#984: “I think my friend told me he loved me a few years ago, and I’m just figuring it out now.”

Dear Captain,

Please share your wisdom. I have no idea what to do with a very good friend who might (or not ?) be in love with me and who never said anything.

Since our first year of college, 8 years ago, I have had this wonderful friend (let’s call him Iago). Lots of girls flirt with him but he’s never dated one (maybe once when he was 17 ?). Not sure if that’ relevant but another good friend thinks he’s secretly gay and maybe not even out to himself. He’s been there for me through hell, high water, and finals (and I was there for his parents’ divorce, etc.). Now we’re both in the same graduate program (that I sort of convinced him to get into but not so much because I don’t tell him what to do anymore). He was a witness at my wedding last year. He does not really get along with my husband but hey, I don’t get along with all my husband’s friends either.

Well, 2 or maybe 3 years ago he gave me a book for my birthday. I never read it because the first 10 pages bored me. A week ago I just found it, opened it, and it says on the cover (but I somehow missed it the 1st time) “For [me], an other [name of the hero’s love interest]”. I read the book and I don’t think it was meant in a funny way.

I feel so fucking betrayed. It was at least 2 years ago so I don’t even know if he still feels that way, but had he said anything, well, that did not happen but at least I wouldn’t have HAD HIM AS A FUCKING WITNESS AT MY WEDDING.

I can’t act at all, I can’t imagine what sort of conversation we could have, I haven’t seen him in 2 weeks and he’s beginning to find it unusual not to find me in the library.

I love him very much but I am angry, sad, confused. We used to support each other through our hellish program where we work 12 hours a day and right now, I’m thinking that he was never my friend.

Should I even try to have a conversation with him about this, 2 or 3 years later ? Should I just slowly African Violet him ?

I can’t unsee it. I don’t want to be selfish. I have been in one-sided love with a good friend once (and it was awful) but I just grit my teeth, stopped seeing him for a while, and waited for it to pass and it did eventually. I would have gone crazy if I had seen that guy as often as I see Iago.

I would be very grateful for any scripts.

Signed,

Wishing I’d Never Opened That Book (she/her pronouns)

Dear Wishing,

Starting thoughts:

  1. Is anyone else dying to know what book it was?
  2. I think it’s going to be okay if you let it be okay.

Without knowing what book it was, I think that if Iago was your friend as of a couple of weeks ago, and he stood up in your wedding a year ago, chances are he’s your friend now and the book and inscription he wrote years ago (plural) is not the most important factor in deciding that.

As far as he knows, you read it right when you got it, shrugged, and moved on with your life. You never brought it up in conversation, you clearly married someone else, you asked him to participate in your wedding, you didn’t act like anything momentous has happened in your friendship after (he supposed) you read his note. You treated him like a friend and it sounds like he treated you like one. Whether he meant it as a deep declaration of his feelings or as an innocuous compliment to a friend – “This character is really neat and reminds me of you!” – it’s all moot now. The moment where it would be hugely meaningful has long passed.

It sounds like:

  • You don’t return the romantic feelings and he hasn’t ever brought up the issue or pursued it.
  • You’ve known each other for 8 years. If something was gonna happen between you it would have happened by now. He would have said something another time, and, importantly, you would have made a move toward him if you ever felt that way. There’s nothing there because there’s nothing there.
  • The most likely reason that he stood by you on your wedding day, despite not liking your partner, is because he’s your friend. Maybe he still had some “might have been” feelings but he tamped them down and came through for you when you asked him to. I get the sense that you feel really upset about the wedding thing, so, did he act inappropriately? Did he pursue you romantically on your wedding day or say rude stuff about your husband? If not, if he carried his duties out well and treated you like a friend, where is the “betrayal?”

Friendships can survive awkward crush declarations and mismatched feelings. It’s okay to feel strange about this. It’s okay to wonder if you missed other signals. It’s okay to decide to take it as a friendly compliment even if he meant it another way at the time. It’s okay to play a little game of might-have-beens, even. But you get to decide how you act on and if you act on those awkward feelings, and all my instincts say: Let this go.

What’s the worst that could happen if you just smiled ruefully to yourself, put the book back on the shelf, and said “Hi” to your friend next time you’re in the library?

If he’s doing stuff now, in the present, that makes you uncomfortable, or you aren’t feeling the friendship in general that’s one thing. But it sounds like you’re happily married to someone else, and he’s had years to restate those feelings if they were that important to him. The crisis, if there was a crisis, passed long ago. What do you lose by letting him save face here?

I think it can be that simple if you let it.

 

174 comments
  1. ASJ said:

    I’m a little confused by LW’s reaction here. I don’t understand what the betrayal is, and I also don’t understand why the LW thinks Iago was never her friend. LW, is it possible that you’re reading too much into this? You mentioned that that you’ve been in a similar situation before that was “awful” so I’m wondering if your feelings from then are somehow tangling up your feelings from now.

    • Charlene said:

      She thought he was a true friend, but she’s inferred from the inscription that he’s really a lying deceitful liar who’s been faking friendship in hopes of getting into her pants; a self-absorbed Nice Guy, in other words.

      I don’t know if the inference is accurate – the only person who can know that is him – but it’s not extremely unlikely.

      • JenniferP said:

        That Nice Guy exists, but wouldn’t it come out in some other way in the course of EIGHT YEARS of friendship? Crushing on a friend in passing and doing something to declare your feelings (so, not actually deceitful, it’s not his fault that she never looked at the note before now) is not solely a practice of the self-absorbed.

        • gogglemarks said:

          Heck, I once flat-out confessed my huge crush on one of my best friends – out loud, to her face, with no ambiguity like LW’s friend – while drunk, and don’t think I’m any more self-absorbed than the average human being.

          And it didn’t ruin our friendship! We talked about it the next morning, I made it clear I valued her friendship more than the possibility of any romantic relationship, and we’re still good friends. I can understand feeling caught off-guard or even feeling betrayed when a friend you thought was completely platonic confesses romantic feelings, but even if the inscription was meant as a romantic confession, it sounds like this guy has handled his own feelings and I think that’s the critical difference between this kind of situation and The Nice Guy.

          • Andie said:

            Same.. I harboured a crush on my best friend for a number of years, told him, and one or two drunken feelingsbombs later, I eventually got over it and we’re back to being best pals.. PLUS he has gotten married in the meantime and now I get to be friends with his awesome wife too.

            It sounds like he took your apparent lack of response as a hint, and decided to respect what he might have seen as your desire to just be friends.

        • Caitie said:

          I think finding out a friend has a romantic/sexual crush on you can feel like a rejection of your personality/actual friendship in favor of your looks or ability to potentially provide sex at some point. I don’t think that’s the world’s most rational response, but I don’t think it’s completely bizarre either.

          • JenniferP said:

            I don’t think it’s bizarre as a strange feeling for a little while, and I really like to validate the Letter Writer as experts on their own life, but when asked for my read, I don’t think this is a deep dark secret sort of moment.

          • sojournerstrange said:

            FWIW none of my crushes have ever been about looks or sex, and I’m not ace AFAICT.

      • True friends who have romantic feelings but accept a brush-off and remain true friends aren’t extremely rare either.

        • vpopelephant said:

          yea, happened to me. over a decade ago. I am still best friends with said friend to this day, I’m best friends with their spouse, they just had their first child and they and I consider me an aunt to the child, despite no blood/marriage relation to me. you can move on from this and if Iago was a real friend before (sounds like he was) he will be still

        • allreb said:

          Yep. I definitely had a Good Dude Friend from childhood who was much more direct than Iago – he just told me one night during a college break that he had developed feelings for me since I’d come home. I didn’t reciprocate and he said, “Okay, that’s what I figured, I wanted to check just in case!” and never brought it up again and never made it weird.

          Him having developed (and subsequently dealt with) feelings for me didn’t invalidate the friendship we’d had beforehand, *or* its continuation after the fact. He remains someone I love dearly but platonically, and that’s now how he feels about me as well.

          • jaynn said:

            I was talking earlier this week with a guy I’ve known almost two decades. He admitted to feelings for me a couple years in and I made it clear that I was not interested in him that way. It didn’t change our relationship at all, I was even his platonic prom date.

            Given that LW not only didn’t act on it at the time, but has since married something else, I would hope that he has, or at least is trying to, come to terms with the fact that his feelings are one sided.

        • Charlene said:

          Absolutely, but if OP’s been burned before she might be shy.

        • Yep! I had a really good friend that asked me out several years back. I wasn’t certain how I felt about him. We went out on a date, and then I realized I wasn’t feeling it. And ya know what? He’s still one of my best friends. He’s flying into the country for my wedding next weekend!

        • thathat said:

          That would be me and my BFF and now roommate of 7+ years.

      • But you can develop a crush on someone you’ve been friends with, and you can decide to get over one and stay friends with the person you’ve been crushing. Sounds like both of those things happened in this case: he felt something, he said something, he realized his feelings weren’t returned and set about getting over them to keep his good friend in his life. Yay friendship!

    • johann7 said:

      This reaction is a pretty common trope: there is a subset of people who seem to think sexual attraction and friendship are mutually exclusive, that the existence of sexual attraction necessarily means the friendship was all a lie. I feel bad for those people, as they are probably cutting some of their best friends out of their lives at some points and apparently don’t also consider their romantic partners to be friends. :-/

  2. Honestly your feelings of shock and betrayal almost make it sound like had you known back then you might have done something about it. I don’t really understand how finding out your friend used to have a crush on you means that you’ve been betrayed and hurt. I would just feel sorry for the guy. Sounds a bit more like you’re betrayed and hurt because you missed your change.

    • mercutia said:

      Yeeeeeaaaahhhh, that was my read on it, too.

    • Oh, good, I wasn’t the only one who got that vibe! Sorry if that’s not the way of it, OP, but… yeah, if I found out that my good friend had feelings for me way back that I didn’t know about? I’d feel awkward and a little guilty for not noticing and maybe making things more difficult for them, not angry that they hadn’t grabbed me and said it out loud into my face.

  3. Traffic_Spiral said:

    Yeah, it’s possible that he meant it as a coded declaration of love, but it’s also pretty likely that he just meant “this cool character reminds me of you.” Remember when everyone was “Such a Carrie,” “A Total Samantha” or some other character from Sex in the City? I don’t think they meant them as declarations of love for each other or coded messages for a fight club.* Anyway, even if he did mean it as some sort of confession, if he’s managed to be cool about this for all these years, I’d let it go.

    * – It’s possible I’m not remembering SatC correctly.

    P.S. Now if the character was a douche, that’s another story. Are you another Anita Blake? Bella Swan? Anne Boleyn? Lady Chatterley? Rebecca?

    • Traffic_Spiral said:

      Nynaeve al’Meara?

      • Brannie said:

        Traffic_Spiral: ROFLMAO! *Tugs braid at you*

      • Ren said:

        HAH

      • Nic said:

        I’m rereading those right now. Where is the “like” button?

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        hahahaha!

    • SFC said:

      Oooh, I’d kind of like to be compared to Anne Boleyn, in some ways.

      (Excellent comment, I agree with this possible interpretation.)

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        True, it depends which book you’re reading.

    • Ren said:

      Or he could be asexual (apparently has dated anyone in a very long time- maybe he just doesn’t want to?) and it didn’t occur to him that comparing to a character who happened to be the love interest would be read as a declaration of love? Like when you say someone is aesthetically pleasing but people assume that means you find them sexually attractive, I can’t count how often that’s happened to me.

      • Maggie said:

        I’m not ace, but I also wouldn’t mean “you’re so this character [who is love interest to the hero, and also I am casting myself in the role of the hero].” I’d just mean, “You and this character have a lot in common.” If I meant the former (well, I would not do that to a crush, but, like, in a book I were giving to my spouse), I’d say something like “you are the [love interest] to my [hero].”

