Q: Dear APW,
I have a girlfriend. I have a best friend. I have known my best friend for six years now and my girlfriend for a year. I have always been a great admirer of my friend. When I came to know her deeply, I started to admire her a lot and fell for her almost immediately.
But I was not sure how to tell her my feelings. The day I went to tell her, she met me and told me about this guy who proposed to her and she said yes. I was shattered but still remained friends because she was a great one. After some months they broke up (compatibility issues), and after some time, I expressed to her my feelings, to which she said she believed that her ex would be back. Two years went by, and she is still single but now doesn’t want to be with that guy. Meanwhile I met another wonderful person who loves me very much and is now my girlfriend.
The problem is that I still think about my best friend. I like her still and want to be with her but it feels like I am cheating my girlfriend even by thinking about another girl while in a relationship. I love my girl very much, and there are no problems between us. But still I want to be with my best friend. What to do?
P.S. I also raised the topic two to three times with my best friend when I was not committed, but she didn’t seem to have those feelings.
A: Dear Anonymous,
Time to ease yourself away from this best friend. She’s been clear that she’s not interested in more than friendship, and you still very much are. It’s not doing you any good to keep hanging around her, pining for her, waiting for a rom-com ending. Once you get some distance, it’ll be a bit easier to get over her and make some objective, reasonable relationship decisions for yourself, rather than measuring every girl against her.
Unrequited love is easy to fantasize about. You haven’t smelled her morning breath; she hasn’t started an argument over something trivial just when you’re falling asleep. You’ve known each other a long time, but you haven’t gotten a glimpse of all the unsavory bits that come with being in an intimate relationship. Also we’re surrounded by messages in movies, TV, songs that this is romantic, that you just have to win her over, that you’re perfect for each other and she just needs to realize it. But there’s really nothing romantic about one person having feelings while the other does not. That’s altogether too mundane. Trust that this woman knows what she wants, and respect that by backing off.
And this way you feel about her, passionate and enthralled and constantly thinking about her? You deserve someone who feels that way about you, too. Not just to wear someone down, convince them that you’re great. But someone who really thinks you’re the best ever.
Your girlfriend deserves it, too. You have a nagging feeling in your guts that it’s a sort of unfairness to her to keep carrying this torch for your friend, and I agree. It’s normal to have experiences you remember fondly, past loves or might-have-beens that you occasionally think of wistfully. But the way you describe this situation, it sounds as though this girlfriend is just holding the place next to you ’til your best friend comes around. It sounds like you’re actively wishing you were with best friend instead of girlfriend. And that’s not cool—to her, to you, to anyone.
Get some space from the best friend, and focus on your relationship with your girlfriend. Is she the absolute best ever, now that you’ve removed the high bar set by an impossible, imaginary relationship with your best friend? Or, is there really something missing there? Chances are you need a break from relationships, cold turkey, while you sort out what exactly you want.