I'm in Love With My Friend, Should I Tell Him?

Message: I've been in love with this friend of mine for almost three years now. He's a few years older and very Godly, funny, and kind. I haven't told him, because I'm afraid to, but I really don't want him to go off with another girl and never know I loved him! But I don't want it to be weird. What should I do? 

Dear Friend,

I wish I knew a little bit more about your situation as I’m going to have to make some assumptions here. I’m assuming you have measured the character of this man and found that he has the major characteristics that would make him a great potential mate. (See https://goo.gl/v6yL5Q for more on non-negotiables for your future husband.) If he doesn’t have those traits, I’d say the time isn’t right. If you don’t have those traits the time isn’t right either. You can love someone, but your love doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good for you, or that you’re good for them, know what I’m saying?  I love chocolate chip cookies, but our relationship ends up hurting me in the health department. It would have been better if we had never met.

If this friend is indeed a Godly man, and he does have the traits that would make him a great future mate then he’s open to the Holy Spirit speaking into his life and guiding him in all his decisions, including the romantic ones. This is a good thing. I’m sure you’ve been praying over this, but commit to spending some time in prayer, asking God to specifically reveal to you (and to your friend) if you guys being together would be a benefit to the Kingdom or if it would be a distraction from what God wants for you at this time.

Let’s get practical now. If you’ve prayed over this and measured this man’s character and found that now isn’t the time…you’ve got your answer. There would be no need to tell him how you feel. That kind of conversation would just tempt you to awaken love before it was time. Plus, it’s strange and might come off poorly. “Oh hi, I just wanted you to know that I’ve liked you for three years but I prayed about it and we can’t be together right now because you have anger issues. So, fix them so we can date.” That’s not helpful.

If you find, however, that there are no objections to his character (not that he’s perfect but that he’s clearly growing in Christ) and that God is drawing you together for his sake, then I would still not tell him how I felt! You might be wondering if you read that right. You did. Here’s why I said that:

1.      Gents generally let you know how they feel. If you’ve been hanging around this fellow for three years and he hasn’t made any special attempt to get to know you, spend time alone with you, do special things for you or otherwise express romantic interest then he’s likely “just not that into you” as the saying goes. In which case, expressing your love could, as you mentioned, make your relationship legitimately weird and uncomfortable. Sure, you guys would eventually get over it, but you don’t need that kind of stress in your life.  There is a small chance that he’s just really shy, or hasn’t thought you were interested, or has some other unanswered question as to whether or not you’d be good together…. which leads me to the second reason you don’t need to tell him your feelings right now.

2.      There are better ways to get the info you want. The truth is, you probably won’t be satisfied to just tell him how you feel. You want a response. You want to know if he can see you as potential relationship material. Am I right? So, here’s what I would do to open up the possibilities instead of blurting out the “love” talk, which forces your friend to make a decision on the spot about whether or not he is interested.

A.     Check your attraction levels. Lasting attraction is based on 4 components: visual chemistry (not just looks, but the way you present yourself), perceived value (showing that you have a great life, what you have to offer), perceived challenge (demonstrating that your time, trust and affections are earned) and true connection (your values, mission and reason for being on earth). I would look at these four areas and ask, how can I demonstrate these things naturally around this man? You can’t do this through a power point presentation, you do it by living your awesome life with Godly confidence and inviting him along to see it!

B.     Turn up by 10%. Let’s say all the attraction is there but your friend is just too shy or worried to say anything. The fear of rejection is a VERY real fear as you know, and some say that it’s even scarier for guys and their fragile male egos. SO, just in case, I want you to turn up your efforts to invite him into your life a little bit. To clarify, this is not you asking him over and over to spend time with you, this is you making it apparent that he has a good shot and won’t likely be rejected. He might just need a bit more encouragement.

Some things you can do:

·        Increase eye contact and smiling. Hold gazes and smiles just a second longer than you normally do. This is welcoming and lets someone know they’re special to you.

