Say something or don’t. What to do about a crush?
June 23, 2016 7:27 AM   Subscribe

When my partner and I first got to together a few years ago, one of her friends jokingly said something like “I saw you online, too but ‘Sally’ got to you first” (she was also doing the online dating thing as most of us who were single seemed to be doing at that time.) I laughed it off; she seemed to be kidding around. She – I’ll call her ‘Rebecca’ – is a member of one of my partner’s friendship circles. We’re all women in our 30s and 40s.

Over the past three years or so I (and my partner ‘Sally’) have gotten the sense that she has a crush. She has never done or said anything obviously untoward, but the feeling is there. It’s awkward.

For example, she invited the group of us to dinner and had a special dish just for me because she knew I liked it. There was just enough just for me. She’s quite huggy – this alone is not a big deal, all the friends are rather huggy people, but she seems to be overly huggy with me. (I did consider this might be my imagination, but my partner noticed it before me…she hugs me longer and tighter or something.) She also gets very excited to see me and will try to talk to me a lot individually. She tells me what a great person I am and how lucky Sally is to have me. (I tell her I am so lucky to have Sally and suchlike!)

The solution Sally and I came up with was that she would just spend more time with this particular friend group without me. But sometimes we do things in larger groups (parties, barbecues etc.) where members of this friend group are also in attendance (it’s a small community). I suppose I could skip these events as well, but my friends are there too and I enjoy socializing.

One such gathering took place last month. I waved to her when I arrived but got into a conversation with some other friends. I didn’t go over to talk to her…but my wave was friendly. My partner was talking to some other friends – we both like to chat with others and circulate. But after a few minutes she made a beeline and was all huggy and chatty….saying that she missed me at the previous events (with the smaller group) and that Sally told her I was very busy with a big new project at work (I am not) – and she hoped things were getting less busy. How glad she was I was there so we could catch up, etc.

That made me a little uncomfortable – truthfully all of her attention makes me a bit uncomfortable. It also makes my partner uncomfortable.

After the party, one of my friends joked that it seems "there is a little crush happening." She's never made a “move” or anything like that. She’s technically not crossed any line (and if she did I would certainly say something) and for all I know she might just think she’s being friendly.

I am seeking advice on what to do going forward. My partner, Sally suggested I could talk to her, but what on earth would I say? Sally also suggested she could talk to her…but again, saying what?

Is there something I can say without hurting her feelings? Frankly, the whole idea of talking about it feels like it would be hugely uncomfortable. Is there anything else I could do?

I supposed I could just stop going to any and all events that she might attend, but that means I will miss events I enjoy with our larger social group; not just Sally’s close friend group whom I am already avoiding.
posted by Lescha to Human Relations (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it's never escalated or changed, I wouldn't say anything. It would likely shame 'Rebecca' and make you and Sally appear mean-spirited. Like you said, she might not even realize how she's coming off to others. If Sally is bothered, then I think she could easily say ask Rebecca to ease up on the affection with her partner, or even "hey, I'm here too, where's my hug, friend?"

And even though you both like to mingle at gatherings, maybe make a point of boomeranging back to each other regularly to exchange touches, compliments, share your plate, be appropriately affectionate, etc. Often people stop doing that sort of thing after they've been together a few years or more. They're nice visual cues to others around you that you are truly together.
posted by headnsouth at 7:45 AM on June 23, 2016 [15 favorites]

"I supposed I could just stop going to any and all events that she might attend, but that means I will miss events I enjoy with our larger social group; not just Sally’s close friend group whom I am already avoiding."

That's the nuclear option! You're in your 30s and 40s. :P You should be able to address this.

The next time she gets touchy, ask her if you can talk to her. Then go to another room and gently let her know she's making you uncomfortable. She's not a bad person, she's not being a huge creep, but the attention is unwarranted. Be firm and be kind.

Even if it turns out she isn't crushing (doubtful) it's ok.. If she's somewhat mature, she will stop her behavior and learn something from this. If she is crushing and admits it, let her know you want some space for a while and you're not interested.

