It's A Pleasure

Help! I’m Hopelessly In Love With My Best Friend’s Partner

I’ve tried moving on, but nobody else compares to him.

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Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Stocksy

Q: How do I get over someone I never dated? For a very long time, I was completely in love with my best friend’s partner, who was also a close friend. We had a lot in common and I felt he understood me better than anyone I ever met. It was a very difficult situation that none of us dealt with particularly well, and eventually we stopped speaking to each other. I know we could never have been together, and I would never have done anything to hurt my friend regardless. But it’s been over a year now, and I can’t get over it. I’ve dated multiple people, some of whom I’m very compatible with, and no one is making me feel the way he did. Why? What can I do? I’m bored of this now.

A: There is not a shiny trophy waiting for you at the end of your life to reward you for moving on from things quickly. No one is going to Venmo you $78 if you get over this guy as expediently as possible. It will take the time it takes. The time will pass anyway regardless of how often you ruminate.

I don’t say that to glamorize wallowing — while occasionally fun, a year is a long enough time to be past the pleasurable part of melancholy. I just don’t think you’ll get much mileage out of beating yourself up for this process not happening faster.

Certain people become loadbearing in our construction of desire.

I also think that there are some things you don’t ever fully “get over” — and that’s OK. Some people are hard to move on from. Not in a depressing, this-is-going-to-define-your-life kind of way. He’s not the one that got away. (Nobody is. It’s a romantic fantasy that just doesn’t hold up in real life.) I just think some crushes leave a bit of an indelible mark. Certain people become loadbearing in our construction of desire. It happens! You don’t need to get over anyone 100%. Getting to 89% might be enough. That will not block you from future relationships. It will not mean that you can’t give someone your whole heart later — love does not work like that. Love is a present thing, an active thing. Looking back fondly (and romantically) on someone — whether you dated ever or not — is not the same as loving them.

One thing that I hope you know is that you’re likely idealizing him. This is, sadly, unavoidable. Brains are notoriously unreliable when it comes to memory, and once you get emotions involved, things get even fuzzier. So know that in some ways, your head is simply playing a sweet little fictional fan cam of this guy. Which is lovely, but it’s not true.

On top of that, so often when you long for someone in your past, a huge part of what you’re missing is who you were at that time. Was your life more carefree? Did you have a different job? Different friends? A better financial situation? I don’t know your circumstances, but it’s probably worth thinking about what else has changed about your life since you met him. What parts of that time do you miss other than him?

What made it seem like he was worth potentially risking a best friendship?

You say that none of you handled things well. I wonder what that looked like and what responsibility you bear and what you can take. I’m not asking you to go punish yourself for past misdeeds out of nowhere. But perhaps there are some lessons to be learned and peace to be made from what you did. How do you wish you responded? What do you regret? Can you forgive yourself and still hold yourself accountable? I can’t imagine it was very easy for them to navigate your crush. What made it seem like he was worth potentially risking a best friendship? Maybe these questions can help you solve the puzzle of why you’re still hung up on this person.

It’s worth thinking about what you liked about spending time with this guy — and no, fizzy chemistry doesn’t count. Did you feel heard? Did you like the attention? Did you connect over a certain topic or hobby? Did you feel funny? Attractive? What was so pleasurable about the crush? Then watch for those feelings when you meet new people. Please trust that you will meet someone available who excites you just as much (or even more) than he did.

You talk about compatibility, and there’s a quote I think about often from the philosopher Alain de Botton: “Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.” Of course you should like spending time with the person, but you don’t need to start out as best friends/hot lovers from the jump. Time is part of love! It sounds like you were friends with him for a bit, which gave you time for feelings to grow. It’s very hard for a first meeting off an app to ever feel like that (which is a huge part of why I am critical of dating apps).

As for comparing other people you meet to him, well, maybe that’s a sign you ought to take a break from dating — not because you aren’t ready, but because right now, it doesn’t feel good. I promise you, though, someday, it will.

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