Feelings I thought were reciprocated

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    I’ve known this guy for 5 years and I had a small crush on him that snowballed into full-blown feelings. We’re really close friends and have had a ton of long intimate late night talks and things like that, helped each other through some serious tough times/mental struggles, talked about things we would want in a partner and we were compatible in a lot of weird specific ways, and I just really connected with him and (even though I told myself not to do this) fantasized about a whole future where we were together. I just really, really wanted to be with this person.

    He seemed very invested in this other mutual friend and would spend tons and tons of time with them, but I kind of chalked that up to me living in another city (we all went to college together, and after graduation 2 years ago I moved a couple of hours away but visit as much as I can), so the relationship was just sort of different. But whenever I would roll into town and hang with them, I would get the feeling of being a third wheel. It would sting sometimes, but I accepted that it comes with moving away. We would still have a lot of fun.

    But even with things being long distance, I just thought our relationship was special? There was the intimate talks, the super sentimental way that he would compliment me sometimes, quiet moments where it was just us and we would lay on the ground and stargaze, one time we very briefly drunk-kissed at a party (he asked for a kiss on the lips and I gave him one, he seemed giddy about it then asked if I wanted to keep smoochin’ and I declined since we were both drunk, it was fairly non-serious but as my feelings developed I questioned that moment, I guess), the way that he seemed more comfortable and happy just talking with me than in a group, just whatever. The last time I saw him was at the end of November and I was staying at his apartment, and the last night I was there we actually cuddled pretty intimately for a long time, and the way we talked during was sort of teasing and was (what I thought?) a little flirty. I thought that was my confirmation of there being something more and I got my hopes up.

    But ever since then, and starting literally the day after, he hasn’t been initiating conversations nearly as much, and if we do text (usually me to him) the conversation drops off pretty quickly. So I started not texting as much, either. It’s just felt very distant compared to what it was, and especially in comparison to that night, and it bothered me, but I thought maybe it was because he started a new job/was hanging out with people. But I was talking on the phone with another friend today who confided (not knowing anything about my feelings) that this guy has had long-time feelings for the mutual friend from before, who has recently expressed some back, and even though it’s not official it’s just been kind of hanging for a month or two I guess (mutual friend apparently wants crush to get his life on track more before they date, or something, I don’t really know details because I was too shaken to ask). I tried to play it cool for a while longer before making an excuse to end the call and start crying, which is what brings me to here.

    It’s not that i didn’t have an inkling that something was up with them, but I guess without it being confirmed I still had hope? And I guess it just puts a few things into perspective, like… despite our emotional closeness, I always felt this hesitation from him sometimes, like he didn’t want to be <em class=”yklcuq-15 llXuhU”>too close. Also the way that he would hesitate to make plans to call me or watch movies or whatever unless he was sure he didn’t have plans with the mutual friend. Also the way he would seem to check his phone a lot when we were hanging out to text this person. I noticed all of this, but I think I was just willfully blind to it because I had feelings and wanted to read into what was probably just him hanging out with me as a friend he felt very comfortable with.

    I don’t know what to do with how awful and stupid I feel right now. I don’t know how to keep being friends with both of them and act like a normal person, and admitting that makes me feel selfish and a little childish. I’m definitely going to distance myself for a while because all I want is for these feelings to starve without me feeding them. I don’t want to feel this anymore.

    I just feel like an idiot. Haha.

    During the call, before the crush stuff came out, I was saying all this stuff about how I can’t wait for the group’s Skype game night this Saturday and how I can’t wait for our friend group to take a trip to Colorado in the spring and how I want to drive into town for a visit sometime in January, blah blah blah. And right now, I just want to cancel everything because I just don’t want to talk to them or continue putting myself in this situation where I feel like a third wheel and an outsider. In some ways, it’s the distance from him that hurts most. Right now I’m not sure how much I really mattered to him or if I was mostly just a backup friend for when the other person is busy.