I've done this before in many situations and it has worked, even to guys in their early 20s! Not that it wasn't awkward after, and maybe they had unfavourable comments and thoughts about me, but people get the hint. If you're gentle it most probably won't turn into drama, and either way people have noticed!So, you got people on your side. Just be calm about it and firm.

Ps. if you're uncomfortable and it's making you enjoy your social life less, i think it's warranted to bring up something potentially embarassing to rebecca. I mean, if I were Rebecca I would want to know.
posted by rhythm_queen at 7:45 AM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Something I've learned as I've got older that a crush isn't always the tip of an iceberg of romantic feelings, it can also be a message from my brain that starts off "this person is super cool! I would so like to be their friend/earn their respect at work/create a piece of art with them" and ends up getting scrambled somehow along the neural pathways and ends up "aaargh they're so cool I need to talk to them a lot and be in their orbit omg fave person hearts in my eyes".

So I mean, by all means set your boundaries with this woman - if she's making you or your partner uncomfortable, a gentle chat might be warranted. But be gentle, and if you and your partner are up for it, a really kind thing to do would be to give her the time to allow her crush to develop in her mind until she can express her feelings of admiration for you in a more mature way.
posted by greenish at 7:54 AM on June 23, 2016 [31 favorites]

Right now, it's still in the realm of possible deniability. If she crosses boundaries, then sure, you can say something. She might not even realize that she's doing it.

I can see all kinds of awkwardness here if you do say something. Several scenarios:

1) She knows she has a crush on you, and is purposefully showing it at the cost of Sally's feelings. If you confront her, she will deny it, and it will be awkward.

2) She knows she has a crush on you, but out of respect for Sally, she hides it (or thinks she's hiding it). If you confront her, she will be mortified, and it will be awkward.

3) She doesn't know she has a crush on you (consciously). If you confront her, she will be mortified, confused, upset, and it will be awkward.

4) She doesn't have a crush on you. She just likes your friendship and thinks you're cool. If you confront her, she will be mortified, confused, upset, and it will be awkward. Especially when she purposefully distances herself from you in order to prove that she doesn't like you.

So, don't confront her. Just play it down, deflect her attentions. If anyone brings it up, deflect. Say, with much bravado and overstatement, "Yeah, that's cos I'm totally an awesome catch, Sally is SO lucky to have me. How can any woman not like me? Right Sally?" Nudge nudge poke poke.

Hopefully this is temporary.
posted by moiraine at 8:00 AM on June 23, 2016 [17 favorites]

I wouldn't talk to her about it because those kinds of conversations, even if they're rife with conflict, are markers of intimacy. My colleagues, acquaintances, and the person who bags my groceries and I do not, for example, discuss how we feel about each other and what the tenor of our interactions should be.

I think that the conversation you should have is with Sally about why this person's crush feels like a threat to your relationship and what kinds of things you and Sally need to say to each other and do for each other to make sure you both feel secure and confident in your relationship.
posted by pinkacademic at 8:05 AM on June 23, 2016 [22 favorites]

Is there something I can say without hurting her feelings? Frankly, the whole idea of talking about it feels like it would be hugely uncomfortable. Is there anything else I could do?

Well here's the thing... right now she makes you uncomfortable. And you are concerned about making her uncomfortable, which is nice and considerate but also sort of reads as putting your own (valid, legit) feelings aside to not put her in an awkward position because of her actions. So I am definitely one of those people who is like "Hey you feel what you feel, feelings are okay to have" but if her feelings are slopping over into actions that are making you feel awkward and making your partner feel awkward, enough so you're avoiding these situations, then if it were me, I'd say something. Because you are friends. Because the "special dish just for you" stuff takes this from the realm of "Oh she just has a connection with you" to "Is actively planning public displays of this connection in a way that is noticeable and puts you in a weird position"

So if it were me, I'd skip the word crush and just basically say (maybe after an event where there have been more than one or two of these incidents) and be like "Hey Rebecca, I'm not sure if you've noticed this but you're being a little intense with me and I'd appreciate if you could dial it back some" Make it clear that this isn't you opening up some sort of you+her conversation about feelings moving forward, but say something once and then feel okay being actively less connected with her, like pull yourself away from conversations, don't eat special food she's made you, make hugs very pro forma.