        • Raptor said:

          I guess it really depends on how much the book centered on the relationship, and how much she had to do with the plot outside of the relationship.

          Calling someone Juliet or Mr. Darcy is way different from calling them Leia or Leela.

          (Yes, two of those aren’t from books, I don’t care.)

  4. Sara said:

    I agree that LW doesn’t need to react at all. Iago likely thought she saw it and chose to ignore it years ago when he gave her the book. I would assume that he’s figured out you’re not interested. I get that its currently shocking and weird that you feel like you let something drop two or three years ago. But he knows you’re married, he knows you’re not interested in him romantically and he seems able to hang out with you just fine.

  5. Great news, LW! You didn’t clue in for long enough that the time when you needed to react has long since passed, and he’s taken your non-reaction in stride. As a true friend would do.

    • JenniferP said:

      Right!!! If it were a big deal, or the friendship were just a sham to get into the Letter Writer’s pants, there’d be a whole lot more “How did you like that copy of Kushiel’s Dart I got you? Are you (wink) sure you didn’t have time to read it?” in the intervening years. He let it go and acted like a friend. That’s a good outcome.

      • j_bird said:

        What’s that thing in your eye? [leans closer]

      • Amphelise said:

        ^ I know it’s not the point but I WISH someone female had done that to me in my 20s with that particular book lol.

  6. j_bird said:

    I am also not clear on the nature of the LW’s feelings. Perhaps she is feeling guilty that her friend may have been pining silently for years, and that asking him to be in her wedding hurt him? LW, if that’s the case, I wouldn’t worry. I have had crushes on friends, and on finding out that they were interested in someone else, I have made my own decisions on whether to (a) distance myself, or (b) stay close to them while keeping my feelings to myself. In the second case, I actually appreciate it if they politely ignore whatever hearteyes accidentally slip out of my face at them. If he hasn’t tried to follow up on the hint in the book with a more overt declaration of affection, then I think it’s safe to say that he’s made his own decision to move on from whatever feelings he had and he doesn’t need you to acknowledge them.

    On the other hand, LW, it is OK to politely African Violet him if you’re not feeling the friendship for whatever reason.

  7. Since we’re only getting a summary here perhaps there’s a thousand other things that LW is recharacterizing in her mind that just didn’t get repeated to us. Certainly choosing to call this friend IAGO sends the message that she’s seeing him now as a disruptor looking to sabotage… her husband, I guess? though Iago hated Othello and wasn’t the one interested in Desdemona? I’m letting the Shakespeare distract me but the point is, that name seems to imply a belief that he was being conniving and trying to eff things up.

    But there are no examples given of him making such an effort to sabotage anything, so it’s confusing to all of us. If the telling here is accurate I have to say, as someone who has expressed an interest in a friend who didn’t want more… I’d trade a few fingers to retroactively be as good about it as Iago was. From this telling he made a fairly benign but incompetent effort to break the ice, it was from his perspective ignored/rejected, and he never said another thing about it and continued to be a good and supportive friend. Compared to him I was Godzilla on meth and had to (rightfully!) apologize for making my shit into HER shit and I am thankful for her forgiveness and subsequent years of friendship.

    From my perspective, assuming there’s not other clear indicators and things that are jerky when seen with this knowledge (assuming this interpretation of that message is correct, even), I think it would behoove LW to identify exactly what she’s so angry and hurt about. Because from here it looks like being angry that Iago thought there could be a different sort of relationship and then took rejection politely. The only way I personally could see myself being this angry about this would be if I’d have welcomed the attention and am mad I never got to explore it. LW says “I have been in one-sided love with a good friend once (and it was awful) but I just grit my teeth, stopped seeing him for a while, and waited for it to pass and it did eventually. I would have gone crazy if I had seen that guy as often as I see Iago.” so maybe she’s angry that Iago had so much of an easier time of it? Was able to get over her so easily? I don’t want to seem like I am dismissing LW’s feelings, but as it’s relayed her it’s hard to figure other than just anger at being surprised.

    If the only thing different in the relationship with Iago is having seen this 2-3 year old message (which again – we don’t really know, only having this brief story to go on) then the only thing different now is LW. If that’s enough to change everything then that’s fair – a relationship between two people is about both people. But it sure doesn’t sound like Iago is now or recently doing anything other than the right thing. If he really was hung up, he seems like he did the exact right thing by making it his own problem.

    • It could be that LW suspects ‘Iago’ hasn’t made an effort to get over his feelings for her because he didn’t avoid her, and so must still have intentions towards her. That would be a bit creepy.

      But … well, just because LW dealt with unrequited love by avoiding the object doesn’t mean it’s the only way to deal with it. It’s a perfectly good way, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t mean ‘Iago’ must be creeping. Maybe he switches off his feelings of attraction by being around someone and focusing on the sesame seed caught in their teeth or their odd way of sneezing. Maybe his attraction was just a what-if and never felt intense enough to need a period of no contact to let it pass. Maybe he still has some feelings but no intention of acting on them, and thinks their friendship is worth a little heartache. And this is assuming that LW is correct in thinking the inscription was his way of making a move.

      LW, you know way more details than anyone else here, but without further evidence, I’d consider that you may be assuming too much similarity between your experience of unrequited attraction and ‘Iago’s. If you dealt with it by avoiding someone, cool, that’s a legitimate strategy. But ‘Iago’ is his own person and, even if he did have a crush, that doesn’t mean he’s up to anything sinister just because he didn’t do what you would have done.

      • Ginger said:

        …I see Ice and Indigo posted before I did and we are clearly on the same wavelength and I could have skipped my longer comment in total lol!

    • Ginger said:

      “The only way I personally could see myself being this angry about this would be if I’d have welcomed the attention and am mad I never got to explore it. LW says “I have been in one-sided love with a good friend once (and it was awful) but I just grit my teeth, stopped seeing him for a while, and waited for it to pass and it did eventually. I would have gone crazy if I had seen that guy as often as I see Iago.” so maybe she’s angry that Iago had so much of an easier time of it?”

      I read this as “I could NOT have gotten over my Unrequited PantsFeelings without taking an extended break from that friendship, *therefore*, obviously Iago could also NOT get over his feelings without a break, he has not taken a break from my company, ergo those Unrequited Pantsfeelings Must Still Exist. AKA the “because I can only process this one way, I cannot perceive how anyone else could process in any different way[, and those who say they do are lying]” phenomenon. I think seen through this view, this letter makes much more sense (unfortunately).

      I agree with everyone else: your friend took your non-response as a response (as he should) and moved on with his life, barring other actions you feel weird about. Only you know whether his dislike of your husband is because of some ongoing Hope For A Future, but really, I think *continuing* to move forward – as he already has – without bringing it up again was and is the best possible option.

    • the815 said:

      **LW says “I have been in one-sided love with a good friend once (and it was awful) but I just grit my teeth, stopped seeing him for a while, and waited for it to pass and it did eventually. I would have gone crazy if I had seen that guy as often as I see Iago.”**

      I’m guessing she remembers how obsessed and emotionally volatile (I’m guessing) she was during her own one-sided crush phase and is like, “Oh, damn, I have *that* energy orbiting around me? F***, that’s scary…”

      As everyone said, people handle feelings differently and the guy hasn’t done anything wrong. Makes sense to sort out where her strong WTF feelings are coming from, as you said, since they don’t immediately make sense to the casual observer.

    • Polychrome said:

      The only way I personally could see myself being this angry about this would be if I’d have welcomed the attention and am mad I never got to explore it.

      bing bing bing is my reading. LW is everything okay in your marriage? Maybe this reaction is telling you something, but not what you think it is telling you.

    • Raptor said:

      I think the timing works out where she was probably seriously dating her husband when he gave her the book. I might be a little pissy about a friend expressing interest when I’m certain I’m going to marry the person I’m dating.

      I don’t think I’d be as mad as LW, but they would no longer be part of the wedding party if that was the case.

      • Raptor said:

        I mean, that’s not in the letter at all, but unless she just got married last week or she had a short engagement, it seems like average timing of things would make it likely.

        My reaction if a guy friend had confessed attraction to me when I was single would be very different than if I was like “Hey this boyfriend is a big deal, I think we’re going to get married!” and then the dude confessed and then was still in the wedding party.

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        I know I tend to react differently to attraction than some people and so I probably wouldn’t actually say anything, but to me this situation is exactly the right time to tell a friend you’re attracted to them — they’re happily paired off and so there’s no ambiguity about whether you want to act on your feelings, but you get to tell them and everyone can feel all happy about it.

        • Raptor said:

          I can see that for a “Hey, so I am attracted to you, but I know you’re married it and I’m handling it. If I’m a little weird for a few weeks, that’s probably why.”

          But just an “I’m attracted to you” would piss me off.

  8. jo said:

    Yes, I agree this is something to let go. And in case the “this character reminds me of you” explanation doesn’t sound plausible to LW, I’d like to add another possible explanation for the inscription. At that time in your lives, Iago may have related to you as a sort of partner as well as a friend, without there being any sexual or romantic hue to the relationship. Or maybe he was just trying to say “you are the most important person in my life, as Love Interest is the most important person to Hero.”

    For example: I have a few straight female friends with whom I’ve been very close for years, as a group (i.e. they are also very close friends with each other). Two of them jokingly referred to each other for awhile as their “heterosexual life partner,” an endearment meant to reflect how they really were a lot like partners in many ways, more so than most friendships tend to be. There was a long period of time where they were together all the time as friends and roommates and relied heavily on each other for emotional, economic, domestic etc. support. Their relationship was never sexual or romantic. They’re now both living with/married to male romantic partners, and they’re still close friends.

    If Iago is gay (or asexual), as he’s long been suspected to be, or even if he’s straight, the way you say your friendship was a few years ago … it would be understandable if he innocently saw you as his Number One Person. There’s no reason not to take it that way and keep treasuring his friendship.

    • VG said:

      That seems plausible to me. My college-age daughter’s best friend/platonic soulmate is a gay man, and they are definitely each other’s Number One Person outside their respective families. I can totally see him telling her that she reminds him of a fictional character (or her telling him the same thing) without meaning anything other than “you remind me of this character.”

    • thathat said:

      “If Iago is gay (or asexual), as he’s long been suspected to be, or even if he’s straight, the way you say your friendship was a few years ago … it would be understandable if he innocently saw you as his Number One Person. There’s no reason not to take it that way and keep treasuring his friendship.”

      This very much comes to mind.

      My BFF and I are very platonic (some Feelings on his part, but I’ve just never really had a romantic or sexual attraction to him). But we cast ourselves as fictional characters a LOT. And sometimes, for me, they’re fictional characters I even ship–Booster and Beetle come to mind–or who are or wind up being a canonical couple. But it’s not really that I have secret Feelings for him. Just that he’s my Number One Person.
      (I mean, shoot, we’ve had standing plans to cosplay Miguel and Tulio since he was with his previous girlfriend, and they’re very much a couple. These days we keep trying to convince his current girlfriend to cosplay as Chel. And we actually did do Joker and Harley costumes for Halloween one year.)

      Also worth mentioning that a lot of the time in fiction, any deep relationship winds up being romantic (unless it’s Band of Brothers), and most prominent female characters are there because of their romantic relationship with the lead.

  9. I think it’s common for people to have the idea that romantic feelings and friendship feelings are two entirely distinct things that can never mix. If you experienced one than the other cannot exist or was deceptive and fake.

    I also think that’s bullshit. Plenty of people fall in and out of love with their friends without that making their friendship fake. There are certainly “nice guys” who use their friendship as a ruse to try to get into someone’s pants and will bail on the friendship the moment that sex is not forthcoming. But clearly, that’s not Iago. Whatever his feelings may or may not have been for you, he’s stood by you and even participated in your wedding without complaint. I think that’s signal enough that he’s your friend.

