I’m In Love With My Friend… But She Has a Boyfriend

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A man looks to Eli and Josie for answers on why, after he confessed his love for a female friend, she went away completely. 

Dear Sexes: I’ve been in love with a friend of mine for a long time. We had grown emotionally close over the last months, and I was helping her solve many personal issues she wouldn’t dare tell anyone else. But there remained distance. When I finally told her how I felt, she revealed she has a boyfriend—something she had previously denied. Now she has stopped talking to me altogether. I’m terribly confused and upset. Can I still save our friendship? Or was she just using me for emotional support?

She Said: My main concern is that she didn’t tell you that she had a boyfriend. That is a little glitch in the trust you should have in a friend.

I can think of two reasons for this. First, she wanted to have an intimate emotional relationship with you (as a friend) and was afraid you wouldn’t be willing to do that without the promise—somewhere on the horizon—that she might be available. She was probably afraid she would lose your friendship if you knew.

The other reason is that maybe she doesn’t have those types of feelings for you right now, and believes that saying “no” to you is less painful if it’s because she has a boyfriend. Like, it’s not a rejection of you as a person, but rather that she’s already “taken”.

Here’s a weird thing some women do (and possibly some men). We cannot believe that we have value to men except as a romantic or sexual partner. Could you really love me as just a human being, and be my friend, and be trustworthy and honest if you don’t think you’ll get to sleep with me?

I think we’ve been so inundated our whole lives with messages saying that we are lovers, sex objects, wives, moms and sisters of men—and not just friends—and we really believe that our only worth is in fulfilling those roles.

Or perhaps, as I said, she doesn’t feel that saying simply, “I love you as a friend, and am so glad we’re close, but I don’t feel romantically toward you right now” is legitimate on its own. As in, if she doesn’t belong to someone else, why wouldn’t she be available to belong to you?

That doesn’t mean you’ve been approaching her with this attitude, but rather it’s something we learn from our childhood. If you’re a man and she’s a woman, you’ll remember the message that boys and girls can’t be friends. Think of “Girls have cooties” and “Girls rule and boys drool”? As grown-ups, we’ve been taught that men and women can’t be friends without eventually falling in love and ruining everything. See every romantic comedy every to appear on screen!

You can potentially salvage this relationship. Let her know she means a lot to you as a person, and that you value her friendship and wouldn’t want it to be hurt by your feelings.

Then remind yourself that sometimes feelings are just feelings, and nothing more. They don’t have to overwhelm you or break your heart. You can watch that crush come into your chest, then you can watch it pass.

Sounds like you’re a great friend. Just keep that up!

He Said: Yes, and yes—to answer your questions—with conditions. Yes, you can still save your friendship, if you really want to, and if your friend is also interested in having a friendship. If your friend was leading you on/using you for emotional support, is that okay with you? Do you want to have a friendship with someone like that? Or were you getting something out of the exchange as well? Be careful to make sure you’re honest with yourself as opposed to making a victim of yourself.

Having said that, I’m sorry you’re upset and hurting. Unrequited love is always painful, especially when it involves an established friend. As you say, your friend was sharing a lot with you, creating a sense of intimacy. But don’t confuse sharing with romantic caring. Judge your friend by her actions, not her words. If she really wants to more than just a friendship with you, she’ll let you know. What did she say, when you told her how you felt about her?  Did she ANYTHING about her feelings for you?

Also, try your best not to ignore the warning signs—now and in the future. That “distance” you noticed was the fact that your friend had a boyfriend. Most likely she denied it, because she enjoyed the extra attention from you. Maybe you were offering some emotional support she wasn’t getting from her boyfriend. She also probably knew if she discussed her boyfriend with you, you would lose some of your romantic hopes for the two of you.

Now that you know exactly where you stand, she’s stopped communicating with you completely? I’d say it’s time to move on. You’ve made your feelings clear. If she wants to change the dynamic of your relationship, it’s up to her. Let her make the next move, and don’t wait around to find out the answer. If you’re the only one taking risks or being vulnerable, you’ll end up being the only one who gets hurt. Obviously you don’t want your friend to be hurt, but let her be the one to reach out for once. And when/if that happens, be clear and honest with each other regarding your intentions.


