Ok, so you realized you have feelings for your best friend. You finally gathered the courage to proclaim your love. But your best friend turned you down.
Now everything feels awkward, painful, and uncertain?
Don’t worry. Every relationship has its challenges and elements of risk, especially our most intimate ones. Many of us fall for our best friends. It’s quite natural to do.
But it doesn’t mean it has to feel like the end of your world. There are a few ways this situation can go.
I’ll take you through the top things to do when your best friend doesn’t love you back. Let’s jump right in.
1) Don’t panic
“If equal affection cannot be. Let the more loving one be me.”
– The More Loving One, W.H. Auden
After letting your friend know your most intimate and deep-felt desire, they are probably in a bit of shock. Life is not a nicely scripted romantic comedy.
The first urge they might have is to turn you down. They might already have feelings for someone else or never thought about you in that way before. So when your best friend resists your approach they are probably happy with the way your relationship is and not ready to let it change.
When they reject your proposition to change they are reminding you that they love you but not romantically.
Is this really a horrible thing?
Remember you are catching them out of the blue with your feelings that you’ve probably been dwelling over for a long period. They may not have let their mind wander to a romantic possibility with you.
They are used to being your friend and having clear boundaries.
Their initial rejection might lead to acceptance in time.
For now, just accept their response. It’s impossible to change the way someone feels.
They might have told you that they don’t share the same feelings, but this can be their way of taking the relationship back into their hands so that they can process their feelings.
Listen to what they say.
Be patient and give them some space and time.
Take some for yourself if you need it.
They may come to realize that they also have true romantic feelings towards you in time. Or that they have feelings for someone else, or that they just don’t want a relationship with you like that right now.
No matter the reason, they’ve said no. Respect their no. And don’t panic.
Your world is not going to end. It’s just changing. You have to give people time to naturally respond to new ideas and let the situation play out naturally.
The good thing here is that you dared to express how you feel.
If you told them or held back your feelings, they would find a way to bubble up and come out in one way or another.
It’s good to get it all out in the open so that you can address it and move on. You can’t take that moment back, so be proud of yourself for being honest and vulnerable. That’s not an easy thing to do.
2) Convert your passion
“Nothing awakens us to the reality of life so much as true love.”
– Vincent van Gogh
If your best friend doesn’t love you back, you probably have a great deal of repressed emotion to express. A great way to deal with it is to convert your passion for your best friend into another pursuit. The sooner the better.
For the moment, keep your interactions light and easy with your best friend. Try not to bring up your feelings again or be too persistent. They will not forget what you told them, trust me.
But if your best friend isn’t interested in pursuing your feelings at this moment, let it be.
For now, they are asking you to respect the fact that they aren’t interested in pursuing this opportunity with you.
They will be watching to see how you treat them now. This is an important moment.
For example, if you get serious or upset and push the issue, they won’t enjoy being around you as much.
Whereas, the more carefree, happy, and laid back you allow yourself to be, the more at ease they will feel around you.
And the better you will feel.
If you fill yourself up with new obsessions and joy, you may even attract and pull them closer to you.
It’s a great moment to peel your energy away from them and turn it back onto yourself.
What really sparks you? What fills you with joy? Focus on that instead of the rejection from your friend.
In the advice of Vincent van Gogh, who suffered a great deal from a tumultuous, unrequited love with a gorgeous, widowed, young mother, Cornelia Adriana Vos-Stricker, convert your desire into creative pursuits.
Your romantic passion can be used to empower yourself.
You can take on a new physical goal or creative challenge or entrepreneurial project.
Let that energy out in some capacity, or else it can stay repressed and drive you to obsess and try to control the situation with your best friend.
Make your best friend your new, creative muse.
Yes, this will be hard. But your focus should be more on yourself and your well-being than on anyone else. It’s the best way to heal and give your best friend the chance to love you in their way when they are ready.
3) Don’t blame yourself
“You have dreamed them up before you met them; not out of nothing — nothing comes of nothing — but out of the prior experience, both real and wished for.”