    • moss said:

      I like this analysis. I am among the group of people who is puzzled by LW’s strong negative reaction to what seems like a mild advance and subsequent stellar behavior.

    • I agree; if he did have feelings for LW, it doesn’t prove he was ‘never’ her friend. If that were the case, he wouldn’t still be up for hang-outs in the library after she married someone else. Evidently his platonic love survived her marrying – and marrying someone he doesn’t even like, which has been known to brak up many a platonic relationship.

      I’d say he may or may not have had hopes of being more than a friend, but he was never not a friend.

    • Anxiety Cat said:

      “I also think that’s bullshit. Plenty of people fall in and out of love with their friends without that making their friendship fake.”

      Yes, true. For example, I have had MANY crushes on my friends (male and female) over the years. The difference between my behavior and Iago’s is that I didn’t leave semi-cryptic messages in birthday presents I gave them that *could* be romantic or *could* be platonic so that I had plausible deniability if confronted.

      If Iago was romantically interested in LW, he could have asked LW on a date, he could have told her his feelings (in-person or over email or chat), he could have been direct with how he felt OR he could have kept those feelings to himself if he didn’t think LW felt the same way. Instead, he wrote a note in a book with a vague meaning, and possibly has been quietly brooding on her since then.

      I don’t know if Iago is a true friend (only the LW knows that). But upon finding that note, I’d be doing what LW is: taking a long hard look at the friendship and Iago’s actions, and trying to decide if she can trust him now.

      • Thank you.

        I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m somehow in sympathy with LW. This comment nails it.

      • I agree that “cryptic message in book” is not a stellar means of declaring feelings, but we’ve also established that Iago is not particularly experienced in romantic endeavors. And it seems like a stretch to go straight from “poorly chosen declaration” to “untrustworthy” without other reasons to distrust.

        Personally, being straightforward and direct about my romantic feelings is something I’ve *learned* but it took time and practice.

        • Exactly. Who among us has never expressed our secret feelings via text/note/email/drunken voicemail?

        • Personally, being straightforward and direct about my romantic feelings is something I’ve *learned* but it took time and practice.

          That’s also assuming he’s able to differentiate between the romantic/platonic feelings in the first place. I know why folks make that assumption, but not everybody actually can. If Iago himself wasn’t sure what he wanted, then a cryptic message to the same effect is still maybe not the best way to broach the topic, but it’s also … not the worst? I don’t know that I’d make the leap straight to “untrustworthy” either.

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        But we don’t even know if that’s why he left the message. Is it a plausible-deniability expression of love? Is it a he-thought totally obvious expression of love that he tactfully pretended didn’t exist when the LW didn’t mention it? Is it in his mind an expression of platonic admiration and the fact that the character is a love interest in the story is beside the point?

      • hbc said:

        As much as I’m in favor of being direct in theory, a lot of friendships will better weather a plausibly deniable mini-overture than a bald-face declaration. That’s “a” as in one/uno/een/1, and forever dropped if the other person does not respond in the same direction.

    • Phospher said:

      This this this this!

  10. Martha said:

    LW, presuming that Iago was indeed into you, let me see if I’ve got this right. He develops feelings for you, and a few years ago, before you were married to someone else, he took a step towards admitting them to you. I think that is an okay thing for him to have done. In any relationship where one or more people have more-than-friends feelings, at least one person has to make it clear that they *have* those feelings, or else no one would ever get it together enough to have an actual romantic relationship.

    Story: A number of years ago, I developed feelings for a close friend. I hesitate to say that I was in love with her, but — you know when you know that, if you let yourself, you could fall so hard and so fast? I was into her. I didn’t know if she was into me. We lived a few hundred miles apart, which is a lot in this country. We spent a weekend together that featured me mostly biting my tongue out trying not to blurt everything out. And then I went to someone else’s wedding where I was the only non-coupled person and the only non-drinking person, and sitting in a corner at this wedding, I told her (via text message), and 24 hours later she responded and let me down gently. That was five years ago. We are still close friends. I accepted what she was telling me. I moved on. She is getting married soon, and I will be thrilled to be at the wedding.

    I get that finding out about this is all new and weird for you, but it really sounds like Iago thinks you let him down gently and he moved on. There are lots of behaviours that wouldn’t have been okay — if he had pushed it, if he had guilted you, if he had come to your wedding and behaved like a jackass, etc, but (and I may be wrong! tell me if I am wrong!) it doesn’t read to me like he did any of that? It sounds like he had feelings and you didn’t return them and now you guys are friends — good friends, close friends, just the two of us against our program friends? I think that’s okay.

    Also, what was the book?

  11. tabbykat said:

    IMO, the more likely interpretation of the inscription is that LW is similar to the the love interest, not that Iago considers her HIS love interest. He wrote “For LW, another person like character x.” Not, “For LW, who is MY character- who- is- a- love- interest.” But I guess it’s not impossible that Iago was interested at one time.

    • karinacinerina said:

      THIS! Reading LW’s account, I got zero sense that Iago was ever into her romantically. Even if he signed the book “To LW, another Juliet,” that doesn’t mean he is INTO her by any stretch. If it was, “To LW, MY Juliet,” I’d be like, OK, there’s that. But certainly he wouldn’t have held on to that being the only declaration if he actually had feelings. I agree with everyone: why is LW so very very very torqued about this? And how is it a betrayal? I am most perplexed. That said, everything seems fine with you guys in real, empirically experienced life, so I would just stay friends and maybe just read the book and see why he was reminded of you, as a friendship gesture or curiosity or more data, or whatever.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      That was how I read it, too. Given that Iago did nothing before or since to make the LW think he had feelings for her (at least, not according to the letter), I really struggle to believe that this was a declaration of love. But then again, the LW knows Iago and I don’t, so maybe it would be just like him to announce his feelings in such a vague and avoidant way, and then never mention them again in any way, shape or form. It just doesn’t seem likely to me based on literally every person I’ve ever met.

      I guess it also depends on the character. If all she does is sit there and be alluring to the hero—or if the whole point of the character is that she’s the one the hero secretly longs for, but he can never bring himself to say anything, I suppose it’s a little harder to see the inscription as being devoid of a deeper meaning.

    • thegreatdragon said:

      I agree with that, and it could also be likely that if he wrote “For LW, another Juliet” he could have been thinking of her husband (presumably bf at the time) as the Romeo of the situation. Or it also could be “For LW, another Desdemona, aka you’re husband creeps me out and I think he might smother you w/ a pillow, just fyi.”

  12. Sarah said:

    If the note in the book is really the only indicator of a crush here, I definitely think this is something to let go. I remember I had a MAJOR crush on a good friend in my early 20s — it lasted about 6 months, it was clear to me she was not interested (among other things, she’s straight and I’m not!) and so I never acted on it, and eventually we both were dating other people and it was totally fine. I feel like literature gives us these stories of undying unrequited love that people hold onto for years and decades, and while I suppose that CAN happen in real life, I feel like the more likely scenario is that people have a crush, it’s not reciprocated, and then they simply move on one way or another.

    It also seems like there’s a reasonable chance you’re misreading the inscription itself, absent any other evidence of the crush. I’m envisioning, for example, “For Jenny, an other Ginny Weasley” or “For Fergus, an other Peeta Mellark”– I don’t think that 100% indicates that a serious crush is happening — perhaps you remind him of the character in some other way? Of all the ways to declare a crush on someone, this just seems rather random and open to misinterpretation!

    The real question is, has your friend acted inappropriately or made you feel uncomfortable in other ways? If so, that’s the real thing to deal with, not a random note scribbled in a book from years ago that may or may not even mean what you think it does!

  13. atheistorganist said:

    Yeah, let it go. An inscription in a book sounds like a pretty harmless thing. He gave you it, didn’t say anything, and then must have let it go.

    I’m getting over a weird two-way one-sided crush – my then best friend had a crush on me, and I didn’t return the feelings (he’s a guy and I’m a guy and straight), but then… I suppose after he got over me, I realised that I really did love him. Said some cringey things, did some cringey things, but then, about a month after realising it, sort of fell out of love. Then we went on a long road trip together that we had been planning for quite some time, and if I hadn’t fallen out of love yet, that trip would have made me crash *hard*. I am so very, very glad nothing ever happened between us, that would have been ultimately messy and awful. I say “then best friend” because he turned out to be different than I thought, and I imagine the same thing is also true.

  14. Anxiety Cat said:

    I’m surprised by how many comments so far are people confused by the LW’s feelings of hurt and betrayal. LW, I definitely get it; this is someone you trusted to be on your side and to have your back as a friend, and then you find out that he may have had ulterior motives. I think if the same had happened to me with a friend I’d long trusted to be my FRIEND (and not a would-be pursuer), my reaction would be identical to the LW: feeling hurt, betrayed, and unsure if I can trust the person.

    It’s not just the Nice Guy ™ possibility that does it for me… it’s the bombshell that this book inscription throws into the middle of the friendship. Now I’d be asking the same questions that the LW is asking: has he felt this way the whole time? Was he secretly pining during my wedding? Has our friendship been genuine or has Iago just been going through the motions in the hopes that I’ll develop romantic feelings for him?

    My guess is that after reading the inscription, LW reflected on their friendship and found scenes that supported the “Iago’s secretly in love with me” theory, and now she’s feeling like she can’t actually trust him to be a good friend to her or to have her best interests at heart. This is something that I (and other women I know) worry about with male friends: are they really my FRIEND, or are they romantically interested in me and are waiting for a moment of weakness/opportunity to make their move?

    LW, if this revelation is really squicking you out, my advice would be to give yourself some time to process it. Don’t worry about Iago’s feelings; YOU need time to process this. If Iago gets pushy or asks what’s up, you can tell him that you “need to take a break from your friendship” for a little while, and you’ll let him know when that changes. If he really pushes, you could say “I saw the inscription [Iago] left in [book] two years ago, and it’s really freaked me out; now I need some space to process it.” He may have some words to say to that, but stick to your guns: YOU feel uncomfortable and YOU need space. If he’s really your friend, he’ll respect that.

    I’m sorry that this happened to you, LW. It sucks, but respect the validity of your own feelings. Jedi Hugs if you want them!

    • As one of the confused people, it’s because while that inscription might inspire me to ask those questions “has he felt this way the whole time, was he secretly pining, etc.,” a feeling of betrayal would require some reason to believe the answer is yes, and while LW may have those reasons, she didn’t share any of them in the letter, leaving me feeling confused as to what those reasons are. On the other hand, LW shared many reasons to believe that the answer is no – as far as we can tell, her shock comes from the fact that he HASN’T acted weirdly or in any way unsupportive or a bad friend, or any sign that he’s insincere, for eight years.

      You also seem to imply that “secretly in love” is antithetical to “true friendship,” or having her best interests at heart. I have seen (and felt, on both sides) multiple cases where feelings of love go hand-in-hand with having someone else’s best interests at heart – I would say that’s part of what love IS.

    • Karyn said:

      She didn’t tell us about any scenes from their past that were ambiguous or nothing at the time, but looking back, now seem sketchy–no drunken shoulder rubs, or “I just brought flowers to brighten up the table” or semi-subtle mixtapes. Absent being told about such occurrences, we’re assuming there weren’t any. If he at some point had ulterior motives–well, eight years is a really long Long Game.

      It seems like the phrase ‘Believe people when they tell/show you who they are’ holds true here. He’s shown her that he’s a good friend, stood by her, been supportive, etc. This inscription appears to be the only thing that *may* show that he was at one time into her. He hasn’t behaved badly.

