I have a crush on a friend. For context, I’m a queer woman and they’re AFAB, NB, and queer. When we first started talking, I thought they were single, but the first time we properly hung out, they dropped the fact that they had a girlfriend within the first five minutes of our conversation. Despite this, they’re very flirty; I know being flirty and touchy is a part of their personality, but it’s hard to tell if/when it means something. We hang out multiple times a week, we sent letters to one another when I worked at a sleepaway camp this summer — things that seem like more than just friends to me. Their long-term GF recently moved to NYC and lately my crush has been dropping hints (that I may be misinterpreting) but things along the lines of “maybe 2.5 years is as long as any relationship should last” and in response to me complaining that I’m single, suggesting that I steal someone away from their relationship. I know that this is dripping with red flags, but I’m wondering what I should do. Should I initiate a conversation with them about our relationship to see if they want more than a friendship? I’m afraid of embarrassing myself/making it awkward/losing the friendship. To a lesser degree, I’m also scared that I’m not ready for a relationship and ultimately, I would end up losing the friendship and any potential relationship with them. Help!
Hello dear reader, this is tricky.
First up, I’ll say you’re right: this is dripping with red flags. Sometimes those red flags are pretty to look at and maybe they match our outfits, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still big warning signs. I also want to assure you that you’re not misinterpreting things. The mixed signals are not on you, they are being created by your friend/crush. Suggesting to a single friend that they “steal someone away from their relationship” instead of, oh I don’t know, hopping on Lex, Tinder, or going out to events to meet people is them sending you a signal. This is an “I may be in an (I’m assuming here) monogamous relationship but I wouldn’t mind ending that for someone else.” It’s very pointed but also lukewarm, which makes it primed for you to second guess every interaction and make you feel as though you’re misinterpreting. These are the games of someone who doesn’t want to commit to leaving their partner or engaging with you.
The big problem here is that your friend sounds like they don’t know what they want — this doesn’t make them a bad person but they are confused which is, in turn, confusing you. I’ve been here with someone before and it leaves you exhausted, left hyperfocused on interpreting every little move and message they send. You could spend a long time in this space, but as I said, it’s one that drains your energy and is generally fruitless. There is no guarantee that your friend will leave their partner and decide to be with you. There is no guarantee that if they do choose that path, things will work out beyond the initial chemistry and feelings you have right now. You said yourself you aren’t sure whether you want a relationship so it may be within your best interest to sit with that and think it over more before you do anything. Let’s say these hints are real and your friend is genuinely flirting with you; what will you do with that information?
So what do you do in this situation? There are a couple of options. The first is that you can confront this person with what you’ve been feeling and the messaging you’ve been getting from them. Sit them down over a beverage of your choice and say something along the lines of:
“Hey, so I’ve been noticing you’ve been expressing some disappointment in your relationship, and it feels like maybe you’re flirting with me sometimes. I’m your friend and I know you have a flirty personality so I don’t want to misinterpret anything but I also wanted to give you a chance to be direct and clear about what’s going on.”
Direct communication is not only necessary, but it’s also very sexy. It’s a sign of maturity and respect that goes a long way. Giving your friend a chance to clear the air is the most benevolent option. If you’re concerned about losing the friendship, this is still the best way to proceed. If your friend is afraid of being asked about their behavior and would end a friendship because of it, maybe that’s not a friendship you need. I won’t say that this will be the most comfortable avenue. Talking it out is often very awkward, but sometimes avoiding the possibility of awkwardness is how we get ourselves into bigger problems. If you anticipate the conversation being damaging, it may affect your interactions, tone, and process so that it does end negatively. Going in with the attitude of talking with a good friend to clear the air and better a friendship, or shape a new relationship, will give you the confidence to push through any awkwardness that might come up.
It might seem like this is harsh but as long as they are dropping these hints and not fully communicating with you, another option is steering clear and creating some distance between the two of you. If this is confusing you or hurting you in some way, you have the right to create that distance. This may potentially wake them up and cause them to reach out to you to see what has changed and what they can do to make a shift back into the previous direction. As I said early, it sounds like your friend doesn’t know what they want. That can be completely harmless or it could be potentially drawing you into relationship drama and a bad break up where you become a fixture instead of someone on the sidelines. The line encouraging you to “steal someone away from their relationship” worries me. It could be your friend wants to break up with their partner anyway but doesn’t have the “guts” to do it outright so is recruiting you to help in this endeavor. If this is the situation, you can create a distance before they successfully pull you into this scheme. You can also have a conversation that focuses on your friend’s relationship. Ask them “Are you still happy in your relationship? It seems like lately, you haven’t really been into it and I want to check in and make sure everything is okay?” Their answer will give you some clarification around what their motive is for dropping these little lines and will make you look like a caring friend and not someone who’s crushing hard.
Ultimately, what you want out of this interaction will color it. If you really want a relationship with this person, the first conversation is probably the best one to have. If you’re not ready, I’d go with the last option. If they admit they aren’t happy you can be the friend that they lean on through the breakup or you can direct that to someone else, depending on how strong your feelings are. Preserving the relationship seems to be a priority for you, I don’t think any of these options would wreck that. Before you make any moves though be sure to think about what you really want out of this because that’s the most important thing. A good friendship will recover if they’re just being their flirty self and don’t want a relationship with you. If they do want one with you it’s probably better to give them time to end their relationship, do some healing, and then come back ready to date again. Whatever you chose I hope it works out!