A dilemma as old as time

I am involved with someone but can't stop thinking about a woman who won't have me.

Published January 27, 2003 8:38PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

The dilemma may be as old as time, but I am currently involved in a serious relationship and find myself with feelings for someone else. That is where things get complicated: The person whom I am enamored with is one of my best friends, who I have known and have felt this way about for years. For various reasons, she and I have never gotten together in the past -- I previously dated her best friend -- and instead have just been incredible friends. I have even told her how I have felt about her, with the predictable result of her saying it couldn't happen due to the past.

So here I am now, in a new relationship with someone that I really care for and could be serious about, yet I can't stop thinking about my best friend. It has been that way for the past five years, with anyone I have dated, and I'm afraid I may always feel this way. So I ask you, what can I do? Is it wrong to pine after someone else besides your current partner? And is it just plain stupid to still be in love with someone who has told you it could never work out? Would be grateful for some advice -- maybe that way I can get some sleep at night.

Stuck on a Feeling

Dear Stuck,

There is something about this woman that you need to understand. She is never ever going to sleep with you. She has been inoculated against your charms forever by your relationship with her friend. I don't know if it's some species-survival mechanism, a deep instinctual incest taboo triggered by pheromones, or what it is; I'm no sociobiologist. But I have observed and believe it to be reliably the case that once something has occurred that causes a woman to mark the "No" box next to your name, that's it. It's as if some alarm goes off and you can't reset it for a hundred years, as if it's programmed that way so only she can reset it and she never will. It's almost as if some evolutionary genius of the species understood that men have no brains at all, and if any reproductive order is to be kept, women will have to have this do-not-sleep-with-him radar, set to a hair-trigger response. And it can be triggered by all kinds of things, from comb-overs to sandals with socks to having dated her best friend. Maybe it keeps birth defects down in the tribe; maybe it keeps women from competing for the same guy; maybe it even helps to spread male genes, as it keeps one guy from getting all the chicks. I have no idea, I really don't. I'm out of my league as far as why this should be so, but I have observed it and believe it to be true: Once a woman crosses you off her list, you might as well have been caught trying to hump the parakeet. Nothing is going to happen.

So please, for your sake, for your girlfriend's sake, and for your friend's sake, try to normalize relations. Get her paired off decently with some regular guy. Be friends as couples. And whatever you do, don't all four get naked in a hot tub.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Want more advice from Cary? Read Friday's column.

By Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Love And Sex Sex Since You Asked