Dear Captain Awkward:
I am 13, and the girl I love is 16. I have a higher IQ than I should at this age, so believe me I am 13. Anyways, I have been talking to this girl for almost 3 years. Throughout this she has had the same boyfriend, R. About 2 months ago she broke up with R, so I was kind of uneasy. I really wanted to expose how I felt to her, and I have flirted with her before, which she said I was cute. So anyways, I pretty much just vented my feelings to her and I think I might have caught her off guard. She declined my request to be her boyfriend even though as of now we have been best friends for 2 of the 3 years. She said she had a lot on her plate because she was moving from Texas to Tennessee. I live in Ohio, so this is sort of long distance. What do I do to show her I truly care for her?
Dear Letter Writer:
To show your friend that you truly care for her, believe her.
Believe her when she says that she doesn’t want you to be her boyfriend.
Believe her when she says that she has “too much on her plate.” The translation for “I don’t want to/can’t be in a relationship right now” is “I don’t want that kind of relationship…with you.”
You were brave and honest when you told her how you felt. You didn’t do anything wrong when you did that, in fact, you did something wonderful and cool. But now that she’s told you that she doesn’t feel that way, it’s not up to you to make any more grand gestures to try to change her mind. If you need to take a break from talking with her or even stop being friends for a while because it’s too hard, that’s okay – limp off the field, lick your wounds and take all the time you need. Channel your feelings into writing songs or poems or stories (that you don’t send to her) or finding another creative outlet and throwing yourself into it. Friendships can survive unrequited crushes, but they really do fall apart when one person won’t take no for an answer. You can’t win her heart right now, but you can respect her choices and show her that you do by giving her time and space.
97 thoughts on “#702: “I told my best friend about my romantic feelings, and she doesn’t share them. What do I do to show her I truly care for her?””
LW, you did a brave and excellent thing. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you this time around. You are going to be okay, and your friendship with your best friend will probably be fine if you give it some time and space so your feelings can dissipate. I’ve been where you are a great many times, but the first time was the worst. All too often the best advice is the advice you least want to hear, and it sucks. *jedi hugs*
It’s scary to tell anyone that you like them like them. I think that when you resolve to be friends, to believe your friend when she says she doesn’t want a relationship, it will suck at first– but this is a skill. This is how you will learn to have deep and meaningful friendships with people you could be attracted to without having romantic relationships with them. This is how you learn the difference between total besties and a crush (which took me a good… sixteen years post-first-crush?) and how to manage when they’re together and one-sided.
Yeah, it sucks. But you still have your awesome friend around.
Dear LW, I’m sorry you are in unrequited love right now. I’ve been there and it sucks horribly. Distance is really the only thing that helps, and it seems like you will have that as part of circumstances anyway. Hopefully your friendship will survive after some distance, if you want it to. Leaving long distance relationships aside, long distance friendships are totally do-able. Most of my friendships are long distance and it feels nice to know there are people out there who care about me.
I hope this isn’t out of line, but I just want to gently suggest moving away from the idea that if someone has been close friends with you for a long time that logically means they should be more susceptible to dating you.
Seconded… often in my experience it makes someone less likely to want the relationship to change, since they have become comfortable and happy with the friendship and it’s already giving them what they want from it. Changing the nature of that relationship often feels pretty risky, especially to someone in a nice friendship comfort zone.
A lot of my early crushes– maybe all of them– were basically, “I have this casual friendship with A GUY! That means it must be a crush, right? We talk in class about what we draw and I guess I have to like someone.”
OMG that was me too! “We hang out. We talk about drawing and stuff…this is what they talk about when they say you ‘like’ a guy right???”
In my case it turned out I liked girls instead.
Heh, I was going to say the same thing. Compulsory heterosexuality is a hell of a drug. But even for straight people, I feel like the cultural message of “men and women can never have a really platonic friendship” is so strong that it can be hard to break away from it.
SAAAAAME. I couldn’t quite figure out why everyone was so into this kissing thing, either – surely just hanging out was more fun? And then the right *girl* came along and suddenly things made sense.
hahaha I was a romantic late bloomer and I feel like I did this for all of middle school and most of high school. Looking back, I had a lot of cool dude friends. Way to go, high school dudes.
Also I feel it’s worth pointing out that a 16 year old really shouldn’t be in a relationship with a 13 year old – it would have been wrong of her to say yes right now.
I honestly believe that very few 16-year-olds would even consider being in a relationship with a 13-year-old, let alone *want* such a thing. Three years isn’t a lot when everyone’s a full grown adult, but it’s huge when you’re still a teenager.
Yes, exactly. My husband is 3 years younger than I am, but we met when I was 30 and he was 27. There’s just no way we would have worked out if we’d dated earlier. The older you get, the less that 3 years matters, but at 13 and 16 there’s a huge difference in development. I know it doesn’t feel that way right now, LW, but try and imagine what a 10-year-old looks like to you. Your perspectives will shift over time, and they’re shifting rapidly in this stage of your life.
Yes! It’s fairly normal when you’re a teenager to feel like you’re too mature for your age group, especially if you’re hanging out with/in advanced classes with older students, but there are a lot of major changes that happen between 13 and 16.
Come on, let’s stop the “13-years-olds are like this, 16-years-olds are like that”. Sure, there are statistical differences between one hundred 13-years-olds and one hundred 16-years-olds. But this is statistics and not true for every two individuals. Talking about the LWs age like this seems both factually untrue and a bit disrespectful for me. We don’t know him, we don’t know her, age might be a reason, age might not be a reason. And, creepy constellations aside, I don’t think age should be a magor concern when you like someone.
I disagree. The problem with getting involved with children is that the only reliable way to know whether the child is truly giving informed consent is to wait until they grow up and ask them if it was. And even that is not 100% due to memory being imperfect.
Lots of people are more mature than average for their age and/or more intelligent than average for their age, but growth comes in very unevenly. I was definitely more mature at 13 than average in many ways… I had adults comparing me to thirty year olds. But I also was completely incapable of giving informed consent for most aspects of a relationship.
While 16 is too young to reliably understand this, I do think it is important that older folks not date significantly younger non-adult folks, because it is far better to err on the side of waiting and/or it not working out than to err on the side of abusing somebody. And 13 year olds can’t reliably tell you whether they can or can’t give informed consent, because the ones who can’t don’t know what they don’t yet know. People develop at very different rates, and sure some 13 year olds probably truly can, but there’s no way to tell which ones, so they should all be off-limits for older folks.
And yes, I know, we’re just discussing a relationship with unknown degrees of interaction, but still, I approve of people erring on the side of caution when a child is involved.
Agreed with wordiest here– I was another person who was very mature for their age, and my closest friends at 14 years old were a bunch of 20-somethings I met through an online forum. I couldn’t relate to people my own age, but I could relate to these people 6+ years my senior, and several of them are still my very best of friends even with that significant age gap. However, my ability to converse, relate to and have fun with these people on their level didn’t magically give me the ability to know what to do when one of the people I considered my friends started pressuring me into sexual conversations with a jokey veneer of plausible deniability. Due to my age, I had no experience with elbowing off the sexual advances of creepers, especially creepers that much older than I was, and that lack of actual lived experience wasn’t something that my maturity could make up for.
I don’t think anyone’s trying to shame the LW, and I don’t think it’s out-of-place to gently point out that age could be a factor here. (With emphasis on “could,” because sure, there’s always exceptions.)
And a sidenote for anyone that might be worried after that story: I was fine! It was an online-only connection, and once they were out of our general circle I was able to do a Slow Fade before blocking them completely.
I saw a good tumblr post recently that I think illustrated the significance of age gaps really well – it’s not just about the number of years of age difference, it’s about percentages. The 3 year difference between a 13 and a 16 year old is almost 25% of the 13 year old’s total life experience, so it makes a bigger impact on the power differential in a relationship. For two older people, a 3 year difference it’s as big a difference in total life experience.
Ooh, I really feel like weighing in on this part. I guess I’m addressing W.T. more than dosas–because, W.T., you used the word “mature” and it sparked a train of thought I’ve had before.
