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Staying Friends When You Wanted More

“Don’t wait for feelings to change to take action. Take action the action and your feelings will change.” ~Barbara Baron

Paul and I had been acquaintances for eight years. When I opened the door to his office one afternoon to offer our usual casual hello, an alchemical change packed a walloping charge through my body.

When had my coworker become a handsome man with whom I suddenly wanted to share more than impersonal cafeteria trays in a crowd?

I’m not sure what flipped the switch for me, but I’d already cheered him when he ran two marathons, listened when his wife left and they divorced, and written while he lived abroad twice serving a medical charity.

We’ve raised money for causes and exchanged myriad e-mails about jobs, travels, and our families—my sister’s marriage, his siblings’ children being born.

While my sudden unspoken desire was to deepen our intimacy, Paul’s signals proved alternately encouraging then confusing.

A promised lunch together that fell through due to sickness; a lingering smile at my door one day turned into distracted “gotta run, department meeting” the next.

Just as I began to understand that he wasn’t interested in me in that way, he’d come back, affectionate and confiding. His long-distance girlfriend had broken up with him or his relative was terminally ill. I’d hug him, nothing further needing to be said.

Nothing further is exactly how our relationship played, while, to my great consternation, we hit a plateau between consolation and water cooler repartee.

Last spring, Paul mentioned a woman he’d met at a conference. Something in his voice gave me the courage to ask if he was dating her. Truthfully, after his honest affirmation, Paul was the last person I wanted to spend more than five minutes with.

Is it possible to make the leap back to platonic good-will? And how?

Seven months later, I’ve discovered I can approach Paul and even enjoy his company for short stretches.

Here are the steps from disappointment to personal growth and healing:

1. Take time alone to collect yourself. Take time to forgive.

After years of feeling more than I acknowledged, I didn’t take it well when I learned about Paul’s new girlfriend. My roommate found me curled up on the sofa, breaking spontaneously into what I call “the ugly cry.” My appetite swan-dived. Insomnia was my only sleeping companion.

Immediately, I abbreviated contact with Paul.  No more hanging around at the end of the day to chitchat. No e-mail, no notes, no calls. Yes, it was painful, after many years of chatting up Paul whenever I thought of him or wanted to know what was going on in his life, but I also stopped dwelling.

I started volunteering for a children’s charity. I took a hiking trip with friends. I reconnected with family. I read more novels than I thought possible.

I also journaled for the first time in years. For two weeks straight, I woke to write five blessings.

What started out as “I’m so happy I don’t have to face Paul today with puffy eyes and this knot in my heart” turned into observations of my cousin’s laughter, my neighbor’s new puppy’s floppy ears, a test drive of a car I didn’t need to buy, the pearlescent purples of a sunset.

I enjoyed simple pleasures and took time alone to connect with and savor what is. Most of all, I needed to exercise the same compassion and tenderness towards myself that I offer to others.

2. Realize that feelings are fleeting.

My first reaction to Paul’s dating: betrayal. A stream of questions haunted me: what if he marries this woman? They’ll have a baby. They’ll buy a house to remodel together and get a dog. I ran every irrational, worst-case scenario.

Deep breaths and mindful meditation cooled my mind enough to realize that worst-case scenarios serve no one. Disappointment cannot be ignored and yet, like any emotion, it is a passing state, undulating like waves to the shoreline.

We are impermanent beings in flux, and we cannot expect either our relationships or those in our lives to remain static. It was unrealistic of me to believe that Paul would always have time to talk on the phone or share a lunch much less that he would somehow choose to remain single without knowing, forthrightly, my feelings for him.

While I could not rewind time and ask him out directly, I started to see my own irrationalities and inconsistencies as part of what had brought me to this path. My new yearnings, though seemingly powerful, were as fluctuating as those storm-tossed waves.

3. Practice non-attachment: know that one doesn’t own good qualities.

I mourned certain things about Paul during our friendship hiatus: his kindness toward patients, worried families, and all others who crossed his path; his mindfulness of his leadership role; his natural warmth and ability to cheer anyone. Those qualities which attracted me to Paul, I realized, do not solely belong to him.

They were qualities that, had you asked my friends or family, I might be said to possess and that I might say they possess, too. If I could grow to love Paul (who I’d envisioned only as a friend for so long) and his kindness and intelligence, then there would be someone else with as much kindness and intelligence.

Six weeks after Paul‘s admission, I met Brian. His humor and insights captivated me. We hiked, we shared long phone conversations, and we offered everyday observations that left us both in stitches. We dated for three months, and while it ultimately didn’t work out after his move for a new job, my time with Brian taught me that my focus had changed from “Life after Paul” to life itself.

I didn’t need to hold fast to Brian to learn from him, just like I don’t need to date Paul to appreciate him and have him in my life, albeit in a new capacity.

4. Play the no-blame game.

As much as I wanted to focus on the sting of rejection and the injustice of Paul not going out with me, the reality is that we’ve all been on the rejecter’s end as well as the rejectee’s.

Paul meant no harm to me. As much as I didn’t want to hear that Paul had chosen to spend his romantic energy on another woman, his intentions had never been to hurt or frustrate me. I have never doubted Paul’s respect for me nor his goodwill towards all sentient beings; as such, he could not lie just to spare my feelings or curb my disappointment.

That respect, though not easy for either of us, is a true surviving gift. Similarly, be respectful and compassionate toward yourself. There are still some days when I see him that I feel attracted. I talk myself through it. I meditate. I call a friend for a walk. I offer forgiveness to myself and practice mindfulness until the feelings pass.

