Stuck in the Middle

Questions and discussions about relationships: girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, partners, friends, family or other intimate relationships in your lives.
jenny01
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Stuck in the Middle

Unread post by jenny01 »

Hi! So I have a friend and he's been a little lonely lately and he's been having some problems with his gf. For some reason he came to me for advice. I obviously don't want my friend to be lonely and I of course want to help him. But I am also friends with his gf. So basically the sitch is that he wants to spend more time with her and she's really busy. She's having family issues and she has a full time job. She feels like he's super clingy. He feels like he's always the initiator in their relationship. I want them both to be happy. Today, my friend's gf told me that she wants to break up with him. He loves her so much and doesn't want to break up but he doesn't want things to continue the way they are(him always having to initiate). I really don't know how to help them. Also my friend asked me if I had feelings for him, and I told him I didn't(I see him as a brother). But if they do breakup will he start to like me? Also, I'm very annoyed bc my parents think me and my friend are dating and it's like nooo we aren't. How do I get my parents to understand that we're just friends? Do you guys have any advice? I'd really appreciate it.
Marisha
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Re: Stuck in the Middle

Unread post by Marisha »

Hi jenny01,

Jeez, that sounds stressful! Hopefully we can help!

The way that this relationship sounds (two partners having different expectations for their relationship, one partner not having their needs met, the other wishing for separation) makes me lean toward believing that breaking up would be the best suggestion for these two. Your friend deserves to be in a relationship with someone who will give him the time and attention he needs, and if she can't provide that, she shouldn't be expected to. Keeping two people together who have this many deeper issues is a bad idea in my eyes because it will be bad for both parties in the long run. What if his girlfriend isn't prepared for a relationship right now? If the two of them break up, it will hurt, but at least your friend will have the opportunity to find someone else. People should be in relationships that are good for them.

If the two of them break up and he starts to like you, I imagine that it will make you uncomfortable and make your friend's girlfriend very upset. So, if he starts to develop those feelings toward you, you should make it clear that you do not want that. Don't be afraid to put down boundaries. The wonderful Siân affirms this point in the first half of this advice column:

You never need a reason to say no to someone - you just don't. It's hard when we care about someone and they want something we can't give them, but dating someone just to avoid hurting their feelings is only going to make you both feel worse in the long run. It sounds like you need to talk to your friend and tell him that you don't want to date him.

How do you tell him no without hurting his feelings? Well, the bad news is that however gently you tell him, it's probably going to sting a bit, I'm sorry. If I were you I'd keep it brief and to the point - you've already said it yourself in your question here: you care about him a lot but you don't want to date him. You'd really like to keep being his friend because you value him.

Hopefully, he'll accept your answer and in time you'll be able to keep appreciating one another as friends, but don't be surprised if he needs a bit of space while he works through his feelings. He's been vulnerable in telling you how he feels, he has taken a risk and faced rejection -- it's okay if he needs a moment to recover from that. If he needs you to, wait a little bit before you reach out and suggest catching up or hanging out.

Of course, he might be less accepting -- get pushy, demand you give him a reason, or start lashing out -- in which case you've got another reason not to date him. Stand your ground! You don't need to justify your feelings or find a "compromise." You've said no.


All that being said, I wonder: how would it actually make you feel if he developed feeling toward you? How would you handle it?

Lastly, on managing your parents' expectations: why do your parents think the two of you are dating? Have you had a conversation with them about this?

Dealing with this kind of conflict is difficult because parents can feel entitled when it comes to asserting their opinions over your life, relationships, etc., and it can be frustrating when you have to tell them the same thing over and over. This probably won't be solved in a single day, but again, asserting your boundaries will be important here. Tell them bluntly: their assumption that you are dating this person (who is dating someone else) is affecting you, and you want them to stop.

How does all that sound?
jenny01
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Location: Sioux Falls

Re: Stuck in the Middle

Unread post by jenny01 »

Thank you for the response! I agree that them breaking up is the best thing right now for them. His gf told me that she has fallen out of love with my friend and with everything she's told me I don't feel like the relationship would end in a good place if they continued to date. My friend told me that he loves his gf and he'd do anything for her (and I believe he truly would) but he's tired of her not doing the same for him and he wants her to change. His gf's mom has cancer, his gf has a full time job, and she has a lot of little siblings who she helps take care of. So I understand why she doesn't give him the amount of time he wants her too. But I also don't want my friend to feel lonely. Like I want to help but I can't really bc I can't change their actions or schedules. My friend's gf told me that she's gonna break up with my friend. My friend is really depressed right now and I'm the only person he's talked to about this stuff. It's just I don't know how to help.

About 3 weeks ago, my friend texted me and said he was lonely and I obviously don't want any of my friends to be lonely so I've been texting with him more lately and I invited him over to hang out. While we were texting, he told me about the situation with his gf. I just don't want him to feel bad but I feel like that's inevitable.

