Getting over a crush: COVID style
November 13, 2020 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Because of pandemic-circumstances, an acquaintance became my best friend and the sole other member of my pod this year (i.e. the only person I eat meals with, spend time indoors, see and talk to the most, etc). I developed romantic feelings; they didn't. Now what?

I'm in my late 30s and unhappily single. There's no particular reason that I never got married; I've had plenty of relationships, was active on online dating, did activities, met friends of friends, etc, but have just never had a relationship that became especially serious (never dated for more than a year or so and never cohabitated). I do have a demanding job that has required more than a few big moves over the years that coincided with relationships ending, but even then, I think there were bigger problems than just the distance. I have a good life with friends, family, and a meaningful career, but I think I need a partner to feel fulfilled in life (and don't think there's anything wrong with that).

Anyway, my friend and I were both single at the outset of the pandemic. While most of our friends were hunkering down with partners and kids, we gradually got closer with each other and decided to formally enter a pod so we could safely do things together indoors. After spending all this time together, which was honestly a bright spot in an otherwise shitty year, I developed romantic feelings for them. It seemed like my feelings were reciprocated, so I brought it up explicitly, but I was wrong.

My friend was nothing but gracious and supportive (even apologetic) but nonetheless I'm now in a situation where my main source of human interaction has rejected me romantically. I've always been someone who only gets over relationships or even crushes by going no contact and moving on to someone else... neither of which seem possible now. I don't want to go no-contact and lose my pod-mate, even if they don't want to be in a romantic relationship. Likewise, I have tried to do pandemic-friendly dating (apps, mostly) and it's been a total dead end. Even over the summer when it was feasible to ultimately meet up safely outdoors everyone flaked on me. Now it just feels like I'd be completely wasting my time.

I know it isn't so, but it feels like I've been rejected by the only other person on earth.

Mentally, emotionally, practically: how do I move on from this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This brings to mind the old saying, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Perhaps your, "I think I need a partner to feel fulfilled in life" along with the fact that you currently have no access to other potential partners (these are the hammer) has made your friend look like a nail. If you had access to a wide variety of options, I wonder if this person would still hold the same level of appeal - this is something to think about. Also, this person didn't fully reject you; they were gracious and supportive, and it sounds as though they would like to continue with the non-romantic friendship. There is value in that.
posted by SageTrail at 7:33 AM on November 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

I am dealing with a very similar situationship maybe complicated even more by the fact he's been my best friend for 18 years. What has helped me was realizing my intense feelings were limerant and once he told me definitively that he was not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with me the feel good feelings popped. At that point I grieved... like whoa. I gave myself a few days to fully feel my feelings of loss.

Like you, I would normally go no contact for a while but that seemed way too punitive to me, in these times I need someone to be physically close to. So, after a couple days we started hanging out again but I had to keep reminding myself in no uncertain terms that we were just friends. He was very supportive and we had occasional "feelings talks" where he just listened to how I was feeling, which was mostly sad and disappointed. It's been about 5 months since we had that initial conversation and I feel a lot better. For me, there was no way that I was willing to let our relationship go so I sucked it up.

I do have a standing monthly therapy appointment which helped and I also make plans with other friends and family for socially distanced dinners and zoom chats. I'm swiping on the apps and have gone on a few socially distanced dates for some variety but with no expectations. I've been told that creating some boundaries like only seeing him a couple times a week for prescribed periods of time like it would have been before the pandemic would have helped me get over things faster and I'm sure that's true but these times are stressful and I like to take my comfort where I can get it.

No matter what it feels like this isn't going to last forever. I think the main takeaway from my situation is that I am capable of feeling intense emotions and also keeping them in perspective. I wish you the best.
posted by onebyone at 7:40 AM on November 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

Are you me? I mean, you aren't, because I had just gotten out of a shitty, isolating marriage 5 months before COVID happened, so our starting points are slightly different, but the pandemic experience is remarkably similar. A friend and I started spending a lot more time together online once the pandemic happened, and we got really close. I developed romantic feelings, and thought she reciprocated. She did not, though she does see me as one of her best friends. We have still formed a pod for the winter.

