Dear Sexes: I’ve been in love with a friend of mine for a long time. We had grown emotionally close over the last months, and I was helping her solve many personal issues she wouldn’t dare tell anyone else. But there remained distance. When I finally told her how I felt, she revealed she has a boyfriend - something she had previously denied. Now she has stopped talking to me altogether. I’m terribly confused and upset. Can I still save our friendship? Or was she just using me for emotional support?
She Said: My main concern is that she didn’t tell you that she had a boyfriend. That is a little glitch in the trust you should have in a friend.
I can think of two reasons for this. First, she wanted to have an intimate emotional relationship with you (as a friend) and was afraid you wouldn’t be willing to do that without the promise - somewhere on the horizon - that she might be available. She was probably afraid she would lose your friendship if you knew.
The other reason is that maybe she doesn’t have those types of feelings for you right now, and believes that saying “no” to you is less painful if it’s because she has a boyfriend. Like, it’s not a rejection of you as a person, but rather that she’s already “taken”.
Here’s a weird thing some women do (and possibly some men). We cannot believe that we have value to men except as a romantic or sexual partner. Could you really love me as just a human being, and be my friend, and be trustworthy and honest if you don’t think you’ll get to sleep with me?
I think we’ve been so inundated our whole lives with messages saying that we are lovers, sex objects, wives, moms and sisters of men - and not just friends - and we really believe that our only worth is in fulfilling those roles.
Or perhaps, as I said, she doesn’t feel that saying simply, “I love you as a friend, and am so glad we’re close, but I don’t feel romantically toward you right now” is legitimate on its own. As in, if she doesn’t belong to someone else, why wouldn’t she be available to belong to you?
That doesn’t mean you’ve been approaching her with this attitude, but rather it’s something we learn from our childhood. If you’re a man and she’s a woman, you’ll remember the message that boys and girls can’t be friends. Think of “Girls have cooties” and “Girls rule and boys drool”? As grown-ups, we’ve been taught that men and women can’t be friends without eventually falling in love and ruining everything. See every romantic comedy every to appear on screen!
You can potentially salvage this relationship. Let her know she means a lot to you as a person, and that you value her friendship and wouldn’t want it to be hurt by your feelings.
Then remind yourself that sometimes feelings are just feelings, and nothing more. They don’t have to overwhelm you or break your heart. You can watch that twinge of crush come into your chest, then you can watch it pass.
Sounds like you’re a great friend. Just keep that up!
He Said: Yes, and yes - to answer your questions - with conditions. Yes, you can still save your friendship, if you really want to, and if your friend is also interested in having a friendship. If your friend was leading you on/using you for emotional support, is that okay with you - do you want to have a friendship with someone like that? Or were you getting something out of the exchange as well? Be careful to make sure you’re honest with yourself as opposed to victimizing yourself.
Having said that, I’m sorry you’re upset and hurting. Unrequited love is always painful, especially when it involves an established friend. As you say, your friend was sharing a lot with you, creating a sense of intimacy. But don’t confuse sharing with romantic caring. Judge your friend by her actions, not her words. If she really wants to more than just a friendship with you, she’ll let you know. What did she say, when you told her how you felt about her? Did she ANYTHING about her feelings for you?
Also, try your best not to ignore the warning signs -now and in the future. That “distance” you noticed was the fact that your friend had a boyfriend. Most likely she denied it, because she enjoyed the extra attention from you. Maybe you were offering some emotional support she wasn’t getting from her boyfriend. She also probably knew if she discussed her boyfriend with you, you would lose some of your romantic hopes for the two of you.
Now that you know exactly where you stand, she’s stopped communicating with you completely? I’d say it’s time to move on. You’ve made your feelings clear. If she wants to change the dynamic of your relationship, it’s up to her. Let her make the next move, and don’t wait around to find out the answer. If you’re the only one taking risks or being vulnerable, you’ll end up being the only one who gets hurt. Obviously you don’t want your friend to be hurt, but let her be the one to reach out for once. And when/if that happens, be clear and honest with each other regarding your intentions.
