Social Question

Mariah's avatar

Advice on a tricky social situation?

Asked by Mariah (19075 points ) March 20th, 2012

The guy I’ve been seeing (we’ll call him J) and I decided to “officially” call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend yesterday. After the news got out, I received a text message from another close (male) friend of mine, we’ll call him N. He said congrats, but also said “I’m not gonna pretend I wasn’t interested in you, if you couldn’t tell. I just hope this doesn’t change things between us.” He’s acting a bit sullen now.

I also don’t want things to change between N and me, because he’s one of my closest friends and I really enjoy his company. I feel bad that he may have been hurt as a side effect of J and I getting together. I’m worried that he may feel betrayed: I may have been sending him signals I didn’t mean to send by being my usual friendly self. And N and I play music and sing together sometimes, which is just a naturally intimate activity in a way.

I didn’t realize N was interested in me. I thought maybe, but I just wasn’t sure, and I also had a weird (apparently incorrect) gut feeling that he might be gay! In hindsight, I think I was pretty dense for not realizing, though. He has put a lot of effort into our friendship…and that fact just makes me feel worse about hurting him.

Also, J and N are good friends, and will be sharing an apartment next year, so I certainly don’t want to cause any strife between them.

I’m meeting N for dinner tonight (soon!) at the campus dining hall. I want to show him that he hasn’t fallen on my list of priorities.

Do the wise jellies of fluther have any tips for me?

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37 Answers

6rant6's avatar

Wel, pleasant company is always appreciated.

No, seriously, had you been clearer about N’s feelings, would that have changed your actions?

marinelife's avatar

You need to be open with him. Tell him that you care very much for him as a friend, but you had no idea that he was interested in you romantically. That you hope that the two of you can continue to be friends and to do things together.

Mariah's avatar

Headed out to meet him. Thanks you two.

janbb's avatar

I agree with @marinelife but want to add one thing. If he was really into you, he may need to be a bit distant for a while in order to get over you. Your friendship may have to cool for a bit. If this happens, don’t pursue him and also don’t beat yourself up about it. Respect him enough to give him the space he needs.

john65pennington's avatar

Two is company and three is a crowd.

You have suffered long enough with your medical problems.

Go have fun and let the chips fall where they may.

You are a smart person, so just let destiny take the lead for you.

Bellatrix's avatar

Some men (and I am sure women) are not very good at demonstrating their interest. It is probably all about confidence and experience. I suspect with all your medical issues over the last few years, you haven’t had a whole lot of experience at reading such signs either. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you missed his interest.

If you had known, would it have changed your feelings? Would you have wanted things to go further? If he really is someone you want to keep only as a friend, let him know that. So he isn’t holding out hope that in time you will break up with J and he will have a chance. Do tell him you care about him as a friend and would hate to lose that friendship (the kiss of death in terms of romance!). As @janbb said, he may back off for a while while he licks his wounds and let’s his heart get over you being with someone else. If he was very interested, he needs some time to get used to this change.

gailcalled's avatar

Let N do most of the talking; listen carefully and follow his lead.

You do deserve some happy times with no complications.

dabbler's avatar

Keep being his good friend, he’ll get the picture that you care.

tranquilsea's avatar

If he was interested in you why didn’t he ask you out himself? To tell you after you let him know that you are dating someone else is a bit of dick move imho.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Don’t meet him for dinner and such. He wants to sulk, let him. You meeting him without your boyfriend is just you wanting to keep it going (in his mind). You are enjoying this. Shame on you. This is good advice from this wise jelly.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would be completely honest.

Trillian's avatar

Meeting N for dinner? Does J know? I predict drama.

Mariah's avatar

Thanks jellies. Unfortunately dinner was pretty awful.

I told him I felt awful that he had gotten hurt. I told him he’s one of my closest friends, and this doesn’t mean he’s going to be less of a priority in my life. All the while he’s just looking at me with eyes full of tears. It was positively wrenching. He said he wished he had made his feelings clearer sooner. I apologized for being dense.

He started saying that he felt bad for making me feel bad, and I was feeling bad that he was was feeling bad that I was feeling bad, and I realized we were getting into a vicious guilt spiral. The conversation wasn’t making either of us happy, so after a bit I started talking to him the way I would normally talk to him, just chatter about classes and stuff. After all, he had said he didn’t want things to change between us. After a bit he started to smile and we were both acting normal again. The meal ended on a good note, at least.

To those that ask how I would have responded if I had known earlier: if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’m with J because he asked me first. If N had asked me first I would have said yes. I’m happy I’m with J – I like him a lot. I could have been happy with N, too. I don’t believe in a singular soulmate. There are a lot of people on this planet I would be happy with.

I’m not sure what to do next. It does seem like a good idea to give him some space, but he said he doesn’t want things to change between us – I don’t think now is a good time to suddenly start treating him differently. I wanted to set aside time for him today to make it clear that our friendship means a lot to me and that my being with J isn’t going to make N less important to me.