    • Ixo said:

      I went through something similar so I also get the LW’s feelings here.

      My former best friend told me, after several years of friendship, that she’d been in love with me since the beginning. Like LW’s friend, she had been single that whole time (we’re both girls though, and while I told her I was bi, she mentioned identifying as straight a few times, so I never thought she liked me that way). When I got the news, I was seeing someone and didn’t feel that way towards her, which I communicated. We both thought we’d be able to go past the awkwardness and remain friends. However, in the next months, she became distant, somewhat mean, and said several times that she didn’t have much to say to me anymore. Eventually she decided to cut contact.

      I have no way of knowing what her real motives for ending the friendship were – maybe she felt like it was unhealthy for her and had to get out, which I respect. Maybe she attempted a slow fade but I didn’t get the clue so she had to take the friendship to the chopping block. Who knows.

      After a while though, I started feeling angry and betrayed, just like the LW. My friend’s change in behavior after her confession of love led me to think that losing me as a romantic option may have made her lose interest in me completely, which could mean that all those years, she didn’t really care for me as a person.

      So I totally get it. Like in all other variants of the Suitor in Friend’s clothing situation, it can feel like a breach of trust to realize you didn’t know a person’s true intentions. And I agree with your advice, Anxiety Cat, that LW would do well to respect her feelings and take time to process them.

      However, some things to consider.

      1-While it’s tempting, it’s a bad idea to try to “rewrite” history and reinterpret someone’s behavior in the light of some new knowledge. We ultimately don’t know how others feels at any given time unless they tell us. LW can’t know if her friend was pining after her at her wedding. Extrapolating more often than not leads to projecting, and misunderstandings, and imaginary hurts, so it’s better not to go down that road.

      2-The corollary of not extrapolating is to trust what people tell us with their words and their actions. LW’s friend was a witness at her wedding and continues to be her friend years after she didn’t respond to the inscription in the book. Did he behave like a good friend would during the wedding? If he did, then it’s probably because he is, and their friendship is real, and any feelings he might have had at the time he gave her the book have been dealt with.

      I think it really comes down to how deep and enduring LW’s feelings of anger and betrayal are. If she takes time to process her feelings and is able to regain some confidence that her friendship is genuine, then there’s no harm in letting everyone save face and keep things simple. However, if the feelings stick around, I agree that it would be a good idea to talk to the friend. Dispell any remaining doubts and move on in a direction or another.

    • I am not at all confused by the sense of hurt and confusion but I will totally own finding ‘betrayal’ hard to understand. That’s largely based on the lack of anything else in the message that sounds untoward. If LW looks back on other actions and events and now find they look totally different, absolutely. But we can only know what we’ve been told and none of that came through, just this retroactive anger and questioning whether Iago was ever actually her friend.

      So absent any indications of bad behavior, what’s the betrayal? Having feelings that LW wishes he didn’t have, while in every other way being a good and supportive friend? I think ‘betrayal’ confuses me because it’s not like hurt, shock, confusion – all feelings the LW is reasonably having. Betrayal is a description of Iago’s actions, and we haven’t gotten any description that seems to fit.

  15. You don’t mention in your letter whether you were already with your current husband (or someone else) when you received the book. If you were, I can see why you’re feeling betrayed. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to expect a friend to respect you enough to refrain from declarations of love while you’re in a monogamous relationship. Is your friendship with Iago valuable enough to address the situation and clarify if the inscription was meant the way you took it? From your description, it sounds vague enough to leave other possible interpretations. If it turns out to be what you thought, and it crosses a boundary of yours, then it’s up to you and Iago to figure out whether it’s something you can both put behind you and remain friends.

    • Emma9 said:

      I would agree with the ‘it makes a difference if she was already in a relationship’ aspect. Especially if there are other factors (e.g. he originally gave her the book right around the time LW and future-husband made a significant step like moving in together or getting engaged, or the book itself has a protagonist who’s pining for Inscripted Love Interest while she’s involved with somebody else).

      Absent that, however, I personally wouldn’t bring it up. Feeling weird around him for a while is understandable – Iago has had years to process his feelings and deal with them in the manner of his choosing, while LW hasn’t had that same opportunity. But I don’t feel like ripping the scab back off would necessarily be the best solution.

      As others have pointed out, ‘*may* have had feelings for you *at one point*’ =/= ‘never my friend’, so I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on this friendship if it’s valuable to you. When you show up in the library again, if he asks why you haven’t been around or why you’ve been acting odd, maybe just a “I’ve been going through some emotional stuff that I’d really rather not talk about. So what’s going on with SUBJECT CHANGE?” If he respects your boundaries and doesn’t make the weirdness worse, that’s a pretty good sign in and of itself.

    • Yes, this. I think that LW is probably over interpreting Iago’s note, but if she thinks it was a declaration of love and it was made while she was in a serious, committed relationship to her now-husband–potentially even already engaged? I don’t think she’s out of left field to be feeling upset. I think that’s it’s fine to be close with friends who are in love with you/have been in love with you–hell, two men that used to be in love with me were my bridesmen at my wedding, and one who had said he’d always be a little in love with me even though he doesn’t want to ever be more than friends *the night I got engaged* (not nearly as inappropriate as it seems but not an important story) also took part. I also cut someone out of my life for how they took my marriage and asked Husband to do the same.

      The difference between the guys in my wedding and the people we don’t talk to is that the folks we don’t talk to reacted to our marriage by trying to stop it somehow (ex: “I always thought you’d end up with me I love you!”). These people lost my trust because they apparently could not respect the boundary implied by a marriage-that Husband and I were now Permanently Off Limits For Romance.

      If Iago was trying to get involved with LW while she was serious with Husband, that is a problem. LW trusted that even though he didn’t like her husband, he wasn’t trying to stop their marriage and wasn’t a threat to her relationship. I don’t want to speculate too much about when Iago gave LW the book or what he meant, but at least for me, “not trying to dismantle the most important support system in my life” is a basic precondition for being my friend, and I think that a lot of married people are on that page too. I would feel betrayed, too, if I discovered that someone I trusted to meet this condition didn’t, and even if everything was good now I would need to seriously reconsider how close I wanted to be to someone who had crossed such an important boundary.

  16. I wanted to talk about this statement: ‘I have been in one-sided love with a good friend once (and it was awful) but I just grit my teeth, stopped seeing him for a while, and waited for it to pass and it did eventually. I would have gone crazy if I had seen that guy as often as I see Iago.’

    LW, that’s *you*, and those were *your feelings* – that experience might be totally different for Iago. ‘It was awful’/’I would have gone crazy’ is certainly nothing like how I feel when I develop feelings for people I see a lot.

    It sounds like you’re thinking about how you’d feel in his shoes and concluding that because you’d be feeling (and therefore acting) a certain way and you haven’t seen any of that in him, he must have been concealing some Great Inner Pain, so you feel deceived – but that’s just, like, not what unrequited love feels like for everyone.

  17. Nanani said:

    LW says “Lots of girls flirt with him but he’s never dated one (maybe once when he was 17 ?). Not sure if that’ relevant but another good friend thinks he’s secretly gay and maybe not even out to himself. ”

    Please, point it to your other good friend that a big component of being gay is ~interest in and dating of other men~ not just absence of dating women.
    Not interested in dating anyone is asexuality, not homosexuality.

    Here endeth the PSA

    • We don’t know if the friend is only going on his lack of dating; there may be other reasons.

      • Nanani said:

        Nevertheless, “we think he’s gay because he doesn’t have a girlfriend” is still asexual erasure. I’m not labelling LW’s friend, but their other friend is.

        It’s like, hi asexuality exists and is not an absolute last resort.

        • My only point, really, is about this particular case: the friend may have positive rather than negative reasons to assume he may be gay – like, he’s shown what looks like deniable sexual interest in men. If so, it might be another reason to assume the inscription might have been platonic. (Though obviously there’s more to life than just straight and gay, of course.)

          Anyway, I agree that it’s perfectly possible he might be asexual, and that it’s wrong to assume everyone wants sex and/or romance. Based on the evidence we have about this particular man, I don’t think we can assume -anything- about his sexuality, gay, straight, bi, asexual, or anything else. But this is not a hill I’m invested in dying on because I agree ‘not into women equals gay’ is silly, so I’ll leave it at that.

      • B. said:

        Indeed, but Nanani is right to say that always reading lack of interest in heterosexual relationships as homosexuality erases asexuality and other important human experiences.

        • TootsNYC said:

          Including the human experience of just not having met someone interesting or appealing enough to date.

        • onyx said:

          I couldn’t tell you how many people assumed I was a lesbian for being so disinterested in dating as a teen/young adult.

      • johann7 said:

        Indeed; asexuality is one of many possibilities. For example, I’m open to dating people, and maybe lots of women flirt with me (I don’t really understand flirting, and only recognize it sometimes as behaviors that I’ve learned and coded as “almost always flirting”), but I haven’t been on a date in four or five years now. The reason isn’t that I’m actively avoiding people in favor of a friendship that I secretly hope will turn sexual or that I’m asexual, but becasue the people I meet who have been both interesting as people and attractive to me have tended to turn out to be coupled or not interested in dating me. Online dating systems have failed to actually result in any dates the few times I’ve used them in an active fashion for significant periods of time, and that’s that. Part of it is that I find social interaction draining, so the prospect of spending time with a stranger who is more likely than not someone I won’t be interested in or who won’t be interested in me is not a draw in and of itself; I have at times decided to put the active effort into dating, but it’s not something I enjoy for its own sake, so my default is to ask people out whom I happen to meet in the course of life and find interesting and attractive.

    • ninyabruja said:

      Joseph Steffan( who was kicked out of Annapolis in the mid80s)wrote in his memoir that he thought he was asexual(long before the term existed) until he met someone to whom he was attracted.

      • JenniferP said:

        How is this relevant to anything?

        • ninyabruja said:

          the discussion of disinterest .

          • Aris Merquoni said:

            It’s one thing for ace or gay or otherwise queer people to pop in and say, “Hey, your friend could be feeling this way because he’s like me, here’s what I experience.” It’s another thing for someone to suggest, without clarification, “Well, here’s a story about [marginalized identity] where it turns out they were incorrect all along.”

            Some ace people have sexual feelings after they’ve accepted themselves as ace. That’s not the point. The story that asexuals just need to find the right person is a hurtful one. If we’re not telling that story for a good reason (like validating the experience of someone who has, actually, just had that specific experience) it comes across as casting aspersions on every asexual who’s happily not finding “the one”. In this case, Iago’s actual sexuality doesn’t matter except when it comes to one specific person: his attraction or not to the LW, and how that affects their friendship. Second-guessing that has to be done for a darn good reason.

    • winter said:

      It can actually be both. If you are in denial about your orientation, asexuality might sound right but can turn out to be wrong. I think we best leave this decision to the people in question, no?

    • Hrovitnir said:

      I actually had to go back and check because I’d skipped the signoff with pronouns – I actually assumed LW was a man because of this, though on re-read that’s not really how it’s phrased.

  18. Katie said:

    I feel a little differently than the Captain. LW, if this is leaving you feeling so awful that you’re ready to ghost, I don’t see anything wrong with asking him about it. The book + your history with said friend has left you with one specific version of what’s going on in his head, but if there’s a chance you can have an open conversation about it, it might help clear the air for you and let you get your memories of your friendship back. Plus, if what you think is happening isn’t, you hopefully get to keep your friend.

    Script I thought of off the top of my head:

    “Hey, I saw the inscription on the book you gave me a few years ago. It makes me think you might have or have had feelings for me. I’m nervous asking, because I don’t want to hurt you or our friendship, but I feel even more uncomfortable that you might have been trying to give me a hint. Am I reading this right?”

