#405: Navigating the FEELINGSTRIANGLE

Dear Captain Awkward,

I seem to have found myself in what I think is an unspoken romantic FEELINGS triangle. I have two friends, B (a lady around my age, early twenties) and T (man-type person, mid-late twenties). I am also a lady. B and T have been friends for maybe three years now and are, by all appearances, best friends. I entered their social circle about a year and a half ago.

From the beginning, I have had feelings for T. I did a little bit of flirting, but he never seemed to respond, so I cut my losses and began dating someone else. T and I are very close now, the wonderful kind where we forget about the time when we hang out. We have brunch every other Saturday or so and watch movies and talk.

My relationship of about a year ended about a month ago. There were sympathy-brunches with T and, during the most recent one, he kissed me. This was not unprecedented. He had been getting flirtier and I apparently had thought enough of it to talk to a mutual friend of B, T, and I, and her reaction surprised me.

“If you want B to like you, you won’t pursue T,” she told me. She wouldn’t say much and was very vague, so I inquired more closely about it because, those feelings for T? Still very much there, it turns out.

From what I can tell, B has maybe had feelings for T for ages but never acted on them? And that’s it, really. No one will say much.

So now T likes me and wants to see where things go. Despite not wanting to boyfriend/girlfriend each other right away (neither of us are in that headspace right now), we are both very much infatuated with the other and want to explore it.

When I asked, T told me he and B were not and had never been involved romantically and he was unaware of any unspoken feelings. I get an inkling that he knows how B feels about him (if she does? I don’t know) but doesn’t want to address it.

So here is my possible FEELINGS triangle. Do I have a responsibility to bring this up with B? T and I talked about how we’d keep this discreet unless we decide we want to boyfriend/girlfriend each other, but this feels important. (Maybe it only feels important because people are getting cagey about it?)

Dear Captain, please help me decipher all this. I really would like to pursue things with T because he is ever so lovely, but I am getting weird vibes from this whole situation.

(P.S. B knows nothing about this at present time.)

Sincerely yours,

Respectfully Crushing


Dear RC,

Sexy Typewriter here.

If there were such a thing as The Track Meet of Friendship, RC, you would win the blue ribbon every year while the rest of us selfish jerks would only get those ugly purple-and-gold participation badges. You are a seriously lovely human for considering and anticipating the needs and feelings of your friend.

That said, there’s such a thing as being too kind and considerate. Really. Like many kindhearted people, I think you are forgetting that your desires are as legitimate as those of your friends, neighbours, relatives, etc. And when it comes to certain things (such as, I don’t knowwww, the possibility of achieving true romantic love?), you probably should not sacrifice your own potential happiness just to keep things from becoming awkward for B.

Here is some perspective: B has had three years to make a move on T. Three years. Would you like to know how long it takes to say, “Hey T, I really like you!”? Three seconds. (I timed it and everything.) And yet, the two of them have been platonic this entire time. And B has never once hinted to you that she harbours Important Secret Feelings for T. Oh, and T has made his mutual interest in you clear. All signs point to “Game on!”

If you feel weird or backhanded for seeing what naturally unfolds between you and T, why not just use your words and ask B how she’d feel if you and T started dating?

Our Captain Awkward is good at scripts, so here’s my shot at one: “So B, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but T and I have lately developed some more-than-friend feelings for each other. We haven’t decided what we’re going to do about this yet, but if we do go the dating route, I’m wondering how you’d feel about that.”

Note that you are not asking for permission. You’re merely giving her a heads-up and gauging her feelings. In an ideal world, she’ll be thrilled for her friends. Orrrrr (more likely), B might go really quiet. Or voice concerns (that may or may not include shit-talking T’s dating past). Or maybe she will just absolutely detonate a FEELINGSBOMB in your general vicinity. Be gentle and understanding (as if I need to tell you that, Friendship Track Meet champion) and let her know that you value her friendship and will be as discreet as you can about your romantic relationship with T, if it comes to that.

You and T are adults, and if you are both feeling feelings and want to date each other, I say you damn well should.

Your feelings for T are just as legitimate B’s, RC. Someone else’s Top Secret Unrequited Romantic Feelings do not get to be the boss of you.

Follow Sexy Typewriter on Twitter @sexytypewriter

121 thoughts on “#405: Navigating the FEELINGSTRIANGLE

  1. Great advice!

    One thing that stands out to me: the ‘a third party told me about B’s interest in T’ thing. Which is really awkward, as you know–having been told this by a third party, privately, it’s hard to ignore the information. But it’s also hard to address it directly because who knows if B ever intended to tell you? And heck, as you say, for all you know the third party is just not right about it at all.

    It may be that that kind of third-party information-spreading is uncommon in this group of friends and it won’t come up again. But in case it does, I’d recommend having a way of dealing with it on hand. For instance, saying something like, “I’m not comfortable discussing B’s feelings when she isn’t here” or similar. If it’s more direct, like “B doesn’t want you to do Y,” you can say, “I’d rather B discussed this with me herself.” Something like that. That way you can actually deal with the situation rather than tiptoe-ing around it… and you don’t have to worry that your third party was wrong.

    (For the record, I don’t always think that roundabout communication is a bad thing. When my grandmother died, I had a friend who was willing to tell mutual friends, “If Badger seems sad at the party, it’s because her grandmother passed away recently. She doesn’t want to talk about it, but she wanted me to let you know so that you wouldn’t worry or try to cheer her up.” But I think it’s only really appropriate if a) the information conveyed is not a secret, and b) it’s done with the knowledge of the person it’s about. Obviously a is not true in your case, and b probably isn’t either.)

  2. LW, this “helpful” third party who told you about B’s feelings for T, are you really sure they know what B is feeling? They might be on Ship B&T all by themselves, for whatever reason. Or they might have information that is past its expiration date. If you’re going off your own gut/observations, that’s one thing, but if it’s mostly (or entirely) based off information from someone else, I’d take it with a really large grain of salt.

    Also, you might find yourself in a situation like this one, which could look an awful lot like B is interested in T romantically even if she isn’t (and is a separate problem, but this link is here in case it occurs): https://captainawkward.com/2011/08/01/reader-question-83-do-we-have-to-do-everything-with-my-boyfriends-friend/

    1. I wanted to second this – where just because one friend is talking B&T, doesn’t mean that there’s a straight forward love traingle brewing. It could just be a case where satellite friends see a heterosexual friendship and think “they should totally date because they’re such awesome friends”.

      It could also be a variation on what happened with you and T. Perhaps when B first met T, she flirted with him, got no response and thus has accepted being his friend. While she may still feel “yeah, he’s really cute and awesome”, she may also have accepted that they’re are just friends.

      While I think the script of being open about feelings (without asking for permission) is a very kind way to approach this – I don’t think you need to feel so obligated to walk on egg shells. Doctor Nerd Love has this idea about the Friend Zone where people who refuse to take a risk and leave the Zone usually have a sense that their romantic feelings won’t be reciprocated. So they choose to remain in the Zone and able to live in the world of maybe. If this is the case, being sensitive is great – but no need to bend all the way over backwards.

  3. If your starting to explore FEELINGS with T and talking with B about it lights a fire under her, she might think “how do you feel about that” is a negotiation question. “How do you feel about that? [and can I have permission please?]”

    Which- no. It is not a negotiation question. But maybe be prepared for that.

    Also, I think I would explicitly let B know what was up before anyone else in the friend group. But I personally would not be in a hurry to do so. It’s not that I’d be afraid of her reaction exactly, it’s just that I would like to know how I feel about the situation before I start dealing with other people’s feelings about the situation. More than one set of FEELINGSPROCESS is a lot of FEELINGSPROCESS to manage.

    We don’t get to dibs crushes, for one thing. And for another, we don’t get to veto other people’s FEELINGSPROCESSES if we don’t like the possible outcome. Unfortunately for B, if she does have FEELINGS for T and isn’t good with friends she wants to kiss, kissing other people, that’s a part of life she will have to grow up and live with. You can’t make her take rejection (implied or otherwise well) by not dating her friend.

    1. We both thought in terms of ” no dibs!” I also agree that asking how B feels about LW + T could come across as asking permission.

      Unless you really mean you’d not go out with T no matter how wonderfully things evolve with him, LW, much better to ask something like “how can we minimize awkwardness/hurt?” (If you confirm B has feelings). It may be B wants a little space from y’all for a while. It doesn’t mean you and T shouldn’t explore whether there is magic.

      1. How do you feel about rock paper scissors? Does rock-paper-scissors count as a way to decide who gets to date whom?

        1. One of the things I’ve learned from my English students here in Japan is that you can do really complicated multiple-person Rock Paper Scissors- everybody throws, and you eliminate down any losers until there’s only one person left. Sometimes that means everybody stays in for multiple rounds until only two categories are thrown. So multiple people can contend for the T’s affection all at once!

          1. I played a sort of LARP version of it while counseling at summer camp. It was called Elves, Wizards, GIants.

            Elves confound Wizards.
            Wizards zap Giants.
            GIants squash Elves.

            Basically you played in teams, and lined up red-rover style. The team with the winning supernatural creature chased the losers, and took whoever was caught. When the whole group was on one team, the game was over.