5. Form new boundaries and a new understanding.

In the past, I’ve cut two exes out of my life. As I reach my mid-thirties, I realize the importance not just of those who are on our “good side” but also acquaintances who teach precious lessons at the precise times we need them.

Paul and I have shared too many years to ignore that we care about each other, still we cannot continue in our old patterns any longer. I’ve also adjusted my expectations—I no longer interpret every smile as a possible pass. Indeed, there’s some relief in this; a smile is just a smile.

Mostly, I consider the value of slowly rebuilding our connection. At first, it was painful to look into his eyes while offering a brief good morning. Just like a child who has fallen off a bike after the training wheels are taken off, it can be daunting to climb back on, balance, and pedal away; but that’s how it’s happened.

We’ve pushed through awkwardness and eased into safe and friendly topics—music, sports, even family—and exercised new boundaries, too.

I don’t talk about his girlfriend, and he no longer hints about my love life. I respect that he has a lady love so I won’t be e-mailing him flirty texts at midnight, and he won’t be asking me if I’d like to go see the new action film with him. It’s an adjustment, but not an impossible one.

Whatever the future holds for Paul, and for me, we have the present company and compassionate understanding that comes from knowing each other for a decade. I need not worry about tomorrow or a perceived lost past. Right now is a listening ear, a nod, a moment shared between reconnected friends—and that is enough to meet this day.

Photo by Aaron Jacobs

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About MK Miller

MK Miller has two degrees and limitless curiosity. She has written about a wide array of topics– including the cultural significance of go-go boots. She rides her bike almost daily, pays bills monthly, and collects books and shoes perennially.

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  • Kiquine

    I can relate to this post so much. I also have what I can only describe as an infatuation with someone, coincidentally also called Paul, who I know through work. It all began over two years ago with flirting, mostly over the phone, but developed into a friendship as we get on and like each other. He then revealed the details of his very complicated personal life – he is separated but living in the same house as his wife and feels unable to leave due to her illness. Wouldn’t any sensible person run a mile from someone in this situation? I do my best to stay away and tell myself that it is pointless and inappropriate to have feelings for him. But just last weekend we were both on a very late and quiet shift and chatted for a long time which I really enjoyed but which I now feel was a big mistake. Since then I have not been able to stop thinking about him … again.
    I feel like I go round in circles, we chat, we connect, I start thinking about him, I spend my time trying to forget him or keep all contact strictly business and I’m quite successful, I lower my guard, we talk again and oops, here I am back to square one. What frustrates me is my inability to control my feelings. If I tell friends about my dilemma they just say “he’s married, forget it”, which is actually what I constantly tell myself. If only it was that simple.

  • http://keishuathoughts.blogspot.com/ Lekeishua Arthur

    Are you reading my heart? I really appreciated your tips. Rebuilding after heartbreak is not easy. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe, we need to take a step back and get a wider view. We dance in eternity.

    “This place is a classroom. Why not take the curriculum?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qfm_qv-HQXI&fmt=18

  • guest

    This doesnt work… u cant be friends with someone who isnt a friend..
    ultimately the sharks of the old thing keep haunting u until u urself decide to kill them..
    otherwise the sharks will eat u up ..
    life is short … be happy abt it and live to ur max…
    kill those sharks and invest in new flowers for ur own good..
    thats the key to a gud life..

  • http://twitter.com/mayasaputra Maya Saputra

    thanks so much for the article! it came on the right time =)

  • MK

    Thanks so much for your feedback, Kiquin. It touches my heart that you have gone through this, also. I wish you well and great peace with your Paul. Namaste.

  • MK

    I am honored and touched to hear that, Maya. Thank you. I hope it can help your life, too.

  • MK

    Thanks for your feedback and perspective, guest.

  • MK

    I can empathize and understand, Lakeishua Arthur. I am humbled that maybe I can help a few others with my own experience. Wishing you peace and harmony today. Namaste.

  • lala

    I am pretty sure the point of MK’s post is NOT to engage in killing of any sort, and to reframe one’s perspective.

  • lh

    I so needed to see this — you answered questions I hadn’t even thought of. I need to keep this close at hand for the next while. Thank you so much.

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  • Ann Marie

    I was friends with a man for 3 years. Similar to the writer, one day his chaste kiss good-bye sent an electric shock through my body. A few weeks later came the tough talk – “I don’t want to lose our friendship, but my feelings for you go beyond friendship.” We promised each other we would always respect our friendship, but we both wanted to move forward.
    Three years later, it became painfully clear to me that we were in different places in our lives & wanted different things. I ended the relationship. We spent time together for a couple of months afterwards, neither of us knowing how to not have the other in our lives. One day a breaking point came for me and I told him I needed to be away from him. He cried, begged me not to leave. I told him that if our friendship was to survive, I needed time and space away.
    It wasn’t easy, but 6 months later we were back in each other’s lives. For a year or so it was awkward at times. But now, 10 years later, it is as it was before…a wonderful friendship based on respect, affection, & common interests. He recently had double bypass surgery. I’ve been seeing him everyday for lunch and going for a walk with him. I help him with putting his shoes & socks on, he teases me about being bossy. We are going to celebrate Thanksgiving together — my first ever as head cook.
    Bottom line for us was the friendship was first and foremost always. While our love relationship didn’t last, our friendship teaches me everyday – good and bad – that love is all that matters.

  • Matt D

    I really appreciate you sharing all this. It’s really clear that you’re trying exceptionally hard and are working through this to the best of your ability.

