GWM student here. My problem is that I’m beginning to suspect that one of my close friends has a crush on me. I can’t be sure of it because he’s never made any kind of overt gesture, but it’s more about his hidden stares and lingering hugs. He’s a great guy, but I’m not attracted to him in that way at all. How do I let him down and stay friends? I’m inclined to wait for him to make a move and cross that bridge when we get there. Is that a good idea?
--Unsure of Unrequited Love
Fending off Friend-o-philia
I think that the way that we choose friends is in some way based on attraction. So it shouldn’t be completely surprising that your friend may be attracted to you. People on your end of the unrequited love equation usually get the raw end of the deal. No one likes to hear, “Woe is me, so and so is in love with me… Isn’t my life difficult?” Coping with unwanted excess love seems much less difficult and emotionally damaging than coping with a dearth of love. But rest assured, Unsure, that negotiating a situation where a friend wants to be more than a friend can be difficult, drawn out, and exhausting.
According to psychological studies in unrequited love relationships, the vast majority (almost 100%) of unrequited love is the result of a disparity of attraction levels (comprised of physical beauty, personality, social standing, etc.).* According to these studies, most people tend to consider themselves more attractive than they actually are. So when Boy A who is a 50 has a crush on Boy B, who is a 70. Boy A thinks himself as a 70, so he thinks that he and Boy B are a good match. But Boy B thinks himself a 90, and sees the disparity between his own attraction level and Guy A as much greater than it actually is. One of the biggest misconceptions of unrequited love is that the greatest burden of emotional stress is on the side of the pursuant of the unrequited love, Boy A. But, studies show that its Boy B that is the recipient of the most emotional stress, derived from trying to be considerate of their pursuer’s emotions. This is only exacerbated by the fact that most unrequited love occurs within friendships rather than acquaintances, making it harder for the pursued to continually rebuff advances and unrequited feelings.
My advice? Nip it, and nip it early. Even though you may not be completely sure of your friend’s feelings for you, you should make your feelings for your friend very clear and defined. A mistake many people make in these situations is to ignore the unwanted feelings and to only address them once they have become overt. Waiting for your friend to make a move is really just procrastination on your part and, frankly, a little unfair. If you’ve already identified his potential feelings, the best thing for both of you is to sit down and clearly define your relationship. Having been on the other side of the fence many a time, I can tell you the best way to get over a crush is to receive some closure and clarity in the relationship. If you leave the boundaries of your relationship murky and undefined, it just allows more room for imagination and pining, which doesn’t help anyone.
You have nothing to lose. If you’re wrong about you’re friend’s feelings, the worst that will happen is a few minutes of awkwardness. But you have the opportunity to solidify a meaningful friendship with a moment of genuine honesty.
*Please note that I am not a trained psychologist and all semi-scholarly references are just from my own reading and personal research. I concede to more qualified members of the field for more potentially accurate information. As my good friend LeVar Burton says, "Don't take my word for it... check it out yourself!"
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