I’ve known this guy for two years (since we started university). I’d like to think we got really close, and he was definitely my best friend—I used to confide my worst fears in him, though I’m very reserved and don’t open up well. But then I fell in love with him. I waited for a while to see if there was any chance he’d return my feelings, and I thought there was—until I confessed and he told me that he would “Answer me at graduation” (his words). I should’ve known this was a no. But my lovesick self wanted to hear “No, it’s not going to happen,” from him, so two weeks later, I asked him directly whether or not he returns my feelings.
He said “We’re stuck in the friend zone.” I then got completely smashed on tequila, after which he thought it was better to say no flat-out. He told me “I never cared about your feelings, and I didn’t even think about your confession until you came and asked me. A relationship between us is never going to happen.” When I suggested some distance, he said, “We’ll talk after a few years.” Yeah.
The next semester, I turned up in class fully expecting radio silence —but he was friendly. I was cold in my response, but I became confused, and a few weeks later, asked him if he wanted to be friends again. His answer: “It’s too complicated.” I got angry, and I told him I’d only been doing what he’d wanted me to do.
We stopped talking after that. I’ve never talked about all this to anyone. I’ve never bad-mouthed him. It’s been a few months now. Friends who hung out with me have started hanging out with him more and began behaving quite coolly towards me. I haven’t been invited to parties or any events where he’s going to be. He flirts openly with girls in front of me. He sometimes physically avoids me, sometimes doesn’t. It seems like he’s indifferent now, or that he never cared. I wonder if he’s telling people a skewed version of what happened.
I’m deeply upset, hurt, and confused. I don’t know what he wants me to do. I’ve tried just cold turkey living without my best friend (so-called) but I keep having intrusive thoughts and still get bothered over him and am simply heartbroken because I only wanted to have a good time, good friends, and good grades in university but this happened.
Of course you did, Sparkler—and you still can! As much as what you’re going through hurts (and I know it hurts like the dickens), it does not have to define your college experience. And while I know this won’t make it hurt any less, what you’re going through is very much a standard-issue experience for your current stage of life. You are not the first person to fall in unrequited love with your best friend at university, nor are you the first person to have a dramatic falling-out with that friend when things didn’t work out. It happens, sweet pea. It happens to so many people. But they move on, and so will you.
In order to do that, though, you’re going to need a more holistic understanding of the situation, so that you can learn from it and let it go rather than being continuously distressed by how confusing the whole thing is, and how much it hurts. Because of course, from your perspective, this seems like a scenario in which you were continuously and gratuitously punched in the feelings and ultimately rejected by your friends when all you did was like a guy and get your heart broken. But from your crush’s perspective? It’s probably more like a scenario in which he was pursued by someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer, who lashed out in scary and self-sabotaging ways when he tried to let her down easy, and who responded to his attempt at a civil reconciliation by ripping the bandaid off all the recent drama and making things messy and weird again.
None of which is to say that his perspective is the Absolute Truth; the reality of what went down between you likely falls somewhere in the middle (and for what it’s worth, he certainly didn’t handle things perfectly.) But assuming that his take on the situation is something akin to the above, it’s not hard to understand why he’s keeping his distance—and if his version of events is all anyone knows of what happened (and particularly if it was corroborated by some of your less-than-healthy behavior happening in a place where other people could see it), it’s not hard to understand why they might feel compelled to help him steer clear of you. Even if you’re not bitter and obsessive, stuff like your recent confrontation can have the unfortunate effect of making you look that way.
And while I sympathize utterly with your pain, sweet pea, I do see why the guy in question might have concluded that resuming your friendship is “too complicated.” The way he’s gone about sending that message leaves a lot to be desired, but the message itself isn’t wrong. You guys can’t be in each other’s lives right now. Everything about your letter says that you’re not even remotely ready for that. Your hurt is much too raw. You need time and space to let it heal. You need to focus on other things until your heartbreak has been banished to the sidelines—and in the meantime, you’ve gotta fake it ’til you make it, which means cutting ties and going no-contact. Block or mute him on social media, avoid him on campus, and stop giving him any sway over the way you live your life moving forward. You say you don’t know what he wants you to do, but here’s the thing: who cares what he wants? He can live his life however he pleases, but he and his desires are not your priority. From now on, you need to do your best to pretend he doesn’t exist.
And yes, this does mean you have to let go of this relationship and move forward—but when the relationship (such as it is) is bringing you nothing but misery and confusion, it will be a relief to leave it in your rearview. It’s time to focus on the things that bring you joy, and banish the rest. And when you’re not so busy dwelling on the one person who couldn’t give you what you wanted, you will find that other, better people are waiting in the wings to appreciate and be appreciated by you. Go find them.
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