coping with a potential crush
June 9, 2016 3:17 PM   Subscribe

I have what seems to be a crush on a good friend. She is not available. What is the best way to handle this?

I think I have a crush on a very good friend and I'm pretty sure she's not aware of it. She's been dating her boyfriend for over 5 years and they seem happy together. I have no interest in encouraging her to break up with her bf or anything like that. My question is how to approach my feelings for her. Should I try to convince myself that I don't have romantic feelings for her and I'm misidentifying friendship as love? Should I just accept my feelings and avoid dangerous situations? Should I try to acknowledge that she'll likely marry this guy and there's nothing for me to do?

For a little background on me. I'm a recent college graduate and I haven't dated anyone in the last 6 years. I have very few girls who I consider "friends". Excluding relatives it is likely under 4.  I've been good friends with her for a few years now. I get along very well with her, certainly more so than any girl I've met before but possibly even more so than my other guy friends. Which is what kills me because what more is there to a relationship than a good friendship combined with sexual attraction?

We haven't lived in the same state in a while. Up until last fall I had more or less convinced myself that I had no sexual feelings for her. This felt great as it was really starting to seem like I was beginning to view her solely as a friend. I don't know exactly what happened but noticed I was starting to look at her sexually.

I've read through this post and am conflicted over the advice that says, "I realized the difference between friendship and love". We hung out in person (just the two of us) a few weekends ago for the first time in a while and drank a decent amount and nothing happened. I intentionally didn't get trashed so that I wouldn't put myself in a tough spot, but since everything went off smoothly it doesn't seem like it's anything I need to worry about. That being the case, I think our friendship can continue as it exists now. But, I have a lot of trouble being able to tell if I actually have a crush on her and it's just an unfortunate fact of life that I can't act on it. Or maybe, I just am young, inexperienced and haven't dated anyone in a while and so I'm just getting all confused.

The conclusion I'm leaning towards is to avoid trying to convince myself I like her solely as a friend as it could drive me crazy if I'm wrong. Instead, I plan on focusing on the friendship aspect, keep it out of any murky waters by avoiding sexual jokes etc., and date other people. I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this and I'd love to hear any alternative takes/suggestions.
posted by aaabbbccc to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Basically, do whatever hurts you the least.

If seeing her makes you feel bad, then don't see her. You can even drop the friendship if you really need to, for your own mental health. I would gently and kindly start being "busier" and make it clear she hasn't offended you or anything like that, but you're just growing apart due to life. Disclosing the crush or not is optional.

If not seeing her makes you feel worse, then you can still see her, or come to some sort of compromise like seeing her occasionally, or only in groups of other friends.

Yes, you should definitely give up on pursuing her and date other people, no matter how special you think your connection with her is. When I was 22 I thought each special connection was really rare and magical, too. Now that I'm 28 I realized if you live long enough and meet enough people, 9/10 times they really aren't that magical. You also have no idea if you two would actually work in a relationship. There are a lot of things even good friends don't know about each other, so you've got on rose colored glasses.

Absolutely, 100% expand your social circle, stay busy, and go on dates.
posted by quincunx at 3:23 PM on June 9, 2016


Dating other people is a good idea.

I don't know that you need to mislead yourself about your feelings. You can acknowledge them to yourself ("Yes, I have feelings for Princess McButterfly, but she is happy with her boyfriend and I am not going to pursue anything") and then focus on something else. Get busy doing stuff that you really like, and meet other people who really like those things too.

Try to see less of and interact less with her for a while. When you meet someone new you really click with, that will likely help.

Good luck. It really does suck, no getting around it.
posted by bunderful at 3:29 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


It might help to journal about it or write emo poetry. This can be an outlet for your feelings that doesn't make it her problem.

Suppressing feelings and bottling them up tends to put them under explosive pressure. It's a crush, not stalker-like obsession. Having a safe space to voice that can help prevent it from getting into overly loaded territory. Saying "Yep, it's a crush. And I am behaving. No big." even just to yourself can go a long way towards preventing drama.

