Sometimes when I get a letter, I write back at once, so that the person knows they've been heard. What I write on this blog the next day, though, is usually somewhat different, for I've had more time to consider the story dispassionately. If you are still in college, your stories often wring my auntly heart, for they remind my of my own college-era sufferings, and I think my first-impression answers often reflect that. Always remember that Auntie Seraphic is no substitute for a good priest. And very often, the person to talk to once you have put your thoughts into logical order for a letter to me, is your mother or dad.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
Your post "Treated like a Yo-yo" is spot-on to my situation. In my case, the man, "Clark," has been my friend for 2 years now, despite the fact that I told him my feelings almost a year ago. Telling him didn't scare him away like I thought it would. He said "Right now just friends." That gave me hope that maybe later he would like to move on into a relationship, but that hasn't happened.
He still wants to hang out with me and the rest of my friends. If I want to go out with other friends, he'll want to go with me too.
A typical situation begins with me eating dinner with my friends, including him. He asks me, "So what are your plans tonight?" I say I haven't made any yet. Then another friend will go "Hey, we can maybe watch a movie as a group!" Then the group goes and watches a movie. One of my girl friends usually has to end the night early, so Clark and I will leave at the same time. He will then see if any of our other friends are doing anything. If they are, we'll go together to meet our other friends. If not, we'll end up doing something one-on-one. But even if we are with our other friends, we'll end up leaving together. And even while we are talking in a group, we'll sit/stand next to each other. He'll touch me to get my attention, and we often have to stand close to hold a decent conversation. Sometimes we're the only ones standing off to the side while the other people are busy doing other activities.
My problem is, even though we are with other groups of people, it still seems as though we are an "item." Even tonight, we tagged along with some other people we knew, and eventually ended up leaving the venue together as usual, and talking all the way back to our dorm. I really enjoy spending time with him, because the conversation is always nice and we always have fun.
But I do NOT enjoy having to fight the feelings I have for him. I do want to have a relationship at some point, and I realize that I probably won't get one if it appears that I'm with this other man. However, I'm beginning to think that if he didn't do stuff with me, he wouldn't really go out at all. I don't want to hurt his feelings or ditch him. But I'm sick of doing things together all the time, having so much in common, having good conversations, being EXTREMELY physically and mentally attracted to him, and yet NOT being a couple!
I really want to move on and get over him completely, and I know I can't if things continue as they are. It doesn't help that we have so many friends in common. It's only natural that we'll spend time together if we spend time with any of our other friends. I'm just so lost.
I figure if I keep my contact to nothing or a minimum I can lick these hopeless feelings once and for all. It works quite well when I don't see him. I still think about him occasionally, but I don't obsess or pine. Once I'm physically in his presence though, the feelings come rushing back. It's a constant battle, my mind against my heart. I'm sick of it!
I want be friends with this man, but how can I be friends when my feelings are otherwise? My heart starts racing when I'm around him, I can't always think straight....even if we just brush hands or accidentally bump into each other, my skin tingles. I just WANT him so much when he's right in front of me and we're all talking. He's often the only one laughing when I try to joke around, and looks at me with "smiling eyes."
Logically I shouldn't care about him at all, given his habit of not acknowledging my existence when we're not at school together. He magically remembers he has my number once we're in the same location again. How should I approach spending time with him? I'm trying to spend LESS time with him, but I'm afraid that won't help. I need guidance. What can I do to alleviate my feelings yet not ruin my entire web of friendships?
Dear Hopeless Heart,
Thank you for your honest and articulate letter. I’m sure most, if not all, of my female readers will understand what you are going through. Perhaps my male readers will be surprised that, when it comes to unrequited love, women are a lot like them. I hope they don’t use this revelation for evil, though. Knowledge is power, and some women hand men emotional power with astonishing naivete.
In some ways yours is a cautionary tale. You were friends with a man for a year, and then you told him your loving feelings without any clear courtship move on his part. The feminist movement told us to ask, work and fight for what we want. This works well for work and school. It even, with a zillion qualifications, works well within a stable marriage. It does not work for courtship. If a man is interested in you romantically, and you have subtly let him know (a smile, a touch on the arm, an invitation to a party) that you like him, then he will make the first move. He will ask you to be his sweetheart. End of story.
Now, it could be that Clark just honestly thinks of you as just one of the guys, just a great pal, and that he would be horrified and sad if he knew how much he makes you suffer. But on the other hand, he could be using you as a social crutch. Because Clark doesn’t contact you in the summer, and he hooked you with his "for now", I’m afraid the situation is the latter.