– Adam Phillips, The Paradoxical Psychology of How We Fall in Love
If your best friend doesn’t love you back, remember that it doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong, you have only expressed a new possibility. And isn’t that all we can ever explore with someone else?
According to the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, we create the projection or idea of the person we think we love, and this can greatly impact how we see them. This projection can also keep us from seeing the reality of the situation.
You might think your best friend is the love of your life, but have you thought about what that really means?
It’s only a concept and one that might not align with the reality of both of your perceptions.
The fact is that you opened the door to this chance of interacting with your best friend in a romantic manner.
It’s an important conversation to have.
Our best friends tend to be the people we can communicate openly with and realize our authentic selves with if are honest and vulnerable.
So there are no mistakes here, and no blame to take on.
You’ve spoken from your heart and that’s the best that any of us can ever do.
Did your best friend reject your complete friendship?
Did they say they don’t care at all about you?
Ask yourself what they rejected.
They rejected the change you are offering. Not you as a person.
Because there’s quite the difference between the two.
This is an important moment.
It’s a chance for you to see how you react to things that don’t go your way.
Do you have the courage to love yourself, even if someone else rejected you at a specific moment?
Unrequited love is difficult to face. It can feel hard to form lasting bonds with others and connect with deep love.
So often, we turn to our closest friends as romantic partners because we feel that a strong bond is already there. So when they don’t return our affection it can feel intensely painful.
In this video, the brutal truth about unrequited love in the modern age, an important lesson is brought to light.
It reminds us that in these moments of pain and loss, a lesson can be garnered.
Fundamentally, experiencing unrequited love is a chance to look at how you feel when you are alone.
For example, what’s behind your feelings of pain and rejection?
Are you ultimately waiting for someone else to make you feel loved and wanted?
Is that possible?
If you are feeling true and connected with yourself, then the way that you can handle romantic rejection can become less impactful.
Also, remember that it’s best that you let your feelings about this situation come out.
If anything, you are learning and growing from this experience, which is the best gift that our relationships can offer.
4) Try not to obsess about it
“To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”
– Federico García Lorca, Blood Wedding, and Yerma
As hard as it is, try not to overthink the fact that your best friend says they don’t love you back.
When your best friend rejects your love, try not to obsess over it. The writer Federico Garcia Lorca reminds us that it’s important not to punish ourselves with what we say and do. Some things will work out the way we wish or expect, but most of the time they don’t.
It’s more important how you choose to respond to the events of life unfolding than trying to waste your energy controlling it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m notorious for overthinking situations. I will replay and dwell on what I said and did. It took me a long time to see that I was feeling extremely insecure.
It’s taken me a great deal of time to realize that obsessing and regretting what you say and do can take you out of important moments and the relationship itself.
The truth is that your best friend still cares for you in some capacity.
But it’s important to remember that all relationships change.
You’ve done all that you can on your end and now have to let the situation unfold.
You could not have done anything differently because you didn’t do anything differently. It’s as simple as that.
So, now is the time to be even more courageous.
If you continue to obsess over what happened and fall into the spiral of the “what if?” game, then you are asking for a reckoning.
The reality of the situation is that what has happened, has happened and it’s time to move on. Even if they did love you back romantically, there are no guarantees that the relationship would last or go well if you jumped into it together.
As soon as we introduce sex into our relationships, it comes with a whole new set of issues to work out and face with one another.
Whether you continue being friends or not, your relationship has taken a needed pivot.
Just keep it all in perspective and continue being who you are.
Your best friend is going to be fine. You are going to be fine.
But you have to accept the situation for what it is and not keep bringing it up. If you do bring it up, stop yourself. If you get lost in cyclical thoughts, try to find ways to step out of the obsession.
Treat them how you normally would and move on with your life. It’s only natural to want to talk about what happened, discuss the relationship, or try to figure out why this happened. But you probably won’t find a satisfying answer.
If you can get a hold of your heart and mind, then these things won’t happen because you will know that nothing more can be done.