Dating is an excellent plan. As you grow fond of someone else, she will have less emotional draw for you. You are emotionally hungry and that makes her enticing. Get your needs met and this will be less of an issue.
posted by Michele in California at 3:39 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think I'd categorically file this crush under the 'missed opportunities' mark, and realize that, like many things, it will come to pass the less energy you give to it. I'm afraid that as far as crushes go, they feed on the attitude you give to them, so here you are, trying to reconcile yourself so that you can be 'a better friend.' You don't need to do this. The 'a priori' truth of this all is just that she's in a relationship; she was before your crush, she will be after, likely, too. She just isn't a friend you can date... Period.

Until recently I was in a similar position (& though my friend was newly out of her previous relationship, it just didn't seem right) and I'll tell you this: you need to just simply give that same generous energy to something else. You need to actively try for it, and I mean figuratively push yourself, working on that trying. I think these tender emotions are not irreconcilable with a great friendship; however, there is so much at stake here that I do not think you'll find them worth pursuing, either directly, or by thinking headily about them, to try and solve them. Feelings are malleable and won't typically be boxed up unless you know entirely the way you'd like to feel about it. So I'd say give it a go being extra-into something else, even if just for a little while.

You will be a stronger person knowing that you set yourself about a goal - and you were able to achieve it - by finding presence within yourself enough to be a valid friend, taking care of the authentic, baseline, beautiful connection between the two of you. You need to figure that being 'into somebody' is being an excellent judge of character: no more, no less. Once you start making a place for them in your life, and in your day-to-day attitude, you are betraying your friendship, and need to start taking care. I'm sorry; it's just, you don't want to lose your friendship, and I know you don't, a so I want you to be really overly careful here. Speaking from personal experience in a few ways.

Dating's an excellent plan, so try online if need be; a new devotional hobby is good especially when it's got community behind it (try acro yoga!); and really, anything that allows you to recenter yourself and get it out of your mind is worthwhile: I'm all for it.
posted by a good beginning at 3:49 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Should I try to convince myself that I don't have romantic feelings for her and I'm misidentifying friendship as love?

Up until last fall I had more or less convinced myself that I had no sexual feelings for her.

Friendship is love! You can love your friends. You can also be sexually attracted to your friends. It seems like you're at least partly equating sexual attraction with having a crush. I'm friends with a lot of lovely charming people of my preferred gender and it's not as if they somehow turned unattractive just because I became friends with them. I think it's better to acknowledge these feelings and embrace/handle them than to try to convince yourself they don't exist.

In some ways if you're not so far gone in crush territory that you can no longer really be an effective friend, it's a blessing to have a close friend and not have to worry at all about should you be like trying to date them or would that just spoil a fine thing, etc. Good, close friends are in some ways harder to come by than romantic partners.
posted by Gymnopedist at 4:31 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Should I try to convince myself that I don't have romantic feelings for her and I'm misidentifying friendship as love?

No. Your feelings are whatever they are, and lying to yourself about them will only cause you extra stress. Truly, the best and only thing to do about strong feelings is to learn to manage the things that they can lead you to do; some of those things will not be in your best interests.

Should I just accept my feelings

Yes.

and avoid dangerous situations?

If that means behaving like a perfect gentleman by doing your level best not to insert unwanted complications into your treasured friend's life: yes.

Hang out with her. Enjoy her company. But hands off and no attempted snogging, and don't waste your life expecting her to realize all of a sudden that OMG It's Been You All Along. That won't happen. Sorry.

Should I try to acknowledge that she'll likely marry this guy and there's nothing for me to do?

Yes.

If you can see your way clear to a genuine wish for that to be the best thing that's ever happened to her, that will be good for you because it will teach you the difference between proper mature love and simple infatuation.