  4. I agree! I understand that as an honorable person you don’t want to poach where you feel like there’s a prior claim. But there is no prior claim here!

    1) There’s no such thing as dibs on people, as in “I saw him first.” You have to get past admiring/pining and act, and there has to be reciprocation, before dibs apply. You know this: person X likes person Y. That creates no obligation on the part of Person Y to reciprocate. Nor does it create a “thing” that must be honored and held inviolate by third parties.

    2) T gets to pick for himself. This isn’t something you and B work out and get back to him on.

    3) Think how you’d feel if your and B’s positions were reversed. Not the “nooooo, how could she?” you’re imagining/fearing, but if you liked a guy for years AND NEVER DID ANYTHING ABOUT IT and then he and another friend started something up, wouldn’t you really think “I blew it. I should’ve taken my chance”? Because that would be correct: if you wanted it, you should’ve taken the chance; the onus is not on other people to stand aside in case you ever get your gumption up. Likewise, you have no duty to stand aside “just in case.”

    You, on the other hand, are exchanging words with T! Words about feelings, that are revealing reciprocity! That should NOT take a back seat to “maybe B has feelings that maybe someday she will articulate and maybe (but apparently probably not) T will reciprocate.

    Being a good friend to B means not talking about T and your budding (maybe) relationship all the time; find someone else to share your joy with. It may mean asking “I have the impression you maybe liked T…. You don’t have to yea or nay that, but if you want to talk about that, or there’s anything I can do to not be an insensitive boob, please tell me.”

    1. I really agree with all of this, especially the second point. it sounds like T has already made some decisions in his head, or at the very least knows for sure how he feels about both ladies. Even if RC never made a move, and even if B did after three dang years, it doesn’t sound like B would get T, because he doesn’t feel that way about her. Not dating T won’t make B date T, it will just result in three people with un-acted upon crushes instead of one.

      I have been in RC’s shoes, to an extent. Some friends tried to set my roommate up with a guy, I finally met him at a party and made sure to politely excuse myself whenever I could so my friend could get some face time, and he ended up putting some moves on me a while later. I liked him and all, but I owed my roommate honesty, and I checked in with her about it, in pretty much the exact same words as in this script. I was lucky that they didn’t know each other well and they weren’t really romantically compatible, but it was still a) awkward and scary, b) a little weird, and c) something that needed discussion. It was a little weird for a while, but I didn’t wave it in her face and it all passed. We are all still friends to this day, and I have been living with the dude for five years. Had I been shady, and had he been shady? I don’t know that it would happened that way.

    2. 2) T gets to pick for himself. This isn’t something you and B work out and get back to him on.

      This. Like alphakitty says, I get why it feels like the right thing to do to give B first right of refusal or whatever on T. It’s easy to get caught up in the worry of how B’s FEELINGSPROCESS might redefine your friendship(s), and forget that T’s feelings matter as much–really, more than–B’s, as far as this issue is concerned. The good news is, T’s feelings are a known quantity already, unlike B’s, and they align with yours. (Mazel tov!)

      I think one important thing to remember while you’re establishing this fledgling relationship with T is that, fundamentally, your relationship with T is the business of you and T, and no one else. If you allow other people (B, third-party friend, anyone else in your friend group) to have a say in what you do, how you act, or what you decide, it will only get harder as time goes on to stand up for what YOU want.

    3. This chimes with what I started thinking about B and T. If B does have any unspoken feelings for T, and blows up about LW and T maybe getting together, she’d be heading into Nice Girl (TM) territory, at least if Nice Girl (TM) is the counterpart to Nice Guy (TM).

      I’m wary of the idea of talking to her, partly because it could too easily read like asking permission and partly because of the information coming from a third party, which would give B genuine cause to be aggrieved. And guess who that would land on – not the third party as much as LW, I’d bet.

      Like Sexy Typewriter said, B has *maybe* had feelings about T for a long time. Maybe. There was nothing specific in what the third party said, only that B wouldn’t like it if LW and T got together. That says possessiveness, sure, but it could as easily be the possessiveness of close friends, if perhaps B doesn’t have a wide circle (I have no idea, obviously!) or is platonically close to T. Hell, I’ve felt the pathetic-weedy-jealousy thing about women friends dating, and I daresay if I’d had close male friends (no sexy feelings involved) friends I’d have been the same.

      So … I’d say talking to T, who LW says is interested, is the primary thing. Perhaps if/when things develop he’ll want to talk about B, if there’s anything to say. But T can hardly be put on ice (or rather, be expected to put himself on ice) just because B might be upset if he has a romantic relationship. She doesn’t own him.

  5. I’m with everyone else. You are a considerate person, which is good. However, you don’t have to prioritize everyone else’s feelings over yours. You do not need B’s permission. She has had three years to say something- and she hasn’t. If she’s not willing to speak up, then she has no grounds to be mad at you. If she is, well, there’s a few minutes of being upset and then getting over herself and then there’s “HOW DARE YOU DATE T EVEN THOUGH WE AREN’T AND NEVER HAVE BEEN INVOLVED HE IS MINE” in which case you back away and heavily restrict contact with her.

  6. Yeah, what BrynnDragon said. Be oh so careful about trusting a third party’s assessment of what is going on between people that they happen to be acquainted with. The fact that T shrugged things off is a pretty good indication that you shouldn’t go hunting for feelings too quickly. Be honest with B about your relationship and maybe say “So, how did you meet T?” before you ask, “So, how do you feel about our pants feelings?” Definitely try to avoid accidentally spreading a rumor that B has feelings for T when you have exactly zero confirmation that this might be the case.

  7. If the LW & B had conversations about B liking T and the LW didn’t mention her own feelings maybe then B could feel blind sided but even that doesn’t mean T doesn’t get to choose.
    But vauge hints from a third party doesn’t merit a no go zone around T. If you think the feelings are there you may want to let B know about the change in relationship one on one or by phone / email so they can react in private rather than in a group.

  8. “If you want B to like you, you won’t pursue T.” The mutual acquaintance who told you that interests me. Seems to me that either B is not a nice person (or good friend, or what have you), or this person is. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, B’s had a crush on T for a while–word to the wise,” but it’s another to say that B will not like you anymore if you date T. Because she’s either telling you that B will react poorly and out of proportion, or she’s trying to stir shit up. So . . . which is it?

    Although I suppose it could be both.

    1. That kinda struck me too. The wording is very Thou Shalt Not-y to me. Was that all she said? Don’t go after T because then B won’t like you? That’s not very much to go on. If B will get really, really upset then a bit more information about that would probably have been more helpful.

      1. I also thought that was weird. Maybe it’s just awkward phrasing and I’m reading too much into it, but comes across as very unhealthy-power-dynamic-y. Also, anyone who gives a vague piece of advice but doesn’t back it up solidly, like telling you not to get involved with someone romantically because of REASONS but then not saying what those reasons are, does not get their advice followed in my books. If your mutual friend were really concerned for B, they would talk to B about her feelings. If mutual friend were concerned about you (which is how they framed it, by saying that you shouldn’t pursue T if you want B to like you), then they should tell you what’s up so that you can make an informed decision. If they didn’t do either of those things, they’re being more meddlesome than helpful.

        1. Totally agreed. (“If you want B to like you”? Uh, she’s supposed to be LW’s friend, doesn’t she already like her?) There is some underlying drama in this group beyond secret pantsfeelings, methinks.

        2. It almost reads like Third Person is trying to match-make between B and T, doesn’t it?

      2. It’s also possible that “Helpful” Third Person has (her?) own feelings for T, and is using B as the heavy. Whatever the case, the interaction seems to say way more about Third Person than it does about B and how she’s likely to react.

    2. Word. And the getting cagey thing. Either you are going to share relevant information, or you aren’t. Mysterious warnings delivered through opaque but meaningful comments= not a grownup way to act. If it’s not relevant or your business, keep your mouth shut. If you do speak up, speak all the way up.

      Jeez. It’s like Warning Friend was communicating through Galadriel’s mirror pool.

      *cue whirling smoke*
      Shadowy figures seem to be discussing FEELINGS. The message from the FEELINGS COUNCIL is coming through… if you want to remain friends, you must GIVE HIM UP FOREEVVVVEERRRRRRRRR.
      *fade out with much smoky whirling*

    3. Letter Writer here. You are absolutely right about the stirring shit up, weird power dynamic, trying to meddle in all of the places thing. That has all recently become VERY clear with that third-party friend and I am distancing myself way the hell away.
      T and I are opting to ignore the underlying DRAMAZ with our friends and keep our thing as somewhat separate from all that, and it is all going quite nicely.

  9. I have been the T in a situation something like this once before. It really sucked for everybody involved. I did not get to date the person I really liked, the person who really liked me back also did not get to date me, and the person in B’s role was somebody who I was not interested in at all so both he did not get to date me, and his friendship with my You still ended up being awkward despite My You not dating Me-T, because feelings happened at all even when we didn’t act on them.

    So I might be biased here, but you should go for it. While it will suck for B to see you dating T (if you end up dating), it’s not going to magically work out between B and T if T doesn’t like her anyway. You should go for what will make the most people happy. If you see where things go with T, it will make you and T happy and B sad. If you don’t see where things go with T, it will make you and T sad and B will stay sad because T still likes you anyway and never wanted to date B anyway.