Do you have a question for Eli and Josie? Ask it here!

Originally appeared at She Said He Said


Photo: Flickr/AleBonvini

About She Said He Said

Eli and Josie, friends since college, realized how lucky they were to have one another—an honest friend of the opposite sex who tells it like it is. They wanted to share that with the world and so www.shesaidhesaid.me was born.


  1. From my point of view, it’s doubtful that this guy and girl EVER really had a true friendship.

    Usually, when there’s a strong undercurrent of physical attraction between men and women (no matter which gender it’s coming from)—then the friendship is just a façade, an act, or a smokescreen that one of them is using to eventually try to seduce the other.

    True, the girl may have been using the guy for his attention. But, it’s also possible that this guy was hiding his TRUE feelings just to set the stage (see— “grow the guts”) to tell her how he really felt about her all along.

    Just more food for thought…

    ~Victory Unlimited

  2. I hear her boyfriend’s voice in the background here. I can imagine that his feelings are part of the equation, as I think they should be. I can hear him now:

    “He’s clearly in love with you. I don’t like you hanging out with him, because I don’t trust him. I’m very uncomfortable with the whole idea. He knows you have a boyfriend, right?”
    Her truthful answer: No, he doesn’t know.

    “What? What do you mean he doesn’t know about me? You haven’t told him that you have a boyfriend. Seems like if you were close friends then my name would have come up by this point.”
    Her truthful answer: I told him I didn’t have a boyfriend.

    “What? You DENIED that you had a boyfriend? Like our relationship didn’t exist. Okay. Maybe I should make it easier for you and make that a real possibility.”

    • FlyingKal says:

      “When I finally told her how I felt, she revealed she has a boyfriend—something she had previously denied. Now she has stopped talking to me altogether.”

      I don’t really think that her having a boyfriend or not, or if she was lying to you earlier denying having one or doing it now claiming to have one, is the real issue here.
      The point is that you confessed you feelings for her, and now she won’t talk to you. Clearly she doesn’t want the “burden” of your romantic feelings.

      • wellokaythen says:

        Good point. If she stopped talking to you altogether, then what other answer do you need? If that’s not a clear enough message, then I’m wondering what kind of signal he’s waiting for. Skywriting? The Bat Signal?

  3. wellokaythen says:

    [no sarcasm here. I’m serious this time.]

    Dear Letter Writer,

    You have some emotional homework to do. It’s not fair that you have to do it, you deserve to have a life where you don’t have to do it, but unfortunately it’s something you need to do in life. This will feel completely unfair, because what about her and all the stuff she has to fix in herself? That will happen or not regardless of what you do, and only she can do that for her. If you’ve already done this work, then this will just be review. The more you do this now, the less work there will be later in life. Trust me, if I had done this earlier I would have saved thousands of dollars in therapy bills.

    You’re probably grieving the loss of that relationship and the loss of your hopes. If you feel sad, then feel sad. If you feel angry, then feel angry. If you feel rejected, then feel rejected. Feelings are feelings, nothing more and nothing less. Take a moment to grieve the loss of whatever you feel a loss about. Figure out where to draw the line between grieving and wallowing.

    Then take a moment to figure out whatever lesson there is to learn from that relationship. Don’t globalize, like “this is what ALL WOMEN are like!” or “Falling in love is the worst thing ever!” Stick to something more moderate, like, in situation like X, it’s best to do Y.

    Ignore her for the moment. Pretend she never existed for a second. Back up and think about just you. Decide what you think friendship means to you in general. Figure out what you want out of friendship. Then, decide if she really was your friend or not. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t. Decide if what she has to offer you now really is friendship or not. Maybe, maybe not. You have a right to decide for yourself if you are willing to be her friend. There is a limit to what you owe her. Figure out where that limit is.

  4. wellokaythen says:

    I think in this case He Said’s response is more useful. She Said’s response gives some insight into what might be going on in her head, but even then it’s more speculation than advice.

