Any Strategies for Unrequited Attraction?
July 9, 2007 10:56 PM   Subscribe

I (male) have a friend (female) who I'm really attracted to. After being vague I've cleared the air about it all and she's not looking for more. We really value the friendship so I'm not going anywhere and neither is she. Any suggestions for when I have the overwhelming urge to just kiss her?

Anyone in a similar relationship and how did it go? My prior post about this relationship is here:
posted by swiffa to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Take a cold shower ?
posted by iamabot at 11:14 PM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: Think about the horribly embarrassing silence afterwards. That'll cool your jets.

You know that old adage, time heals the deepest of wounds and breaks the strongest of stones?

Well, it's both corny AND true. Someday in the future you will find someone who returns your feelings and you will look back and feel silly.

Lesbians and gay men especially know this. Many of us fell in love with straight women/men in high school who were obviously not available as options, and then when we grew up (or many of us, anyway) we ceased to carry these torches and started to identify carrying them as self-destructive behavior.
posted by Lieber Frau at 11:14 PM on July 9, 2007 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Listen closely to The World Famous, who speaks utter truth to you, swiffa.

posted by cgc373 at 11:17 PM on July 9, 2007

How much would you value the friendship if there were _absolutely_ no chance for more? Would you still want to be friends with her if she had a boyfriend or husband? I'd suggest walking away for a while and seeing how you feel about her when time has convinced you that you'll get nothing more than friendship out of your relationship. Sticking around and constantly thinking about more is not fair to her and it's definitely not fair to yourself.
posted by null terminated at 11:19 PM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: Find an actual girlfriend who's interested in you romantically. That should reduce the problem to nothingness.
posted by anaelith at 11:20 PM on July 9, 2007

Best answer: Like it or not, you're now on to Plan B: being so damned great that she will feel her rejection of you as a painful missed opportunity. Make the most of this. Don't focus on how nice it would be to kiss her, focus on how satisfying it will be to see that she regrets not kissing you.
posted by felix betachat at 11:22 PM on July 9, 2007 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: null terminated: I should be more clear, I actually at one time thought she did have a boyfriend and was weirdly OK with it. And after talking to her any hope of "more" ever happening is gone. It's just the rest of me needs to catch up, I guess? To add to the mix she won't be geographically around anymore after the end of the year. Good (tough) things to think of though...thank you.
posted by swiffa at 11:26 PM on July 9, 2007

focus on how satisfying it will be to see that she regrets not kissing you

No offense, but I've only seen it work that way in the movies. Sounds like a lot of effort being dedicated to false hope in sheep's clothing. Unfortunately these male/female relationships where sexual interest is one-sided usually only end up driving the admirer crazier and crazier over time. It's really hard to disconnect those feelings and go the next 5-10-60 years just wanting to be with that person but settling as friends--a constant feeling of rejection.
posted by fusinski at 11:35 PM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

No offense, but I've only seen it work that way in the movies. Sounds like a lot of effort being dedicated to false hope in sheep's clothing.

None taken. It can work. In my experience, though, by the time she comes around, you've pretty much moved on...which is kinda the point, no?
posted by felix betachat at 11:39 PM on July 9, 2007

I don't know. My first advice was only half joking, unfortunately, because in my experience you might as well get the drunken hookup followed by 2nd rejection out of the way right away--save you the pain later.

1. Boy meets girl
2. Girl/boy rejects the other
3. They stay friends, but one hides their feelings
4. The drunken hookup, followed by euphoria/shame
5. Shame rejects euphoria again (maybe years later)
6. Go to step 3, or exit loop (lose friend)

It's kind of destructive. I say jump right to exit loop and save yourself the trouble. Of course this is anecdotal (as I imagine most of the advice in this thread is), but has anyone not been in this situation?
posted by fusinski at 11:44 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You've got a choice.

1. Really give up trying. Don't secretly hope she'll come around. Don't keep trying. Don't find yourself trying to second guess what she meant when she said x. And you can't lie to yourself about your feelings either.

2. Give up the friendship.

Honestly, that's the only strategies you have.
posted by aspo at 11:54 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

God damn, I've known this feeling.

I figure your best bet is to develop more complicated, more human, more run-of-the-mill feelings about this person. i.e. Know her better, in circumstances less conducive to these god-we-must-kiss-now feelings.

Either way, if it's gonna happen, it's not because you forced the issue. Same with getting over her. You can only change the circumstances of the relationship: hang out with more women, hang out with her in new situations, stop spending so much time with her, etc.

