strategies for distancing/dealing with my friend who I have a crush on
November 21, 2016 11:00 PM   Subscribe

I have a crush on a friend who is in a relationship. Most recently she invited herself to be my +1 to a holiday party. I wish there were a way out of this but either way I'm trying to figure out strategies to remain friends while causing myself less anxiety.

I've written about her before here. The responses really helped and I was happy with my progress. Both fortunately and unfortunately I moved in the last few months and now live in the same city as her. Most recently she is very excited about an upcoming holiday party and requested to be my +1. It feels weird as in her boyfriend's shoes I can't imagine I'd be happy about it. This has prompted me to realize that I'm dealing with a decent amount of stress because of my interactions with her and I should think of concrete ways to reduce this.

Relevant details are that I have only one friend group out here which she is an active part of. She is a very good friend and I would be surprised if completely distancing myself was ever my preferred solution. Unfortunately, she recently confided in me that she is questioning her relationship with her longterm boyfriend. I've avoided hanging out since then when I can. But she often texts me to hang out and knows I'm doing nothing. I don't want to go overboard and make her feel bad so we've still hung out a decent amount, just not as much 1on1.

She gets a little flirty when she's drunk and even though I know there's nothing going on it's uncomfortable. Another friend unprompted commented on her being flirty while drunk with him. It's come up a few times that if people didn't know any better they would think we're dating. I laugh this off and have deliberately not told/denied to anyone that I have a crush on her. My best guess is still that she has no idea I'm interested. I see her as very kind and mature and feel like if she realized I wouldn't have been the first person she told about her difficulties with her boyfriend.

So in the short term I need to figure out what to do about this holiday party, but I don't see a way out without being mean. So I will do my best to have fun and think it'll be a good time at the end of the day. Longer term though I've started more actively trying out dating apps and would like to hear techniques for hanging out less without hurting anyone's feelings and ideally without her even realizing that anything is going on. Saying I'm busy with work seems like the best bet in that respect and then just avoid 1on1 hangouts until at the very least she is on better terms with her boyfriend. Any other specific ideas or any larger words of wisdom will be much appreciated.
posted by aaabbbccc to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, a few questions:

Is this a party that only you are invited to? How did she find out about it? Because if it's in your friend group, I have no idea why she would want to be your date, and if it's a party only you are invited to, why did you tell her about it?

She does not sound "very kind and mature." She sounds like someone who has trouble respecting boundaries (assuming you've set the boundaries of, "hey, this makes me feel kind of uncomfortable.") And if you can't stet those boundaries? She's probably not really a friend.

If it were me, I'd either say that you didn't get a +1 because you're not in a relationship, or invite someone else, especially if you don't feel like you can tell her no. But anyone who you feel unable to set a boundary with and who makes you feel uncomfortable you should feel okay about being less close to.
posted by superlibby at 11:15 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Ah sorry it's a company holiday party and I'm only allowed to bring one person. I've never made it clear in any way that any of this makes me uncomfortable because in my mind that would require emptying a whole bag of worms. Maybe there is a way to communicate that tactfully though.
posted by aaabbbccc at 11:18 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the way to communicate it tactfully is to say, "Hey, I know you don't mean anything when you say XYZ or do ABC, but it makes me feel uncomfortable, especially because you have a boyfriend." If she's a decent friend, she'll back off. The party is actually a perfect opportunity for that - you can say, "Hey, I know you didn't ask to be my +1 in a romantic way, but bringing you as my date to the holiday party when you have a boyfriend makes me uncomfortable. I know you understand - I'm going to go solo." And if she tries to argue with you about it, hold that boundary.
posted by superlibby at 11:27 PM on November 21, 2016 [17 favorites]

Anybody else is a better idea than this. Her boyfriend shouldn't be happy about this? You already aren't. Tinder or OKCupid, pronto. Like tonight.

If it's the kind of holiday party that people scheme to get in on, there are many attractive and interesting ladies who would be perfectly happy to accompany you for a fine evening of entertainment, fine food, camaraderie, and not screaming inside.

She knows you're sweet on her. I also think this is a case of Ask Culture.
posted by rhizome at 11:45 PM on November 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

One way to quickly dissolve a crush is to realize something about your crush that you wouldn't like if YOU were dating them.

