I have a friend who has become obsessed with a man who has never even spoken to her (no, the “friend” is not me). She has spent hours and hours ruminating about this man, to the point that I am concerned how she has let this seriously affect her life.
It happened like this: she first encountered him at work. He moved aside to let her pass through a doorway, their eyes met, and she felt that they had some sort of intense connection, that affected her. By her account, he seemed to be responding to her, too, and just looked sort of stunned. She seldom dealt with the higher ups, but this man turned out to be the boss of the large business, which she did not know at the time ! She was injured at work soon after, and went into a retraining program, so she no longer works there, but remains friends with some of her former co-workers.
She did have a couple of odd incidents where she encountered him — once in a mall, and another time right on her street(though he was in the area working with his crew). She described him as looking sort of shocked to see her, and that he kept staring at her. She described these incidents as very intense, and felt that he was feeling this, too. However — he never even said hello to her !
She was going through some hard stuff in her life, so I wanted to cut her some slack, but this man became the focus of many of our conversations. She announced to the man that she is living with that “she had fallen in love with somebody”, and began to end their relationship. Her boyfriend of 10 years+ was hurt and surprised, and tried to make a greater effort towards their relationship. He did not move out, even though she was talking to all her friends about how the relationship was over for her.
Through her friends, Facebook, and the internet she began to gather information about the subject of her obsession. She discovered that he was engaged, then got married, then had a baby with a significantly younger woman(who she also gathered information about). Her former co-workers had given her some basic details about this guy, but had also become increasingly blunt in questioning why he would be interested in her, since he now has a young family( hint, hint). She continued to obsess about him — even to the point of knowing what neighborhood he lives in. She wrote him an ambiguous note signed with her full name. I strongly urged her NOT to send this. Different friends encouraged her to send it, so she did(to his work), and not surprisingly never received a phone call, email or even a FB friend request. She continued to obsess — and reads her own tarot cards constantly for any possible signs. She now feels that she could never go back to work at this large business, or even in that industry, since she now feels foolish about sending the note to him.
I tried to be a supportive friend, as the other stuff that was going on with her was tough. I listened as much as I could, while also trying to be kind to her. I suggested that she dodged a bullet — like what kind of engaged, married, then new father sort of guy would carry on an illicit romance anyway ? Answer: probably not a good one. I feel puzzled about how I should respond to this entire situation. I knew she was feeling pretty stressed and fragile about some heavy stuff that was happening in her family (terminal illness, addiction, property issues, difficult dynamics). On one hand a secret crush can be thrilling and amusing, escapist. On the other hand, I am concerned about how much this crush has affected some serious parts of her life. What is a good friend supposed to do here ?
We talk a lot about how to be supportive and not derail our friends when they tell us stuff, BUT your letter is an object reminder that being a good friend does NOT mean you have to endlessly listen to your friends without ever disagreeing with them or raising concerns.
Your friend is way over the line here. Like, Young Adult over the line (Synopsis: Charlize Theron plays a woman going through some personal crises who decides to move back to her hometown and wrest her high school sweetheart away from his happy marriage and new baby. It ends extremely awkwardly.)
She did not write to me. You did. And my advice to you is simple: Stop listening to her talk about this dude. Do your part to stop enabling this obsession. A possible script:
“Friend, I know you’re really invested in this guy, but from what you’ve told me I see no indication that he feels the same way, and I’m worried that you are going to seriously cross a line in continuing these attentions.”
(Listen for a bit)
“Okay, I wanted to make my concerns known, and tell you that I will need to change the subject from now on when (this guy) comes up. I’m not comfortable discussing him with you anymore.”
Then you change the subject.
If she can’t?
You hang out less, or not at all.
This is because you can’t control what she will do or how she feels, but you can control how it affects you and how much you want to engage. If you guys are close enough that you feel like you can recommend counseling to her, as in “I know it can be hard to let go of something like this, have you ever thought of talking to someone about it and really working through the feelings?” then do so. Could lead to the “Wait, do you think I’m crazy?” conversation, to which you say “I think you are overly invested/having a disproportionate reaction to this particular thing and could use some help sorting it through.”
Simple doesn’t mean easy, but I wish you luck.
And here’s a poem about being obsessed, which is something I’m sure many Awkwardeers can relate to. Good news! It passes, eventually.
The Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With- Maggie Estep
THE STUPID JERK I’M OBSESSED WITH
stands so close
I can feel his breath on my neck
and smell the way he would smell
if we slept together
because he’s THE STUPID JERK I’M OBSESSED WITH
and that’s his primary function in life
to be a STUPID JERK I CAN OBSESS OVER
and to talk to that dingy bimbette blonde
as if he really wanted to hear about her
manicures and pedicures and New Age Ritualistic Enema Cures
and, truth be told, he probably does want to
hear about it
because he is
THE STUPID JERK I’M OBSESSED WITH
and he does anything he can to lend fuel to
he makes a point
of standing, looking over my shoulder
when I’m talking to the guy who adores me
and would bark like a dog and wave to strangers
if I asked him to bark like a dog and wave to strangers
But I can’t ask the guy to bark like a dog
or impersonate any kind of animal at all
cause I’m too busy
looking at the way
THE STUPID JERK I’M OBSESSED WITH
has pants on
that perfectly define his well shaped ass
to the point where I’m thoroughly frantic
I’m just gonna go home
stick my head in the oven
overdose on nutmeg and aspirin or sit in the bathtub
reading The Executioner’s Song
and being completely confounded by the
fact that I can see
THE STUPID JERK I’M OBSESSED WITH’s face
defining itself in the peeling plaster of the wall
and I start yelling: “Hey, get out of there,
you’re just a figment of my overripe imagination,
get a life and get out of my plaster and pass me
the next painful situation, please.”
But he just keeps on
he’s THE STUPID JERK I’M OBSESSED WITH
and he’s mine
in my plaster
I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER