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Advice column: Should you tell your friend you have a crush on them?

July 10th, 2013     by Sarah Mangle     Comments

Welcome to our first-ever video advice column! You can view the video here on this page or on YouTube. A transcription is below the embedded video. Feedback is welcomed! - ed


Hi Everybody! My name is Sarah Mangle and I write advice for Shameless, and this time I’m going to do my advice in the form of a video blog and here it is — and I’m really pumped about it. I have never made a video blog before and I’m really excited.

We received a question and I’m going to start by reading it to you:

Dear Sarah Mangle, How do you maybe tell someone you like them or having feelings for them when that person is someone you have been friends with for quite a while? Maybe you spend a lot of time with the person and you really love being friends with them, and you assume they have no idea that you have feelings for them because you’re total ‘besties’. What if you tell them and things go horribly? What if you tell them and things go wonderfully? What if they think you’ve only been friends with them because you like them? HELP!!!!!

I made you this comic in preparation for this question. Here is you at a coffee shop thinking about if you should confess your crush to your friend, and here is that moment in when you say those words, “I have a crush on you!”

And probably in this moment you have a few of these WEIRD FEELINGS. I want to spend a bunch of time talking to you today about WEIRD FEELINGS because they’re exciting and interesting and incredibly difficult, and I also want to talk to you about CRUSHES and about INTIMATE FRIENDSHIPS: friendships that are not romantic relationships, but places where we have deep love and affection and excitement in our friendships that are often one-on-one.

So, you have a crush on your best friend. Crushes feel like a variety of things, and it can sometimes be helpful to think about how you feel about your crush, and perhaps why you have your crush on your friend, to figure out what you want to do next; if you want to tell your friend, and how you want to navigate that with them.

We have crushes on people and they feel like a variety of things. Sometimes I have crushes on my friends because I love the things that they do, I love the music that they make, I love the art that they make, I love the things that they write, I love their ideas, I love how they dress. And often when you have a crush, you feel like you really want to be close to them; you might want to cuddle or spoon with them; you might have sexy thoughts about them just pop into your head; you might want to spend more time with them and you might notice that when they’re dating someone they spend more time with them than with their friends; you might be having a situation where your friend actually bails for dates and romance and that might be annoying; your friends around you might be saying, “hey, your friend is totally cute, you should maybe consider dating them.” And all of these reasons are valid reasons, among other reasons, but crushes don’t just descend on us from the clouds like lightning bolts. We also have reasons for having strategic crushes, and we police in our brains who we allow ourselves to consider having crushes on or consider dating. I talk about that a little bit more in my last advice column that you can find on the blog, called New Strategies in Dating and Gossip. If you’re interested in that, I’d encourage you to read it.

It’s important to think about that fact that you have this beautiful awesome friendship, and it makes sense that you have a crush on your friend because your friend is probably awesome, but it is going to create some WEIRD FEELINGS to announce your crush to your friend — and figure out whether or not you want to change your relationship; how does your relationship change when you have a crush on your friend?

So we have individual relationships to crushes and what we think we want to do with them, and also we have individual relationships to what it means to date or be in a partnership with somebody. And when you tell somebody, “I have a crush on you,” what people often hear is not those words, but they hear something else that sounds a bit like, “I wanna date you!” or “I want to make out with you right now!” or “I want to move in with you and live with you as your life partner for ever and ever!”

It’s really hard just to sit with feelings of crushes and other things. It’s just hard. It creates a lot of weird feelings. And I’ve been in that situation before, where I just wanted to tell my friend that I thought she was really attractive and I had a crush on her, not because I wanted anything to change, just because I wanted to tell her. And she was like, “Sarah! I don’t know if I can date you right now.” And I was like, “I don’t want to date you either. I just wanted to tell you I have a crush on you.” So, it’s a tricky thing to just sit with feelings and discuss feelings, it’s kind of intangible and more difficult — it’s easier to talk about logistical things.

