My friend has feelings for me

Last updated 05:00 21/06/2012

This week, a reader is torn between two men - the boyfriend she wants to stay loyal to, and the friend who could have been more.

Send your questions to lifeandstyle@stuff.co.nz, and remember to include a nickname if you don't want to be identified.

Hi Chris

I have a good friend who I'm very close with and who I used to have feelings for. Nothing ever happened between us because the timing was off and we lived in different cities, but I did send him sexy pics of myself and we used to talk about sex a lot and about us hooking up.

I had known him for more than two years when my boyfriend came along. My friend has made it clear he still has feelings for me, but he's a big flirt in general so I don't take things he says to heart. He still lives far away, so we never see each other, but my boyfriend has made it clear he doesn't approve of the friendship (as I told him I used to have feelings for my friend and he's just very intuitive).

I'm not sure what to do - I'm a loyal friend and I care about this guy very much. My boyfriend knows we still talk and he doesn't give me grief about it. After a long conversation we had a while ago, he now accepts it to some degree. 

But now my friend has invited me to visit him and said he would pay for the plane ticket, which I know is crossing the line. I'm not going to take him up on the offer, but it's made me wonder whether this friendship is healthy. I feel like I try so hard to make it clear that we're just friends, but he always tests what he can get away with. 

What should I do?

Jasmine

You raise some really interesting issues in your letter about boundaries, attraction and intimacy, and I'm not surprised you are having a struggle with how to respond. 

In some ways, the relationship with your good friend has all the elements of intrigue and romance - you had feelings for each other, shared some very intimate thoughts and feelings and engaged in a kind of sexual foreplay without the usual next stage of forming a relationship together.

You are now wondering if the friendship is healthy and from that perspective I wonder if there isn't a small part of you that wonders "what if" we got together and what if he really isn't just flirting. 

You haven't had the usual ups and downs of actually getting together and finding our if it would work for you, so it does risk being a bit of an untested fantasy.

Our intimate relationships rely on trust and sharing our feelings and thoughts to deepen and enrich them.

It may be useful to think about who you go to when you have something really important or intimate to share.  If it is your current boyfriend and you are secure in that relationship, then you are right to be saying no to the ticket and setting very clear boundaries with your other friend. 

If your friend is always testing and you have a sense of being pressured, then that is not the basis for either a sound friendship or an intimate relationship, and you may want to distance yourself further from him. 

It takes two parties to form a loyal friendship - and loyalty doesn't normally feel like pressure and "testing".

For your current relationship with your boyfriend to succeed, you may need to make some hard choices about your friendship. This will require you to be really honest with yourself about who you want to be with and to share with. 

Once you are clear about that, then letting your friend know you are choosing to distance yourself from him in order to deepen your current relationship becomes easier. On the other hand, if you are left with "what would happen if we did meet up", then you may decide once and for all to go visit and test the reality of having a relationship with your friend. 

The rewards from a rich and trusting relationship are well worth some hard soul-seeking and decision-making, and I do wish you well in your decisions!

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

- Stuff

31 comments
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kae   #1   08:07 am Jun 21 2012

It is hard to step back when you are in this sort of situation. Reading your story for me it comes down to respect. Your boyfriend respects and trusts you enough that he does not make it difficult for you to maintain a friendship with this other person. The "friend" on the other hand does not respect you. You have chosen to be in a relationship so it is disrespectful and not friend-like to test boundaries.

NB   #2   08:10 am Jun 21 2012

I've been in a similar situation. After breaking up with my long term boyfriend (the break up was nothing to do with the friend, we'd been having trouble for a while) I moved cities and I guess with some influence picked the friends city.

My friend has always been an intense flirt and frankly I was welcoming it. After a cooling off period (my choice) we meet up and one thing led to another and I spend the night at his place. After a couple more nights over we decided we were better off friends.

He is now engaged, I've been in a serious relationship for a few years and we couldn't be happier for each other. I think sometimes our current partners pick up on something, we will always have fond feelings for each other but what we had back then was 90% lust.

I do hope you make a good decision and let down whoever you choose easily and you can remain friends. Good luck!

Lucky#13   #3   08:15 am Jun 21 2012

Your friend who "could have been more" is an ar$e and should respect the fact that you are in a relationship now with someone else. You should give him the cold shoulder and give yourself 100% to your current partner. Anything less than 100% and you are not being fair to anyone, not even yourself.

Darric   #4   08:45 am Jun 21 2012

Just a guess but this comes across as though your friend wants to sleep with you but isn't to interested in a relationship. He may well be a nice guy but men are less likely to be worried about the friendship if the friend is attractive and they can sleep with them.

It does sound like you are finding it hard to say no to this friend however and if you are attracted to each other then there will always be the temptation. You could either give in and see how it is or remove this friend from your life. Keeping him as a friend is of course an option but the temptation is unlikely to just fade away and in the end you will probably end up...