Also while we were texting a week before he came over to hang out, he asked me if he could ask me a personal question. I'm a very chill person so I was like sure. And then he told me the question was about me and him and asked if it was ok if he asked me. So I was like yeah sure. And he explained to me something I said earlier in our texts and he asked me if I had feelings for him. I told him I didn't. He said alright bc he cared too much about his gf right now. So if they break up will he start to like me? Like I'm trying to be a good friend and comfort him you know? I see him as a brother I've never had feelings for him like that. I really don't want to hurt him if he does develop feelings for me since I've already done that to one of my other friends in our friend group. How do I explain to him that I only see him as a brother? Did I miss an opportunity to explain that to him when he asked if I had feelings for him? You asked how I would handle it. Well tbh that one other friend in our friend group that told me he had feelings for me was really the only person that's told me that he had feelings for me. My response was "ok let's put a pin in that", which was not the best response. It had never happened before so I didn't know what to do. Do you have any advice on how to tell my friend I don't feel like that if he tells me he has feelings?

I think my parents think we're dating bc I've been texting with him a lot and I invited him over to hang out and watch a movie together. I was just being a good friend so that he wasn't so lonely. Me and parents have never had a real conversation about dating since I've never been in a relationship before. My mom wanted me to date that one friend that had feelings for me though. But I obviously didn't like him like that. And I have told them that we aren't dating, he has a gf, and I don't and will never like him like that. The only person that believes me is my sister bc she knows that I would never like my friend like that. It's just very annoying when my parents assume I like a guy when I talk about them. I just want to be a good friend and help my friend out. They just always assume girls and guys can't be just friends.
Urna
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Re: Stuck in the Middle

Unread post by Urna »

Hi jenny01,

I'm sorry that your friend's going through a rough time, which will inevitably get worse when his girlfriend finally breaks it off. That period will be tougher on you as well, because you'll feel the need to support him emotionally even more than you've already been doing. I hope that you'll remember to take care of yourself and your emotional needs then, as well as now. You're already being a super great friend. It doesn't look like there's nothing more you can do than what you're already doing: making time to hang out with him so he doesn't get lonely, and letting him vent to you, etc. It's impossible for you to fix their relationship, and it's also impossible for you to take your friend's pain away for good. Please don't drain yourself emotionally trying to!

As for him doubting that your feelings for him are strictly platonic: if you feel up to it, you should ask him why he thought you might like him romantically. His answer will help you frame your response. And it's not fruitful to worry about what more you could have done to make it clear that you see him as a friend and not something else, because you've made it clear in person! Everyone interprets platonic vs. romantic signals differently, and so it's better to just say how you're feeling, wouldn't you say?

That situation you had with that other friend who liked you also sounds quite stressful, and I'm sorry that your parents instantly assume you're romantically interested in guys you're friends with. Cishet girls and boys can absolutely be just friends, and the mindset that keeps bringing romance into the picture is really messed up. Have you spoken to your parents about why this is a problematic mindset to have?

jenny01 wrote:Do you have any advice on how to tell my friend I don't feel like that if he tells me he has feelings


The article Marisha linked in her response to you has exactly what you need, do check that out! Let us know if it answers your questions.
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jenny01
not a newbie
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2021 12:51 pm
Age: 20
Primary language: English
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity and orientation: straight
Location: Sioux Falls

Re: Stuck in the Middle

Unread post by jenny01 »

Well they finally broke up. I'm starting to get angry at my friend bc he keeps asking him why his gf would break up with him and I keep trying to explain the situation to him but he keeps telling me it's his ex-gfs fault(which it isn't). idk what to do. Any advice?
Elise
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Re: Stuck in the Middle

Unread post by Elise »

Hi Jenny01, whilst it can be a lot and frustrating to hear what your friend is saying right now, it is important to be mindful that while you can see things at an arms length and the logic of it all, right now it sounds like your friend is hurting a lot as this is a very new and raw emotional hurt. This is a really common emotional experience of the end of relationship, particular if you aren't the person who wanted it to happen. It is a kind of loss, and as with other kinds of loss, we need to be able to grieve an process, does that make sense?

Heather, the founder of Scarleteen, wrote a fantastic article about handling break ups here: Getting Through a Breakup Without Actually Breaking, whilst it is addressed to people going through break ups, this could help you understand the emotional experience he is going through, and it might be a useful thing to show him.

Perhaps, right now, rather than explain the logic to him to try and make him stop expressing his emotions, the best thing that you can do as a friend is listen, and validate his emotions, as much as feels comfortable for you. When people vent like this, often they are seeking validation and listening, rather than advice or answers. If you feel you can listen in this way, it is important to look after yourself as well, and make time to emotionally recharge as it can take a lot of mental energy. If you need some time to not talk about this with him, if he is getting repetitive, you could redirect and suggest an activity that could help him with distraction or something you both enjoy to take his mind off things.

It is okay to have a limit here and say something like: "I'm not in the best headspace to talk about this right now, but I can definitely do/talk about [something you both like] because I'd like to help you feel better as your friend". As a friend, one of the important things about how you deliver this is with kindness, so that he knows you aren't rejecting him 'as well' (as any breaking up, even if totally logical, can feel like a rejection) and that his feelings are valid, just that you aren't best placed to help him vent, but still there to support him as a friend.

Does this make sense? Let us know what you think about the article and if we can expand on or clarify anything.
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