How do I deal with a weird friendship?
March 16, 2015 2:54 AM   Subscribe

Hi everyone. Since I started college (it's 2 and a 1/2 years now, I've had a weird relationship with a guy friend I had a long unrequited crush on. We're both 20. II'm a girl. I really really want to stay being friends with him but I feel like he doesn't care about me as much as he should, especially since he says he likes being my friend. Lots of weirdness inside.

So I've known my friend M since I started college in 2015. I met him in September 2012, aboutique a week after I started college. He went to my college and lived in the same dorm building as me.

Early on, we used to spend a lot of time together. We went to dinner usually every day, hung out at night and watched tv, went shopping on errands like twice a week. He seemed really happy hanging out with me and we asked each other often to hang out.I realized I had a crush on him about 2 weeks in and asked him if he liked me. He said he was flattered but he just wanted to be friends with me. I was really disappointed but still continued hanging out with him.

About 2 weeks later, in October, I found out he had a long distance relationship to a girl. I overheard him say that when I joined him on a line for tickets at school. He was with a group of people we knew and casually mentioned it. They met in high school (learning by doing some digging). I was devastated. I wanted to be in her place.

I think then I kind of withdrew from him and when we'd hang out I'd feel weird. In May of 2013, he told me out of nowhere that he had broken up with her. I was really confused why he'd tell me that. I asked him about it a day later, and he said he'd figured he'd tell me since around December he told me he was having some"lady" problems. I blatantly asked him if he liked me again because I thought him telling me was a covert way of telling me he was available. I asked him if he liked me and he said no. At the end of the school year gave me a letter saying thanks for being his friend and making his year suck less, and sorry that what I wanted to happen with him didn't work out "because that's life". I was so happy that he gave me that and was really surprised.

In September, school started again. Less hangin out together, but we still did things together, mostly alone. I still couldn't get over my crush over him. I was sad about it not being reciprocated and still infatuated with him. I loved hanging out with him and had a lot of fun with him. he was one of my only friends.

Some how, I ended asking him out another time, got shot down again. I ran away from his apartment crying. He was kind of cold about it and then he apologized later. I was sad and withdrew. I felt like he thought I was this weird girl who couldn't get over him, and he was spending time with me out of pity. Even though I asked him if he wanted to be friends with me a few times, and he said yes. And he continued spending time with me.

I found out he had a crush on someone in his program a year younger and I was so jealous. They saw each other all the time, and he was kind of like her "mentor". I met her a few times through him and I hated her. I felt like she was so annoying (and she objectively is). She was the girl who knows EVERYONE and is soooo weird and random, omg. A total ditz. It seemed like a weird pick for him. Anyway, he asked he out got rejected. Found out through mutual friends because (they said) he didn't want me to think it was an opportunity tour ask him out. Okay... Once, the three of us (his idea) went to see a show together (he didn't tell either of us the other was going) and I was silent the whole time because I felt really uncomfortable and rage-y. Talked to her only when necessary. After the show was done I ran the hell out of there, visibly. I still hate her.

School starts again in September 2014. In November I had a big freak out, feeling awful about my life. I called him because I was outside by myself and couldn't stop crying. He tried to calm me down. I then called my close girl friend who knew about my and M's weirdness and complained that he was insensitive and I felt like he thought I was annoying and he didn't like me as friends. He called me back and said he didn't think I was annoying. He learned what I said because he was asking my friend what to do because I called him crying and didn't know how to make me feel better.I felt reassured after this because for a long time I felt like he thought I was this weird clingy girl.

This January I transfered from the college we both went to and started at a community college where I live. I live at home, he still goes to H school we went to together. The last time I saw him was a week ago at his recital. (He's a music student.)

Realistically I know we're not compatible in a relationship, but we can be good friends. In my heart, I know he likes me as a friend and spending time together. I just feel like our relationship is weird and I want to make it better. Since we go to different schools now and he's super busy, he rarely texts me unless I initiate. And we like never see each other. We're like 2 hours apart.

Any way, now I'm trying to sort out how to go forward with our friendship. Still have a crush, I'm jealous of that he does so much cool stuff with his life while I've been generally having a bad time. I've been sick a lot, random health issues, having problems at home, going to a sucky school and being broke... While he's really smart, establishing a career, finishing school in a year. I kind of want to be him. I'm trying to keep our relationship good, because I really like being friends with me and it seems like he does too. but I want it to be balanced too, in a way that I feel like we are both equally involved. I've though about it many times and tried once, but I don't think I could ever end our friendship. I'd feel devastated.

