What is your advice for confronting the complication of a romantic attraction felt by one individual in a male/female friendship? In your clinical experience is it unrealistic to believe that these complications can be resolved and the friendship nurtured and left intact? Thank you.
Many experts will tell you point blank to forget about trying to just be “friends” with a man. Men and women are not meant to be friends, period. And if they are friends, they are just in denial about their attraction, and ultimately, at least one person is going to get hurt.
For this reason, the advice usually goes a step further. Stop leading him on. If you’re not prepared to love him fully, don’t love him at all. It’s not fair to him.
In my clinical experience, however…actually, forget about my clinical experience…In my life experience, nothing is ever “fair” in love and war. In real life, anything is possible. People love and disappoint each other in friendship and in love every day, every second of the day. This doesn’t necessarily mean it can or should be avoided. It just means it hurts.
The real question, I think, is whether you and your friend can both get enough enjoyment from the relationship to outweigh the disappointing imbalance of love. I am guessing that you are the one who wants to “resolve the complications” and nurture the friendship, and he has “confronted the complication” of being attracted to you romantically. Otherwise, I think you would probably be writing to me about how to get over him.
Here is my advice based on my clinical/life experience. You value this man’s friendship enough to be seeking ways to restore it. Now that you know how he really feels about you, romantically, everything is out in the open.
He feels romantically towards you, and you don’t towards him. He’s probably disappointed, because he’s not getting what he wants, and you’re probably disappointed because you’re being told that what you have to offer is not enough. It would not be unrealistic not to be friends; it would be unrealistic to deny the realities.
Here are some possible realities you and your male friend may have to face down the road if you give your friendship a try:
Can he deal with his romantic disappointment in you? Can he accept that you don’t feel the same way towards him as he does about you? Are you a stepping stone towards his picking someone to love, eventually, who will want to “love” him back?
Is it OK with you if he secretly harbors the hope that your feelings might change? Would it be OK with you if eventually he got angry at you for frustrating him, and had to break off the friendship in an angry way to move on?
Can you deal with the disappointment that your friendship is not apparently enough for him? Can you can deal with knowing that he is disappointed? Is it OK with you if on a cold and dark and windy night, he makes another attempt to lead you into romance?
I have been married a long time and I have over 20 years of clinical experience, which has taught me this: any relationship can certainly be nurtured – no matter how great the disappointment, once the realities are accepted.
In fact, I know much less about people who are truly close, without at least some disappointment. I don’t know if the feelings get “resolved.” Hurt and angry feelings, in relationships, are just simply there sometimes, and can be disappointing. The feelings provide one of the dimensions of being in a relationship, however regrettable, unpleasant, or burdensome. It is what it is. Or, as Popeye says “I yam what I yam.”
Certainly in a marriage, especially when there are children involved, it may be worthwhile to learn how to tolerate disappointment and hurt, and learn how to become good partners despite these feelings – to keep the family intact. The rewards can be breathtaking. I’m not sure what the dividends of tolerating disappointment would be in a friendship, but I have a feeling that for you, at least right now, the benefits may still be there.
It is good to have people in our lives we feel close to. And it is not always easy to make new friends. I see no reason why your friendship can’t be nurtured and remain intact through the complication of romance, if that is what you both, at least right now, desire.