Unrequited sexual attraction always feels pretty rough, but it's not even slightly rare. Almost everybody gets to suffer regular bouts of it, like an emotional head cold. It's a life lesson in learning to accept not always being able to get everything you want, which is a vital part of becoming a competent adult. Unless you choose to wind yourself up into a Wuthering Heights emotional frenzy about it, it's not going to do you any real harm; it will just be a bit of a nuisance for a while.

Give yourself as many chances as you can possibly arrange to crush on other, unattached people, who have a chance of crushing back on you.

Sigh... I wish I'd been around to give myself this advice thirty years ago. So much wasted time.

I plan on focusing on the friendship aspect, keep it out of any murky waters by avoiding sexual jokes etc., and date other people.

Good plan. Do that.
posted by flabdablet at 5:20 PM on June 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


what more is there to a relationship than a good friendship combined with sexual attraction?

Mutuality.
posted by flabdablet at 5:21 PM on June 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


I have very few girls who I consider "friends". Excluding relatives it is likely under 4.

It doesn't sound like you have a lot of experience with having a personal connection with someone who you also find sexually attractive, and now that it is happening, you are crushing. I could be wrong, but it sounds like you're thinking is that a relationship is developed from the intersection of sexual attraction and rapport. Rather, it emerges from those things. A person can see them side by side in a friend, as in a relationship may look at least workable on paper, and not let it catch them emotionally. You have the potential to be that kind of person if you are vigilant about the way you think about your friend and very careful with what sort of emotional reward you allow yourself to get from the situation.

If you plan to continue to be friends with women, just generally, you will need to learn to be okay with having friends who you find sexually attractive and that just being a facet of the relationship that stays with you, just you, forever. Don't build on it, don't fantasize, don't think "maybe one day." Let the fact that you can't have a relationship with her become a fact of life with no emotional weight, rather than a fact that disappoints you. Assume this is a fact as immutable as the earth going around the sun and make peace with it.

It sounds like you are emotionally intelligent and self-aware and it sound like you know what the Right thing for you to do in this case is. You do not sound like you trust your appraisal of the situation, which I think is a pity because emotional intelligence and self-awareness are two great traits to cultivate and you have a running start for a recent college grad. I think you should listen to yourself regarding establishing and maintaining a boundary regardless of how difficult it may be, and take to avoiding finding yourself in situations conducive to unrequited love if you find yourself particularly vulnerable to it. Knowingly and consciously not doing something is as important part of emotional and sexual "experience" as anything you actively engage in. You don't "lose" in this situation by not doing anything. No one does.
posted by griphus at 7:18 PM on June 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


We hung out in person (just the two of us) a few weekends ago for the first time in a while and drank a decent amount and nothing happened. I intentionally didn't get trashed so that I wouldn't put myself in a tough spot, but since everything went off smoothly it doesn't seem like it's anything I need to worry about. T

I don't understand this. Do you think that drinking with a member of the opposite sex automatically means something will happen? She's shown no interest in you ever, right so why would you think that? What kind of "tough spot" did you worry about yourself getting into- making a move on her, agreeing to sex if she wanted it? Have you ever initiated a sexual relationship with someone sober? Do you drink a lot?

It kind of sounds like you are confusing drunken hookups and or sex with a relationship/ crush. There is a lot more to relationships that sex my young friend, and very few of them start with getting trashed.

I'd suggest you date without the expectation of sex for a while. Just try to make human connections. If one of your dates ends up wanting drunken hookup sex or even sober hookup sex either say no or do it if you want to but do not confuse that with anything else. Keep dating and working on seeing women as people.
posted by fshgrl at 7:50 PM on June 9, 2016