    Obviously I need to just distract myself and focus on myself and move on. Obviously this news is actually good news in disguise, because now I actually can move on. I know. It’s all just hurting right now. All I want is to feel loved and desired and I’ve just never had a lot of luck in that department- I had one four-year relationship, and as intense and oftentimes sweet as that was, even that felt empty, like the other person wasn’t fully into me or like they would expect me to put in a lot of emotional legwork while they withheld it from me. I just want to know why I’m not enough. I keep getting into situations where I care so much more than the other person and it’s so stupid.


    Dear Z:

    If the  two of you  “had a ton of long intimate late  night talks.. helped  each  other through some  serious tough times/mental struggles, talked about things we would  want in a partner” while  he was romantically interested in the other woman, then he didn’t reveal to you something  important about his life, and you knew something was going  on but didn’t want to ask him, because you didn’t want to know, am I correct?

    If I am, I am guessing he was genuine with you, that he really liked you, enjoyed your company a lot.. and he liked her too and enjoyed her company as well, that  he  didn’t tell you about her and didn’t tell her about you because an official relationship with neither of you was established. And he knew that one girl will not like hearing  about the other girl, so he didn’t tell. You didn’t ask because no one wants to hear about the object of their affection talking about the competition.

    The fact that she remained  living  close to him distance wise, accessible that way, may have encouraged his feelings of emotional attachment to her. Maybe things have  been moving toward exclusivity with her and felt guilty after spending close time with you that last time in November, and that is why he withdrew  from you.

    You wrote: “All  I want is to feel loved and desired and I’ve just never  had  a lot of luck in that department- I had one four-year relationship, and as intense and  oftentimes sweet as that was, even that  felt  empty, like the  other person wasn’t fully into me or like they would expect me to put in a lot of emotional legwork while they withheld it from me”-

    I would like to figure out if the ex  boyfriend  of four years, if he really “wasn’t fully into (you)”, or it  just felt that way to you. It could  be both, of course. This long term relationship of four years, considering your age, will be more telling than what  happened with this  guy in regard to your future love life. Will you elaborate  on what I quoted above, how was he  not fully into you, how he withheld from you?




    It is definitely easier to love someone who is unavailable because you can keep telling yourself that if you just put in the effort, then maybe, just maybe it’ll work out somehow. That maybe they’ll be able to see you for the great person that you are, the things you’d do for them, the way you would cherish and treasure them, of how great a couple you two would make. But they don’t and then you end up doing a lot of things for them only to realize that they didn’t even see you; you who was there with them, you who went through the good and bad together with them.

    You put on rose-tinted glasses as you pine after someone, excusing their actions while justifying them taking over your time, you days and your months because they’re ‘special’ to you, even when they clearly weren’t thinking of you in their thoughts. You project your hope and wishes on them, asking for their affections even when it was clear that their affection lies elsewhere.

    Seeing as this isn’t the first time you’re attracted to unavailable men, what are you afraid of? What makes you fear showing someone else your vulnerability? What makes men who treat you as an after thought so attractive? What makes being invisible an okay thing? Seeing as you are fine with them putting their own needs first and yours somewhere over there.

    Yet you want someone to love and treasure you. But do you love and treasure yourself, your heart, your soul and everything that make up you?

    The old adage of “to love someone, you have to love yourself first” is used for a very good reason. When you genuinely have compassion and care for yourself, you generate good will towards your thoughts and actions. Even when you’ve failed at something, even when you feel low, you treasure yourself enough to be enough in that moment to know that it will passed in due time. You learn to have healthy boundaries so that you know when someone isn’t treating you right.

    But right now, you are putting the needs of others first. You fear stepping on their toes so you put the legwork in your relationship while waiting for a hint of something. You keep waiting. You keep hoping until you know that you weren’t the one they were yearning after. But it’s really tiring isn’t it? The waiting and the hoping and the pining. Because you know deep in your heart you knew that you weren’t going to be the one, but you still wished for something special, even if only for a few minutes.