He's still one of my good friends that I actually see in real life. I have foreign friends (not from the Internet) and a best friend that's a pain in the ass to get in touch with. I still love her though. I'M really lonely lately, especially since I don't see him. I've tried making new friends especially at my old school but I haven't had much success, although I have acquaintance-friends.

By the way, I have a therapist /psych doctor for bipolar depression, who I've kind of talked to about this. I want to work on it more and think it would help me feel better but I don't know how to do it in a constructive way. Also, never had a boyfriend.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For your own sake, you need to get this guy out of your life until you can fully accept that he's nothing more than a friend to you. You're tying yourself up in knots over someone who has said - repeatedly! - that he's not interested in you as a girlfriend. Continuing to throw yourself at him won't make him change his mind. You can't be equally emotionally involved in this, because he doesn't feel for you in the same way you feel for him. You're creating drama to get him to pay attention to you, which isn't a useful long-term strategy. It's hurting you, because it's blocking you from seeing the many opportunities that are floating by every single day.

Feeling devastated will go away, but the mess you're in right now won't go away until you end this. It will indeed hurt for a while, but you have expectations about him and how he behaves and how he should behave that aren't going to be met. There are a lot of other people out there that you will be able to connect with, properly, once you remove the relationship that is draining all of your energy, from your life.

Every time you feel lonely, every time you want some company, every time you think about making more fuss to get this guy's attention, focus on meeting some new people who can meet your needs. Use that stimulus to go to a new bar or club and chat to someone new, who might turn out to be your new best friend. Or even use it to do something cool and exciting that you want to do. Carve a new life out for yourself where you do all of the fun things that you're jealous of this guy for doing. Put some effort into your own life, instead of thinking so much about this relationship that isn't giving you what you want.
posted by Solomon at 3:32 AM on March 16, 2015 [36 favorites]

This relationship does not sound good for you. Either of you, but you're the one asking. I know it's hard to stop a friendship when you don't have many, but it's the best thing you can do. You're half in love with him and will stay trapped in limbo as long as you keep hanging around him, feeding the whole thing.

If it's too hard to write him out of your life completely, try at least taking a break - a no-contact break - for 6 months. In that time, focus on yourself. What can you do to make your life better? Throw yourself into study, those new acquaintances, do things that help build your sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Don't spend it mooning over how much you miss him. I reckon by the time the 6 months are up, you won't care so much about this awful not-friendship. And if you do, you're still in a better place with more friends and goals and self-confidence.

And yes, for sure talk about it with your therapist.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:38 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

There are a few practically-universal truths about relationships, such as "it's better to be alone than with a bad match" and "if you cheat, expect to be found out." At the top of that list is "you can't be platonic friends with someone you're not over." I mean, you can try, and sometimes you can get a weird uncomfortable pseudo-friendship going like you have, but it'll make you miserable and end really badly, and then you'll have lost a crush and a friend.

This friendship, if you can call it that, is already making you miserable. It makes you cry, it makes you angry, it makes you jealous, it makes you hate people who haven't slighted you. You're fully aware that he's not putting as much into the friendship as you are, and you keep fishing for proof that he doesn't hate you. That's not friendship. The only thing you're getting out of it is fuel for your crush. This is terribly, horribly unhealthy for you.

This can end now, or it can end later, but it will end. The longer you let it go on, the more out of control things will get, and the worse the damage when it finally falls apart. It'll hurt either way, but it's better to hit a tree at five miles per hour than at sixty.

You've spent two and a half years pining over this guy. It's not going to get better. Cut your losses and work on healing.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:48 AM on March 16, 2015 [23 favorites]

Cut contact.

'But Nerdfish, he's such a good guy-'

Nope, cut contact.

'But I want to keep the relationship going-'

Nope, no, don't even think about it.

'I'd be devastated if we weren't friends!'

You're in pretty bad shape right now, mooning over this guy who barely makes contact with you. You need a clean break and a grieving period, and the shot of self-respect that only nuking a toxic relationship can bring.

He's bringing out the worst in you and not giving much back. You don't need that. Delete his number. Delete him from Facebook. Block him on email or IM. No explanations, no letters, no big speeches, just cold, hard, no-contact. If you see him? Great. You're polite, you wish him well.

Cut it off. Give yourself time to grieve. Work on *your* issues, which are within *your* power to change. Broke? Throw yourself into school and finding a job. Problems with your health? Throw yourself into finding the right care providers and working on your self-care. Hate living at home? Make a plan - figure out how much money you need to move out, where you'll get it, where you could go. You're expending all this mental energy imagining how great life would be with this guy, when you could be using that energy to imagine a better life for yourself.