If you were her boyfriend, and she was maybe ambiguous about your relationship, would you want her to be flirty/being a +1/texting/talking about your relationship in a negative way/etc with another dude? I doubt it since you said you would feel weird about the +1 party issue if you were in her boyfriend's shoes.

Would you want to date someone who does that to her boyfriend? Probably not.
And don't expect that if you dated her that your relationship would be magically different. People show you who they are. If she wanted to treat her partners better, she would.

So maybe now that's worn off the crush a bit. But I agree you should date other people and find other friend groups. Stop texting her back right away (or at all). If she starts getting flirty - WALK AWAY! Pretend to get a phone call. Whatevs. If she starts talking about her relationship say, "I'm sorry to hear that but I don't think I'm a person to discuss this with." and stop the conversation. You have agency in this. Stop worrying so much about hurting her feelings. I mean, don't be an asshole, but take care of yourself first.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:57 PM on November 21, 2016 [19 favorites]

Who invites themselves as another man's date to a party when they already have a boyfriend?! Tell her it's inappropriate and you have too much respect for her boyfriend. Then tell her you're dating and plan to bring someone else. Then jump on Tinder and make it happen. That should nip it in the bud. And I agree, she absolutely knows you're into her and she loves it. She's not a great girlfriend and arguably not a great friend either. Both of these things should be turn offs.
posted by Jubey at 1:30 AM on November 22, 2016 [23 favorites]

You say that you're “trying to convince myself I like her solely as a friend as it could drive me crazy if I'm wrong”. Why would it drive you crazy? You're afraid of being in love with someone who has a boyfriend? It's not the end of the world. Trying to convince yourself that you don't have a crush is never going to work. Feelings don't change just because they're inconvenient.

She probably doesn't want to hang out with you when she is on good terms with her boyfriend. Does she call intermittently? In that case, the gaps when she doesn't call you are when things are going well and she doesn't want anything from you.

Have you met the guy? Why do you care what he thinks of you spending time with her? Fair enough that you're empathizing with a stranger, but their relationship might be ending anyway, so why don't you let him be concerned for his relationship while you focus on your life?

Finally, I get the impression that you're giving your secretiveness too much credit. She can probably tell you have some feelings for her.

Given that, ask yourself what you really want. Do you want her, or someone else? You need to explore your feelings here because these walls of text suggest that you want her, whereas you insist that you're trying to convince yourself that you don't. If you want her, go after her. A boyfriend is not a husband. She's opened the door for you; now you need to make a decision.

I don't understand your fear of "emptying a whole bag of worms". Is this a fear of confrontation or difficult conversations? It's not that hard. If anyone is going to be uncomfortable in this conversation, it's her. Why would you be uncomfortable?

If you want to be with her, why don't you just say that you don't want to hang out one-on-one while she's in a relationship? Tell her that your feelings for her are making it hard to meet other people. You can make her accept that no matter what, and maybe she'll leave the boyfriend. If not, there will be clarity, and your friendship will recover if you're both mature enough.

If you decide she's not worth the trouble to date, then you can still take her as your +1. It's a lot easier to meet new people when they see how you interact with your friends — and even easier when your "friends" have little crushes on you. Just make sure you keep good boundaries (or else you're wasting everyone's time). If anyone asks who she is, simply say that she's just a friend. Don't only say "she has a boyfriend" or else it sounds like you're waiting for her relationship to end.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:12 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

You're making this so complicated and I don't understand why. She knows you're interested and she's flirting with you. It doesn't mean she's interested necessarily - there are plenty of people who (particularly when their actual romantic relationship is rocky) will flirt in order to feed their vanity, without any actual interest - but if other people are noticing it, then it's apparent enough that it's reasonable to clarify things. "Phyllis, are you thinking this ought to be a DATE date?" If she says no, then you can tell her you'd rather go stag or find yourself someone to go with. If she says yes, you can ask "what about Fabio" or whatever and decide what you want. She's not married - she gets to move on from Fabio if she wants to.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:26 AM on November 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I think it's kinda shitty of her that she invited herself to your company party. Tell her she can't be your plus-one because you already have a date, find a date, and think very hard about why you have a crush on a person who is so rude.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:40 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been in a similar situation before. I had a crush on a friend who had a girlfriend, but he was very flirty with me (a gay man). I was like you, I didn't set boundaries. I did this because I was glad to have him flirt with me. Even though it usually ended up hurting, even though I knew the chances of us getting together were slim to none, even though I knew him toying with my emotions for his own ego, regardless of how it affected me or his girlfriend, showed his true character. It was similar to an addiction. Every flirtatious remark, every smile, every love kernel (watch Love Kernels from Crazy Ex Girlfriend) brought me back in and staved off the withdrawals. That empty feeling of not having him in my life.