I very much enjoyed reading your responses and think my perspective is slightly healthier now. My follow up question to some of the suggestions is whether the smart move is to promise myself that I will never date her no matter what. Or should I just be working on accepting that that is the most likely outcome? I think what gets me is when griphus says, "Let the fact that you can't have a relationship with her become a fact of life with no emotional weight, rather than a fact that disappoints you." Is that a hard never? At what point does an attractive girl I'm friends with become someone who I should never enter a relationship with? Yes, in most cases I agree that there doesn't seem to be any interest. But, I guess the problem is that I don't trust myself to correctly identify when there is interest. Since I have a tendency to never ask anyone out I worry that by never at least asking these friends if they're interested I'm missing out on people who I get along with well and could be in a relationship with.

fshgrl I'd like to clarify my concerns. A few months ago while skyping I made a joke that I think could've been interpreted as flirting/hinting on my part (I didn't mean it as such, but not the point). I'm definitely overly sensitive to this but she seemed to call me out on it and it just felt awkward and the conversation ended soon after. This prompted a lot of hand wringing on my part. I decided the way to proceed was just to be extra careful not stray into any remotely ambiguous territory. My concern was that if I got drunk I'd slip up and accidentally make an ambiguous comment or even do something really really stupid and come clean about my feelings for her.

I still think this was the prudent approach. After day drinking I decided to take a nap before we went out for the evening. She decided to join me in the queen sized bed. At some point her hand ends up resting on me. Here is where you're probably justified in thinking that my worldview of women/relationships are immature and that of a frequently drunk college student. Because, my reaction to this was feeling extremely uncomfortable and I ultimately came to the conclusion that this was actually evidence that she saw me completely as a friend, since if she had any inkling that I had a crush on her or any interest in me, then drinking, lying in bed together and then making physical contact would be just a little bit teasing in my mind.
posted by aaabbbccc at 9:07 PM on June 9, 2016


If you live long enough this will happen to you a lot. Crushes do not require action.

Don't lay in bed drunk with someone who's supposed to be unavailable. Get up.
posted by bongo_x at 9:53 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


None of us knows if she sees you as just a friend or if the crushing is mutual. People are not monoliths. One part of her may be absolutely sure you are just friends and another part may feel different.

The thing is: She is currently in a relationship and, even if she wants you, this will involve drama. Because it isn't just about your feelings and her feelings. There is a third party.

Furthermore, if she will betray him to have you, the odds are good she will do the same to you somewhere down the line.

So, you need to decide if you are up for all that drama. And be aware that it is drama of a sort that can involve ER visits and police reports.

I was unfaithful to my husband. I did therapy and read all the research I could find on the topic. It is incredibly uncommon for "the other" man or woman to live happily ever after with this person. The vast majority of the time, they also get dumped within about a year.

But, the thing is, when we put a lot at stake to have something, that fact convinces us that we value it highly. So, having an affair always has a high degree of emotional intensity to it. Breaking all the rules and risking so much to have this person convinces us that they matter more than anything else to us. And we interpret that as Fate, as True Love, etc. And it isn't true.

This psychological phenomenon has been studied. It is the principle behind hazing: if you are willing to go through hell to join an organization, you will be very loyal to it for years to come. You can look up studies and the like on it.

Friendship is valuable in its own right and when you divulge a crush, you risk the friendship. So, this is never an easy thing. Even if she weren't with someone, it could cost you a friend and gain you nothing to tell her.

I think the conservative answer is that you talk about it at the point where not saying anything is more problematic. When it is clear that suppressed feelings are creating drama and problems and the friendship is a disaster because of it. Then you can try to clear the air.

I think a romance can start from friendship. I married my best friend. But, I hit on him after his girlfriend dumped him, not while they were together.

There are instances where affairs work out. But they are very much the exception. "The race is not always to the fast and the battle is not always to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

Since time immemorial, the Romeos and Juliets of the world have believed that the big feels and big drama proves this love is True Love and something extremely special. The vast majority of the time, it's not. All you get from the drama is...drama. Often with a helping of regret.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 10:23 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is that a hard never?

Don't look as far ahead as you'd need to to classify this kind of thing as "never". There's simply no benefit to doing that. It's a hard now, every day, and that's enough.

