Thanks to what I’ve read on your site, as well as some personal developments in my life, I have better self-esteem and feel secure about myself…most of the time anyway.
I am a 20 year old college student and right now, I feel really awful for suspecting that my best friend is sleeping with a girl I once had extreme feelings for.
Here’s a bit of context:
There’s this girl I’m friends with who I had a really big crush on. My obvious displays of affection might have annoyed her but she was actually really nice to me the day I finally worked up the courage to tell her how I felt, a year and a half ago. Obviously, she rejected me but we remained friends. Sure, I felt uncomfortable being around her in the past (especially when she talked at lengths about her past sexual partners) but I actually consider her to be one of my closest pals.
This girl is also friends with my best friend. For a while, my best friend was the only person I ever hung out with. Back when I had feelings for her, my best friend was the only person I could confide in. He knows every single feeling I’ve ever felt for this girl and knew how hard it was for me to get over her. My friend is the epitome of confidence and doesn’t mind sharing with me tips on how to boost my own self-esteem.
I admittedly have no proof that these two are sleeping with each other. I have noticed though that they send long texts to each other, my friend mentions times they hung out one-on-one and the other day, my friend made a birthday reminders list and put a “heart” next to her name.
There are a few things on my mind:
1) I feel rotten for accusing my friends.There’s a chance that I’m just getting carried away and that these two are just acting as two friends do.
2) If they are sleeping together, I couldn’t really handle them being a couple. It’d feel really awkward hanging out with them and having that picture, of them being intimate, in my head.
3) I feel really betrayed by my friend but at the same time, I realize that my friend has nothing to apologize for. It’s been almost two years since I got rejected by this girl so my statute of limitations on “who gets dibs” has certainly expired. He probably likes her for the reasons I do. Besides, this girl said she didn’t want me and I have to respect that. It’s none of my business who she is or isn’t sleeping with (I guess it also bothers me that I’m not as “over her” as I believed myself to be).
4) Maybe my real issue is that I’m jealous that my friend is a good looking guy who is super confident and easily woos girls, including the one I really wanted but couldn’t have. I know it’s wrong to compare myself to him and I shouldn’t be so insecure but it still sort of hurts that I’ll never be him and he may have burned me like this.
My big question for you Dr., is how can I maturely handle this? Am I wrong for suspecting my friends? If hypothetically, my suspicions are correct, should I tell them give them the same specific reasons for why their romance bothers me?
These are two great people I care about and I know care about me. If they are sleeping together, I know they aren’t doing this to spite me, but what’s the best way to solve this problem? I’m curious to know what you think.
Razed and Confused
Right, there’s a lot to dig through here, so let’s take it piece by piece.
First and foremost: this is going to sound cold, but it’s something you need to hear: it doesn’t matter whether or not your friend is sleeping with your crush or not. That’s between the two of them, and ultimately not your business. What you need to do is quit playing amateur Love Detective and trying to figure out whether they are or they aren’t because the answer is going to be the same either way. Either they are and you have to deal with the fact that she’s dating someone who’s not you… or they aren’t but you’re still going to have to deal with the fact that she’s dating someone who’s not you because she’s going to be eventually if she isn’t already.
Secondly: this is isn’t about them, it’s about you. At the core, the issue the issue here isn’t whether or not your best friend is hooking up with her but the fact that you aren’t letting yourself get over her. You’ve got Oneitis and you’ve got it bad, and that’s affecting your judgment and making you miserable for no good reason.
Sure, part of the problem is that you’re jealous of your friend – and trust me, been there, done that, built a career out of it – but the bigger part of it is that you still think of her as “yours”, and that’s a problem. You even say it in your letter: you’re upset because you’re seeing him sleeping with your crush as something being done to you. This pain comes from the belief that you’re being betrayed, that he’s strayed into an area that he was not allowed to go. But here’s the thing you need to remember: you don’t get to call dibs on someone. Period. There’s no statute of limitations (although it’s polite for someone not to do it immediately after you’ve been rejected); they’re both independent people and they’re free to make their own choices. The fact that you like someone doesn’t give you the right to control or dictate their choices. If she’s decided that she’s into your friend… well, that sucks, but you really don’t get to dictate who is and isn’t allowed to date her. This is especially true when you’ve stepped up to the plate and struck out. She’s made her choice clear, and now the only thing you can do is respect it and start learning to let it go.
And believe me, two years of hanging on after a rejection? That’s not a healthy thing to do to yourself… and that leads us to the next issue: This covert investigation you’re doing is part of how you’re keeping yourself from letting go. Your constant reading of the tea leaves is about keeping ahold of her. Either she’s not sleeping with your friend and you still have an infinitesimal chance of pulling out a win (you don’t) or she is and this becomes another chapter in how life is unfair and you’ve been fucked over by fate and your buddy’s incessant good looks and charm.
So what do you do about all of this? Well… you let it all go. Don’t bring it up to your friends. Stop trying to figure things out. Stop holding on to this crush. And stop comparing yourself to your friend.
Yes, it’s a shame that you loved and lost. That happens, and odds are it’s going to happen again, just like it does to everyone. What you need to do is recognize that this is a sign that the two of you were ultimately not right for one another and you’re now free to find someone who is right for you. There are millions of women in the world and there will be more than you can imagine who are just as awesome – if not moreso – than your crush. The sooner you start to recognize that those other women are out there, the less you’ll focus on this one wrong person and find the ones who are right.
