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My Friend Thinks I'm in Love With Her
Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A BIG SWEETIE:
I'm not exactly sure how to handle this relationship with my friend. We're both in our early 30s, we used to work together, and we started hanging out (going on friend dates, movies, exploring the city —we drove 3 hours to go look at leaves in the fall, which…we have a ton of leaves here…) since about March of last year, so almost a full year. We hang out probably 2-4 times per month. As I said, we used to work together and we did for close to two years. Our work relationship was friendly-professional; we'd goof around and stuff, but there wasn't anything romantic or sexual or anything like that. I left that job for a different one and then a couple months after that, in March, I reached out to her to see if she wanted to hang out and she did. Things were good, we got along, talked about everything, laughed about most things, and then one day I noticed it: I've developed actual feelings for her. I didn't mean for this to happen, but I feel like this isn't something people can 100% control like that anyways. That happened in the summer, probably around July. Since then, things haven't changed at all between us because I've pretty much been ignoring these feelings. My thoughts on it are that she hasn't given me any signals that would indicate that I should act on them (I'm also pretty oblivious to those things anyway, but that's not the point) and because of that, I honestly don't think about it much at all. I don't think she's into me like that, so it'd be pretty stupid to bring it up to her and possibly lose a friend. It's cliche, but still.
Cut to today: she's on a plane to go on vacation with her family, getting pretty drunk on the plane and texting me. She sends me this tik tok of some guy chatting up some random woman and he gets her number, and she said that it reminded her of me. I say that I can’t pick up random women like that, I usually have to get to know them over time. She responds that I’ve gotten to know her over time and that she thinks I’m in love with her. I ignore that part and we continue to text for about 20 more minutes until she gets very stuck on how she thinks I’m in love with her and won’t leave it alone. So I explain to her that I enjoy spending time with her and how hilarious she is, but (like I said) that I’ve kinda stopped myself from feeling that way because I’m pretty sure she doesn’t feel the same way and that I’d rather be friends, than not be. The next hour of drunken texts were filled with typos, but she did say “dating would be so fun, BUT it wouldn’t work out long term” and the multiple times she wanted me to confirm that I’m in love with her. And then she calls me as I’m going to bed to again confirm that I’m in love with her and then leaves the call, casually saying “love you, bye”.
So, I’m not even really sure what I’m asking here. It was nice to just write it down. But, I guess my questions would be: what the hell am I doing? Do I draw a line in the sand and say “this is how I feel, either you feel similarly or I have to walk away”? Do I brush this off and continue with our friendship knowing my feelings haven’t changed, she’s just fully aware of them now?
Ok, first of all, she was unfortunately drunk and messy on a plane, which is a Very Classic but also shitty thing to do. From the outside it’s easy to judge the situation/her, and I think you’re being beyond generous to instead just be like “Ok, that was confusing.” My point is that what she did was at best unintentionally pretty hurtful and awkward. (I don’t even think it’s worth getting into the “at worst” scenario here because I don’t think it’s at all likely).
Anyway, had she not done all of this, had you simply reached out to see what to do about friendship+crush feelings, here is what I would want to tell you, even though I don’t know if it’s true: You can keep doing this forever. It doesn’t have to become more or less. It doesn’t have to be either full on relationship or nothing. Romantic feelings don’t have to poison a friendship. When I say I don’t know if it’s true, it’s not because I don’t believe it; I do! I just don’t know how functional it is. I think it’s possible but also exhausting to keep a friendship balanced on a precarious flirty edge. I also think that it’s very often worth it to do the work, so I commend you on having done it up until now.
But then she did this… and now frankly all of us (you and I and maybe anyone else reading this) are throwing our hands up Italian Nonna style like ahhh what the fuck can you do with this? What are any of us supposed to do when someone is “accusing” them of being in love and then tossing around the word themselves? I mean that is just dicey. I’m so sorry she confronted you with her questions like this. It’s stinky like old rotten milk.