    And as for telling B about it, I think it would be best to wait and find out if the feelings-thing will actually work out. If it doesn’t, then no harm no foul. If it does, well, it’s still just tentative-feelings right now anyway, so there’s not much to tell. Let people know about it when it’s something to actually know about, even if they’ve got some supposed emotional investment in T’s relationship status as according to Random Outside Source.

    1. This, right here, is why I hate the practice of calling dibs on people. (Well, this and the fact that it’s just icky.) Getting rejected sucks, but I feel like it would suck in an extra special way if the person rejecting you actually likes you but knows that someone else does too and doesn’t want to get in that person’s way. People do not stand in other people’s way when it comes to dating people. If B wants to date T, that sucks because he doesn’t like her back. You two exploring your feelings for each other won’t change that.

      (Also, I really hope B does not plan on doing this: http://xkcd.com/513/ )

    2. I’ve been the T in this situation, and it’s uncomfortable even if you do go out with the person you want to be with. In our scenario, the B continued to be a Nice Guy (TM) and whine about how he called dibs on me, and give us the stink-eye if we were affectionate in front of him. Eventually he got over it and found a girlfriend, and stopped hitting on me. I think we were all happier then.

      The sooner B gets used to the idea that T and RC are dating, the sooner she can move on and resume her own life and happiness. That is, if Sketchy Mutual Friend is even telling the truth about B having a huge crush on T. Either way, I don’t think LW has an obligation to anyone other than herself and T (in the sense that people who are dating are obligated to treat each other reasonably well). Perhaps it’d be better to hear the news from LW rather than facebook, but phrasing it in terms of “Hey, I heard you’re in luuuurve with the person I’m going out with” just increases the Feelingsvolume and invites Feelingsbombs. (Sorry about the mixed metaphor) If it were me, I’d say something matter-of-fact, like, “I’m good, thanks for asking. T and I are going out on a date on Friday. I’m looking forward to it. How was your week?”

      1. Your B actually said out loud and in front of you (and your RC) that he had called dibs on you? Oy. That sounds disgusting and incredibly unpleasant for you. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

        Also, I completely agree with your advice. Hearing it from RC or T might be better for B than hearing it on facebook, but it should be more “This is a thing that is happening in my life,” than “I’M SO SORRY THAT WE’RE DATING! PLEASE BE OKAY WITH IT!”

        1. It was super unpleasant. In this case, I wasn’t BFFs with the B like LW’s B and T are. I met the B and RC at the exact same time, so there was no history to complicate things, just a really whiny dude who doesn’t understand the difference between a person and the passenger seat of a car.

          But I’d like to give LW’s B the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s an adult who can deal with hurt feelings gracefully. It’ll be awkward, but what’s the alternative? Backing off of T will just give B false hope. Clinging to her crush might be doing her more harm than good, especially if it prevents her from finding greener pastures, or puts undue pressure on her friendship with T.

  10. Even if B is madly in love with T and has decided that she will never love anyone else ever again, you are not now and never will be the reason that B and T don’t get together. B and T are the reason for that, and if B were going to make a move, she’d have made it by now. If T picked up on any FEELINGSVIBE and wanted to act on it, he would have by now. I really think that your responsibility as a good friend is to be kind and gentle around any awkwardness that your budding relationship might cause. That’s things like, disavowing any knowledge of accidental drunken FEELINGSBOMBS and still being friendly and nice to people who maybe don’t want to see you for a little while while they sort out their feelings. And maybe forgive a bad moment or two if they aren’t egregious. But what you don’t do is rearrange your entire romantic life to suit someone else or pretend like you’re not having a romance when you are.

    I’d just let things happen naturally and let any awkwardness that results roll off for a few months. If a conversation about this needs to happen, I actually think it would be loads better coming from T since, from what you say, B and T are the best of friends and that kind of information about my best friend would be really really weird to get from anyone else.

    1. Solidly agree with all of this. LW can do what’s right for her and T AND at the same time be low-key and understanding to B. This is grownup land (where B’s mutual friend, unfortunately, does not seem to live).

    2. YES T should be responsible for communicating to B. He is the one with an extra-special friendship and has likely been managing (or not) her FEELINGS for a while now.

    3. What you said! I would also be somewhat wary of sharing too much – if anything – about what’s going on with you and T in conversation with B. Especially at this early stage.

      And I wonder – once B finds out about you and T, is she likely to try to meddle in your relationship, and inject herself into your business because she’s counseling him as his “best friend”? Because then, I’d be SUPER wary of sharing too much – if any – information. Same goes for the friend-of-B’s.

  11. I had a similar situation happen on a much smaller scale in high school regarding a school dance. I was in a big group of friends who all went in some combination of couples to the school dances. A friend had dated a guy in our social circle; they broke up and remained friends, and she clearly still had feelings for him that were not reciprocated (he later came out as gay). Somehow she had an unspoken claim on him for dances from then on. Our senior year I decided this was stupid and I would like to go with him to the girl-ask-guy dance, so I said, “Hey [friend], I’m thinking I’ll ask [guy] to the dance.” She predictably came up with reasons she didn’t think he’d want to go with me in an “I’m trying to prevent your feelings from being hurt” kind of way. I asked him anyway, he was flattered and said yes, she found another date, we had a great time, and all friendships involved survived.

  12. Since B herself did not tell you about any of this, and the man involved has made it clear there’s been no romance, why not keep treating B like the friend she is? “B, OMG, there’s been a disturbance in the force – T kissed me! And I totally kissed him back!” You know, share the news as if she had never made any feelings for T public. Because she still hasn’t. 3rd friend sounds like a trouble-maker, to me. Anyway, share the news with B in private, in case of a difficult reaction, but until she acts otherwise, girl is your friend who has never dated or tried to date T. Maybe do her the honor of treating her that way.

    Also, maybe try to not enter into a thing with T from the mindset of either a) he’s really obtuse about women and feelings or b) he avoids difficult emotional stuff/is kind of cowardly and a liar.

    1. The problem with that is you can’t un-explode a FEELINGSBOMB, even one that’s of questionable provenance and has been tossed by a third party. And T is not just some dude, we’re told he’s B’s best friend. Even if the LW hadn’t been told of B’s possible pantsfeelings, surely the close friendship would call for a relatively more careful/respectful navigating of this situation. Swooping up to her all SQUEEEE YOUR BFF LUUUUVS MEEEE! doesn’t seem like the way to go. Think of it as walking into a minefield — LW now has the info that there might be a mine, or there might not. Does she go ahead and bound across the field full speed ahead? No. She treads with care.

      1. Ehh, the deed is already done. T & LW have already kissed. Telling B sooner rather than later, and with less of a ‘I’m sure this is going to hurt you’ sort of tone, allows not-romantically-inclined-B to behave like a normal friend, and allows romantically-inclined-B to save face. It’s really Schrodinger’s feelingsbomb, at this point.

        1. Definitely agree. I’ve been using the ‘treat people as if you expect them to behave like decent human beings’ approach for people whose feelings are ambiguously presented and a lot of the time it works really well as it gives the other person clear social cues to follow about what a good reaction would be (and if they ignore that they would likely have behaved poorly anyway). It’s also more respectful and less controlling of B as it lets her own her own reaction instead of being managed by the LW and T. If I were B I think finding out that LW and T were being secretive because they didn’t think I could handle it or thought I would behave inappropriately would make things much more weird than hurt pants feelings alone.

      2. I don’t think I understand you here, gmg. Are you saying that LW should check with B before things get serious with T, even if B doesn’t have any crush? If that’s what you mean, I have to say I feel the exact opposite. LW doesn’t need T’s best friend’s permission or approval to date him. She doesn’t need anyone’s permission or approval except for T’s, actually.

        1. No, no. The Captain is absolutely right, there are no “dibs.” I’m saying that if you suspected a friend might have a little thing for the dude you wanted to date and who wanted to date you, you would probably try to be a little bit cooler/chiller/more understanding about telling friend. You wouldn’t pop up to her all excited and gossipy and happy like it’s just any other dude. That’d be like twisting the knife a little, no? Even if that was by no means the intent?

  13. Yeah, massive side-eye to Mutual Friend, there, with the vague portents of doooooom if you don’t take hir word about B’s feelings and stay away from T. I would suspect MF has some feelings about T hirself and/or just likes being a shit-disturber

  14. Not only do we not get to say “dibs” on people, but this isn’t even a case of B having recently met T and still figuring out how she feels. They’ve known each other for three years.

    Yes, someone can realize after two or three or five years that they have romantic or sexual feelings towards a friend, but they should also have some idea of how to talk to their good friends. If B really has FEELINGS toward T, maybe she has decided for some reason not to pursue them. That’s entirely her right, but her hypothetical feelings shouldn’t be a barrier for you.

    1. LOL, no you don’t! Come hang with me and be in your 40s, it’s way more fun! No offense 20somethings but I’m way cooler now and way less worried about silliness like alphabecticaloversensitivitybasedonwhata3rdpartysays.