It's likely she's just excited, enthusiastic and feels a connection to you. But it's also worth being mindful that she could have some idea in her head about the relationship the two of you have that is not accurate and possibly an issue.
posted by jessamyn at 8:10 AM on June 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

You have a right to not be touched if it makes you feel uncomfortable. You have a right to deflect or exit a conversation if it makes you feel uncomfortable. This isn't a child you're dealing with. I wouldn't bring up the crush aspect, but I would darn well nuke to the ground the unwanted attention that makes you uncomfortable and impacts your social life to the point where you're considering not attending friend events anymore!

"Rebecca, can you not hug me? (hug me so tightly?) It's making me uncomfortable. Thanks." You and Sally should make a pact that if Rebecca starts to lock onto you, you either move toward Sally or Sally moves toward you and now the 1:1 conversation becomes a group one.
posted by kimberussell at 8:12 AM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

You might be able to put a chill on this by not matching her level of enthusiasm in your responses to her, maintaining a good physical distance (actually taking a step back if you have to), and keeping your end of any conversation brief and not too personal or demonstrative, or even that reciprocal (e.g. "How was your weekend?" "Good thanks, did some yard work. [longish pause] You?"). Don't smile a whole lot (half smile instead). Be merely polite, not too warm. At the same time that you follow headnsouth's suggestions of regularly touching, looking at, and checking in with your partner. And interact normally with other friends. Next time she mauls you, go, "whoa, easy there" and/or respond with a limp and brief pat.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:15 AM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't say anything, try to set boundaries with your actions. Pull back more obviously, don't wave across the room, pull back a bit from the hug, interrupt her to talk about your girlfriend (or direct everything back to the two of you), she should get the hint that it's too much.

If this has been going on for 3 years, and she talks to your girlfriend about you, she probably has a crush but knows nothing's going to happen and still just really thinks you're great. Overall it sounds like she's treating you like a close friend or trying to get close to you, you don't feel like she's a close friend to you, so try to make it clear that you don't see her as more than an acquaintance.
posted by lafemma at 8:16 AM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I disagree that she's totally innocent and doing all of this unknowingly. Come on. Cooking a special dinner is not something you do accidentally because you're just so gosh darn charmingly over-excited. This is a grown women we're talking about, not a 14 year old with a crush.

My read on this is that she is consciously, knowingly disrespecting your relationship. She has chosen to act "as if" your relationship is not serious or your partner is not there. She has decided that she is going to interact with you as if you were a single person or a person who is in an unserious relationship that will end, because she enjoys it and she's ignoring obstacles to getting what she wants.

I think you don't actually need to talk to her at all. I think you just need to ramp up the PDA and seriousness of your current relationship by like 1000%. All the time, in your face, I LOVE THIS WOMAN gaggingly sweet, cloying stuff. Just rub it in her face over and over until she gets it. Whatever you're doing that you think is enough, multiply it by 1000. Literally only talk about your partner in conversation with Rebecca. Like, whatever she says, relate it to your partner. Seriously. Every single sentence.
posted by quincunx at 8:36 AM on June 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

A good rule is that whatever Rebecca does publicly to you, you do publicly to Sally immediately, and even bigger and more romantic.

Rebecca cooks you dinner? You cook Sally special dinner publicly.

Rebecca hugs you tight? Immediately walk over to Sally and hold her for like one full minute.

Rebecca laughs at your joke? Laugh at Sally's joke harder. Double over laughing.

You get it. Other people should NOT be seeing more intimate moments between you and Rebecca and commenting on them. That shouldn't be the impression in their mind.
posted by quincunx at 8:50 AM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ok - this advice might seem passive aggressive or cowardly, but I wonder if in this particular circumstance it might be the best route? (At the moment I think something needs to be said, but you don't want to crush Sally who probably has only good intentions)

Since one of my friends joked that it seems "there is a little crush happening.", is there any way you might consider having your friend Speak to Sally?

