wonder how he is, how his family is, if he ever found a job and partner, etc... And I generally miss the close but mostly banal interactions we shared on a daily basis.

I am telling you this so that you can understand that I, as a woman in similar shoes, DID value the friendship and really wish there had been something I could have done to make him not entirely dump me as a friend over those romantic feelings, because I really WAS a friend to him, which is what good relationships of any sort should grow out of. It saddens me that he, who didn't have many friends, chose to lose a genuine one over sexual feelings.

My advice to you, then, would be to search yourself and see if there is a way to channel your feelings of love for her into more platonic feelings of love. Act how you would act to your closest family member (sister, cousin, grandma) or whoever you can think of to tone down the sexual aspect. Fantasize about actresses instead of her, or whatever it takes, if you value the FRIENDSHIP you have with her. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing the friendship entirely. And in my case, I honestly wonder *every* day how he is doing, but I will not be the person to reinsert myself in his life if he can't emotionally handle a friendship with me when what he wants is a romantic relationship. I've also wondered if he ever missed me but was too afraid to try to contact me again after ending things so abruptly and badly. And it does personally hurt, from my perspective, that he chose sexual feelings over genuine care and concern that I had for him, whereas I was able to put aside those things and any "weirdness" that came with knowing he did have those feelings for me, and choose the friendship.

But please don't go too hard on yourself. These things happen. Just try to think it over with a more unconditional loving perspective rather than a sexed one so that you don't do anything else you might regret or prompt her to do something she might regret. Best of luck to you.
posted by LillyBird at 8:55 PM on October 22, 2014 [17 favorites]

OP, a lot of these responses are really, really harsh and super judgey, to the point where I feel like I need to jump in again. I kind of think it's because most of us have been in a similar situation and it didn't turn out the way we hoped, and so we are venting our frustrations on the page.

I want to say that you definitely should NOT be feeling guilt or shame over what happened. You made a completely understandable mistake, and it really really is not something you should feel bad about. You gave it a shot, it went awry, these things happen when romance is involved sometimes. All you can do is pick yourself up and take what you've learned and move forward.
posted by zug at 10:39 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Since then, I've felt a weird distance between us at work.

So... you got what you wanted? Except it isn't what you wanted. Pretty much every single time someone wants to tell someone who is unavailable about how they feel about them, it's because they're hoping the other party will see the error of their ways, dump or divorce the inconvenient partner, and live happily ever after. You may not have admitted it to yourself, but that's exactly what happened. Ever seen Chasing Amy?

The thing is, it's always--always--selfish and jerky to make declarations of love to someone who you know, no matter how much you may wish it were otherwise, is not available. You're deciding that how you feel is more important than how it will make them feel. And now there's a 'weird' distance. It's not weird at all; put yourself in her shoes: you've been dating a lovely girl for ten (!) years, and this new girl you've made friends with suddenly tells you how much she likes you and wants to hold you and squeeze you and call you George.

Pretty awkward, no? You're left with all sorts of doubt about whether you led her on, and whether you did so on purpose or not. And now you're wondering why your friend didn't respect you or the implied boundary in the first place.

None of this is to dump on you at all. I'd wager that most people have done this at least once in their lives. So I'm not judging you in any way. But the reality is, this friendship may not be dead, but it's certainly on life support. And she's the only person who can decide. Smart choice on not doing shows together!

Now it's time to be friendly, but friends-who-hang-out-sometimes friendly. And I agree with the person above who said it's probably time to find a therapist to talk to about this issue; I agree that it's likely you told her because you knew it wouldn't work. She'd sort of pre-emptively 'rejected' you by having a boyfriend, so she was safe in a weird way.

You've learned from this; the awful thing about learning a lot of the really important stuff about relationships is that it's so often trial by fire. So learn, examine yourself for why and how you decided to go through with this, resolve never to do it again, and move on. Give her space and let her decide what she'd like to do--take your cues from her behaviour.

Don't beat yourself up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:46 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're not a jerk. You're human and you're infatuated and confused.

I can see the argument that it was a mistake to tell her. Maybe it was. But at least this way, you're not misleading her. She knows where she stands with you, and you can both plan accordingly. There's a lot to be said for that.

I'd suggest backing way off. Don't shut her out or play games, just tell her that you really like her but you've developed an attraction and you respect the relationship she's in already and don't want to make things weird. The clearer you can make that, the easier this will probably be for everybody. You like her, but it's getting weird for you.

If you can back off now, maybe this won't hurt so much. But the more you fall for her, the more this will be like trying to kick smack or something. Hopefully your feelings will cool off, or maybe at some point in the future you'll both be available. But both possibilities are a long way off. For now, you absolutely can't be as close to this woman as you want to be. It can't work.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:15 PM on October 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Will they go away if I avoid her altogether?

Eventually, yes. Think of these feelings as being like a fire. Without the fuel of the other person, they'll eventually die out. You can help them die out by keeping busy and doing new things.

If I do that, will I lose our friendship?