There's no happy ending with this friend. You need to make a clean break so you can move on with your life. Invest your time and energy into something or someone that will make you happy. Start by canceling your plans with her for this party. It's not mean, you're just scared to upset her, and scared that you'll lose her.
posted by blackzinfandel at 5:56 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

IMHO, most times when there's a situation where there's a friendship but one person is harboring a serious crush the other one doesn't know about or does not take care with, its not really a friend dynamic anymore. friend+unrequited love isn't really a thing, i think, it's a complicated overwhelming and toxic dynamic.
posted by softlord at 7:52 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's what I'm doing: I've started to qualify my behavior around a certain untenable crush that I have as a little codependent. My impulses and desires to connect with her, while motivated out of what I feel is love and a desire for shared platonic intimacy, always leave me feeling a bit high and dry. I'm always kind of doing some sort of emotional "waiting upon," desiring, or desiring-for-validation from her. It's not such a healthy-feeling pattern; I do recognize this. She seems to have some power of hold on me. (I mean, I just noticed that my motivation up there is "love," instead of "care," so yeah...! Definitely an off-base space to be in.)

Our situations are likely different, yet I think they work with similar dynamics. And I'm starting to realize that being able to label and acknowledge the unhealthy parts of my attitude that are within my control, are ultimately my ticket to dealing with them in a more appropriate manner. You have to say it out-loud to yourself to really take ownership of this issue and why it bothers you: Your care and appreciation should not have to be at a crossroads with making peace with yourself. Don't take a blasé or compromised attitude to your friendship: just keep your interactions to be of known value. Set good boundaries for yourself. Notice when it's overboard. Derive pleasure from doing things that are qualitatively individuated, and separate from her.

I mean, I'd like to develop into being better friends with this person, personally speaking: I don't want to break up as friends! And since I notice this is mostly something on my end, I'm going to do my best to work on myself, first, and then go from there. With regards to the party, I think it's all about your attitude going into it. You seem to be looking at this as such a challenge, and I wonder if that's not making it bigger than it needs to be. This plate of beans is going to stay warm if you hang onto it so hard.
posted by a good beginning at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic, but I'm seeing "Jim and Pam from The Office" here.

She asked to be your date. She said she was having doubts about her boyfriend.

Would it hurt to tell her you think you might have feelings for her, and see how she reacts? If she doesn't seem enthused, just back off and say it's just a little crush. Either way, you'll know for sure.
posted by LauraJ at 11:01 AM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

To quote Grandpa Simpson: "The fish just jumped into your boat, all you have to do is wack her with an oar"
posted by 445supermag at 12:18 PM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

You're into her. Just be like "yeah I don't want to invite you because I have feelings for you and so I would rather keep things friendly unless and until your situation with your boyfriend is resolved. Sorry!"
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:27 PM on November 22, 2016

I want to clarify a few things just in case my phrasings are affecting the answers. I mentioned the holiday party and I believe she invited herself but it didn't feel rude at all as if anything it was rude of me to bring it up and not invite her. She also invited herself to my friend's holiday party but he forgot and is taking my roommate. His is unfortunately the same night as otherwise I would 100% invite him instead. Going to the holiday party with her is definitely preferable to going alone or with a stranger. Despite your answers I still would want to go with her except for the fact that some of you point out that it would be disrespectful to her boyfriend.

I'm friendly with her boyfriend, I've stayed over at their place many times. Flirty has stronger connotations than what I intended. Handsy is probably a better word. I frequently initiate texting and it seems like it would cause much more drama and be more stressful for me in the short and long run to cut ties in anything more serious than generally avoiding 1on1 hangouts. She is a great friend and listener and I'd much rather tolerate my feelings then lose that friendship. I believe I was the first person (and probably only person) she told about her relationship problems as she had some excuse for each of her other close friends as to why she couldn't tell them. I was mostly silent while she was telling me this. At some point she said "if this is uncomfortable for you I can stop talking about it". Being a good friend is more important to me than my slight or moderate discomfort with my feelings so I said, "I can't give you any advice but I'm happy to listen" and encouraged her to speak to an older person she is close to who may have more useful life advice (she did and said they had helpful advice but they seem to think her relationship problems are more serious than she does).