See, I think with really smart young people (“I have a higher IQ than I should at this age”), there arises this confusion between “smart” and “mature.” This is very much from experience, BTW. I arrived at college the day I turned 17, due to being born in August and having skipped a grade. I spent the next two weeks hearing people tell me how mature I was for my age. I was reading “The Closing of the American Mind,” after all.
But the thing is, I wasn’t mature. I was quite a late bloomer. I’d had my *first crush* at fifteen. I had very little experience in making my own life decisions, certainly not more than the average seventeen-year-old, probably less. BUT I could converse intelligently, and that made me SOUND mature. I think that’s what happens to a lot of smart young people. And the young people themselves aren’t experienced enough to know that maturity (life experience) and intelligence (book larnin’) are not only not the same thing, but that you really can’t just substitute one for the other.
LW, I want to pause this to mention to you (if you’re reading this): please don’t read this as “mature = good, immature = bad.” People talk like that so much that the words become really loaded, but the fact is, it’s not necessarily a good thing to be *more* mature than your age, especially a lot more mature. People who mature too quickly often are being rushed into it by circumstances or people, often in ways that deprive them of growing-up experiences they may need for optimal mental health later on. I’m glad I took my time growing up, actually. I felt flattered when people told me I was mature, but in the end, even that little bit of “rushing” did me a disservice.
When I was 18 I started dating a guy who was 24. We’d met when I was 17, and he’d told me (implying in terms of maturity) “You’re not 17, you’re 20.” It wasn’t exactly what people might assume–for one thing, we were in a very religious context so we didn’t have sex or even make out–but long story short, the relationship did not work out well, and the process was painful and sticky and not healthy. It took two years before I worked up the courage (mostly in the face of my own what-if-I’m-making-the-wrong-decision panic) to break up with him (and two more before I really wanted to date again). In a somewhat bitter conversation after the break-up, he told me “Ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been drifting.” My comeback (thought of days later and never said, of course) was, “When you met me, you told me I was 20, but you know what? I WAS SEVENTEEN. I’M TWENTY NOW. OKAY? You might call it drifting, but I call it developing, and I’m on schedule, thanks. Also, don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out.”
I think it’s a good thing to own your age and claim it. The LW will be a sixteen-year-old, a very intelligent one. But for now he’s thirteen. And… maybe I can’t quite speak for anyone else, but for me, I certainly wish I’d spent my first year of college being the best 17-year-old I could be, instead of a pretend 20-year-old. (It might’ve helped to take a year off before college, too, but anywho.)
I have a sister and a sister-in-law who both started relationships while still in high school with a man who was much older. My sister was 16 when she started dating a man 14 yrs older than herself. They are perfect for each other and have been together for over a decade and give every feel that they will be together forever. My sister in law was 15 when she decided she was some day going to marry my brother, who is 8 yrs older than him. She chased him, caught him, and they got married when she graduated high school. They too have been together for over a decade and also have three kids.
Age differences when you’re young can be a red flag – definitely something to examine. But they are not necessarily a STOP sign, unless paired with other red flags.
Fortunately we have the reddest flag of all here, the “I don’t want to be with you that way” flag, a flag which transcends age differences and anecdata of dubious value.
This, and, as far as I can tell, people above weren’t talking about a 16 year old and a 30 year old or a 15 year old and a 22 year old, but about a 16 year old and a 13 year old which at least to me seems like a different situation. It’s kind of understandable why a teenage girl would want to be with an adult man (although I have to say, I generally give a big side-eye to adult people who start relationships with minors, and not even minors who are, like, one week shy of 18; but I don’t want to derail here) – the feeling of being more mature than the other girls with their same-aged boyfriends, feeling special and desired, finding someone with more life experience interesting etc. – and I think it’s relatively common for teenagers to harbour crushes on older people, but it doesn’t really work that way with 16 year old girls and 13 year old boys generally (although obviously there might be some outliers). But, as the Captain says, fortunately that doesn’t even have to be taken into account here as the friend isn’t interested in the LW, period.
I feel like Wondering was just sharing these stories to let the letter writer know there isn’t anything inherently wrong with his feelings. And there isn’t!
For age-imbalanced couples that do work out, the age difference just becomes one extra thing to complicate the already-complicated business of relationshipping.
So dear LW, if you think you are attracted to your friend because she’s mature, sophisticated, and smart, you should make a point of joining activities with other older teens (look for book clubs, museum programs, etc). You might meet girl who is a little bit older AND ALSO actually wants to date you. Or not- but then you would still have the fun of the activity, which has its own value whether you meet someone or not.
(And yes, I too was a teen who pined for older partners, so I COMPLETELY understand).
I would discourage the LW from seeking out other older teens to date tbh. For one thing, I think it likely he will keep running into the problem of the other person not being interested – most sixteen year olds would be uncomfortable dating someone that much younger, I think, and those who aren’t still might not be the best people to date. Even if they’re not deliberately abusive or attracted to the younger person because of the power imbalance, a power imbalance does exist and I’m not sure either party would be mature enough to negotiate it in most cases. I mean look if it happened that two people did fall for each other and want to date I wouldn’t unequivocally say they shouldn’t, but I also really wouldn’t be encouraging anyone to seek that out.
However, the advice about trying out activities you are interested in to open up the possibility of meeting someone new is spot on. I’d just emphasize that if the LW is particularly mature and smart for his age, there are also girls he might be interested in who are especially mature and smart for their age but not actually so significantly older.
I agree with allya. It’s not a question of “is three years insurmountable as an age difference” because obviously it isn’t; from your mid-20s on, 3 years isn’t even a difference! But if we look at things from the “what stage of life are you in” perspective, 3 years at 13/16 is basically 3 different life stages. At least.
It’s fine to pine for whom you pine for; that’s a feeling and it’s perfectly okay to have it. But it’s probably a better idea, as a practical approach and actual action, to date your agemates until you’re at a point where ages and stages aren’t the same thing.
Lest I sound completely unsympathetic, I had a mad crush on the much older brother of a friend through most of my preteen years, and have ended up in relationships with big age gaps as a matter of course as an adult, and obviously I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them as long as everyone involved is aware of the pitfalls and actively works to keep them from being a real problem. But as a teen, even as an intelligent teen, I would urge anyone in that position to be very cautious about anyone much older (or younger) as a relationship prospect. My high school boyfriend was the same age as me (we were both young for our grade, actually), also very intelligent, etc etc. It’s very possible to find someone your age who is also intellectually and–in our case–nerdily compatible.
“Also I feel it’s worth pointing out that a 16 year old really shouldn’t be in a relationship with a 13 year old – it would have been wrong of her to say yes right now.”
That’s a wee bit harsh. And unrealistic for many teens. A 2-5 year gap in ages was pretty common where I grew up.
In rural places the odds of finding someone who meshes with you and is close in age is slim at best, and go down the farther you are from the ‘feminine girl and masculine boy doing mainstream, pop culture, vanilla, straight things’ mold.
Of the two people I would have dated had I been allowed to date in my teens, one was four years older, the other three years younger.
Oh LW, you must be in a really sucky place right now. I’m sorry.
The Captain is spot on though, IMO. Especially this bit:
“Friendships can survive unrequited crushes, but they really do fall apart when one person won’t take no for an answer.”
That advice, my friend, is golden.
I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I’ve behaved badly when on your side of this particular fence, and repeatedly tried to “prove” how much I cared for someone. That’s what drove him away and I lost his friendship as well as his love. He felt pressurised and guilty because he simply didn’t feel that way about me. I learned that you simply can’t talk someone into being romantically attracted to you, no matter how wonderful you are to them (and I’m sure you are an awesome friend). Trying to do so will always end in tears.
Having been where your friend is now, I can also tell you that she’ll see right through any attempts to prove how much you care for her, especially since she already knows, and will probably feel really awkward and weird towards you. Which translates as “she will avoid you and not want to be around you because awkward feels are awkward.”