Perhaps in a very gentle, very kind way they could take Sally aside and say that they've noticed a hug that went on a bit long or a lingering look that nobody else was meant to see, and that perhaps Sally could dial it back a bit?

It's certainly not ideal but it might give Sally an idea that other people have started to notice her over-zealous behavior towards you and indicate that she might be crossing some boundaries.
posted by JenThePro at 9:20 AM on June 23, 2016 [14 favorites]

Oh wow, awkward. I probably wouldn't say anything, but in my head, I'd decide that when she does inappropriate things or makes me uncomfortable, I'd use that as a signal to end the mingling with her. After awhile, she might get a sense of how to keep it appropriate.
posted by salvia at 9:42 AM on June 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have a way I act for people I like and another way for people who I don't want to engage for some reason. I have recently dealt, for example, with the husband of a friend seeming too friendly, and I wanted to starve that idea while maintaining ties. If Sally is sensitive to how you act toward her--very likely--she will pick up on it and either ramp it up (allowing you to confront) or pull back from hurt. Either way it is a gentle approach that keeps you socially appropriate.

I think of how I act when I really don't want to engage someone. The ideas I hold in my mind are that the person is boring, rude, hurtful, etc. I basically do the opposite of what I'd do to build a relationship. Some things I do:

I don't initiate greeting when I enter the space. I find something else to do or someone to talk to. If they greet me, I briefly greet back, then return to the very important conversation I'm having. If we wind up talking, I keep answers short, ask few questions, and politely excuse myself after a brief period.

I try to be polite, but not very warm. Available for emergencies, but not quite like a friend. If they say something untoward I'd respond as I would to a stranger--no benefit of the doubt. If they were to hug me I'd establish through my body (move away, arms up) it's not welcome--again, the same as if they were a stranger.

If she doesn't have as much to feed her idea that this relationship works for both of you, she may redirect herself.

If this doesn't work I'd escalate to just saying what I'm thinking in the moment, like, "I don't like it when you hug me that close!" "You've done too much for me--no, really, too much. I feel uncomfortable! We don't have that kind of relationship!" State your thoughts and let her respond. Don't talk about her feelings--just your boundaries. I'd say it in a very friendly way; it can let you both laugh it off while sending your message.

You could also try stating to everyone how you value your connection with Sally and only with Sally, with some words that sound general but are meant for R. Or ask R to support you in your relationship in some way, acting like of course she wouldn't want to do anything else. Like, "I miss Sally right now. There is nothing like your partner to soothe you after a hard day. Could you go find her for me?" If she offers to soothe, you have an opening to clearly state the facts of your relationship. "We only have a relationship as friends. I want my partner."

I'd escalate as needed by decreasing the smiles and upping the directness. It's not unfriendly to do this, especially if R isn't acting like a friend.
posted by ramenopres at 9:47 AM on June 23, 2016 [11 favorites]

Sally is jealous, because neither you nor Sally know what you don't know about Rebecca. She might be genuinely romantically interested in you. But I think her actions may be more platonic, because she doing these things in front of Sally, inviting risk. You clearly have no reason she could be capable of more.
You make regular statements of your relationship with Sally to Rebecca, but is Sally being as upfront in times when it would make a difference? Clearly, Rebecca has to be told, or asked. She may not be able to put into words her desire for a deeper friendship except by flirting with you. You could find an intermediary to warn the issue, offering Rebecca an opportunity to make her own decision first. If Sally is telling Rebecca anything, including lies you cannot stand, then it will be a good way to clear the air.
posted by parmanparman at 10:01 AM on June 23, 2016

If it were just me, I'd probably go with one of the more passive aggressive methods mentioned above (not responding with equal enthusiam, ignoring her to talk to someone else, etc.)

But Sally is wrapped up in this thing too, and while it seems that she's being understanding to you right now, I think that out of respect for Sally, you need to do something more active, even if it makes things awkward or hurts Rebecca's feelings.