      1. Ditto to that! LOL! Pushing fifty isn’t bad either.

        Well, except the dodgy knees, etc etc … 😉

      2. Now that’s a party I want to come to! A friend just turned 30 as I am about to, and we’ve both recently become single and were discussing dating. I said, ‘well I’m glad that when I do start dating again I’m going to be doing it on the right side of 30’. He was furious and got all upset and started telling me I was a bitch. It didn’t occur to him at all that for me the right side of 30 was the one that was NOT still in my twenties!!

      3. I’ll be joining your party in not too long!
        I had a ton of fun in my 20s, but my romantic life was all about trying to turn frogs into princes with the power of my Selfless Love. I don’t miss that.

        1. I know all about frogs and jackasses too! Selflessly love yourself! This is no missing frogs unless they bought you great jewelry!

          1. To be fair, going into a relationship with the idea of fixing the other person is kind of a dick move.
            I got one beautiful and stupidly expensive necklace that I pull out for interviews and such. I do not miss that frog, or the naivete with which I accepted his jeweled collar. It was not worth the invisible leash that was attached.
            Frogs and jackasses suck! Hooray self-love! And buying great jewelry! And middle age! Which is unexpectedly satisfying.

  15. All I’ll say is I was once in a situation a bit like that, in a position similar to T’s, and that’s how I met my beloved wife (who was in RC’s position). There was some resentment on B’s part, but she attended our wedding and while neither of us is terribly close to B now, we are still friends.

    Don’t cheat yourself out of a potentially meaningful relationship because a friend *might* have a crush that she’ll probably never do anything about.

    1. Funny, I was just going to say that I am super glad my B (and the mutual friends) didn’t make her feelings for my T known until after we’d started dating, because then I’d maybe not have been together with a wonderful person for the past 12 years, nor would we have 4 awesome kids together. Then of course there is the point brought up in the comments that T, he gets to have full say in who he likes, which is exactly what my spouse said to me about my friend circle’s B.

      It was awkward to have B’s mom and little sister and a handful of her friends making sad noises in my direction that I had ruined all her potential someday fun. She got over it, or I should say she decided to reel it in once she realised that it wasn’t her decision to make whether my T liked her or not, no feelingsbombs were dropped. Thank goodness.

  16. Yeah… I’m gonna echo those skeptical of the hintsdropper here. Where did she get that information? How does she know that B has these feelings? Does B actually have these feelings? Or is the hintsdropper using B as an excuse to cover something up, like maybe her own feelings? Is the hintsdropper using B as a disguise for herself?

    Yeah, I know the immediate rejection… why would someone do that… but what hintsdropper said to you, LW, is sketchy as hell.

    “If you want B to like you, you won’t pursue T.”

    The very first thing you need to establish is if B really does have feelings for T.

    Just start there. Once you get the answer to that, you can move on.

    And I like the script Sexy Typewriter wrote up for you. It’s almost perfect… you just have to make it clear that it’s not a negotiation or fishing for a blessing; that you have every intention (if you do have those intentions, of course… and I get the feeling that you do) of exploring these feelings with T. It is simply to establish whether or not hintsdropper was telling the truth, and that really is whether I think you should focus your skepticism right now.

    1. “rejection” up there in “I know the immediate rejection” should be objection.

      Also, “whether” in the very last line should be “where”.

      I apparently cannot type, or spell, or use correct words…

  17. I still keep in touch with a couple of people who are connected with the social group I was in the first time I was at university. It was very insular and full of Geek Social Fallacies and such and quite toxic and sometimes I get updates on what things are going on, and very recently one of these friends and my sister were talking about a situation pretty much just like this, where Lady and Man started dating, and one of Lady’s friends then turned up on her doorstep in tears because Man was her FIRST CRUSH in this social group and all her crushes have her dibs on them, whether you know that or not. (As I recall, Lady did not. Nor did Man, for that matter.)

    If everyone is being cagey about this, it is possible that B is like Lady’s friend. She might not be, in which case mentioning to her that you’re thinking about making pants-friends with T will be relatively drama free. But if she is? That is so not your problem. B doesn’t get to lay dibs on people, because people are not brownies, and she especially doesn’t get to be upset* at people ignoring that dibs if she hasn’t even told anyone she has it. (*At least, she can be upset, but she doesn’t have the right to make that upset someone else’s problem.)

    If someone turns up on your doorstep crying that you’re dating the person they were silently crushing on, the appropriate(? not quite the word I want. expected, maybe?) emotional response is probably embarrassment for her. Mixed with sympathy, since you have the blue ribbon at the Friend Track Meet, but you don’t get extra credit for catering to her fantasies, you just get to miss out on a perfectly good pants-friendship.

    1. I think “People are not brownies, you can’t call dibs on them” should be added to the cross-stitch-on-a-pillow list.

      1. +1! Is someone keeping track of the cross-stitching list? We could have an open google doc or something.

        1. As someone with no creative talent and a lot of time on her hands, I would totally be willing to start that google doc and an etsy page if someone else wants to start making cross stitch pillows.

          1. As someone who’s about to have a lot of time on her hands and some fiber-related aptitude, I would so be up for making those pillows. I think they’re a hilariously fabulous idea.

          2. Seconding Diamondot here. I’ve got a job at a craft store, a passion for cross-stitch, and one more week until semester ends. Point me to your quotes, and I shall make them into adorable pillows and samplers as soon as I finish my last few final papers!

        2. Well, a friend and I recently started a tumblr called cross-stitch-worthy that is almost entirely CA (and Awkward Army) quotes, but I haven’t had time to dig up the old gems yet. (Would happily take submissions.) I too think a google doc would be an *awesome* idea!

      2. When dealing with awesome, mature people, definitely. (LW and T seem to be doing fine. Including the ‘we’re not in the headspace for a serious relationship right now’ awareness.)
        But there’s also a lot of cultural pressure to compete and snatch partners and one-upmanship by asking out people to score points in relationship with mates/friends/enemies rather than because of genuine interest, and in that context a culture of stepping back and waiting until your friends have sorted out their relationships/feelings isn’t the worst thing ever.

        Here, well, it seems as if T was single long enough for B to make her move and T to reciproke if there was to be any relationship between them. And T totally gets a say in this… it sounds as if he’s made his decision.

        What worries me most is the ‘concerned friend’ because her language is skeevy as hell – not just the implied threat, but her use of ‘pursue him’ which sounds as if T is some kind of passive quarry and all the running is made/potentially made by the women, rather than relationships being a case of mutual negotiations with each party being able to say no and withdraw at any point in the proceedings.

        1. “There’s also a lot of cultural pressure to compete and snatch partners and one-upmanship by asking out people to score points in relationship with mates/friends/enemies rather than because of genuine interest”

          Ew. Where, so I can stay the hell away from this place?

  18. I guess I’m in the minority here, but… Sofi’s script seems fine, but unnecessary. Whatever feelings B may or may not have, you do not need to check in with her before doing whatever you want with T, and checking in is only likely to make things more awkward. Just expect B to be cool, and hopefully she will live up to that expectation. If not, you can deal with it when it comes.

    1. Oh, I agree with this. Bringing up third-party vague messages, what will it accomplish? Maybe B DOES have feelings but is not interested in dealing with them, or is dealing with them in her own time and has no plans on doing a big feelingsbomb.

      I’d say deal with your relationship to T with him, deal with your friendship with B with her. And if things change, if T reacts to the change of relationships in your friends-group, THEN bring out the scripts here. You are friends with her, which I assume means you like her and trust her. Give her the benefit of the doubt – believe more in your initial assesment of her character than in the third-party busybody meddler.

      If you need to talk about it, talk to T. I don’t see this as a situation where being proactive will be in anyone’s best interest

    2. I think that there is value in bringing it up – not for the sake who’s business it is or isn’t – but in the spirit of social harmony. While this isn’t mentioned specifically, if the LW, B, and T do friends things together, there’s also the reality of the changed group dynamic. And while keeping things low key makes sense, keeping it a secret sounds like a recipe for greater problems/hurt feelings later.

      If the LW and B (or B&T) usually talk about who they’re dating – then specifically omitting this may make it seem like they’re keeping a secret or excluding B. If B did once have a crush on T, it may end up feeling like people are handling her with kid gloves because they’re afraid she’ll go ‘psycho’. Then the FEELINGSBOMB won’t be “the guy I liked rejected me” – but “you’re keeping secrets”.

      So while perhaps the script doesn’t need to be as “I know this must hurt you, but” – I would recommend telling B.

      1. I agree that asking how B feels about it is not necessary. If LW would normally talk about her relationships with B then she should talk about this one at the same point where she would have done if the new guy were not T and in the same way. Why help make the drama when there may be none.

    3. I agree, I think the script is nice, but completely unnecessary.

      I was in the LW’s shoes once… I did end up dating the T-type person, but the friendship between me and the B-type person completely imploded, partly because we had one too many conversations about B’s unrequited love for T and how UNFAIR it was that T would like me instead of B.

      So yeah. If you can avoid that convo, I would advise it.

  19. “Your feelings for T are just as legitimate B’s, RC”

    I would really like to echo this. What matters is not who has what feelings first, but rather which feelings are reciprocated and acted upon. Seems like you and T are already reciprocating and acting upon feelings with the brunch kisses, so go for it! Giving B a head’s up as a courtesy is a nice thing to do, but definitely don’t ask for permission. It’s not B’s to give.

