I'm in love with my bandmate and it's killing me. We've been playing together for almost three years. But a few months ago, something changed. We began spending time together alone outside of band activities, doing "datey" things like movies, cooking classes, concerts. But save for a peck on the cheek (which is new) and daily e-mailing, I'm not feeling any heat from him. Heat for him? Got that covered. I had a major crush on him when we first met but put my feelings aside for the sake of this awesome musical project we're involved in. And he's also 10 years my senior, which made/makes me believe that he wouldn't be interested anyway. But I really thought things were moving in a positive direction and now I think I may have misinterpreted our spending time together as more than it was.
Make no mistake, I'm in love with him. Or maybe I'm just in some teenage infatuation, but whatever it is, it's torturous to be with him and not be with him. We've been kicking around ideas to take an overseas trip together (hello!), but I don't think I can do that. I can barely breathe when sitting next to him at the movie theater. The sound of his hand brushing his five o'clock shadow or a deep sigh drives me mad. But at the end of the night, I go home to my place alone, not knowing anything more about his feelings than I did before.
My friends' advice is to go with the flow. Don't get too emotionally involved because he may just be interested in being my friend. It's too late for that, so what do I do? Remove myself from this situation? Not accept any more invitations to do datey things? Leave rehearsal as soon as everyone else does so I'm not alone with him? Or do I say, screw it, I'm just going to confront him and risk everything: my pride, our friendship, our band (which I love). He is worth the risk, but I don't think I have the courage. If he sees this, he'd have to be absolutely daft not to know it was about him. Why is it so hard to make the jump from friend to lover?
100 Percent Confused
Dear 100 Percent,
You have a lot of important things at stake here, so I would move cautiously. I would try to find out what's going on between you two. Put yourself in his position. He may feel for a number of reasons that he must restrain himself. He may feel that it wouldn't be fair to you or to the band to become romantically involved. Yet if he and you are spending so much time together, he must feel something for you. So talk with him, but be careful what you say. Don't tell him that you're in love with him. That's going too far. But tell him that you think that if you and he keep spending time together like this, your relationship is going to change. Just tell him that you know how these things work, and that things don't stay still, and that if you keep hanging out like this something is going to happen between you two. Ask him if he's thought about that. Ask him if he's thought about what would happen if you and he started sleeping together. Is that something he wants? Is that something he has thought about?
If he says flat-out no, then there's your answer. You should just stop hanging out with him, or you will get hurt. But chances are, he has thought about what's going on as well. So just try to find out what he is feeling, and what he thinks is likely to happen if you keep hanging out.
Now, when you're saying these things, and listening to what he says or does not say, don't really listen with your head. Don't listen to the words so much. Just listen for the feeling. What is going on with him? What you've done, by saying these words to him, is put him on the spot. It's like injecting some kind of dye into his veins so you can trace the course of his emotions. He may not tell you flat-out anything. He may be afraid of rejection and afraid of what would happen if he started sleeping with his bandmate. He may really not know what he's feeling. But something is going to become evident as he speaks. Listen for the feeling.
You have to play the role of the person who is taking control of the situation. You may not want to do this, but now is your chance. Before you declare yourself, and become a mess, you have to pretend that you are the tough one, the one who is looking out for the future of the band and for the future of your friendship. You don't have to say that you can't breathe when you're sitting next to him in a movie theater. All you have to say is that if you and he keep hanging out together, something is going to happen, because that's how things work, that's how reality is, that's what happens between a man and a woman, etc. That way, it sounds like you know what you're doing.
What are you listening for, exactly? What you need from him is some kind of assent, or some kind of acknowledgment, or some signal. You are sending him a signal, like sonar; you are sounding his depths. Then you analyze the results. Like I say, it might not be a fully articulated verbal statement that you get. It might be sort of a shadowy thing, a blurry image of his emotions. But you have to take the best shot of whatever it is and then decide what to do.
If you get a clear signal from him that he wants to move the relationship forward and become intimate, then you really have to think about the effect on the band as well. Would you be able to continue with the band if you and he got together and then broke up? Or would that be the end of the band? Would other members of the band feel slighted and excluded if you and he became an item? Take each of these questions individually. Talk to other band members if necessary -- that is, if it looks like you and he are going to get closer.
This could work. It could be great for the band. It could bring new energy to it. Or it could destroy it. It's all in how you manage it.
So my bottom-line advice to you is to take the lead. Don't be afraid to nip this in the bud if he doesn't seem to have feelings for you. Just walk away; steel yourself against hurt. Stop now before you are deeply involved. Treat it as a crush.
But if you get the signal that he wants to take it further, then see where it leads, and be open to the other band members about what is going on.
"Since You Asked," a collection of your favorite columns by Cary Tennis: On sale now at Cary Tennis Books. Buy now to receive an autographed first edition!
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