    If it even matters what her motivations were, let’s not overlook the possibility that she was conflicted because she was attracted to you and to her boyfriend at the same time, or maybe she was keeping her options open. We’re assuming that she had a boyfriend that entire time, but maybe he didn’t become her boyfriend until later in your friendship. I appreciate the idea of assuming the best about other people, but that’s not always accurate. I refuse to believe that a woman who fails to mention her boyfriend to her male friend is any different from a man who fails to mention his girlfriend to a female friend. Maybe it’s for good reasons, maybe it’s for self-centered reasons, maybe it’s “gender messages,” and maybe it’s just unethical manipulation.

    People can be like monkeys. Sometimes a man wants to have a new branch before he lets go of the old branch. Sometimes a woman acts the same way.

    If you’re in love, be aware of how that shapes your thinking about her. You may be idealizing her and idealizing your friendship with her, when in reality neither one was all that great.

  5. Why is it never discussed why women continually push away men in their lives who they are probably best suited to be in a relationship with? I never see women or female oriented websites tackling this issue. If anything continued support is offered for women who dismiss their male friends as a sexual relationship partner who they have deep connections with.

    These men who want to take their friendships “to another level” seem to really understand what makes for a good relationship. Why are women so blind to this, and why is it never addressed that there is something wrong with a culture that tells women that a man they can share great times, and deep emotional ties with is an unsuitable romantic partner who can easily be discarded?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Jimbo, women talk about this all the time! I’ve even talked about it here on GMP at least once, if not twice. It’s all over the place. There’s an article here on GMP by Everyday Feminism that talks about it too… or maybe it was on the EF site… Regardless, there are a ton of places in the Internet where women talk about falling for toxic men and breaking out of the cycle of drama-filled or dangerous/unhealthy relationships and finding healthy ones that may have less “drama”.

      • Can you link some Joanna? I know a few people that probably need to see it, male n female.

      • @Joanna…

        Yes, women do talk, talk, talk about it.

        But, it still begs the question: Why are these women in these relationships to start with?

        I think this is the big difference between men and women: Women love to discuss the issue and talk about it ad nauseum. While men seek solutions to a problem.

        In this piece for example, SHE suggests talk talk talk offering no real solution. HE suggest a solution: move on.

        I have found that most women are very reluctant to take other women to task over this behavior.

      • Joanna the articles you describe are not what I’m describing at all. Yes there are many articles for women about moving away from “toxic” or bad relationships. That’s not what I’m asking about.

        I want articles that explore why women so often put up a road block to their platonic male friends who they get along with so well and are often “best friends” with. Most “friendzone” type articles/stories are from men. These men seem to be able to understand that the woman fits the most important compatibility traits that would make a good romantic relationship. The women are don’t seem to understand it though. They’ll say they just dont see their friend “that way”, and then go and pursue another relationship with a man who isn’t suited for them. So why is it so often the woman who doesn’t seem to understand that the relationship dynamics that make their friendship with their platonic male friend so great are exactly the ones that often make for a solid and lasting romantic relationship?

        • Seems to me like the answer is right there in front of you. If women aren’t consistently responding to these “compatibility traits” then it’s because they don’t really find them all that important in a sexual partner. There’s no mystery behind it. It just is what it is. You can write articles about it from here until the cows come home, but that isn’t going to change someone’s fundamental nature. Women aren’t putting up “roadblocks” to anything; in most cases the idea of a sexual relationship developing between her and the guy in question was never even a possibility. At least, that’s my experience from talking to many women who’ve been in this position before.

          Also, you can’t discount the possibility that some people are just broken. I’ve dated plenty of women who I could tell flat-out weren’t ready for a secure committed relationship. Many men will waste months and years pining after these girls, wondering why they won’t “settle down” with a good man when in reality she’s just completely unsuited for such a thing.

        • I think it comes down to sexual attraction. Imagine you have a female friend who is a kind, loving, wonderful person who would make a fantastic life partner — but she weighs 200 pounds, or doesn’t have a pretty face, or she’s flat chested and you like big chests (or visa versa), or she’s white and you prefer Asian girls, or whatever … it could be a million things. Maybe she’s just not your “type” physically. (There is another article on the site called “Angel” which is about a guy breaking up with an otherwise great woman because she wasn’t beautiful.)

          Many women make bad choices in relationships because they are going after men they find attractive forca variety of cultural, social, psychological or biological reasons.

