I had a crush on my friend, and I don’t think I behaved well.
How can I make it up to her? I want to be a good friend. Tell her what you just told me, says our elder.
I have this friend. For the sake of this letter, I’ll call her Liv (not her real name). I’ve known her since we were 11 and she’s been my friend and rival ever since. I never do better than when I’m trying to compete with her or when she’s supporting me. Over the years she’s always noticed when I’m feeling down and lifted my spirits, she reminds me to eat and sleep when I struggle, she helps me in tests and with emotional problems, I can’t deal with alone. A few months ago I confessed my feelings for her and true to her word she hasn’t let her rejection or my feelings ruin our friendship at all, it was hardly even awkward and I feel like I’m making progress with getting over her romantically.
But recently, I’ve been self-reflecting. I’m not perfect, not at all, and I understand nobody is, though I don’t hate myself or think myself a bad person per se, but I have noticed I tend to lack generosity. I don’t give or help others as much as I’d like, often out of being stuck in my own head, so to speak. I’ve never really helped Liv at all, and realizing this has made me feel very guilty for our friendship — as well as all my other relationships, though to a lesser extent as most of my other friends are much more open to directly asking for help with their problems, so I obviously attempt to help them whenever I can. What’s worse, I acted borderline maliciously whilst trying to cover my feelings, refusing her compliments and small acts of intimacy and comfort out of a childish embarrassment and fear of her finding out about my crush and hating me for it. Liv is much more reserved and doesn’t broadcast much about her personal struggles to anyone as far as I can tell, and most of our friends consider me closest to her. I respect her privacy but I really want to help her, to make it clear to her that she’s allowed to express her feelings and vulnerability to me, that I’m willing to help her. What’s more, I want to be nice to her without her strictly needing it, I want to be a good friend — to her, and to everybody else. Riding on the tails of a rejection though, I would hate for her to feel I’m trying to persuade her to change her mind (I’m not, to make it clear, and if she did it would be my turn to reject her) or that I only care about her because I fancied her. Do you have any advice on what I could do to support her and just generally be nicer to her without crossing these boundaries?
You need to tell your friend what you have said here. Get a nice card and flowers or chocolates and say that recently you have been reflecting on your behavior and have come to realize that in your friendship you haven’t given to her nearly as much as you have taken and that you want that to change starting now. Say that she doesn’t ask for help the way you do and that you have been selfish in not thinking about her needs and asking her how her life is going or if there is anything you could help with or listen to.
Tell her you are very sorry for that and that you have always looked up to her and she has been a great support to you, always noticing when you have been down and making sure you took care of yourself but that a friendship should be given and take, not all take as yours has been and that you would like to give to and support her. Tell her you are going to make an effort to check on her spirits but that she should feel free to say she is down so you can help her. Tell her you are not trying to make this a romantic relationship, you understand and respect her feelings, you just want to be a good friend who gives as much as she takes, and want to be more generous with her and others.
Tell her you really want to help her, and that you really want her to feel free to express her feelings and vulnerability with you, that you want to be there for her. Ask her to tell you what you can do to support her. Then do the same with your other friends.
Letter #: 437290