Hypothetically speaking what if I were, uh, madly in love with you?
December 13, 2006 7:44 AM   Subscribe

How do you communicate to a good friend that you love them?

I've been geographically far away from a good friend of mine for some time now. I realized shortly before our seperation that I love her (I am male, if it matters). I'm going to see her in the next few months.

I have to tell her, because it could hurt her if I didn't (regardless of whether she feels similarly towards me). At the same time, I don't want to just blurt out, "Oh, by the way, I'm madly in love with you" the first chance I get. I think I, in her position, I would be put off somewhat by that, even if the feeling were mutual.

So perhaps this is obvious, and I am socially inept, but how do you make it clear to someone that you want to be more than friends. How did you make it clear to your friend that your feelings were more than platonic?

I realize there is inherently some risk involved here. I'm just looking for a way to throw it out there and give her a minimally awkward means of response in either case. I really want the friendship to survive in either case.

I should add neither of us are involved with anyone and the relationship would be long distance (we are seperated by academia) for at least some time (we'd see on another on academic breaks though). For unrelated reasons, I will be geographically closer to her in the future.

Oh, I should also mention that I (think) I have had some indication of reciprocity, so this isn't completely out of left field.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Write her a letter by hand.
posted by grouse at 7:51 AM on December 13, 2006

Get drunk with her. Lean closer. Get gradually more affectionate as the evening wears on. Eventually kiss her. If she kisses you back, say "There's something I've been meaning to say". If she doesn't, say "Oh sorry, a bit pissed".
posted by handee at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2006 [4 favorites]

Do you kids not have alcohol anymore? Every time a question like this pops up I want to give this answer, but I have refrained until now. Do not believe the sensitive new agers that will tell you "Just be honest and tell her how you feel". No, don't do that. When a boy likes a girl, he doesn't rationally explain the pros and cons of beginning the courtship process. He drinks and she drinks and good things happen. To forestall any "AHHH! Date Rape!" freak outs, I am not saying feed her liquor until she passes out. If she wants things to happen then they will after a beer or two. If she gets wasted beyond coherence then you are required by all moral and legal authority to wait until another evening. However, the next time you and she are home (Christmas break maybe), you should get together at a friends house and both have a couple of beers, and then make a move. Romance does not happen by calmly disussing your feelings. It happens when you drunkenly grope each other. Talk about your feelings later, when the fun stuff is over. Alcohol: it isn't called a social lubricant for nothing.

On preview, I agree with the guy who said it first and more succinctly.
posted by ND¢ at 8:00 AM on December 13, 2006 [5 favorites]

Thanks ND¢. I'm not a guy though:-)
posted by handee at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2006

Oh, I should also mention that I (think) I have had some indication of reciprocity, so this isn't completely out of left field.

Be very wary of said indications. I was head over heels for a friend for most of high school and university. And always thought there were little indications being thrown around. In the end I told her outright when walking home from the pub.

In my case it didn't work out, although we are still very close friends. But I would emphasize that you be very sure of what you are planning on doing before you do it.
posted by smcniven at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2006

I'm totally with the alcohol camp! This is exactly how a friend of a year and I got together recently.
posted by infinityjinx at 8:03 AM on December 13, 2006

Wait until you are reunited and do something without booze to make sure you haven't inflated the feelings because of the distance. If it's still going on, then go to the bar, as handee says.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:04 AM on December 13, 2006

agreed re: the alcohol. I've been on the receiving end of this conversation a couple of times - when it was a mutual feeling, it allowed us that little bit of space the next morning, just in case one of us wanted to say, "er, didn't mean to kiss you, don't feel like that, sorry," and keep feelings intact. When it wasn't a mutual feeling... well, it gave him something to do after I left. And it gave me something to sleep off in the morning so I could spend some more time denying it had happened at all.

anyhow, yes, alcohol.
posted by AthenaPolias at 8:17 AM on December 13, 2006

Test the waters before jumping in. "You're a great friend. We have so much fun together. It could be more, you know."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:21 AM on December 13, 2006

I was in this situation a few years ago, though with someone who had been a friend only slightly longer than I'd had a crush on her. It didn't go well at first -- she didn't speak to me for a few days -- but now we're engaged.