5) Keep the friendship steady and let it be
“If my master withdraws his friendship from me entirely I shall be absolutely without hope — if he gives me a little friendship — a very little — I shall be content — happy, I would have a motive for a living — for working.”
– Charlotte Brontë, letter to Constantin Héger
A great way to keep from obsessing over the fact that your best friend said that they don’t love you back, is to continue being a friend in the way that seems the best.
As the 28-year-old English novelist and poet Charlotte Brontë reminds us in her heartfelt words about her most intimate love, we must express ourselves fully and without fear, and be willing to take what we are offered.
Although Héger was married and with children and tore up each one of her letters, she still wrote them and offered her friendship as authentically as she could.
Even if your best friend rejects your pursuits, you can hold them close to your heart and when you are ready you will find the right moment to let go and move on.
Think of other people to date and explore your romantic pursuits. There is so much more potential to love.
It’s much easier to get over someone when you are interacting with different people and staying social. This will also take the romantic pressure off your friendship with your best friend.
Remember that this isn’t a very big issue in the grand scheme of life and in time it will not feel as painful or awkward for much longer.
Time will take the edge off of this experience.
Maybe it’s for the best that you realize that your best friend isn’t interested in you romantically.
In that way, you are strengthening your friendship because now it’s going to be free of the inevitable question that most close bonds have to sort out – “what is really happening between us?”
The art of letting go
“If you wanted to drown you could, but you don’t because finally after all this struggle and all these years you simply don’t want to anymore, you’ve simply had enough of drowning and you want to live and you want to love”
– David Whyte, The True Love
If you’ve been honest and are not expecting that there is going to be something romantic to develop with your best friend, then you can let any expectations that you hold of the relationship go.
Now, this may feel difficult to do and you may still want it to work out romantically.
If your best friend needs some time and space from you, it will open the door for other friendships, romantic or otherwise, to emerge and grow.
Life is very short and there are a lot of things that can happen that can come in as a complete surprise. So the best thing to do is get out of your head and start living your life, as you always do – on your own and to the beat of your own drum. If you seek to share your experiences in a romantic way, keep going onwards and soon you will find someone who has the same values.
Whenever we open ourselves and act vulnerable to someone else, there’s always a risk that things won’t go the way we would prefer. That’s the nature of life.
Rejection is a wonderful opportunity to look at the expectations that we bring into our relationships.
They can point out a sense of lack that you might be expecting someone else to fulfill.
The way I see it is that you have two options.
You can sit around and hope that your best friend changes their mind and acts toward you in the way that you want. You can dream that they one day tell you that they also have feelings for you and you can ride off on a white horse together into the magical sunset of your imagination.
Or, you can accept reality for what it is. You can continue to speak from the heart, realize that pain doesn’t have to accompany rejection, and learn to feel it and let it pass so that you can continue to learn and grow from your interactions.
At some point, even if you can’t imagine this now, you might laugh about this phase of your relationship together. We just don’t know.
This is a great opportunity to look at how you treat yourself when you experience feelings of pain and loss.
How is your relationship with yourself?
Do you fully love yourself?
A useful talk that I came across is one on love and intimacy by the shaman Rudá Iandê.
In it, Rudá explains why so many of us chase after the idea of love. And how it can be a useless and painful pursuit.
When I’m feeling especially distraught over my romantic relationships or when I feel like I’m failing at them, I like to watch this video as a reminder of what’s underneath my expectations and what I think other people will give me.
What I’ve come to understand and what I hope you can soon see is that people will come and go out of our lives, so it’s important to give the one person that you do have with you all your life the most about of love and care that you can offer – that is yourself.
We can all want our fantasies to come true. But when we live in reality and fall in love with the truth of situations we can start to live more clearly and honestly.
It takes courage to be vulnerable, so I hope you continue to open yourself up to love and all of its possibilities. But more so, I hope you start to open up to yourself and unfold the greatest love affair you can experience – the one with yourself.
We don’t need to torture ourselves in that state of unrequited love. But instead we can embrace and express our feelings and be open to life as it reveals.