I would go for the private conversation immediately after another incident of inappropriateness. Usually in situations like this, it's not great to bring up the 3rd party (i.e. "I don't want to date you b/c I have a boyfriend"), but maybe here it might make sense to mention how this makes Sally uncomfortable as well. Use your judgment though -- you don't want to imply that if it wasn't for Sally she'd be next in line.

Regardless, make it clear that you're not interested, and that you hope you can continue to be friends.

Whatever happens, I don't think that Sally having a "keep your grubby hands off of my lady" conversation with Rebecca could possibly end well (unless a good ending includes Sally leaving the friendship circle).
posted by sparklemotion at 10:03 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not going to thread sit -- but to followup on: "You clearly have no reason she could be capable of more."

She has never been untoward with me. But she has in the past been inappropriate (mutually inappropriate) with other coupled women. Obviously those women were stepping outside of their relationships -- something I would never do. But yes, I do think she could be capable of more....I think if I ever gave her a signal (which I 100% won't) I'm interested ... I think it would not be rebuffed.
posted by Lescha at 10:17 AM on June 23, 2016

Given that new information I would be firmer and clearer from the start. I agree with sparklemotion.

Script idea:

"I could be way off base here, but to respect you as well as me, I wanted to say: It feels at times like you have too intimate an interest in me. To make it clear, I don't have and never will have a romantic interest in you, regardless of whether Sally is in my life. I'm going to pull back from this friendship since it is too close for me now." If she denies it you can say, "Great! That's what I was hoping/thinking. Now we've cleared up any confusion. Glad you have no interest in me and thanks in advance for respecting my boundaries."
posted by ramenopres at 10:28 AM on June 23, 2016 [11 favorites]

At this point I would say something to her about it.

I've had crushes on obviously unavailable friends before. I've never made them special dishes I didn't make for others, or touch them in ways that made them uncomfortable and which their partners noticed. It is possible to be attracted to someone and not do this stuff. Rebecca is obviously incapable of acting normal about it, and there are only two real solutions: tell her to knock it off or blatantly shun her. Which might be hard if she's part of your general social circle.

So, yeah, you need to tell Rebecca to cut it out.

(Also, I have to say that, to me, whether Rebecca is "capable of more" is neither here nor there. It's inappropriate and it's making you uncomfortable. It needs to stop.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 AM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh dear! How awkward for everyone. The problem with crushes is that you control them, in fact the more inappropriate the crush the more it seems to sneak up on you. You CAN control how you behave when you have a crush on someone and it sounds like she is trying to control it by being ultra friendly and hoping that she is coming across as being magnanimous and friendly whilst actually coming across as a bit of a sleaze.

I think I would avoid being in the same place as her until she gets over it or meets someone!
posted by intensitymultiply at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2016

I sympathize a lot with her because I am affectionate and tend to engender this type of suspicion in coupled people. I find that suspicion insulting, inappropriate, and unwarranted given my complete lack of a history of participating in cheating, but...whatever. It is what it is.

You need to pull her aside and say "hey, it makes me uncomfortable to get special attention from you, could you tone it down a little bit?"

Just...communicate directly. And there really is no need to determine whether she does or doesn't have a crush or whatever. That is insulting and unnecessary. All you need to do is set the boundary.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

Also, don't say "it makes my girlfriend/partner uncomfortable" because if she is cheating-minded, that will encourage her. Just "this makes me uncomfortable."

Consider something like "I'm sure it's well-meaning" if you want, but I'd start with the firmer and more clear boundary first.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:15 AM on June 23, 2016

There is a wide range of advice here, and half of it is valid if X. The other half is valid if Y.

X being, if you really believe her behavior is unintentional, then by all means save her further embarrassment by having a casual nonaccusatory chat. Or having another friend do so. If this is the case, please do not play games or behave passive aggressively to someone whose intentions are good. That's super sad for them.

If it's Y and she's a cheating cheater who cheats, and you are seeing a repeat pattern start to rev up, then yeah, ghost. She isn't a friend, she doesn't care about your relationship.

If you mix the two up, you'll end up either hurting a kind person who does not know she's crushing, or you'll accidentally encourage her to put the moves on ya.

