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I read your column on the web and find it very useful. I have a particular question of my own and need your help badly. I have been friends with a man for four years. We met when we were both postdoctoral fellows in the same university. I have always liked him a lot, but we are both very devoted scientists who spend all our time on our work and career building. We have both found jobs in good universities on the east coast. He is extremely gifted, but has never had a girlfriend (he is in the 30's now). We meet from time to time at conferences or when we visit each other, and our relationship is that of good buddies. I think we like each other--he has stopped by to visit me on his way to conferences and has stayed with me for a couple of days, and I drive over to visit him when I get a chance. However, it is hard to know exactly if he likes me in the same way as I do him. I am afraid I will lose him as a good friend if I bring this up. I really do like him a lot as a friend too. Is there a way to find out without risking or losing our friendship? Please tell me what I should do. --Wants More
You have what is now commonly referred to as the "friend crush." You and this guy met, found you had a lot in common and relate well as "buddies." It's not surprising that a deeper attraction has developed for you. After all, he's a great friend with similar interests and goals. You know your feelings have grown, but are unsure of his specific attraction to you. You want more but fear losing everything if you pursue this.
The right choice for you will depend on how important it is for you to act on these new feelings and what you are willing to risk for a chance at love with this man. If you must follow your heart, there will be some risk. There really is no "right way" to do this that will not involve taking a chance that he will react negatively or pull back from you. You really won't know until you put your feelings out there. His response could be positive or could lead to a possible romantic relationship developing later.
You could play the waiting game and continue to see him as often as possible. Filling these visits with fun and activities of interest for you both should only strengthen your bond. In time, he could broach the subject of wanting something more--or not. Your friendship could blossom until one day he announces that he has met and fallen for another woman. That is a risk if you don't act or if you wait too long.
So, think through your choices and make a decision. Your instincts will tell you how and what to say if you opt to share your feelings openly. Remember to stay open to whatever response he will offer and to accept his feelings, whatever they may be. If he does not share your feelings and it becomes too painful over time to remain "just friends," you can then re-evaluate the situation and then do what is best for you.
(from January 2005)
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"Soul mates or Something else"
Toni Coleman, LCSW
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