Here we go again, I love my best friend!
August 20, 2008 4:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm in love with my best friend and she loves me too, but doesn't want to sleep with me. Has this any hope of working?

About 4 years I met a girl through work who we'll call Miss X, I was in a long term relationship at the time and she was in and out of a thing with a guy which didn't last much longer than after I met her. We clicked from day 1 and we soon became close friends. Within a few months I began realising that I didn't actually love (and never had) the girl I was with and after a few months more left her. Miss X never once told me to leave the gf but it was largely through talking with her that I realised I wasn't in the right place and getting out was exactly the right thing to do.

Trouble is, I felt the right place was with Miss X. We have very different sexual backgrounds, I'm on the inexperienced side and she's done a lot of things with a lot of guys. I spent a long time after my breakup, trying to pretend that I was more experienced than I was (to "impress" her), something she saw through straight away and which seriously pissed her off. About a year ago I told her I loved her, to which she just told me I was overwhelmed by her and that nothing was ever going to happen like that, she just didn't feel that way about me.

Throughout this time however our friendship carried on growing (about 6 months after I left my gf Miss X moved to another country with work) and we spend hours on the phone every night and I saw this (because I wanted to) as a sign that eventually we would get together, couldn't see any other way of it working out. Every so often the "issue" of me wanting to sleep with her would come up and usually the conversation would end very badly and we wouldn't talk for a few days, both saying we needed space if the friendship had any chance of working (which is something we both want), but after a few days or a week or so the radio silence would end and we would be back to chatting away again as if nothing had happened.

I've known for a few months that eventually other people would come into the equation on both sides, but she's always said that it wouldn't change the way she feels about me (she now says she loves me too). Basically, her family background is pretty horrific, which has always stopped her getting close to people, until I came along, and she believes that you can't truly be friends with the person you're sleeping with, ie the idea of "the one" doesn't exist. I don't agree with her, despite my lack of experience here, and for me, undoubtedly she feels like "the one", beautiful, sexy and my best friend. I think a part of her not wanting to sleep with me is that she doesn't want it to change and ultimately kill our friendship.

Within the last week or so, we've both had meaningless (but fun) casual sex (not with each other). I told her about mine last week and she was delighted as she feels it's exactly what I need to get me out of my shell and back on the market so to speak. Hers happened over the weekend and she told me about it tonight. The guy is "a bit annoying", but they were partying in a party town, and hey, a girl has needs right? She made it clear to him that she's not into a long-term thing (she's moving countries again in 6 weeks) but they both live in the same town and she will no doubt see him again for more of the same before she leaves.

Recently I've been a lot more relaxed around her and by and large have stopped trying to impress her as I've realised that the real me impresses her, not the macho sleep-around guy I wanted to come over as, and as a result we've grown even closer. I've known her sleeping with somebody else has been on the cards for a while (she's a very attractive girl who enjoys sex, it was bound to happen) but naturally it's hit me hard. She says she needs the physical contact, as do I (I'm seeing the girl from last week again tomorrow, and it's certainly good for my confidence, it's been a while). However, we both need our friendship (more than casual sex) and have tried to walk away from it on several occasions, each time always coming back to each other. She's never led me on, or directly made me believe that a sexual relationship was on the cards (believing that possiblilty has always been pretty much all my doing) so I don't feel manipulated in any way.

So, the question is, what do I do? The relationship we have, which will last if I can adapt to it, is (and has been for a couple of years) the most important thing in both our lives. I can't expect her to not see other people just because she doesn't want to sleep with me. I know the "run away" answer is what you want to tell me and I've answered similar questions on here with exactly that answer, but it simply doesn't seem like a valid option (I know, I know, it never does right?). I'm moving to a different continent for a few months in 2 months time, which will give me much needed space, but am I going to be able to move on whilst keeping the friendship going? Should I want to? She truly is the most amazing (and drop-dead gorgeous) person I have ever met and I know she needs me as much as I need her, but am I kidding myself that this can work? I'm probably not going to like the answers, but some new perspective on this would help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Here is my advice: believe what people tell you about themselves. If she tells you she does not want to sleep with you, believe her. Take that at face value. Don't try to guess at what she "really means." Don't speculate about her subconscious or try to figure out how her past might be tricking her mind or pushing her to make bad choices. Just believe her. She has told you, repeatedly, that she does not want to pursue a sexual relationship with you. Your job is to accept that. I can't tell you whether or not you will be able to remain friends with her, but it will be much easier for you to achieve that end if you give up the hope that someday, you will finally convince her to become your lover.
posted by prefpara at 4:44 PM on August 20, 2008 [30 favorites]

There's a lot here about what you feel and how you act, but that is all moot. It doesn't matter if you think she is the one. She doesn't want to sleep with you, and I don't think it's because she loves you but _____. I don't have an explanation for her behavior, but you can't change her mind and yes, you are kidding yourself if you think you can.

