Just a Pal?
Q: I've been madly in love with a girl for a few years now. She was a good friend but since she had a boyfriend, I never made a move. Our friendship faded, since I distanced myself a bit because it hurt so much to see her with someone else. Now after two years of being out of touch, she looked for me and we've restarted our friendship. She's no longer in a relationship and we have a lot of fun. However, she doesn't seem to like when I compliment her and she makes comments about other men, which obviously makes me uncomfortable. She has said she likes my company but has never said she actually feels attracted to me. I've tried so many ways of showing her how I feel, and how important she is to me, but she never responds, although she does seem to have come to expect all that from me. Actually she gets slightly upset if I don't constantly make an effort to make her feel loved. Will this relationship ever move beyond "just friends"? -- Sam, 20
Dr. Susan: In spite of all those TV shows and films in which friends suddenly see each other as much more than friends, it doesn't happen that often in real life. What happens is that when a girl gets used to being catered to by a guy friend, she enjoys the attention and hates to lose it, but she simply can't imagine him in another role, i.e., sex object. This girl sees you as a fun pal, someone to feed her ego (or to keep her self-esteem from bottoming out). If she doesn't respond when you tell her what she means to you, that's a huge clue that the feelings aren't mutual. In a way, she's using you, and you're letting yourself be used and taken advantage of. You should pull away again in order to free your affections so they can attach to someone who's actually available. I'm not suggesting you can't be a good friend to a girl, or that you shouldn't be nice to females you're attracted to. But this girl has you in the pal category, and not in the lover category, and I bet that's where you'll stay. It's so much pleasanter to be with someone who likes you in the same way you like her. Don't settle.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.