    I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I think it’s also pretty clear that you’re in a tremendous amount of pain, and it sounds like though you’re doing your best and are trying to fight your way through it, that’s the predominant thing I got out of this post. I can’t really read this without reading between the lines and seeing that it’s coming from someone who is having an extremely difficult time. It’s breaking my heart to read over this and know how much you’re struggling. I read over the suggestions you made, and no matter how much sense they make or how much practical application they have, what keeps hitting me the hardest is knowing it’s coming from you who, by yourself, are trying to cope with this as well as you possibly can.

    I would like to suggest something additional to: just crying. We’re born with genitals and we develop sex drives, and it seems like intimacy and affection are biological needs like food. At the end of the day, with food, clothing and shelter, we have warmth and fuel to survive. But I believe life is about more than just surviving.

    You can get past this, and work through it, but I know the pain is still there. I think there are a lot of things in life that we simply can’t provide for ourselves; food, for example, and intimacy and love. We can love ourselves to a very full extent, but I know it’s not enough to wipe all that pain away.

    Plenty of people go their whole lives without much intimacy, and without much real love; plenty of people die without ever having experienced a full life with these things. I just accept this, because it’s reality and I have to accept it if I want to feel any sense of peace, but at the same time, I have hope that that will somehow change in the future, even if it’s in the distant future.

    You’re posting this to a blog; I think this is proof enough that we do need community, that we do need others, to love us. I think intimate relationships are a special form of love as well, and I do think there’s just as much of a need as all the other kinds of relationships. The absence of that in someone’s life is usually a cause for a lot of pain; just like the absence of food is very painful.

    I would like to say that I think you deserve to be in a loving and intimate relationship, and also that no one, including yourself, should expect the burden of meeting all your needs for deep love and support to be completely on yourself. You can work through it as best you can; you can be strong; you can even maintain a friendship with him. You can do all these things, but that can’t change your basic wiring as a human being who has needs that are greater than that. You’re experiencing pain that isn’t your fault, and efforts of free will to alleviate it seems like someone trying to convince themselves that starvation isn’t painful.

    I have no doubts of your ability to work through this situation and to make the best of it. I do, however, feel like the “ugly cry” is a completely natural thing to do in this situation. In my mind I thought “the human cry” because I don’t think it’s ugly; it’s completely normal and natural to be devastated by something like this, and to cry about it. Grief is natural for having a basic need taken away from you or withheld from you. People would cry about losing their job, or their house, or if there was a food shortage. These are all very serious problems. But being deprived of intimate love is also a very serious problem, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

    I believe there are things that love and intimacy shared with another person can provide for you, that no person alone is capable of providing for themselves. As I said, though, I know many people go their entire lives without this, which I really think is tragic.

    What’s the end result of what I’m saying?

    If you can’t do anything at all about it and you’re simply stuck here, I would like to say that, for whatever it’s worth, even if nothing changes, I want you to know that I believe you deserve that love and intimacy as a basic human need, and I think it’s natural to grieve very heavily over what has happened with Paul. I agree that playing the no-blame game is very good advice; it isn’t Paul’s fault, and it isn’t your fault — it isn’t your fault for how his feelings played out, and it also isn’t your fault that this is so painful and difficult to work through.

    I hope that someday you find the right person for you, and can share the rest of your life with them. I hope you don’t mind me stating my personal beliefs — please excuse me for saying it, but my personal belief is that God understands that you were created as a human being and he understands how painful these things are for you, and also, exactly why they’re so painful. I think God takes all of these things into account, and that you’re not ultimately suffering in silence; somewhere in God’s infinite memory, I believe there is a place for you where he knows all these things you’ve suffered.

    My main message here is that I want you to have sympathy for what you’re experiencing, that I believe you have every right to be angry and to cry, and that the burden for resolving all of this grief can’t lie on your shoulders alone. You can’t expect a child to give himself all the love and support that’s supposed to come from his parents. I don’t think anyone who has emotional damage or trauma can be expected to give themselves all the love and support that they need either, when that trauma always comes from one way or another in being severely deprived of basic human needs. No one should have to suffer so long like this.

    Thanks again for sharing. I apologize for the long-winded post. I pray that you’ll be comforted during this time and that this will all be reconciled in the future — and not just within yourself, but in a physical reality shared with another person, in an intimate relationship where you can have this comfort and support and fulfillment as you really deserve it.

  • KARO

    THANK YOU MATT D……….WARM TEARS STREAMED DOWN MY CHEEKS AS I READ YOUR POST….NAMASTE XXX

  • N

    hello MK and Matt D. thank you so much for your perspectives. i am going through a similar situation right now. it is so difficult because he is in love with someone else. and we used to be friends and i had feelings for him but things got complicated. it left me quite heartbroken to be honest. but i care about him so much that i want him in my life.
    but your views give me hope that i will be able to get over this difficult situation. it is tough when i see them together. it angers, confuses and irritates me, other times i just accept it. i keep going back and forth.
    but i realize now, i have to take control of the situation and not react to them. i have my own life and have to learn to be more present in my life.
    this i find difficult at times but i am trying.

    anyway thanks for the wonderful post :)

  • Amina

    Thank you.

  • MK

    Thank you for this beautiful reply, Ann Marie. I’m glad your friendship remains and has taught you something new and important each day.

  • MK

    I greatly appreciate your thoughtful post, Matt D. I find much in your posting that is both encouraging and sincere. I especially like how you note that the “ugly cry” should just be “human cry.” I’d never thought of that before, but I do so agree. Thank you again for taking the time to write such a heartfelt and honest reply.

  • MK

    Me, too, Karo.