Sad fact is that there are loads of different ways for couple + unrequited third-party crush to play out, and most of them don't end well.

At what point does an attractive girl I'm friends with become someone who I should never enter a relationship with?

At three points:

1. When either of you is already involved with somebody else.

2. When either of you has been recently dumped. Rebound relationships often end badly for one or both participants. Rebound comfort sex is certainly a thing, but expecting it to last is generally a mistake.

3. When neither (1) nor (2) applies and you've told her in so many words that you'd be up for something closer than simple friendship if that works for her and she's responded with anything short of enthusiasm.

Yes, in most cases I agree that there doesn't seem to be any interest. But, I guess the problem is that I don't trust myself to correctly identify when there is interest.

That skill will come. I don't personally know of anybody for whom it has come without several horribly embarrassing and ill-considered episodes best swept under the rug of history, but it will come.

Since I have a tendency to never ask anyone out I worry that by never at least asking these friends if they're interested I'm missing out on people who I get along with well and could be in a relationship with.

Stop worrying about that, and instead just assume that it is certainly true. If you never ask you might still find out, but not asking has to lower your chances.

Before asking, it's worth getting your mind to a place where getting knocked back will not feel like the end of your world.

Asking people out is a bit like diving off a high board. You can stand up there looking down at the water and freaking out about how! far! down! it is, and the longer you stand up there on the edge the harder it becomes to jump and the worse your guts wind up over not being able to do it. Or you can convince yourself before you even climb the ladder that fucking up a dive will involve an acceptable degree of pain, and resolve just to go on up and over on autopilot without overthinking it.

Most people find themselves backing down from several episodes of gut-wrenching fear before deciding that their first clumsy high-dive probably won't actually feel as bad as that fear. It's just a hard thing to do, is all. But it really does get easier with practice.
posted by flabdablet at 11:11 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Since time immemorial, the Romeos and Juliets of the world have believed that the big feels and big drama proves this love is True Love and something extremely special. The vast majority of the time, it's not. All you get from the drama is...drama. Often with a helping of regret.

Also this.
posted by flabdablet at 11:11 PM on June 9, 2016


Start asking people out. I remember thinking that if I asked someone out and they said no I had to like move into a tunnel and cut off all social contact. Not true! I'm even friends with people that turned me down or I rejected 20 years ago, even with their spouses.

You are young. Ask people out. Don't take yourself too seriously.
posted by fshgrl at 12:37 AM on June 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, look. You like her romantically. I don't think you have to lie to yourself about that.

But this
whether the smart move is to promise myself that I will never date her no matter what
makes it sound like the only thing that is preventing you from dating her is your Noble Respect for Her Current Relationship.

What is actually preventing you from dating her (and will continue to prevent you whatever promises you do or don't make to yourself) is that she is not actually interested in dating you. If you don't 100% take that onboard and realize what it means you will ruin this friendship, because I guarantee people have a sixth sense for when someone is hanging out with them with a hidden agenda.

If you can't genuinely be friends with her, step away. (My personal litmus test for "have I genuinely moved from a romantic interest to a friendly interest in this person" is "could I sit at their wedding reception with a heart filled with nothing but joy for them?") If she ever breaks up with the current guy and becomes interested in you, she'll tell you. THEN if you're still interested, date away! But that day will likely never come, so don't spend time being in a Trojan horse of a "friendship" where you're really hoping to jump out and shout "surprise! I've loved you all along!"
posted by MsMolly at 12:55 AM on June 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I fell in love with a friend who was unavailable (married). It sucks. I really REALLY feel for you having gone through this myself. The difference in my situation is that he clearly wasn't happy in his marriage, so I had all sorts of "I could make him so much happier!" thoughts, but like you I never ever wanted to disrespect their relationship or do anything to break them up. I'm just not that person.