My theory is that she didn't realize until having that conversation and since then has maybe started to understand what is going on. She invited herself to the holiday party before that conversation and it hasn't come up since. I've also felt just a little bit of awkwardness sometimes from her so its possible that she feels guilty or it just dawned on her that I have a crush on her and that distance is good. Maybe I'm in denial but I feel that the answers here are assuming a bit more ill will on her part than I am willing to believe. But I did very much appreciate the answer that pointed out that she will exhibit the same behaviors if I date her which is doing a very nice job of dampening the crush. I'm slowly processing these answers and they are opening my eyes a little bit but definitely not the answers I was expecting.
posted by aaabbbccc at 2:22 PM on November 22, 2016

Honestly, unless I'm misunderstanding your use of the term, handsy seems worse than flirty. Is it stuff like putting her hand on your leg or her hand on yours?

Also, I feel like she wouldn't ask you if you felt uncomfortable hearing about her relationship woes unless she knew you had a crush on her. Why else would she think you could feel uncomfortable?
posted by blackzinfandel at 3:33 PM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

"I'm sorry, friend, but I'd like to bring someone available to this one. I am sure you understand." Then find someone available and do that!

I am getting a serious vibe that she is flirting with you (and others) and is always on the brink of breaking up with her long-distance bf and is having the time of her life with it all. This way leads to drama. Go another way. Limit contact until you don't have feelings. I don't think you have to tell her why.
posted by juliplease at 3:35 PM on November 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

It doesn't take ill will on her part. People in unhappy relationships often seek out validation in the form of flirting with people they know are into them. It's subconscious, usually, because most people are not sociopaths.
posted by radicalawyer at 8:32 PM on November 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's been a while but in case anyone is curious out there I wanted to post an update. I handled this with a mix of incredible immaturity and I like to think some maturity :p I liked what @superlibby had to say and so forced myself to try and use those exact words. Unfortunately, I wanted to have my cake and eat it. Meaning I really didn't want to bail since she wanted to go, but also wanted to make sure it wasn't a date. So even though the convo started and she immediately gave me a way out saying, "it's okay if you don't want me to go. I'll still be your friend". BAMN easy out, don't have to deal with any drama, just have to grow up and find someone else to go with. Instead I say, "No I want you to come I just feel weird about it, and I just want you to reassure me that it's not weird." With some hemming and hawwing and awkward jokes in between I ended up saying something along the lines of, "Just ask bf Fabio and if he's cool with it then I'm cool with it".

Next day she texts Fabio is cool with it. Great! Problem solved! I tell her I've figured out I can probably sneak a third person in too and so she invites a friend of hers and the three of us go. It's a great time! She gets pretty drunk and asks me if I'm flirting with her friend which I found pretty amusing. Very very happy with the way it played out :)

Fast forward to next weekend and I'm at a party and end up chatting with bf Fabio. I'm not socially competent enough, nor do I trust my labels enough, to confidently say that we were pretending to be nice to each other. But, we had a kind of awkward convo where he made jokes about how I required his approval as a chaperone and I made a joke like haha can never be too careful and then he laughed about how she was actually relatively mad about the whole thing and that I made her ask him as she didn't see why she should have to get anyone's permission.

So, nothing too crazy but it made me realize that it's kind of weird that I made her get his approval as if I had no romantic interest in her the whole thing would be a non-issue. In hindsight don't know if that was the best move but at the very least it'll be good for him to be more aware of it as I think I would be happy if they were forced to have a conversation about it as I feel like this is not a sustainable situation. Either, their relationship needs to improve or my friendship with her needs to be lessened. All in all, this chapter ended very happily and I'm in a pretty good state about my friendship with her right now, but the saga continues :)
posted by aaabbbccc at 11:49 PM on January 2, 2017

In case anyone reads this in the future I wanted to update the thread with some good news :) She broke up with Fabio 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 Fabio. 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 aaabbbccc at 12:30 AM on June 14, 2017

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