I don't at all intend to say you owe her friendship if you determine she isn't evil. But if she isn't malicious, you do owe her courtesy and kindness.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 12:44 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised so many people are saying you have to confront someone about a suspicion that they have a crush on you? I don't see that there's been an incident where this person crossed a line. It sounds like this person might just be effusively friendly toward you, right?

Putting myself in this situation, I know I have friends with whom I have more interest in the friendship than the other party--even if only a little. These relationships are platonic, but (for instance) John is really into this German band that I love and I don't know anyone else who listens to them. So I get really excited when I see John and we can nerd out about music! If John ever came up to me and said, ""I could be way off base here, but to respect you as well as me, I wanted to say: It feels at times like you have too intimate an interest in me. To make it clear, I don't have and never will have a romantic interest in you..." I would, um, never fucking talk to John again. I would tell our mutual friends that John said the weirdest thing I've ever heard without provocation.

If that's the goal, then go for it. Otherwise, maybe just set the tone you want with this person and leave it at that. It's fine to tell someone you're not a hugger instead of telling them you'll never be romantically into them based on an assumption they're into you.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:07 PM on June 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

I read this question and the responses and thought exactly the same thing as late afternoon dreaming hotel right up to the telling all our mutual friends what a weird thing happened. I agree with every word of that post--this really seems like a situation in which pulling back and setting the tone of the interaction is appropriate.
posted by tiger tiger at 1:21 PM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've been going back and forth between the confront option vs. the disengage/act cordial option, and I have to say, I think conscripting a willing friend to intervene would be the least painful way to go here. I know this goes against the self-reliant, use-your-words methodology, but it allows Rebecca to save face and keeps you out of a fraught, side-room encounter that would be uncomfortable for both parties.

So yeah, I would just have a friend take Rebecca aside with some observations about her behavior, and the advice to maybe be less schmoopy lest people get the wrong idea. That way Rebecca can adjust privately without (as much) mortification. It'll keep the temperature of the situation low and it assumes good faith unless the behavior continues or escalates, in which case I would advise something more confrontational.
posted by delight at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised so many people are saying you have to confront someone about a suspicion that they have a crush on you?

The confrontation is necessary because Rebecca is making OP uncomfortable. But, internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 was right that it would be better to couch it in the behaviour, and not assumptions about what's causing the behaviour. But that's a tough line to walk because it's hard to describe what's wrong with the behaviour without saying something like "you do these things that make me think that you're into me."

I wish OP luck. I have been the Sally in this situation and the only way we got rid of Rebecca is because the object of affection didn't really like Rebecca either so we both just cut her off. Which was the right decision but I still feel badly about it.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:09 PM on June 23, 2016

I agree with sparklemotion & internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 re: approach & script.

Here's the thing: you know, and Sally knows, and Rebecca knows that Rebecca has on at least one occasion participated in what amounts to cheating with coupled-up women. Which you are - a coupled-up woman. And she's at the very least paying you special attention.

I'm sure the special attention is flattering (I certainly would find it flattering), and perhaps Rebecca means well (I certainly have friends of whom I am especially fond), but if I were Sally and my partner was receiving this special attention from a person who was known to have engaged in partnership-transgressing behavior in the past I would not feel comfortable at all with you continuing to bask in that attention without having a conversation with her, honestly. Ill intentions or not, this is someone who has shown themselves to be capable of crossing lines (and by the sounds of it, more than once).

Sally has suggested that you speak with Rebecca, and that is both a kind way (toward Rebecca) and a respectful way (toward Sally) of handling it.
posted by pammeke at 2:23 PM on June 23, 2016

I have to admit, I think that some of the advice in this thread is... damn weird.

Anyway, my anecdote is that I was in a similar situation right down to the "Pshaw, X got to you first!" Avoidance didn't seem to mitigate it - if anything, it seemed more inflamed. Eventually, in response to a particular effusive/affectionate action, I did say something like "hey, you're making me a bit uncomfortable," and it did stop the onslaught of attention. Rather than just dialing it down a notch though, Rebecca went in the complete opposite direction of avoiding me entirely. This was actually more awkward and uncomfortable for me, and had a negative impact on the social group, but YMMV.