Dear Sexes: Hi! I am having difficulty in my dating life in finding a balance between honesty/openness and too much disclosure. I am becoming increasingly painfully aware of my shadow side, and some of my challenges. I am not wanting to hide this aspect of myself from people in my life, and yet I find when I share aspects of my inner negative dialogue and feelings, it tends to drive people away, even when I am using “when you… I felt” structures or “I notice, and I imagine”. I am confused.
She Said: This is a really hard one for me, because I’m really torn between two camps on this subject. The part of me that has been in the dating market - and was pretty good at it - in the past wants to help you maximize your appeal to the people you’re interested in.
But the person I am now, the one who is in a long-term relationship where we cannot thrive without being exactly who we are, even if that person is dark and “shadowy” wants to tell you to be exactly who you are and the right person will find you.
I guess I land on this… How early are you saying these “When you… I felt” sentences? And why? Are people doing things that upset you so early on? And how does this relate to your “shadow side”?
We all have darkness. Some of us have quite a lot of it. But your negative inner dialogue doesn’t necessarily have to translate out to “when you.. I felt” which seems like you may be putting a lot on your potential partners.
Your darkness belongs to you and shouldn’t be affecting how much joy you get from others. If you’re in situations so early on in relationships where you find yourself consistently having to tell people they are upsetting you, then there are most likely deeper issues at play. My best suggestion would be to visit a therapist, and sort out whether you’re attracting/choosing partners who are unkind to you.
The next step is to sort out how much of your shadow side is a natural part of who you are, and how much may be a part of depression of some variety.
But I do truly mean this, when you get to a place in your life where you’re happy (even if “happy” means content with your darkness), then you’ll be better able to find a partner who fully accepts you.
He Said: Honesty and openness are important in all relationships. And full disclosure, in a meaningful relationship, is necessary as well. However, discretion and timing shouldn’t be underestimated. Perhaps you’re being too honest too soon? Don’t share all your sob stories and demons on the first date. You don’t need to talk about your past failed relationships, your abusive past, or your poor self-esteem, in the beginning stages of getting to someone.
Even if you want to talk about such intimate topics, someone who’s new to you, may not be ready to do the same (immediately or initially). To be clear, I’m not telling you to be dishonest. I’m merely reminding you to pace your forthrightness. And remember, a relationship is a team event, and you can only move as fast as your slowest hiker.
As far as your “shadow side” goes, some shadows are larger and more ominous than others. If you’re a professional assassin, that’s probably something you should keep to yourself. If you have difficulty trusting, or you’re still experimenting with your sexuality, or you’re currently a virgin, these are smaller shadows that you shouldn’t worry about hiding from potential mates. Ask your friends (ones whose opinions you really trust and value) how much information is too much information to share on a date. In the end (and the middle as well), for any valuable relationship, you should be honest, open, and vulnerable. Just take your time. You’ll get where you want your love to go eventually. No need to drive recklessly on the way.
Dear Sexes: My boyfriend and I have been dating for 2 1/2 years and throughout our entire relationship, my anxiety disorder has gotten the best of me. I get jealous of his past, his present, and even his future. I ask him multiple questions every day trying to satisfy my need for comfort. The thing is, my boyfriend always tells me what I want to hear. It’s hard to believe that all of his thoughts/actions are so innocent. Should I blindly believe him against my common sense or keep questioning his honesty?
She Said: Here’s the deal. There have been many people in the world who had faithful, honest partners who have ruined their relationship by being jealous over nothing.
There are also a ton of people who have been told, “Stop being a jealous freak” by their partners, all the while their partners were cheating and lying about it.
Which one are you? Shit, I wish I knew.
But you are calling this your “anxiety disorder” - does this mean you’ve been diagnosed by a mental health professional with a condition? Have you been recommended (by a professional, not your boyfriend) to take medication? If so, does it help with the anxiety?
I ask these questions because your jealousy does sound paranoid and obsessive. Again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t founded on something, but it also sounds profoundly unhealthy and I want something better for you.
