Bad Advice Club: my platonic bestie has feelings for me
Woo's resident agony aunt advises a reader whose BFF has caught an inconvenient case of the feels
words Chanté Joseph
I’m Chanté – writer, presenter, internet addict. I write a lot about relationships, internet trends and being the best, most delusional version of yourself. So welcome to the Bad Advice Club: I’m here to give you some loving advice on your life problems. Listen, I am by no means perfect, but I think that makes me ideal to assist you in navigating tricky issues because nine times out of 10, I’ve been there! Bad advice, bad decisions – these are the twists and turns that make life sweet. So let’s ride it out together: I have some gems to drop, so don’t be shy and send in your stories, woes, dilemmas.
My friend says he has feelings for me, but I don't feel the same. He's a great guy, and we go back quite far - to be honest, I feel a bit disorientated at this revelation and not sure what to say. How do I let him down gently without hurting his feelings? Will it be awkward if we continue to hang out after I've told him I don't like him like that?
There is nothing worse than someone ruining the vibe by confessing their unrequited feelings. My whole body convulses with horror at the thought of a great platonic relationship with someone being sullied by complicated emotions. However, these things happen, and he was right to be honest about his feelings. Better for it to be out in the open and for you both to navigate how you move forward than him holding onto these feelings and building tension in the relationship.
You should take reassurance in that you know you absolutely don’t want to go there and are being considerate about his feelings. When faced with this exact situation, uncertain about my feelings but definitely leaning towards friendship, I lingered on the possibility proposed to me. I thought we got along so well and that maybe I should explore this romantically. But that was a terrible decision, and like all dubious former flings, he is now blocked. Listening to your gut and not giving into a situation you don’t want to be in is smart and saves so much time in the long run.
This is a friend you’ve known for a long time; there is history, and you have a strong bond, so feeling confused by his confession makes sense. Give yourself time to process the information and let him know you’ll want to gather your thoughts rather than respond off the cuff. Then, when you’re ready, ask him to talk when he’s free. I know I’d prefer to have this conversation over the phone, but if you’re keen to meet up in person, find a neutral space to talk openly and uninterrupted.
Be gentle and kind; how would you like to be told this information from someone you respect? Avoid the platitudes like “anyone would be lucky to have you” or “you’re a great guy but..” and get straight to the point. You must emphasise how much you appreciate and adore this person as a friend and that you’re not emotionally where he is. Rejection is hard, so remind him that your lack of romantic feelings is not a slight towards him but simply shows you're not meant to be. I think this is a safe way to let him know where you stand but to remind him that you still hold him in high regard and are grateful for his companionship.
As for whether you can remain friends afterwards? It's hard to tell. I know someone who was in a similar scenario: he was friends with someone who then drunkenly confessed to having feelings for him. They decided to stay pals, pretending the whole situation didn’t happen. But avoiding the obvious made the dynamic frustratingly awkward between them. He’d tell me how he was trying to withdraw from this person in the wider friendship group and avoided one-on-one meet-ups. As expected, this all made things unnecessarily tense.
That's all to say that expecting friendship immediately after this kind of revelation might be unrealistic; you have to give your friend the time and space to accept the rejection and then, later, discuss if the friendship is salvageable. It is a risk making a declaration like this, which I’m sure he has considered, so it might not surprise him that you need some breathing room.
But I wouldn't automatically say the relationship is over forever; maybe you can come back into each other's lives in new places, ready to reconnect as if no time has passed. Alternatively, maybe it does mean that your relationship has run its course, but that doesn’t have to be bad. Sometimes people are only in our lives for a season, and we can be thankful for our time with them. Either way, you will be fine, and so will he, so don’t overthink every outcome and hold on to the fact that you had a great friendship.
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