(Resend with better subject heading)
I haven’t seen anyone write in with a similar story, so sorry if this is a repeat.
I’m having problems with a female friend that I previously had romantic feelings for. I told Friend about said feelings in late December of last year, and spent up to last week trying to get a “yes or no” on the question of reciprocated feelings, or interest to pursue things later (Friend made it clear she does not want to pursue romantic relationships until after university – we are both in Gr. 12 currently). After lots of avoiding the question and deflecting responses, the answer was determined to be no, as of last week. I feel somewhat hurt that she didn’t tell me sooner, so that I could stop further romantic advances and save us both a lot of time and embarrassment.
Long version with additional context:
I’ve generally had trouble understanding my own emotions, to the point where someone had to point out to me that I probably had feelings for Friend. As a result, I spend a good month making sure that was the case, and then another week or so to work up to nerve to tell Friend about these feelings. The telling occurred just before Christmas Break.
Shortly after the break, Friend responds saying she doesn’t know if she feels similarly towards me. I understand this, because of earlier stated emotional issues.
My thinking was that she was afraid to say no because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so I assured her that that would not be the case. (Sure, it might sting a little, but once the band-aid is ripped off it feels better.)
In an attempt to sway Friend’s response one way or the other, I gave her a poem for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t so much a love poem as a “hey I might be a potential romantic option” type of thing (I had composed the poem before any potential feelings for Friend had arisen, so it’s not I like I went out of my way to write a poem for someone who may or may not be interested in receiving it). If the reception to the poem was good, then yay! If not, well at least Friend will still be just that – a friend.
Still no change in response.
Fast forward to last week. After a long-ish talk and more reassurance that it doesn’t matter to me what the answer is, as long as Friend is honest about it, Friend finally said she didn’t see me as a potential partner.
(It’s worth mentioning that my romantic interest in Friend had diminished greatly by this point, due to other difficulties in my life)
On to the FEELINGS!
I’m not upset she said no. I’m upset she said “maybe” when she meant “no”. If she knew the whole time, and I (hopefully) created an environment where we could both be honest, why couldn’t she just say so?
In the past I had issues with boundaries (mine and other people’s), so it’s kind of a big deal to me that I respect people’s boundaries as best I can. It feels like to me, by not saying no earlier, that she didn’t tell me about a boundary she had, and I crossed that boundary multiple times. It hurts me to know how uncomfortable she must have been during my advances. And oh god the poem. It’s a mistake to give someone a Valentine’s poem if you don’t know how they’ll feel about it, and an even bigger one when you know they probably won’t appreciate it.
I tried to have a conversation with Friend about FEELINGS, but ultimately it was a monologue. It was a pretty short monologue, as I didn’t want a FEELINGSBOMB to go off. Friend’s response was along the lines of “conversations with a high emotional content make me uncomfortable so I just shut down and hope the problem goes away on its own.”
The conversation did not help things.
This letter is getting very long, so on to the point:
How can I communicate FEELINGS without it getting out of hand? How can I explain that what Friend did was hurtful without her just shutting down in the middle of the explanation? Am I getting too worked up over this?
— Hurt, Confused, and Overthinking Everything. [Male pronouns]
You sent this question to me twice in just a couple of days, which gives me some perspective into how your friend might be experiencing your multiple declarations of interest. (Note to all: Please don’t send me the same letter multiple times in a row, I don’t like it).
I think this is a good learning opportunity for you if you’ll let it be.
Because (despite your new subject line, which I left in the post) your friend can say no and did say no. And it looks like she gave you zero positive indications of being interested in you.
You’re upset with her that she didn’t say no right away, like she somehow put you in an embarrassing situation, like the fact that you kept wasting feelings and poems on her is somehow…her fault? If that’s what you think, you are telling me (and yourself, and your friend) a lie. The lie is that if she’d said no right away you would have been fine with it, but it’s only because she took her time and actually thought about it (you yourself said it took you about a month to figure out how you really felt about her, why is she also not allowed to take some time to figure it out?) that you feel embarrassed and upset. The lie is that she was somehow dishonest with you by not giving you an immediate answer. And now you’d like her to admit some responsibility for your upset feelings, feelings that she never asked for?
For the future:
- No answer = no.
- “I don’t know how I feel” = no.
- “I don’t want to date anyone right now/until after university” = no.
- “Maybe” that is not followed up with an unprompted “Yes!” = no.
- “After lots of avoiding the question and deflecting responses” = so, that’s a no, then. Also, women don’t forget when our friends ask us out. She didn’t need any reminders.
- You would have known if the answer was anything but “no.” She would have brought it up to you, she would have said things like “Yay!” and “Yes!” or “I changed my mind, let’s date!” or “I love this poem, thank you!”
Rejection sucks no matter how and when it comes. You didn’t do anything wrong by developing feelings for your friend or telling her about them, and it’s okay to be sad that this didn’t work out the way you wanted it to. It’s also okay to wish she’s said something sooner and feel embarrassed that you didn’t get the hint. Just, the decisions you made after that – to keep bringing it up, to give her a poem, especially in the face of avoidance from her – are your decisions, and yours alone.
Anyway, you definitely have your answer now. She very clearly would like to stop having any conversations with you about your romantic feelings. So, what are you going to do going forward?
Because the script you’re asking me for, the one where you try to make her apologize to you and admit some responsibility for your feelings, isn’t coming. You’re trying to get me to help you put her on the hook for saying no in a way that wasn’t exactly to your liking or your preferred timing, and I’m super not here for it.
My suggestion is: Take your feelings about this girl and tell them to a therapist, your diary, or a fellow dude friend. Write songs about it (that you don’t play for her). Write poems about it (that you don’t give her). If you need some space from hanging out with her so much, take that space, but without being a broody moody jerk to her about it – no pouting, no sighing, no passive-aggressive “fine…I guess” when she talks to you. If she’s a friend, treat her like a friend.
You will be a better and happier person if you can become a man who can develop coping skills to soothe his own hurt feelings and handle rejection without blaming or punishing the other person. You will be better at all of this going forward if you can learn to look for people who match your level of enthusiasm and communication, instead of trying to mine apathy or avoidance for the answer you want to hear. That’s your work right now, not wringing one more awkward conversation from a girl who has already told you how things are.
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