  • MK

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through something similar, N. I wish you great courage and hope as well as self-care at this difficult transitioning time. I am humbled that my perspectives might help you at this time. Namaste.

  • radiant P

    MK I really feel for you and think you have been so noble and understanding and worked so hard to put your own pain and ego aside to do what you think is needed and right for Paul who you obviously care for deeply.
    One part particularly hit a nerve for me and I hope that mentioning it doesn’t upset you- but when you said that he had ‘chosen to spend his romantic energy on another woman’. That pain to me is just ubearable. You quite clearly have such a beautiful, thoughtful temperament and an deep intimacy with Paul and yet I am stuck in that place- unable to get over that part in a similar situation where I know the costs of trying to be a friend to an ex and cling on to a superficial level of friendship are outweighing the pain it is causing me to continue to contact this person. If I just submitted to things, accepted and let go, I know he wouldn’t force a friendship that doesn’t feel right when so much has happened. But I feel I have poured so much energy into crawling inside his mind to understand why what he did hurt me, I’ve almost been bingeing on books of buddhist wisdom- about being that rock as the emotions and thoughts subside, about being happy that it happened and not clinging etc but it’s like I just can’t face the pain.
    There’s one thing I just don’t understand- if nothing is permanent anyway- are relationships just a series of mirrors that help us understand ourselves and give us a taste of those needs being met? I’ve not been married (I’m 25) but I just can’t understand how to incorporate the idea of non-attachment into building a dependent long-term relationship with someone and getting a dog!? I left a four month relationship 8 months ago and the hurt of that itself was so much, I can’t fathom how that pain would be multiplied if I’d been married for 20 years and that person had promised to love me forever.
    The pain seems to come from the thought that someone can chose someone else over me- their essence, and that should feel good- when someone picks you to be with for who you are-should you aim not feel good when that happens just as you should aim not to let sorrow change you either? The pain of someone choosing someone else’s unique essence over mine is what kills me. For it isnt the kindness and intelligence i still love in this man, its the person that makes him him and I don’t know what to do with these feelings just because the possibility of a relaitonship is futile. Should you stop loving someone just because they are unable to meet your needs? Is it all about what they can provide us and the chance of it lasting long-term? because if nothing is permanent then that shoudn’t really matter.
    I’m so confused :( My plan at the moment is to give this man all the time he needs, then to hope that whilst im not fixating on the pain he caused me, I’ll learn to address this sadness by being still and accepting myself. Hopefully in time, I will be able to be a light-hearted friend and we can exchange anecdotes about patients and even enquire about each others current partners in a respectful way. I guess it’s true what someone said on here about focusing on the how to forgive is equally destructive as holding on to the blame and I just need to make the painful decision to accept he doesn’t feel the way I do, he doesn’t understand how I could be in this much pain and I am hurting him by trying to use his help to come to terms with it. I need to just let go and trust that if there is a friendship there it will come back in it’s own time, because we were friends first and foremost.

  • Jennifer_oviedo87

    This is lovely…. while I was reading your words, I felt that you have had read my mind, my emotions, and my future expectations…. I had a similar experience, just that the person that I was loving; he actually got married and he is having a baby….. it was awful but I am thankful with life because that experience is teaching me so much. Its letting me appreciate things differently, but most important I is showing me how human I am, how sensible I can be.

  • Jennifer_oviedo87

    This is lovely…. while I was reading your words, I felt that you have had read my mind, my emotions, and my future expectations…. I had a similar experience, just that the person that I was loving; he actually got married and he is having a baby….. it was awful but I am thankful with life because that experience is teaching me so much. Its letting me appreciate things differently, but most important I is showing me how human I am, how sensible I can be.

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  • MK

    Thanks so much for your kind message, Jennifer. I’m sorry to hear that you have had a painful experience, but glad that, as you say, “that experience is teaching me so much…letting me appreciate things differently.” What a growth experience! Wishing you well. Namaste!

  • MK

    Your post deeply touched me, radiantP, and I’m so glad you posted. :) Thank you. It can be so frustrating and painful when one person spends energy and great care trying to understand the other and yet still gets hurt when the other person just cannot understand or reciprocate. I am glad that you have been reading Buddhist books and trying your best to work through the experience. You are taking positive steps to healing. I wish I knew one particular text that would make all of the meaning of your suffering clear– if any other readers do, that would be wonderful to share. I identify with what you are asking: “if nothing is permanent anyway- are relationships just a series of mirrors that help us understand ourselves and give us a taste of those needs being met?” From my own experiences, I would say the mirror analogy is pretty apt. I, personally, don’t feel that any experience is wasted, and that something can be learned, even out of undesirable emotions. I tend to view impermanence as a helpful reminder to be less anxious and more loving in each moment, but that might just be my own outlook. I feel for you for having to go through such sorrow and confusion, and I wish for you that giving this man time will also soon create a space of peace and gentle acceptance in your own life. Take care. Namaste!

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  • Medha

    I totally agree with the step #3 above — “Practice non-attachment: know that one doesn’t own good qualities”. I have tried this thought process earlier while feeling intensely about someone who I know won’t reciprocate my feelings. Although I must say that unless you actually meet someone else who too possesses those good qualities and reciprocates your love, it’s hard to put this thought process into practice and move on.

    Overall a nice post and the 5 steps to move on do make sense. :)

  • Mk

    Thank you for your kind reply, Medha. I wish you all the best. Namaste!

  • Cometchrome

    i love this article! i am going through something very similar right now and it was exactly what I needed to read to get through this difficult time. it is so good to have the feeling that life goes on, which is exactly how I feel after reading this. what a blessing!