    I get the feeling from your letter that this stuff just won’t easily be stuffed back into your brain. Yes, a conversation might be uncomfortable, might lead to more avoidance, etc., but that already seems to be on the table given how you interpreted the inscription.

    • Tea Rocket said:

      I think she could probably leave the question more open-ended than that. As in, “Iago, I finally got around to reading [Book] and saw the inscription—I don’t know how I missed it two years ago. I was wondering what you meant when you wrote that I was ‘an other [main character’s love interest]’?” Iago will either calmly give the innocent meaning behind it, look vaguely confused and say, “You know, I’m not really sure. Perhaps it’s because [innocuous reason],” or get very flustered (it’s been two years, after all—if he had been hoping the inscription would start a conversation, he has almost certainly given up on it now) and try to grasp at a plausibly innocent explanation.

      I agree that she should probably just talk to him. Like you say, it’s already endangering her friendship; she may as well get clarity one way or the other.

      • rydra_wong said:

        or get very flustered (it’s been two years, after all—if he had been hoping the inscription would start a conversation, he has almost certainly given up on it now) and try to grasp at a plausibly innocent explanation.

        I’m not sure what would be achieved for the LW by this. If he has to say “Yeah, I sort of had a crush on you at the time, but I figured you weren’t interested, and I got over it”, that’s awkward at best.

        If the truth is more like “Yeah, I really have a terrible crush on you but I know you’re not interested and to be honest I’m still not completely over it but I care about you as a friend and never want to endanger our friendship” — that’s potentially going to be pretty fucking painful and humiliating for him to have to confess.

        And in those cases, a lot of people might be flustered and try to grasp for an “innocent” explanation if it’s suddenly dragged up two (or three!) years after they thought the whole issue was done and dusted. If he says “[innocuous reason]” but the LW doesn’t buy it, what then? Accuse him of lying?

        I don’t see what the LW gains by creating a situation where “Iago” is potentially going to end up either awkwardly lying, or having to confess messy feelings which a) aren’t reciprocrated and b) he has been handling very well by *not* making painful and dramatic confessions.

        In some ways, I feel she’s not entitled to make him drag out his innermost feelings. They’re not necessarily her business just because they’re “about” her.

        Yes, if he can say (convincing) “What? Oh, the character really reminded of you because she’s so brave and snarky”, then the LW can presumably stop freaking out.

        But the other possibilities seem likely to make things more painful and complicated.

        Maybe the LW feels like she wants to end the friendship if the response is anything other than “[innocuous reason]” convincingly uttered, because she doesn’t want him as a friend if he’s ever had the slightest non-platonic feeling towards her. Which, I guess, would be her choice.

  19. Maria said:

    I actually think it’s not uncommon to feel a little deceived when someone has feelings about your relationship that you don’t know about. It feels like you’re not both engaging in the relationship (friendship/familialship/romanceship) with the same amount of information (and therefore agency). But here’s the thing: you will never have the same information/motives/feelings as someone else about a mutual relationship, because you’re two different people. It’s perfectly understandable and reasonable to keep emotions which aren’t affecting the structure of the relationship to yourself. And it’s a kindness to understand that and understand that the measure of a relationship is the comfort of the people in it. Unless you have reason to believe that the support and friendship he gave you was given insincerely or not primarily for the sake of the friendship, your friend is who you thought he was. You had all the information necessary to engage freely and sincerely. The comfort you got from the relationship is not a sham.

    • Swistle said:

      And, if he DID have feelings and meant to express them with the inscription, there’s no deception or information-withholding, either: he would think he’d made his feelings known to her, and wouldn’t know she hadn’t read them until years later.

  20. spargle said:

    LW, you’re really overthinking this. If Iago didn’t want to support your marriage, he wouldn’t have been a witness to your wedding. I’m not sure why you’re so angry about this – it sounds like you found an amazing friend in this guy, he’s been true-blue solid for years, and now you’re angry because he wrote something that *could be* interpreted as a declaration of love in a book two years ago? Are you maybe mad at yourself, or embarrassed? But either way, if it wasn’t a declaration of love then your actions now are probably mystifying and hurting him. And if it was, he’s clearly gotten over it – so your actions now are probably mystifying and hurting him.

    Shelve the book, and go hang with your bestie at the library. I bet he misses you.

  21. Biancascnoozes said:

    Agree that this is probably a thing to just let go. If you need to, tell yourself the story that the character reminded him of you in some way, and he wrote that inscription assuming you’d read the book and understand why he’d written it. There are 100 reasons he could have called you the character, and only one of them is “he’s been secretly in love with me for years and is only my friend because he thinks I will eventually date him.” From what you’ve written, there is no other evidence that that is true, but a lot of evidence that it is not true. Meaning, guys who are ONLY interested in you as a dating prospect won’t hang around for such a long time, playing the role of “excellent friend” without making any kind of move.

    I wouldn’t even bring it up now. What would be the point? Either you are misinterpreting, which would be embarrassing for you both if you told him you assumed he was in love with you, or you are correct, that it was his way of telling you he had a crush on you, but has already accepted that you declined (by not acting on it), and bringing it up would just bring to light that you didn’t read the book he gave you and that might unnecessarily hurt his feeling. (Not that not reading it is a big deal, but if I gave a book to someone, and a few years later they asked me out to coffee and were like,” so BTW I never read that book you gave me! Oh, and I want to make sure you know I’m not interested in a relationship with you!” I might feel like…uh…why are you telling me this? To hurt my feelings?)

    Anyway, I think, if you can, and if you still want to be is friend, it is best to try to let it go.

  22. Donna said:

    Can somebody please explain what the inscription means? I don’t get it……….. s(cratching)mh

    • unlurking said:

      Like if the book was Romeo & Juliet, the inscription is “To Letter-Writer, an other Juliet.”

    • Inspector Spacetime said:

      Like, imagine if the book was Pride and Prejudice and the friend wrote, “To ____, another Mr. Darcy.” People tend to view themselves as the protagonists of their own lives (i.e. Elizabeth), so this would be implying that the friend views the LW as the love interest in their life.

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        It really depends on who the character is, and how they function in the story.
        If the character isn’t a fleshed out person and serves no role in the book but to be the beloved, then it could be about love, since the character has nothing else going on. But if the character is a “real” person, then it seems more likely that they think you’re like the character.
        Personally, I think that someone who was called “another Mr. Darcy” would be well justified in worrying that their friend thinks they’re an asshole.

    • Donna said:

      Thanks guys…..I’m assuming then it was a love story and she is just now seeing that he might, in fact, have been in love with her? Right there with everyone on not getting the betrayal and anger!

  23. enplaned said:

    Absent even one example of Iago behaving badly, or even inconsistently with the ups and downs of friendship, why is LW feeling betrayed?

    Seems like an over reaction. Move on.

  24. Swistle said:

    YES I too want to know what the book was!

    I also would love to hear the rest of whatever the story must be with this situation, because I am with the other commenters who feel as if the letter-writer’s reaction doesn’t make a lot of sense with the part of the story we’ve heard. And it seems hurtful to be giving him the silent treatment for two weeks when of course he has no way to know what has happened or what’s going on.

    • B. said:

      Yeah. I’m afraid this is not a kind thing to say to the LW, but if I were Iago I would be pretty annoyed with her.

      LW, you mentioned that you no longer tell Iago what he should do with his life as much as you did before. Could these feelings of betrayal be caused by some unaddressed entitlement issues on your part? As in, do you feel like you are, or should be, entitled to know what’s going on in Iago’s life, and thus feel betrayed because he didn’t tell you of his (presumed) feelings?

      Because if that were the case… Iago’s feelings are his to share with whomever he wants, and it’s not a betrayal on his part if he didn’t share them with you.

      • Karyn said:

        Yes, that leaped out at me, too. LW, did you used to, well, be in the driver’s seat in your friendship? Is it possible that it’s a surprise to you that there was this part of him you did not have control over?

      • Yeeahh… like, I don’t want to jump to too many conclusions or be unkind to someone who I think genuinely reached out for advice, so I’m definitely not saying LW bad or a mean person or anything. But honestly, no one is entitled to know the thoughts of someone else. Even if those thoughts are thoughts about you. LW, you can certainly feel weird about the new revelation and wonder now what he felt or how long he felt it (and I love laurencleansup’s comment below about cringing). But if he did feel romantically towards you (and that’s still a BIG if),you still aren’t entitled to an expression of those feelings from him in the way you want them expressed. From what you’ve written, he is not deceiving you or manipulating you or leading you on… at most he attempted to express his feelings and then let it drop when you didn’t respond. So I don’t think it’s appropriate to take your anger out on him for keeping his personal feelings personal. You say that you no longer tell him what to do. Do you think that should apply here?

      • Scarlet said:

        Yes, I’m glad someone else picked up on that. I think there’s a bunch of entitlement behind these feelings of betrayal and anger. Honestly, if I had a friend who said that they used to “tell me what to do with my life but don’t do it anymore” (even though they “sort of” convinced me to get into the same graduate program as them), I would consider it a definite red flag.

    • Donna said:

      Yes, now I feel like we MUST know what the book was. LW may have left at crucial elements out of the story that explains her feelings of betrayal and anger. Maybe the hero’s love interest was a serial killer?…an adulterer?…a vampire? It’s entirely possible that the love interest was a character of a nefarious sort.

  25. Sarah Kate said:

    Hola awkwardeers! Long time lurker and I finally had to comment because…this exact thing happened to me! How many of us can there be????

    Years ago, I worked in a bookstore with a male friend. He was funny and sweet and we hung out occasionally and shared lots of interests. But I was never romantically interested in him and there was never any hint that he was interested in me. He self-published a book of poetry and gave me a copy. Many years later, I noticed the dedication and realized with enormous shock that it was dedicated to me! With rather pointed language.

    By then, he was married to a lovely woman and we had long since lost touch. In fact, I was at his wedding and had a great time. I felt uncomfortable for about 15 minutes and then thought “well, dodged that bullet!” and had a good laugh. (Not that there’s anything wrong with what he did, I just prefer more straightforward communication.)

    I find the LW’s reaction fascinating. I feel like there must be more to this story; otherwise, her strong feeling of betrayal seems out of proportion to what happened. Perhaps writing her letter has helped her to gain some perspective.

    • karinacinerina said:

      Agree with Sarah Kate: If he carried a torch and dedicated a book of poetry to someone, that’s 1. pretty straightforward and 2. still not actually making a move. More like a gesture of love without muddying the friend waters. Even that poetry dedication isn’t *necessarily* Deep Intense Repressed Love That Never Dies – I have fondness for gentlemen in my past who gave me whatever gift of themselves when I most needed it – I’m not remotely carrying a torch, but I could see thanking them for their moment of kindness or whatever with me in a published opportunity to shout it to the rooftops. So I’ll do one here: To Ben P, who was never interested in me for a millisecond, but who gave me the 20 minute fully clothed sobbing hug that got me through 2010!

  26. laurencleansup said:

    I think the thread we are losing here is “pretty much assumed this friend was gay or asexual in orientation.” Setting aside for a moment all the reasons why making assumptions about someone’s sexuality without an explicit declaration on their part is problematic –

    I *get* that it’s beyond uncomfortable to filter an ENTIRE decade-long friendship through a dramatically different lens. There are probably any number of small moments that now take on a different character for you when you think of him as “heterosexual or bisexual and potentially interested male friend,” and that is a lot of information to digest.

    Like, maybe you shared a bed? Or changed clothes in front of him? Or otherwise did some intimate thing that you were comfortable with precisely because you thought there was a shared understanding that maybe now was something else entirely?

    I can understand how that can start to feel like a lie of omission on his part – like, GAH, you should have realized I was only doing [x] because I assumed you weren’t interested in me but you never corrected me! Or worse, you LET me believe these things about you and we have some weird shared experiences because of it!