Should you continue to be friends with her? Only if you're okay with the possibility that nothing will ever happen between you.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:50 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Prefpara has it. This girl may be pleased by your existence on Earth, but all the speculation and excuses don't change the fact that she does not want a sexual relationship with you. She's said as much. Her willingness to discuss her sexual escapades with someone she finds "a bit annoying," and her delight at hearing of yours make me think just one thing: she feels that maybe now she's off the hook on that level. She may be needy; you may enable each other's neediness. But the sexual thing isn't there for her.

Sometimes, being confidante and friend to a person is exactly what kills your chances for a sexual relationship. Many girls treasure their male friends, but go home with the bad boys. Or anyone aside from their friends.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

Seconding prefpara and dee extrovert. Believe what people tell you about themselves, whether you enjoy hearing it or not. Trying to find and decode subtext in these situations in order to get a different answer from the one you have received is a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. I speak from experience. More than once.
posted by scody at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2008

Definitely, prefpara has it. believe what she's telling you. Give up the ghost. You're her friend. That's all she wants from you. If you can't wrap your head around that, then back off and use those two months on another continent to ask yourself - why do you continue to chase after something she has told you in no uncertain terms, is not going to happen?

Seriously, read what you've written:
Every so often the "issue" of me wanting to sleep with her would come up and usually the conversation would end very badly and we wouldn't talk for a few days

Eventually, you're going to push one too many times, and she's going to decide that having a friend whose unwanted advances she has to continually bat away isn't worth her time, history or no history, and you'll lose her friendship.

Can you be friends, just friends? Only you can answer that. But if you can't let go of this unrequited feeling, you're going to have to walk away.
posted by canine epigram at 5:04 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Previous commentors nailed it!

I went through the same thing and it dragged on for three years. I thought I was losing my mind. I had to break off contact completely for a long while until I felt I could be 'just friends'...and we are.

But I don't spend hours on the phone talking to her. I've watched her go through some horrific relationship stuff in the meantime and it made me glad that it's not me. I make an effort to visit or call now and again. But my attention is focused on my girlfriend...who wants a full-on relationship.

Get some space. Disappear for awhile. Date other people. Forget about Miss X for awhile. If she really cares about your well-being, she'll understand, 'cause she'll be getting her freak on too.

After awhile, you can revive the friendship...but on equal terms.
posted by black8 at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2008

Yeah, i think you are friends -- and friends can love each other. Embrace that love and rule out the sexual part. You will have to make this disconnect. But don't ruin yourself over it.

If one day you can approach her as something other than someone who is "hot," "sexy," "drop-dead gorgeous," etc... and instead as your dear friend, you will have come a long way.
posted by punkbitch at 5:10 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's nothing you can do that will make her want to sleep with you. Give it up, you have no control over it. And I could virtually guarantee that if you *did* sleep together, it wouldn't be a good experience.

I think that rather than trying to manipulate her into sleeping with you, look at yourself more deeply. If this scenario about you being in pain because you're not getting what you "need" from a partner is familiar to you, I'd suggest you look at your own self-esteem issues. By pursuing someone who's already told you she *doesn't* want that kind of relationship and not looking for someone who *does* wants you as a partner, you might be reinforcing beliefs you have that you're not worthy of getting what you want.

If listening to her talk about her exploits is painful to you, tell her to stop. Don't subject yourself to that kind of pain.
posted by jasper411 at 5:22 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

We have very different sexual backgrounds, I'm on the inexperienced side and she's done a lot of things with a lot of guys.

I'm only highlighting this comment to make a point, and nothing more. Don't try to be Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. As hard as it is to realize that you can't sleep with your best friend, be glad that you have a female best friend, so when you do meet the girl of your dreams, she can be there so you don't fuck it up.

I don't really understand why men have this tendency to want to sleep with their friends. Is it laziness, or the BS romantic movie storyline? (I ask, because I have a very similar problem; luckily for me, none of the women I'm friends with has any clue.)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2008

Yeah, what everyone else says. Run away from this. Doom. DOOM. DOOM.
posted by paultopia at 6:00 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd echo everything above, and also add that as long as you allow your friendship with her to occupy such a central part of your emotional life, you are not open to any other woman who may come along, actually want to sleep with you and be your best friend.
posted by LooseFilter at 6:14 PM on August 20, 2008 [7 favorites]

I don't really understand why men have this tendency to want to sleep with their friends.