  • Mk

    Thank you for your kind response, Cometchrome. I am grateful to hear that my experiences were helpful to you in your current situation and have given you the feeling that life goes on. :) All best to you and may each day find you more blessed! Namaste.

  • India Preston

    This so reflects what I am going through right now, how I need to disengage from the person who is trampling all over my heart, and has done again and again for the past year…..its the hardest thing I have ever done but I know I can do it, I have good friends who can get me throught this mess…..and the emotional fallout from the break up…..

  • Mk

    I am humbled that my words reflect what you are going through, India Preston. May my insights and suggestions prove helpful to you in your journey. Namaste.

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  • Deuberj

    Wow. Like so many others have commented, I needed this right now. Best friends and next door neighbors for 6 years, together as a couple for 1 year promising a future and partnership forever… to him saying he isn’t sure we should be together. I’m still not giving up hope (this happened 4 days ago) and I’m praying that he will find his way back to US with some time and distance (hard to do when you live next door!). Your words, your insight, and those of Matt D will get me through today… and then I’ll read them again tomorrow in hopes that I make it one more.. and so on.

  • jay

    this is such a good article something i really need right now! thankyou !

  • MK

    I am humbled that my words can be with you in your time of pain and hope. Wishing you a good future and all the best for each moment. Namaste, Deuberj, and thank you for your kind comments.

  • MK

    I am glad that you found insight from my article for your own life experiences. I appreciate you taking the time to say so, Jay, and I wish you peace of mind in your current situation. All good things to you. Namaste! :)

  • http://urbansoulretrieval.com Quinn W

    This is beautiful writing full of clarity. I think what you say here can be true for any type of relationship, romantic or not. It is all about respecting our boundaries and remembering our SELF before merging with another.

  • MK

    Thank you, Quinn W. I hadn’t thought of my thoughts applying to non-romantic relationships, too, but you know what– you’re right! :) I appreciate your kind feedback. Namaste!

  • Desiraani

    Like many before me, I to am going through an similar situation right now and it lightened me to read this. While my Paul is inescapable at the moment, working in the same room with me for most of the day, it is helpful to read that yourself and others have dealt with this and moved on, friendship changed but intact.

  • MK

    Thank you for your kind comment about my article, Desiraani. It humbles and touches me that my words lightened you. I think you’re right– it does help to read that others have dealt with similar situations in friendships and have found a way to be at peace with the situation as it is or as it evolves. May you find such peace. Namaste!

  • Jcscandy247

    I wish I had read this sooner! I had fallen head over heels for a friend and when I told her, she shrugged it off and said maybe. Needless to say it didn’t end up as I wanted, but I spent months over analyzing, asking what if, interpretating her friendly gestures as something romantic. Then I became angry at her for hurting me and now our friendship is suffering now because of this.

    She now wants space away for me, and as painful as it is, I have to let her go….

  • Mk

    Your message touched me and I certainly identify, Jcscandy247. I am glad and grateful that you found my posting, and I hope that it will help to heal your current pain and to give you the courage to let go. I appreciate you taking the time to write. Namaste!

  • TLucci

    It is really hard to let go…. completely let go of someone, specially when you´ve idealized him or her and also when you think that somehow it was meant to be… even if life is showing you clearly that it was not.
    For me… i´m just trying to open my hear t to someone new and to attract my soul mate and I try to meditate and convince myself that my past relationship just was not meant to be… that he is a human being just like everyone else, and that of course he is moving on with his life… and that I must move on with mine as well.
    Is not an easy thing to let go and to stop creating fantasies and scenarios in your head, but every day is an opportunity to be more and more present in the real and present moment, eventually this too shall pass and we´ll be in a better place :)
    I wish to all of us who are struggling right now with ourselves, peace, love and accpetance to let go and be open to new opportunities and love in our lives :)
    big hugs to everyone from Colombia!

  • MK Miller

    Beautifully stated, TLucci.  It sounds like you are staying positive and also separating fantasy scenarios from your hope for the future. :)  I applaud your efforts and wish for you the kind of love who will appreciate you and make you feel stronger and even more positive! :) Thanks for commenting.

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  • Guest2424

    Dude. You never even told Paul you liked him as more than a friend. Perhaps you were scared to ruin your friendship or work relationship but even so, you never told him you liked him. What kind of answer did you expect? If you really liked him so much, why didn’t you tell him??? Some things are worth taking risks for. Sure you might be crushed anyways but if you have a support network there (ie. friends) it’s not the end of the world, right??? For a few months you might be crushed but then you might meet someone new but, you might be hung up on him for awhile if you don’t tell him and find out if he likes you back, which maybe he might. you never know. It is a risk telling him but it’s also a risk not telling him as then you’re hung up on him for way too long wondering what if…

  • Jen

    Your post really resonates with me. I have been in love with a coworker of mine for months now. We had been friendly, but one day I looked into his eyes and felt like I had been hit by a lightning bolt. I was sure that he felt similarly because he always went out of his way to walk by me and to talk. When I finally got the courage to tell him how I feel he told me that because of a previous bad experience he has a strict policy not to date coworkers. He retreated after that, but in the last few weeks he has resumed his joking and flirting. Naturally, I got my hopes up that he has changed his mind. I feel hurt that knowing how I feel about him, he continues to do this. But at the same time, I bask in the attention. I don’t think he is doing it maliciously, but it is really confusing and making it difficult for me to move on. He is still the last thing I think about at night and the first thing I think about in the morning. I have come to dread weekends and holidays because it means I will not see him. I can barely eat and sleep. I hate feeling this way. How can I move on when I see him across from me every day?

