Richard Wade’s new column is typically sage, this time as he soberly and accurately advises someone who is unrequitedly in love with a friend:
When a friend learns that their friend loves them romantically, but they don’t have that kind of love to return, they often feel a tension because of an odd quirk in our culture.
The healthiest response for the friend would be to feel sad about their love-struck friend, knowing that they are frustrated in their love. Unfortunately, in our culture people often take upon themselves the responsibility for other people’s feelings, thinking that they are supposed to somehow do something about or fix the other’s feelings. They confuse caring about someone’s feelings with taking care of someone’s feelings. So, being unable to return their friend’s romantic love, they might feel guilty. It is not rational or fair to themselves to take on that responsibility and the resultant guilt, but unfortunately it is all too common.
Also unfortunately, guilt is almost always accompanied by resentment. They don’t want this responsibility, but they don’t realize that it isn’t really theirs to take on. So they gradually begin to resent the source of their guilt. They think, “Oh why did my friend have to fall in love with me, making my life so complicated? Now I have to do something about it.” They cannot imagine themselves saying to their smitten friend, “I care about you, and I’m sad that you’re so frustrated, but there’s nothing I can do about it. My feelings are just not the same as yours. I hope that you can resolve your feelings.” They might consider such a response to be cold and uncaring, but it is not. It is the healthy, reasonable response of a caring friend who can only care, but who cannot be the manager of someone else’s emotions.
This is why your friend may at first have wished that your feelings would go away, and later may start wishing that you will go away. If she’s caught to any extent in that cultural false responsibility, the discomfort of guilt and resentment will take its toll on her friendship for you.
If someone loves you and you don’t love them, you can’t soft-peddle it, you’ve just gotta dash their hopes as clearly as possible. And if you love someone and they’ve confirmed they have no feelings in return, you’ve just got to let it go. Even were something to change in the future, you’re far more likely to have that happen if you two are not spending time in a relationship so imbalanced in terms of feelings and (in turn) power.