    Now, if you really want to end that cycle of going after unavailable men, you will have to put in a lot of work into yourself. It’s going to really messy because you have to dive deep into your heart and ask a lot of questions that will leave you raw and vulnerable, as anything with the heart is. You don’t ask ‘why’ of others, you have to ask your heart ‘why’ until you get to the core of it. And you do it for yourself. You do it so that you understand what love for yourself is, wholly and truly.

    You don’t put yourself as second best, as the backup for someone else. You have to be enough for yourself first.

    Take care of yourself.


    Thank you so much for the long and thoughtful responses. We had a long talk today and I told him how I felt. He said he had considered dating in the past because we were close and he was attached to our friendship, and also said that it felt like we almost kissed on the couch and he had mixed feelings about it, and he was distant because he wasn’t sure where we stood. Ultimately though, he said that he would rather keep being friends and didn’t really share the same feelings I did. We agreed being friends was best and we’re gonna have some space for a while, but we want to keep the friendship going. I’m still a little emotional but so relieved to have clarification so I can put those thoughts to rest. I feel like a lot of my pain was coming from not knowing.

    I 100% agree that I tend to put others before myself and I think it stems from my childhood of being emotionally parentified, as well as some emotional abuse/neglect going on and just not really having my needs met. My childhood wasn’t all terrible, but I for sure had feelings of responsibility towards others while suppressing my own feelings and wanting acceptance, and I’ve carried those feelings with me into adulthood.

    The problem is that I don’t know how to break that cycle. When I was in college, I went to counseling for about a year and a half and we talked about my tendencies towards being a people pleaser and my parentified past, and talked about trying to recognize my needs and set boundaries… and that helped, but I think the thing I still get stuck on is seeing value in myself. And I think I still tend to let people take advantage of me because I care too much and throw my whole heart into relationships that are important to me and I’m terrified of hurting people, even though I’ve simultaneously built up walls and have trouble letting people in.

    I don’t think I’m a total weakling or a total pushover, but when I talk about these issues that I have it’s hard not to feel like I kind of am. I’ve sort of tricked myself into thinking my walls are strength, but they exist because I’m scared. And I do what I do because I’m scared of people feeling as alone as I usually feel. Also- more selfishly- I think I like feeling depended on. But in doing so, I’m letting my worth be dictated by how much people need me.

    It’s a nasty cycle that just ends with me getting used and hurt. I don’t know how to start breaking this.


    Dear Z:

    A little summary  of what you shared as I understand it, please let me  know if I am correct: as a child you took on the role  of the parent to your parents: you felt overly  responsible for your parents, and when you saw them in any kind of pain, you felt responsible for it, feeling like you caused  their pain. You placed away your own needs and feelings and focused  on theirs.  They mattered, you did not matter. Your focus was on them, your aim- to make them happy.

    Your sense of personal value has become, since  childhood, the affect  you have on others, how you make  them feel, their  good feelings make  you feel good, for a short while, before you feel alone and  empty yet again.

    (But when they feel bad,  then you feel so very badly).

    This guy, you had a crush on him, then you felt a need  to connect with him, so you did  (“I just really connected with him”), and you hoped for more, for “a whole  future”. When you found out your hopes are not likely to come true, you thought “this news is actually good news in disguise”, maybe because closeness, intensely desired, is also scary. So in dashed hopes there is perceived  safety, “I’m still a little emotional but so relieved“.

    I think the relief is not only from no longer not-knowing, but from anxiety about intimacy. I see your challenge, when involved with a man  interested and capable of intimacy, is feeling empty and alone anyway, because we do re-live our childhood experience.

    This has been my  experience and I find  the  healing  process that I am also still experiencing fascinated. It takes a long time, mindfulness/ attention and practice, but  my goodness, there is a way to change that childhood experience.





