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