Cut him off. Work on yourself. Build the life you want to have and forget that guy.
posted by nerdfish at 4:23 AM on March 16, 2015 [14 favorites]

It doesn't have to be drama. You can do the slow fade ("I've been so busy, sorry!") or just say "I still have feelings for you, and as long as I do it's unfair to both of us to continue our friendship."
posted by schroedinger at 4:51 AM on March 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

I really really want to stay being friends with him but I feel like he doesn't care about me as much as he should, especially since he says he likes being my friend.

No, it sounds like he's been fairly patient. He's treating you as a causal friend, because that's what you guys are. He gently let you down twice, before being "cold" the third time. (Which sounds like he was just trying to lead you on, because you keep thinking there's a chance when there isn't.) He wrote you a letter letting you know he is appreciative of your friendship; and he's tried to reassure you when you've had hard times.

I say this because this is why you need to go no contact. The "weirdness" is only coming from you. That's okay- it's rough to be into a friend who isn't into you. But that's why you need this break. It's not because he's not giving you enough, or because he's a bad guy. But because you need time to straighten yourself out and work on you a little.

Get your health and money stuff figured out. Do what you need to do to start feeling better about yourself. Only then, when you are healthy, happy, and over this guy can you be friends with him. (Or not- you don't have be friends!)
posted by spaltavian at 5:56 AM on March 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

"I'm not sure how to tell him so it isn't like OMG I'M STILL SO IN LOVE WITH YOU, I MUST NOT TALK TO YOU ANYMORE, DRAMA!"

"I'm kind-of taking a break to reorient my life and focus on some of my shit, so I'm not going to be as communicative for a while. I really value our friendship and I'm not friend-dumping you! I'll probably resurface in about six months. I have just gotta focus on my health/build up my local social life/focus on my classes/pick up a zillion extra shifts."

Depending on your social circles/media use, you could let him know you'll be posting on your social media website of choice so the world knows you're still alive, as a low-touch way of keeping in contact, but don't private message with him ... just casual public comments on public statuses. ("Went to see $Movie" "Was it good? I can't decide if I want to go see it ...") But if that will lead you to deep conversations or private messages or spending hours in front of the screen, then NO.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:59 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I feel like he doesn't care about me as much as he should,

There is no should. People care and behave and handle friendships the way they care and behave and handle friendships - not the way you want them to.

The beauty is that as an adult, you can choose what works for you and what doesn't, and respond accordingly.
posted by headnsouth at 6:14 AM on March 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

He feels what he feels and I think it's important to note that he's never lied to you about liking you romantically, but you asked him out on multiple occasions and that really puts a strain on things.

You're right to pull away from him. Maybe down the road, when you're over him and have made more friends, you'll be in a better place and you can pick things up as friends. But for right now, you are too much into him for this friendship to work.

So do the slow fade. Turn down invitations. Don't chat with him as much. Don't go to his concerts. You do you. Focus on yourself. Take up a new hobby. Join a club at school where people have the same interests as you. You're not unlikable. You're going to be okay.
posted by inturnaround at 6:18 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

It reads like he's already performing a slow fade on you. Don't initiate contact from now on, let him do it. If he asks to see you, say you're busy. Basically, follow his example. He's showing you what to do.

In the meantime, figure out some ways for you to get what you want out of life. You're really you g and have so many opportunities available to you by virtue of that. Pick some things that seem interesting and do them. Become friends with yourself. When you can do that, this level if drama will much less appealing and you'll be in auch better position to choose relationships that give you what you want and make you happy. Good luck.
posted by Solomon at 6:49 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

if you need another way to think about all this - you've been a pretty crappy friend to him. i know you didn't do it intentionally, but you've been friends with him with the seemingly sole desire that he'd some day want to date you. he told you he broke up with his long term, long distance girlfriend and instead of acting like a friend you acted like a high pressure salesperson who just found an opening. you found out he liked someone and instead of being supportive you measured yourself up next to her, decide you fell short, and solidified a deep seated jealous hatred of her. you've been acting like guys who get upset about being "friendzoned" and that's not a way to treat someone you want as a friend.

this friendship isn't good for you and it isn't good for him.
posted by nadawi at 6:54 AM on March 16, 2015 [28 favorites]

Realistically I know we're not compatible in a relationship, but we can be good friends.