    You are allowed to feel some retroactive discomfort. I’d encourage you, though, to feel those feelings without letting them get anywhere close to feeling like he betrayed you or did something wrong just because something that you assumed was wrong. You’re going to have to take responsibility for making that bad assumption and resist the defensive urge to make this your friend’s fault.

    He didn’t lie to you. He made a stilted and awkward attempt to (maybe) get your attention years ago that you didn’t notice and that didn’t work and you missed it. He only ever told you the truth – just not the way you were expecting to hear it.

    I think you get to have one good, long cringe if you need it. I think you don’t need to bring up the book. I think if this new information changes anything about your boundaries with Friend, that’s fine – new boundaries starting now, with no need for Major Announcement. I think if this is a major enough change that he notices it, you can say something like “I’m more comfortable doing [x] this way, now.” I think if he’s a jerk about that for some reason, you get to be mad at him for not respecting your boundaries – which is different than being mad at him for not issuing them for you earlier, on your behalf.

    I think you get to file this information under “Learning Experience” and feel an appropriate and not-excessive amount of chastened that you called this one wrong. And then be off to enjoy your friendship with someone it sounds like has enriched your life in a lot of ways.

    • Muffin said:

      YES. Thanks for addressing this — it’s my read on the situation too (or why else include that factoid at the beginning?).

      I’m bi, and I’ve been in more than one situation where a previously friendly person suddenly got weird when they found out I was queer, because we’d been changing in locker rooms together or shit like that. I’ve also been out long enough to be real tired of the particular strand of biphobia which paints people like me as “sneaky” or “dishonest,” as if we constantly have to wear warning lights saying “WATCH OUT! i MIGHT WANT TO TOUCH YOUR BUM!” And frankly, I’ve also experienced a lot of inappropriately touchy, boundary-crossing behavior from those very same straight people, I guess because they assumed since I wasn’t sexually interested in them, they could do whatever they wanted? (Spoiler: no.)

      I think the above comment is a very kind, wise way of addressing the situation if this is indeed somewhere in the neighborhood of what happened. LW, whatever kind of intimacy you had before with this friend, remember that it’s always okay to move those intimacy boundaries to whatever places you feel comfortable. If you used to touch your friend a lot and now that makes you feel weird… just stop touching him, and ask him not to touch you if that’s something he does. If you used to hang out in your pjs and now that’s weird… stop hanging out in your pjs. You are the boss of your own boundaries! You can move them at any time to a place which feels right to you for this friendship.

  27. alber said:

    Likewise, a longtime lurker, first time commenter. I wanted to add to the commenter chorus since I had something similar happen with one of my friends.

    We’ve known each other for 10+ years, and way back when we flirted a bit, both of us talked about finding the other one attractive, etc., but nothing ever happened. It was awkward for a bit but we kept in touch. Today we’re both in grad school (same subject, but hundreds of miles apart), partnered with great people, and we’ve worked together on professional projects. If anything, I trust him more as a professional and personal friend BECAUSE we had the awkward phase.

    • Palliser said:

      I think this is a great comment. I had awkward pants feelings for a friend years ago, there was a blow up, a re-calibration and we’re much better friends for it. The crush is so far back in the distance that I forget it ever happened. Some things really do just pass.

  28. Halpful said:

    I don’t know what book it was, but I’m reminded of Delenn and Lennier from Babylon 5.

    • So you’re saying that LW’s husband should steer clear of airlocks?

      Does something need a spoiler warning after a few decades?

  29. Rhoda said:

    If he’s never dated and never expressed a romantic interest to the LW, there could be some physical reason. Maybe he just isn’t capable of normal relations and doesn’t want to put that burden on a partner.

    • rydra_wong said:

      Out of interest, what do you mean by “normal relations”?

      If you mean penis-in-vagina intercourse, I have to point out that there are quite a lot of people who have active romantic and sexual lives which (for one reason or another) don’t involve it, and they generally don’t seem too “burdened” …

    • Cicci said:

      I’m not sure that I like your implication that someone who hasn’t dated or expressed romantic interest in anyone is incapable of normal relations. (Sexual and relationships in general)

      There are countless of reasons for people not dating (or declaring their Grand Love) from being on the ace/aro spectrum, gay in denial, focusing on (psychical and mental!) health, not wanting to, religious reasons, etc etc etc.

      There’s absolutely nothing in the letter or any reason to jump to “a physical reason” (I get the feeling you talk about erectile dysfunction or something unusual with Iago’s body?) as the reason Iago hasn’t acted on his feelings. Or that Iago is incapable of “normal relations”. He has up until now been a good friend to the OP, and a good support. He hasn’t dated to the OP’s knowledge. Where do you see any evidence to even begin to think about whether or not Iago is capable of “normal relations”?!

      (Even just thinking about sex, what the fuck is “normal” sex?!)

      • rydra_wong said:

        Where do you see any evidence to even begin to think about whether or not Iago is capable of “normal relations”?!

        Also, Iago’s sex life is really none of the LW’s business.

        Yes, platonic friends can choose to discuss their sex lives, but a) Iago hasn’t asked the LW for romantic or sexual advice and b) it tends to be awkward and potentially painful (not to mention generally inadvisable) if there *are* any lurking feelings of unreciprocated attraction around.

        (ASK ME HOW I KNOW. Actually, please don’t.)

        It sounds like Iago’s been pretty immaculate regarding the boundaries of platonic friendship (barring one possibly-hinty inscription), so, you know, it seems appropriate and courteous to go along with that and NOT make things weird for him by starting conversations about his penis.

    • Dia said:

      So to be really clear here, this included ableism, asexual erasure, and, depending on what you mean by “normal”, erasure of other kinds of sex, including types of sex that may be typically coded as queer. That’s an awful lot of bad for two short sentences even if it were somehow in any way relevant.

    • JenniferP said:

      What? This is inappropriate on so many levels.

  30. Vicki said:

    I had a similar situation with one of my close friends. I told her I was interested, and she said she was flattered but didn’t reciprocate the attraction. I took some distance for a little while, to handle the one-sided attraction, and we went on to be close friends for the rest of her life.That included me being maid of honor at her wedding, and some years later she was the witness at mine.

    I don’t think I had any hidden motivations: we loved each other as friends and chosen family, which was vastly more important than that I found her attractive.

    I don’t know what if any processing she needed to do about my unreciprocated attraction to her, because she didn’t do it with me: maybe she journalled about it, or talked to one of her partners, or some other friend. LW, your friend may have dealt with his feelings by journalling or making art or music, or eating an entire pint of ice cream by himself. But a good friend isn’t going to follow up on that sort of declaration by expecting you to listen to his feelings about it.

  31. AltoFronto said:

    Captain, you already totally answered this one, like 4 years ago:
    https://captainawkward.com/2013/01/25/can-men-and-women-be-friends-an-essay-and-a-website-launch/

    LW, stop over-thinking this.
    If it literally never occurred to you that Iago was anything but a friend before you read the note, then you have been real friends for the whole time you have known each other. He has clearly prized his continued friendship with you over any romantic feelings he may or may not have had for you at one time (and, to be honest, that dedication could be read totally platonically), because he has never mentioned it to you since.

    Why do you think something as small as this (potential, long-ago) crush negates 8 years of close friendship?
    Take all the time you need to process your own feelings about What Might Have Been, but please do Iago the mutual courtesy of not dragging this up for dissection, or it really might ruin things between you.

  32. H.Regalis said:

    I gotta say, LW, unless there is a whole bunch of other stuff you’re not mentioning, then I think you are reading way too much into this. Nice Guys usually stop being pretend-friends after they figure out they aren’t going to get to fuck you, and while it’s possible this guy is playing the super, ultra, mega long game, it reads more like he is just your friend and not out to get you or destroy your marriage. The note seems like it could be taken equally as “I have a crush on you” or “I like this character and you remind me of her because you are just as awesome.” You know this guy better than we do, but from what you have said, this reaaaaaaaally doesn’t sound like he betrayed you in any way. He’s had nearly a decade to mention his possible crush in a million ways or to drift away after he realizes sex isn’t happening ever, and he hasn’t done either of those things. It sounds like he’s just been a genuinely good friend and barring further evidence I think that is much more likely than that he’s trying to get in your pants.

  33. LW, I learned a couple years back that a mutual friend of my partner’s had had a crush on me way back in the days when we were all first forging our friendships. He was in a relationship at the time (as was I, although mine was an open one) with the woman he eventually went on to marry, and while it did throw me for a loop to learn that little piece of intel from my partner on the eve of this mutual friend’s wedding to said woman … life went on. For a while there I did definitely watch the way he interacted with me a little more closely, but nothing was awkward, out of the ordinary, or into plausible-deniability territory, so I’ve since relaxed. He’s still our mutual friend, nobody has ever brought it up since then, and, a brief moment of “oh what, really?” on my end aside, it’s basically as though it never happened. It can be that way for you too, it sounds like, since it’s been lo these many years and his behavior from your letter hasn’t shifted at all.

  34. gemmaem said:

    Chiming in so I can be another person who understand’s the LW’s reaction here. I freak out when people are interested in me. I used to do this more, back when I was dating, and it’s less of a big deal for me these days, but it used to be a very real reaction that I had.

    Part of it was that I had really absorbed the societal teaching that when someone “likes” me, I have a whole set of responsibilities about not inadvertently leading them on, and managing their feelings, and so forth. Which is false, but I believed it for a while.

    Another part of it was that I had an ex-boyfriend who took advantage of those scripts to get more attention from me while punishing me for dumping him.

    Put those together, and yeah, being around someone who had feelings for me used to super freak me out. Suddenly learning that I might have been in that situation for years would have freaked me out, too.

    I don’t think it’s fair to psychoanalyse the LW about this. There are lots of reasons a person might feel the way she does. The good news is, I think, that she doesn’t have to feel this way. She is not responsible for managing her friend’s feelings, and it sounds like her friend is a good person who knows that. (On the other hand, if there is other context which suggests that he is a bad person who does not know this, well, that is sad, but not her fault and she doesn’t have to feel bad about not “getting” his messages earlier.)

    She can almost certainly continue being friends with this person without guilt, and trust him to manage whatever feelings he had or has. She does not need to take responsibility for those feelings by cutting him off just because that is what she would need, in his position. He is a different person and he is allowed to make his own decisions about who to be friends with.

    That said, if she wants to bring up the inscription, I think a good script might be:

    “I was looking in that book you gave me the other day, and I just noticed the inscription. Were you meaning that as, sort of, flirting?”

    If he says no, let that be no. Let it be no even if he might just have said it to save face; accept that he gets to make his own decisions. And if he says yes, well, then you can ask if he has feelings for you. Maybe it would help him to clear the air. Maybe it would help you to clear the air. You don’t have to bring it up at all, and you shouldn’t make a big thing of it if you do bring it up. But you can bring it up and see what he says, knowing that his feelings are not yours to manage.

    • Bex said:

      Thank you, gemmaem, for articulating the stressful feeling of responsibility and having to manage the feelings of people who are interested in you. It’s definitely something I can relate to, but had never thought it out so clearly! Very useful.

  35. Violette said:

    LW, you only got 10 pages into the book! You can’t know what he meant by that without actually reading the book!

    Even if you read a plot summary online, maybe there’s a piece of dialog that’s exactly like an inside joke you two have, or the character likes the same weird pineapple and anchovy pizza you like.

    Unless the book is Fifty Shades of Grey, you can’t have any idea what your friend was trying to say. At least read the book before having such a big emotional reaction. (Or, if you don’t read the book, then don’t presume anything about the inscription.)

    • vanadiumoxide said:

      I thought LW did finally read the book after finding the inscription?