          I don’t generally like pickup artist philosophy but they do have sone good tips about being the active, interesting kind of guy that women like instead of a passive kind of guy who women don’t feel sexual about. I think one important piece of advice is to be clear with women upfront that you are looking for romantic/sexual relationships, not friendships. If she isn’t interested then don’t spend too much time or energy on her. That sounds harsh but you only have so much time.

          Also, the truth is, as people grow up, most learn to make wiser and better choices. Hopefully.

        • Jimbo

          There are many explanations to this phenomena. One is that
          women ( like men )have a tendency to end up with a partner that is somewhat similar to something about their parents, and their background. What they grew up with.
          They are comfortable with what is know and familiar, even if that is trouble.

          So daughters of alcoholics often end up with men with the same problem.

          A ” good” man can be like an alien from an other planet….so to speak for women that are not used to that kind of men.

          And of course there are many other explanations as well.
          You can feel intimidated by such perfection and decency….if you are pretty wild yourself.

          But reminder that lot of women are in fact emotionally healthy enough to say yes to a good man. And they do, so every day all over the world.

  6. I would just tell the guy to learn game. I know the player/PUA types are universally reviled on this website, but one glaring positive change I’ve noticed in my own life is that my male/female friendships are 100% authentic these days. My female friends know that they can trust me to remain “just friends,” because if I was just looking for sex I could easily find it elsewhere. In fact, many of them have gone on to introduce me to their single, available girlfriends as well. There’s a huge range of possibility between nice guy/doormat and a**hole/player; this guy, like so many others, just needs to find a sweet spot that works for him.

    • “because if I was just looking for sex I could easily find it elsewhere”

      because not all men are just looking for sex.

      • So what does that have to do with anything I wrote? The point, which should be fairly clear within the context in which the original line was written, is that I don’t let my desire for sex interfere with my male/female friendships. Apparently, from the number of times this still comes up in conversation and on websites like these, this is still a HUGE issue for a number of men. I was just trying to illustrate one way, among many, a guy could work to overcome that. It’s fine if you don’t agree with me, but at least do so in a way that adds something meaningful to the conversation.

        • If you are a PUA, why would you be friends with women who you don’t want to have sex with?

          • First of all, I never said I was a PUA. I hate the label and much of what it stands for, but I have learned quite a bit from following the guys who are or claim to be PUAs.

            But to answer your question: My life doesn’t revolve around sex. Sex is a powerful motivating force, and it seems critically important when you’re not getting it. But like food, shelter, and money, beyond a certain point any extra time invested in it is superfluous. I enjoy the company of (some) women for purposes beyond simple sexual gratification.

            That’s the thing about pick-up “artistry” and game. Most people tend to demonize the worst aspects while completely failing to recognize some of its immediate benefits to both men and women. My relationships are far more authentic now than they’ve ever been; I have no desire to manipulate and control the women in my life. They are free to come and go as they feel. I’m often sad when they leave, but it’s easier to move on when you know that many will come back or soon be replaced by someone else. And I don’t burden down my relationships with unrequited sexual desire. Either we both want sex, and have it; or we neither of us do, and we don’t. If there’s an imbalance, then the relationship is unfair and unstable, so I prefer to just let it go. It’s not really all that complicated, and incredibly freeing in a way, but few us have the confidence and discipline to be this way in our relationships. In my mind, it’s a far more honest way of approaching relationships. But I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s not always a smooth ride even for the people for whom it does work.

            • @DD…

              “First of all, I never said I was a PUA. I hate the label and much of what it stands for, but I have learned quite a bit from following the guys who are or claim to be PUAs.”

              If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck..It’s a duck!

              • You’re free to think what you want, but to me a PUA is a guy who focuses the bulk of his sexual energy on picking up new girls. I spend the bulk of my sexual energy on establishing and maintaining relationships. Either way, the label is irrelevant. I don’t have a fraction of the relationship problems that a lot of guys commenting here seem to have. To me, most of the major themes and issues discussed here seem downright trivial, as the answers are all pretty obvious to someone who’s been there before. I’m just trying to provide what I think is helpful feedback to anyone who might be reading or commenting on this and looking for a direction to go in.