    Thank you for your response. I had to digest it for a long time- I do think it’s really accurate. I crave intimacy, yet I’m afraid of it, and try to achieve it in ways that don’t leave me filling fulfilled because I don’t know how else to get it. I didn’t even notice the way that I was wording things was showing the walls that I have built up. I think I get scared that stating my needs will chase people away or make me look unreasonable. I’m curious what methods you’ve used that have helped you with this.

    I wanted to give an update on the situation with this guy, because I’ve been thinking myself in circles about it.

    After our talk, he messaged me a few times over the holidays and seemed really cheerful and nice when he was talking to me, and he even liked all my social media posts and such. But after the new year, he’s suddenly being very distant again. He stopped messaging me, stopped liking posts. Over the holidays, I was up late one night and saw him make some tweets that he deleted the next day, and I wish I could remember them exactly, but it was something like- ‘the situation’ is hitting him and he feels like his life is falling apart. I don’t know for sure if it was about me, but since he started to distance himself shortly after, I sort of suspect it. But he tends to have a lot of emotional chaos in his life anyway, so it’s possible there’s something else bothering him.

    Our friend group plays tabletop over the internet each week. The game we played after New Years was so, so awkward. He didn’t try to interact with basically anybody except the person he has a crush on, and it felt sort of pointed in how he stuck to them the whole time and only talked to them. They both seemed way more giggly and close than usual, and to be honest the whole thing made me sad and I was just sort of quiet and a little awkward when someone spoke to me despite trying to be positive and whatnot.

    I was really withdrawn for most of the game, but towards the end of the night I started participating more and he seemed to quiet down and disconnected from voice chat the second the game was over (usually people will stay on and chat a bit). He made some passive aggressive tweets about people dunking on him when he’s just trying to have a good time and I didn’t know if they were directed at me (I didn’t… do anything or interact with him so idk) or if something else happened that I just wasn’t paying attention to, but either way I was put off.

    Nonetheless, the whole experience of him distancing himself and being close with this other person made me cry for a long time, because on top of the rejection, I also now feel more disconnected from the friend group than ever. The group has been through a lot of conflicts with each other in the past that has caused people to distance themselves from each other or to be closer to different people, but I still took comfort in my friendship with him and our bond was really important to me. I haven’t talked to anyone in the group about what happened- I can only assume that the guy told his crush about it since they tell each other everything, but I don’t actually know- but there are still a couple of people who I feel comfortable with even if I’m not as close, so I’m trying to work myself up to maybe talking to them about it. (I haven’t told anyone in my life actually, because I’m scared I’ll cry and I’m super adverse to crying in front of people. Emotional walls, am I right?)

    Anyway, I messaged him the next day just to catch up a little, since I hadn’t really talked to him since Christmas. I don’t really care about him romantically anymore, and at this point my concern is just trying to make things feel more comfortable between us again. I kept it light and friendly and just talked about mutual interests, some silly stuff, asked him how the new year is going, whatever. He kept the conversation going, at least, but there was a definite distance. He was so chipper shortly after “the talk,” and it’s not that he was rude to me, but I noticed the change. I didn’t comment and just behaved like normal.

    Today, he tweets about how he’s stressed about some life stuff (I won’t go into details), and how he tends to put off a lot of things in the hopes that they go away, and that it makes him a bad friend, and that his instinct when relationships go sour is to just bail before it crumbles. This time, I felt like what he was saying resonated with our situation. I’m still processing it. To be honest, I have the same instinct, though I’ve been making efforts in the past few years to fight against it because it’s caused a lot of guilt and pain in the past. That’s why I haven’t run from this friend group yet, despite my anxiety yelling at me. That’s why I felt like I should fight for him. But if we’re both people who tend to run, then I feel a little scared to keep trying. I wonder if he thinks that about me, too.

