Hello all you thought criminals of the Internet, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column to help you speedrun to the Good Ending of your love life.
This week, it’s all about the choices we make in pursuit of love. Dropping everything to take a gamble on love makes for great drama… but is it practical in your actual life? What about when you roll the dice and make a grand confession of love to your best friend… and she shoots you down? How do you move forward?
It’s time to glitch past the shame and sequence-break around your mistakes. Let’s get right to the lessons in the end credits.
As someone who has a tendency to get easily depressed and obsessively self-analyze, how do you deal a one sided affection? Apologies for the length, TL;DR is that I confessed to one of my best friends (we’ll call her Pods) and she doesn’t feel the same and it’s eating me more than I feel it should.
I have a bit of a history with this girl. We were classmates for 2 years and barely ever interacted (I was really withdrawn for most of high school). Senior year I really came out of my shell and started talking to more people. Along with this, I fell for this girl hard. I’ve had vague crushes before, but nothing like this. It started in fall, so I’ve felt this way for over a year at this point. I slowly became friends with her as the year went on. It built up to the last dance of our high school career. I asked her to it, and she said yes.
It was a great night, up until my best friend (we’ll call him friend A, the first person I even told I had a crush on this girl) called her while she was drunk and said he would have hooked up with her if she was still at the party. I’m not usually a proponent of guy code (entitlement is toxic), but this was a grimy move on his part. I’m not gonna get into the details, but they had a fling that ended within a week. She had never done anything with a guy before. Turns out, he took pictures of them hooking up. Sent them to guys in our class. As soon as I heard this, I told Pods’ best friend about it, and she told Pods of course. Of course, this ended their “relationship” which lasted about five hours.
Anyway, I was already good friends with Pod’s best friend so we became a bit of a trio from there on out. The whole experience made us way tighter since it was so emotionally draining. Problem is, I only fall for Pods harder from here on out. It got to the point where I knew her well enough to say I was in love. At least, as “in love” as you can be with a friend.
So I texted her one night at the end of July and said we needed to talk. I pick her up, we go to a park. I just lay it out to her, what I wanted, every quirk and character trait I liked about her, and that she didn’t have to respond to anything right away. She says that she has so much respect for me, that she always has fun hanging out with me, and felt like she could talk to me about mental health type issues she couldn’t with her other friends. But she says she’s interested in someone else currently. Also says she doesn’t want to make things awkward for me and that we can take a break from hanging out if I want. I take her up on that offer.
It’s been like 2 months now and I’m still not over it. I’m still thinking about her more often than sometimes, and it’s really the worst. I miss her, and I feel like a bad friend dropping her after 6 months of friendship just because she didn’t feel the same way. But it hurts to be friends. Like physically, I can feel it ache in me.
And it feels like there’s just something wrong with me now. I invested so much of myself into this is the issue, I guess. I tried to be the best possible me for her and it wasn’t enough. That other person she was interested in? He lives 2 states down from us and it didn’t work out, she ended up crying in a basement at a birthday party when he didn’t reciprocate. And she’d rather deal with that than even attempt going out with me.
This isn’t me saying I’m entitled to her affection. She doesn’t owe me anything. She always told me about her failed romances and such, and it just kills my self-esteem that she’s that disinterested in me as an alternative. What piece am I missing that all these other guys so clearly had? I can’t help but ask, what is wrong with me?
I thought I’d get some closure in confessing, because I’ve known that she’s known I liked her, but it’s just not there. And it feels like it’s never going to be there, like I’ll never stop wondering about the possibilities and where I went wrong. I was going to confess to her after the dance, before Friend A did his thing. After that, it feels like this wound just won’t heal properly. It feels infected, spreading all through my mind in places where it has no right to.
Above all else, it just feels pathetic that I’m this affected by it all, feeling this alone. Like I hate that this message is as long as it is. I’m trying to find someone else to feel this way about, and nothing is more unattractive than being this hung up on a girl. I try to do thought experiments where I’m with someone else instead of Pods, but it always seems like I’m settling. It feels like I need to cry it all out, but I just can’t for some unnameable reason. Am I just broken?
First things first, UL: holy hopping sheep shit, your buddy A is an asshole. Not because he made a move on someone you like — we don’t get to call dibs on people, no matter how much of a crush we have on them — but because he took pictures of their hook-up without her consent and then showed them around to everyone else. He’s an asshole and, depending on the laws in your state, lucky he isn’t getting thrown in jail.
Before we talk about how to process your feelings right now — and trust me, this will tie into it at the end — let’s talk for a minute about Pods and her new beau, another ass-in-a-top-hat who makes her cry. What’s the story there? Why’s she going for these shitbags instead of you, a great guy who’s right there with a big neon sign that says “Available” flashing over his head? Is it because women are just biologically attracted to assholes? Do you need to alpha up, get a leather jacket, an affected snarl and a Juul habit? Is it that you just weren’t good enough for her, yet Studly Goodnight two states over is, despite treating her emotions like Ike Turner?