You did the right thing in telling her how you feel, but the best thing you can do for BOTH OF YOU right now is to carry on being friends as before if/when you’re in the right place emotionally to do that, and if she does develop feelings for you, she’ll do that in her own time. You really can’t force it.
And even more importantly: look after yourself. Do fun stuff with your friends. Spend time on you, doing things you like doing. In the situation you’re in, I used to spend countless hours moping over the person in question and the more I did, the more likely I was to give into the temptation to do something stupid and highly inappropriate like sending them yet another interminable email about my feelings, thus pushing the person further away. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Be a good friend to yourself. That’s a gift you deserve but nobody else can give you.
It’s hard and rejection hurts like hell. So I’m sending hugs and happy thoughts. Hoping you get through this waaaay sooner than it surely feels like you will.
” I can also tell you that she’ll see right through any attempts to prove how much you care for her, especially since she already knows, and will probably feel really awkward and weird towards you”
Oof yes. And bear in mind that she may view ANY caring friendly thing as you trying to convince her you guys should be together, at least for a little while. So it’s even more important that you get a little distance and take care of yourself.
My BFF and I have been bestest friends for over twenty years. Since high school, when indeed I did have a huge crush on him. He found out, gently rejected me, and things were SO SUPER AWKWARD for a little while. But it was ok! we went to college, stayed in touch, met other people, dated, and stayed friends. We IM or text every day now and are working on starting a business together, we take care of each other, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. So you can definitely get past the awkwardness! And it’s really great to have a friend that has known you for that long, through all your awkwardness and weirdness, and still loves you.
And LW — I just wanted to say that very few people your age have the bravery to lay their feelings out there and ask for what they want. When I was in high school it was all Firthing and pining and being weird and making suggestive mix tapes. So you’re well on your way to being a great, honest, straightforward partner for someone 🙂
I just wanted to say that very few people your age have the bravery to lay their feelings out there and ask for what they want. When I was in high school it was all Firthing and pining and being weird and making suggestive mix tapes. So you’re well on your way to being a great, honest, straightforward partner for someone
TRUER WORDS WERE NEVER WRIT
It took me a long, long time to internalize the idea that while it *can* be scary to ask someone you like out, and ALSO:
*It can also not be, and practice makes it easier. As does just accepting cool people who date a lot get rejected all the time. It’s just a thing that happens. It helps to realize that saying “hey I like you” to someone is a wonderful thing in this world.
*The way to make it less awkward for you, and still nice for them, even if they aren’t interested, is to accept their response for what it is. AND to carry on as if asking was just a perfectly okay fine thing to do. Even if you do avoid hanging out with them for a while because *awkward* which is a FINE thing to do. Being gracious is a really, really, really, REALLY good trait for anyone to have. Being (or fronting being) confident is, too. Lots of times, people feel bad about turning down a date, so being gracious about it is an A++ reaction.
* It is SO SO SO nice when people just *say* what’s on their minds. People aren’t mind readers, and we’re Teen Movied into second guessing and super-interpreting and being indirect about what’s happening. It can be super-negative thing, like when a creep is testing boundaries to see if they can get away with being pushy. BUT! It’s also just confusing and neutral when someone maybe? who knows? is sending signals but won’t say. (Have you read Katie Heaney’s _Reading Between The Texts_ at The Hairpin? If not, go! Go read and feel the cringe frustration. She is a genius.) It’s really hard to do, and it’s really great that you’re doing it now. Don’t stop!
Having flirty crushes is fun, to a point, and it’s fun to experience them. But after that point, it’s misery and woe and your approach will go a long way towards avoiding that part of dating in the future.
So. I am sorry this situation didn’t work out like you wanted it to. But BRAVO you for being a grownup about asking. Now you have the less fun but equally admirable task of being a grownup about being turned down. But you can do it! And you’ll be happy you did!
It’s great that you are considering how to show your friend that you care and I think the Captain is spot on.
I think it would also be a good idea for you to think about how to care for yourself in the wake of this chain of events. Do you have other friends you can talk to about how you’ve been feeling? Hobbies you enjoy you could put some more time into? If right now the answer to those questions is no, that is okay. Perhaps you might think about volunteering for a cause that you care about or starting a new project?
It’s really okay and totally normal to feel sad about how this turned out. I agree with ODT – the first time is the hardest. After this, while it doesn’t really get easy exactly, it gets more familiar and easier to deal with.
LW, as someone who has been in your friend’s shoes I can vouch for the Captain’s advice.
I had a friend tell me their feelings by saying that they thought they were in love with me. But after I told them that I didn’t feel the same way they never brought it up again. After a few awkward months I relaxed and we became friends again. That was 6 or so years ago and we are still friends, but we never dated. But I am still so grateful that he never pressed his feelings past that one conversation. Trust me, I didn’t need him to show how much he cared, I believed him, in fact I was unsettled by how strongly he seemed to feel.
Like the Captain said, trust your friend’s words, that is the greatest gift you can give her. But take care of yourself, if it hurts to much to be friends without being romantic partners then you may need to step back and that’s okay too.
It was helpful for me to realise that you can still love someone/find them attractive even if they don’t see you that way. You can’t project those feelings towards them, but you can still feel the feelings, as long as you accept that nothing is going to happen with that person. Realising this helped to make it less painful for me to have feelings that wouldn’t go away – I could just sit with the emotion and appreciate the person.
This helped me as well!
People’s feelings about specific people and situations can change an evolve over time. However, the one way to guarantee that somebody never returns your feelings is to continually pester them about it when they tell you that they don’t feel the same way. There is no magical thing a person can do to make someone else change their feelings. Honestly, the best thing for both of you right now is to take a little time (however long it takes for you both to feel at ease-there isn’t a set amount of time) to process and to self-care before resuming the friendship you’ve built up.
And this goes for many different kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones. The more someone tries to grab onto other people to make them be closer than the other person wants to be, the more they slip away. When some communicates “this is the level of closeness that I’m comfortable with at this point in time”, respect that. The more you try to push them past what they’re comfortable with, the more they will withdraw from you (and conversely, if someone pressures you to be closer than you’re comfortable being, you have every right to distance yourself as needed for your own self-care). People will intensify their relationship with you at the pace they feel comfortable with, and you really can’t force it before they’re ready. What makes people feel comfortable opening up more to you is having their wishes and boundaries respected.
You were very brave to speak up and say how you felt, and wise to wait until her relationship was over.
I always admired people who told me their feelings, because I knew how hard it was. And the Captain is right that once I said no, the absolute best thing was for the other person to take that seriously. One boy I was friends with ruined our friendship by continuing to argue with me about why it didn’t make sense that I didn’t like him that way, and to put a lot of time and effort into romantic gestures such as painting my portrait—but I just didn’t like him that way, and none of his attempts (at either arguing or romancing) COULD work because the feelings weren’t there.
Telling (either explicitly or via actions attempting to force a change of mind) people “your feelings are wrong” is not a winning strategy. In fact, it’s a great way to push the other person to re-think your entire friendship.
Believe what people tell you about themselves. Nobody can read someone else’s mind, and one of the greatest ways to show you care is to respect other people’s wishes, even if what they want isn’t exactly what you want. It’s really hard to put it all out there, and now is the time for some self-care.
I misread your response as …
Which it totally would be, if I hadn’t misread your sentence. : – )
But, yeah, you’re right. You can’t talk, show, or demonstrate mutual heart and pants feelings into someone else.
She probably believes you truly care for her. That isn’t what’s lacking. Showing her you truly care for her is what you did when you told her (and what you will continue to do while you follow the Captain’s advice). What’s lacking is that she truly doesn’t care for you in the same way you care for her. It stings, but you can’t force someone to like-like you. In THAT way. Side note: Romantic comedies are sorta relationship porn. Relationships don’t work like that in the real world, just like sex doesn’t work like porn in the real world.
Yes, this! (Andrew, what a marvelous comment, especially your side note!)