But I agree with thinkpiece that you should spend some time with her in person beforehand, not only for yourself, but also for her, because even if she was reciprocating before, she may have had reorientations of her own. So it would be meet to give her some chance to think "oh, he's even better than I remember he was when I gave him vague indications of reciprocity."

Handwritten letter, though, sounds good: I did it over email, which was fine except that she comically didn't read it for a day or so anyway because she could see it was long and she was busy.
posted by xueexueg at 8:33 AM on December 13, 2006

Ok, I'll be the one guy that says forget the alcohol. I was just in your situation a few months ago myself:

*Be aware of the Friend Box. Some women pin you as a friend and it's very very hard/impossible to get out of that preconception. "But we're such great friends! I never even thought of you like that!"

*When we feel something for someone else, we tend to manifest these reciprocal feeling indicators that aren't really there. There may be something behind that time she touched your hand or sat real close to you, but its entirely possible that there's nothing behind it too.

*Like I said, forget the alcohol. There's always the day after. If you make a move and it goes well, there's always the chance she'll spook in the morning and tell you it was a mistake and your heart will be broken. And besides, on a more universal level, don't make excuses for the way you feel. Don't diminish yourself by actually having to say the words "sorry, I was drunk."

Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions as to how to tell her. I think you know her best and probably know how to tell her. I will say, tell her in person, don't write her a note, or tell her over the phone. Just my experience.

I hope it goes well, I hope she feels the same way for you. I'll cross my fingers for ya.
posted by menace303 at 8:43 AM on December 13, 2006

When I was in a similar situation I went the alcohol route and I regret it. She had been my friend for a long time and these feelings had been building for a while and all came out in a drunken splurge. I wish I had done what I did the next day and went for a quiet drink with her in a neutral venue to discuss it.

ND¢ says "when a boy likes a girl, he doesn't rationally explain the pros and cons of beginning the courtship process." Not in the normal course of things but when you have an existing platonic relationship with someone and you want to change the nature of that relationship then I would suggest that that is exactly what you should do. Simply drunkenly trying it on may well backfire.

As you say, there is inherently some risk involved. Our friendship was pretty much ruined. Still, telling her was the right thing to do.
posted by ninebelow at 8:47 AM on December 13, 2006

>Get drunk with her. Lean closer. Get gradually more affectionate as the evening wears on. Eventually kiss her.

It worked for me once, so I'd definitely agree with that advice.
posted by einarorn at 8:51 AM on December 13, 2006

Since you're going to see her soon, my approach of choice won't work... I'd say go for handwritten letters (that don't say 'I love you') to prove you care enough to take time to write... then visit, a bit of booze, and make a pass at her.
posted by anthill at 8:58 AM on December 13, 2006

If she's not too conservative, I think a moderate level of alcohol is good. If there are indeed reciprocal feelings, she'll be more open about them. It's possible that things could happen even if she didn't have feelings for you, just because of drunkenness, but as long as she's the type who can be open-minded about a drunken mistake and not avoid you for it, it's alright.

And I stress *moderate*... for both you and her. You have to keep your head together.
posted by bread-eater at 8:59 AM on December 13, 2006

I have to tell her, because it could hurt her if I didn't.

How exactly?

I think that if you can answer this question, you can figure out the best way to tell her.

Essentially you are going to be risking the entire friendship, so I'd suggest alcohol and a weekend together. Have a lot of fun but wait until the last night before letting her know.

You don't have to tell her that you love her, either. I'd put it in terms of development--like "I'm developing feelings for you"
posted by Ironmouth at 9:02 AM on December 13, 2006

I totally disagree about the use of alcohol. I agree with menace303. If you need a crutch at a time like this then you not at all ready to tell her. A very romantic dinner would be a far better alternative.
Since you are long-distance and want to tell her then a long handwritten letter is the best. But far better you do it in person, I think.
posted by JayRwv at 9:15 AM on December 13, 2006

If you do go the alcohol route, please don't assume that a drunken make-out session will make your feelings clear to her. She may assume you only made the pass at her because you were drunk, unless you actually state clearly, preferably while sober, that you're romantically interested. Drunken making out can be a good conversation starter for this kind of thing ("So, about last night . . ."), but by itself it is not sufficient.
posted by vytae at 9:31 AM on December 13, 2006

After a particularly fetching joke, laugh and say "I love you, ____."

