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Friends without benefits

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  July 22, 2011 08:23 AM

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Q: About three months ago I told a friend of mine that I had feelings for her. What I didn't know -- and neither did our other friends -- was that she had been seeing a guy for a couple of weeks before I told her. She told me right after I told her how I felt. Obviously, if I had known, I wouldn't have said anything. I told her that I wanted to remain friends and she said she did too. Over the next week however, she went out of her way to avoid speaking with me. We are both members of an organization, we were at several meetings and events over that week, and she didn't even acknowledge that I was there. After several of our mutual friends urged her to talk to me, she told me that she had been avoiding me on purpose and needed time to work all of this out. I understood.

We went without talking for three months and then I contacted her. I said that I thought three months was enough time to decide what we should do and that if she wanted to keep things the way there are (with us going our separate ways), I'd respect that, but that I hoped she would be willing to go back to our friendship. She got back to me and said she wanted to get together and do something with me and some of our mutual friends.

So, I now have a friend again and I'll be trying to get us back to where we were before all of this. However, I still have feelings for her and if she became single today, I'd want to ask her out after an appropriate time period passed.

So, to my question. Is it OK that I'm now in a position to go back to being friends even though I still have feelings for her? I'd never interfere, interject, etc. in her current relationship and I'm obviously not going to broadcast that I still have feelings for her. I guess I need some advice on how to handle this situation.

– Wondering Which Path to Take, Northampton


A: WWPTT, my advice is to set yourself free. Stop trying to make it better. Keep your distance. She's not your friend right now. She's also not your more-than-friend right now.

She didn't reciprocate. She didn't say, "Wow, if only I had known." She had only been seeing the new guy for a few weeks. If she had harbored feelings for you, she would have dropped him. She didn't.

Let her go live and start thinking about other romantic options. Don't worry too much about the friendship. If she's involved in a group outing, fine, you can see her. But other than that, you shouldn't be making plans with her. And I'd ask your friends for support. If they're good friends, they'll probably tell you what's going on -- why she ditched you, whether she ever had feelings for you, and how you should treat her when she's around. My guess is that they'll also tell you to take as much space as you can.

You can't go back to the way you were, but I don't think you want to anyway. Right? Be honest with yourself. Nothing about your letter says that you want to keep her around for a platonic friendship. And that's your answer.

Readers? Should he continue his friendship without benefits? Is there a chance she might reciprocate? How can his friends help? Did she do the right thing by cutting him off? Help. And enjoy a bonus track.

– Meredith


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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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