  20. I would suspect it may be mutual friend who has feeings for T, but that’s just conjecture on my part and is, in fact, totally irrelevant.

    T gets to decide who he dates. End of.

    I think that, as you are friendly with B, the script is above is a good idea (perhaps modified to make it seem less like asking permission, if you feel it necessary) but the focus should be very much on ‘Can you give me some advice on how I can not make this ridiculously hard on you?’ (if she owns up to FEELINGS at all) and not on ‘How can I tiptoe around you and live my life according to your unspoken and unacted feelings?’

  21. If B does have feelings for T I actually think you are doing her a favour by dating him. He doesn’t reciprocate her feelings so you’re giving her a wake up call to move on with her life and put more energy into other relationships. But anyway she might have no pants feelings for him at all in which case this is all moot. I would bring it up with her and just ask bluntly, but I appreciate that I don’t know her or how she is likely to take this. I think your best bet is to assume there is no problem until one emerges and deal with it then.

  22. ‘If you want B to like you, you won’t pursue T’

    Well, either you have a real friendship built on mutual respect with B or she’s just using you for herding T in her direction. Better find out sooner rather than later.

  23. It just occurred to me that this is pretty much the “How do I get a Feelingsectomy” situation, only that was written from the perspective of B. And y’know? Part of what was cool about the LW there was that she knew there were no dibs. She didn’t think the guy was being a jerk for not liking her back the way she liked him, or that the new girlfriend was being a jerk for not recognizing she liked him and standing aside. She understood that it was her job to manage her own feelings about a situation where the other people weren’t doing anything wrong, just exercising their right to like each other and see where that went.

    So as someone said above, maybe Mutual Friend should just butt out. It’s not a drama unless one of the actual three tries to make it one. Assume B is as cool as the Feelingsectomy LW unless she makes an issue of things. If she does, go with one of the scripts about trying to be considerate and not stomp on her feelings, but without acting like she has a right to veto the relationship or make y’all skulk and feel like you’re doing a Bad Thing. (That’s come up in an earlier letter, too: how much accommodation is and isn’t ok to ask of your friends).

  24. So it’s Monday morning and I am going to be harsh as usual, though not at you, I promise, LW.

    I want you to think for a minute about being in T’s shoes. What if someone harboured either secret or not-so-secret unrequited feelings for you? And that everyone around you thought it meant that you therefore, on some level, belonged to that person? That okay, you didn’t have to date them but that you are supposed to not date anyone (or at least anyone your admirer knows)?

    Seriously? That’s fucked up!

    So not only should you explore where it goes with T in good conscience, you should do so knowing that bending to B’s feelings is playing into this junior-high school bullshit game. Don’t play that.

  25. I’m in nearly the exact same situation right now, except I’d be considered B. There are a few key differences in my situation, though. One, I think it’s lovely that LW is considering her friend’s feelings in this situation. There’s no need to do what her friend wants her to do, but the idea that she’s taken that into account is definitely what I consider really decent behavior. My current situation is a friend who knew firsthand my feelings for our “T”, and he knew firsthand too, and I had to find out on facebook that they were dating without any prior knowledge. My “T” is so unabashedly flirty with people that despite my constant desire to be nothing more than close friends with him, I’ve constantly gotten mixed signals from him and continued having much stronger feelings for him. I think I’ve told him four or so times in the past six years I’ve known him that I had feelings for him, but knew he didn’t feel anything back, so could he kindly stop saying suggestive things to me/touching me romantically/telling me all his deep, dark secrets? And he’s never complied, so I’ve been kinda stewing in my own bad feelings for a long time. And I’ve talked to my “RC” about all of this, frequently. They both knew how I felt, and them dating isn’t bothering me so much as their complete disregard for my feelings throughout the whole thing (talking to each other on my personal facebook page about their relationship, making out in front of me, never once asking if I was okay). I’ve gone the silent route, because I have a feeling that a big friendship breakup has been a long time coming. It’s just been years of being bulldozed by other people’s feelings and actions, without anyone really checking in to see if I’m okay.

    So I’m really impressed that LW is considering her friend B’s feelings at all, even without knowing exactly what she feels for T. I think if she really wants to keep a friendship with B (though she obviously doesn’t have to, if it’s a lukewarm friendship it’s not like you’ll be losing much) she should just sit down and have that talk with her. I mean, go for your feelings, if you and T like each other don’t hold back, but with B it’s a whole other relationship and if you truly value that one too you’ll at least check in with her. You might even be doing her a favor if she has feelings she doesn’t want. I was desperately hoping my “T” would get into a relationship so I wouldn’t feel so conflicted about “does he feel that way about me or not?!?!” Sometimes people have serious feelings for people they really don’t want to be with and it consumes them. They just need a little help.

    1. I am so sorry you’ve been stuck on someone you didn’t want to be stuck on! I’ve been there and it’s awful. There’s a guy who’s really awesome but I’ve been weird around him so many times because of PANTS when there’s really nothing there between us. It’s a shame, I think it would have been a great friendship, but it’s so much healthier for me to be out of contact.

      You can just keep fading and licking your wounds. They may not notice for a while, which will probably hurt too, but you’ll have way more time to find people to be friends with who respect your clearly stated boundaries.

    2. Madalene, I knew a ‘T’ a bit like yours once, and it did not end well. Please take care of yourself, especially when around your ‘T’, and trust those instincts of yours that are bringing up red flags about all this.

    3. Oh, I had a friend like your T once. We’re not friends anymore. It’s better that way.

      Be careful around people who like being on the receiving end of unrequited love. Aside from the usual pain and drain of getting just enough encouragement to keep some hope, there’s sometimes some nasty stuff swirling around that makes people need that sort of devotion.

    4. Your friends’ behavior sounds kinda rude to me, both the bit where they do things that they know bother you and also just the behaviors themselves.

      There are socially appropriate ways for a couple to behave couple-y in public but actually making out in front of other people is not really it. Other people’s fb walls totally counts as “in front of other people” because that is kind of the point of social network sites.

  26. Congratulations on mutual feelings fun times, LW! It sounds really exciting and it sounds like you & T are communicating really well. This could be the start of something really cool.

    If B really does have feelings for T, it is literally none of your responsibility. If T thinks anything needs to be done, then as B’s best friend I think this falls at his feet to deal with. And if he thinks there is nothing to deal with, I would say trust him on that. Going around T (even with his explicit agreement) to try to sort things out with B will only reinforce any ideas that T is passive in this and you’re a bad person stealing her object of affection. Rather than, y’know, T having feelings for you and making his own decisions.

    Mutual friend sounds quite ridiculous. Don’t date T if you want B to like you? LW, if mutual friend is in fact dead on and B won’t like you if you date T, give some consideration to whether you care if B likes you. People who see their crushes as their property aren’t nice people.

    I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you may well get a feelingsbomb going off from B (or from mutual friend, in my opinion) and none of that is down to you to deal with. That is them fucking up, and all you need to do is wait for them to apologise when they realise how they acted.

    Good luck with T, LW, it sounds like you two could have a lot of fun together.

  27. Speculating about third-party friend, my guess is that B did some misbehavior towards someone (or multiple someones) T has dated in the past. Third party may have wanted to give you what they thought was a legit warning, but felt hampered by being unwilling to badmouth their friend because that’s a terrible thing to do. It sort of leaves you with this Kinda Info that isn’t Info.

    This is a thing to talk to T about! You can ask if B has reacted poorly towards anyone he’s dated, and hope he actually noticed or picked up on gossip (a lot of the time people miss that stuff). If so, you can ask him if he ever found out why. Because it could be that actually B is very protective of him and thought those other ladies were bad people (or bad for T) and would instead be thrilled to have him dating you because you’re awesome.

    People meddle in relationships for all kinds of reasons that others might think are good or bad, and not all of them are “because I want to bone one of them” or “because I have dibs”. I can give examples if you want.

    It’s probable that your intuition is right, that if there’s anything here it’s an unrequited pantsfeelings problem, but I think you don’t have enough information to know that for sure.

  28. As someone who once realised I had feelings for someone ONLY after they started dating someone else, (who me? repressive? Never!) I feel B’s -possible- pain. But that’s not your problem, go forth and having pantsfeelings funtimes. I hope you are blessed with a B half as cool and considerate as you are being of her.

    1. Sometimes it feels safer that way, you know? But it’s really very common. Someone in the early stages of a relationship is often bouncy and happy around everyone, and sometimes you get to see how well they treat a partner and then you just see them differently.

      Still stings tho.

  29. I’m going to disagree with Sexy Typewriter’s advice. I 100% agree that B’s maybe-feelings for T should not prevent the LW and T from exploring their feelings for each other. But to the extent that something needs to be said to B about this feelings-exploration (now, or at some future date if things get more serious), I think that’s on T. He is B’s best friend. He’s known B twice as long as the LW has known either of them. And after the LW told him what she’d heard about B (if not sooner), he knows as much about B’s feelings for him as the LW does.

