AAFU: How can I stay friends with someone who rejected me?

I know she doesn’t owe me a romantic relationship, but it’s still hard to be around her.

AAFU: How can I stay friends with someone who rejected me?

I know she doesn’t owe me a romantic relationship, but it’s still hard to be around her.

Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.

Dear Fuck-Up,

Several months ago, I confessed my feelings of massive crush-ness to a close friend. She rejected me, nicely, and we mutually agreed it wouldn’t change our friendship. I meant it when I said it, and I have tried very hard not to let my hurt feelings affect either our individual friendship or our broader friend group.

However, since then she’s taken to constantly complaining (to our friend group, not me specifically) about not being in a relationship. She’ll talk about wanting someone, anyone, to take her out, how she’s bored, how her standards have lowered to nothing and she just wants to have fun.

Fuck-Up, this is really hard for me to listen to. Though I’m sure it isn’t her intention, what I hear when she says these things is something like “I would go out with literally anyone on the planet — except you.” (Usually, there’s something tacked on the end about “why would anyone go out with an ugly idiot like you,” or something to that effect.)

I recognize that she isn’t obligated to give me anything, I’m pretty sure I’m projecting, and anyway, I’ve mostly gotten over my crush. But these conversations always make me feel rejected all over again, to the point that I’ve distanced myself from my friend group to avoid them. I wanted to believe that I could stay friends with my former crush and our mutual friends, but I’m not so sure anymore. I don’t think I can stand this.

Do you have any advice?

Much love,
Sad and rejected

Dear Rejected,

If I could somehow get back every day I’ve spent in self-imposed anguish because I lied to myself and others about how it was fine, honestly, we can definitely still be friends I would have so many more years to live. This particular form of romantic torment is probably the one I am most familiar with, and so I offer my deep and sincere condolences because it absolutely sucks ass.

It’s bad enough to gather up the courage to confess your feelings and be met with anything less than full reciprocation, but these situations are made intolerable when much of the world says that it is an additional failure for you to not simply get over it for the sake of the friendship. We are all supposed to be sufficiently emotionally evolved nowadays to value the warmth and closeness offered by platonic relationships even — or especially — when what you would really like to do with this woman is something far more close and warm.

After all, “the friend zone” is a made-up place that only troglodyte Redditors believe in — except it is very real and I have personally built condos there.

I suspect that in our (good and necessary) attempts to think through the political conditions under which we construct our desires, we have come to mistake desire itself as a sort of politics, and this is often to our detriment. This has given us the sort of sex nerd who imagines his unwillingness to date one person exclusively an emancipatory project under the term “ethical non-monogamy.” And it has given us the sense that you are somehow regressive if you cannot be friends with people you want to fuck (and people you want to fuck who do not return the sentiment). The demand that we all remain friends — with our crushes and our exes and our crushes’ exes in one giant coalition of sublimated horniness — is deranged to me. I reject it utterly.

I believe that you thought this friendship could remain unchanged despite the fact that fundamental, definitional aspects of it had shifted for you, but it’s probably time to admit that was naive. This is not to say you should banish yourself as though your feelings make you a leper. Consider being honest with your other friends about why you have been distant or awkward lately. It is very reasonable to feel hurt and self-conscious when someone who knows you have feelings for them keeps talking about how they are so lonely they have joined a dating site for fans of convicted serial killers, or whatever.

Truly, and I’m sorry to report this because there is nothing worse than when a cliche is true, what you need is time and space. You are allowed that, and please remember: there is nothing evolved or emotionally mature about torturing yourself.

A Fuck-Up

Have a question for A Fuck-up? Email