What do I do to show her I truly care for her? is a question that seems to come up quite often in situations of unrequited love. And it shows that the asker is completely focussing on the wrong thing. LW, the “problem” isn’t that your friend doesn’t think you truly care for her. If you were friends before, she probably already thought/knew that, and you telling her about your feelings will have only strengthened that thought. The “problem” is that your friend doesn’t want to be your girlfriend.
I understand why you’re focussing on “let me show her that I truly care for her” – because that’s something under your control. If you think you haven’t shown her how much you care about her yet you can change your behaviour to something that can show her just that. “She doesn’t want to be my girlfriend”, there’s really not much you can do. It also carries with it the thought of “If only she knew how much I care about her she’d be willing to date me” to which I have to say: Please, please don’t think that way! I can be aware of someone caring about me a lot and still not want to date them. I can even deeply care about someone myself and still not want to date them. Making someone aware you care about them isn’t a magic key that will automatically make them want to date you.
LW, you have been very brave in admitting your feelings to her. I admire that a lot and hope you’ll continue to do so in the future – it saves everyone a lot of angsting. But, as the Captain says, please believe her when she says she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her.
Yes, this is so very true. It is also quite wonderful if you can learn this at such a young age. Some people go through life believing that other people owe them something, that their feelings are reasons other people should adjust to, that they are entitled to have what they want even if the other person does not want the same thing. That sort of attitude is actually very disrespectful and problematic.
Ugh, that should be “doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you“, obviously, not “her”.
I saw that and thought “heh, not just me then.” I always mix up my personal pronouns and have to read through everything I write like three times to make sure they make sense.
Related, a statement like “I wish I had someone who truly loves me!” (with or without a “Not like the ex!” qualifier) is generally *not* a good time to make a grand gesture to prove your true love.
* She is probably still aware of your feelings
* She is probably hoping they have gone away
* When she says “someone”, she means “someone who I consider eligible for a relationship”, which should be considered to exclude anyone who has been told they’re off the list in the past
Not even just romcoms. All tv has this completely unrealistic way of showing relationships, or at least when a man has unrequited feelings for a woman (the other way round is much less commonly shown). Remember in House when Chase decided to remind Cameron every Tuesday that he was in love with her? Fuck that was skeevy.
LW, if you want to hang out with Friend before she moves, consider doing so with one or more mutual friends. Inviting her to go to a movie with you and Alice and Jane, or play board games with the usual group, or whatever, is going to look/feel a lot more like general hanging out, and less like an attempt at a date, and may be more comfortable for both of you.
LW, every so often you get an opportunity in life to be a brave and forthright person, and to show yourself that you can speak up for what you want. You have done that amazingly. When I was your age I could not have taken that opportunity to be brave and ask out the person I was in love with.
Now, you have a similar opportunity, to be a courteous and graceful person, and that is even more admirable. You wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity without having the guts to ask her out. It takes an equal amount of guts now to say to yourself, “no matter if she can be persuaded to love me, right now she has said no.”
And then you say, ok, self, I will take that no for an answer, be caused that is the good thing to do FOR HER, is to respect what she says, and truly mean it when you respect what she says. No “ehehe she says no now, but just wait til I’ve been a good friend to her for another year! Then she’ll say yes!” Pretend, if you must, that she has rejected you in the firmest and most inarguable way possible. And bow gracefully goodbye to the lady knight you’re in love with, and let yourself out of the court, and go on plenty of quests and adventures, where you correspond with that lady and tell each other a whole lot of cool stuff about saving places from evil. Or whatever. But you can’t go on those adventures if you’re still chilling in the same place hoping that the object of your affections will finally notice you.
I fell into a convoluted metaphor there but hopefully it makes sense.
Nothing to add, really, but I just wanted to say how beautiful this whole comment is.
I am about 3 years older than my husband. We met when he was 15. A year or so later when I confessed feelings for him, he freaked out and backed away. For 9 months, we barely spoke to each other. It was torture. But I gave him his space as best I could, and he eventually realized he had feelings for me, too. After dating another 3.5 years, we got married. We’re still best friends. This may be a rare outcome, but it does happen. Give your friend the space that she wants. If she comes back to you, great! If not, you will find someone else. Pretty much everyone has that one who got away. Even me. Hubby wasn’t my first or last major crush.
I once had a guy, after I told him that I didn’t feel the same way about him that he did about me, say “I’m not giving up! I’m going to fight for you!”
I’m sure that he thought that this was very romantic, and what he was supposed to say in this kind of situation. But it was not romantic to me, it was scary, because the thing that was standing in between him and a romantic relationship with him was ME. The only thing he could possibly be fighting was ME. And if you have to fight someone into a relationship with you, there is no relationship. It is scary when someone who tells you that they care about you doesn’t show it by respecting you and your feelings.
Please believe people when they tell you how they feel. You might get some conflicting messages from movies, TV, friends or family that pursuing someone after they’ve already told you “No” is the way things naturally happen.
You were so brave to share your feelings, and you should feel proud of that. It sucks when you put yourself out there and it turns out the person you’re interested in doesn’t feel the same way. Take some time for yourself and enjoy life with your interests, friends and family, if that’s what works for you.
Great point. You can “fight for someone” if what you’re fighting *isn’t* the other person, maybe something the other person can’t overcome themselves: parental disapproval, long distance, etc. But there’s zero to fight for if the other person doesn’t want you in the first place.
Yep. Ignore the romcoms. The “not going to give up” approach is creepy and overbearing, not respectful. I once had a male friend who I thought was a nice guy, and who was interested in me but I just wasn’t attracted to him. I didn’t know why, I simply wasn’t. Then he gave me the “I’m not going to give up, and it’ll be easier on you if you give in now” argument. And I was suddenly very relieved that I’d never been attracted to him. It was such a dehumanizing thing to say; apparently I was an object to be won and a target to be convinced, not a person with feelings and agency. His interest in me was about himself, not really about me.
Do not take that road, LW. Respect that just as you know how you feel, she knows how she feels too. It sucks, but then you can be proud of both your bravery in telling her and your respect for her answer.
Wow, that’s…kind of horrifying when you break it down. I realize that he probably didn’t mean “it will be easier on you” in the way it comes across, but rather “then we’ll be together now instead of later” but it really does sound like “because otherwise I will make it harder for you until you ‘give in’ and date me” which..eek eek eek.
Yes, I think he meant that he was sure we’d be together in the end so it would be better for both of us if I got on board with that sooner rather than later. But even so, it showed total lack of respect for how I felt. Hopefully he subsequently got over his exclusionary focus on his own wants and dropped the “why are you resisting?” mentality.
This friendship, at that point, was also long distance. And as of then, basically over other than group interactions. I told him what he’d said was dehumanizing, hung up, and didn’t talk to him one-on-one for probably a couple of years.
A few years later I was on the other side of the unrequited coin, with a man I loved dearly. I remembered how dehumanized I had felt when it had been the other way around, and discovered that I loved this man too much to try to steamroll over his feelings, or privilege mine over his. My love for him meant I should consider his feelings more, not less. So I know it can be so hard and painful, when you can see how great things could be but the one you love isn’t on board with it. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. And as we want our feelings to be believed and respected, so we should believe and respect others, especially those we love. Doing the right thing can be a consolation even for heartbreak.
LW, I also want to say, in terms of taking a break and taking some time, is that you need to be good to yourself. You thought this thing was really going to happen, because it makes so much sense to you, and it would be so great. You’ve wanted and hoped for this for a long time, and it’s totally normal to mourn the loss of it. It’s a good time for you to do some self-care, do things that make you feel good, things that make you feel like your best self. Lots of jedi hugs, LW.
Something I wish someone had told my male friends when I was younger: You told her that you truly care for her. That doesn’t mean she’s going to care back in a same way. People can understand each other’s emotions without returning them.
It sucks when you have romantic feelings for someone who doesn’t return them, but…that’s just part of life. That’s part of loving people, instead of computer programs. There’s no magic code that will get you what you want, because people just don’t work that way. I’m sorry that this hurts so much.
People can understand each other’s emotions without returning them.