    B doesn’t have “dibs” on T, and neither T nor the LW should feel like they can’t be together because it might give B a sad. But if B and T have been best friends for several years, and if B’s feelings are clear enough that the pair feels the need to give her a heads up about this new relationship and to check whether she’s okay, the person tasked with that should be the best friend for whom she has feelings. I would be *mortified* if I had sorta-but-not-really-hidden pantsfeelings for my best friend and one day a mutual friend turned up on my doorstep to tell me that she had started dating him and she wanted to make sure I was okay. The number one thing that would make things easier for B is probably “not having to discuss my crush on my best friend with the girl he just started dating, whether or not she’s also a friend of mine.”

    (I’m assuming that B doesn’t know that another friend told the LW about B’s feelings. But if she does, I’d say the above goes double — that would mean that B is trying to make her feelings the LW’s problem, and the LW should refuse to engage in that. If those feelings need to be anyone besides B’s problem, that person is the best friend she’s trying to scare potential relationships away from.)

    I also think that this whole situation is a textbook guy-wants-to-avoid-messy-feelings vs. girl-wants-to-caretake-for-everyone dynamic. T says he had no inkling B has ever had feelings for him, but it seems to be common knowledge among a bunch of mutual friends? I’d say the LW is probably right that T did know or suspect and just didn’t want to address it because it would make things weird to bring it out into the open. Which is fine to a point, but if the LW and T get more serious then he can’t keep avoiding dealing with things if he wants both his friendship and his relationship to survive. Meanwhile, the LW and T have agreed not to tell anyone, but the LW thinks that she should maybe say something to B because of the weird situation between B and T that she has no direct knowledge of? I think that’s a nice sentiment, but as I said above, that’s really T’s mess to deal with and not the LW’s, and if she and T have agreed not to tell anyone then she definitely shouldn’t talk to B without looping him in.

    And I echo the commenters above: if the LW does decide to talk to B about this, I DEFINITELY wouldn’t frame it as “we’re thinking about dating, and I wanted to know how you’d feel about that.” That *is* asking for permission, because it says the first part — whether T and LW date — is up in the air, and suggests that the second part — how B would react — is something that will factor into the decision.** When/if someone (T) does talk to B, I think it’s better to make the LW/T relationship a statement instead of a question, whatever its status (“the LW and I are seeing each other” or “the LW and I are exploring our feelings for each other” or “the LW and I got married in Vegas last night”). And if you need to address B’s feelings, I think that should also be treated as a statement rather than a question (“I know you’ve had feelings for me in the past, so I wanted to tell you about my relationship with the LW in person. You’re my best friend and I hope this won’t make things weird between us.”).

    ** In general, I think questions like that should only be asked if the answer might change what you do next. I think people ask that question hoping the answer will be “I’m fine with you dating him,” so that they don’t need to feel weird about going ahead. But what if B answered “actually, I’ve been in love with him for years and it would break my heart if a friend dated him”? I guess you tell her “thanks for letting me know, but I’m still going to date him.” I don’t think B’s feelings should stop you from seeing T, but I also don’t think you should prompt her to ask you not to date him so that you can ignore that request to her face. If her being sad that T is dating someone isn’t a factor in your relationship with him, then there’s really no reason to ask her to tell you that she’d be sad if you dated him.

    1. In general, I think questions like that should only be asked if the answer might change what you do next.

      I agree with this. Or, at minimum, you need to have an answered prepared for if you do get a response other than, “Great, I’m happy for you!” Like, if you ask, “T and I are dating, how do you feel about that?” and get a reply like, “I feel betrayed and horrible and I can’t be either of your friends anymore if you do this,” then it can be really hard in the moment to actually say, “I’m sorry, but we’re going to do it anyway.” You have every right to say that, but it can be incredibly hard to say, especially if you haven’t actually planned the response.

      (Also, this part: The number one thing that would make things easier for B is probably “not having to discuss my crush on my best friend with the girl he just started dating, whether or not she’s also a friend of mine.” — it rang so true I actually cringed. I’ve been the hopeless-crusher-who-should-have-just-said-something before, and while I was okay sucking it up and coping with the fact that I hadn’t made a move and someone else had, I would have rather chewed briars than talk about it with the girlfriend in question.)

  30. In a way, there was a point where you WERE B–minus the triangley-bit. You harbored feelings for him that were unrequited, you tried flirting to see if maybe there was a thing and there wasn’t.

    The difference (assuming B’s crush is real) is you did the super-smart mature adult thing to do and moved on. You lived your life, had other romances, and the fact that things have come full circle and feelings ARE requited and other awesomeness is just icing on the cake.

    B is in the same situation except without the moving-on bit. That’s a sucky situation to be in, and it may not be her own fault, but it’s also not your fault and not your responsibility and has no relationship whatsoever to whatever’s between you and T. Just like if T had started dating someone else while you were crushing, it would have have nothing to do with you. I would certainly be KIND about it, even if it’s just in the way that one tries to be kind when dating in front of a friend who they know is lonely and feeling like a dating failure (which doesn’t mean you have to hide like your relationship is shameful, but it means that you might not want to regale her with tales about what an AMAZING kisser he is and how GREAT the sex is etc).

    Think how much it would suck for T if he never got to date ANYONE who knew B–and given they’re best friends, most people who know him will surely meet her. He could be wandering around, wondering why he can’t seem to get a date not knowing he has “Property of B” written on his butt in the eyes of everyone around him. And wow, it must be hard for B to move on from feeling like she has a claim on him/some chance when everyone treats them as if she does!

    But eventually she’ll have to realize that she doesn’t (if she hasn’t already), and get on with the moving-on bit.

  31. Another reason why it may be best to ignore Mutual Friend’s “helpful” little tidbit is that if B really does like T, she’s already going to be dealing with the fact that she’s not getting the guy. Hearing “but everybody knows and is talking about the fact that you WANTED the guy!” is not exactly going to be a pick-me-up for her. At least, it sure wouldn’t be for me, no matter hiw compassionately those conversations were intended. It may well be better to just be discreet but not sneaky, and leave B with her plausibile deniability. “Me, bummed out T and RC are dating? Aw, heck no… Whyever would I be bummed out?”

    1. Yeah, I was thinking about that, too. The feeling of a secret crush that went nowhere is bad enough in isolation. Adding, “…and everyone knew and felt sorry for you behind your back!” is not helpful. It’s humiliation on top of pain.

      Now maybe it’s not ‘in secret,’ maybe Third Party knew because B has been telling everyone except T about her crush. But the problem is, since this information came from Third Party and everyone is being vague, LW has no way of knowing.

      LW, I think that just telling B about the dating when you’re ready to tell people generally might be the kindest thing. (I mean, maybe in the “Hey, just wanted to let you know that we’re dating” way rather than the “OMG SQUEE MAKEOUTS!” way, but, you know.) If T thinks B should get advance notice because of the best friend thing, then T can do the telling, as he is the one who is the best friend.

      If she pushes back or gets snarky or passive-aggressive in response to your letting her know, you (and T–this isn’t just LW’s issue to deal with) can figure out whether it needs to be dealt with in some way, and if so, how. And on the flip side, B gets the chance to pretend things are okay if she’d rather (which, if it were me, I would!), and also gets the chance to be reasonable and kind without everyone assuming that she’s going to flip out. (And if B isn’t actually interested in T at all, and Third Party is wrong or stirring shit, then no one needs to worry.)

  32. It could be the third party warned the LW off of T and B not because B has some claim on T, but because the third party is aware of back-room drama and toxicity between the two of them.

    My freshman year of college, I was on a speech and debate team. Young and naive as I was, I developed a crush on a teammate. Eventually I discovered he and another teammate, who had become a friend of mine (my B) had sorta-kinda-maybe had a thing, if very briefly because we were all freshman and it was only November.

    Well I confessed my feelings to my crush nonetheless, and we ended up dating. B did NOT take it well, but that was partially because our T had been leading her on, making out with her but giving excuses for why he never wanted to date. He’d also been telling her awful stories about me…. how I was a stalker and emotionally abusive, manipulating him into dating me (how I did this, I do not know; and I’d really like to, cause I think I’d sell millions if I could teach it!)

    I WISH I had listened to the third party, because by dating T, I had embroiled myself into their private drama-and-power game, previously unseen by any but their most intimate friends. It was a nightmare of a year, because they were BOTH awful people, neither of them capable of maturity or honesty.

  33. If this girl is your very best friend, and losing her eternal friendship would make you die inside, then yeah, come all out with it with her and put whatever relationship you feel is most important first. But honestly, I would just completely avoid mentioning it to her until its official. When a friend does something that hurts you without having any idea that you’d be hurt by it, it is easier to get over that than if they asked up front, you made it clear it would hurt you, and then they did it anyway. Even if what she wants out of the situation is totally unreasonable and absurd (“he dates No One Ever, I wait around for him to suddenly want me, someday, maybe”), and she later realizes that what she wanted was actually ridiculous and you baaaasically owed her nothing, she might still more clearly remember you hearing how hurt she would feel, and making a conscious decision to hurt her (like you are dating this guy AT her). That kind of thing hurts, even when you know you were the one who was making the problem.