    I’m just sort of at a loss right now. I feel upset with him for coming up to me and cuddling me like that if he knew that he liked this other person and didn’t view me that way. I’m doubly upset that now that he’s distancing himself after saying he didn’t want to lose how close we were. And I hate that this whole situation is causing me to feel so out of place in this group of people. I hate that this friend group has been through so many fractures when we used to be inseparable and loved each other so much, and I hate that maybe there isn’t a way to fix any of this.

    Honestly, I don’t really have a social life outside of this friend group and my family. I’ve been realizing lately how much I need to fix that and focus on bettering myself, which is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been refocusing on my career goals and I’ve decided where I’m going to move (not towards them, haha), and I’ve been doing a lot of self-work because this negative situation has motivated me to grow bigger than it. But I don’t really know what steps I need to take with this group. I definitely want distance, but I don’t know how much I need. As stupid as it sounds, one of the things I’ve been worrying about the most is the tabletop nights, lmfao. We’ve been playing for 2 years and it’s been one of the big things that’s bonded us after college, and if I left suddenly, it would cause a lot of discontent, and I’d be sort of crushed to leave this thing that meant a lot to me and all of us. I know how silly that sounds in the face of everything else, but I guess it’s like- I know what the big moves I want to take are, but now it’s navigating the smaller, mundane things that tie me to this group. Do I stop visiting them? Going on trips? Giving gifts? Checking in when they’re sad? How do I get the distance I need to heal?

    I’m sorry this is so long and disjointed.


    Dear Z:

    Some friend groups are not meant to last, some are … time sensitive. The closeness with this one man and his attraction to another woman spoiled a whole lot of the friend  group experience.

    When a friend group is causing your anxiety to yell at you (“I haven’t run from this friend group yet, despite my anxiety yelling at me”), I think better run away from it.

    “I felt like I should fight for him”- I don’t think it is a good idea.

    A better idea would be  to exit the friend group and the contact with him within the group. Find another group, other people.

    Fight for a man who will welcome you fighting for him, a man who is interested in you,  not in another woman.

    Your situation leads me to think of this scenario: sitting at a table with a  wonderful Christmas meal, meat  and salads, sides, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and pies, chocolate  pies and  pumpkin pies and all the delectable things you can imagine. Only you are sitting  at the table  of Christmas before last: the meat is rotten, the pies are  dry and have  bugs in them, it smells badly.

    Better  get up and move away from that  table. Over there, at  another table, there is that one piece of  cake, it is fresh. Better go there.





    Honestly, my desire right now is just to run. I guess my worry is that I’ve been so quick to hit the eject button on relationships in the past due to intense irrational thoughts and the need to fix them, and that’s something I’ve really tried to work on calming myself down from and learning to go with the flow. If I had run from these people when the thoughts first showed up, I would’ve missed out on experiencing the friend group at its prime, and missed a lot of beautiful and life-affirming moments with these people. That’s why I hesitate to cut ties just because I’m scared- maybe I just need distance and time, and to not initiate anymore, and just see how things play out while I work on my own life.

    On the other hand, maybe I tend to over-correct by holding on for too long because I don’t trust my intuition. I’m not really sure how to separate intuition from irrational anxiety. I will say, it’s definitely accurate to say that the friend group experience has been spoiled, not just from this guy but with smaller conflicts in the group. I have one friend who I still feel good with who I keep in regular contact with, and another friend who I still feel good with but who I don’t get to talk to very often because she’s busy and lives far away. That’s… kind of it.

    But again, the mundane ties to them: I’m scared that if I say I’m not going to do the game nights anymore, it’s going to be obvious why, cause conflicts, and finally sever me from the group for good. I’m just scared. I’m not normally one to stir the pot, I guess; I feel like I’m usually the one trying to help smooth things over. I’m not sure how to judge when running away is the right thing to do. Sometimes when I’m feeling good, I really believe that things with this group will work out.


    Dear Z:

    It reads to me that the benefits you experienced being part of the  group took place  in the past, not in the present. If you look at it rationally, ask yourself what are the benefits to you currently, you can bypass the intuition vs anxiety issue and have logic/ rational thinking guide you.

