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What To Do When You Discover Your Friend Is In Love With You

by Ellen "Jelly" McRae 5 months ago in love
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And everything not to do, too.

Friends or lovers? | Image created on Canva

I hate starting these stories by saying 'back in my day' because I'm not that old. Yet, here we go. Back in my day…

When I was beginning my dating endeavours, and beginning to mingle with men, I met my friend Craig. He's no longer my friend now, though we do remain social media contacts.

That doesn't make us friends, by the way. We haven't spoken in fifteen years. Hardly a friendship.

Neither one of us can let each other go on social media, though, despite what happened between us. Or didn't happen.

I don't want this to sound like I'm straight out of Mean Girls, but Craig was in love with me. 

I don't know when the moment occurred for him when he realised his feelings for me. But somewhere in our friendship, his thoughts went from affection to complete adoration.

When I found out, the guilt engulfed me. 

  • I didn't feel that way about him. 
  • I didn't even feel the slightest romantic attraction to him. 
  • I couldn't view him in this light.

Don't feel sorry for me. I'm not asking for any sympathy. This situation sucked more for him than it did for me.

Yet, I so desperately wanted to save our friendship. And I did everything possible to make that happen. Here's how I approached one of the most confusing and heartbreaking situations of my life.

Don't have an "awkward" conversation

Craig didn't tell me he loved me. It didn't happen like in those wonderful rom-coms where two unrequited lovers finally figure out they're meant to be together. 

I should have been so lucky.

No, this was me walking in on Craig telling our mutual friend Phil about his feelings, desires and everything in between.

My instinct was to confront Craig and have one of those very awkward letdown conversations. 

But in this situation, it's best to have a conversation when you're both ready. Wait, hit the pause button, and let your first irrational and ill-conceived instincts subside.

What you say in the heat of the moment becomes the awkward conversation you can't take back. 

You're a mature and measured person, and now is the time to exercise the maximum amount of restraint.

Do keep everything normal

Every friendship is vastly different. I would love to say that every friendship I have is honest, truthful, and real. But I live in the real world and that isn't true. Some people are with us for the fun times, others are happy to get into the trenches with us.

I don't treat every relationship the same. Yet, I respect how each relationship has its unique rhythm both sides adhere to. The dynamics, if you will.

When I eventually had the conversation with Craig, we both made sure:

  • Communicated the way we always had  -  I didn't change the way I spoke to him, the language I used or the methods we used for communication.
  • Refrained from being cryptic  -  Now wasn't the time for subtle conversations where reading between the lines is necessary. It would be easy to confuse the situation with a cryptic conversation, so I avoided this approach.
  • Spoke like it was any other day  -  When we met up to chat, we met in the park opposite where we worked. We often sat there and talked about the world. Change the friendship routine for this conversation highlights you want the situation to change. If you want your relationship to remain the same, treat it like any other day.

Don't laugh at them

For the person who has professed their feelings for you, this is no laughing matter. For you, it can feel funny. Weird funny. Hilariously funny. 

You find yourself wanting to laugh at yourself, as I did with Craig. How did I get myself into this situation?!

But whilst you're addressing this issue between you, I recommend the anti-humour approach.

I avoided:

  • Making fun of the situation in respect  -  Even years later, when we were still in communication, I didn't make the jokes. Who am I to make fun of someone's feelings, in even good humour?
  • Mocking of any description during our discussion  -  You so want to laugh at the situation as you talk to them about the issue, simply to break the tension. But for all my wants to crack a smile, I refrained. I didn't want any body language to indicate I wasn't approaching his feelings with sincerity.
  • Telling other people like it was a joke  -  This wasn't a situation to tell other people for a good laugh. Yet I needed someone to talk to about it. When I spoke with some of my close friends, I didn't tell it like it was something we could laugh at.

Do shut down your feelings

This situation isn't about you, believe it or not. 

When I was younger and immature, I would have rightly assumed it was. And when Craig's confession entered my life, the instinct to make it all about me took over.

I'm thankful for some wise words from my friends, who focused more on his dilemma than mine. I remembered how hard it must have been to:

  • Talk to me about his feelings
  • Admit his feelings to a mutual friend
  • Address those feelings in a public forum
  • Move on from what is essentially a rejection
  • Maintain a friendship with someone you once liked/had feelings for

Your friendship won't recover if you make this situation all about you. When it's all about you, it creates an imbalance in the friendship that's impossible to reverse.