    At any rate, this girl has had half a billion chances, which doesn’t really even matter, since at this point you are the one he kissed, and the one who kissed back. If you were in his shoes, would you want some weirdass Nice Guy lurking in the background getting his passive aggressive mitts all over your love life? Not. Healthy. Plus, if she really has been pining for this guy for 3 years silently, that isn’t even remotely healthy for her, either, so maybe her getting punched in the face by reality and waking up a little might actually turn out for the best? Maybe she will find someone who actually is interested in her back without her having to wait around for years in sad, spooky hopefulness. I would just do what you’re gonna do, don’t let her change it but try to be understanding toward her and sensitive about it without letting her control your love life (seriously, don’t let her try to control your love life). Plus, it seems like there is at least a reasonable possibility this is just some gossipy garbage and she won’t even actually care, so I wouldn’t go too far out of my way planning around it.

    Either way, good luck with this dude, hopefully B will be cool about it and if not, stay strong !

    1. “When a friend does something that hurts you without having any idea that you’d be hurt by it, it is easier to get over that than if they asked up front, you made it clear it would hurt you, and then they did it anyway”

      Yeah, I completely agree with that. I don’t see much reason to talk to B unless it’s to say “hey I like T but if you like him too I’ll stay away from him.” Otherwise, you will come across as selfish and patronizing: “Heyy… do you have feelings for T? Oh, sorry to hear, because him and I have feelings for each other…”

      That would be much more crushing and humiliating than just not talking to her about this.

    2. Agree agree agree. And if she sees or hears about your exploratory thing before you’re ready to go official (and takes issue in some way), the truth is you’re still figuring out what this is and wanted to do that in privacy. Kind of like not announcing a pregnancy during the first trimester, to minimize pain-exacerbating communications if things don’t work out.

      Also, do you really want someone as a friend if you have to restrict your not-directly-involving-them life choices lest they ‘not like you’? Ew. Unless the guy is lying about not having been involved with her or had any clue of her having feelings for him, that’s what that would be.

  34. This may not be the best advice, but I just wanted to offer another opinion. If B is a person who you would ordinarily expect to behave in a rational fashion, if you really think B has feelings for T, and if B has kept her unrequited love very quiet, then she would probably be embarrassed if she found out her super-secret crush had been laid open to the world. Also, if she is likely to be blindsided by your dating T, she may throw an reflexive, involuntary ‘feelingsbomb’ which she will be mortified about later and which will make LW feel bad.

    It might be a good idea to mention it to her in a way that gives her an easy way to filter her response– for instance, if you talk on FB or gchat ordinarily or something, you could casually mention it there. Then she gets to have her personal feelingsbomb explode without hurting anyone else, and she can choose whether or not to reveal anything about her feelings for T. This leaves her emotional reaction as something for her to decide how to handle, not you. This is probably only a good idea if you think she would appreciate the distance. Just keep in mind that while you’d be going into the conversation with a script, she probably doesn’t have one prepared. Even if she has no intentions of being unreasonable, she may not react well on the spot, making things unnecessarily messy for both of you.

    That’s kind of an extreme introvert response, though, because I have a very introverted friend group. I would see it as respectful, giving her time and space to sort out her own thoughts and feelings before she is forced to fully engage with other people. If that’s not your group dynamic, it might come off as dismissive.

  35. You know what? The discussion around this question made me suddenly not like it here anymore. A fair number of NOT very understanding people about the struggles some people have to put themselves out there and go for someone they are interested in (struggles the LW, and good for her, clearly doesn’t have). We don’t actually know anything about B except for what the stupid, meddling third party told the LW. But we’ve felt safe assuming that she’s an immature little creep who has called “dibs” on her friend, rather than just a normal, insecure person who maybe admitted her feelings to third-party friend but is just too scared to do anything about them — because that DOES HAPPEN TO PEOPLE, we are not all badasses who are 100% of the time capable of waltzing up to any guy to “just ask him out!”


    (Also still Team LW, because she DID write in seeking advice on how to be sensitive to her friend, and that was cool, and she should definitely give things a go with T — that is not the issue.)

    1. The “dibs” thing is just shorthand for “the existence of a crush does not give rise to a claim that puts the crush-ee off limits to other interested parties.” Which is in no way dependent on any suggestion that B is some kind of wuss for not having put herself out there. No matter how hard it is to put yourself out there — and ohhhh, is it hard — if you haven’t done it, or your crush hasn’t bridged the gap for you, to the point that you two have at least a nascent romantic relationship of some kind (with some understanding of exclusiveness), there is nothing wrongful about someone else exploring feelings with that person. Even if that is painful to the person with the crush. (And dearest gods, haven’t we all been that person at some point?)

      No one has assumed B is being an immature creep who has literally asserted dibs — in fact, several people have acknowledged that we don’t even know whether B really has a crush at all, and that the drama seems to be being instigated by Mutual “Friend.”

      We’ve also collectively discussed whether, if B does have a crush, it is kinder to try to be all overtly sensitive about that, or to allow B the dignity of not hearing everyone knows about her unrequited crush (if such exists). No one said “do lots of PDA in front of B,” either. What you seem to be interpreting as that was a suggestion that acting casual and normal, like there is no reason to think RC + T would be painful to B, would be kindest. Not in any way saying B deserves no kindness. Just saying that kindness does not extend to RC or T having to get prior approval to proceed.

      There are no Teams. So, y’know, chill.

      1. Sorry, but I had suggested above in response to another comment that the LW going to B and saying “OMG B, like, I kissed T! And he kissed me! WOOOOOO!!!!” might be a bad/insensitive strategy given what the LW has been told, and then I got piled on about how THERE ARE NO DIBS.

        I’m gonna stick to my guns that that would not be cool. LW, go get T. And THEN let B know about it when you find a good time — IN A LOW-KEY WAY.

        1. “I had suggested above in response to another comment that the LW going to B and saying “OMG B, like, I kissed T! And he kissed me! WOOOOOO!!!!” might be a bad/insensitive strategy given what the LW has been told…”

          Yeah, I got that part. I just didn’t think it (or anything else) really justified the wholesale slamming of the commentariat for things no one even said.

          Try to bear in mind, people’s comments aren’t at you, they’re at one little thing you posted in the world and the way you happened to say it, and how that struck other people.

      2. Also, thanks for the advice to chill. Advice I clearly need when I am getting this worked up about anonymous people’s relationship problems!

  36. Hey LW, I have a really similar experience behind me and I would like to share it with you. I do not think you should ask B for permission, unless you really think you couldn’t live with yourself otherwise.

    My current partner Mr. Towel and I have been together for a couple years. We are very happy and in Love. When we started flirting, I was getting acquainted with his whole social circle of friends, among whom was another girl, let’s call her Nancy. I wanted to be friends with Nancy because she was really nice to me, and I thought she was smart and cool. But the night I hooked up with Mr. Towel, Nancy’s reaction was completely childish: she interrupted him and I in the middle of a make-out session and took him aside for a serious chat while I waited downstairs for him so we could go home.

    Then he told me she had feelings for him but he did not feel the same way, and they had hooked up a couple times. I commiserated with Nancy and felt bad for her, and understood her bad reactions better. But, looking back, I don’t think I did anything wrong. I wanted to get to know Mr. Towel, and guess what! It was a great choice, and we have a fantastic relationship and heaps of happiness together.

    Should I have had a chat with Nancy back then? What would it have changed? Mr. Towel had no feelings for her and he had them for me. Sure, I lost Nancy’s potential friendship (from then on she was only polite to me), but we were not close to start with. It sounds like you are not so close to B either. If she was a very close friend, the story would be completely different. But she is a person who does not have a romantic relationship with T, nor a close friendship with you. From what I infer either she has not declared her love to T, or she has already and her love is unrequited.

    Speaking about this with T, on the other hand, might do you good because you can give your mind a rest about what his feelings about the situation are. But only if YOU want to. There is no duty to act there either. No moral imperative.

    Good luck.

  37. I am in a sort-of-different-but-the-same-situation at the moment. Let’s assume B & T are already a couple. They seemed happy, but after a while, T started to flirt with me. T is bringing up sexual topics in conversations and I have the suspicion that sometimes hir would be more than happy throwing me on hir bed and ripping both of our clothes right off. All this while in officially known relationship with B.
    I do care deeply about T and from time to time I am crushing hard. At the beginning, I maybe responded a little to the flirting, but since T started using bodily contact (touching, playing footsie), I do my best to set up a neutral expression and play dead.
    I like T very much, but I feel that flirting back would be cheating on B. And so everytime T starts something, I am torn between flirting back, acting like a dead fish and yelling “you know that your flirting is mean and disrespectful to B [and to me in extension]?”
    It’s been going on for over a year now and I am really frustrated at this point. *sigh*
    How can I tell T to sort out hir relationship and clearly state hir thoughts on the whole matter?
    (I’ve even spent a passing thought on the possibility that T might be polyamourous.)

    1. Script #1, if you want something to happen with T. and want to figure out if s/he is poly.

      T, you’ve been flirting with me for a while now, and I won’t say I haven’t enjoyed it, but it’s gotten to the point that it’s time to figure out the deal. Want to tell me what’s going on?

      If you don’t want anything to happen with T., stop flirting. Hopefully everything goes to some level of normal. If T doesn’t get the hint and keeps going.

      Script #2 “It’s been fun to flirt with you, but I’d like to stop now.”

      No further explanation needed. You want to stop. That’s a good reason to stop.