I tried continuing to be "friends" but it proved too difficult for me and caused too much inner conflict and heartache. I didn't have the option of distancing myself from him or cutting him out of my life since we worked together as well (I know I know... long story) so what I ended up having to do is basically stop being terribly friendly to him, stop being available to him for chats/hangouts. I frankly behaved like a bitch and was a bit of a jerk to him, which left him confused and a bit hurt. I feel bad about that since none of this was his fault (apart from him being just so god damned awesome and loveable) but I did what I felt I had to in order to protect myself. And I do feel it was my best option and my only reasonable way through.

My advice, therefore, is to do what you need to do in order to ensure you maintain the emotional distance you need. Scaling back the friendship and distancing yourself from her is likely your best option, at least for a while until your feelings fade or until you find someone else to focus on. If you're able to actually distance yourself from her, see her less often, hang out with her less, then do that. But if you can't then I suggest my tactic of being less friendly (without being mean) to have her want to spend less time with you.


Maybe not a helpful footnote, but I ultimately married my friend love. While I was being a super bitch to him and distancing myself from him, his wife asked for a divorce. Once they separated I declared him fair game. He was properly surprised when I made my move, he had no idea that i had feelings for him, which to me is a mark of my success in distancing myself from him during all that. Today is our 5 year "kissiversary", and this september will be our 3 year wedding anniversary. Again, my situation was different because he clearly WASN'T happy in his relationship, but hey... sometimes things pan out... And let me tell you, I am so god damned thankful I never played any part in the end of their relationship. We were able to establish our relationship with a clear conscience and no footnote of uncool behaviour, and that is worth its weight in gold.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:12 AM on June 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's not the no I can't handle, it's the possibility of a yes. I would love for her to get married (okay, I'd be a tiny bit upset that I finally have to give up on this dream) as I would realistically realize that it truly will never happen. I'm not 100% convinced that I even have a crush on her and not the idea of her. I can't imagine kissing her. Any fantasies I've had about her are not sexual but just about us being in a happy relationship together. Last fall, I believe, I literally had the thought, "Ugh if she gets married and has kids then she won't have time to be good friends anymore." So part of this might just be another case of my worrying about changes in the far future and thinking about how I could avoid that by dating her.

She's one of my 3 closest friends and I really rely on her for some of my emotional questions/issues since other friends (coincidentally male) are way worse. So you guys have forced me to think about it and I'm not willing to lose my friendship with her just because I have some more growing to do. I know that I would never make a move while she was in a relationship and I would never accept a move even if in some bizarre world she made one. Does some part of me wish that she would break up with her boyfriend? Probably. Would I ever do anything to encourage that? No.

The emotional journey has done me some good and it's not all bad learning to live with something I can't have. Right now, the friendship has far more positives than negatives and the negatives are bearable. I'll just have to keep a close eye on my emotional state and when I'm particularly low I'll have to make extra sure to distance myself from her. I wonder if I can use how strongly I'm crushing on her as a barometer for where I am emotionally in the rest of my life.

In terms of actions I should take it seems:
-minimize contact when the crush gets too strong (easy for now since we are in different states)
-avoid any hint of flirting
-ask people out and date other people
-accept she almost definitely has no interest in me
posted by aaabbbccc at 1:18 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


part of this might just be another case of my worrying about changes in the far future and thinking about how I could avoid that

That mental habit is foundational to many, many different kinds of distress. Regular mindfulness meditation can be helpful if you want to learn to rein it in.
posted by flabdablet at 11:02 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Final update from the OP:
In case anyone reads this in the future I wanted to update the thread with some good news :) She broke up with her bf and I finally worked up the guts to ask her on a date. She shares my feelings and her feelings for me are part of why she realized she should break up with bf. I'm sure I handled this overall saga poorly in many respects but I'm unbelievably happy I did absolutely nothing to explicitly encourage them to break up and waited until after it had already happened so that the breakup was because she wanted to and not because she thought the grass was greener on the other side and available. So looks like we're probably dating now and who knows what will happen! Thank you everyone for the support and advice!
posted by taz at 12:44 AM on June 14, 2017


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