      • B. said:

        Yup, she says so in her letter.

    • Sparky said:

      Yes, Violette, you are correct. And whatever reminded Iago of LW at the time might have completely passed, and he might not even remember that LW went through a pineaple and anchovy pizza phase.

      LW, let it go, you’re projecting a whole lot of stuff here while your friend has shown by his actions that he’s a good friend.

      Or actually read the book, then make some decisions.

  36. LW, if there was a bullet to be dodged here, you already dodged it, and didn’t even hear the whistle as it went flying by.

    Fortunately for you, Iago doesn’t appear to be a Nice Guy [TM] (from the information you’ve given us) – if he had been I suspect he would have mentioned something long before now. There’s only so long even the most passive-aggressive of Nice Guys [TM] is willing to wait before trying to push the matter. That he’d be feigning friendship with you for the better part of a decade; standing up as a witness at your wedding to someone else; remaining friends with you all this time while you are, presumably, happily married to that someone else; never pushing things, never doing anything to upset you and so on; all in the vague hope that “someday you’ll notice”… well, that’s getting into romance-novel territory. In real life, people get fed up with waiting and push things to a crisis, or they move on and find another interest, or they figure out how to deal with their feelings in their own time. Any and all of which he appears to have done without involving you in the entire business (if we’re very generous, and interpret the note in the book as “pushing things to a crisis”).

    Congratulations, you appear to have a genuine male friend. Could we have a photo so we can prove this rare specimen exists in the wild?

    • B. said:

      Hey, now. Please don’t cheapen the genuine friendships people have with people who identify as male by calling them rare specimens. I’m angry on behalf of my lovely genuine cis straight* male friends.

      * I assume that you’re referring to cis straight men on your comment, apologies if that’s not the case.

      • uggghhh said:

        Someone: makes a snarky joke about how mens feelings of entitlement to women lead them to very frequently behave badly.
        You: #NotAllMen! #NotAllMen! I can’t hear any critique of men as a class!

        • B. said:

          Seriously?

          Yes, sexism and male entitlement are very frequent components of men being assholes to their female friends. Yes, it is a systemic thing that hurts many people, mostly women. However, the man discussed in the letter has not acted in this way, as far as the LW tells us. So why take the cheap shot? It’s potentially hurtful, it has no base here, and it doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

          Men and women can indeed be friends, because people can be friends and both men and women are people. I think it’s harmful to portray respectful male friends as the “rare specimen in the wild” instead of as the standard we should expect.

          And by the way, I wasn’t saying #NotAllMen, I was saying #PleaseGetOffMyFoot. Holding men to a lower standard for their friendships with women feeds into toxic masculinity and I don’t think we need more of that.

          • johann7 said:

            Yeah, that comment is approaching the toxic, sexist, gender essentialist, gender-conflict-promoting attitude CA rips into in that post linked by AltoFronto above. Calling men who are actually friends with women rare specimens doesn’t read to me as a critique of men as a class; that sounds more like, “Men are more likely to interrupt than women,” or, “Men generally don’t do their share of housework in heterosexual couple households.”

          • uggghhh said:

            Yikes.
            Men are the source of what you two are calling “gender conflict” by beating, torturing, and raping women for millenia. When they stop doing that, I’ll reconsider making snarky jokes about them. Even “respectful male friends” benefit from this system. Men could stop this from happening at any time they choose. They don’t because they enjoy it and actively choose to continue it.
            Forgive me if I don’t have much time or energy to spare to worry about men’s hurt feelings. I’m busy prioritizing the women they abuse.

          • B. said:

            @ugghhh
            Well, then. Live long and prosper. And check your cissexism while you’re at it.

        • X said:

          The perfidious lie that men and women can’t be friends is a result of, and a reinforcement of, our sexist society.

      • Okay, first up, yes, I was being snarky, and secondly, my snark was largely aimed at the sort of Men’s Rights Activist who declares loudly and frequently “men and women can never be friends; sex will always get in the way”. The sort of MRA who identifies any report of friendship between a person-identifying-as-male and a person-identifying-as-female as a fraud because “he’s just wanting to get into her pants” or “she’s just leading him on” or whatever. (Yes, I may have been reading a bit too much “We Hunted the Mammoth” recently… or indeed at all). I realise this didn’t come across in the comment.

        No insult was intended toward your friendships. My apologies for mis-speaking, and next time I’ll try and restrain my sense of humour.

        (Also: given the LW does appear to have interpreted their friend’s actions in just such a manner – namely, he’s only been friends with her all this time because he’s been concealing pants!feelings for her – it implies to me she may have fallen prey to the same myth herself).

  37. H said:

    It strikes me that (assuming the inscription was a mild declaration of feelings rather than just it’s surface value) you’ve already answered him in your non-reply. (As others have said). But even more – this answer wasn’t just accidental or inadvertent – as it might feel like to you right now – it’s actually one that’s totally on the money. You didn’t care enough for him to read more than 10 pages of the book. Unless the book is spectacularly awful you (or at least I) would have persevered with it if you’d had feelings for him. You’d (I’d) have given it another go … Or rifled through the pages appreciating that HE’D given you a present. Or … Kept it closer & picked it up in an idle moment. Or you’d have decided to slog your way through it so you could discuss it with him …Etc. and you would have found the message much much sooner. but you didn’t – it went on a shelf for 2 years. The lack of finding the message isn’t an accident & similarly the reply you’ve given to it isn’t a total accident either.
    I can understand feeling a bit unnerved by it though – if only by the realisation of the thousands of paths that haven’t been followed – but I agree with the others – unless you want to change things it might be kindest on a number of levels to let it go.

  38. EllenS said:

    It seems to me that if this were a declaration, he deliberately chose to do it in such a way that you could a) process it privately without a dramatic scene, and b) let it pass quietly without having to overtly reject him if you didn’t reciprocate.
    That seems thoughtful and considerate, especially paired with the fact that he never pressed or even Firthed at you, apparently. He assumed you wanted to let it go, so he followed your lead and dealt with his own feelings on his own time. (Unless you are now revising your perception of interactions that just seemed odd at the time)
    And frankly, if he were tortured by a broken heart this whole time, I’d think it would show up somewhere. You don’t mention him being especially sad, or acting differently since the gift. So possibly his experience was quite different than your teeth-gritting secret crush.
    Unfortunately, it was so covert and ambiguous it’s still impossible to be sure that’s what he meant. I can understand being upset, especially if there were a “might have been,” but as Cap said, there’s nothing there because there’s nothing there. I think it’s telling that the book he (possibly) chose as his Great Reveal is one you found impossibly boring. So there’s multiple ways that you two are out of sync.
    Possibly he realized that. He may even be glad at this point that you never took him up on it. Why rake up a situation that is over and done, and nobody the worse for it?

    • I don’t know if I’d go that far; to my mind the most thoughtful and considerate come-ons are the ones where there’s no potential for confusion. Dropping a hint mild enough to miss is really less considerate than gathering your courage and being direct. But as you say, if it was a hint he let it go, so the worst it would say about him would be that he was short on nerve.

      • EllenS said:

        Or possibly the stakes for him were not OMG! SOULMATE! but more in the realm of “I wonder/you wanna?”

        Romantic interest can be sincere without being at eleventy.

  39. Kay said:

    I was also in a somewhat similar situation to the LW, except also very different in what I think are key ways? I had a very close, intense friendship for a year that ended when the other person went off the rails (emotional outbursts, albeit not directed at me ever, drug use, etc) that was just too similar to stuff I dealt with growing up. I gave him a warning and then cut off contact when things hit a breaking point for me. Harsh? Sure, but I’m open about my strict limits especially with drug use and I don’t look back.

    Anyway, he reached out to me a few years later and told me how he had been struggling with mental health issues, and was receiving good treatment now. And oh, by the way, he had been terribly in love with me that whole time but thought he had to cast himself in a purely platonic role to stay in my life, and the combination left him acting pretty poorly. He apologized, he said he was happy I was doing well, he thanked me for not blocking him so that we could stay just a little in touch from a distance and have this chat.

    I was shocked to hear this, and a little bit hurt, so I do understand the LW’s feelings to a degree. But to me, I was mostly hurt because I thought we were SUCH good, close friends and he had never come to me about this. I felt hurt because I was rethinking our friendship not in light of him being in love with me and that being a Not Okay Motive, but because he obviously had all these conflicted feelings and we didn’t have the closeness to talk about them like I thought we did. I trusted him enormously when we were friends, and it’s rough to know that trust didn’t go both ways.

    But I sat on it for a few days, and after a lot of thought I remembered how much this friend had supported me, and how they made that year a really lovely one overall for me despite the final blowup, and despite their conflicted feelings. We had a lot of fun and I would have been much lonelier and worse off without their company, for whatever amount of time it stayed good. Now we’re both in happier places and I look on that year with fondness. I encourage the LW to reflect on their own friend in that way, and perhaps be thankful for the positive aspects of the friendship and how the friend loved you enough as a friend to put aside their more romantic feelings (we assume, as they haven’t done anything untoward since). Love isn’t as neatly and cleanly divided as we might think/wish sometimes, so trust in people’s actions when they show you who they are.

  40. wolf said:

    Have you ever considered that when she refers to a betrayal….LW is referring to herself?
    Think of it like this Iago is a good friend has been for many many years. Now she looks back and finds something that leads her to believe he confessed to her in this book.
    Meaning he liked her and she never realised. She could very well have given him little chance to disengage from herb(lets hang out buddy) invited him to her wedding possibly unwittingly hurting a good friends feelings. She has been in unrequited love before…..she knows how bad it can feel.
    Yes he handled it differently….very well actually but that guilt could very well be the betrayal LW is speaking of.

    If it’s something like this the best thing she can do is disengage. But I agree on one thing let It go…..continue being his good friend if you decide that’s what you want he seems to have sorted himself out .if that makes you uncomfortable it’s understandable if you don’t.

    as far as you know It’s in the past…
    Isn’t it?

    • It’s hard to get that of ‘I feel so fucking betrayed.’ LW is clearly referring to herself as the betrayed, not the betrayer, and the tone is far more angry than guilty.

      • wolf said:

        Apologies it must have come across differently to me. Sorry

        • No need to apologise! Who knows, you may be right and I may be wrong. 🙂

        • moss said:

          wolf, I think that’s a really lovely framing and a great way to look at it. I think it’s not correct because she’s calling him “Iago”. If I knew a longtime friend of mine was calling me Iago behind my back that would really hurt. Iago is the WORST. She’s implying her book-inscribing friend is one step away from trying to get her to kill her partner! That’s not the stance of someone who feels bad about their own behavior.

  41. Mikko Saarinen said:

    XD I crushed on a very good friend not once but twice. Our friendship survived both times and is doing great to this day.

    To the LW I’d value your friend by his actions not something he might have felt for you once. And like at least one person already pointed out, he didn’t actually lie to you, it was purely an accident that you didn’t happen to read the writing back then.