And part of that is going to be recognizing that you and your buddy are very different people and comparing yourself to him is just going to make you miserable. Comparison is the thief of joy, and trying to use your friend as a yardstick for what you “should be” is just a recipe for looking for external validation instead of working on being your best self. Instead of looking at him and what he’s doing and wishing you had it as easy as he did, focus on you. I’m a living example that you can learn to be more confident and charming. It may not be “fair” that some folks are naturally gifted but life isn’t fair. Life is just life; fairness never enters the equation.
Right now, you’re stealing your future happiness from yourself by hanging on to your envy and your Oneitis. The time you’re spending concerning yourself with the one who got away is time you could be spending improving yourself, meeting other people and becoming someone that other people are going to be envious of. The sooner you let this all go, the sooner your new future can begin.
Hey Dr. NerdLove, I think if anyone could use advice it’d probably be me.
I’m a high school girl with the unfortunate combination of an entirely non-straight group friends, plus some queer traits of my own, and Southern Baptist parents who would react to that information with disapproval. And then there’s my best friend; a transgender guy with, I’m reasonably sure, a significant other and no knowledge of my being anything other than as straight as the Way from Middle-earth to Valinor. I bet you can guess what’s coming – I think I like my friend in an entirely non-platonic sense.
And, as if that weren’t difficult enough, my parents are okay with my having LGBTQ-friends – but they’ve noticed and expressed concern over the fact that they seem to be my only friends. (Bad influence or something, I don’t know.) In short, they’ll be happy when the school year is over and, to the best of my knowledge, I will no longer have a class with this particular friend of mine. Think Romeo and Juliet, but Romeo doesn’t fall for Juliet, and as far as Juliet knows, he’s still head-over-heels for Rosaline. (Also Lord Capulet is all right with Romeo coming by every once in a while, but it had better not become a habit.)
I’d be over the moon if I even thought I had a shot at making this work out, but it’s not just a bump or two in the road; it’s flashing lights, roadblocks that stretch a thousand miles, and workers waving signs that read “DETOUR – ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING.” It’s not a one-in-a-million chance; it’s a one-in-a-two-to-the-74,207,281st-power-minus-one chance.
So, anyway, how do I act around my friend? If he’s in a relationship with someone else, as I believe, I don’t want to say or do anything that could ever possibly interfere with that. And even if he’s not, I’m still terrified that I’ll end up spoiling a perfectly good friendship in which I’m supremely happy already. It seems like a game where the only winning move is not to play, and just settle for what I have, but that sounds like the sort of stupid logic you see in bad romantic comedies.
And in the meantime, how do I deal with my parents? I obviously want to keep spending time with my friend, and honestly I’m already delighted enough that a genuinely lovely person whom I like a lot also puts up with me as a friend, but, equally obviously, this won’t be that much of an option in the future without a lot of trickery or a miracle. My parents aren’t at all bad people; they just want me to have “healthy” and “normal” friends because they think it’ll be good for me. (Also, standing up to them about this is just Not An Option.) I’m a freshman whose greatest freedom in life is being allowed to walk home from school by herself. My version of “want to go see a movie” would be “want to go up to the school library and mess with the computers.”
So, in other words, I don’t know what to do, mostly because I’m a coward and my parents are Christians. Any advice would be appreciated.
A Truly Shakespearean Tragicomedy
You’re not a coward, AT-ST. You’re just young and in an uncomfortable situation and in the middle of the bubbling crucible of drama that is high-school. Everything feels epic and dramatic and world-ending and you feel like you’re kind of hanging on with your fingernails. But believe me: it’s not as insane as you might think. Let’s take a deep breath and roll it from the top.
First: your friend. You don’t know whether or not he’s got a significant other or not. This is an easy fix: you use your words and ask him out. It’s not a big deal – just say “hey, would you like to go on a date?” If he says no, it’ll sting, but it won’t be the end of the world. If he has a boyfriend or a girlfriend, it’ll sting but it won’t be the end of the world. And if he says “yes”… well, yahtzee! You’ve got yourself a date!
Want to keep it from being weird if he says no or “I’m seeing someone”? Then… don’t make it weird. Just say “ok, cool!” and let things continue as they have been before. The fact that you like somebody in a non-platonic way doesn’t need to be a big deal. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or enjoy each other’s company afterwards. In fact, being able to put yourself out there and take rejection without drama is a valuable skill that speaks to a person’s maturity. This will serve you well over your lifetime, so developing it early is a good idea.
(Also: don’t take dating too seriously in high-school. I get that everything feels intense and all, but trust me: you’re going to look back and laugh at how much people got worked up over it. College is where the game really begins.)
Now, as for your parents… that’s a trickier one. You’re a freshman, which means they have far more influence over you than they would if you were 18 and about to go off to college or live on your own. Part of the question is just how disapproving they are. If they’re uncomfortable with your social circle but otherwise not trying to keep you away from them, that’s one thing. If they’re likely to make demands about who you can and can’t be friends with or punish you for being queer and having queer friends, that’s quite another. In the former, there’s not really a downside to continuing onward as you are, if keeping things low key. Keep their trust and you’ll have more flexibility and options as you get older. If the latter… well, the best thing you can do is keep your head down for the next few years, say all the right things and keep things until you turn 18 and they really can’t dictate your life the way they can now.
In both cases, I’d also start getting used to managing some information security; locking down your social media (or having dummy profiles), deleting emails, clearing your browser history (or using Incognito mode) daily and using communication apps that delete your messages and the like. In a worst case scenario, this’ll help keep them off your back if they go snooping. In the best case? It’s good practice for the future anyway.