You Need Help: I’m In Love With My Straight Best Friend

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Q:

My best friend and I have been super close since we met. She’s my world, and for a long time I was hers. I started catching feelings earlier this year, and we talk about everything. She knows I’m a lesbian, and she likes men, but she accepted me and just said “I love you, queen!” which made me feel safe that I could tell her and she didn’t hate me. The feelings faded after a little but she started seeing this boy a few weeks ago, and since then they have come back. I can’t kiss other girls because all I can think about is her. I’ve become obsessed with her but that obsession is ruining our friendship. How do I move past it so I can have a relationship with somebody else?

A:

Oh, friend. This is a rough and relatable situation! You’re very much not alone — falling for a friend (especially a best friend) is a time-honored queer tradition, maybe even a rite of passage. Basically: we’ve all been there at least once. But I know that doesn’t make things any easier for you in this moment!

I want to say that telling someone how we feel about them can feel really vulnerable, and you were brave to do so. Although she doesn’t return your romantic feelings, I’m so glad your best friend was able to make you feel safe with her affirmations and support. That’s promising for your continued friendship!

Because of the strong feelings you’re still experiencing, and the heightened emotions that your friend’s new boyfriend has brought up for you, I do think it will be necessary to change some of your habits and get more intentional about how you spend your time, at least for a little while. Basically, you can imagine that your social life and feelings, together, make a sort of garden; now is the time to tend carefully to certain plants, and let others wither.

It’s going to be hard at first, and it’s not going to feel like what you want to do, but I do think that this work can help you move past this and get to the other side!

1. Diversify your time and social energy

Listen: I know you’re thinking about your best friend right now. I know you’re itching to text her. I know you wake up thinking of things you want to say to her, stuff you want to send her. I know it feels like the best thing in the world, today, would be to spend time with her.

I don’t think you have to ignore those feelings, per se, but I want you to take that energy and start to send it in a lot of other directions. Try this: when you pick up your phone to text her, three times out of four, text another friend instead. When you want to get out of the house, if you’ve hung out with her in the last few days, make plans with someone else instead. Have a hobby you’ve been meaning to try that doesn’t involve your bestie? Now is the time.

I know that, at first, this will feel wrong somehow. Texting someone else won’t feel as fulfilling as it would if it was her. Getting coffee with another pal just won’t feel quite as effervescently good as if you were getting coffee with her. But over time, you’ll start to build new habits, and invest in your other friendships, and I think that will really help to contextualize your friend as part of your world, instead of the whole thing.

2. Nurture friendship, neglect romance

When you do spend time with your friend, it’s going to be important to set up some boundaries for yourself. I don’t know exactly what this will look like for you; it depends on what kinds of time spent with your best friend feels romantic to you, or what kinds of conversations trigger your deepest feelings. Maybe there are certain ways you two spend time together that feel a lot like dates, and you take those off the table for awhile. Maybe there are topics that trigger romantic feelings for you, and for the next few months, you steer conversations carefully around those. Again, I know that when you do this, you’re not gonna get the same dopamine hits you would if you let yourself go there, if you really just gave yourself over to these feelings. But it’s important, and it will get easier with practice.

There’s also something you can do that’s a little bit trickier; I’ll see if I can explain it the way I mean to. Often, when I make a new friend, because I think they’re great and cute and wonderful, and because the energy of a bubbly new friendship and the energy of a new crush aren’t super distinctive for me, I’m not always sure at first whether I have romantic feelings, or whether we will be better as friends. With the people who become my close friends, over time, as I get to know them really well, although I love them dearly, I am also able to see all the ways in which we’re not romantically compatible — all the ways in which friendship is definitely the right path forward for us.

This is all to say that as you spend time with your bestie, you can start to note to yourself (and only to yourself!) the ways that you and your best friend are romantically incompatible, as they come up. I know you care for your best friend, and that she’s undoubtedly a great person; we’re not disputing that at all. Instead, the aim is to note to yourself the ways in which your best friend is the perfect best friend for you, and would also not be the perfect partner for you. Maybe, for example, you do well with a partner who is socially assertive, and you and your best friend are shy in the same ways. Maybe there are small things; maybe her taste in music drives you bananas. And then again, maybe it’s as simple as reminding yourself, day-to-day, of your most fundamental incompatibility of all — that she’s straight, and you’re a lesbian.

