DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: The story I’m about to tell might be a little jumbled. I’m telling it to you as I learned about it, not necessarily in chronological order.
I’m a junior in college. Two and a half years ago, freshman year, I met a girl. We talked, occasionally hung out in groups, etc. We were pretty much just acquaintances. Fast forward to this past November: I figure out I want to go out with this same girl. Lucky me: she wants to go out with me too. We’re dating. We’re fine. I’m not writing you for advice about me and her. That might happen later is things start going south, but it’s a different email and I don’t want to think about it.
I’m writing you because what I didn’t know, before we started dating, is that one of my closest friends has had feelings for her. For the last two years. She didn’t reciprocate, but he never got over his feelings for her. She’s been dealing with that for two years. He doesn’t know we’re dating yet, but it’s only a matter of time before either he finds out or she just tells him so that he doesn’t hear about it second hand.
Now, I did something like what he’s doing now in high school (look at me, playing like I’m an expert because I was stupid and felt heartbroken in high school.) I know how shitty it felt. I really don’t want my friend to have to go through that, but I’m at a loss as far as what I can do to help the guy. He’s generally socially withdrawn and quiet to begin with, and I imagine I’ll be one of the last people he wants to talk to when he learns I’m dating the girl he’s had the hots for for the last two years. The situation with him seems to suck from every angle I can see. Can you help me out Doc? Is there anything I can do to help the guy, or am I just going to have to be resigned to the fact that we probably won’t be friends for a while and that he’s going to go through some shit for a while?
I probably should have worked these two things that I’m about to say into the email organically at some point, but it’s 1:30 in the morning as I write this part and my ability to revise has gone to shit.
1) I just want it said that there’s no way I’m breaking off things with her to save him the heartache. I feel bad that this’ll make him sad, but it’s also the direct result of me being really happy, and I’m not giving that up. The only thing that’ll happen then is that three people will be sad instead of just one.
2) I might be totally overreacting about how bad this will be. But two years without getting over her. I’m not an expert, but there’s no way that can possibly be good.
Anyways, thank you for reading and thank you for your time!
They Call Me The Seeker
DEAR THEY CALL ME THE SEEKER: I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: people don’t get to call “dibs” on other people. That’s not how relationships work, that’s not how people work and it’s incredibly naive and selfish for someone to declare somebody off-limits because somebody else dating them will give you a sad.
I’ve got a lot of sympathy for your friend, Seeker; I’ve been there more times than I care to count. But the fact remains that his liking your girlfriend doesn’t mean that nobody else is allowed to date her and this is just something that he’s going to have to learn on his own. He’s going to have to learn to get over her because the universe isn’t going to accede to his wishes that she be rendered eternally sexless until she gives in to him.
Is there anything you can do to help him? Well, you can talk with him about it and listen to him and support him in trying to get over her. You can hang out with him without her and go do things together to reaffirm that your friendship is completely independent of who you or she is dating. Hell, you can help him meet other women and help him realize that there are other amazing women out there, including women who would like him back if he would just pull his head out of his ass. It also wouldn’t be a bad thing if you dialed down the PDA in front of him for a bit, just so that you’re not rubbing things in his face.
At the same time however, you shouldn’t let his having a sad dictate how you behave around him. He’s perfectly welcome to feel the f
k out of his feels, but he’s not entitled to inflict them on everyone else. He doesn’t get to use his hurt feelings to manipulate how the two of you behave or to make your breaking up with her a condition of your friendship with him. He also doesn’t get to be a passive-aggressive s
t, making his hurt fee-fees the center of attention when the two (or three) of you are together. If he’s going to be sulking, sighing or making comments about the two of you, then all he’s done is prioritize his feeling entitled to your girlfriend over your friendship and none of you need this in your lives. If he can’t put on his big-boy pants and deal, then yeah, you’re going to have to resign to his not being your friend (even though you’d still be his friend) until he’s able to get the hell over things.
It’s a sucky situation to be in, but don’t let this ruin a happy relationship.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org