DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I (19/m) recently confessed my crush to an online friend (21/f).
For about 4 years now I’ve been very close to a friend of mine online. In fact, we’ve been so close that I’ve had a crush on her for 3 of those years. Even when I had a relationship with someone else, the feelings kept surfacing no matter how hard I tried to push them away.
After I broke up with my then girlfriend, I felt the intense need to finally tell my crush how I had felt about her. I waited a few months to do this, since I didn’t want to just jump into it after a break up. Of course, I was hoping for a positive outcome, but I ultimately didn’t mind if she didn’t want to pursue a relationship. I just wanted to be honest about how I felt about her.
Her response consisted of asking me how long I felt that way, a lot of awkward stumbling (I was much the same in the matter), and saying that while she felt really REALLY happy, she didn’t think anyone would ever like her, and that she didn’t want to jump into things without thinking it over for a few days. I was totally ok with this.
Now it’s been over a month. We still talk daily, exactly as we did before I told her. I’ve tried to talk to her about things, but it’s always met with silence, and a subject change. The closest I’ve ever gotten was an “I still don’t know”.
I’ve stopped trying to talk about it, because I don’t want to be an asshole who keeps trying to shove her into an uncomfortable situation. But it’s getting to me emotionally and hitting my anxiety. I suppose I just want closure, a yes or no instead of this radio silence I’ve been getting.
At this point, I understand that it’s a no, and I can accept that. My best guess is that she doesn’t want to risk hurting my feelings or making things weird; though I’m not actually sure of course.
I guess in the end I’m asking “What do I do about that?”. Do I simply leave the subject matter alone and accept it? Or would it be better to force the conversation to happen? I feel like a massive asshole in this situation overall honestly.
– Just Want an Answer
DEAR JUST WANT AN ANSWER: Before we get to your question, JWA, I want to point out what you did wrong here: you made the classic mistake of just confessing your crush, and leaving it at that. While there’s a lot of stories in pop-culture where people confess their crushes on people, in practice it’s probably the worst way you can go about it. Not because there’s anything wrong with having a crush on someone, or even acting on it, but because all you’re doing is dropping this information in their lap like a cat bringing it’s owner a dead mouse. When somebody just confesses their feelings, what they’re saying is “OK, here’s this information… now what are you going to do with it?” That puts the other person in the incredibly awkward position of having to decide how they feel and how to respond. In a very real way, it’s putting the onus on them to decide the future of your relationship, which is a hell of a lot of pressure when they may have never even thought about it before.
This is why my general rule of thumb is that, rather than confess your feelings, the best move is to ask them on a date. It doesn’t have to be terribly elaborate or profound, just “hey, I really dig you and I’d love to take you on a date; how would you like to go do $COOL_THING on $SPECIFIC_DAY?” This is a much lower – and more reasonable – ask than simply telling someone “hey, I have feelings for you”; a date isn’t an invitation to reconsider an entire relationship, it’s an entry level exploration of whether there’s any chemistry or interest.
Now granted, this is more difficult when you’re dealing with a strictly online relationship. It’s a little hard to propose a date when you haven’t even met, nevermind don’t live in the same city (or within a reasonable distance of one another). But I’ve written before about online only relationships, but the short version is: if you haven’t met in person, then you’re not dating. No matter how well you may know somebody or how much chemistry you have in text or even in Skype, none of this guarantees chemistry when you meet in person.
So while I don’t doubt that she’s an important person in your life… declaring your love for her is honestly a little premature.
(And honestly? I don’t think you’re an asshole. You’re just young and enthusiastic and you took the route that was a little less than perfect and that’s ok.)
But hey, that’s all for the next time this issue comes up. Your question is what do you do now?
And the answer is… nothing. I mean, I hate to tell you this chief, but you got your answer. You already know that. Hell, you said that yourself: this is the definition of a “soft no”. She doesn’t want to say anything because honestly, she doesn’t want to make things any more awkward than they already are. There’s not really anything else to say, and your bringing it up just makes it more uncomfortable.The best thing you can do is accept that she’s not interested in you that way. And hey, that’s a damn shame; it always kinda sucks when the people we have feelings for don’t return them. But the fact that she doesn’t love you the way you’d prefer doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you as best she can. Being her friend may not be what you hoped for, but that friendship is pretty damn awesome.
Were I you, I’d just take the “no, thank you” and move on. If you do need to say anything… well, the best thing is to say “hey, I realize things are a little awkward right now, but I want you to know, it’s all good and I’m willing to power through the awkward if you are.” And then just drop the subject. If she ever wants to talk about it, she’ll let you know.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A few weeks ago I wrote in about my friend Sarah. Taking your advice, I scheduled a trip with her last month and made it a point that we had to talk about us.
I'm happy to report that both the trip and conversation were a success. We agreed that we both had developed feelings for each other over the time spent together but we each had held our tongues for similar reasons. She confirmed she had caught the feels and was thinking about what it would be like to get serious, but when her family member unexpectedly passed away it threw her life into disarray and she realized our lives weren't going in similar directions - which I agreed with. We agreed it was best to remain friends and she encouraged me to get active dating. I wished her all the best as she continues to deal with the family issues at home and reminded her that she has friends here that care for her. As for the trip itself we had a blast and continued to be physical.
I have mixed feelings about the outcome of course but recognize it is for the best. We remain close friends and we're staying in touch. I want to thank you and the community for the comments which encouraged me to finally get the closure with Sarah.
Currently, I'm back in therapy. Even with the confidence I gained from my time with Sarah it's not enough to calm my nerves and get comfortable around people. I still need to work the anxiety that continues to hold me back from actively dating. The work continues.
Hanging By The Telephone
DEAR HANGING BY THE TELEPHONE: Thanks for letting us know how things were going. I’m glad that your trip was a success, even if it wasn’t necessarily the outcome you’d been hoping for.
In the meantime, you’re on the right track: taking care of yourself and working on your anxiety issues is absolutely the correct choice.
It ain’t glamorous or even terribly fun… but by the end, you’ll be in a much better place. And, even better: you’ll be ready when you find another opportunity for love and connection.
You’ve got this HTBT.
All will be well.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)