  • Lele

    @c85ce951fe22058b89c39f8eca269a8f:disqus Thanks for your insightful post and although i tried those methods, it is still very hard for me to move on even after a few months. i am still struggling through this and sometimes i wish for my romantic emotions to stay dead forever lol

    @4667367b7f704108399d829ee9e5b506:disqus  Your post resonated with me the most. Like you, we used to be close friends and i really thought our feelings were mutual. he became such a big part of my life that everything and everywhere reminded me of him. i asked him out once and was rejected. now he is in love with someone else, and she too is interested in him. however, i cannot cut my connection just like that as both of them are my friends and coworkers. it hurts to see them together, to the point that i want to leave this job, leave this country, leave them. you know it’s bad when you can’t work or party properly. i’ve become such an emotional trainwreck that the methods above became moot after 3 months of hard work. just thinking of him and them now brings a terrible heartache and even in my sleep i see them together (wtf?!).

    i’m lost, depressed and beaten now, but i know it will pass. i will be fine someday (i hope soon) we can talk as usual friends again. i know i will move on. but after this time, i find it hard to believe that i will ever find the one for me. sadly, i’ve lost hope. i wish all the best to those who are also going through this, and that you will not end up becoming a cynical pessimist like me.

  • umps

    Thank you for sharing your story. Right now, I am also in the stage of moving on from a friend I do love for almost 5 years. although, he knew that I love him but our friendship is still going through. We txted each other, share each others’ stories. last year, i found out that he has a girlfriend which he never told me and he even denied it when I asked him about the girl. Last August, they separated and I felt our friendship has grew deeper that time but just when he was admitted in the hospital I realized that they are now together. again I am clueless. it hurts me a lot but i know i have to move on and I want to give myself time to be away from him. it means no communication at all, so I decided to volunteer in a community project away from our town and have it as my full-time job. Now, I am in a process of slowly taking away all the hopes that are still in me and say to myself “it is really impossible. “

  • dibubhai

    I was recently rejected by a co worker….and reading your article brought me a great sense of peace. I hope I’d be able to cope with this rejection the way you did. Thanks a lot for the article.

  • Michele

    I really needed to find this article at this time in my life. I have been friends with a man for 15 years. We have had great chemistry at times and we have had off times. We live in two different countries but they are not that far apart so I feel we just never pursued anything for that reason. We flirted, laughed, chatted for hours about everything and nothing. I had times when I felt that I was in love with him but would tell myself forget it, it will never happen. He knows I have strong feelings for him though I have never been direct with him about them. When I would try he would seem to shut down and back away. About a year ago he told me he met someone. We didn’t really talk about her. I asked him a couple times and mentioned her on occasion but she was never the main topic of our conversations. I think about six months into the relationship he said he asked her to marry him and she said yes and I felt like my world was shattered. I have been obsessing over him and saying things I shouldn’t and I find it very difficult to stop. Today we were just casually talking and I realized that I love him yes, but I have to love him as a friend because I want him to be happy. He’s had a lot of struggles in his life and I truly am happy he has found someone. I guess the fact that he has, has left me feeling alone and angry and I really need to back off for a while. Again, thank you for posting this. I am bookmarking it so I can come back to it again.

  • Lana

    Hello! Afther reading you’re amazing post, I would like yo ask your opinion about my story! In November, a relation with a co-worker become a good relationship. I was ending a bad relation and he was going through a diviorce. We start to go out together, going to dinner, coffee, shopping and even got several dinners at his house. We spent a very good time, talking about work and everything. Afther some dates, sometimes he would sent a message saying he liked it and we should do it again. At first I didn’t feel anything about him, but afther some months I start to think that he was sending some signs and I developed more feelings about him. In our conversations, he always said he didn’t felt confortable having a relation at work, that would be very complicated, bur we never talk directly about us, because we are just best friends.

    Afther 4 monts of the divorce, he decided to start dating, and I was one of the supports. Because I always want to make things clear, I decided to send him a message, while I was in vacation, saying that I was a litle confused, because I thought I had developed more feelings for him, but I didn’t want to ruin our great friendship. In his response he said that I didn’t even imagine the importance of our friendship had in his life, and he didn’t want anything to stoped, that’s why we wouldn’t have this conversation with me.

    I respected that, but was hurt because I felt he could it be honest and said he didn’t felt anything romantic for me, just friendship. When I told my friends, they say he does have this feelings for me, but he very confused and imature.

    Recently he told me he had found a very interesting girl, and them he throw the bomb at me – he was dating a co-worker from another department (we work in the same team, and are our desk are side by side). When he told me this I became very very sad.

    Then I told him that know our relation had to change, because we couldn’t have our dinners or even late coffee. He became very angry with me, because he already had told this girl about me, the relarion and place I had in his life, so she just had to respect that. She knew that I was his best friend and was all day right beside him. Then he told me that this girl was hot, and a funny discovery, but he wasn’t ready for a real relation, because he still wants to aprecciate hi single life and specilly his daughter.

    Afther the shock, now I’m fine with this. We are very good friends, talk about everything and spent a lot of time together at work, just making fun with each other, provoking and teasing each other. Our colleagues are always teasing us and saying that we are a couple. We don’t go out as we did in the past, but 2 or 3 day a month we go out to a dinner, shopping or concert. (no one knows about this, not even our co-workers or friends, They didn’t knew in the past either)

    Afther all of this, and of course this is a short version, do you think I misread the signs? Do you think that can exist some confusion on him, or fear i losing our friendship?