Sucks, but don't think of it as 'giving up.' Think of it as growing up.
posted by waxbanks at 12:11 AM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Honestly? She has no idea if she is or isn't interested in you, because there's no competition going on. She could have you by snapping her fingers, and so she won't.

That doesn't mean she will if there's competition. But -- seriously man, go out, hang out with other girls, don't pine. Desperation stinks. Have fun, and have other options, and life tends to work itself out much much nicer.

Don't think I'm saying this cynically either. My happiest, most head-over-heels multi-year relationship started when it looked like I might go out with one of her close friends. You have to understand, me and her were the couple that everyone said should be dating, but she'd been rather clear -- "I don't know why everyone says that, we're just friends!"

She didn't know. It's just how people are wired, I guess.
posted by effugas at 12:29 AM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you want to keep being friends with her, the key is to figure out a way to stop thinking of her as a sexual being. So, for example, every time you want to check out some part of her body or stare into those deep eyes of her, don't. Pretend that she is your sister, or that she has some horribly contagious disease, or whatever you have to. Better yet, keep repeating to yourself: "she does not like me." If you work on this for long enough, eventually hanging out with her will seem no different from spending time with a male friend of yours.
posted by epimorph at 1:29 AM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

The only thing that ever worked for me when I was in your situation was this: stop hanging out with her. Back off completely. You can't be friends just now, and you're probably annoying her. Call someone else. Take a trip. Get a new hobby. Stop obsessing. Do something else.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:45 AM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OK, here's some things you don't want to do.

You don't beat yourself up. Reminding yourself she doesn't like you, constantly controlling your behavior around her, focusing on what you'd rather be doing instead of just hanging out...

Lame. Reinforces that she's the most important thing you can't have.

Also, avoiding her -- OK, yeah, sometimes you just have to do that. But it really can't be because you just can't contain yourself around her, can't stop obsessing about her, whatever. All of those things lead to you doing things _because_ of her. And frankly, it's not about her, it's about you and your happiness.

She's cool. You enjoy being around her. As long as that's true, you keep doing that. When it's not true, when you're in denial, own up to the fact that you're not enjoying being around her, and go find more interesting things to do.

The key is to actually go out, find more interesting things to do, so when you're with her, you're with her because she's still interesting, not because a) she wants attention from you or b) you just have to see her. If that's how it is, even when you do see her you'll be a pitiful wreck, hoping for one last chance. It won't be so bad to start, but yeah, it can totally build on itself.

Have your own life, and you won't just be annoying her. Hang on for dear life, and chuckdarwin's pretty much got it nailed.

Oh, she's welcome to join you for whatever, particularly if it involves going out with a group. That's having your own life, and heh, she's making your life more fun, she can come join. But only if.

It has to be about you. If it's about her, you've lost the control, and you won't move on even if you're trying to. What are you moving on from? You're bringing her with you, even in her absence!
posted by effugas at 3:25 AM on July 10, 2007 [4 favorites]

Whatever you do, don't start blaming her for this (it doesn't sound like you are, but a few of effugas's comments, such as "wants attention from you", push it). I've been in this circumstance as a woman and I have to tell you, it's a lot of fun being the go-to person for blame. If I was blunt, I was a rude evil evil bitch for telling him to leave me alone. If I wasn't blunt, I was an attention-whoring evil evil bitch for not telling him to leave me alone. In both cases I was vilified to every guy in town.

Fun stuff. If you care about her, don't put her through it.
posted by watsondog at 4:48 AM on July 10, 2007

Leave the relationship, it's for the best. Your feelings aren't going to go away anytime soon and if your feelings are "overwhelming", they're going to get worse. I think every guy's gotten the "let's just be friends" speech and can tell you it never works out in the end. Spare yourself the pain.
posted by Spoonman at 6:08 AM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: I've made this work for me just fine. On the other hand, I am not a dude and it's possible this won't work for you at all. I like being around people I find attractive and am attracted to, in addition to other sorts of people. It seems weird, to me, to stay away from precisely the sort of people I really like just because I can't "have" them. The word you are looking for is sublimation, directing your energies away from something negative ("I want to kiss this girl and I can't, this sucks!") to something more positive ("I'm going to use all this pent-up frustration I have to ... write some poetry/climb this mountain/clean my garage")

Obviously this won't work well if you're lonely and frustrated with your life generally but if this is an annoying bump in an otherwise okay existence, I would just think of this unrequited passion and something to spur you on to do other interesting and creative things in your own life. Add to this to 1) not get inot compromising situations with her (no "date like" events, no camping trips where you share a tent, no late night drunken chick flick events, no weddings together) and 2) explaining to her that this is something you're working on in case she wonders why you act weird sometimes.