I tried to get over her by doing the online dating thing, but nothing panned out. I can't see myself going no-contact because she is my best friend and pod-buddy and that would feel like punishing both of us for feelings or lack of feelings that neither of us can control. Plus, she has been a good friend to me, and I still feel capable of being a good friend to her; we're taking care of each other through a difficult time, and that's not nothing. So for the moment... I'm riding it out. I'm enjoying her company, and reminding myself of all the reasons she wouldn't make a good romantic partner for me whenever those feelings flare. I tell myself that I will date again when all of this is over, and for now I'm working on being a good friend to her and taking care of myself as best I can. And that friendship is enough, for now, to get me through this bad time. I'm not saying that it doesn't suck, sometimes, and I don't wish that I could have more... but I am capable of handling those feelings on a regular basis to keep the comfort I get from having my friend as a friend and pod-buddy.
posted by bridgebury at 7:49 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mentally, emotionally, practically: how do I move on from this?

This sucks; no question. But also, here we are. Try reframing the situation.

1. You were not rejected by the only other person on Earth. Your gracious and loving friend turned out to be a bad fit for a romance with you.

2. It sucks that it is so hard to find a partner right now. But it is wonderful that you have a best friend (not all of us do) who is in your pod (which not all of us have).

3. A friend of mine has changed how he uses language. He doesn't talk about should anymore, he talks about opportunities. Like, doing X, is an opportunity to learn, experience, whatever Y. Is there any kind of opportunity buried in this heartbreak that you can take advantage of? Can you turn it into some kind of opportunity by reframing it?

4. Can you create a ritual to help you through this? I am not big on rituals especially but I had an outdoor fire several months back to burn a bunch of no-longer-valid checks that my ADHD brain had failed to deposit in a timely fashion some 20 years ago. Burning those checks freed me of the burden and guilt I had been carrying around for way too long. Obviously, this is not your problem but can you come up with some kind of ritual to help soothe your soul?

5. Do you have any kind of routine of doing things for yourself with yourself only that makes you feel good? If not, consider starting one just to help yourself feel good during this sucky time and as a way to reclaim some kind of control over this shitty pandemic timeline. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:16 AM on November 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Maybe by stopping and looking at it in a more friend-centered way than you-centered way. I don't mean that critically, either. It's natural to see it from your own perspective, and your feelings are of course totally valid. But look at it from your perspective but in a friend-centered way. You say you formally entered a pod. That sounds like a kind of commitment. You didn't commit not to develop feelings, and you didn't commit not to tell your friend about any feelings you did end up having, exactly. But you sort of committed to, if you did develop feelings and did share them with your friend, being cool about it if the feelings weren't reciprocated.

So to oversimplify, you sort of committed to be there for your friend, as they did for you. I'm not claiming this will be magic, or even necessarily sufficient, but when you're with your friend, you could try focusing on them, as well as the enjoyment from whatever activity you're both doing, and when you're not with your friend, you could try to focus on what a good friend you're being -- meeting your commitment, and not punishing them for not being romantically interested. I don't mean you should suppress your own feelings -- grieve all you need to. Then try redirecting your thoughts to how good a friend you're being (and to how good a friend they are for you, which might make you even happier you're being such a good friend to them), and maybe try reframing the romantic rejection, which sounds like it was a no to adding this extra dimension to your relationship but not a rejection of any of the other many elements the two of you have going right now. It sounds like you're playing a very special and unique role in this person's life right now. You must really mean a lot to them. And that ain't nothin'.
posted by troywestfield at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I love what troywestfield said. That is definitely a part of what makes spending so much time with my podmate/best friend/romance decliner so much easier. I'm sorry I couldn't articulate it as well.

This is such a weird time, a time that you will both remember for the rest of your lives. You will be special to each other in so many ways. I try to think it as writing a completely different kind of story - more than a friendship, not a romance, something... I don't know, maybe even more elemental.
posted by onebyone at 6:39 AM on November 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

proximity is definitely one of the factors in developing feelings, in my experience. these covid days, proximity can play an outsized role in things to the point of being close to the only entry on our checklist. not to minimize your feelings, but it’s possible that they are the product of (painfully long but nonetheless) temporary circumstances.

if you agree, maybe it will help to remind yourself of that, regularly.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2020

Remind yourself how 100% awesome this friendship is. You are already in a fantastic relationship with this person, and you enjoy just about everything about it. You'd like it if you were getting MORE things from it, but that's not possible; you can be wistful about that, but maintaining your focus on what you ARE getting from this relationship will help.
posted by metasarah at 9:26 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

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