I’m a college junior, and I have a friend who we’ll call “Bob.” Bob and I have been friends for a year now, and 11 months ago, Bob confessed that he had feelings for me. I didn’t have feeling for him, so I let him down gently, and we’ve just been close friends ever since. Something else you should know is that we’re both Catholic, and we’re both the co-vice presidents of our Newman Campus Ministry.
I can’t exactly say that I’ve developed feelings for him because I don’t feel overwhelmingly interested in him, but I’ve recently been feeling as if all of our “friend-dates” go unfinished when we part ways. I don’t feel a distinct romantic twinge for him, but at the back of my mind, I feel very close to him and am curious as to whether or not I could be more than friends with him. I adore giving him gifts and making him happy, and he’s done very sweet gestures for me in the past.
Here’s the problem, though: there are things he doesn’t know about me, and I don’t know how he’d react if he found out. This is not a problem if we’re just friends because there’s no reason for me to tell him, and although I doubt he would resent me if he found out these things about me, he might feel betrayed and hurt.
Firstly, I’m bisexual. He’s friends with many LGBT people and doesn’t want to force his beliefs on them, but because I’m Catholic and am a member of the ministry executive team, he might react differently to me. As friends, this never bothered me, but if we start dating, I know it’s something I must tell him.
Secondly, he doesn’t know that I’m not a virgin. He’s against contraception, and he also doesn’t know that I’m sex-positive and have had FWBs and casual relationships. Again, he doesn’t want to force his beliefs on those who disagree with him, and his beliefs don’t matter to me because I respect him as a friend. But if we started dating, our intimacy needs will clash.
Lastly, if we somehow end up getting married, I know he wants kids. I’m not sure if I want to raise kids, but I know for a fact that I don’t want to be pregnant. If we end up adopting, how do we raise the kid? He’ll want to raise them in the Church, but I want to let them choose their own beliefs when they get older. And what if the kid’s beliefs grow different from Bob’s? I’m fine with my hypothetical kid developing different views from me, but what about Bob?
Us becoming a couple might work when we’re in the dating stage, but would end up being a recipe for disaster if we got more serious. The best solution I suppose is to just stay as we are, but I also don’t want to regret not pursuing him. Furthermore, talking about this with him might burn the bridge between us if I end up reopening the wounds from letting him down eleven months ago. How do I make peace with how we are?
Off the top of my head, Sparkler, you could start by reading your own letter! Because in all of Auntie SparkNotes many long years of agony aunting, I have never seen anyone lay out a more convincing and logical argument for not pursuing a relationship, right down to the part where you are literally asking to be talked out of one.
Of course, I have also never seen anyone fret so thoroughly or extensively over their longterm prospects (let alone their hypothetical parenting strategy!) with a person who they not only aren’t dating, but have no romantic interest in—and who they’ve already rejected once for exactly that reason. I mean, forget your lack of intimacy, your various incompatibilities, and your divergent outlooks; can we just talk about the part where you don’t have one single iota of romantic feeling for this guy? And where your only stated reason for pursuing him is that you’re afraid you might someday regret it if you don’t, except why would that ever happen when you never liked him in the first place?
All of which is to say, you do not need to be talked out of a relationship with Bob; you’ve just gotta stop trying to talk yourself into one just because the option is available. The truth is, unrequited crushes-turned-close friendships often develop that “unfinished” feeling you mentioned, for no other reason than that you can sense the possibility of romance still hanging in the air (and especially if the guy in question is still not-so-subtly carrying a torch for you, as I strongly suspect is the case here.) It is normal under those circumstances to find yourself wondering, “What if?”—but that’s why it’s also so important to recognize that wondering is not the same as wanting. It’s not enough to be curious, darling. You’ve been pals with this guy for a year and you haven’t even developed the kind of intimacy or trust that lets you share your whole entire self with him as a friend—let alone the depth of feeling that makes it worth trying to take things to the next level.
And the thing is, that’s okay. It’s fine for you to enjoy your friendship with Bob on its own merits; it’s fine to have a relationship that’s fond without being intimate. And it’s not just fine, but probably smart, to continue not-telling him every last thing about your life, particularly your sex life—not because it’s shameful or he couldn’t handle it, but because keeping those topics off the table is a good way of keeping some boundaries in place that delineate your friendship as strictly platonic. And if he’s still pining for you, you do kinda have a responsibility here to avoid blurring the lines in a way that might give him false hope.
For you, that might mean taking a step back from the relationship as it is now—not a huge step, and not forever, but just enough to give yourself a little perspective… and maybe a chance to look around at the other options available to you. There are thousands of guys (and girls!) out there with whom you might strike up a romantic connection; you don’t need to go the route of dating someone you’re not attracted to just because he’s there and you can. Maybe now is the time to trade your sense of unfinished business with Bob for a sense of possibility with someone new—or if not, to at least promise yourself that you won’t ever settle for less than a guy you actually have feelings for.
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