But she did so here we are. Here’s what I would do, or what I think I would do. (My first inclination would probably be to pretend nothing happened, and go to great lengths to corroborate the lie that nothing happened and nothing is happening so I can’t swear I’d actually do something different, but I hope I would). I’m sure she’s feeling pretty embarrassed/weird about the whole thing. Regardless of whether it was done rudely, it was certainly not handled with the type of grace and kindness a situation like this calls for. If you’re going to ask your friend if they’re in love with you (WHICH I ACTUALLY THINK YOU SHOULD NEVER DO BECAUSE IT’S NOT YOUR BUSINESS— UNLESS YOU ARE ALSO IN LOVE WITH THEM AND YOU SAY IT FIRST! Or if you feel like it’s getting truly in the way of friendship and something must be done. Asking for your own shits and giggles or vanity is a yikes), then you need to do it sober and in person. This is not the time to be ninny and hide behind plane sized tequila bottles. Anyway, she might have already followed up on her behavior, apologizing. I hope she does and I hope she knows precisely what she’s apologizing for. If so, respond how you wish to the apology— you don’t need to feel great about what happened or immediately forgive everything— but also feel free to ask some questions of your own.
Questions like, “Uh, where did that come from on the plane?” and “Do you think we need to have a conversation about how we feel sober or are we just back to what we were doing before?” Or, “What’s going on and how do you feel?” If, for some reason, this has made you more interested in dating her— I’m not here to judge, maybe this conversation, messy as it was, felt like it opened a door of hope or possibility—then ask why she doesn’t see things long term. I have to say, in general, people are usually bad at telling how long they’re going to last as a couple. So unless there’s some glaring truth that she was simply acknowledging—One of you wants kids, one doesn’t/ One of you wants to become a soybean farmer and the other loves living in an apartment above a trader joe’s—I’m not sure why she thinks you two wouldn’t work out long term. I mean clearly you like hanging out together, which is like 92% of a relationship. (The rest is completely forgetting your partner’s work schedule and asking them over and over what their plans are for the next week). Maybe this was her way of starting to deal with her own confused feelings towards you! I don’t know.
I don’t think at all that you have to draw a line in the sand and walk away if she’s not asking for that. If somehow, although I doubt this unless you’re a supremely unreliable narrator, you’ve been making her feel uncomfortable with how you’ve handled your crush, then maybe yeah it’s time to put the friendship on pause. But from what you say, it seems like you were managing just fine to be her friend without that getting in the way and if you want to keep doing it, I say go for it. Close friendships as an adult are hard to find. And the line between romance and friendship is thinner than a lot of people think, imo.
However, if this begins to get painful for both of you, then it’s ok to give it a break or even walk away. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope that either you two magically discover that you’re both into each other, or you both agree to have a few awkward conversations for the sake of maintaining the friendship you have. Will things change? Yes. Things always change, unfortunately. Life always alters friendships, whether a crush is involved or not. No relationship stays the same forever, which is good because if it did, she’d still be a random ex-coworker. Change allowed you guys to grow into this. No deep friendship can stay in the best, closest, most fun era the whole time. But it can wax and wane. This might be awkward for a month and then you both move on. Or this brings you two closer after a few vulnerable conversations!
Be honest with yourself and her, be open to this friendship changing. Keep showing up. Discover what this next phase might look like. Offer what you can give and ask for what you need. You weren’t weird or cruel or bad to fall for a person you’re very close to. That’s like the most normal, human thing on earth.
You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at email@example.com.
If someone dares to bring up that she is “too old” for this I will lose it. Adults drink too much sometimes. It happens. It sucks. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved. All of us with or without alcohol do painful things.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to be 100%. You can forgive someone enough. Enough to move on, enough to be friends, enough for the pain not to be a hot rock in your belly. Even though what your friend did is, to me, forgivable and not the end of the world or the end of the friendship necessarily, that doesn’t mean you have to 100% forgive what happened. It can still sting.