Possibly. A lost friendship can sometimes be more healthy than a craving that can't be satisfied though. Continuing to moon after someone who isn't interested is just going to bring you pain and them weirdness.

Should I bring this up?

She knows how you feel. She's heard and understood you. She's decided to reject you, by not saying "I accept" to whatever you were offering. She might not have explicitly said no, but she didn't say yes. That means she doesn't want you. Asking again is a sign that you don't respect her decisions enough to accept them. You might not like them, but you do have to abide by them.

Will it be weird?

It already is, a little bit, for her, I think. But it's better to be weird by withdrawing than by continually reminding her of how you feel. By withdrawing, you begin to put the fire out, and she gets to move on with her life without someone reminding her of how they feel simply be being there.

What also would really help is deciding what your boundaries are and letting her know. If you only want to hang out in groups, then that's cool. If you only want to talk about the weather, that's cool too. But let her know what is going on. Don't make a big fuss out of recent events, just make it clear that you need some space for a while and that it's no reflection on her. Carrying on as though nothing happened is silly, for both of you. A good friend will seek your highest good and right now, that's taking some time away.

If she can't handle that, then she's not that good of a friend. The genie won't go back into the bottle, sadly, and you can't undo what has been said. The best thing to do is wait for the genie to drift away, so you can maybe try to pick things up again at some point in the future, should that be possible or even something you both want. You can't seek her highest good right now (which would appear to be not attempting to change the nature of things). It would seem that that boat has sailed. What you can do is mitigate the circumstances as best you can, and leave her to lick her own wounds about the state of the friendship. It sounds like she wants something she can't have and some time for her to reflect on that would likely be beneficial.

You're a human being and you made a mistake. Now it's time to be an adult and realise what you did wrong and think about what you can do to make it right. At the very least, don't make things any worse.
posted by Solomon at 1:30 AM on October 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm always having trouble controlling my feelings.

Everybody does. This is because controlling our feelings is not a possible thing. They are what they are, and trying to fool ourselves into believing otherwise wastes time and energy.

The trick is to practise controlling our actions.
posted by flabdablet at 3:06 AM on October 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, everybody in the world sucks at taking advice, especially good advice.
posted by flabdablet at 3:07 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're being a jerk, or were a jerk. Pretending that all you wanted was friendship while waiting for her relationship to die would be jerky and dishonest. Trying to seduce her while she's still in a relationship would be jerky. You, instead, realized that you couldn't maintain a friendship with her, backed off in order to avoid doing something dishonest or jerky, and were honest when she asked you why.

The situation sucks, but I don't think it's really anyone's fault right now. It sounds like you're both confused and hurt, and it may just take some cooling-off time for you both to figure out how you can, or if you can, move forward in any sort of relationship, friendship or otherwise.
posted by jaguar at 6:42 AM on October 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Gosh, maybe I've been spectacularly unlucky, but in my experience many coupled people flirt and set up pseudo-lover situations they never intend to follow through on for the ego gratification. Not necessarily consciously.

I think she used you to make herself feel double-desireable - both her partner and YOU want her! Win!

I think it is kind of mean on her part, not yours. You were honest and respectful.
posted by Punctual at 7:38 AM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feel a bit bad about maybe setting a tone in the first response, so I want to add one thing - I've personally done stuff that's way worse. I suspect most of the people answering your 'am I a jerk?' question with a 'yes' have, as well. So there's maybe a decree of self-censure in the replies, I'm sure there was for me.

But the regrettable things we do shape us way more than the good things. And you need to risk something if you're going to achieve something. So take your action, that wasn't performed from meanness or unkindness, accept that it's happened and face whatever consequences it brings with an open heart.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:40 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

LillyBird: I am telling you this so that you can understand that I, as a woman in similar shoes, DID value the friendship and really wish there had been something I could have done to make him not entirely dump me as a friend over those romantic feelings… It saddens me that he, who didn't have many friends, chose to lose a genuine one over sexual feelings.

I say this as a woman who has also walked in your shoes (LillyBird's) and who has never been in the position of having to step away from a friendship because of having feelings for the other person, but from what I understand of these situations, they seem to often be viscerally painful and very sad for the person who isn't getting what they want, despite the fact that it is also hard for them to remove themselves from the relationship because they care for the other person in it. Unrequited love feels bad, yet cutting off contact with the one you have unrequited feelings for is definitely not an easy choice to make.

Being in a friendship with someone who is attracted to you is an ego boost and, although it may be awkward at times, is typically pretty easy to deal with - you rebuff the other person's advances, and that's that. Being in a friendship with someone who you are attracted to (at least from what I have gathered) and trying to squash/ignore/not act on those romantic feelings, despite spending significant time in close contact with the object of your affection, does not appear to be easy at all - and yes, I think most people fail at it. Not sure if my response was one of the ones considered to be harsh, but I do have much sympathy for the OP's situation and indeed, think myself and most others would have done the same under those circumstances. This is part of the reason why dropping contact with the object of affection now is so important - trying to act like a platonic friend when that's not what you want to be is hard enough so as to be nearly impossible.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:53 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

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