unrequited love.

Reader R. L. writes:

I have known my best friend for over a decade, and I think I’m in love with her. What’s the best way to tell her how I feel?

Dear R.L.:

i lurv you

"i lurv you." Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m totally refreshed by the fact that you’re not asking how you can tell whether or not she returns the feelings. Being brave enough to admit your feelings to the one you love, without knowing whether or not the object of your affection returns the compliment, is, I think, very rare and very wonderful. It seems that everyone these days is afraid to admit they’re head over heels, even when they know the other person feels the same way. Taking ownership of your feelings, and responsibility for them, makes you a hot item, in my book.

How you let her know, however, depends on various issues:

How scared are you of being flat-out rejected?

What is the chance that she loves you back?

How much awkwardness can you handle?

Do you value the friendship more than you need to offload your feelings?

If your answer to the last question is “yes”, don’t tell her and get over it. End of story. But depending on your answers to the first three, I have a few recommendations.

Option 1: Email

When to use it: When you’re pretty sure she doesn’t feel the same way; when you want to give her space; when you’re not up for making a completely awkward situation.

A good friend of mine said she recently received a very formal email from a dear friend saying he’d learned he was in love with her. Her response was, “Thank god he didn’t try to break it to me in person.” Nope, she didn’t return his affection, and he saved a lot of face by emailing her rather than sitting her down and telling her. It gave her the opportunity to think it over and respond with a kind word rather than an immediate rejection.  Furthermore, she got to read it at her own pace. Most people read their email when they’ve set aside time to do so, and if they find an email to be too long or important for the time they’ve scheduled, they can go back to it. This gives it a more private feel than other modes of communication. And you get the chance to really sculpt what you say to her. You can save a draft and edit it four or five times.

Option 2: Telephone

When to use it: When she lives far away and you just can’t wait; when you don’t mind the awkwardness; when you’re 50/50 on whether or not she feels the same way.

While a telephone call can be every bit as awkward as an in-person confrontation, it gives your lady some options. For instance, she could hang up on you. She could pretend the call dropped. She can tell you she’ll call you back. Or she could jump up and down with joy and say she feels exactly the same way. You give up the space and formality of an email, but add the personal touch of live conversation. If she says she’s shocked and she doesn’t return your feelings, you can hang up and not have to look into her eyes.

Option 3: Face-to-Face Confrontation

When to use it: When you’re pretty sure she feels the same way; when you have no qualms whatsoever about how awkward things could be.

A lot of people might recommend you make a special occasion out of this scenario, but I disagree. I think that you should do something completely normal. Whether it’s private or public is something that depends on your relationship. If you always go to baseball games together, tell her at the baseball game. Tell her in the car when you’re driving her home after a night out. Tell her on the dance floor. Tell her when you’re having brunch at her place on Sunday, over coffee and eggs. You’re already best friends; she’s going to remember this conversation whether you’ve got roses in your hands or not. You’ve got the rest of your relationship to bring in the romance.

What I don’t recommend: Over text or IM.

Text and IMs are both very utilitarian modes of conversation. I love them for scheduling events, flirting, getting information across, and all that. But for important romantic declarations, they fall completely flat. You never know what she’s going to be doing when you text or IM her, and her response could be very easy to misinterpret. In fact, she probably won’t understand your 140-character declaration to begin with. Unless you have a very cute text relationship, telling her you think you need to take your friendship to the next level via this mode of communication will probably make her think it’s a very bad idea.

Good luck, my brave friend. We all hope she feels the same way, too.


1 Response to “unrequited love.”

  1. 1 Kerrie
    March 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I can vouch for Option 1 and not having it *totally* blow up on you! We’re still good friends.

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