Human nature is what it is.

BeenThere   #5   08:49 am Jun 21 2012

I've been there... kind of. I'm male and my besty friend is female. We have known each other for coming up to 20 years. Very early on in our friendship we knew there was a "bond", but agreed to only be friends. About 10 years into the friendship, we became VERY close. We were basically in a relationship, but without the intimacy. In fact we even held hands and would stand at parties with our hands in each others back pockets - we were pretty close, but NEVER crossed the line. As it turned out, she was expecting something to happen but I stayed true to our original agreement so never "made the move". Eventually she found someone else and got married. We are still VERY close (although obviously the touchie feelie stuff is no longer there). Although there is some regret there - that perhaps we should have given it a go - I know I will have a this very special friend for life. Through thick and thin. And that fact that we weren't intimate make it easier to justify our close friendship to girlfirends, etc. In short, you obviously have a special bond with that person. These are rare so try and preserve it. Be strong and respect those "friendship" boundries. As a result, you too may have a special friend for life. Just my 2 cents.

Vicki   #6   08:54 am Jun 21 2012

I understand your confusion on the matter. A friend and I quite openly (to each other) love one another and have a strong attraction, we have for as long as we have known each other. About 10 years ago we dated for a brief time as teenagers but it wasn't quite right. The love and attraction have never eased.

For about 3 years we both in relationships where our partners wouldn't allow our friendship, we lost contact and missed each other terribly. We built our friendship back up and are stronger than ever. Initially we wondered what if.... but then we sat down and discussed it seriously. If we tried and it failed it would ruin everything we had and neither of us saw it being forever. The agreement we made was that our friendship was forever and that any partner we were with wouldn't be the one unless they could support our friendship. Although this is not an easy task as his partners are often have trust issues, it is something we both work on and truely support each other through everything.

I would suggest sitting down with him and talking openly about your feelings towards one another, there will always be a questionmark over it until you do.

Samantha   #7   09:03 am Jun 21 2012

He just wants to have sex with you. If he wanted to see you he could fly to see you instead of wanting to take you away from your boyfriend and fly you there.

Respect   #8   09:05 am Jun 21 2012

If this person overseas really wanted to be with you, he should have acted a long time ago. If he was a true friend, he would respect you and respect the fact that you are in a relationship with someone else, and not try to come between you and your boyfriend. You may have a sexual attraction but actually you are both just using each other as mutual fantasy figures and the likelihood of reality meeting these expectations is very low. Sounds like your boyfriend has been very patient and more than reasonable so far; is there any other reason why you would be tempted to leave him?

Here's an analogy - you live in a strong, safe house that is comfortable and reliable. You have the opportunity to leave your house and go and stay in a hotel that is advertised online and it seems really amazing. But you don't know how much the hotel will cost or how long you can stay for, or if it is even really going to be that amazing when you get there (could be all false advertising!). And, if you leave your house, you can never go back. If you don't like the hotel, you'd be homeless. As for the question I asked above, is there any other reason you'd want to leave - if there are other factors about the "house" which you haven't disclosed, that might change the scenario (e.g., it is completely infested with rats).

Does that make your decision easier?

Milo   #9   09:20 am Jun 21 2012

Jasmine,

Here's the answer you're looking for from a males perspective. All males, whether they like to admit it or not, simply cannot be good platonic friends with females especially not attractive ones!

Is the idea of a pure, platonic relationship between non-related, heterosexual men and women a myth? For the most part, it would seem the answer is "yes" and the reason is deeply rooted in the evolutionary soil of our species.

Thanks to the writings of John Gray, many of us now know some of the "Mars/Venus" generalizations such as men typically use language as a tool for solving problems while women use it as a way to promote intimacy. Indeed, while other gender stereotypes might be valid, such as it's easier for women to define intimate relationships with men as non-sexual than vice-versa, individual differences among people will always provide exceptional cases. Thus, some women might have a more "masculine" approach to heterosexual friendship than average and some men might relate to friends in a more stereotypically "feminine" manner than most.

Nevertheless, here's the crux of the matter: Within these boundaries of gender generalizations, the vast majority of post-pubescent, heterosexual men will invariably have a sexual desirability "reflex" upon seeing a female of reproductive age. Thus the immediate discrimination that a male will make when encountering a female is whether or not he'd like to have sex with her. While some women might acknowledge this sexual "reflex" too, it is likely that they can quickly get past it and focus on the non-sexual aspects of the male with whom they're relating.

Milo   #10   09:24 am Jun 21 2012

PART 2 ======

Unfortunately you don't seem to be able to focus on the non-sexual aspects of your relationship with this guy. It all boils down to this simple question, "What do you want?". You need to ask yourself whats more important to you, the current guy you're seeing or the guy you exchange sexy sms messages with? Once you know the answer your decision as to what you need to do will be clear as crystal!

I hope that helps your current situation and you find solace in your final decision.

Best Luck


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