That is her cue to either jump your bones or give you a strange look like, since when did you become a hippie. If you're good friends it's probably not strange to have developed some degree of mutual friend love. But its potentially friendship-destroying to just make out with someone. Or take them out to a silly romantic evening, or cut a million paper hearts and spread them all over someone's car, spelling out "marry me".
posted by shownomercy at 9:31 AM on December 13, 2006

My question, too. How would not telling her hurt her?

Because -- she already knows. Whether she is dreading your formal declaration or waiting impatiently for it, I don't know, but she knows it's coming. She is your friend, and you are probably not as smooth as you think you are. So, the only question is how to bring it up. I vote smooch. Just go for it. There is lots of room for ambiguity in conversation, a lot of time to chicken out and dance around and read tea leaves and not quite say it -- thereby providing lots of material to torture yourself with later as you parse everything she said and looked and did -- but a kiss is unequivocal. Yes/no.

Full disclosure: I was in a similar situation recently, and did not quite have the ovaries myself to do what I recommend. But even though as it turned out he did not return my feelings -- I wish I had. Acute and then over is better than more moderate but chronic, and you feel better when you are courageous, even if you fail.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

having had the discomfort of doing this recently:

Have a lot of fun but wait until the last night before letting her know.

please don't assume that a drunken make-out session will make your feelings clear to her
strongly seconded

and me, i'm all for doing this in private public places: where everyone is forced to still behave well, but you are still in your own world. a long subway ride was my chosen arena.

also, no matter how much you want to, and how much it hurts to go home with uncertainty, if she hesitates to respond or define the new nature of the relationship while you're there, don't push it. it can still happen, but pushing her to outline conclusions can affect what those conclusions look like...
posted by n y my at 9:41 AM on December 13, 2006

Thirding menace303:

I think you know her best and probably know how to tell her.

We often ask for advice when we know what the right answer is but don't like the sound of it. Perfectly normal to be uncomfortable in this situation - I'm shooting for a DTR this weekend that I'm not particularly looking forward to myself. What's been helping me is getting myself in the mindset of "If she doesn't reciprocate, its her loss, and I can just move right on...". Not entirely the truth - I'll be a little disappointed if it doesn't work out - but sometimes it just helps to keep things in perspective.

I kind of think of it the same way as I do for work interviews - if I walk in there with the confidence that I'm the right guy for the job, it usually helps with the overall perception that I am in fact just that. And for those few times it didn't work out, I really did leave thinking that it was for the best.

You're getting a LOT of "Go Booze" advice here, which is great if you want to get some action with a girl you don't really care about. But this girl sounds more like a life-long friend, who you want to be real with. Save booze for a later date after you've gotten things sorted out, I'd imagine you can have a lot more fun with it then when you're not worried about what the other person is thinking. Right now its just another factor in the equation that you shouldn't be worried about calculating.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:44 AM on December 13, 2006

Alcohol can get the job done but you have to be careful. If you're one of those guys who doesn't do drunk well (e.g. you get stupid or violent) then using alcohol as lubrication can have disastrous consequences. You don't need alcohol though. The important thing is not to give her an ultimatum. Don't put her in a position where she has to effectively choose between the friendship and her true feelings. Give her plenty of choice and space. When you do declare your undying love for her you might pass it off as a joke, or a couple of subtle hints (never too subtle though or she'll think you're not serious), or an indirect proposal*. Also be prepared for the situation where the feelings aren't mutual. In this case you have to let her know that she hasn't disappointed you and you still treasure her as a friend. And don't call her a traitorous bitch.

* The best way to determine if a woman likes you is to ask her to sleep with you. Though this depends on how you define "best".
posted by nixerman at 9:57 AM on December 13, 2006

So, I've been this girl. More than a few times.