3. Give yourself time

You mentioned that it’s impossible to kiss other girls right now, and honestly? That’s okay. I know your friend is dating, and it may feel like it’s important to keep pace with her in some way, but that’s not actually something you need to do. The work you need to do, of re-contextualizing your love for your best friend firmly into a non-romantic context, isn’t going to happen overnight. You don’t need to start dating before you’re ready.

There will come a time, hopefully a few months from now, when some love song comes on the radio and you don’t immediately think of your best friend. Then, a little while after that, there will come a time when you see someone at the grocery store or in class and think oh wow, they’re cute! And then you’ll know: the hard work has paid off. You’ll be ready.

And maybe, if things have gone the way I hope they will, you’ll be able to tell your best friend all about your amazing new crush.

Wishing you all the best! 💙


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.


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Darcy

Darcy, a.k.a. Queer Girl, is your number one fan. She's a fat feminist from California who doodles hearts in the corners of her Gay Agenda. They're living through a pandemic, they're on Twitter, and they think you should drink more water! She also wants to make you laugh.

Darcy has written 348 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. I really feel for you. As one of many who have been in this situation, I hope you can tell her about your feelings, provided it feels safe for you to do so. It could save you from a lot of torturous “what if” games later. You may have a crush or you may have a more lasting unrequited love. Only time will sort it out, however, at this moment, it doesn’t sound like you can ignore your feelings easily. If you keep it to yourself, whether or not you distance yourself, you are likely to hurt each other rather than support each other in the long term.

    I know it is difficult to make a choice between heartache now, or heartache in the future. When I was in this situation I never told my friend the full extent of my feelings because I wanted to keep her in my life. It led to imbalances in our friendship over a period of years. It was unsustainable and messy and my heart was broken anyway. In many ways I don’t regret it because our friendship was magical and I am pretty sure she was actually in love with me too (but couldn’t admit it due to religion, culture, and marriage), but also, I regret it :/

    We all deserve to be loved by someone who can love us back. I hope that getting through this moment in time allows you to open your heart to a person who will love you back.

  2. have been here, was just gentle on myself & gave myself space and we are still friends and i’m so grateful!!! and then my current partner somehow developed a very brief crush on this friend too??? and also got over it. they’re just crushable!

  3. We have all certainly been there, it’s not easy but you can get through this because sometimes the only other alternative is to not have them in your life.

    Right now, I am letting this advice soak in as I try not to think about my best friend, who is pan, who once told me she had feelings for me, who is married.

    This post comes at a time when I also need it most and I am certainly going to start channeling my energy into other areas. My energy is currency and it’s time to start watching what I spend it on a lot closer!

  4. Tell her. It’ll fail, and you’ll hate that, and it’ll make things weird for a little while, and you’ll hate that too, but it seems like you might need to get a little bit of space from each other anyway just so you can get over it. Also, if you tell her, then future you can’t someday wonder if she would’ve been interested if she only knew you were feeling this way. You’ll have told her. You’ll have known what would’ve happened, because it happened. Go forth and be inoculated.

    Plus: she is a person with feelings, who you love, and who seems to love you, although probably not in the way you want her to. If she already knows how you feel and but is being polite about it, then she’s probably also feeling really bad. In that case, getting to air it out will help both of you at least deal with this while knowing that you mutually care for and respect each other and no one would be a weird homophobe about this and no one believes they’re entitled to romantic reciprocation and everyone involved values the friendship as it is. And if she doesn’t know, then telling her means she won’t end up feeling abandoned if you suddenly start behaving differently and don’t seem as obsessed with her as you usually do – from what you’ve said, the default state of your friendship is kind of obsessed with each other, and she probably hasn’t noticed if she’s pulled back from some of that intensity after getting a partner. From her perspective, you trying to get over your crush without telling her about it might look like you think she did something wrong or you’re starting to like her less.

  5. This is universal advice, not confined to women in any way. I’m a man whose friends are almost all women. Have I had feelings for some of them? Yes. Was the rejection hard to bear? Definitely, but I kept most of them as friends.

    Eventually I found one male and two female friends (at different times) who returned my feelings. I’ve been married to one of them for 40+ years now, very happily.

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