My best friend has feelings for me, and now it’s really awkward — he keeps buying me unwanted gifts and won’t let me date anyone else.

Treat him with caution, says our elder. It sounds like he has issues.

Dear EWC

Hello, I’m seeking some advice on what to do with my friend. We have been friends for nearly eight years; he is my best friend. We had a romantic relationship early on in our friendship but I broke it off because I lacked the same feelings he had for me. Over the years we have moved and dated other people but recently we found ourselves living in the same place and started hanging out and it’s become clear he still has romantic feelings for me. We have talked about it and I have tried to be respectful of his feelings for me, but I myself lack the feelings he is seeking. He says that he is OK with just being friends, and I try to not talk about anything like relationships so I don’t upset him. We have talked about what would happen if I date someone and he says he wouldn’t come around and to me that doesn’t sound like a friend. We are always there for each other and I’m trying to be understanding of his feelings but I know that he is still trying to push me to have feelings by buying gifts that I tell him not to, by trying to get me to do things with just him. It’s also has come to the point he doesn’t like hearing about any of my other friends, and I’m starting to feel like maybe being friends with him is not fair to him. I’m lost on what to do because if I stay in this awkward friendship where he doesn’t respect my feelings but I respect his I will be miserable but if I walk away he will be miserable and I will be hated by many people that will not understand, my family included. I’m just not sure if it’s fair to either of us at this point and how to go about fixing or leaving the situation.

Greg replies

I can relate to your problem because a long, long time ago I was the guy in this situation. Not once, but twice. The first time was in high school when I was in love with my best friend’s girlfriend, who liked me a lot and wanted to be good friends. But that’s all. And everyone in my group of friends knew what was going on. It was agonizing every time I saw her, which was often. The situation only resolved because we all moved on to different colleges and I rarely saw her.

The second time was in college and the girl I loved then also just wanted to be friends for about two years. But somehow her feelings for me changed. We married a year out of college and are still married 43 years later. But those two years were killers for me: I was jealous, angry, depressed, you name it.

So unless you think there’s a chance your feelings will change (because feelings do change sometimes) I would recommend decreasing the time you spend with this guy. I’m sure being around you is exciting for him but it’s also killing a part of him. And I don’t see anything wrong with politely turning down his gifts and attention.

I’m also concerned that his behavior is becoming controlling: Buying you gifts you don’t want, setting conditions on what would happen if you started dating another guy. That’s not healthy and men who do that have issues that you don’t need.

I’m sure there are other guy pals you can find out there who are not romantically interested in you. I urge you to treat this guy with caution.

Letter #: 435121
Category: Friendship

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