I've been in love with my best friend for five years. We met in college and dated briefly, but he broke it off saying that he felt "too emotionally immature" to pursue the relationship. I was heartbroken but didn't want to lose his friendship, so I worked through it. But over the years there was always an emotional intimacy equivalent to a romantic relationship and also the underlying tensions that go with having that intimacy but being "just friends." On several occasions, we discussed the possibility of dating again but he always backed off, citing his commitment phobia. I dated some other guys but always broke things off before anything got serious, because of him. He expressed some interest in other girls but never dated any of them.
After college, he moved away to take the job of his dreams in another state. We kept in touch but I launched a self-improvement campaign to get over my feelings for him. I shelved my Sarah McLachlan CDs (a staple for pining girls everywhere, it seems) and kept myself busy with my job, family, friends, travel, everything. Also, not seeing him every day, although difficult at first, finally made me feel as though I could get over him. It gave me hope that we could continue to be friends but find other people to love.
But recently, he moved abroad to do an 18-month rotation at a foreign branch of his company. Ever since the move, he's been calling every day and our conversations have slipped back into the familiar and comforting old groove of before. I find the connection that we have addictive. I'm supposed to go visit him in a month and I feel myself hoping yet again that maybe this time, this will go somewhere. I know that his interest might be renewed because he's homesick and still adjusting to his new environment. Is there a way that I can avoid falling into this unrequited-love trap again, without cutting him out of my life, mustering up nonexistent anger, or developing not so creative revenge fantasies? There must be an exercise that would help or a mantra I could repeat.
Dear Sweetly Sinking,
Repeat this mantra as you pack your bags, as you make your way to the airport, as you are boarding the plane, and while you're traveling at remarkable speed toward your overseas destination: "I don't care what happens. I'm just going to have a good time." On the day you are going to meet him, repeat this mantra: "I don't need him, but I can enjoy him."
Fill your heart not with wishes but with gratitude. Release yourself utterly from expectation. Refuse to contemplate the future. Do not request anything of him that he does not offer. Pay attention only to the moment. Be happy. Make love if you want. Don't make love if you don't want. Flirt with his friends. On your return, if he has not yet professed his love for you, tell him goodbye, that you have found a new life, that you are very happy and that you wish him well. Hint broadly that you have become a lesbian. Keep your Sarah McLachlan CDs shelved. Listen only to System of a Down. Turn it up. Continue in this manner until all traces of your attachment to him are gone.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read Friday's column.