This. So much this.
Mr. Other Becky has been rewatching The West Wing lately, so there’s a quote that springs immediately to mind. (It’s from the episode “In This White House,” if anyone cares.)
Josh: You’re listening to me, but you’re not understanding me.
Toby: No, I’m disagreeing with you. That doesn’t mean I’m not listening to you, or understanding what you’re saying. I’m doing all three at the same time.
She may be fully aware that you truly care for her, but it’s possible to listen and understand without agreeing or reciprocating.
Everything I hear about that show makes me want to watch it even more.
LW, Captain couldn’t have said it better, and believe me, learning how to accept “no – I don’t want to be your girlfriend” at a young age, believing it, and learning to move on from it in a mature way will only be of benefit to you in the future.
Cap’s advice is spot on, LW. It’s a rough patch you’re going through, but you really can’t *convince* someone to date you, and whatever movies say, trying to convince someone is primarily a road to more heartbreak. But you did tell her, and that was brave. The next part, the part that defines the sort of character you have, is gracefully accepting the answer.
I kind of want to take a quick aside, not a big long thing, to say don’t get too hung up on having a high IQ. As someone else who tested at a genius IQ level (and found out about it when I was fairly young, which I probably shouldn’t have), it turns out that having a high IQ doesn’t really mean an awful lot. It means that you test well, and that maybe a certain kind of intelligence comes more easily for you. You’d be amazed, as you get older, how in so many ways, it does not make you all that much smarter than your peers.
You seem like a good kid. You’ll do well. Give your friend space if she needs it, and be good to yourself.
100% about the high IQ thing. Being smart is nothing if you’re not willing to put in the work to grow your knowledge and skills. Was always told how smart I was, and I never learned to work hard for more knowledge. Ultimately the gifts you’re given are nothing if you don’t put in the work to develop them.
And the best thing you can do for yourself, both in order to grow intellectually, and as a person, is to seek out situations that make you work. Whatever that challenge looks like, being people who are much smarter than you (trust me, there are more of those than you think) or situations that make you work hard. Smart people who have never learned their own limitations are not fun people to hang out with.
I was lucky, in some ways. I was told I was smart from a young age, and also tested with a very high IQ, but I was really bad at learning some basic things, and I’ve always been bad at rote memorization (which is required for a lot of Elementary School). So, I had to face the contradiction that I was smart, but I was bad at most stuff at a really young age. I came to the conclusion that being smart means that if I put a lot of work into my studies, then I can get further in the same amount of time as someone who is less smart.
This is probably the best conclusion you can draw from the idea of being smart. The idea that if you work hard, you have decent odds of actually learning a lot and making a lot of progress in academic fields. But being smart definitely doesn’t count for much if you don’t work hard. Other people can surpass you if you slack and they work hard. Being smart just makes life a little easier for you. It isn’t a guarantee that you’ll know more, come to better conclusions, or have a better life.
If you can pull off smart, good at getting things done, and good at listening to and truly considering what other people have to say though, then you can probably do really well at a lot of tasks we think of as “smart people things”. If you can do all that and also be kind and a good friend, then you’ll have a great foundation for an awesome life. It’s still not a guarantee that things will work out for you, because bad luck can happen, but it’s certainly a powerful combination of abilities.
My late husband, who was as smart as I am but also so profoundly dyslexic that they had to put his head and a book in a contraption to force his eyes to learn how to read sequentially (so dyslexic that when he was tested as high-IQ they’d actually sent him to be tested to prove he could be put in a special school for the developmentally disabled, ahh, the 50s, they truly were an ideal decade, weren’t they?), had the psychiatrist who’d administered his IQ test sit him down–at 7!–without his mum there to discuss his results.
The guy said “you may think that being this smart means that you are special and guaranteed for greatness, because intelligence is the be-all and end-all. This is incorrect. What being as smart as you are means is that whatever you decide to give all your attention to, you will be the very best at it. That means that if you decide not to put effort into anything at all, not only will you be a bum, you will be the bestest bum that ever was.”
A good message for a smart kid (I wish I’d gotten something akin to this) but really kind of crushing phrasing-wise for a seven-year-old! He spent the rest of his life terrified that he was going to be the bestest bum there ever was.
That is harsh. A lot of smart people do burn out, because they feel like they have a potential that is impossible to live up to. My health problems are actually likely partly related to that, because I skipped way too much sleep regularly for about a decade to push myself to excel fantastically academically. I’d have been much better off if I’d balanced striving toward my goals with taking care of myself in the present.
Greatness is overrated anyway. Sure, if you stumble into it, that’s fine. But it turns out, you can be happy without being extraordinary. I think it’s important to learn to work hard, and how to make regular progress toward your goals, and too many smart people have trouble with that, because they can coast too much and still succeed. But the other end of that spectrum isn’t good either.
My advice to all smart kids out there is do continue to work at learning and increasing your abilities, but balance it with taking care of your physical and mental health. It’s okay to not take every advanced class and to make sure you get enough sleep each night. It’s okay to get a B and have time for a relaxing hobby. You don’t have to be perfect. And you don’t owe it to others to live up to what they have decided your potential is. Your potential is yours to make of it what you will, and using it to be able to live comfortably while being happy is really worth considering as a goal.
Also, there are a bunch of false dichotomies kids get used to that are crap. You can be smart and enjoy sports or athletic activities. You can be smart and spend time having a social life. It’s not shallow or stupid to take care of your physical health or to do fun things. You can be smart and spend time blowing bubbles and coloring pages in a coloring book as if you were five years old, and if you’re having fun it doesn’t make you immature, it makes you someone who has found a way to enjoy life that doesn’t harm anyone. There’s so much world to explore and things to try. It’s good to take a break and look into some of that now and then.
I didn’t say it wasn’t harsh–I think it was way too harsh, and it really did mess with his head.
But I look back to my own gifted program and the messages that we were sent both explicitly and implicitly, and I really think that a little less of what we got and a little more “this is just a thing about you, and it doesn’t mean anything except that it’s a thing about you, if it means anything it’s because you make it mean something, that you give it a context” would have been helpful.
I agree. It’s a tough balance too. And you can’t keep a kid from knowing that they’re smarter than average. It’s pretty obvious, and they’re smart enough to figure it out. I wish we had a lot more tools for helping gifted kids. Too often they’re bored in school, aren’t taught how to work hard, or things go to the other extreme and too much pressure is put on them to maximize their gift. I bet more average kids end up with some of those problems too, but my knowledge is mainly about gifted kids. And they have the special trap you want to avoid of getting used to always being smarter, more knowledgeable, and more likely to be right when they are kids with their peers that they don’t always pick up on when this changes and learn to listen to others. It’s not easy, and it’s not the kids’ fault that often the people around them aren’t sure how best to help them out.
Although I kind of wish random strangers wouldn’t be so prone to commenting on how smart a child is when a child is clearly really, really smart. It’s like anything else obvious. It’s fine if some do it now and then, but too many often do it. Personally, I’m really fond of compliments about skills. You seem really good at X. Back when I was substitute teaching, I’d sometimes comment on that if I noticed something about a child. Like, “You seem really good at writing, these stories are really creative.” or “You seem really good at math; you picked up on that very quickly.” Because I do value encouraging people to pursue what they’re good at. And sometimes a child looked so surprised at the compliment that I worried that they didn’t realize they were good at something. But you can kind of do something with “good at writing”, and it’s not really clear what one does with knowing one is “smart”.
Yet another incredible post from a site of concentrated wisdom. Been lurking quietly here for a year and have been helped through some tough stuff; thanks all!
This comment in response to Wordiest’s first post; haven’t read though all the replies yet.
Ooh I get a dancing crab!!!
Speaking as someone who skipped 2 grades & went off to university at 16, IAWTC! A song I learned a few years later had a chorus that really spoke to me, as I learned this (my father was HUGE on IQ being the be-all & end-all, so I had a lot to unlearn):
It’s not just what you’re born with
It’s what you choose to bear
It’s not how much your share is
but how much you can share
It’s not the fight you dream of
but the one you really fought
It’s not how much you’re given
but what you do with what you’ve got.