    I’m 34 years and his 30, and is a fact – he’s still very hurt about the divorce even saying that being with this girl made him realize that if his ex would come back, he coul say no (I’m always saying, in our coversayion about her, that she will want to come back). And he really is a bit imature, like my friends say, because some times he acts like a kid.

    Thanks for you insight.

  • allan kluttz

    Thanks for the kind words. I stumbled upon this article. I think at one point everyone has had this situation happen to them in life. It is probably why most of the people have stumbled onto this article. I hope everything continues to go well, keep your head up…

  • Roger Adams

    Fantastic article and it couldn’t have come at a better time for myself. Thank you for writing.

  • Heartbroken

    MK, this was really great. You really are very strong for being able to keep your friendship going despite your feelings. This was written with so much emotion, and I really wish I can be as strong as you as I am going through a similar situation and everything you said rings true with my experience.

    I fell in love with a girl about two years ago. We had been friends for nearly 5 years prior and over the years I really grew attached to her. She constantly had these elaborate dreams where she and I would build a dream home in the woods together and how she hopes someday we could live on a farm and take care of horses (she really likes horses). She’d also tell me how much she wishes she could find a boyfriend just like me. It got to the point where I really thought she loved me, and that she might actually be willing to take a chance. After finally telling her my feelings she said she didn’t feel the same about me. I then spent almost a year trying to just be friends, but it felt like all she was doing was coming to me for advice on other men in her life. At first I ignored it and just tried to give her advice, after all I was suppose to be a good friend. However, eventually started to get to me until one day I snapped.

    I knew I was crazy about her and all I wanted, even though she didn’t want the same, was to be with her, I guess I had it in my head that if I was there for her and made her smile and made her happy then one day she would change her mind and decide to give me a chance. I spent 6 months after losing my job working random jobs to save enough money to go and visit her in Colombia, where she was teaching for the year. It was intended to be a surprise visit, but the week before I booked my tickets she called me up to tell me about a guy who made a surprise trip from our hometown to visit her in Colombia (pretty much exactly what I was going to do). I felt that everything I did was for nothing.

    She had completely fell in love with this guy and wanted my opinion on him, though I never had met him before. I told her I didn’t think I was the right guy to ask or talk to about him, but she told me anyways about him and saying how much I’d like him since we have so many things in common. I was really hurt and basically exploded and put our friendship on hiatus. I explained I couldn’t continue being just a friend with someone I wanted more with. It took about 8 months for me to finally get the courage up to start talking to her again. Her sister and a bunch of mutual friends would reach out to me to tell me how much she was hurting and that she wasn’t handling me not being there well. I really didn’t want to hurt her and thought maybe I should at least try to be her friend. I still have feelings for her and still want a relationship more than anything with her, but I also don’t want to just walk away from our friendship, I know being her friend means I have to put my real feelings aside and just be there for her. I am not sure how this plays out in the end for me and I even told her that I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t still have feelings for her in another 5 years. However, I also said that I think my friendship with her is worth trying to save.

    She just moved back to our hometown and we plan to have a lunch together, and I want to see her, but I’m really working hard to suppress my feelings for her. II had to draw certain lines and had to tell her that I needed her to stop being affectionate to me, but it is hard because her affection is one of the many traits I love about her, but I cant handle having her hugging me or making some elaborate long term dream with me when I know that the affection and the dreams are really meant for some other guy. Also it bothers me to no end that I have to hide my feelings while some guy she barely knows gets to express his feelings. She told me that even though I have most of the traits she wants in a guy the one thing we are missing is a “spark”, she can’t explain it but she feels a “spark” with this guy (and all the other guys whom she has dated). She says that a relationship can’t last without that spark. She thinks a spark is either there or it isn’t, and that’s the deciding factor of whether a relationship could work.

    I don’t know what to do, I am so torn. On one hand if I really love her I’d do everything to make her happy even if that means putting my feelings aside. However, I’m scared that my real feelings are going to make it near impossible for me to be truly happy as just being her friend. Sadly, a part of me still holds on to the hope that maybe if I put myself through this that it will pay off in the end and that maybe one day she’d actually see me differently. I can;t even go on a date with another girl without thinking of her, and it’s tearing me apart.

    What do I do? How does one get over these feelings? I thought some time away would help but it hasn’t. What would you do in my situation?

  • Melanie

    Well the friend I fell in love with (and admitted to having sexual attraction towards) was attracted to me also, but only for a fling. He wanted me to send him naked pictures! Here I’m soooo ‘into’ him yet I was just a body he wanted to jerk off to, (not actually want a relationship with) In the end, it was like he as just exploiting me, so either way, it still sucked.

  • JJ

    This is all sounding very positive and beautiful, and I like that and think the world needs more of it. But the pain that is emanating from this post and from many of the comments leads me to suspect that the writer and maybe some others are very nice people who have been “friend-zoned” by someone with insecurities and possibly narcissistic tendencies.

    I have recently reconciled with such a man (insecure and somewhat narcissistic) whom I had been with for nearly 20 years before divorcing him and then waiting 7 years to begin a reconciliation. I am able to reconcile with him because I have learned in the meantime what all those female friendships were about – they were ego feed for him and I am the person he actually MARRIED – I was not one of his friend-zoned people. The things I now KNOW that I could not understand before:

    1. He has always KNOWN at some level that the friend (whichever one) is in love with him – that is why the friendship is so difficult for him to give up: provides him emotional backup and strength to enter relationships with women he is actually attracted to and potentially in love with. My ex-husband and now-partner actually BEGAN DATING someone (for the first time since our split) two years ago AT THE SAME TIME as he implored me to go into counseling with him and stated his undying love for me – they had a nine month relationship which allowed me to affirm for myself that he doesn’t cross physical lines (even when in love with the “other women” – at that point, me… and, no, neither of us made a move that direction!).

