DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m in a bit of a horrible situation.
I have this female friend, which was (and I hope still is) my best and closest friend for the last six or seven years. We went to university together, we went to post-graduation together. We have the same tastes and like basically the same things. And we supported each other emotionally when the situation was bad for one or both of us. She, and now I see my error in doing this, she became the person I went to every time I had a romantic disappointment. My romantic and sexual life was virtually non-existent in those same six or seven years; I only dated one girl, and she was emphatic from the very first moment that she was interested only in casual sex (which we had, once; soon afterwards she entered in a relationship).
This friend of mine had, until recently, a rock-solid relationship, for eight or nine years. She and her boyfriend were only waiting for a better financial situation to get married and live together. But, in the last six months or so, she became unsatisfied, mainly because her boyfriend wasn´t making any real effort to achieve that financial security, and was abusing on alcohol and marijuana. Long history short, they ended the relationship some three weeks ago.
And then my personal hell began.
When she told me about the end of her relationship (and, as best friend, I was the one she contacted first), something, for lack of better word, awakened inside me. I discovered myself deeply attracted to her. I’m not using the L word here, because I’m not even sure that is the case. At first I decided to bury these feelings; but, as a couple of days passed, and I suffered more and more, I decided not to take this to the grave with me, and talked to her.
She was very nice, and assured me that she understand me, that she would not sever ties with me (my greatest fear, from past situations like that), but that we are only good friends.
That happened three weeks ago (she broke up on a Wednesday, and I talked to her on the same week, on the Friday). Since then, we talked little, and shared a few messages, only about our studies (we are trying to enter in the same master’s degree program).
Since then, I had very little peace of mind. I'm sleeping badly, lost my focus on the many things I have to do, and I'm feeling terrible anxious about the future of our friendship. I really, really like her as friend, and hurts me to know that probably, from now on, she will wall me out of part of her life. To make things worse, I'm almost certain that she is dating a work colleague.
To you understand how close we are, her brother called me today at three in the morning, to ask me if I know where she was, because she doesn't got home yet (which is totally out of her normal). When I tried to call her, she don't answered, and minutes later send me a message, saying that is everything all right and that she was arriving at home. I texted back, asking where she had been, and she ignored me.
What I should do, Doc? In any other situation, I happily and gladly would be using the nuclear option. But, and I cannot emphasize that enough, she is my friend, and I accept that this situation is my fault, for I neglected my sentimental life for too long. I don't want to lose my friend.
– To Much Too Soon Too Fast
DEAR TOO MUCH TOO SOON TOO FAST: There are so many things to work through here.
First of all: DUDE. You have my sympathies because it sucks when someone you care for doesn’t care for you the same way… but you kinda went about it ass first. You spilled your guts when she had just gotten out of a nine year relationship and a person’s gotta heal, ya know? I mean look at it from her perspective: she’s just had an incredibly long-standing part of her life come to an end and she’s barely come to terms with the fact that the break up happened at ALL and you tell her that you’re suddenly in something with her. This is going to be a lot to handle emotionally because now not only does she have to deal with her break up but she’s trying to handle your emotions as gingerly as she can. That’s really not cool, yo.
Let’s be realistic here: even if she did have feelings for you… she literally just got out of a relationship. Unless she was jumping ship specifically to date you, she’s probably not going to want to date anyone right now.
Second: You say something suddenly ‘awoke’ in you. Maybe you’ve always had a little crush on her and you didn’t know it. Maybe it’s just that now that she’s available, she’s much more attractive to you. Maybe it’s transference because you feel like she’s the only girl in the world who understands you and could love you. Regardless, obsessing about her and losing your chance with her is only going to serve to push her away. You need to dial your s--t back. Yeah, it blows that she doesn’t like you the way you want her to but you’re going to have to accept it if you want to stay friends; losing sleep and focus means that you’re letting it gnaw away at you in ways that aren’t healthy.
You want to keep her as a friend? Then you need to calm down and give her some space.
Odds are she’s feeling weird and uncomfortable and more than a little annoyed at you right now because you picked the 2nd worst possible time to spring this on her and she doesn’t want to have to deal with the emotional tightrope of your mental health and feelings for her while she’s processing her own. If you don’t want her to wall you out of her life, then you need to act like a friend, not a guy trying to win her heart. I realize is the opposite of my usual advice for trying to avoid being “stuck in The Friend Zone” (there is no such thing as The Friend Zone), but:
A) she’s already told you she doesn’t feel the same way,
B) she’s still recovering from a break-up which is the worst time to try to jump from being friends to being lovers, and
C) she’s going to feel pressured by you, and that’s the last thing you want – no matter whether you’re hoping to stay friends or to be her lover.
Plus: you don’t want to make her think that you were only friends with her because you were waiting for your window of opportunity.
This means that you need to not get crazy and acting jealous. Things like asking her where she’s been? Just between you, me and all the strangers reading this… level with me here. Yeah, you were a concerned since her brother called you up but c’mon, how much of that was because you were afraid she was out f--king someone? Because I can guarantee you that’s exactly how SHE took it. You told her that her brother was worried about her – fine, mission accomplished. Asking her what she’d been up to: none of your damn business. That’s why she ignored you: she doesn’t need you freaking out at her right now. She needs a friend and from the sounds of things, you haven’t really been acting like one.
If you can’t dial your feelings back enough that you can give her the support and comfort she needs – because, as I said, she just got out of a relationship that was lasted nearly a third of her life – without making it about how you feel, then you need to spend some time away from her until you can. Do NOT announce this to her. Just take a step back and do your thing. You don’t need to cut all ties, just… let a little distance happen. You’ve been friends for nearly a decade; you can survive a little space.
Not every friendship is going to turn to love and especially not if she feels like the price of entry for your friendship is having to manage your feelings for you. If you want to maintain your friendship then you need to take a deep breath and let go.
What I recommend most right now is that you get busy. You’re trying to get into a Master’s program, which should be getting the lion’s share of your attention right now. Concentrate on your studies; when you can’t stop thinking about her, get up and get physical. Go for a run, jump rope, do something cardiovascular that will exhaust you. Drown your pain in the sensations of your body. It’ll make you feel better, sleep better and help you get in better shape, which will make you feel better about yourself.
I also recommend throwing yourself back into the dating pool. You shouldn’t look for anything serious – after all, that’s unfair to your prospective girlfriend – just enough to remind yourself that there are other women out there and that there are many who are just as awesome as your friend… except they’re going to be open to dating you.
Spend a little time improving your life and you won’t be feeling crushed by her not loving you the way you’d prefer.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org