I am a big believer in love within friendships and I don’t believe any friendship can survive if that platonic love is not felt on both sides, even if it is unequal in measure, it must exist. That said, as a woman who loves other women romantically, (and as someone with heterosexual friends who have friendships with men,) I have seen and experienced firsthand that sometimes one party feels a romantic love that the other party does not. This does not always mean the friendship will end, it is just an added complication to navigate.
Most unrequited feelings are unspoken. Either both parties know and they ignore it like the pink elephant in the room, or one party chooses not to disclose their feelings as they don’t want to risk losing the friendship, or because the other party is not single or there is some other obstacle that seems to make reciprocation unlikely, say for example gender or sexuality! Lol Less frequently both parties do know and acknowledge it, but awkwardly laugh it off, because, well, what else can you do? Laugh or cry right? Laughing is more fun!
As I’ve said, whatever the circumstances, this does not have to be a deal breaker for friendship, but it can have its challenges. Last week I posted about Navigating New Relationships and Old Friendships. There is an exception to every rule, and this one required its own post! Every queer woman, I think, has at least one friend in her lifetime that she wishes were more than a friend. Typically this is called a straight girl crush, although personally I think that diminishes the feelings involved. Similarly most straight women I know have had feelings for a male friend although it never quite made it to anything more than friends.
Lets face it, we can’t help who we are attracted to and who we fall for. Sometimes we have to deal with the fact that we love a certain friend in a greater capacity than they can or will ever reciprocate. This can be a heavy burden to carry for the person who is not loved in return. Feeling small, worthless and irrelevant and or undesirable, is not a pleasant feeling at the best of times, and watching that friend loving someone else can be a somewhat humiliating and damaging experience.
We all want our friends to be happy, and this is no less true in this circumstance than any other, however, when part of your heart was filled with hope that you could somehow bring that happiness to your friend or be a big part of it, learning that they have found happiness with another can be devastatingly heart breaking. Seeing them smile that smile, the one that reaches their eyes, the one you have never evoked in them, can leave you questioning your worth and value and wondering why they simply cannot see all that you are and have to offer them. It’s not easy to accept that for whatever reason, they do not want anything you are offering.
It can be even more challenging to accept that they do want what someone else is offering, particularly if that person doesn’t seem to be treating your friend as good as you imagine you have, do or would treat them. Sigh. If your friend does know about your feelings for them, you may be at an advantage, in that you can hope they will be understanding and gentle with your heart, however that will also require you to do the same. Regardless there will always be the need to smile a smile that does not reach your eyes, that masks a level of pain you probably cannot wait to get some privacy to reveal. If you’re a good friend, you will try and conceal your pain. If they know, and they are a good friend, they will acknowledge it. Hopefully, a private and reassuring hug, with a gentle conversation along the lines of “I know this isn’t easy for you, it must hurt to see me with them,” will be enough for your friend to show you that they cared about your pain and struggle, because that’s what good friends do. Notice, I did not make an apology. Nobody owes anybody an apology for being happy, and we don’t want the happy person to feel guilty about being happy. Because of this, it would be the friend with unrequited love feelings responsibility to be truthful and kind in return saying something like “Thank you for caring enough to address this. This isn’t easy for me, no, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I cry, but I am your friend and I do want you to be happy, so I want you to know, despite my difficulty with this for me personally, I am happy for you and I support you.”
If both parties can discuss it openly and gently, there is a much better chance of survival of the friendship. In this instance, the space that is created by a new relationship can actually be beneficial for both parties. Things wont be the same, and this will be more difficult for one person to handle than the other. A great sense of loss and a period of grief will be happening for one party, while the other fails to really notice at all. It’s all very unfair, but then again, so is life. Chances are we have all hurt someone in a similar unintentional way when they liked us a little more than we liked them, if we knew it or not.
A time will come, when the friend with feelings will probably be asked to meet the new partner, if the friendship is going to survive. This is a delicate and tricky situation. Personally I would rather stab myself in the eye with a fork than watch some man kiss the girl I loved, who will never love me on the sole basis that he is a man and I am not. To watch him take so easily something for which I have yearned is nothing short of humiliating. That is hard to hide, even when your poker face is as strong as mine. Lol All you can do is try not to blush and look away, casually not awkwardly, or make a joke about getting a room.
A key thing to remember is that your friend is not trying to hurt you, it isn’t malicious and if you can’t get on board, you can’t be friends. You can however, use it as motivation to put your energy into finding love with someone who CAN reciprocate, now that you have closure on that situation. Acceptance will be slow, but it will come.
If you are the friend in the new relationship, and you know or even just suspect that your friend has feelings for you…go easy. Try not to rub your happiness in your friends face. You can and should talk about your new relationship, just be respectful and gentle and understanding if your friend finds it hard to hide some of their pain or discomfort. If you choose to tell your new partner about your friends feelings for you, you probably shouldn’t tell your friend about that, as they will only feel the new partner is parading you around them as some trophy they didn’t win. (I personally hate wondering if the friend in question and her new partner have a chuckle at my expense about how much I wanted what I couldn’t have. My feelings are not a joke to me. But I always did take myself a bit seriously! Lol) The truth is, your friend already feels defeated, and rejection shouldn’t be a public event. Plus, you want your friend and your partner to like each other, so it’s probably unwise to share the info. It’s not actually relevant at this point anyway, although how your friend is coping is relevant! Make sure you are checking in and make extra effort to still make time and give your friend attention. Not because you feel sorry for them, but because you acknowledge that your friend is going through a tough time and you want to show you still care.
If your friend doesn’t know you had unrequited feelings, control your jealousy. You chose not to disclose how you felt then, so you don’t really have any place to disclose it now. Don’t sabotage things or cause drama, deal with your feelings, if you need to, with a psychologist. Your feelings matter, they just don’t change anything. Try not to get lost in your pain and unhappiness and direct your time and thoughts to brighter things. Wish your friend well.
At the end of the day, you are friends. That is a beautiful wonderful connection and it needs to be enough. It is! Care about each other as much as you can, even if it feels like it is a personal expense to do so. It wont be easy, but hopefully it will be worth it!!! You do love each other, whatever that means… it does mean something!! In fact it means everything!
Your Best Friend ForNever