I think it might be because so many (most?) men don't have the kinds of close, open, uninhibited friendships with women that we do with other men (talking about straight guys here). When we do, it's completely great, because women are so great, and if the specific woman we find this friendship with also happens to be very attractive...well, I'd keep trying, too. Have in the past. Unfortunately for the person posting this dilemma, the only thing that worked for me was to tone down the friendship hugely and let the other stuff go.

Plus, don't know how many other men share or will admit to this, but I love the chase. Plus plus, many women are incurably jealous and/or suspicious of partners who have female best friends. Just like men are about partners with non-gay male best friends. One just keeps wondering 'why hasn't it happened between them?' I suppose.
posted by LooseFilter at 6:21 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Over thinking and over talking killed your chance at a physical relationship with this girl. Had you spend more time initiate playful contacts and flirt, you would be closer to what you want than now. More often than not, in relationship, doing the right thing is much more important than doing a lot of the wrong thing. I've heard it compared to dialing a phone number. If you press one wrong number, you will never get connected to the right place; and no amount of further dialing will help you. You should give up that thought now. There is no hope.

To cope with this situation, realize that the loss you feel is sunk cost. You have invested 4 years into a failed venture. Instead of wasting even more resources on it, give it a proper mourning and burial. Then move on and invest in some thing else that may bear fruits. No one can undo the past, but you have the power to change the present and the future.

If you want to keep the friendship, inform your friend of your decision, then cut off communications and chart a path away from this unhealthy fixation and neediness. Once you are in a better place, you will see what a folly it is to pursue someone who were so adamantly uninterested.
posted by curiousZ at 6:35 PM on August 20, 2008

I've mentioned this before in other threads. I've tended to be the female firend who wants to sleep with my male friend who loves me but doesn't want to sleep with me. It sucks but is surviveable and if you can get through it, I think expanding and increasing your capacity to love is actually good for you, even if unrequited romantic love for a specific person is an exercise in frustration and sadness. So sorry to be pithy but these are the things that have helped me as I have faced this in the past.

- You can love someone and not be in love with them. If you need the clue stick you can ask her "Are you in love with me?" and she will say no, unless something very different is going on. This is the difference between how she feels about you and how you feel about her.
- You don't have to stop being with her, but you have to tell yourself what everyone else is telling you, that this is not going to be a relationship for you the way you want it to be. You can use and channel that "OMG SEXAY" energy you have for her into something more useful for yourself. It's a hot furnace, use it to heat something (though to be fair to your other partners, it might be better to divert this into non-sex energy but only you know what's best)
- if you need to tell yourself a little lie to get through this, say that you'll check back in with her in a few years, see if she's changed her mind. Note: YEARS. In a few years, you will have moved on to something/someone else (unless you really screw this up, imo) and you can look back on this time fondly but you have to get some distance on that to do that.
- your moving will take care fo a lot of this. Just the pure phermone rush is part of what is distracting and difficult. Go have your adventure and know that every tie your heart goes buzzbuzzbuzz like it is right now, part of that mindfuck is making you feel that it will NEVER do that again. It's tricksy chemistry, but you'll feel it again, sooner if you're not pining over this woman's unavailability forever.

Hope this is helpful. I've come out the other side of this and you can too. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 6:51 PM on August 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

As much as you care about this girl and as much as you think it's worth the pain of disappointment and rejection to be friend with her, it's going to feel a whole lot better once you get into a real relationship with a woman who wants to be with you. Let this friendship slide, at least for awhile, and go find that woman.
posted by orange swan at 6:52 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Basically, her family background is pretty horrific, which has always stopped her getting close to people, until I came along, and she believes that you can't truly be friends with the person you're sleeping with, ie the idea of "the one" doesn't exist.

Based on this, it's entirely possible she may one day feel as though she wants a relationship with you.


It'll only happen if you let the dream of a couples relationship with her go. REALLY let it go. That means take some time apart from her, bury yourself in work or projects and date. Eventually you'll meet someone else, fall in love and have a great time and maybe one day, as you're telling Miss X about the plans you and your new girl have for the weekend, she might feel a twinge of desire for you.