Not so much. See, the issue (and please notice very carefully I did NOT say “problem”) here has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with her. You simply don’t have whatever x-factor it is that turns her crank. And before anyone starts going on about how this is your fault, I want you to think about the number of people you talk to on a daily basis who you aren’t into. Every day, you’re interact with dozens of folks across the gender spectrum and yet you aren’t in love with them or desperate to get in their pants. In some cases, it’s because they’re not your preferred gender. That’s not a failing on their part; you just happen to prefer women. They could be their best goddamn selves, the biggest, tastiest dude in the room… but it’s not going to make a difference because you’re not into dudes.
But what about the women? Well, you talk to them too. And there are plenty who are pretty goddamn awesome themselves, who have amazing taste in books and music and are absolutely incredible. And yet, you’re not into them either. Why? Because there’s some nebulous quality that’s just not there. This doesn’t make them bad people. This doesn’t mean they’ve failed somehow, or that they’re lesser than Pods. It just means that they don’t have that ineffable thing that tips your needle from “nice” and “niiiiiiice”
So it is for Pods with you. You’re a great guy. You’ve worked hard to be your best self. She clearly likes you, loves spending time with you, trusts you in ways she doesn’t trust others and cares for you deeply. But she isn’t attracted to you. That’s all.
Part of the problem is that you’re treating her affection like it’s a measure of your value as a person. But women ain’t Mjölnir, my dude. They don’t have “whomsoever should part these legs, if they be worthy, shall have the power of Score” embroidered on their underwear. Whether they fall for someone or not doesn’t mean that person has more points on a spreadsheet than the other candidates. It just means that they just happen to fit in ways that other folks don’t.
And that’s fine. I mean, it totally sucks that she doesn’t care for you the way that you wish she did. But it doesn’t mean you’re not a great guy. You’re just not her type of great guy.There will be others who think you’re bee’s knees and the badger’s nadgers.
But what do you do in the meantime? To start with: give yourself a break. You’re allowed to have a sad over this. You poured your heart out to someone, she said “thanks but no thanks.” You’re not a rock, and you’re not an idiot who thinks that guys aren’t allowed to feel pain. You’re not pathetic, you’re heartbroken. That happens. The fact that you’re telling yourself you aren’t supposed to be upset about this is part of what’s prolonging your heartache. You’re flagellating yourself with ideas about how you’re “supposed” to be to be.
Feel the ever-living fuck out of your feels, my dude. Go, lock yourself in your room, put on a couple Cure albums, and cry the shit out of this. You’re entitled.
Next: you need to recognize that, far from making a mistake, you actually did something right. She said “hey, thanks but I don’t feel that way” and you said “Cool, well, I need to go away for a bit.” That’s the right decision. It’s admirable that you want to try to stay friends and not let this affect things, but if being around her is going to shred your soul, then you can’t be around her for a while. There’s no profit in martyring yourself in the name of “I should be able to handle this.” You don’t get Man Points for pretending that pain doesn’t hurt, and you can’t heal if you keep picking the scab off the wound.
Besides: do you really think that Pods would be happy knowing that you’re miserable when you two are hanging out? Of course not: she’s your friend. She’d want you to take care of yourself. In this case, taking care of yourself means that you have to say, “OK, well, peace out, cub scout”.
But here’s another truth: the fact that you’re hurting now doesn’t mean that you’re going to be hurting forever. You are very young, and two months can seem like a lifetime. But it isn’t. It’s a short amount of time. A lifetime is very long, and most of yours hasn’t even happened yet.
The fact that you can’t be around her now doesn’t mean that you can’t ever be her friend again. It just means that right now, you’re not in a place where you can be friends until you’ve gone and done some healing. You can’t do that around her. You need some space.
So what’s first step to healing yourself and getting over her? Figure out what it is that she represents to you. A lot of times, the reason why we get hung up on someone isn’t as much about the person as what they symbolize. Is it validation? Does her being into you mean that you’re The Man, someone who’s capable of getting somebody as awesome as her? Or is it a case of completion? Does she represent a quality that you wish you had, something that you might learn or she might draw out of you?
Find out what that quality is, and learn how to provide it for yourself. Imagine yourself in the ideal world where you were dating her, and be that guy. It won’t bring her to you, but it will help you realize that you don’t need her to be happy or to be amazing.
The other thing to do is practice some radical forgiveness. Forgive her — in your heart — for not loving you the way you wish she did and for breaking your heart, even though she didn’t know she was doing it. And forgive yourself for loving, if not too wisely but too well.
This will take some time, UL. That’s fine. Take that time. Let yourself feel, let those sads out and then take that energy and use it to work on yourself. And, just for practical, future use? Next time, don’t wait and confess your feelings. Instead, once you realize you’re into somebody, be proactive and ask them out on a date. This way, you’re not saying “here are my feelings, what do you want to do with them,” you’re saying “hey, I Iike you, let’s go do something awesome together.” It conveys the message in a more compelling and attractive manner.
You’ve got this, UL. It hurts now, but it won’t always hurt, and in time, you’ll be ready to pick up that friendship where you two left off. All will be well.
I have a problem that was a long time in forming, if you think about it. It’s about a lovely lady who we will call Zed.
I’ve known Zed since we were 4. These days she’s living in a different state.
