How do I tell her I like her?

We're friends in high school but I want more

Published May 9, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Salon,

I'm a 17-year-old guy and I'm a junior in high school, and I've had this friend, this girl, that I've known since our freshman year. I've liked her since freshman year and I've just now this year become really great friends with her. My best friend moved to Missouri last year and he just moved back. Him and this girl that I've liked forever started going out (they have only known each other for four or five months). This made me wonder what I've done wrong for the past three years of my life with her, but that's not the end of the story. They went out for three weeks and then she broke up with him because he was "too clingy" and she "sucked at relationships," or at least that's what she told me. She trusts me with EVERYTHING. She goes to me with things, tells me I'm funny, hangs out with me, and constantly drives me crazy for her. Right now I feel confident enough to do something about the way I feel, but since her and my best friend went out doesn't that make her "off limits" according to the man law or guy code?

I REALLY like this girl, and I don't want my feelings to ruin my relationship with HER by making it awkward between us if she knows. And I really don't want my feelings to ruin my relationship with my best friend if he's not OK with me liking this girl (that is, when I tell him, if she likes me?). I really can't tell anybody about this because everyone I know isn't trustworthy besides her and my best friend, but they can't know because it involves them. I feel like I'm going crazy. So I guess my real question to you is do I tell her about my feelings and risk ruining my relationship with her? Or do I keep it to myself and forever regret it?


High School Guy

Dear High School Guy,

I think the right thing to do is to tell her. But tell her in a way that doesn't ruin the relationship. In fact, you can tell her in a way that makes it possible for the relationship to grow stronger, no matter what happens.

The friendship doesn't have to end. Whatever she says, you and she can go through this episode in your friendship together.

Before you say anything to her, you will want to think it through. You might want to write some things down and say them out loud beforehand, to see how it feels to say these things. You might even read out loud what you want to say to her. You decide. Decide how you want to tell her. Then find a good time and place where you and she can be alone for a while.

Then say something like this:

I have something I want to tell you, but before I do, I want you to know that I value our friendship a great deal, and no matter what happens, I want our friendship to continue. OK?

Don't blurt it out. Make sure she understands that you really mean it, that her friendship means a lot to you and that you are serious and don't want to screw this up. Be straight with her:

I know that you value me as a friend. I value you for a friend. But my feelings for you have grown into more than just friendship. I have feelings for you like for a girlfriend.

Pause to see what she says. If she says nothing, you might ask her: Are you surprised? Did you have an idea I might feel this way?

She might say that she's had some clues, or has thought it might be going on. She might be relieved to be able to talk about it. Or she might not know what to say.

Since you already know that she doesn't like "clingy" guys, reassure her that you are not "clingy." But tell her that you really do have  feelings for her, and ask her what her feelings are for you. Ask her directly. Ask her to be honest.

Then just listen.

If she doesn't feel that way, she may want to spare your feelings by saying what a great guy you are, and she really likes you, etc. If the words coming out of her mouth sound kind and sweet but you feel let down, then she's telling you she really doesn't feel that way.

I don't mean to insult your intelligence, but our wishes can sometimes distort what we hear. If you're at all unclear, ask her to tell you point blank, yes or no, does she want to be your girlfriend. It's important that you know where you stand.

She might say she isn't sure, or can't explain how she feels. If she says anything other than she wants to be your girlfriend, she probably doesn't, and you should accept that she doesn't feel that way toward you.

Now here is the other part of it. If she does not want to be your girlfriend, that's OK. But you really do want a girlfriend. If it's not going to be her, then it's going to be someone else.

So sooner or later, you might want to ask her how she would feel if she saw you going out with someone. Ask her if she would still be your friend then. Ask her if she thinks if you had a girlfriend that your girlfriend might get jealous of your friendship.

Again, tell her that no matter what happens, she will still be your friend.

As to your guy friend, well, I'm not sure what the rules are. The important thing is to be honest and upfront with him. If she becomes your girlfriend, he will obviously know. He may not like it but one hopes you and he could still be friends. Being honest with him doesn't mean telling him everything that might hurt his feelings. For instance, it doesn't mean telling him she thought he was "clingy." Know what I mean? Follow your best judgment on this.

I have high hopes for you, for her, and for your friend. Friendship is precious. You can work it out.

By Cary Tennis

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