I am a gay woman (31) involved in a confusing close friendship with another woman (early 20s). This isn't one of those, "Oh I've fallen for a straight girl!" things. She is bi. I have talked about this with many friends, all of whom seem to be as puzzled as I am. So I decided to bring it to the experts.
"Anna" and I met a few years ago at an annual event and hit it off. We only see each other at this event (we live a few hours away from each other), but we keep in touch quite a bit. (But it is hard to get into more complex discussions about stuff because she is kind of a Luddite when it comes to email and IM.)
The second year we were reunited, we spent about an hour cuddling with each other. Not just arms around each other's shoulders, but more like a full body embrace. I knew I really liked her previously (as a friend) but that cuddling made me realize that I felt something more for her. Unfortunately, I found out that she has a boyfriend. I admitted to her that I loved her, and she told me she still cared deeply for me. She also mentioned a really hard breakup with her first girlfriend (whom she met at the same event).
Then the next year, I kept catching her glancing at me. And last year, every single time we were reunited (even for a few minutes), we were hugging each other like a lesbian couple. This year, it seems to have gotten a lot more intense. When we see each other, we'll hug for 20 minutes at a time and we seem to have progressed to kissing each other on the cheek. We're also both now saying "I love you" to each other. (And yes, I know that close friends can do that.)
It seems like every time I think about her, she calls.
What does it mean? On one hand, I am very happy that we are friends. I couldn’t ask for a closer friend. On the other hand, this intensity almost seems like girlfriends without real physical intimacy. What's the dividing line between really close friends and girlfriends? I have had tons of friends tell me that we seem very close, and that there are a lot of very confusing (although very positive) signs. I recognize that this is a really close relationship, but I am terrified to bring this up and risk messing it up or ruining her relationship with her boyfriend.
– This is Confusing, Massachusetts
A: She's in her 20s and she's bad with email? Weird. I guess that means that you're going to have sit her down in person. You'll have to ask, directly, "Are we going to make out and become a real couple? If so, when?"
It's a yes or no question, which means that anything besides "yes" is "no." It's nice that your friends are so glass-half-full about your situation, but they should be telling you to demand answers. This relationship moves forward a few millimeters every year. It's not working for you.
If she gives you a "no" or an "I don't know," which counts as a "no," think about having some lingering hugs with others. And consider keeping your distance for a bit. Because if she's not your more-than-friend, you probably can't be close to her right now. You'll need some space and time to redefine her purpose.
Also, for the record, she happens to call when you're thinking about her because you're always thinking about her. That's why this has to stop. Yes or no. Mouths touch or they don't. After four years (at least, right?), lingering hugs aren't enough. And don't worry about the boyfriend. You'll be doing him a favor by forcing the honesty.
Readers? Does a relationship that moves at this pace ever actually go anywhere? I say it has to be "yes" or "no," but are there other acceptable Anna answers? Ever have hugs like this with a platonic friend? Is Anna cheating? Is the boyfriend a reason not to bring this up? Is Anna's age relevant? Discuss.
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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.