Oh LW, I am sorry. Rejection sucks. It truly does. It hurts so bad. There be so will many times in your life when you will find yourself searching for magic words to make it all better. We convince ourselves that there must be some sort of action we can take to make the pain go away, because it’s easier than accepting that the pain is something we have to live through. I recently got dumped, and I still catch myself mentally composing a perfectly crafted email that will make my ex realise he made a terrible mistake and come running back into my life. But those words don’t exist. My ex knows I’m missing him like crazy, because I told him so, and now I have to learn to accept that he has chosen not to act on that information. Telling him again will not change his mind.
Unfortunately, truly caring about someone doesn’t mean you get to be in a relationship with them, no matter what countless books and movies may have told you. She knows how you feel about her. The ball is firmly in her court. Grand gestures or further proclamations of love will only make her feel uncomfortable and pressured. You need to give her time and space to process how she feels about this, and you need to take some time and space to heal and move on. And remember, she knows how you feel about her. If she changes her mind, she knows how to reach you. But for now, you need to assume that she will never change her mind and start figuring out how to live with that reality.
You are 13 and you’ve already admitted your feelings to someone you care about. That’s a thing some people will never do throughout their entire lives. So good for you, you’re brave and honest and I hope you won’t let this rejection knock those qualities out of you. But being a brave and honest person also means dealing with rejection, and learning how to deal with it gracefully and respectfully is one of the most important skills you will need going forward.
Good luck with everything and you will get through this!
As the Captain and other commenters have said, convincing her that you really do want to be her boyfriend won’t make her want to be your girlfriend.
What I can tell you is that you can still be friends. I was several years older than you when I told my best friend that I was attracted to her that way, not just as friends. She didn’t feel that way about me. It took a bit of time, and emotional work at least on my end (like not daydreaming about that as if it was a possibility), but we stayed close for the rest of her life.
This is exactly why the literary and Hollywood notion of “romantic love” that involves “winning her heart” is so fucken toxic. Because it encourages good-intentioned people like the LW to gaslight, violate boundaries, and objectify women.
Lucky for this dude he came here, instead of binge-watching “romantic comedies” on Netflix.
Absolutely. You’re both young, but being cool about this now may work out for you later. For instance, I had a crush on a guy when I was 14-18, off and on. We were friends in high school, but he never felt the same about me, and it was okay. We lost touch over college, but when I came back home we began hanging out. Slowly, I found out he had a massive crush on me! But the funny thing was I didn’t feel the same. He gave me space though, so I never felt pressured. Eventually my feelings for him developed and we were at the right place at the right time for both of us to be together. Now I think back to me being bummed in high school when he didn’t shared my feelings, and thank God! If we had dated then, we’d have probably broken up over something dumb and never spoken again. We both had the chance to grow up and meet again as mature adults, and we’ve been together for 3 years! That never would have happened if we didn’t take our time.
LW, here’s something that I’ve seen other commenters hinting at but would like to make more explicit: romantic attraction is not an algorithm. You may be tempted to look for reasons that she doesn’t like you that way (“I’m not old enough, I’m not cool enough”, etc), and I’m sure if she was pressured, she would manage to give some sort of reason, but I think this is ultimately a misleading and unhelpful way to think about the situation. You could satisfy every single quality that she’s looking for in a boyfriend, and she still might not be into you, because there’s a certain degree of stochasticity to it. To provide some anecdata, I’ve been on a fair number of okcupid dates in the past year, and with most of them, I found myself thinking, “well, I can’t name anything I actively dislike about this person, and there are many things that I do like and am looking for, but somehow I’m just not feeling it.” Human emotions are surprisingly unpredictable, given how much time we spend thinking about them, and I hope you find it comforting to think that there’s nothing wrong with you, and nothing wrong with her, it’s just that love is a little bit random. (At least, I find that thought comforting!)
I would also like to give you a little bit of unsolicited advice about being smarter than most of your peers. I hope that this doesn’t sound critical or condescending, as this is advice I would like to give my 13 year old self. It can be really hard to fit in and find friends when you’re smarter than everyone else at your school, and it sounds like you’ve found some friends online who are just a couple years older than you, which I think is a really good strategy and something I wish I’d had. (At 13, I had actually, literally zero friends for most of the school year.) However, I think you might want to be more careful about the way you talk about being smart. It’s really important to know what you’re good at and be proud of your talents, so please don’t let me push you too far the other way, but usually it works best to let your good qualities speak for themselves (unless you are applying to school or a job). If you just be yourself, people will see that you are smart and mature for your age without you having to inform them, and they will actually be more impressed than when you start off the conversation by talking about your IQ. (Of course, this advice is only applicable if you want practical strategies for being friendlier and more approachable – you are also totally allowed to decide that you don’t care if people like you!)
One of the best experiences of my teenage life was going to an academic camp where I was surrounded with other teenagers with high IQs — not just the handful of other kids who tested well in my high school. Hundreds and hundreds of people my own age with some of the same strengths that I had. (It also turned out that they had some of the same weaknesses, but that’s another story.) It was easy to make friends with them, and to figure out which of these very smart people were also jerks who I didn’t want to spend time with. When I went back to my normal school, I found it was easier to make friends with people around me with some of the same interests, even when they didn’t have my same academic strengths.
YES, THIS, EXACTLY THIS. Being in a place where you feel normal and comfortable can make learning how to interact with people so much easier, and then, amazingly, those interpersonal skills translate and can help you make friends who have a different set of things in common with you! Nerd camps are the best.
Aww yeah. Also where I — to my amazement — acquired my first “real” boyfriend, at age 13 (after I’d crushed unrequitedly on a similarly geeky classmate from the age of 7 on). Finding yourself among your peers, both intellectually and emotionally, is a game-changer if you’ve never really had it before.
There’s also something really good for the soul about *not* being the smartest person in the room. When I went into an International Baccalaureate program I spent the first week or two panicking because if I wasn’t the best what was I? Which is an important question! If you’re a big fish in a small pond you can get a superiority complex, and I’ve seen people turn it into I Am Always The Smartest, Even If I Have to Ignore Reality to Make You Stupid. It’s just not healthy. (The other kid who was smarter than me sometimes turned into my best friend in high school. Because instead of competing we went, “You like the thing I like! LET US NERD TOGETHER!”)
I learned half my social skills at CTY, trufax. (The other half at tae kwon do.)
Attraction is weird and it varies a lot from person to person. Personally, I find I am attracted to a very small percentage of the people I meet. For reasons I have never been able to understand, my brain divides people into three categories: attractive, maybe, and thinking about this person int he context of sex or romance does not compute. Most people get put into the last category. It’s not because they’re bad or ugly or out of my age range, my brain just can’t think of them that way. I’ve wondered if there was some chemical aspect to it that I am unconsciously using or if there is some other weird thing that my brain requires to be willing to consider somebody. But I’ll reject almost all people simply due to the fact that I can’t desire them in that way. And it’d be terrible for both of us if I tried. But it really isn’t a judgement about them.
Finding someone you are compatible with, for most people, means getting to know a lot of people you don’t have mutual compatibility with. It’s not a failure to figure out the lack of compatibility, it is the natural process of finding someone where it does exist. And the best thing you can do to find someone it does exist is to learn to move on from the people where it doesn’t exist, so you are more open to future prospects.
Hi LW, another giftie here. When I read “13 with a high IQ” I didn’t think you were bragging; I was like, “Oh shit, that sucks, I feel for you.” The biggest effect a high IQ had on my life that I can tell (I’m 28 now) is that it left me hellishly isolated when I was a kid. The literal defintion of high IQ is “being intellectually out of step with your agemates”. I spent years convinced you either got to be smart or have friends and, well, I was obviously smart. I was just not even remotely on the same page as 90% of the people I came into contact with in regular school and I spent years dying for somebody, anybody, to pay attention to me. So if I found one person I clicked with I was like OH MY GOD YOU ARE MY SAVIOR FROM LONELINESS. (Hint: not really a healthy approach to relationships.)