·        Increase sincere compliments. If you already compliment all the time, don’t overdo it, but most guys don’t get as many compliments as women do. Instead of the physically apparent, try to compliment characteristics you see demonstrated. “Wow, I really appreciate the way you listened to Mrs. Barklay recite her list of ailments at prayer meeting tonight. It’s cool that you’re so patient with people.”

·        Let him help you. Find things that you like that your friend is also an expert on and ask for his help. If you both like outdoorsy things Say, “Could you help me pick out a trail to hike after church this week?” Or “I need to buy a new camera and I know you’re really into photography, could you guide me to a good one for me?” God made guys to want to serve and protect and this gives him an opportunity to share, protect and connect. He can also check up on you to make sure the hike, ordering, etc. went OK. 

·        Create opportunity for him to suggest activities. If you’re sitting by him at potluck and the stir-fry dish is mushy and overcooked, you might whisper “I’ve seen fresher food in Arkansas pig troughs. I wonder where I could get some good Chinese so this doesn’t traumatize me for life”. Wait to see if he has any suggestions, or if he’s really tongue-tied, just ask, “Where do you like to eat?” Let him tell you about how delicious some place is and say things like “That sounds great, I’d LOVE to try it.” If the dude can’t turn that into a date, he’s either too slow for you or he’s not interested. This works for tons of activities…just express your desire for trying/doing/seeing something and make a way for him to easily invite you.

·        Say “You should come.” A really low-investment way to see if someone wants to spend time with you is to use the “you should come” line. When you’re doing something fun with a group or your family, let your friend know what’s going on and that they’re invited. Say, “I’m going to the ice cream sundae party on Sunday and it’s going to be sweet! You should drop-by and say hi for a bit. I promise to save you some sprinkles.” Saying “you should come” is so confident and cool.  It’s not a big deal if they show up or not, but it gives you guys both a way to test interest without getting too involved. Saying something sweet like “I’ll save you sprinkles, or I’ll save you a seat” makes them feel wanted without being needy or asking for too much commitment.

3.      If you must tell him, you must, but do it in a high-value way.

So, there may come a time when you are just getting tired of waiting and wondering and you feel like you have to say something or you’ll die. Even if you totally get shut down, you just want to know! In that case, keep praying and waiting. I’ve found that men take about 50% longer to say anything than I’d ever take, but it’s good to take it slow and get to know each other as friends!

That said, if you are spending way too much mental energy on this guy, if the signals are mixed between friends and romance…maybe it is time to be clear. Here’s my advice on having “the what are we?” talk.

I know this might be strange, but some men (even Godly ones) freak out when you use the word love, and as several popular books express, men respond more to respect. Here’s what I would say if I had to address this situation today. Side note: I wouldn’t do the “we have to talk” thing. This statement puts up walls!

I would wait until we’re doing something fun together, then I would turn to my friend and say, nonchalantly…” We have so much fun together, and I really respect the man that you are. Sometimes I wonder if we would get along if we were dating. Have you ever thought about that?” Then he can either say, “Yeah I thought about it but ___________ makes me think it wouldn’t work.” Or, “No I don’t think about you that way.” Just be prepared to put on a brave face if it doesn’t go your way and say, “You’re right, we’d be too much trouble if we tried to date.” It’s important not to argue or try to prove that you’re good for him. Being high-value means you gave him a chance to pursue. You opened the door, but you will not try to drag him through.

In all this dating communication, I don’t want you to lose sight of God’s influence in your life. YOU can only do what you can do to make it work. Be the person that God wants you to be and trust that if and when this person is right for you, the Holy Spirit will speak to him. I know you’re eager to love and be loved. Use this time of deep desire to remember how deeply God desires to be with you! I love Zephaniah 3:17 when I am anxious for a guy to love me. I repeat it to myself and ask him to make it a reality for my soul: The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Blessings on you as you sort through this time in your life. Praying for you right now!