  7. “she revealed she has a boyfriend—something she had previously denied. Now she has stopped talking to me altogether. I’m terribly confused and upset. Can I still save our friendship? Or was she just using me for emotional support?”

    this woman lied to you. she’s a liar. a manipulative woman who friendzoned you but didn’t even have the decency to do it like an adult. she did it in secret & lied to you. she used you. there was no friendship. she was stringing you along with the promise of a future (and so does josie) but you have no future with this woman.

    you are a nice guy. google “nice guy” & read how women truly feel about you on their blogs & websites. read about yourself in their own words. open your eyes. do not let this woman back into your life. don’t be fooled again.

    • What is it about this concept “nice men” ” nice guys” ?
      Is this a curse word/ ugly word in America? Hate speach?


      • Some women who use the “nice guy tm” insult usually have a major lack of understanding of the guys side. They will generalize those guys as being entitled because some of them are but generally they fail to understand many are simply looking for love, are being told that being extra nice to someone is how to BE ATTRACTIVE to the opposite gender and that nice is basically the word used for supersexyman in a lot of media. They also gloss over the FACT there are women who DO know the guy likes her, and she uses his attention purposely and leads him on to continue that…which is what many guys refer to as the friendzone.

        • Thank you Archy.
          You see this confuses me. I do not see so much contempt for men where I live.
          But a lot women also know they have a problem if they “love to much” and do not expected to be treated with digity and respect. To know your own self worth is important otherwise you can be exploited emotionally,economically and otherwise.
          I wonder if this ” nice guy” concept is an expression of what an American man is not supposed to be like.

          In some other parts of the world he wold be appreciated( unless he lacks self respect and let people walks all over him). To be generous and warm hearted is a good quality in any human being.

          • Usually the “nice guy” in quotes or with the TM label means they are a guy who SAYS they are nice. Some of those guys are nice, some are jerks. A lot from my understanding are shy and may not communicate how they feel, some of the women have no idea the guy likes them and some of the women KNOW he likes them and either gives the “you’re a great friend” type speech to let him down softly (but they usually fail at it and leave hope) or they use the guy for the extra attention he gives them, gifts, or benefits he gives her that he doesn’t normally give others.

            Actual nice guys usually aren’t criticized like this, but some of the “nice guys” are nice which makes it much more difficult to get both genders discussing the problem. Some nice guys feel entitled to sex because he’s nice to her, others are just showing frustration that they are told being nice = very sexy but they have no luck with women. This becomes very hard to deal with when they see her go for a guy they know is a jerk because it goes against the idea of women want nice guys which is what many guys are told from young (movies, etc are full of that message). Thing is everyone is different, some girls like bad boys, some like nice guys and this isn’t said enough because people I find tend to generalize about attraction when there is no universal attraction.

            • Hi Archy
              I totally agree with you. Some like big men other like skinny ones. Some like shy vulnerable men,other like the outgoing wild ones…

              The best is to be authentic. But that is not so easy as it sounds.
              You Archy come across an authentic person.
              Sometimes you get angry,sometimes you are sweet. And often you are intellectual .

              Interesting .

              I hope this concept ” nice men” can be discussed further just like you say.
              We need both aggression and tenderness.

  8. “I’d say it’s time to move on. You’ve made your feelings clear. If she wants to change the dynamic of your relationship, it’s up to her. Let her make the next move, and don’t wait around to find out the answer.”

    Good answer. I agree.

  9. I think she’s lying about the boyfriend because it is easier (in her mind) than saying “I’m not attracted to you.”. If she and the letter writer are that close, and she never once mentioned that she had a boyfriend, that just makes no sense. That’s why I think it’s a lie.

    Was she “using” him for emotional support? Don’t we use all our friends for emotional support? I don’t necessarily think that’s malicious of her. It could be, but maybe she just inadvertently let the friendship go too far because the letter writer was going out of his way to be supportive. If she was a manipulative person, she’d continue to string him along. Instead, she’s doing perhaps a kinder thing (in the long run) by ending the friendship.

    I personally don’t think their friendship can be saved. I think she clearly feels extremely awkward now. Maybe she feels guilty that she let things go too far. I find it uncomfortable to be friends with someone who I know has feelings that I don’t reciprocate.