A million questions come to mind. College-age men are notoriously given to love or lust. Why does Clark not have a girlfriend? Does he have a girl back home? Why does he spend every possible college-term second with you and never try for a kiss? You told him you were into him, so why doesn’t he make a move? Even if he doesn’t love you, you’re a woman, and there doesn’t seem to be another woman on the scene. Is he determined to stay super-chaste, or is he sexually attracted to women at all?
When you told Clark your feelings, did he take that as a free pass to use you emotionally and socially? Who the heck says, “For now, just friends”?! That’s very presumptuous, as if you’ll still be available later. You’re not a suit, to be put on hold at the shop while he ponders whether he really wants to commit to the purchase.
Does Clark ever spend any time on his own? Does Clark hang out with male buddies, just on their own? What is with Clark? Clark annoys me. Can he possibly be as attractive as you think? You should see the guys I thought were hot when I was in college. Eee! And one of the better-looking ones was, unknown to innocent mebut obvious to the older women I eventually confided in, definitely in the grip of Same Sex Attraction.
If you were a man in love with a woman, this would be so easy. I would tell you to ask Clarkette to marry you, and if she turned you down, to ditch her at once. You and your best pal would go to a bar for one night of tears and beers, and then the next day you would get on with your life, cutting Clarkette dead at every opportunity. Once a man’s marriage proposal is rejected, nobody expects him to go on being emotionally available to a woman. In fact, if he continues to dangle after her, he is in danger of becoming a laughing stock. And a woman who continues to toy with a man once she has turned him down is in danger of being called a bitch.
However, I don’t recommend you ask Clark to marry you, for fear he might say “For now, just friends” again. Why should he commit to a female companion when he can get all the female companionship he wants for free? What I do recommend is that you STOP BEING SO AVAILABLE.
Don’t phone Clark. Don’t text Clark. Don’t email Clark. Don’t answer all of Clark’s calls. Tell Clark you need to study harder, so you don't have time tonight. Secretly try for a dorm transfer—at least find out if this is possible. Organize “Girls Only” events. Find new Clark-free activities. Meet pleasant people who don't know Clark. Tell your female friends how a year ago Clark said “For now, just friends” and you’re tired of waiting. This will help them understand why you are not hanging with Clark so much, if at all.
You don’t have to see Clark ever again if you don’t want to. Really. (Technically you don't have to move out of your chair. You could just sit there, if you wanted, until you died of dehydration. It's amazing what we can do or refuse to do, if we set our mind that stubbornly to it.) What if you were dating, and you broke up? Would your other friends expect you to hang out with him all the time? I suspect your friends like you more than Clark. Again, I say to organize "Girls Only" activities.
Men value what they have to work for, and hold as cheap that which comes cheap. If Clark really cares about your friendship, he will try to find out why you’re suddenly not as available. And you should give it to him straight: you’re interested in finding a real boyfriend. If that’s Clark, great. If not, you need space to find someone. You want a man who makes you feel like a woman, not just one of the boys. It’s like you’re dating Clark and not dating Clark at the same time, and you want to break up. This is tough talk, but continuing to be super-nice is not going to win you Clark. I don’t think you are ever going to win Clark, frankly. I’m sorry to tell you that, and it sucks, but that was clear right from his weasel words “for now, just friends.”
Now I am going to talk about chastity, which I don’t usually do, but my conscience says I have to. Given your strong feelings of physical attraction, it might be a mercy that Clark hasn’t swept you into his Clarky arms. If you were boyfriend and girlfriend, it would be harder for you to stay chaste. Meanwhile, if you are having sexual fantasies about Clark, I strongly suggest you give them up. They can’t help you. If you are Catholic, I encourage you to confess “impure thoughts about my neighbour” in the confessional on Saturday afternoon.
I think Clark might be using you to stave off loneliness, or because female companionship without commitment is cool, or to feed his ego, or to hide from himself and others that he might be gay, but I will give Clark this: he hasn’t tried to exploit you sexually. Telling some guys that you are into them is like giving them your credit card: they’ll shop till they drop, leaving you to pay the bill.
Meanwhile--I am adding this in because, ridiculously, I forgot the most important thing--you should ask God to take away your feelings for Clark. Do this every day. Do this every hour, if you have to. Storm heaven with your demands: Please, Lord, take away these feelings for Clark! I don't want them any more. Do this until the feelings go away.
I hope this is helpful. I'm sorry you are suffering, and I hope that ends soon.
P.S. Girls, please stop telling men your loving feelings until they have made it absolutely clear that they love you. Please, I beg you. Healthy courtship is before us in pieces, and it is up to women and men of goodwill to put it back together again.