Putting yourself in the other person's shoes truly humbles your perspective on the situation. Imagine the shoe on the other foot. 

Wouldn't it be nice if the other person thought about friendship rather than self-interest?

Don't pull away from the friendship

Unless you've been looking for a reason to break up with this friend, don't pull away now. In the long run, you're making an awkward situation far worse.

If I had pulled away from Craig, even with the idea of it only being temporary, I would have lost him forever. It destroys relationships when you give someone space without talking to them about it first.

If you agree space is right, then go for it. But focus on mutual understanding and communication before making such a permanent decision.

In the long run, you're not learning anything about relationships if you pull away. You're educating yourself that when a relationship becomes challenging or awkward, run away.

Relationships don't survive when you're in constant flight.

Do ask them what they want to do

So it's out in the open, everyone knows, and you need to move on. The great thing about this situation is that you're not alone, nor do you need to make decisions about your relationship's future on your own. 

Two to tango and all that.

Start the conversation about how you both want to move on from this situation. Ask them what they want to do, how they want to continue, and if they need space.

You're not putting it all on them. It's not their responsibility to fix this situation. But you can't take control of this, or tell them how to feel or what to do.

The same goes the other way.

Don't blame each other tit for tat game

Craig did start the blame game with me, and I didn't enjoy it. Actually, it became so frustrating I wanted to end the friendship right then and there. 

He told me I was flirting with him and leading him on.

In this situation, I can understand why he was blaming me. I don't really know if it was justified. 

I don't think I was flirting with him but each to their own with an interpretation of behaviour. What's flirting to me might not be flirting to someone else.

Even though I didn't agree, I didn't bite back. I didn't list all the things he had done wrong. 

Playing the tit-for-tat game leads to arguments you can't resolve. It turns a civilised and mature conversation into a war of immature words. It's unproductive and doesn't help you come to a rational conclusion.

You have to resist the urge to act defensively or lay blame on one person. Both of you have endured some miscommunication throughout the friendship, through words or body language. 

I stress the word both.

Do re-evaluate your actions

What you know now is that the two of you can't continue the friendship the way it was. Something has to change.

You can only control your behaviours. And even if you don't agree you were flirting or giving mixed signals, your aggrieved friend has basically told you were.

This is where you need to find a balance. Don't change the relationship, but change how you approach your friend. Curtail any natural or instinctual flirtatious behaviour. 

Consider the following:

  • How you talk to your friend  -  Are you too intimate with what you tell them? Do you talk to them more like a partner than a friend?
  • How you touch your friend  -  Are you overly affectionate? Are you touching your friend in ways or places that only a lover would do? This could include holding hands, constant hugging or cuddling, kissing your friend etc.
  • The nicknames for your friend  -  Do you call your friend 'babe' or 'baby' or something two lovers would call each other? You don't have to switch to pal or mate, but nicknames can be misleading, especially if your friend knows that's how you treat people you're interested in.
  • Your approach to dating  -  If you've been a friend who acts like a cock block, who put themselves between your friend and other people, you're acting like you're romantically interested in your friend. Adjust how you involve yourself in your friend's love life.
  • Don't believe two friends, who might date, can't be friends

    Some will say we could simply avoid this problem with a lack of inaction. 

    Don't become friends with someone you could potentially date. If you're a heterosexual woman, don't be friends with men, for example. 

    Simple, right?!

    Well, that's not practical, fun or a logical reason to pick and choose your friends. We're not living in the dark ages where we believe people only associate because of sexual desires.

    We aren't always flirting with each other. Sexual tension doesn't always exist.

    But I can believe this all I want. I can't control the thoughts and feelings of my friends. I can't stop my friends of any sexual orientation or gender from falling for me. Neither can you. 

    It will happen without knowledge or conscious control.

    Do acknowledge everyone in this situation is completely screwed

    There are no winners right now. 

    There is heartbreak, confusion, and resentment shared all around. Everyone experiences sleepless nights and ventures on the emotional rollercoaster.

    It's a miserable situation. Let's not pretend it's something it's not.

    It will get better, though. 

    But you need maximum patience for that.


    About the author

    Ellen "Jelly" McRae

    Writes about romanceships (romance + relationships) | Loves to talk about behind the scenes of being a solopreneur on The Frolics | Writes 1 Lovelock Drive | Discover everything I do and share here:

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