    The letter writer needs to move on and if he is looking for relationships (not friendships) he should be upfront with wome at the beginning that he wants to date them, not just hang out and be friends, if they aren’t interested then move on. Maybe it sounds harsh but all the hours you are spending with the friend who is not interested in you, you could be spending looking for women who are interested in you.

    • “Was she “using” him for emotional support? Don’t we use all our friends for emotional support?”

      Good lord tell me you are rare, because that’s pretty narcissistic. I don’t use my friends, I share my support with friends. Big DIFFERENCE. If they are sad, I am there for them as they are for me. Put a sign around your neck if you use people please, so people like me can avoid you like the plague.

      • I should have put “use” in quotes. I mean we are all in relationships because we want something. The letter writer wants something from her as well. If you are saying you can be in a relationship while getting nothing out of it for yourself, you are a unique individual.

        • Vincent says:

          I think the problem with the word “use” is the implied lack of reciprocation. In a genuine friendship both parties offer support to each other. “Using” someone for something, such as emotional support, has the implication of accepting support without offering anything in return. My friends and I don’t use each other, we are there for each other. I listen to them and they listen to me. We offer each other advice when asked (and occasionally when not asked) and we help each other move heavy objects from one room to another or one house to another.

          I don’t know if this is exactly what Archy meant (since I don’t know Archy) but I would bet it’s fairly close.

          • I think I was responding to the idea that it was wrong of her to seek emotional support from a man she wasn’t interested in sexually/romantically. That would mean that women should never have platonic relationships with men. Maybe she was giving him reciprocal emotional support- he doesn’t say she wasn’t. Maybe it was very one sided but we don’t know that really.

  10. “Could you really love me as just a human being, and be my friend, and be trustworthy and honest if you don’t think you’ll get to sleep with me?”

    Why men feelings and love always described as an effort to want to sleep with someone?

    Just because we have grown a feelings towards a friend, doesnt mean we dont think shes a human being and doesnt mean we want to sleep with her.

    We are human too.

    • “Why men feelings and love always described as an effort to want to sleep with someone? ”
      Because many women believe stereotypes way too much. Why do you think so much criticism of the friendzone is framed as male entitlement to sex? Because largely those women criticizing it have no idea that most men actually do want a relationship that includes sex and not JUST sex. Women can be their own worst enemy here, just as guys telling each other “girls want bad boys”…they end up reinforcing their negativity and it makes me a fuckload harder for male and female friends to BE friends or progress further.

      There’s a huge difference in being someones friend JUST to get into their panties and being someones friends with the hope of dating one day but if that doesn’t happen then it may be too painful if that guy has feelings for her to just stay friends. If you’re head over heels for someone, it’s painful as hell to see them when they don’t feel the same way then even more painful if they go on to have a partner, not everyone can deal with that pain. But on the outside it can appear to be the guy isn’t interested in friendship cuz she rejected him.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        As I say in the post, it’s not something THIS guy did, but a message we’re sent form our infancy about where our value lies.

        You guys don’t like the stereotypes about men that are out there, and how those stereotypes affect society. It’s the same for us.

        • You went into some detail to explain a pretty significant bit of un-friend behavior. I agree that all the messages you mentioned exist and exert pressure on people. She failed pretty miserably as a friend if she chose to listen to those messages rather than trust her friend, though, don’t you think?

          • Joanna Schroeder says:


            I have a funny way of looking at responsibility.

            I think that the individual makes bad choices and is solely responsible for making the choice.

            But society, as a whole can sometimes set an individual up to feel that choice is reasonable – or that it is their only option.

            I don’t know what happened with this woman. I do feel that she was using him to some degree, and probably didn’t know it.

            Or maybe she’s in love with him, too, and can’t admit it? That’s the problem with this format. We cannot know. Either way, yes, she acted shitty. But once he and she talk again (if they do) I hope he has a certain understanding of what may have influenced her to do the shitty thing. Then he can decide if she’s a shitty person, or someone who was in a bad place that she can move away from.

            • “I think that the individual makes bad choices and is solely responsible for making the choice.

              But society, as a whole can sometimes set an individual up to feel that choice is reasonable – or that it is their only option.”

              I dunno if that’s a funny way of looking at responsibility. It’s definitely a well thought out way of looking at responsibility. 🙂

      • This is completely true. I agree with everything you said.

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