@Trillian I am a college student, we were eating in a cafeteria, not some romantic restaurant. Furthermore, my college is almost ¾ male, and every single one of my friends here is male. I get meals with guys all the time. I’m not going to stop hanging out with my friends just because I have a boyfriend now.

@MollyMcGuire How very perceptive of you. For your information, I am crying right now and not enjoying this at all. Please don’t make assumptions about me.

Bellatrix's avatar

Don’t do anything next. Let him (N) take the lead @Mariah. Just don’t be offended if he does back away a little (I know you won’t be). He needs some time to heal. If your friendship is strong, it will survive this if you are both careful and tender with each other’s feelings.

I am sorry you are going through this. It is a learning experience. Enjoy your time with J. If he is the right person for you to be with, it will work out. If he isn’t, it won’t. Just try not to let yourself become torn between the two. That is pretty much guaranteed to leave you in the middle and very likely nobody will win.

Mariah's avatar

Thanks @Bellatrix. Do you really think I should back off though? That just makes me nervous. I am usually pretty proactive in my friendships and I’m afraid he might interpret sudden passivity as “I don’t need you anymore” or “I can’t be bothered to weather this storm” rather than “I’d like to give you the space you need.”

Bellatrix's avatar

No. I think you should just do what you would normally do. If you would call and ask him to study with you, call and ask him to study with you. If he says “not today”, don’t push. Keep asking though. If you back off, he will feel as though he has been pushed out. Just be gentle with him, don’t flaunt your new boyfriend in his face. Don’t involve your new boyfriend in things you normally do with him at first. Eventually though, if things get serious between you and J, start involving him too. He (N) has to see you together. Just don’t bash him over the head with it too soon.

There are a number of threads here already about the difficulty some guys can have with just being friends. I hope you can maintain your friendship with N, while being with J.

Mariah's avatar

That sounds right to me. Thanks so much @Bellatrix, dear.

gailcalled's avatar

@Mariah: Did you ever imagine a year ago that you would need this kind of advice?

noraasnave's avatar

N has a responsibility to communicate to your his interest, and not with awkward, innocuous, secret social cues. Something like: “I really enjoy hanging out, want to go on a date?” Would have worked wonders.

N’s revelations reek of “the one that got away” instead of “I felt so strongly about you and about us that I had to tell you my feelings, I couldn’t hold them back any longer! I LOVE YOU!”

Hope this helps

Mariah's avatar

@gailcalled Lord, no. I guess it’s a nicer sort of problem to have.

@noraasnave Thanks. I’m not completely pleased with N for saying what he did when he did. But I definitely want our friendship to weather this storm so I’m not going to hold it against him.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Don’t have sex in their shared apartment.

Mariah's avatar

Not planning on it. Thanks.

Haleth's avatar

Take the relationship out of the equation for a moment; if N were acting like this for some other reason, how would you handle it? Trust your instincts.

It’s just too bad that you’re feeling so guilty and miserable about something that is completely not your fault. He’s kind of acting like his feelings are your responsibility by laying all this on you now. He might be a great guy, but the sulking and the dinner makes it seem like he’s being a nice guy.

If it were me, I’d give him some space and get in touch in a little while to see if he’s cooled down. Maybe then you can have a group get-together with N and some other friends, something fun and not intimate. Enjoy the new relationship. :)

noraasnave's avatar

@Mariah I was not implying that you hold it against N that he was actually like a young american male. He is likely testosterone wrapped in the modeling of his parents. He is mostly likely learning the power of his decisions and the agony of indecision.

Yep, been there, been that. Guys with long term issues need female friends too!

wundayatta's avatar

To me, this shows the artificiality of the “boyfriend” label. If N had asked first, he’d be the one with the title? That makes it seem so arbitrary. So meaningless.

If N has feelings for you, they will not be going away. If you remain “friends,” there will always be that underlying knowledge that really, his feelings for you are more than friends and your feelings for him are also more than friends. You think J isn’t going to know that? Or at least feel it? Especially seeing as how they are roommates?

Nope. You are fooling yourself if you think you can manage this. You are fooling yourself if you think you can follow this one’s lead or that one’s lead. You are fooling yourself if you think you have any control over this at all.

You don’t. There will be drama. You’re just going to have to deal with it as it happens. You will not be able to keep both of them as friends unless you three are very special and very forgiving and are able to not just talk about it, but also manage your own feelings. Good luck with that.

It will be very difficult for them to remain roommates. You will probably end up choosing one or the other of them.

The anarchistic part of me says why not just let it be what it is: a competition for you. Let the best man win. But we’re trying to be civilized and that means shoving the competition under the table in an attempt to keep things nice. I don’t think that will be possible. I think it will get nasty in one way or another. I think you’ll lose one of these guys.

I think the only control you have, and this may not be the case any more, is the ability to choose which one. But if you want N, my instinct says go for him now, because otherwise he will end up not being friends with you and when you break up with J, he may not be there at that time. Not sure about that, though. Depends on whether he finds someone else in the meantime.

noraasnave's avatar

@wundayatta Thanks for the bigger picture view!

