SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: My Friend Group Is a Tangled Web of Unrequited Lust

Hi Auntie!

I’ve come to you with a problem that I’m not sure I can change, exactly, but I do need advice on. I’m in a group of friends of an indeterminate number, but at a given social gathering there are usually 4-10 of us together. I’m going to try to be as vague as I can without omitting essential information, because even though I don’t think anyone I know reads this site, you never know.

The group consists of three boys and the rest girls, myself a girl. A few of the girls have S.O.s outside the group and the boys are single, with the exception of one guy’s friend with benefits. Get ready for a messy, Glee-like situation:

Two girls, Z and Y, are sisters, and the elder (Z) is protective of Y. She’s worried that Y has a crush on/will hook up with B (a boy), who has a reputation for being manipulative and emotionally cruel in relationships. Y is younger and has far less romantic and sexual experience, so I think Z’s protective feelings are valid. But X speculated that Z wants to hook up with A (B’s brother) and W (even though W has expressed that she feels no attraction to girls and has turned down Z in the past). X has a crush on A, and not just a physical attraction, but romantic feelings, so I think her potential for heartbreak is higher.

I feel bad for A because I feel like almost every one of his friends is/was attracted to him in some way. I’m on-and-off in terms of thinking that he likes me, but recently I’ve been pretty sure that he doesn’t. I’ve even tried to make myself like him because I want a boyfriend so badly and thought that I could get him, but I just never felt it. I’m glad I didn’t. For me, romantic attraction and platonic friendship cannot coexist in a relationship. This isn’t to say that a S.O. can’t be a friend, it’s that if the love is unrequited, the admirer is using friendship to be close to the object of their admiration. (The reason I feel this way is I was once led on for over a year by a boy who I thought genuinely wanted to be my friend but in reality had a crush on me; for the record, we’re friends today but he has a girlfriend and I have no attraction towards him).

I feel like a hypocrite for disapproving of this, because I myself want to hook up with B. And no one is at fault for having feelings, but even though we’ve asked Z to keep it as platonic as possible within the group I don’t think she’s taken it seriously. Everyone in the group is very attractive, but Z has a mysterious special ability to get with lots of boys, most recently a boy I helped set her up with. But Z’s rather polyamorous in her hookups (of course, making out with someone is hardly a wedding contract) and as long as she’s not officially dating someone she might still feel a “claim” on someone else.

If I could make this situation ideal for me, X could date A, I could hook up with B (or better yet, have a boyfriend outside of the group), and the rest of us would have romantic and sexual adventures elsewhere. Which of course is selfish. But I just want friends with whom I feel no pressure, competition, or jealousy. In fact I would forgo all pursuit of sexual activity with B if I could have this.

This is putting me and my friends on edge, Auntie. I’m sorry this was so long-winded but I needed to do the complaint justice. Many of us are graduating this year, so that would solve the problem in one way, but it would be grand if we didn’t have to end on any weird feelings. We really do love each other platonically when it comes down to it. It’s a lot of guesswork and inference, but everything I’ve told you, I know to be true. Please help in any way you can!

Well, for starters—although this is not technically helpful in the way you’re probably hoping for—Auntie SparkNotes is duty-bound to point out that a thing which you can only conclude based on guesswork and inference is by definition not a thing you know to be true. That’s, like, the opposite of what the word “know” means. But whatever. The more important thing is that despite your best efforts (and mine—I even drew a diagram!), I still can’t figure out how on earth the loyalties, lustings and romantic entanglements of your friends have anything to do with you.

And I’m pretty sure that’s because they don’t.

Which is where you problem begins and ends, Sparkler. Yes, it makes things complicated when certain people within a group of friends have romantic/sexy feelings for each other, and yes, things get even more complicated when other people have feelings in conflict with those feelings. But this is the kind of complicated that happens all the time. It’s a normal, natural, expected part of human relationships, that when you have a group of people who like each other, you also have this sort of alphabet soup of interpersonal intrigues between individual group members.

And as you yourself have pointed out, there’s nothing to be done about that. You can’t stop your friends from feeling what they feel; you can’t dictate the yearnings of other people’s hearts, or hormones.

So when you say that you want friends with whom you don’t feel competitive and jealous? Of course you do, and that’s fine. But if that’s what you want, then it’s not your friends’ responsibility to stop hooking up with and/or crushing on each other, just so that you can stop feeling angsty about their crushes and hookups. It’s your responsibility to change how you approach these relationships: to stop letting jealousy get the better of you, to stop treating your friendships like competitions, to stop seeing the guys within your group as prizes to be parceled out to whomever is most worthy, and to stop dreaming of a single solution that will eliminate all the weirdness and tension of a dozen interpersonal dramas in one fell swoop. The girl trying to micromanage her little sister’s love life; the girl who desires the guy who is desired by everyone; the girl who may or may not be planning to make your friend group into her own polyamorous buffet: These are not your problems, and their solutions are not your business. The people involved in these issues are going to have to be the ones to figure them out.

Which means that they also might not figure them out, and things might stay weird—or get weirder, even—before graduation works its magic to eliminate or alter certain parts of your group dynamic. But that’s okay. Your friends don’t have to shape up in order for you to feel better. You can do that all on your own, by changing your perspective. It’s a question of simply refusing to involve yourself in drama that has nothing to do with you. It’s also, secondarily, a question of you choosing not to create drama in situations where it’s not worth it to you.

If you’re not sure how to do the latter, vowing to keep your love life separate from this particular group of friends would be a good place to start.

Especially when the guy you want to hook up with in the group is the same one with a reputation for being a cruel, manipulative douchebag.

Seriously, whatever else you do, you can certainly do better than that loser.

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