Some backstory. I have Social Anxiety, and she doesn’t know this. In high school my Anxiety had peaked and I isolated myself from all my friends, including her. As much as I wanted to talk to her, I couldn’t, so I had to watch from afar. This caused me to hate myself. My verbally abusive father only built on this feeling of self-loathing.
Before graduation, I finally sent her a letter basically saying I miss talking to her and that I was sorry, not expecting to get a reply, due to us being about to graduate. So of course she sent what is probably the most encouraging letter ever. Zed was very surprised to get a letter from me, and she was thinking I didn’t want to talk to her so she didn’t talk to me. She said many other things that I won’t repeat, but mom had the letter framed and put it on my wall for every time I was too hard on myself. I wish I still had it but a house fire in ‘05 destroyed it.
Fast forward to now; my mom passed away recently and my abusive a-hole father got all her assets due to lack of planning for me while she was alive. I will lose our house at the very least by the end of the month and while his attorneys are paying for 6 months stay at a hotel until the county who helped my mom finds me a permanent home for little to no cost (I am mentally disabled in some ways, more from how I was raised, sheltered and caged, rather than any type of Autism) but it could take months.
Now I recently reconnected with Zed on Facebook, she is currently going through a divorce after 7 years. And she said it’s expensive so she can’t visit anytime soon. Zed did mention that I could work for the company she works for, which offers on-site low cost housing for employees. And there are jobs open that I am interested in. There are several BIG concerns here.
1. 50% of the reason I would even move out there is for her. And I have no idea how she even feels about me. Also I don’t want to overstep any boundaries of someone going through a divorce. I have no idea what those even may be, so I’ve been keeping my feelings at a distance when we chat in our texts.
2. It’s the first time I’d be on my own, completely alone, without any help.
3. My dog can’t join me there, he’s been with my mom and I through 8 years of pure hell. It’d be very difficult letting him go.
4. What if I didn’t do a good enough job and got fired? I’d be homeless in a whole different state.
But then, probably my biggest concern is that I will wait too long to tell her how I feel and she’ll have already met someone else. This happened before with other women I liked. And I hate how selfish I am that I would even say that.
I do want her to be happy, but I can’t help how I feel. I’ve never been in a normal relationship, let alone a long distance one.
Dreaming For The Future
Ah man, I’m sorry you’re in such a fucked up spot, DFTF. You’re going through some serious shit and I feel for you. But if I’m perfectly honest, I think that this plan of yours isn’t a good one, for a number of reasons.
First, I’d say any scenario that means giving up your dog is a complete dealbreaker. As far as I’m concerned, pets are family and I will burn Heaven to the ground before I give up my family. Just as importantly: you have a responsibility to him. He’s a part of your life and you’ve been his entire life. Giving him away would be cruel to you and to him. You need him; he needs you. You don’t want to break that team up.
Second: don’t take this the wrong way but… you don’t have a relationship with Zed. I mean, it’s great that you two have reconnected and she’s such a major source of inspiration to you. But the truth of the matter is that this is a very one-sided relationship. You’ve basically built things up in your head. It’s not like she’s flirting with you or giving you anything other than the sort of support a friend would give someone in dire straits. You’ve rounded that up to love and honestly, it really isn’t. It’s a crush. And that’s a very bad reason to pick up and move to an entirely different state.
You say, “what if I don’t do a good job and get fired?” Well, what if you give up your dog, uproot your entire life, confess your feelings, and find out that she doesn’t feel the same way about you? That, to my mind, is almost as bad.
Third: dude, she’s going through a divorce right now. That’s going to do a number on her whole life. She’s having to tear away a major portion of her existence and relearn how to live as an individual instead of half of a couple. The last thing she needs right now someone coming along and saying “hey, guess what!” I get that the heart wants what the heart wants, but that’s actually a selfish thing to dump on someone at a very difficult time in their life. If you care about her, the best thing you can do is be the support that she needs, just as she was for you. That means putting confessing aside.
Fourth: You’re talking about getting tossed into the deep end of life with next to no preparation and some not-insignificant challenges to overcome, with no support structure in place. That, my friend, is seriously no bueno. No man is an island under the best of circumstances, but you’re coming to this from a place of having been dumped in the shit. You’re going to need some infrastructure in place to help you out. Tossing everything out to start completely over with no real preparation is a great way to hit the “sink” side of “sink or swim”
If there were ways that you could square this — pick up stakes, bring the dog, get a job and a place to live, find the support infrastructure you’ll need — without it also being about your feelings about Zed, then I’d say “yeah, maybe.”
But as it is? Moving would be a really bad choice for you. I think what you need to do is get your life together where you currently are. Might Zed move on without you? Yeah, probably. But if I’m blunt: that’s probably going to happen anyway. And then you’d be stuck in a strange place without the connections you had. It would be a bad foundation to rebuild on.
There will be other women who are just as amazing as Zed, but you only have one shot at your life. The best thing you can do is to let this one go. Take time, get some therapy, get your feet back under you, build a strong foundation for your future, and move forward from there. With your dog.
Did you confess your feelings to a friend? Did you change your entire life on the basis of a crush? Share your story in the comments below and we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.