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Ask Izzy: Can I be friends with someone I have romantic feelings for?

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Photo by Mizuno K / Pexels
Photo by Mizuno K / Pexels

Ask Izzy is a biweekly advice column about relationships, mental health, and sexuality. Written by Isabel Mata — a Seattle-based lifestyle writer, podcast host, and mental health advocate — Ask Izzy offers tangible expert advice so all readers can have stronger relationships, better sex, and healthier mindsets. Submit your question today by filling out this survey.

Dear Izzy,

I have unrequited love for a friend who's already in a relationship, but I can't get him out of my mind, and it's messing with both our relationship and those I have with others. Context: My friend "Adrian" and I have been friends since my sophomore year. I've always had feelings for him, but it got complicated when I discovered he has a GF. Any advice on trying to get him out of my mind?

— Unrequited Love

Dear Unrequited,

Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your experience with me. This sounds like a tricky situation straight out of a movie, but luckily, there is a solution. Unfortunately, you may not like it.

If you actually want to get Adrian out of your mind, you have to walk away, at least for a little bit. If this has been going on for a while, which it seems like it has, then you need to separate yourself. The longer you wait and watch his relationship from the outside, wishing it were you instead, the more likely you are to get hurt.

Now, I am not saying you have to ghost him. No, in fact, I think you should sit down and have a conversation explaining your feelings and how the relationship is no longer serving you. How he responds will dictate the future of your friendship.

The reality is that friendships only work if both parties are on the same page about the nature of the relationship and if you share the same values. If you are constantly hoping that the friendship will turn into more, you will always be disappointed and hurt when it doesn't, given that he is already committed to someone else.

While Adrian is not responsible for how you feel, he is responsible for not leading you on, which, to be honest, it seems like he might have.

The only way to actually move on and possibly be friends down the line is to take some space from Adrian. As it stands right now, he can not give you what you want, and the longer you hold on to the notion of "someday," the worse it will end up for you.

Save yourself the pain of constant rejection by seeking out alternative systems of support. Lean on the people you care about, while reminding yourself that you deserve to be loved in a way that serves you. Adrian cannot provide that. As much as you want to remain friends now, doing so will only cause more harm than good.

Another thing you can actively do to move on is write down a list of the characteristics you love about Adrian. Pair that with other things you are looking for in an ideal partner. And don't settle for less! It may not feel like it now, but there are other people out there who fit the bill. But you will never know unless you open yourself up to find them.