This possibility does not change the fact that you have let this dream die and move on with your life. Spend a less time with her, so you can give yourself some space and work through this. It doesn't come all at once, sometimes it seems to drag on forever, but this too will pass.

I don't really understand why men have this tendency to want to sleep with their friends.

Generally speaking, men want to sleep with everyone. That fact that it might be a friend is just an extra bonus.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 PM on August 20, 2008

On the extremely unlikely chance that hearing it once more will make a difference, let this one go.

She's told you with words that she doesn't want to fuck you, and she's told you even more clearly with her actions. Moving to another country? Sleeping with some "a bit annoying" guy who isn't you? Those are not the actions of someone dripping at the thought of getting into your pants.

The future is uncertain — it is certainly possible that down the road, she will heal her old wounds, change her priorities, and fall madly in love with you. But it's pretty clear from what you write that that isn't happening with your current set-up.

The ever-wise Jessamyn is right: you can love someone without being in love with them. She loves you... as a friend, as a confidant, as a person to whom she feels very close. She doesn't want to have your babies.

You need to dial back the intimacy with her. Be friends, but don't talk for hours every night. Let your real life come first, and talk to her once in a while in the spaces between your dating, your exciting activities, and all the other stuff you will have going on. Let her be the friend who can help you find the perfect engagement ring, or to whom you introduce your sexy single friends. But stop trying to make her something she has said she doesn't want to be — don't base a friendship on what is essentially a false premise. Be there for her in a genuine way, while looking for love in the right places.
posted by Forktine at 7:53 PM on August 20, 2008

play hard-to-get for a while, that always works!
posted by beccyjoe at 8:19 PM on August 20, 2008

What's your time frame? I agree with the majority of previous posters who tell you to believe what she tells you. However, things change. I think that at some point down the road, it may even be decades from now, if you two were meant to be you will. Patience. Stick with being her friend, date whomever and one day when you least expect it it will happen.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2008

Nthing prefpara. People have a tendency to think others don't know what they REALLY want when they can't handle what they say.

She wants to be friends only. She doesn't see you as a potential sex partner.

To make it easier on you, maybe you should just see her as a dude...actually all girls at work.

That way, you won't think that they are in love with you as well when they are giving you attention.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:00 PM on August 20, 2008

everyone else nailed the never gonna happen angle. next i want you to think about your next serious relationship - how will you describe this girl to your new partner? and would any girl in the world stick around to be second best? i'm guessing no. you love your best friend too much. if you want happiness in a relationship in the future you need to walk away. if you want to live the same kind of relationship life she does (jumping from bed to bed, never wanting to be tied down) keep this friendship.
posted by nadawi at 9:34 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, no. She doesn't want to sleep with you, even if she is a "very attractive girl who enjoys sex" and thus it's "bound to happen" that she's going to sleep with people. People who aren't you, because she's already said "not you."

By the way, that's a vaguely creepy way to describe a woman you're attracted to, and it would certainly make me, at least, feel like you were passing judgment on my sexual experience and sex drive compared to your own. Women of all levels of attractiveness do in fact enjoy sex and seek it out with consenting partners of their choice. There's nothing odd about your friend being female, sexually experienced, and willing to make a few conquests even if they're not serious relationships.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:10 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's time to man up because all your roads lead to, or through, pain. At the very least, you need to stop pressuring her with your attraction. You don't seem willing to end the friendship, I will respect that. Just remember, keeping a friendship going through heartbreak takes a fucking lot of intestinal fortitude. This is one-man hot potato: Keep it to yourself, drop it, but don't throw it at her. (Forgive the bad metaphors, it's late.)

There should have been a thousand unsaid confirmations on both your parts, before you dropped the L bomb. That's an awful burden to lay on someone, if you don't have evidence they feel the same.

In fairness, she really shouldn't be spending hours on the phone after you've repeatedly declared your interest, and she's declared her dis-interest. It's selfish; you're not a sugar-free boyfriend substitute. But as you said, she didn't lead you on, so you weren't particularly careful with your own heart either.

Exactly how does the "issue" of you wanting to sleep with her 'present' itself anyway? Such a cringe-inducing line. Where's the flirting? Humor? Seduction? Sounds like Everybody Loves Raymond whining to his wife for sex. ICK.

She's sexy, right? Us girls quickly suss out the guys who "want from us" versus the guys who are offering *us* something. Yeah I get it, I'm hot, youwantmeyouwantmeyouwantme. Why should *I* want *you*? You wanting her isn't enough. What turns *her* on? You wanting her doesn't make her want you. This is really, really common of young, insecure, inexperienced guys. Think of the dance scenes in "Night at the Roxbury", versus the dance scene in "Thomas Crown Affair". Is there any doubt both guys wanted to fuck their dance partners? But the former is desperate, masturbatory, uninvited; the latter is confident, giving, unpredictable.