    And running away is  not always bad, otherwise it wouldn’t be one of the responses to fear (Flight/Fight) that have promoted the survival of species for so many thousand of years of evolution.

    The choice is not between this group and Nothing, it is between this group and something else, you just don’t know what it is yet, a new individual, a new group you are yet to meet, yet to make happen.

    I mean, there is more to the world you are in than this one group, so instead of focusing on staying or leaving this one group, why not expand your vision and look for something else…?




    You’re right. I think I need to cut ties as kindly as I can and let people deal with their own emotions about it. I don’t think I’m really getting anything from this group anymore.

    I had a long talk with the guy friend last night. All those passive aggressive social media posts were, in fact, about me, because he was angry about my “distance” with him and didn’t think I was doing enough to keep the friendship going. He was upset with me for not engaging with him while he was ignoring me to flirt with his love interest and that’s why he was saying all that stuff about people harshing on his good time, and was mad that I didn’t reach out to talk to him about it, even though I reached out to talk to him the very next day to talk and joke about things we both like as usual. Like friends. I don’t know. I’m at a loss.

    Also, he informed me that he’s now dating this person, which kind of leaves me feeling even more gross about the night he made moves on me because I can’t help but cynically feel as though I was just an ego boost for him to feel more desirable and bold about pursuing this other person, because he could tell that I liked him. Especially since they started dating so soon after his thing with me, after he’s been pining after her for a long time.

    I’m realizing that I’ve been internalizing all this guilt about making things “weird” because I’m the one who had feelings, but actually when I look back on what happened, I was sitting separately from him and he came up to me to initiate the intimacy. And then he’s distant with me, and then asks me if I like him a week later so he can reject me. When I think about it objectively, I just feel really put off by that.

    I told him about a lot of my hurt in this situation with him and told him that I wish he didn’t do what he did if he knew he wasn’t interested. He apologized and said he had no excuses and didn’t expect me to forgive him. I told him that I feel like this situation has kind of blown up in my face and that I feel like I’m the one getting blamed and pushed out for it and that I don’t think the friendship will be back to normal for a long time.

    But I told him I wanted him to just treat me like a regular friend. And as soon as I sent the message, I regretted it, because I’m not sure I was telling the truth. I think I actually just want him to leave me alone right now, because this whole situation has broken a lot of the trust I had in him and his friendship towards me. I cannot be a genuine friend to him or feel sincerely happy for his new relationship because I’m still too angry. I don’t know when- or how- I’ll want reconciliation. But having him hanging around and watching me on social media or judging me like this just feels suffocating.

    I’m scared to set these boundaries because I can’t just set them with him- I have to set them with the whole group. I have to have a lot of uncomfortable conversations with a lot of people, and I’m dreading doing all of that and dealing with the finality of it all. Because I guess a part of me still just isn’t ready to let go- and also, a bigger part of me hates upsetting people and being the “bad guy.” I keep worrying that people are going to think I’m a fake friend throwing a hissy fit because I didn’t get what I want. I feel like I need to be validated by like a thousand different people that I’m not just a bad person.


    Dear Z:

    I don’t think that this friend group can deliver to you benefits that will be worth all the trouble you are going through.

    You wrote about this guy: “He apologized and said he had no excuses and didn’t expect me to forgive him”- so he admitted that  he was in the wrong, and yet in his social media messages, addressed to no one in particular, he blamed you for being distanced from him.

    But any distance from him was a consequence of his wrong doing, to which he admitted, no excuses. Yet he blamed you for it, blamed you for the consequence of his wrongdoing.

    I suppose he is not the decent, honest man you thought he was. Why not end all contact with that friend group, and seek new friendships where you will take your time learning who the people are, whether they are worthy of your trust?

    Does it matter, I wonder, if people you are not in contact with think you are  “‘the ‘bad guy'”?



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