      T. may claim s/he was not flirting in order to save face. The response to that is always “Okay then! Good to hear.” (Because flirting and then claiming you weren’t when called on it is a dick move, so it’s good sometimes to say “Phew, so glad you weren’t flirting, that would have been AWKWARD!” and take the wind out of the sails of the good ship Egomania).

      The important thing is what YOU want to do. You are not responsible for T’s behavior or desires, and if s/he hasn’t clarified them, you don’t have to go the extra mile to figure them out if you don’t want to.

    2. The first important thing is that it is not your job to police the boundaries between your T and B. That’s up to them.

      That makes everything easier! It is not your job to care if he’s disrespectful to her!

      What you need to worry about is how you feel. Do you want him to stop? Do you want him to clarify things? Do you want him to break up with B and be with you? Do you want to be poly with him?

      It doesn’t matter what you think he wants, at this point of the question; right now, you’re just figuring out what you want.

      Once you know that, you tell him. If you want him to stop, you draw the boundary and hold it firm, using the various tools you can find here. Walking out, stepping away, stating clearly every single time for him to stop that.

      If you want him to figure it out, you say “Hey, figure it out, and get back to me by X date” and then you wait until X date and check in one more time. Is there clarity? Is there no clarity? If there is no clarity (remember, no answer is also an answer!) then you do whatever you need to do to move on.

      If you want him to be poly with you and his girlfriend, you can say “Hey, you’ve been flirting a lot with me. Is that cool with B? Are you guys poly or something?”

      Whatever you do, remember that you can choose to stop waiting around for him to find his butt, break up with her, become poly, stop flirting with you, or whatever. He does not have to figure his shit out for you to figure yours out. You can decide for yourself, given the information you have.

      I would guess, from your brief sketch, that he probably is not poly, probably does not want to break up with his girlfriend, and probably will not stop flirting or trying to be physical with you if you don’t draw a strong boundary — because he’s getting all kinds of validation and emotional yays from the current situation. Girlfriend, sexy fizz of maybe, just enough conflict to keep things exciting, but no confrontation to make him uncomfortable. All the burden of discomfort is yours (and possibly his girlfriend’s, if she’s aware of the situation.)

      So, figure out what you want and what you will accept, draw your boundaries, defend them. You’ll see where things stand pretty quick. Good luck!

      1. I’d second this, but add: don’t let him offload the FEELINGSMANAGEMENT onto you.

        I’ve seen (and lived through myself) a common scenario that goes like this: dude is in relationship with X, also ambiguously flirting with Y. When Y says, “What’s going on here?” (are you poly, if you’re mono do you want to break up with your girlfriend, etc.), dude goes into this spiel about how he’s not ready to break up but he isn’t feeling fulfilled and you’re so exciting and on and on. It can be very, very flattering, because you get to be the Cool Exciting One, vs. the Boring Holding-Me-Back One (the girlfriend). But so very often that turns into the dude getting you to manage his Feelings and carry them around with you while he hems and haws and delays breaking up with Girlfriend (and enjoys the attentions of two people possibly striving for his affections, not coincidentally), or tries to convince you that you should start seeing each other before he breaks up with Girlfriend because it’s just so haaaard for him to actually go through with it and he needs your love and support during this hard time, etc.

        A lot of the time, this boils down to, “I think a woman should have to manage my feelings. I can’t get my girlfriend to manage my feelings while I break up with her, so I’m going to line up someone else to do that management while I slooooowly decide whether to break up.”

        And the thing is, managing feelings is hard, tiring, thankless work! It is hard to do “right” and it is so easy to get backlash if you do it “wrong.” It is not fun. You are entirely within your rights to say, “Okay, you do what you need to do with Girlfriend and talk to me when you’re done, k?” without having to hand-hold and manage his emotional responses and smooth things over for him and boost his ego in the meantime.

        1. Urgh. I saw this happen between a couple of colleagues years ago. I just thought: N, you’re being a prat. He’s being an arsehole to his girlfriend, whether or not he intends leaving her. Tell him to make up his damned mind who he wants to be with instead of trying to have both of you.

          The whole “I am so held back by Boring Girlfriend!” speech thing makes me gag. Flattering? Not to me. It just screams Wannabe Cheat Using Really Old Line. (That’s partly family history, partly things I’ve seen and partly me being extremely monogamous, ie. not ever attracted to anyone except my other half.)

      2. No, it’s not MisMis’s job to police T and B’s relationship, but the nature of T and B’s relationship does affect whether T is being skeezy or not by touching, playing footsie with, and having innuendo-laced conversations with someone else. I have to agree with MisMis that if B and T’s relationship is supposedly monogamous, him hitting on MisMis is disrespectful to both B and MisMis and doesn’t suggest he’s a very trustworthy person to get involved with.

        1. I submit that until and unless MisMis talks to B or T, she cannot judge whether his behavior is disrespectful to B. And even after that, she might disagree. B is the one concerned by whether T’s flirting is disrespectful towards B.

          MisMis does get to decide if she thinks his behavior is skeezy and so on, ah she likes, because she is the boss of her own perceptions. She can decide if it’s disrespectful to her, or if she would feel it were disrespectful to her if she were in B’s shoes.

          But she doesn’t get to define respect within someone else’s relationship, supposedly monogamous or not. Everyone gets to decide for themselves what respect within a relationship looks like for them. After all, B could be totally aware of how flirtatious her partner is. As far as we know, T could come home and tell her all about it and then it gets them going and they have wild monkey sex. In that wildly unlikely case, MisMis could then decide if she thought it was offensive or intriguing — regardless of what you or I might think about the overall respectfulness of such behavior.

          It’s hard not to want to generalize into someone else’s head, but it’s important to try to keep ourselves to our own stuff so that we can let everyone else keep their own stuff.

          1. This is true, but the possibility of my friends flirting with me (to the point of touchy-feelyness and Meaningful “I’m Totally Undressing You With My Mind” Looks) and then using that interaction to fuel their hot monkey sex is more gross than encouraging in this scenario. Also, if it feels off somehow to the questioner, then it’s off. Doesn’t matter why.

          2. JenniferP: The only reason I’m pushing here is to really emphasize how MisMis (and others) can decide without taking any responsibility for T and B’s relationship or B’s feelings. It’s part and parcel of T getting to have all the women around him doing the emotional work of his life.

            I’ll stop with this tangent, though, and just close with a reminder to MisMis and everyone else in this situation (like my younger self, for like five years):

            You have the power to act. You can make choices, too. You do not have to wait for someone else to do something, come around, clarify things, figure themselves out, or anything else.

          3. I get what you’re saying: people (I) should not impose their (my) normative views of what a “correct” monogamous relationship (or any other kind of relationship) looks like on others. And I completely agree with that… people can configure their relationships however they like, and it is mostly nobody’s damned business as long as it works for them.

            And because technically, the term “monogamy” does not address the issue of highly sexualized flirting with a a third party (or lots and lots of third parties), it is at least theoretically possible that even if B & T’s relationship carries the label “monogamous” B would not feel like she was being wronged. Yup, she might know. Yup, she might be ok with it. Yup, she might even heartily endorse it.

            But as a practical, less theoretical matter? It’s a pretty safe bet that if B &T have agreed on a monogamous relationship, B would indeed feel disrespected by T’s carrying on. (Maybe not 100% certain, but a really freaking high probability, don’t you think?). And it’s not normative-relationship-policing for RC to say “I’m not comfortable being part of that dynamic,” or “I don’t want to be with a guy who treats his current partner that way” even if B is ok with it.

            Because I don’t agree that “B is the one concerned by whether T’s flirting is disrespectful towards B,” if by that you mean B is the ONLY one. How T treats B stopped being solely B & T’s private business when T started drawing RC into things — going far enough so that RC has had occasion to wonder whether going beyond flirting with T would be “transcending old fashioned, rigid boundaries of correct relationship behavior (i.e., you can only have sexual relationships between 1 girl + 1 boy at at time)” or “being the Other Woman enabling the cheater to cheat.” I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to want to know, and not judgy or buttinski-ish.

  38. I read this whole comment thread before it dawned on me I was totally B in high school. Little different situation: the girl was my best friend, and the boy wasn’t. But in telling this tale over the years, I’ve been totally clear: my problem was that I hadn’t told ANYONE (okay, I told my mom, no one involved!) that I had giant huge FEELINGS for Boy.

    So when Girl broke up with her boyfriend and took up with Boy on the rebound, she had _absolutely_ no way to know that I had this crush, and no way of knowing that being affectionate to the point of gropiness with him in front of me was more than usually insensitive. (Really, PDAs shouldn’t be PDGs in general. But…high school!)

    For me, the upshot was always I should have told someone. If not him (I was pretty clear on the fact he had a crush on her, I just thought her Epic Love for previous boyfriend was going to keep him cock-blocked) then her…and the reason I wished I’d told someone was not so much “DIBS!” as “therefore my best friend wouldn’t tongue the cute boy’s tonsils and feel up his upper thigh in front of me for the next six months.” I think restraint in B-proximal celebration and groping is all B can hope for, and if B doesn’t talk to someone /herself/, she doesn’t even get that. And I’m saying that as the Tragic Soprano formerly known as B.

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