The fact you are great friends does not change the rules of attraction. It's a huge stumbling block, because you are not new and mysterious, and there's a lot to lose. Everyone has said let it go. This is good advice, because it doesn't matter if there's actually hope or not. IF there is hope, you pining for it destroys your chances. It makes you the desperate, needy guy. Practice flirting for the fun of it. With lots of girls. Even her, sparingly. Your previous attempts to fake "player" obviously don't work, but a little mysterious, a little witty, a little too busy to always be available, a little challenging, a little unpredictable, a lot more fun... What better way to actually discover that confident version of yourself than moving to another country. It might be a great opportunity to change how she sees you; it can definitely be a great opportunity to change how you see yourself. Good luck, love sucks. : )
posted by for_serious at 10:40 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

I went through this, and it was not fun, and it happened 4 or so years ago and I'm still pissed off and bitter about it and still recovering and trying to find myself. It took up 3 or so good years of my 20s and left me having a really hard time trusting women.

That said, you never know. But you can take a good guess.

In the end, we made out a couple of times, and slept together once. It was not bad. In fact it was lovely. But she was sleeping with her roomate on the side, and not telling me about it. It was a really hard time. I don't know how I would have gotten out of it, I did truly love her (and still do, sort of) but I wish I'd never met her, in some ways.
posted by sully75 at 6:06 AM on August 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this isn't going to work. Either way.

Your best bet is to cut her off cold. Before you leave, tell her that in order for you to be happy, you need to end the friendship because you are not happy pining away like this and need to get on with your life. Tell her you're certain she will understand and respect the new boundaries. Wish her the best of luck.

Then move on. For real. Don't call and if she calls, have a canned response that thanks her for calling, but that you have not changed your mind and that you wish her all the best.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:24 AM on August 21, 2008

Over thinking and over talking killed your chance at a physical relationship with this girl.

Or possibly it was just the fact that she's not sexually attracted to him.

Don't blame yourself. Don't try to pinpoint what you did wrong. I've been on both sides of this, and you're just going to have to give yourself some time. When you're feeling low, repeat out loud, "This will pass." Because it will, and you'll find someone.
posted by Evangeline at 7:45 AM on August 21, 2008

I think most people are reading this wrong. Based on some of what you said, it sounds to me like you're the sincere, "nice guy" type (hate that term) and she's a girl who is afraid of a guy like you and tends to go for the "bad boy" type (also hate).

I've seen this happen countless times to my friends who are the "nice" type (both guys and girls): Somebody keeps a person around to fulfill half of their relationship. They are the emotional support/friend part of the relationship. This means they gets much closer than the actual, physical/dating relationships, but there isn't a sexual aspect to it.

My advice to you, if this is indeed the situation, is that you should remain friends with her but do your best to take a step back from the whole thing. It sounds like you're very serious about looking for a relationship, and you're not going to find one here, at least not anytime soon. I've seen these situations work out such that the person eventually wises up and realizes that, despite their attraction to jerks, they should be with this person to whom they're already very close, but this is generally only after a lot of anguish (and generally only after the "nice" person moves on a bit and starts to live their own life).

Keep her as a friend, but don't pour yourself into it so much. It's simply not fair for you to completely throw yourself into a situation like this and realistically get almost nothing in return.
posted by atomly at 10:14 AM on August 21, 2008

Everybody here has it more thing...dude going forward do not assume that talking on the phone everyday will elevate the relationship from friendship to a romantic one...if anything the opposite will usually happen.
posted by The1andonly at 10:46 AM on August 21, 2008

As friendship gets thrown around here a lot, you may find that the real friendship begins when you stop wanting to have sex with her.
posted by ersatz at 4:27 PM on August 21, 2008

I came here to say what I say in threads like these, but it looks like its already been covered.

So I will add that often times, adult children of divorce will equate the heightened emotional toil of rejection with falling in love. Does this apply here? If so, i'd suggest to read up on the signs.
posted by softlord at 6:12 AM on August 22, 2008

for me, undoubtedly she feels like "the one", beautiful, sexy and my best friend

Has it ever occurred to you that ¨the one¨ would be someone who is interested in a romantic and sexual relationship with you? Think on that.
posted by yohko at 2:26 PM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

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