The problem with socializing with people older than you often is, although you’re at their level intellectually, you haven’t necessarily matured at the same rate physically, emotionally, socially, or sexually. Which is probably part of the problem going on here. You don’t quite fit with your usual age-peers, and you don’t quite fit with older kids.
What saved me? Figuring out just what Giftedness is and how it works and why it’s so isolating. The knowledge alone helps–but also, it inspired me to go to conferences and programs and schools that were a better fit for me. I started meeting other baby geniuses, other people like me, until my classes were full of people I liked (and wasn’t necessarily smarter than, yay!) and I spent my weekends doing dorky things and there were friends I waited all year to meat suddenly I had lots of friends, lots of choices to help keep the loneliness at bay… and also more dating prospects, but honestly it doesn’t matter to me with such intensity because I wasn’t alone anymore. And the older you get, the less IQ matters, and the easier it is to socialize with all kinds of people (well, unless you decide I Am a Freak Forever Alone like some gifted kids do, which turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy I do not recommend.)
So, if you don’t have any other plans: Summer is coming. Widen your social circle. Seek out your fellow mutants. You can find out about summer camps that will put you in touch with a lot of other kids like you here and here (and the second link, Hoagies, is a good information clearinghouse for anything on the topic).
I want to second this. Growing up, I often felt like I was waiting for my agemates to grow up. It turns out, I was. It got so much better as I got older and older, because the differences level out a lot more.
Also, when you’re an adult, even if intelligence still makes you different, it matters a lot less because you’re not all doing and learning the same things. So, in Middle School, we all studied the same stuff, and I knew more than many of my classmates. But as an adult, I studied my interests, and different adults studied all sorts of things (and not just in school, but through stuff they did and books they read and so on). Suddenly there are people who might be technically less intelligent than I am, but I can learn so much from them, because they’ve done things and looked into things I never got around to learning about. When people all know different things and have different strengths and weaknesses, it makes the IQ difference start to matter a lot less. So, it really does get easier and better, but it can take a long time for that to happen for many people. It depends a lot on the specifics of where you live and what options you have while you’re growing up.
Feeling this comment.
IQ is a estimate of how easily you can learn things, should you put in the effort to do so.
Not of how much you know, how much you will learn, how useful what you learn will be, or how wisely you will wield that knowledge.
In 10 years you will meet people of average IQ who will know more things, that are of greater value, and who will be using them more effectively than people of high IQ who clung to the fallacy that they had been handed a golden ticket to automatic awesomeness and inherent superiority.
This will widen your friendship/dating pool considerably.
Should you wish to add them to your pool now, look for people who are curious, driven, passionate or methodical about a thing, even if what engages them has no appeal to you.
Remind yourself that neither one of you has worked out all the kinks in your approach to life, and refrain from indulging the strong urge to correct their thoughts and actions (you’ll have to learn that skill eventually anyway if you want a long-term relationship).
Give them the benefit of the doubt. Pick the most charitable way to interpret an action and respond accordingly until you have the opportunity to explain your confusion and ask for clarification.
I want to comment on one thing that no one has addressed yet – the potential interference of your social circle between you and your friend who didn’t consent to become your girlfriend. Maybe this is a possibility, and maybe not.
Friends can be really supportive in listening to you vent or be sad, and distracting you from the sadfeels, and otherwise just being great for you while you recover from this disappointment. Friends can also want to be helpful by being your advocate to the person who rejected you – that applies community pressure to her, and that’s not okay. Or they can want to support you by talking trash about her – also not really helpful. Or they might want to harass her for making what they consider to be the wrong choice – again, a problem. If you think any of those things might happen, please try to discourage it. It’s not your job to manage her feelings and her life, but on the other hand, many teenage girls face a lot of misogyny, sexual harrassment, sexual assault, and so on daily. If you want to continue to be her friend, or even if you don’t think you can continue to be her friend with all these romantic feelings within you, please consider trying to avoid harm to her, even if the harm is through no fault or action of yours.
I want to nth all the others who are commending you for your forthrightness and bravery for speaking up clearly about your feelings and risking the rejection. I didn’t manage that until maybe my 20s or 30s.
And now my personal commiseration: I too was the brainy kid who didn’t feel comfortable with my age-mates most of the time. When I was 15, I found a hobby and friends who were pretty much all older than me. It made high school tolerable because my social life was largely outside of school. But it meant that I too developed feelings for someone older than me.
In my case, I was 15 and he was 19. I didn’t consider that any significant difference in age. I was not straightforward about expressing myself, but still he turned me down. I was hurt and puzzled for years because he’d given nonverbal indications of being interested in me too. Statutory rape simply did not occur to me because I did not think of myself as a child. I didn’t realize that was a possible explanation for the confusing signals until reflecting on the experience for another 10 years.
But wait, the story doesn’t end there. We continued to be friends and see each other from time to time. When my last relationship ended, I immediately started flirting with him. Twenty years after we first met, we finally started dating. Frankly, our relationship is better now, having each experienced some failed relationships (especially those when we were young) than it ever would have been when I first expressed an interest. It’s not been easy, though. We still have struggles. I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be a now-or-never scenario. Life is full of surprises.
I applaud you for being so brave.
You are showing a great deal of maturity by using your words.
I would like to gently suggest that you forget the stories about many years later dating a crush from adolescence and living happily ever after. Yes, it happened to those people, but they didn’t spend the intervening time hoping or plotting. So you shouldn’t either.
Romeo and Juliet (roughly the same ages as your friend and you) are not good models.
Pining over a wonderful friend is a lousy way to spend your time.
Make other smart nice brave friends. Date if you and they want to. Be happy!
Don’t be like the boy who had a crush on me and spent years resenting that I didn’t have a crush on him.
Be like the boy who asked me out, took no for an answer, and completely forgot about me as a potential girlfriend because being friends was better.
Yep, my story wasn’t intended to suggest that the LW hang onto this particular hope and spend years fixated on the possibility that friend might become girlfriend. When my indirect expression of feelings was turned down, I was crushed. And then I went out and lived my life. I had adventures. I met lots of cool and interesting people. I traveled to lots of places. I even thought I had a narrow escape by not dating this guy. I tried different jobs and dated some people and lived alone and happy a lot of the time. In the fullness of time we did get together, without some master plan. Life’s just funny that way sometimes.
LW should definitely go out and have adventures and see the world and all its possibilities. Strongly recommended.
Show her you care for her by accepting her decision gracefully. Do not try to fight for her- because the person you’d be fighting is her. Don’t try to get reasons for why she’s saying no. She might feel weird about dating someone three years younger. She might not want to be in a long distance relationship- she’s in Texas, moving to Tennessee and you’re in Ohio. This is really long distance. She might see you as a little brother and considering a relationship with your little brother is all kinds of squicky.
Trying to argue someone into dating you won’t make you feel good- it makes you feel like pitiful. Accept her decision and back off on contact. Lick your wounds. Recognize that you did the mature thing. Feel proud of yourself for speaking up and for handling things in a dignified fashion.
LW: First up, go you! for being brave enough and having the confidence in yourself to speak up to your friend and tell her your feelings about her. It’s a big risk, and one a lot of people your age and older chicken out on. So congratulations for that.
However, one of the things you have to accept with any big risk is this: there’s a chance it won’t work out. There is always a chance you won’t get the result you’re after, particularly if you’re in a situation where the risk involves another person, and even more so if it involves another person’s romantic feelings. This is the case here. You took a risk, it didn’t work out.
This is where you show your maturity. Let your friend be right. Believe what she’s saying. Ignore the nonsense Hollywood and the television are trying to sell you, where if you just make the right “big gesture” everything will turn around and become all sunshine and rainbows and romantic music and so on. Hollywood and TV tell lies for a living – you wouldn’t believe them about things like “the general applicability of action movie physics” or “the general applicability of motion picture firearm behaviour”; don’t believe them about “how to do romance”. Instead, do the grown-up thing. Believe your friend, and be willing to just be her friend.
