Hey, we’ve all been there. And by “we,” I mean guys. I almost guaran-damn-tee that at least 75% of guys, most likely during their early teen years, have fallen hard for a girl who had both feet firmly under her. It happens.
Unrequited love’s made for great music (Maroon 5, Vertical Horizon, come on, “Everything You Want” is our frickin’ anthem!),great movies and great books. It’s also made for some really, really, messy situations between said lover and the woman who loves him but isn’t “in love” with him. Once both sides have made their feelings clear, what’s next? Is it over? Is there no way to keep him in orbit without leading him on? NO! Maybe? Yes?
The answer is D: all of the above. To quote a Storm, “if I can be serious for a moment,” there are ways that you can preserve a friendship with a guy that’s fallen for you. However, one of the first things you need to do is the most counter-intuitive: LEAVE HIM THE F*CK ALONE!
Distance, and I mean real distance, is key. Any kind of affection he’s going to take as an invitation. You’ve got to border on being brutal with him to get it through his thick skull: you’re not interested, and you know you never will be. He’s got to go through a change of heart, and that doesn’t happen if the person he’s borderline obsessed with seems, and I concede the word SEEMS, to be giving him mixed signals.
Don’t be alone with him for long periods of time.
Don’t be more physical than a hug or a handshake.
Don’t discuss your love life or his.
Don’t try to pass him off to another girl.
Don’t DARE do anything that can be construed as flirting.
Don’t. Blur. The. Lines.
A lot of times you just need to take a step away from each other. Now, with that being said, there’s still such a thing as common courtesy. THAT will actually go a long way in making a friendship work. If you treat him like he’s got the plague, then you alienate him and you make him feel ashamed of his feelings for you.
Don’t ignore him.
Don’t dismiss his feelings as a passing fancy.
Don’t patronize him with the “you’re a great guy but I’m just not into you like that” line. Even if it’s true.
Don’t use it.
Don’t even respond to the question! Or if you do, give him a real answer: “I’m not attracted to you. I can’t control that. I enjoy your company, but I’m interested in someone else.” Again, brutality but honesty, and that combination shows RESPECT!
Respect is what he needs. He feels like crap, because he’s been rejected by the “girl of his dreams.” He’s vulnerable, his self-esteem’s at an all-time low, he doesn’t think he deserves a girl of the quality he’s idealized you as being. So, treating him like he doesn’t exist only plays into his self-deprecation, which leads to him wallowing in his feelings for you, which makes those feelings last longer.
Do say hello in passing.
Do wish him a happy birthday.
Do answer his questions as openly but calmly as possible.
Do make it clear what you can and can’t respond to.
Do let him know when he’s crossing the line.
Do treat his feelings with some sensitivity.
It all falls under the Golden Rule, for the most part. And if you can’t even attempt to follow the Golden Rule, you’re not worth his friendship. In this situation, you’ve got to accept the fact that it will take time. He’s got to move on from you, romantically speaking. That takes a bit of distancing, so he can readjust and reevaluate. You’ve also got to treat him like a decent human being, or better yet, treat him like a friend since that’s what you still want him to be. And with friends you listen, answer questions honestly, and know when to give them space.
I’m proof that you can become BFF’s with someone who didn’t fall for you. But it took time and it took a lot of trust building. It also required me to move on with my romantic life. It’s a process, and you’ve got to be patient to let it play out.
Does this sound like work? It should. Friendships in crisis take work. And that’s how you’ll have to approach it.
You got a friend in me,
[Lead image via George Allen Penton / Shutterstock]