Well, though, you can't be good friends. It's clearly not worked over the past few years to be good friends. This guy might be nice, but you can't be friends with someone you have this big of a crush on when it's not reciprocated. I also think it's a lot of baggage to try to continue a friendship even in the future.

I think you need to separate from this guy. Maybe in the future he can be an acquaintance, but I don't think he can be a friend. You're expecting almost a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship with him, and I'm sorry to say it just won't happen.

Look, I get missing the friendship. I get missing the attention. I get the feeling lonely. You need to find new friends! How else are you supposed to feel less lonely and stop thinking about him until you have something else to fill that space. Start a hobby and find new people to hang out with.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:04 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think instead of focusing on the details of the relationship with this guy and whether/how much he likes you or not with your therapist, you should focus on how it has made you feel and your reactions.

For example, you posted that you don't think you could ever end your relationship with this guy. 2 hours later, you said you want to cut off contact completely. Discuss what your emotional reactions and behavior might mean in regards to your bipolar and how effectively it's being treated (not saying it's necessarily not being treated well, but just something to think about).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:23 AM on March 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

I've kind of been in your shoes, and I've kind of been in his shoes. It was hard from both sides. I was going to answer about how rarely platonic friendships are defined, which is one nice thing about romantic relationship. But then I read the more inside and as soon as I saw that you told him you liked him romantically early on and he said thanks, but no thanks, I knew the rest of the story. I agree with the other that you need to get space and distance, not only for him but really for you.

You seem to be giving him the mental and emotional space of a boyfriend which makes sense, but he's also made it clear he won't reciprocate. Take this time to figure out your own stuff - hobbies, school, whatever. For me, being busy and having activities and things to focus on (instead of people), really helps me feel more at ease with myself .

It's nice to have the attention and it's nice to have the friendship, but trust me... it's so much nicer when it's reciprocated.
posted by kendrak at 8:57 AM on March 16, 2015

People sometimes use "going no contact" as a test, with the expectation that their absence will somehow spur the other person into realizing how much the relationship means to them and the assumption that the relationship will therefore be exactly as they wanted it at the end of that six-month (or whatever) test.

That is a bad way of thinking about taking a break.
posted by jaguar at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

My take-away from your story is that you fucked up at university and now you are in community college.

It was clear from the beginning to me that this guy has NEVER been your friend, he liked all of the attention that you were giving him though. A lot.

He's already dropped you as a "friend" (crutch) and if you stop contacting him, you'll only hear from him the next time he's lonely and needs an ego boost.

Screwing up in college and giving all of your power away to this guy is closely related. Do you want a career? To graduate from a good school? To have a better life than the past year?

Slam the door on this episode of your life, refocus on yourself. You do sound obsessed with him, so be honest with yourself and your therapist. Refocus and get yourself together. You can do it.
posted by jbenben at 10:09 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Once, in a similar situation, I sent the 'I still have feelings for you so this is it for now,' goodbye to a guy. Big mistake. Apart from the fact it was not kept to himself in general, it caused a ton of drama because his new girlfriend accessed his correspondence, wrote me, and insinuated a bunch of things about it and me and my motivations that were 100% untrue. It was a firestorm of drama that resulted in a lot of hounding and cruel accusations towards me on both their parts, instead of the peaceful exit I wished for myself, and it was really really painful to be on the receiving end of.

See, he was my closest/best friend at the time, and I felt that I owed him an explanation as to why I needed me time since we were so close and had such a connection. Long story short: I didn't owe him nada, but I owed myself a lot more, and in hindsight, it was a mistake to feel as if I needed to give him closure-- in the end it resolved nothing and was at great detriment to myself. Instead of closure, I got a bigger wound.

So while I think it's perfectly acceptable to want to give him an explanation and tell him 'bye for now' I wouldn't. I'd just get very busy very fast and just stop bringing it up. If he reaches out, deflect. He knows you have feelings. He probably will deep down know why you're withdrawing, anyway. To tell him again would probably seem like an ultimatum or something, and I agree with you that it would seem like drama. If he brings it up, just say you're trying to put the past behind you and moving on and you just can't hang out like you used to.