In hindsight, I think I would have tried to create more distance with my own behavior/responses first, before escalating to using my words.
posted by sm1tten at 2:32 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

It sounds like this person might just be effusively friendly toward you, right?

Nope, not with a special dinner... I know and have experienced what internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 is talking about, but this person is making an effort evident enough that people have noticed, including (and not limited to) the partner. Plus there's the history outlined in the update. She's kind of staying within the lines for the sake of plausible deniability (though it seems it's obvious to everyone).

I think, talk about it if she makes a move any bolder than she has. Otherwise, using nonverbal communication to establish boundaries, as stoneweaver described, will (should!) send the message without embarrassing anyone. (Including you - because she is staying within the lines, and she could easily turn it on you [eg "what are you talking about, I was just being nice? You must be pretty ____ to make that assumption"] and made a big stink about it, if she's inclined. Or, if she's - I don't know, super confident - she might up the ante and go, "yeah actually, I've had that thought, what do you think?". Which would give you the opportunity to turn her down but may also feel bad and threatening and might muck things up in the wider circle. (But maybe not, if people are kind of comfortable with stepping out on each other and still hanging out.)

It's just easier to cool it with her altogether.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2016

In my experience:
(a) the only way someone gets over a crush on you is for you to 100% avoid them. But you're not willing to go nuclear, so.
(b) This whole thing has semi-plausible deniability going on. I don't know if this is different with lesbians, but with dudes, if you try to confront them about this sort of thing they can be all, "What are you talking about? I've never hit on you. *scoff* Why would I ever like you in a billion years, bitch?" I can't imagine that having a super awkward conversation about this topic would make things any less awkward than they are now, and could definitely make it MORE socially awkward. Putting her on the spot is going to be hellish and god only knows how she's going to react.

I think I'm inclined to advise that you avoid her as much as possible. On the occasions when you're going to be around her in a group setting (I'd advise cutting down on your big social group activities), do what others said and speak to her as little as possible, be coolly polite, do the best you can to not fuel her fire. If she acts inappropriately, leave. Stuff like that. I don't think that'll 100% solve the situation, but at least you're not spending as much time in the super awkwardness.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:43 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I were Sally, I'd let you use me as the bad guy. I'm a little conflict avoidant and it would be a challenge for me to tell someone "you're being too intimate with me and it's making me feel awkward". I would find it easier to bring it up in the context of "you know, sometimes when you do those special things like making me dinner, it makes Sally kind of upset. I know you don't mean anything untoward by it, of course, because we're just friends and as you well know, I'm completely committed to my relationship with Sally! So in the future, please, I'd prefer if you didn't single me out that way."

If you used this strategy, however, you have to make sure to include the bit about "our relationship = completely platonic, Me and Sally = rock solid commitment" because otherwise it could come off as "Sally doesn't approve of our special friendship.... [implication that you enjoy the attention]...."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:08 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another option is to tell Rebecca that people have made comments about something going on between the two of you and, out of respect for Sally & your relationship with her, you want your behavior to make it clear that your connection is completely platonic. Ask her if she could please help you out here and dial back her friendliness. I think this is a genuine but gentle way to address the elephant in the room. The phrase "something going on between the two of you" is vague enough and prevents this from coming across like Rebecca is this wildly inappropriate person or the villain. It also means that Sally isn't painted as a possessive or jealous partner if the conversation stems from comments made by an ambiguous group of people. Also, you and Rebecca now become a team in correcting public perception. It's possible this conversation might prompt her to do something undeniably untoward, but at least that provides you with something concrete to address.

For the record, while it's possible this is a romantic crush, it's equally likely that she just thinks you rock and wants to be good friends with you. I don't find the making of a special dish or her exuberance as suspicious as most people seem to here. I'm also a firm believer in trusting your instincts, however, so finding a way to bring it up like it's a public perception problem and not a flaw of Rebecca's gives her a graceful way to modify her behavior and makes it perfectly clear what your boundaries are. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 10:57 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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