When I take a step back farther from this picture, and in light of the fact that you at college, and college age, I have two thoughts:

1. Experiment and go wild (after all isn’t that what girls in college do?)

2. Realize that neither are your soulmate and don’t settle for either one of them…who needs MORE drama in their life?

2a. Is college: tests, homework, studying, not enough for you to deal with? You want to add competing young male friends to the mix? You must have a lot of free time and kleenexes you want to use up.

6rant6's avatar

Okay, this may be unpopular, but I think it needs to be said.

You had just as much responsibility as N to make your feelings clear. Why is it his responsibility? Dear god, don’t say because he is the man! And let’s not perpetuate the mistake: “Don’t do anything next. Let him (N) take the lead.” Decide what you’re going to do and do it. Being passive creates problems, as you can see now. Do not be that girl who screws up people because she thinks being soft is being nice.

This situation is pretty screwed up. One day you’ll look back and laugh (or possibly cry, or both) but unless you are consciously embarking on a pattern of waiting for the hand of fate to deliver Mr. Right to you, you need to man up, girl. Fate is not in your corner, so you need to be.

The chances that N is going to change in a constructive way in reaction to this clusterfrueden are small. So if anyone is going to learn a lesson, it’s you.

Mariah's avatar

@wundayatta Are you just here to be a doomsayer or do you have some advice for me?

@noraasnave Thanks for you added thoughts; here are my thoughts on your thoughts:
1. I don’t really have any desire to go wild. Here’s a little backstory, for more context.
2. I don’t expect to find my soulmate at age 19. I’m definitely not looking to get married or something. I’m looking to have a bit of fun getting to know somebody romantically. I have very little experience with this. I’ve only ever had one relationship. I’ve been through a lot of crap and I just want to have something nice, and to be something nice for someone else.
2a. No, I don’t want to add competing friends to the mix. Can everyone please see that I didn’t want this situation to happen? As far as I knew up until I got N’s text, I was just entering a relationship with a young man who I like very much, I didn’t know I was getting into a dramatic clusterfuck.

@6rant6 Thanks. I have no belief that the man has to make the first move. Why didn’t I make a move then? I had a lot on my plate. Coming to college has been quite an adjustment. These are relatively new friends, and I was taking some time to get to know them. I wasn’t feeling the need to have a Mr. Right in my life. But then J asked me on a date. J’s a good guy, and I thought what the hell. The date was really nice, and we decided to become a couple. What exactly did I do wrong, here?

noraasnave's avatar

self-removed by an old computer

6rant6's avatar

Before I come off too strident here, let me say that I don’t imagine that any solution, staying single, being in a relationship or LUG is a clear winning strategy. But since you asked…

@Mariah I’m unclear why you became a couple after one date – other than that he asked. Had he not asked, would you have asked? It doesn’t seem like it. Certainly seems to me you were interested in at least two guys. But you went along… and there’s the problem.

Seems as if you could have picked either guy. I’m just saying that next time you should ask out the guy you prefer, and that way, it’s your choice.

And N will get over it. Things move pretty fast in that first year. You could end up tiring of J, spending a blissful weekend with N, and they getting engaged to a guy back home over Christmas break.

Live well and prosper kind of thing.

noraasnave's avatar

@6rant6 you took the words out of my mouth, so to speak. It almost seem like navel gazing.

Breaking down each day into parts and deciding who gets the biggest piece, and then divying up the subsequent pieces. If that is what you have to do to feel aright with everything then….that is too much work! Sheesh.

Make no promises and take no names, take the good with the bad and roll on!

SpatzieLover's avatar

I 100% agree with @wundayatta. A piece of me felt as soon as I read this “Things will never be the same between these two guys”. If it were me, I’d let the boyfriend label go for now and I’d date both guys. Why? Life is short. You’ve had a hell of a deck thrown at you health wise.

Live. Live to the fullest. Go where your heart leads.

wundayatta's avatar

I agree with @SpatzieLover. Date who you want to. This is too new for exclusivity. Unless something really really heavy and intense happened on the first date.

By the way, how did the news “officially” get out? You wouldn’t change your status on Facebook, would you? Or is that a ritual young people go through nowadays? Affixing the current date to their status? There is a big value to keeping information to yourselves.

Mariah's avatar

Prompted by @LuckygGuy’s post about providing updates, I’m updating to say that I am sill (very happily) with J and have come to realize that though N is a good friend, he has some traits that would have made him an awful boyfriend. I am glad that things turned out how they did out of pure dumb luck, because I know I didn’t handle this super well.

Oh, and all three of us are still friends. Suck on that, @wundayatta. Kidding…kind of.

marinelife's avatar

Congrtulations, @Mariah!

wundayatta's avatar

@Mariah Congratulations! I’m glad you’re still able to be friends.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Thanks for the delightful update! Glad things are going smoothly for you @Mariah.

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