Dear Justin, I have a terrible habit of falling in love with my close female friends. In some ways it’s understandable: they’re beautiful, charming and intelligent and I know that I enjoy their company. It’s terrible for my love life though because they think of me only as a friend and it prevents me from forming any meaningful relationships with other girls, resulting in unfulfilling one night stands. Any advice? –Mark in Chatham
Thanks for the question, Mark. This is a very frustrating situation to be in, and it’s fantastic that you’ve recognized that this is a problem. Beyond tipping my glass at you, looking over the top of my sunglasses, and firmly saying, “Stop doing that”, there’s a few other things I can suggest. Firstly, let me be clear with you—this is bad news every time it happens. Having feelings like this, and acting on them, can be damaging to your friendships, and damaging to your potential love life as well.
Upon reading this, my first thought was to ask you the following: Are you falling in love with your friends, or are you getting friendzoned by awesome girls that you’re attracted to? The reason I pose that question, is that they’re similar situations that would require very different advice. If it’s the latter as opposed to the former, send me an email and we can chat about that. That one requires a whole different piece of advice–probably over drinks.
There is also the matter of displacement. Displacement usually occurs after loss, and, if as you indicated, this is something that is reoccurring; this could well be the case. Upon some sort of loss—a breakup, unrequited love, etc—it is often a natural reaction to redirect those feelings towards the girl closest to you, like a best friend. It makes sense if you consider it—love is the strongest emotion one can feel. It requires massive amounts of energy, and to relinquish a certain amount of control. When the girl for whom you have these intense feelings is removed from the situation, all of those pent up emotions don’t disappear.
Your subconscious will naturally seek an outlet for those emotions, and, since instead of wallowing in bed listening to Bright Eyes and looking at her picture, you’re actually spending time with some great girls that you’ve described as “beautiful, charming, and intelligent”, they would be the natural choice. It’s the path of least resistance. The phenomenon of displacement can be unbelievably confusing, and can lead you to think that you’re in love with your best friend when you’re actually still in love with the last girl. Of course, acting on those displaced feelings can cause major friction in a friendship.
I guess the sum of my advice is this: If you feel like you’re falling in love with your best friend, try to take a step back and analyze it logically. Better yet, have a friend do it because no one in love has ever been logical. Heck, you can even email me and I’ll analyze it for you. Just try not to dive into those feelings too heavily, because you could seriously damage your friendships. If you’re sure you’re in love with her, then you have to make a choice: is the chance of something happening between you worth sacrificing a friendship? If so, then go for a Hail Mary, and lay your cards on the table. If not, you need to fight your way past those feelings.
Remember, Mark, life rarely ever mimics the movies, and when it does it’s usually more like Closer than it is The Next Best Thing, When Harry Met Sally, A Lot Like Love, or Chasing Amy.
Also, if you haven’t caught those films yet, don’t.