Fannie Fierce

Fending off Friend-o-philia

Filed By Fannie Fierce | January 11, 2008 11:54 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: friends with benefits, unrequited love

Dear Fannie,

GWM student here. My problem is that I’m beginning to suspect that one of my close friends has a crush on me. I can’t be sure of it because he’s never made any kind of overt gesture, but it’s more about his hidden stares and lingering hugs. He’s a great guy, but I’m not attracted to him in that way at all. How do I let him down and stay friends? I’m inclined to wait for him to make a move and cross that bridge when we get there. Is that a good idea?

--Unsure of Unrequited Love

I think that the way that we choose friends is in some way based on attraction. So it shouldn’t be completely surprising that your friend may be attracted to you. People on your end of the unrequited love equation usually get the raw end of the deal. No one likes to hear, “Woe is me, so and so is in love with me… Isn’t my life difficult?” Coping with unwanted excess love seems much less difficult and emotionally damaging than coping with a dearth of love. But rest assured, Unsure, that negotiating a situation where a friend wants to be more than a friend can be difficult, drawn out, and exhausting.

According to psychological studies in unrequited love relationships, the vast majority (almost 100%) of unrequited love is the result of a disparity of attraction levels (comprised of physical beauty, personality, social standing, etc.).* According to these studies, most people tend to consider themselves more attractive than they actually are. So when Boy A who is a 50 has a crush on Boy B, who is a 70. Boy A thinks himself as a 70, so he thinks that he and Boy B are a good match. But Boy B thinks himself a 90, and sees the disparity between his own attraction level and Guy A as much greater than it actually is. One of the biggest misconceptions of unrequited love is that the greatest burden of emotional stress is on the side of the pursuant of the unrequited love, Boy A. But, studies show that its Boy B that is the recipient of the most emotional stress, derived from trying to be considerate of their pursuer’s emotions. This is only exacerbated by the fact that most unrequited love occurs within friendships rather than acquaintances, making it harder for the pursued to continually rebuff advances and unrequited feelings.

My advice? Nip it, and nip it early. Even though you may not be completely sure of your friend’s feelings for you, you should make your feelings for your friend very clear and defined. A mistake many people make in these situations is to ignore the unwanted feelings and to only address them once they have become overt. Waiting for your friend to make a move is really just procrastination on your part and, frankly, a little unfair. If you’ve already identified his potential feelings, the best thing for both of you is to sit down and clearly define your relationship. Having been on the other side of the fence many a time, I can tell you the best way to get over a crush is to receive some closure and clarity in the relationship. If you leave the boundaries of your relationship murky and undefined, it just allows more room for imagination and pining, which doesn’t help anyone.

You have nothing to lose. If you’re wrong about you’re friend’s feelings, the worst that will happen is a few minutes of awkwardness. But you have the opportunity to solidify a meaningful friendship with a moment of genuine honesty.


*Please note that I am not a trained psychologist and all semi-scholarly references are just from my own reading and personal research. I concede to more qualified members of the field for more potentially accurate information. As my good friend LeVar Burton says, "Don't take my word for it... check it out yourself!"

Send your questions to [email protected]
Read the rest of Fannie's column at

Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

I don't know if I agree with your math, Fannie.

Someone, in my book, can't really "be" a 50, a 10, an 8, or whatever numbering system we're going by. Different people will find different things about different people attractive in different contexts and at different times in their lives....

Did I say "different"?

So like someone's 10 is another person's 3, and maybe they'll grow more attracted to each other in their lives... or less.

I would say that a lot of unrequited love's problems stem from the fact that we expect love to be two-way, when if you think about it it's not all that mathematically likely that the 1 in 6B person I find attractive (or let's just reduce it to 500 to encompass the people around me) is unlikely to find me attractive back.

How does coupledom happen in my theory? People work at loving one another, get swept away with someone else's feelings, or decide that they probably won't do better anyway.

Just a theory!

Hey Alex,

Yeah, the study I was citing was very confusing for me to grasp as well and seemed dubious. But I thought the notion that a potential cause of unrequited love was an imagined disparity of attractiveness (which has many variables other than beauty) caused by our own inflation qua ego. Also, the fact that these researchers found recipients of unrequited love to experience more emotional "trauma", if one can call it that, than those pursuing (they mention that pursuers tended to reflect on those experiences of unrequited love positively, and as a quest for something noble and pure; whereas, while recipients might be flattered, are plagued with emotional minefields in dealing with this unwanted emotions).

And while your love is a two-way street analogy is romantic and prettiful, I contest that. Love is NOT two-way. You can TOTALLY love people (romantically or otherwise) who do not return that love. Successful romantic love might be a reciprocal relationship, but the channels of love often flow unevenly, even in successful romantic relationships.

Also, Unsure wasn't really asking for how love operates, it was how to deal with a friend who has a crush on you and continue to be friends. In my books, open and honest communication is way better than sugar at helping the medicine go down.

"When the Lord closes a door... somewhere he opens a window..." What movie is that from? I'll give you a hint... Nazis + A Lonely Goatherd.

With the love door closed, Unsure's friend will most likely find a window open to friendship that he will be more likely to accept and grow to cherish.

And while your love is a two-way street analogy is romantic and prettiful, I contest that. Love is NOT two-way. You can TOTALLY love people (romantically or otherwise) who do not return that love. Successful romantic love might be a reciprocal relationship, but the channels of love often flow unevenly, even in successful romantic relationships.

Actually, that was pretty much my point. I just said that it's more expected than reality.

I did like the point you made about not dealing with the problem being just procrastinating.

I can see the point about there being more stress for the recipient - there is a standard procedure for being the pursuer in our culture, but we don't really teach people how to deal with being pursued. (Something tells me that a feminist out there wrote something about this....) I can be pretty thick-headed about when people have crushes, etc., for me, not knowing until a year or two later when others tell me, but I'd have to say that I always remember my own attractions as fun, others directed towards me as guilt-ridden. I don't like hurting other people's feelings, to put it in elementary school terms (which are completely appropriate for me).

Do you have a link to that study? Is it available online? It sounds interesting.

Hmmmmm... I'm going to guess The Sound of Music?

That's a lot of math in an advice column.