The worst way I was told was not at all. He told me he wanted to date, I told him I didn't like him in that way, we got in fights about it until we blew up at each other and didn't talk. The only time he actually told me "I love you" was in the line, "Steve said I should tell you I love you."

The best way was someone who wrote me a letter that included why he felt the way he did, why he felt the need to tell me, how he hoped it wouldn't ruin our friendship, but would understand if we didn't want to hang around together for a while, but he never wanted to lose me as a friend.

Then again, I eventually married the guy who told me in the worst way and I haven't spoken to the letter guy in years.

I think the key to it is distance and letting it drop. Tell her and then give her space, time and cut back on any affection until she tells you how she'd want to proceed. It wasn't until I didn't have my now husband's attention and affection of even friendship that I came to the realization that I needed and loved him back.

If you just want the pity f*ck, go for booze, but don't expect her to be comfortable around you for months, a la HARRY MET SALLY.
posted by Gucky at 10:11 AM on December 13, 2006

So perhaps this is obvious, and I am socially inept, but how do you make it clear to someone that you want to be more than friends. How did you make it clear to your friend that your feelings were more than platonic?

I asked out her out for coffee, we hung out and talked for several hours, great conversation, lots of laughs and thought provoking stuff.

At the end, as we were going our separate ways, I said "I'm pretty interested in you. You want to go on a real date next time?" She gives me a look and says "Oh". I continued with "If you're not interested, that's ok and if you want to think about it, that's ok too and if you want to jump my bones now, I even cleaned my apartment , but I'm telling you this now, to let you know where I'm coming from and so it's out there And yeah, I still want to be friends, no matter what.

This way, I perfectly clear, but it wasn't in the middle of the conversation, there were good vibes going, threw a bit of humor in to lighten the mood and, really important, she could easly back out gracefully. It worked well with the kinda women I like , season to your tastes.

It's important that you not have the puppy dogs eyes or come off as needy. Notice that I didn't say love. That was on purpose. Didn't want to come on strong and be overwhelming like she had to make some great converstation., important decision and make it now.

I've done this a few times and after bumbling around and feeling like an ass, I decided to do it from a position of "Hey, I'm pretty cool, you're damn cool, so let's be cool together"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

I've been that girl too. Also more than once.

The last time a male friend got drunk and tried to kiss me, I was driving him home after a night out. To be honest, it was pathetic and I let him know I thought so.

He tried to kiss me and I pushed him away and told him to grow up and get the fuck out of the car. He at first claimed not to remember the next day (and I was happy to let it stay that way), but later owned up to it to ask me what I actually thought.

Frankly, that's not love. If you love her, don't make a drunken pass that make her feel that she is a convenient body. If she has any self respect she will turn you down and think less of you. If he had had the balls to take me to dinner or for a long walk or invite me to Hawaii or a dozen different respectful ways and tell me that he respects admires and loves me, I might have listened.

But a drunken pass is not loving, not respectful and doesn't indicate admiration and people who express their affection that way should expect that they get.
posted by zia at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2006

oops, expect what they get
posted by zia at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2006

A 'very romantic dinner' has a huge potential to completely freak her and make her feel awkward if she doesn't reciprocate. Avoid.
posted by kdar at 10:37 AM on December 13, 2006

WRT the "Oh my god don't drink" school of thought:

I think there are two clear approaches here. I suspect it depends if you are American or not - Americans seem terribly puritanical about alcohol. I have been the (female) recipient of drunken passes a number of times, and a significan subset of these have turned into relationships. But then again, I'm British, and the drunken pass is our standard mating call.

That said, I also don't think that making a drunken pass at someone who is sober is a good idea at any juncture.
posted by handee at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

This question is of related interest.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:47 AM on December 13, 2006

Here's what I did:
We were already separated for academic reasons, so most of our friendship actually developed online and over the phone. I was going to be with her over New Year's, and told her before then that I had "a secret" to tell her. She naturally wanted to know sooner than I would be there with her, and put most of the pieces together on her own.

The first night we were together, we watched a movie alone and when it was over, I said "I think I'm falling in love with you."

