READER QUESTION: “Hey Evie, I’ve been in a weird situation with my best friend and I’m not sure how to handle it. She recently confessed that she is a lesbian and has been in love with me for some time. I had no idea about her feelings or her sexual orientation and was shocked and unsure of what to do next.
To be honest I feel a little hurt as we have shared so many intimate moments as friends without realizing her true feelings. However, I don’t want to give up our entire friendship because of this revelation either. I value our friendship and it doesn’t feel right to cut it out of my life.
I’m straight and a romantic relationship between us is off the table, but I want to support her and keep our friendship going. How can I approach this situation with empathy and understanding? And how can I set boundaries while letting her know that our friendship is still important to me? Any advice on how to manage this situation would be greatly appreciated.”
EVE’S ADVICE: It’s shocking to find out your best friend was secretly in love with you, male or female. Your entire idea of your friendship needs to change with this new information, and you are likely to review conversations and meetings and reinterpret them in light of your friend’s confession.
While your desire to maintain your friendship—and only friendship—is understandable, it takes two people on the same page for a friendship or relationship to work. If one of you wants to be there and the other doesn’t, you can’t have friendship. If one of you wants something romantic and the other doesn’t, you can’t have a relationship. And it will probably prove impossible for you to maintain friendship with your best friend on the same terms because you want friendship and she wants a romantic relationship. Neither of you will be satisfied with how the other would like it to be.
Offer to maintain a friendship with boundaries that are comfortable for you, but don’t be surprised if she’s having a hard time staying friends.
You need to be honest with her — that you aren’t interested in anything romantic, but that you value your friendship and everything you’ve been through together. You can offer to maintain a friendship with whatever boundaries are comfortable for you, but don’t be surprised if she finds it too hard to remain friends. She probably doesn’t expect you to share the same feelings as her, but it’s clear that by sharing this with you, she isn’t happy to keep your friendship the way it is either, or else she wouldn’t be willing to to risk. Your friend is obviously going through a lot of emotions coming out as a lesbian, and this new revelation is likely to change the course of her life. It would be a lot easier if she wasn’t in love with you too, because you could offer her advice and support during this transition. Even if you decide to end the friendship, you can still show compassion for their feelings and respond kindly.
However, don’t expect this conversation or process to be easy. Losing your best friend, especially in a shocking scenario like this where you haven’t naturally grown apart, will no doubt be heartbreaking. You may feel that you have been wronged since nothing has changed about you, and you may even feel confused and guilty for not reciprocating your boyfriend’s romantic feelings. Expect a period of grief — some experts say breaking up a friendship can be even more painful than a romantic breakup. In a time of denial, you may even try to forget this information, but the truth is, you can never go back to how your friendship was before. You can either move forward with boundaries that allow you both to be comfortable, or you can make a clean break and go your separate ways in love.
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