(Oh, and don’t do that “nice guy” thing where you’re the friend who’s just waiting for their turn in line, as though dating her were some kind of carnival ride. That’s not friendly – treating people as though they were things is neither friendly nor romantic).
LW, I’m sending you a fist-bump of commiseration and appreciation, if you’d like it. I spent a lot of time when I was younger wishing that I could turn friendships / classmates / lab partnerships into relationships. Did I actually ask any of those friends out? Nope. I wish my 13-year-old self had had your bravery, not because those friends would definitely have dated me, but because asking has gotten easier over time.
You are going to be okay. The pain of learning that someone you are crushing on doesn’t share your feelings won’t last forever. But a good friendship– that *can* last forever.
LW, I finally took the plunge to create an account just to comment on your question. I wanted to comment because I have been on both sides of this issue, and it is important to me. I wish someone had given me some of the advice I’m about to give you when I was your age. (I am very nearly the inverse of your age!)
Firstly, like many others, let me congratulate you on making a difficult choice, and making yourself vulnerable to someone else. It’s extremely difficult for many people, and you should feel proud that you were willing to put yourself out there. Keep doing that! Don’t let yourself get closed off, because when you do, it’s very difficult to open up again. That said, as many others have said, don’t keep doing that for this particular friend. That has been covered many times over now, but I wanted to add a couple of things.
First, and I don’t know if this has been brought up yet (but considering the quality of the comments around here, I can only assume it has), try to understand that your friend’s rejection is not a reflection on YOU. There is nothing you could have done better or different to “make” her want to date you, that’s true. But there also isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with you BECAUSE she does not want to date you. It’s simply a matter of personal preference, not a moral judgement or a referendum on who you are. You are loveable, you are dateable, you are a worthy person. You are even worthy of her, it’s just that she has chosen something different.
Second, and this is partially a reiteration of what others have said, understand that her not wanting to date you is a very good sign that you do not want to date HER either. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but give it a thought – do you want to have to convince someone to like you? Do you want to have to try and make her like you? Or do you want her to just like you, as a default? Think about that one, really think about it. Do you want to make someone, someone you doesn’t like you that way, decide to date you anyway? Take a look at this xkcd comic and think about it: http://xkcd.com/513/
Really think about what that comic is saying. Now granted, you already skipped the first part, you DID tell her how you feel! But that didn’t work out. So now you have a choice. You can be her friend, you can stop being her friend, or you can pretend to be her friend so that eventually she’ll maybe give you what you want (which in reality is not being her friend at all). In the process of making the third choice, there’s a chance she might never give you what you want, and you will have spent weeks, months or years growing to resent her, and turning dating her into a challenge, into a game, instead of a lovely thing you’d like to have happen. Is that third choice the sort of choice you want to make?
I don’t believe it is, LW, because reading your letter I think you’re going to be just fine in the long run. Take care of yourself, feel hurt because rejection always hurts (always), feel better, and then eventually meet someone else and suddenly find that dating this particular friend doesn’t seem very important anymore. It’ll happen, I promise.
*someone WHO doesn’t like you, goodness I hope that’s the only typo…
“First, and I don’t know if this has been brought up yet (but considering the quality of the comments around here, I can only assume it has), try to understand that your friend’s rejection is not a reflection on YOU. ”
This is a very good point. As I’ve told some of my real-life friends, you have no idea what’s going on in someone’s life, and their rejection often doesn’t have anything to do with your quality as a person. For a concrete example, one guy I went on a date with was an awesome dude! We got along really well! And I could not possibly date him, because he viscerally reminded me of a good friend of mine from high school, and it was just *too weird* for me. Killed any potential romantic chemistry. There is literally nothing he could have done to change that, and it wasn’t at all a bad thing! But it meant that he wasn’t right for me, and therefore I wasn’t right for him.
Dear LW, You did a really brave thing, and that’s great, even if you didn’t get what you wanted. I hope you’ll find some way to take care of yourself without blaming your friend for having different feelings. I am still friends with a guy, despite telling him I was in love with him when we were about 16. IT was awkward for about 6 months, but we moved on. We are now in our 40s, and it’s so good to have some friends who have known me since our high school years.
Dear Captain, We live in a world where 13yo guys write into you, and probably read the other letters and posts on your blog. This makes my heart burst with hope. You are doing such good work here.
An important thing to remember here–a humbling thing, but an important one–is that romantic rejection isn’t personal. It *feels* personal, but it usually really isn’t. It’s not about you, it’s about her and what she wants. It can be really hard to acknowledge that not everything you care passionately about is about you and what you want, but it’s true. You did the brave, up-front thing and said you liked your friend Like That, but she doesn’t like you back in that way–not because it’s personal, not because she’s refusing to like you or not liking you out of spite or something, but because she doesn’t. That’s not about you, it’s not personal–it just feels like it is.
When I’m rejected, not just romantically but in overtures of friendship or whatever else, I try to remember that offering an overture of that kind is sort of like standing on the sidewalk with a bowl of candy. There are certain times when that is definitely a winning strategy–at Halloween, almost everybody wants to take a piece of candy–but in general, if you stand on the sidewalk offering people lollies, some of them will take them, and some of them won’t, and it’s not about you, it’s about how they feel about a lolly at that particular point. It’s not personal.
(Except, you’ll say—! Yes, that’s true. Sometimes it’s personal. It’s not personal except when it is. But EVEN SO, personal, as the wise man said, is not the same as important.)
You’ve just learned one of the hardest things you can about love – that just because you feel it doesn’t mean the other person does.
The captain is right. Believe her that she doesn’t want a relationship with you and that she doesn’t like you that way. It’s OK if this makes you sad or even a little angry, as long as you don’t blame her for it. Love is a mystery, and if she’s just not feeling it for you that’s not her fault or yours.
Give her a little space, a little time, and be her friend.
I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but there will be other people in the future, just as awesome as she is, who will love you back.
Sometimes best friends make great romantic partners. Sometimes they don’t. In this case, LW, focus on your friendship. You guys clearly have something going there if you’ve been friends for so long; cherish that, and don’t let a crush get in the way. 🙂 You tried — that takes guts, it really does — but hey, it doesn’t always work out. That doesn’t mean this person can’t be a close confidante and companion. 🙂
Great advice (per usual)!
Relevant story time:
After my four-year relationship ended in 2012, I happened to run into an old friend. After hanging out a few times, it was obvious he was interested in more than friendship. When I shared with him that, “I get the feeling you like me as more than friends. I like you. I think you’re great. But I have nothing good to give you right now,” he totally understood. Even better, he replied, “I enjoy your friendship enough to maintain that.”
I was skeptical, having been through this before where the guy continued to think I was into him and “went through cycles of flirtation, hope, distress and resentment” (his words) despite very clear statements of “No, thanks.” But the first guy actually respected me and followed through on our friendship, never putting any pressure on me/us to be more.
Last December we started dating. If he hadn’t given me time to deal with a new life and set myself up again, it wouldn’t have ever worked.
Disclaimer: SOMETIMES NO JUST MEANS NO FOREVER. Trust that. But in my case his ability to genuinely step back and allow both of us to pursue other people and life-things let us get to a place where dating was possible. And I’m super grateful.
The part that bothers me about accepting the other person’s “no” is that I’ve lost a relationship forever. I’ve lost an experience forever. I’ve lost a personal skill forever. Yes, by gracefully accepting the no, you respect boundaries; but still your life is a bit smaller. Some things you simply learn better by succeeding rather than failing.
I feel like when I get a no, I don’t just lose a relationship– I’ve lost an opportunity to become a better, more interesting self. I feel like what’s the point in having expectations for my character, my personality, my life experiences; if they require a successful, requited relationship to come to life.
I hate that so many things in life ride on relationships; because no one can count on receiving them at all.
That is why studies saying people are healthier if they’re married or have a good social support system are terrible; because those things depend on the Yes Fairy to exist.
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