I didn't know what to expect when I told her, and I hadn't really been looking for a long distance relationship, but when the feelings are mutual you can work out the details later. I figured the worst she could say is "That's maybe not such a good idea."

She didn't say anything in response--we kissed all night. That was almost three years ago. We're still together.
posted by kyleg at 11:48 AM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Rather than try to write an omnibus answer, I'm going to focus on just one element of this situation: your ability to remain friends.

You say you value the friendship -- do you really? Can you honestly say that you're willing to remain Just Friends with her after she's rejected you? What about when you're still single and she has an affair with an utter asshole? What about when you're still single and she gets married to someone else?

Walk through these (and other) scenarios in your head for a while, and for chrissake be honest with yourself.

Once you know how you feel, how you really feel, you'll be much better prepared to discuss things with her.

...also, if you say you value the friendship, and then subsequently flip out on her, she'll think you lied. That's never good.
posted by aramaic at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2006

Adding to what aramaic said, what if she's already involved with somebody? And because you're a friend, she's hoping to use you as a sounding board? Can you handle it OK?

(btw, this is a fascinating thread: there's very slight but definitely nonzero chance I may be faced with a pretty similar dilemma myself.)
posted by pax digita at 12:20 PM on December 13, 2006

Speaking as a guy whos been there, I'd like to say that there's a right way to do things, and a way that works.

I have confessed my love twice to close friends (years apart) the 'Right Way'. Both times I tried it following almost exactly the suggestions by the 'dont drink' people. I think one i took out to a wonderful dinner, spent the evening with her, then confessed that I was starting to really fall for her. The other I wrote a long letter to, and asked her if she felt the same way. Both times it became awkward and weird, the relationship immediately died and I haven't really been friends with them since.

Don't do that.

Alcohol works (at least in my experience) more often than not. Keep in mind if she doesnt like you, she wont like you. You can get her drunk as possible but its not going to change her mind (so dont do that). But if she does possibly like you, or if she has never thought about it before, alcohol can loosen things up enough to explore the option. I'd say follow your basic gut (not your 'in the movies we would ride off on white horses' heart). Smooch her, if she's like 'ew thats gross' then the awkwardness can be dispelled much quicker than if you confess the unending depth of your feelings toward her and she is like 'um... i dont feel the same way... '.

good luck champ (sadly much more often than not it ain't gonna turn out how you want it but at least you can move on!)

posted by ZackTM at 12:23 PM on December 13, 2006

I'm just looking for a way to throw it out there and give her a minimally awkward means of response in either case. I really want the friendship to survive in either case.

Oh, yes, well, in that case, let's all get drunk and blurt out the first thing that comes to our minds! That's a great plan - what could possibly go wrong?

Quit pussy-footing around. You've got these feelings. If she doesn't share them, they'll destroy your friendship whether you disclose them or not. If she does share them and you don't make the first move, you may never find out.

The thing to do is tell her, in person. It doesn't matter what kind of a crutch you use- if beer or a dozen roses or a clown suit make it seem easier to you, go for it. If they don't, just go for it. Use your own personal style, and if you don't have any, then just proceed without it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:03 PM on December 13, 2006

You might consider saying - It isn't my intention to put you on the spot, so I don't really want to discuss it right now, but I just wanted to let you know if you ever have any interest in seeing if a deeper, romatic relationship could develop between us, I'd be really/very interested in persuing that. Stop there and change the subject.

That way she knows how you feel, yet she isn't really being put on the spot for an immediate answer. If she wants to discuss it right then and there, that may be a good sign. If she never brings it up again, you can be certain she's not interested and you both saved a little face.
posted by goml at 2:03 PM on December 13, 2006

I'd say go ahead, get involved--but telling her is not the way to do it. Do you want her, or do you just want to unburden yourself? These things don't necessarily go hand in hand. I suggest you ignore the desire to tell her and focus on how to get involved with her.

1. Your desire to tell her is self-interested. => Telling her is unlikely to achieve your goal => Don't tell her.

The declaration seems honest, but it's an almost guaranteed way to repel her. Telling her can also be viewed as cynical: You want to trade information ("I have feelings for you") for results--she gets involved with you. You might say, you want to use candour as currency.