Moreover I'm not sure if this is the case for you, but he may kind of like the attention from you, even if he's not doing it consciously-- and he might reach out to continue to get your attention once you back off. It might feel almost like baiting. If that happens, just continue to deflect and don't engage at all. Being loved by someone can be addictive, even if the feelings aren't reciprocal, and I feel at least in my situation, can be partially encouraged, because it felt so good on his side to have a cheerleader. In your case, I feel like you feel there's mixed messages-- but your guy feels like his conscience is clear because he told you he's not interested. So he can sit there and rub your back, and you can ask him, 'well, why are you rubbing my back then? What does that mean?' He can say, 'Nothing; you already know I don't like you,' but in the meantime he can send you sweet letters and such and things he'd probably never do with a guy friend, I'm sure.

You need to be really firm in this, and not be his friend-- for your sake-- because otherwise it'll just hurt you the more you go forward. You already proved you can't compartmentalize this. You know you can't be good friends because you love him, and as long as you're around him you'll just see him as IT, and he's not it. I imagine that if you get enough distance, you probably will realize he's not as great a friend as you think anyway.

I know you love him and part of you is fantasizing about it being him one day, and it's very tough to let go of that. I know it feels devastating to not be his friend, but I feel that part of that feeling is because you still love him. If you think about losing contact with one of your other friends, would you feel 'devastated' like you would with him?

If part of you is not ready to let go of this fantasy, the best advice I've ever read about being 'friendzoned' (not that I feel that's really a thing) is this article here. If you can get over some of the language and the premise (part of it is slightly manipulative, maybe) it has some good advice: Namely, just work on building yourself up, if at the end he wants you, great. If not, at least you worked on yourself and are in a way better position than before. If you're lonely, just start trying to get to know people. Cast a wide net. Online date if you want to. Join a class or start a hobby where you can meet people. Painting. Yoga. Whatever. Stop making this guy the center of your world; he really isn't that special. Nobody is.

There's also probably some low self esteem at play here. Why would you want someone that doesn't want you? It's not worth pining over someone that can't see you as great as you see him. And about that-- he's not some great guy and you're some schlep who can't get it together. He's human, just as human as you, and you have to start seeing his flaws a little more, instead of staring at him with rose colored glasses. He poops just like everyone else; and has a temper sometimes and picks his nose and what have you. He's human. Perhaps he's talented, but talents can be learned. And if you want to be more like him, do more things you value as a person. You're not a clingy pathetic creature. Women are kind of conditioned to feel ashamed at having feelings or it being a weakness. You're not weak, if anything, it was brave to continue to put your heart out there. Not everyone can do that.

I know it feels awful right now, and I was once in your shoes -- but you're not some unlovable damaged person that can't get a boyfriend. Eventually, you'll have your feelings reciprocated, and when you have that it will be wonderful and feel 100 times better than it will today. I know right now you can't see a way out, but believe me there is light at the end of the tunnel-- you shouldn't settle on the unavailable since then. You're also really young, this experience will just be a blip on the radar eventually. Trust me. Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 10:10 AM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm trying to keep our relationship good, because I really like being friends with me and it seems like he does too. but I want it to be balanced too, in a way that I feel like we are both equally involved.

You are never going to feel balanced or equal in this friendship, because what you want from him is far more than friendship.

You and he were never really friends. A friendship is mutual by definition - though he has been quite clear that he has no romantic feelings toward you, only friendly feelings, your feelings toward him have never been platonic.

I just feel like our relationship is weird and I want to make it better. Since we go to different schools now and he's super busy, he rarely texts me unless I initiate. And we like never see each other. We're like 2 hours apart.

You view this friendship as the principal relationship in your life, but it's likely not the case for him. Now that you are 2 hours away, the effort it would take to hang out like you used to is disproportionate to the importance he places on your friendship. I'm sorry, I know I'm being blunt, but it's the truth of how these things go. But also take heart that if he is a good person and cares about you as a friend, he will understand your withdrawal and give you the space you need to work yourself out.

The distance is also a blessing. It'll make it easier for you to work on yourself without constant reminders of him, and to develop a life of your own outside of your friendship with him. I agree that going cold turkey is the only way to get over the crush, and now he will be easy to avoid.

It may also help to talk to your therapist about friendship and boundaries in general, and reading into signals. Why would he tell you about breaking up with his long-distance girlfriend? Well, ostensibly because friends talk to their friends about these sorts of things. Later you seemed put off that you had to find out from mutual friends that his crush turned him down. Remember what happened the last time he tried to talk to you about his love life as a friend? You didn't act like much of friend. Don't you think he may have noticed your demeanor while in the company of his crush? You behaved as though you were in competition with her for his affections. Again, not much of a friend.

Examining these events with an objective third party may go a long way toward helping you in the future to recognize when thoughts and behavior are turning down an unhealthy path.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:10 AM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

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