First step: If you haven’t already done this, see a therapist. Both on your own and together. You gotta get to the root of this.
Second step: Recognize that to some degree, you’ll never know whether he’s being honest. But without any real proof, there’s not much you can do about it. This is where faith comes in. Not faith in him so much, but faith in yourself.
The faith in yourself tells you that even if he were cheating, you’d still be okay. You’d survive, you’d move on, you’d find real love, and have a happy life. Millions of us have done it. You can too.
He Said: Do your feel this way (this type of anxiety and jealousy) in all your relationships or just this one specifically? Has jealousy played a large role in all of your romantic relationships? How much of is it your disorder, versus how much is it this particular relationship? I hope these are questions you can accurately and honestly answer.
Also, have you sought professional help before, for your anxiety? What did the therapist(s) say, regarding jealousy and your anxiety (disorder)? To me, they’re two separate entities, but that’s just one humble He Said’s opinion.
It sounds like your boyfriend is actually being very considerate (possibly too considerate for your taste). Maybe he’s telling what you want to hear, because he’s trying to ease your anxieties. That’s not the best way to ease your fears, but he could have the best of intentions. Personally, I wouldn’t stay in a relationship, if my girlfriend was constantly questioning my commitments, loyalty,etc… unless I really cared about my partner.
Open communication and dialogue about your relationship and your anxiety disorder are probably the best roads to a successful future. This requires willingness and hard work from both you and your boyfriend.
If the two of you are really invested in this relationship, it might be very helpful if your boyfriend attended therapy with you (at times). If you don’t go already, you should consider it - for yourself, for your current relationship, and of course for your future relationships (of all types).
P.S. - Everyone, on occasion, can be guilty of speculating too long, and devoting too much energy into trying to figure out what someone else is thinking. Here’s a song that reminds me not to fall into this trap. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REZ1wQqGjEg
Dear Sexes: I dated this guy two years ago. We ended things as FWB (friends with benefits), and then stopped contacting each other completely. He reached out again, and I was excited, thinking it was him wanting to rekindle what we had. I told him I still had feelings for him, and he responded with “I don’t have feelings for you now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t again in the future.”
Meanwhile, I haven’t fully moved on. We’ve been friends since, but he’s grown overprotective and jealous over people I date. I’m confused and not sure how to go about it. Suggestions?
She Said: Alright, enough of this joker.
Sorry to be harsh, but this guy is being an asshole. I’m not saying he’s always an asshole, or an asshole to the core, but he’s being an asshole right now.
Why is he jealous of guys you date? That’s not normal. That’s ridiculous, possessive, maybe even scary. If you were really friends, the guys you’re dating would be a non-issue.
For example, He Said and I are actually friends. We’ve been friends for more than a decade. Never once have I been jealous of a girl he dated. As far as I know, he’s never been jealous of a guy I dated. Know why? because we’re actually friends. We’re not in love with each other. We are not trying to own the other. Friends want friends to be happy.
This guy’s jealousy issues are a neon sign screaming GET AWAY. The jealousy isn’t cute, it’s not sexy, and don’t let yourself be tricked into believing that he’s jealous because you’re special. You ARE special, but he’s jealous because he is a self-centered, power-mongering creep who is boosting his own ego by stringing you along.
Bottom line: He wants to own you, but not love you.
Is that what you want? Is that what you deserve? It’s not hard for me to say “no” with confidence. What do you think?
He Said: It might not be in the cards for the two of you. Or, if it is the cards, you might want to fold this hand, and wait until you’re dealt better cards (or until the timing seems more promising). I might even consider walking away, and playing at another table entirely.
Apologies for all the poker metaphors, but there do seem to be some games being played here. Or maybe one, or both of you just enjoy a bit of dramatic tension.
Regardless, if you’ve expressed to him that you still have romantic feelings for him, and he doesn’t feel the same, what can you do? Are you okay with being just friends? Are you okay with being friends with benefits (and not dating each other)? If you’re not okay with these things, you should set clear boundaries and guidelines with each other. And once you set those boundaries, try your best not to cross them.