Luckily, things don't usually work that way. You don't extend an invitation to deal and wait for it to be accepted, unless you want her to run far far away.

2. If you want to actually get involved:

--Make her want you. Following the excellent "let's be cool together" advice above, I've tried to describe that process here.

--Take the pressure off--both the internal pressure caused by your pent-up confession and any fear of failure pressure caused by the belief that she is the only girl for you or that you'll lose her.

--let the connection and momentum do all the heavy lifting. Don't make an earnest, self-centered speech or declaration, it shows you are clueless and tone-deaf, and she will be more likely to dismiss you. Even if she loves you back, it can be a turnoff.

After you've developed something together, you can reveal to her that you've felt that way for ages.

Oh, and the only thing drinking really helps is your perception of your own singing voice. Avoid it when you're doing grownup stuff.
posted by Phred182 at 2:09 PM on December 13, 2006

Jesus, who are you people and what kind of lives do you lead?

Be drunk and tell her in such a way that you can pretend hahaha just kidding later? Would you respect a friend who did that? That's the kind of person you want to be?

Say it in a public place so everyone has to stay on good behavior? Do declarations of affection normally create screaming fits for you people?

I think ikkyu2 has done the best thus far and hit the salient points. Worrying about ruining your friendship is pointless - you have the feelings you have, whether you tell her or not. You've got a better chance of moving on with your life and coping with them by being open about them than stewing them.

If she's a friend and your friendship is - I presume - based on a happy and honest understanding with each other then exactly why would you want to express yourself with her in any other way? You can simply ask her "have you ever thought about the possibility of us being something more than just friends?"

Anything more than that is grand gesture out of the hope of getting the answer you want. But there's no grand gesture that's going to make her any more likely to give you the answer you want. You're going to get the answer you're going to get. Respect your friendship with her enough to just ask the question and accept the answer.
posted by phearlez at 3:17 PM on December 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Ha! I saw this question and thought "Isn't that what beer is for?" Thank God for other posters; I know who I want to have a drink with.
posted by klangklangston at 3:50 PM on December 13, 2006

I'm on the receiving end of this situation right now - in fact until you mentioned being separated by academia I was wondering if I might be the subject of the post.

If you are close friends, odds are she is already aware that you have pretty strong feelings for her. If you're truly okay with either answer, just suck it up and talk to her about it. Don't get drunk (although doing it over a glass of wine isn't unreasonable) - she's probably not going to appreciate that and will always question what role the alcohol played.

For the record, in my case, I just wish the guy would go ahead and say something. I'm not interested in being anything more than friends, but as it stands now, things are just weird. If we aren't going to have a full-on relationship (and we're not), we need to go back to having the boundaries of a friendship that is only a friendship. Not this strange quasi-relationship that has too much emotional intimacy and non of the physical.

In fact next time I see him, if he doesn't bring it up, I'm going to.
posted by scrute at 4:13 PM on December 13, 2006

It probably doesn't really matter that much how you tell her. She either already feels the same way, or else she doesn't. If she does, however you say it will go great. If she doesn't, no matter how you say it, it won't. This one's out of your control. I don't mean that to be discouraging, but freeing.
posted by daisyace at 4:55 PM on December 13, 2006

God damn, scrute, I hope you're not the girl I'm going to see in Boston this weekend.

Because that wouldn't be weird at all.

(I am planning on saying something, for the record.)
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2006

Good luck to both of you, anon and allkindsoftime. I've carried that burden and no matter how painful it was to set it down it was worth being rid of it.
posted by phearlez at 2:26 PM on December 14, 2006

I'm not in Boston, so I think we're okay.

That would just be too strange.
posted by scrute at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2006

I gotta say that now I kind of think allkindsoftime and scrute should get together.
posted by scrump at 4:58 PM on December 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

No, it would ruin the friendship.
posted by ND¢ at 6:25 PM on December 14, 2006

Lol. Sorry folks, my weekend in Boston went well. Hope things are working out for you too scrute.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:08 PM on December 17, 2006

How well are we talking?
posted by grouse at 5:53 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

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