Speaking as a woman who has also been on the female side of this type of incident, she's likely either thinking that she told you and now that uncertainty in your relationship is OVER (despite you continuing to think about it) or she may be nervous that now that the air has been cleared she's going to lose you as a friend, or you're going to become weird and resentful of her for not liking her back in that way. In either case, the "gee I am attracted to you" issue is not one that the two of you share, but is now yours to figure out how to deal with on your own. Again, I am not a dude, but I think this is manageable. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 6:28 AM on July 10, 2007 [4 favorites]

Based on my extensive personal experience with this type of situation, I'd say that you are pretty much out of the running to have any type of romantic relationship with her ever. And even if there was a possibility, it would only be realized AFTER you thought that the possibility was completely gone. Either way, in my experience, you should pretty much assume that she's just not interested in you that way, and probably never will be.

It's probable that she has somehow fit you into some mental category that it's not ok for her to date, such as a brother or father figure.

If your interest in her is based mostly on some sort of romantic longing, I would just stop hanging out with her. If you are interested in her as a friend, you'll just have to make it work somehow. I would say that kissing her is a bad idea, though.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:46 AM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: I like being around people I find attractive and am attracted to, in addition to other sorts of people. It seems weird, to me, to stay away from precisely the sort of people I really like just because I can't "have" them.

Exactly. When I meet people I'm enthusiastic about and hope will turn out to be important to me, I don't immediately pin my hopes on a big-R "relationship"; rather, I start what's often a slow process of figuring out exactly how they're going to fit into my life. Like Jessamyn, I can't imagine writing people off just because I'm attracted to them.

she has somehow fit you into some mental category that it's not ok for her to date, such as a brother or father figure.

And you can try to do the same.

I'm lucky in that I have a trainload of wildly attractive and interesting cousins. I guess it's relatively (joke, get it?) easy for me to slot unavailable people into the same (close, lifelong, non-romantic/sexual) category.
posted by tangerine at 10:36 AM on July 10, 2007 [4 favorites]

Seconding Watsondog's comment here -- girls sometimes really get put into no-win scenarios here, especially if a shared group of friends is involved. Don't be that guy.
posted by effugas at 12:23 PM on July 10, 2007

Best answer: The consensus advice here is very very good, and I agree with it entirely.


I did have a friendship where the woman announced she had no romantic interest in me, and that it would be just friends and that would be it. And I was okay with that, figuring someone who dated movie stars was out of my league, and that I never really expected to have a shot with her. Except it was a very strange friendship, where she was very possessive, and got offended when I went on dates or wasn't immediately available to answer her emails or phone calls. And one night the moment seemed right, and I kissed her twice, and we ended up dating for half a year. On the other hand, it was a tumultuous neurotic unhappy relationship, as one might have guessed from all the pre-relationship craziness she displayed, and years later she published a nasty short story about me.

So your mileage may vary. But, yeah, your chances are zero so long as you smack of desperation, and as long as you keep pursuing it when she said no. Back off: she's either going to discover that she misses you or she's not, and either scenario, you're better off than if you've been wasting time mooning after her.
posted by commander_cool at 12:55 PM on July 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Focus on the aspects of her that would drive you nuts if the two of you were any closer than friends, where you'd then have to either put up with that stuff or fight over it. Do it enough and with luck, you'll lose the desire to be anything more than friends.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:32 PM on July 10, 2007

As someone with a number of attractions to completely unobtainable people right now, I sympathize.

That said, for me, the only viable strategy is distance. I'm of a type where physical and emotional proximity is a very strong factor in attraction to people. When I look at relationships where I've gone from some form of attraction to good, romantically neutral, friends, there's a space where we didn't have as much contact for a while.

After re-establishing my distance, then I was able to go back and continue my strong friendship with them.
posted by Arturus at 6:30 PM on July 10, 2007

Pick someone you are absolutely not attracted to (this can be a guy) and picture how awkward you'd feel if they repeatedly tried to kiss you. Think of the most irritating or publicly embarrassing possible situation. Then bring that picture into your head every time you feel the urge to kiss her.

When she leaves town, that will actually be a good thing. You need some emotional distance so you can move on and find other opportunities.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:37 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

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