Also, try not to let your hope take advantage of you. Hope can be a tremendous thing (like in the movie “Shawshank Redemption”). At other times, it can really cloud your vision of reality. I understand you have feelings for this man, but he doesn’t (right now) share those same romantic feelings for you.
Complicating things even more is the fact that the two of you used to be FWB. Maybe that’s why he initiated contact again (after not talking for some time). And if that’s not the case, and all he really wants is friendship, he should be a better friend. Why is he overprotective and jealous, regarding the people you date?
Of course you can always have a conversation with him (honest talk about intentions, plans, etc…), and hopefully get some clarity from each other. But it sounds like (right now) this guy isn’t a good match as a boyfriend, FWB, or as a friend. If you take a step back (from each other) you also might see things more clearly. At the very least, you’ll be taking a break from the drama.
Dear Sexes: I saw on my girlfriend’s Facebook (activity register) that she has been searching for some of her old boyfriends too many times - many times a week. She told me that it’s a mistake from Facebook, and that she didn’t look so many times, but I can’t believe that. She also told me that she was just looking sometimes, when she was bored. But I could see that she was looking during our trips together. Or if she couldn’t look during our trips, she would look as soon as we returned. What should I do? Do you think this could be Facebook’s mistake?
She Said: I know nothing about Facebook’s mistakes. I guess in the universe’s possibilities, this could be a browser caching issue. But…probably not.
The real question is this: Why does it matter?
I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t matter, because it does. But why? What hurts inside of you when you see “Bob Smith” was searched 83 times in the last week? And what makes you look at her browser history so fervently?
There is an alarm ringing. And it’s loud! It’s the “this relationship is in big trouble” alarm and it’s time you responded quickly and compassionately. Tell her that even if it is a Facebook mistake, that something feels strange about it to you, and that strange feeling has you doing some things you’re not proud of (unless you’re proud of stalking her browser history?).
Then you two need to get to the root of this. Why is she looking? What does she want to see? If she’s bored, and just looking to see what’s up, that’s normal. But she needs to be honest with herself about whether she’s unhappy in this relationship and that’s why she’s getting wistful.
Sometimes we go back and fantasize about our exes because it seems “safer” than fantasizing about a whole different person. We feel like it’s somehow less of a betrayal. I could argue that fantasies aren’t a betrayal at all, but lying about Facebook’s ghost in the machine sorta is. And snooping through the browser history sorta is.
So get down to brass tacks. Each of you list five things you really, really like about your relationship. Then each of you list five things that you’d like to improve about your relationship. Perhaps write them down.
Do not interrupt or defend while your partner is listing his/hers, just listen. Then you can discuss. But no more snooping, and no more half-truths about Facebook glitches.
He Said: There’s some mistakes being made here, but it’s not Facebook (most likely). This is a common question we have on SSHS. Not the Facebook part of things, but rather the part about one person secretly monitoring/snooping their partner’s activities.
It’s hard to say what your girlfriend’s motivations are for visiting her ex-boyfriends Facebook pages. Maybe she’s very sentimental and likes to look back at her past relationships. Perhaps she’s just curious about what her exes are up to nowadays.
Maybe she has more devious intention. There’s no way of knowing her reasonings without asking her why she does this. Is she just viewing their pages, or is she also messaging them? You said she was looking “too many times”, but that’s a relative term.
To me, the more important issues are why are you snooping, and why do you care (so much) that she’s looking at her exes pages? If you have to snoop on your partner’s activities, there are some serious trust concerns that need to be addressed.
Relationships without trust are doomed for failure. So… try and trust your girlfriend more. If that isn’t possible, be direct. Tell her you don’t trust her, and explain why you feel the way you do. Ask her how she feels about her ex-boyfriends, if it’s a big concern to you. Tell her you want to trust her, but you feel like you both need to work on building that trust. See how she responds - if the relationship is important enough to her to work through these challenges.
And then, stop snooping!!! It’s highly unlikely you’ll inspire your girlfriend to be a better partner by telling her you’ve been spying on her activities.