Q: Dear Elle,
Is friendship possible after confessing your feelings to a friend?
– Freshly Friendzoned
A: Dearest Friendzone-ee,
Ouch. Alright; let’s work through this clusterfuck.
Objectively, your relationship is irreparably changed. There is quite literally nothing you can do to retract your admission of feelings; the dynamic between you and your friend is now tainted by major awkwardness. But I’m sure you’re quite aware of the utter agony of this situation. So I digress.
Let me preface my advice on this matter with a serious caveat. I don’t have the details on the delivery of this confession and your friend’s reaction, so this very well could be a situation that should be simply be left unaddressed for the rest of eternity. If your friend was made seriously uncomfortable by your confession, you really do need to give them the space to make the decision on whether they want to pursue any semblance of friendship. When you decided to tell your friend how you feel, you accepted the reality that they may not feel the same way (I hope). Often, confessing your love for a close friend doesn’t yield a positive outcome. And a lot of people won’t be comfortable continuing to cultivate a friendship with someone after they have learned that this friend has feelings for them; that’s ok. It’s within the person’s rights to distance themselves from you if they’re uncomfortable. Maturity should guide everyone’s reactions in this situation. If your friend/crush says they can’t be friends, you need to respect that and make peace with it.
Now, the way you’ve phrased this question leads me to believe that this friend is open to friendship after you’ve confessed your feelings. Lucky you! But look, this isn’t the time to dive straight back into an intense friendship. Boundaries, people. Let the situation breathe for a second to allow both parties to grapple with the unreciprocated feelings that now inhabit the space between you. How’s that for the makings of a solid friendship! But in all seriousness, things aren’t going to be the same, they’ve changed. And that’s just fine. Relationships shift and this awkwardness doesn’t necessarily need to define your future interactions. But things are going to be tender, fresh with rejection! You just need to become comfortable with acknowledging the reality of the situation; if your friendship can grow around the shared discomfort, I applaud you. Truly impressive work. Just take it slow, and let your friend guide the new direction of your relationship. There’s going to be some tension as you both navigate this new dynamic, but just remain grateful that your friendship emerged intact!
And if your attempts at friendship after fessing up to your feelings fail, spend extra time with your other friends. Allow them to help you heal and don’t dwell too much on the loss of a friend/could’ve-been-lover. It’s not worth pining over someone that doesn’t reciprocate your affections. And who’s to say, maybe you’ll find someone even more crush-worthy. Opportunities for new friendships are abundant (hell, I’ll be your friend) and a few Tinder swipes can fill that empty space in bed real quick.