    2. He would never have a relationship or “friend-zone” connection with anyone who could
    truly pose a primal (jealousy-inducing) threat to me – so, all of his
    “friend-zoned” females, including the one he dated for emotional
    fall-back while in counseling with me, are 1. physically less attractive than I
    (by his tastes, of course: he likes leggy and busty and they are all short and small-chested,
    but also they all would be described by most people as being plain or homely in
    the face); 2. less educated than I; 3. less accomplished than I; and 4. people
    he could not possibly ever fall in love with given who he and they are as
    people. I know I sound terribly vain, but the point to focus on is that he
    makes sure that the friend-zoned females will be acceptable to me on a primal
    level – they weren’t, of course, the first time I was with him, but I have
    learned a lot now about why he does this and I know that, just as so many of
    you have experienced, they will be shut down and hurt the minute they cross a
    line romantically or try to put me down. PLEASE NOTE THAT I DO NOT BLAME THE
    FRIEND-ZONED WOMEN – this is all on him, but it’s acceptable to the
    love-partnered woman if she understands it.

    3. This is all very painful for the friend-zoned parties but they have this one small power: a man like this feels terrible guilt about what he is doing to you because, contrary to what you believe, he knows all along exactly how you feel (he is not stupid and can read social and emotional cues). He is just so deeply insecure and fearful that he can’t help but take the emotional feed you so willingly provide. To the friend-zoned person, this man is nothing but an emotional leech and user – as his love-partnered choice, I can now accept it because HE DOES NOT TREAT ME LIKE THIS and HE IS NOT A HORRIBLE PERSON. He has a problem that he solves by using some people even as he can be warm and loving and giving and FAITHFUL TO his partner.

    4. This small power that you do have – to manipulate his guilt toward keeping the friendship – is
    empty. Being friend-zoned in this way is soul-destroying, especially if you let
    it go on for ten years (as one of my partner’s zoned gals has, and he is now
    having to let her down very slowly, having talked this out with me and taken
    the choice to stop using this very nice woman who saw him through very tough times when I left him). Find a man who loves you and stop being this man’s solution to emotional down days and fears of rejection. My partner is going to keep his friend-zoned females but at a greater distance – the one he actually dated for security while winning me back is still chasing him through
    email and telephone, but one day she will feel empowered by some vibe he puts
    out (to keep her on his roster) and she will misunderstand and take that step
    too far. He will reject her in no uncertain terms and with a mortifying
    statement that he NEVER lead her on like that and NEVER did or said anything
    that she should have interpreted that way – and technically, he won’t have. She
    will be put in her place and made to feel crazy.

    Do I like it? No way – it’s been a long road to understanding and comfort with this problem of his (I divorced him, for crying out loud!!). Can I now live with it? Absolutely. It’s no skin off my nose and I am now in the driver’s seat because I know exactly what’s going on. (He left the one he dated within weeks of my stating I could no longer spend time with him while he was dating someone else – from his perspective, of course, he had never made any commitments to her, and, technically, that is true). He will always be bound by technicalities in relationships, so get all his commitments in email if you want to be with a man such as this (I have kept all the love notes he sent while dating the other, and even recorded some of our coffee chats where he said the relationship with her would never last and lots of other things). LIke all these other women, I am in love with his many wonderful qualities.

    None of you deserves this; friend-zoned people often do have problems of their own -
    borderline pd, passive-aggressive, or just lonely – but they do not have to
    accept this treatment and wouldn’t if they understood what is going on. You
    will not win this man’s heart.

  • Insight plz

    BUT HE NEVER LITTERALLY SPOKE WORDS OF REJECTION AT YOU. Unless you left that part out. I feel kind of bad if that is the cause, because if so it seems like you were waiting for the typical “he should court me and express his feelings which may also be dormant like mine were, but 8 years later when then arise in me they should automatically instinctively do the same in him.” This is so beta :/ but it must be in the past and what could have been is irrelevant now as you see to have gotten over it.

  • Fanny

    This posting really resonates with my current experience. I’ve secretly loved a coworker for one whole year because he supported me a lot when I was new to the company. We flirted a lot and always hung out in group for after-work happy hour drinks. We shared so many common interests. While my feeling for him was still under my control before, recently there was one night when we were left alone at bar, and we kissed and made out passionately. It might just be a fling or entertainment to him, but I was so grateful when he kissed me. The next day when I woke up, I smelt him all over myself and I got emotions everywhere. Then later that day I told him that I like him. He rejected me. The next several days were like really in a hell. I thought back and forth, I was sad and self denying at the beginning, then it turned into angry because I felt like he just used me, then just became guilty felling it was all my fault, and eventually I accepted the plain fact: he didn’t love me. But when I finally got my peace, he started texting me again, in a friendly tone but still over-caring. However, he sent messages only on a weekly basis, and he never obviously across the friendship line. On my side, I just got all my fantasies, hopes and expectations back again. I am like, waiting for his messages every moment, and I know I should tell him to fuck off but I hate myself for still craving for these random texts from him.

    A novel said that only two things can heal such a heartache: long enough time or a good enough new lover. While the time is obviously not long enough, fortunately I think I got a good new lover. I think it’s very important not to trace anything back any more, no-blame, no-proving, and not to imagine “what if” scenarios or future possibilities. Just let things be. Let past mysteries be mysteries. Remember good moments he gave you and move on.