  42. I am among those who are baffled by LW’s reaction and unsure if the inscription meant what she thinks it did. If I were the friend who gave the book, I might be a little hurt to realize she never even opened it. For me….if I give a book, it usually means that I loved the book, related to the characters and story in some deeply meaningful way, and it meant so much to me that I wanted my friend not just to read it but to own it. (I recommend books to people all the time but I think if they are interested they will get them from the library. Buying and giving indicates a much bigger level of need to share.) So LW got a book as a gift, never even opened it, when she did, decided it was boring and stopped after 10 pages. Seriously? Unless the thing is as long as War and Peace, read the damn book! This is your friend who not only gives you a book but inscribes it indicating its deep meaning to him, but you not only don’t read it but you draw (possibly erroneous) conclusions based on the inscription? I am finding this so weird from someone who claims to be his friend. (Plus, wouldn’t you want to know what character your friend thinks you most resemble? What if that character is the one who dun it? Or worse, the one who got dun?)
    To touch on an advice column staple…did you write a thank you note? Or even thank him at the time?
    Also…friend for many years, he might have had a crush on you, but you have no idea if he’s gay or straight or ace or… I don’t have any friends of many years that I don’t have some idea of their sexual orientation. I can see how if you’re not sure he knows about himself yet that you wouldn’t either. But really… A decade of close friendship and you’ve never even discussed it? And he gives you presents that you ignore? LW is looking to me like someone not holding up her end of the friendship more than the person she wrote in about.
    My advice, sure, take a long look at the friendship based on your gut response to new information. While you’re at it, look at how you treat you friends too, not just how they treat you.
    A possible strategy to follow up, write a thank you note, mention the lovely inscription and ask “what did you mean by that? I don’t see myself as another X” or whatever you want to say…but yeah, read the book first.

    • A gift isn’t an obligation. Sometimes people give you books you’re not interested in. You don’t have to read them. Of course you have to say thank you (and there’s no indication that the OP didn’t say thank you.)

      But my reading time is mine, and other people don’t get to control what I read by giving me books. If someone gives me a book I dislike, I will say thank you politely, and put it aside. I’m not going to read it just because they want me to.

    • TheLazyB said:

      Life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I might not have stopped after ten pages but I probably wouldn’t have got more than 30. And she says she’s read the (damn) book now. This comment seems extremely harsh. I presume he gave it to her in person and she said thank you so no need for a note.

    • You seriously see ‘I started reading a book you gave me and decided it wasn’t for me’ as ‘I’m not your friend’? I think you may be pushing the geek social fallacy ‘friends accept me for who I am’ a bit far there.

      It’s way too much pressure to put on someone – and frankly, it’s not in the spirit of gift-giving. If it’s supposed to make someone happy, it’s a gift. If it’s a friendship-dealbreaker that they have to read the whole thing even if they don’t like it, and by implication ‘own’ it permanently even if they want to clear some space, because otherwise you’ll consider them a bad friend … that’s a gift given for your benefit, not theirs. For them, if they don’t like the book, it’s a source of stress.

      Sharing books should be a pleasure, not a need!

      • RabbitRabbit said:

        Thiiiiiis so much. Just as friends are not necessarily transitive, the same is true for all interests between friends.

      • Vicki said:

        Yes. I posted about books I read recently, and what I thought of them, to Dreamwidth a few days ago. My girlfriend mentioned it, and said that she’d wanted to comment on one of them, but forgot which. I mentioned a few options, for one of which she said “I loathe $main_character.” OK, fine, I won’t try to get her to read it, or ask her to listen to me discuss it (unlikely, I’m reading them as brain candy). But it doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, or have a lot in common–it means that along with lots of books we both like, there are some one of us likes and the other dislikes or is bored by, and that’s normal. She doesn’t expect me to like peanut butter, either.

    • If you give me your address I’ll send you a copy of The Fountainhead, and then you need to read it in full and write me a thank you note, because I so thoughtfully picked out a book for you.

      If that doesn’t sound like a thing you want to do, probably don’t force it on others.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Buying and giving indicates a much bigger level of need to share

      Then what you’re doing is not really giving a gift. You’re buying something for your friend that’s really a present for yourself.

      Now, there’s nothing wrong for actually asking a friend for a favor – that they read an entire book because it’s very meaningful to you and you want them to get what you got out of it. That’s a big ask. And if that’s what you need, then you should be ask them with your words: hey friend, this book is profound and meaningful and I would like to share it with you, could I ask you to read it?

      But just buying a book and expecting they will read the whole thing because it was a GIFT and it’s IMPORTANT and what’s WRONG with you fake-friend.. that’s not good.

  43. hbc said:

    “Now we’re both in the same graduate program (that I sort of convinced him to get into but not so much because I don’t tell him what to do anymore).” This parenthetical has me wondering. You used to tell Iago what to do? You’re still getting a pretty strong voice in his major life decisions?

    Is part of your reaction due to the belief that you knew/know Iago inside and out? Combined with the bit about him being gay and not knowing it, it almost sounds like you/mutual friends have him cast in the cute little baby brother role or something. You think you know him better than he knows himself. Then bam! This book might mean you didn’t have him nearly as figured out as you thought.

    If there’s a ring of truth to any of this, you have to take into account that it’s your own assumptions and perceptions that have caused the upheaval, not anything Iago did to betray you.

    • policychick said:

      Yes that parenthetical raised questions for me too, along with the ‘maybe he’s gay and doesn’t realize it.’ I’m not looking at the LW as generously as the Captain or other commenters are. On the other hand, regarding Iago, the whole situation is moot and LW should consider letting it go and being grateful for the friendship.

      Maybe both of them dodged a bullet.

      • tabbykat said:

        The “maybe he’s gay and doesn’t realize it,” is pretty condescending.

  44. Long time lurker, first time commenter, because some of the comments here are making my eyes bleed just a little bit.

    First, LW: You’re over-thinking all of this. All of these thoughts (was he just being friends to get into my pants?? What does this mean?) are wonderful in the moment, or writing down in a diary or journal, or in a letter to yourself to process things. But you realized a friend of 10 years who didn’t date much awkwardly tried to maybe tell you that he had feelings for you in a semi-dramatic fashion, and then never followed up. With you writing this letter, can’t imagine where he’d think you might like something semi-dramatic. He was your friend for 10 years, and stood up at your wedding. Chances are you’re either misinterpreting or he got over it and resumed your friendship. Because here’s a little tip: if he was only your friend to get into your pants, he would have stopped after your “rejection” if that’s what it was. I’ve notice that you’ve done everything other than taking the book to your friend and asking “whats up”?

    But honestly, your default to immediately suspecting betrayal and carrying those feelings concerns me a lot. Like.. a lot. Unless there were instances you’re not reporting, there’s no betrayal. And because of the drama here, I’m guessing that you probably would have reported other instances. I do apologize in advance if this seems a little harsh, but it’s no less harsh than you’re being to a friend of 10 years from a random quote you found in book.

    Pro tip: If he hasn’t dated much, he may not be gay or ace. Maybe he’s simply awkward. That awkwardness either lends itself to: expressing himself poorly in a book or asking you out in a way that was awkward. Bottom line is: it’s passed. he still your friend? He’s either over it or was never trying to get into your pants, and you’re being unnecessarily harsh.

    Now: onto some of these other comments that are immediately attacking this guy as the “Nice Guy.” In culture today, we’re way too obsessed with not distinguishing “THE Nice Guy” from “a nice guy.” A nice guy is pretty much the typical descriptor you would use in every day language. Hey, I saw you give up your seat to that pregnant lady. That was nice. Hey, you remembered my birthday. That was nice. It’s a shame that someone peed on your rug. It was nice. It tied the room together. Hey, we’re friends for 10 years and help each other through things. You’re a pretty nice person.

    This is vs. The Nice Guy, who is the actual villain. He’s there for all your breakups, hoping that the niceness points that he deposits will eventually translate into sex points.They’re not easy to spot, but even the most dedicated The Nice Guy typically will try to redeem said points earlier than 10 years, and certainly prior to a marriage. (even if that is the day before the marriage. “Hey, I was nice to you and this guy is a creep! Love me instead!”) It’s a long-term investment that makes no sense. The LW has not indicated he did anything like this, just one line in a book. Did he show up whenever there was a fight or crack in the LW’s relationship? What was his advice? Was it break up immediately or was it “hey… maybe boyfriend/husband is having a bad day.”

    The rush to assign some kind of blame or evil intentions or in some cases, actions towards the LW’s friend really makes me upset. Maybe dude did have feelings. Maybe he got over them. But to simply say “you SHOULD be betrayed” based on some kind of imagined slights…that’s really unfair. And unnecessarily harsh. Because the alternative is that this friend, who was friends with you through rough times, means so little to you that you’re willing to think the worst, right away. And that’s your burden. And maybe you should re-evaluate your feelings and what friendship is. Because defaulting to “he’s evil, burn him” is harsh.

    So, LW, if this guy was your friend, pick up the book, use your words like an adult and talk to him. Or, if he means something to you, put the book away and assume that he is your friend, as he has given you no other reason to suspect otherwise. If it’s awkward, laugh about the awkwardness. If you suspect afterwards that everything he was doing was to get into your pants, then you have a case. But right now we have a case that you’re accusing someone of not being your friend, all while ironically, not being his. You’re using him for drama.

    • JustKate said:

      I agree with this pretty much 100%. Why why why let a line or two written in a book a couple of years ago – a line or two never acted on in even the slightest way – overshadow a 10-year friendship? Ten years of support and caring and all that jazz? I just don’t get it. I get being surprised, I get even having a few uncomfortable thoughts, but blowing up a treasured friendship over this? That I just do not get.

      Personally, I wouldn’t even bring up the those one or two lines. But if you must bring them up, make your question one of simple curiosity. Whatever he meant by those words, he’s put them in the past, and frankly, so should you.

  45. Clarry said:

    I keep thinking that it matters what the book is and who the characters are. In some books the characters are one dimensional. Think of the wicked witch in a fairy tale or the handsome prince. When you go to describe their character traits, all you can think of is one thing. The prince is handsome. You don’t know if he’s good speaking in front of a crowd or if he likes dogs more than cats or if he stumbles in an adorable way when trying to tell a joke or forgets people’s names. With other books, you know a lot about the character. She’s a bit of a loner but can be quite compassionate with close friends, knows the names of all the plants when hiking, has rough manners, but people are drawn to her, frankly admits that she likes t.v. soap operas, etc. From reading the original letter, and without knowing the book, all I can think is that it’s possible that the way in which LW resembled Character-In-Book has nothing to do with her being the hero’s love interest and has something to do with almost anything else. Maybe later in the book it will be revealed that Character and LW both have the same unusual middle name, and that’s all there ever was to it.

    • hbc said:

      I can imagine situations where it’s a deliberate insult, like She Who Must Be Obeyed or something. But even if it’s a character who’s only there for sex/love (Juliet? Helen of Troy? Anastasia Steele?) so he’s clearly signaling romantic interest, it seems like it’s the romantic signal that is horrifying her rather than the particular vehicle.

    • Given that LW says she only read 10 pages, she’s actually not well placed to know much about the character!

      • B. said:

        Afterwards she appears to have read the whole thing, though.

  46. LW, a male acquaintance of mine in high school wrote an inscription (and doodled a cute cartoon self-portrait) in my yearbook that I did not grok was flirtatious / affectionate until literally 25 years later, and only by chance. In this particular case, we finished out the rest of the school year (and the year after that, IIRC) with absolutely no friction or awkwardness (because I was oblivious) and sometime later he got super-religious (became a rabbi, moved to a kibbutz in Israel, etc.) and I’m 100% sure it had nothing at all to do with me not understanding the subtext behind his inscription in my yearbook.

    If this is the biggest problem in your life right now, I am super jealous of your life, and I say that without sarcasm or malice.

  47. Lurker in the light said:

    LW, are you calling him Iago because you think he was trying to break up your relationship two years ago? That doesn’t seem likely to me. For all you know, he was positing that you were the love interest and your hubby the leading man.

    Or, do you call him Iago because you know he doesn’t like your husband and think that might be because he has a long term crush on you and is trying to break you up? That is slightly more possible, but I don’t know if anyone who could ignore such feelings enough to stand as witness to your wedding.

    I think you just have a friend.

  48. neverjaunty said:

    LW, why are you really mad at this guy? Because unless there are a lot of facts you’re leaving out here, you’re taking a moment of surprise and discomfort and building an elaborate castle of assumptions around it. Why?

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