Question: My best friend recently told me she has feelings for me. Not only that, she then proceeds to say that she’s in love with me! When she first told me, I told her that I don't feel that way back. I recently broke up with my girlfriend so I’m assuming she thought it would be a great opportunity to let me know how she feels. Unfortunately, I just don't like her like that and don't want to ruin our friendship. Even though I don't feel the same way about her, I do value our friendship a lot. I still want to be friends with her (we've known each other for over 15 years) but I feel like things are so awkward between us now. Is there a way I can repair our friendship without leading her on? (Irvine, CA)
Social Shrink: What an awkward situation! That is what’s tricky when you are close friends with the opposite sex. You have to give her credit for waiting until you broke up with your ex to tell you. Remember how Julia Roberts told her best friend in "My Best Friend's Wedding" she loved him the day of his wedding? That couldn't have been worse timing and all this drama ensued. Although she poured her heart out to you and you didn't reciprocate those feelings, it doesn’t mean that your friendship can’t be repaired if the two of you work on it.
First things first: don’t brush off her feelings towards you as if you’re disgusted. Acknowledge her feelings and let her know that your friendship means too much to you to risk a relationship. What if you two were to break up? She should understand this scenario as it’s always hard to remain close friends after a break up. Tell her that you love her – as a friend – and that you are so glad she felt comfortable enough to tell her how she feels.
Now that you set the record straight about how you feel, don’t expect things to go back right to how they were before. Though it will take a while to get your friendship back to how it was, it can be done if you do a comfortable and timely transition back. Try just chatting with her online or on the phone for a while before hanging out with her in person. This way, the comfort level can be based strictly on your conversation before meeting face-to-face. After awhile when you feel like you two are at a good place, try meeting up with her for lunch or events that are not “date-like” (i.e. avoid movies, dinners, etc. where she may be reminded of being a couple). To summarize – you may feel awkward at first, but don’t avoid her! That will ruin your friendship.
Things between you two are awkward for now, but it doesn't always have to be that way. Just make sure you are respectful towards her when you guys are out at bars/clubs and not making out with other girls in front of her until she is okay with you being in a relationship. Keep her in the loop when you’re talking to other girls and ask her opinion. Make her feel like she’s still valued as a friend. Reassure her that you care for her as a friend – the more you remind her that you two are friends, the more the boundary will be clear to her.
Hope this helps. What do others think, has anyone been in this situation?