If you tell your friend, “I have a crush on you,” and your friend says, “I have a crush on you too,” it’s going to probably create some WEIRD FEELINGS, because it can be confusing.

Some other examples of WEIRD FEELINGS are: feeling overwhelmed, feeling angry, feeling possessive, feeling like you need a lot of space, feeling like you need a lot of affirmation, feeling overwhelmed in your body, feeling jealous, feeling really warm, feeling shivery, feeling angry for no reason: all of these are examples of WEIRD FEELINGS, and more. So, because we all have our own individual relationships to relationships, for example: when you date someone, how often do you hang out with them? How often to you talk to them? Can you call them when you’re feeling really upset? Does that mean you automatically hang out with all their friends? Is it important to your partner that you’re vegetarian? Is it okay if you flirt with other people or make out with other people? It’s way more nuanced than are you polyamorous, or are you monogamous, are you serious, or are you casual? These are words that people use, but really, people have to figure out more of the logistics of the relationship — more the details — and often these things are not compatible, or people are not able to make it work because its hard to deconstruct these things while we’re having WEIRD FEELINGS.

It’s also possible that when you tell your friend you have a crush on them, they will say they don’t have a crush on you, but you really feel that they do. And they might. And they might just not be ready to sit with those feelings. They might not want to date you, they might want to be a friend or have an intimate friendship with you that’s not romantic. And romantic relationships can be sites of beautiful healing and intimacy and beautiful things, and also so can intimate friendships.

Intimate friendships can sometimes be confusing to people, because to people on the outside of them, they can look like romantic relationships, because they are often one-on-one. People are committed to them and there’s deep love feelings and intimacy in these friendships, and we need them, often, to feel healthy. But it’s easy to mistake deep love feelings for feelings of crush or romance, and also, sometimes, you might have deep love feelings and crush feelings for someone you’re in an intimate friendship with — whom it makes more sense to be in an intimate friendship with than a romantic relationship.

But, we have less cultural stories and mass media around intimate friendships. They’re not talked about as much, and I think that they’re easily mistaken. And also, it’s easy for a partner to sometimes feel threatened by intimate friendships, especially when things are not going as well as you’d like, and it’s easy to feel threatened or to feel that if you partner has a friend that they’re really tight with, it’s easy to feel jealous and think, “well, maybe they are having romance,” or they have an intimacy that you want in your own relationship. It’s happened to me before, where I’ve been really close with somebody and my friendship has threatened my friend’s partnership, because it’s threatening and it creates lots of WEIRD FEELINGS.

The thing about WEIRD FEELINGS is: we can’t just announce them all at once and know what they are all at once, and get them over with. They actually take a lot of time and love, and we have to love ourselves, and we have to sit with these things and often we have to talk to other people and sort them out — but don’t be a tough guy, or try not to be a tough guy. I’m trying not to be a tough guy in my own life; I’m trying to sit with my own weird feelings when they arise and figure them out, and there are ways that we can totally learn and grow. It’s just hard work and it takes time and patience. But it’s totally worth it.

In closing, I just want to say that crushes can be fun and exciting things, but they definitely bring WEIRD FEELINGS. If you decide that you want to tell your friend that you have a crush on them, give yourselves both time and space, and if one or both of you feels like running away at a certain moment, that’s normal. And consider if you have an intimate friendship that you want to build and grow deeper, and maybe not have it be a romantic relationship. Or just think about the fact that if you do decide to date your friend, you may lose your friendship if you break up, even if you don’t want to. Which is kind of a sad reality, but it does happen quite a bit.

Also: friendships are not unbreakable, and people are not unbreakable, and often we think that we are way tougher than we are, and we think our friends are more tough than they are, too. People are sensitive, and we all have WEIRD FEELINGS, and we need to treat each other with care and patience, and take time, try not to jump to conclusions about things. I know it’s hard. WEIRD FEELINGS are hard, but I know you can do it, and good luck and enjoy your crush feelings on whoever you have them on, and have a great day. Okay. Bye.

Tags: advice, queeriosities, sexuality

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