Dear Christine, Confused in Clinton Twp.

Dear Christine,

I’m a little disturbed by a recent situation I had with a friend.  This friend is making me feel crazy as if I did something wrong.  This friend has been platonic the entire time I’ve known him and I have NEVER given off any Indication and I’ve never told this friend that there would be any future for us in a romantic type of way and that I have only cared for him in a friend way.  This friend I have been friends with for a few years and I’ve had to have this discussion with them more than a few times and let them know I’m sorry that you have feelings for me but I can’t offer you the same back.  I haven’t dated in a long time and I just recently started dating which I’ve been happy about.  This friend was made aware of that and now they are telling me that they do not want to be my friend and that I need to move on with my life and that they wish they never met me because I am finally dating.  This friend said things like “what’s wrong with me” “I have so much love for you”  “I would have married you”  “you are my heart” all of these things once he found out that I was dating, but then also told me to fuck off, that I can’t do better than him and I am cancer.   So my question for you is was he ever my friend to begin with?


Confused in Clinton Twp


Dear Confused.

All relationships are complex interactions, requiring respect, clear communication and tolerance.  Each person has a different definition of “friendship” and “relationship” based on their family, cultural and personal history and experience.  Relationships work best when both involved are comfortable with the lowest common denominator between them.  In this case, being just friends is the lowest common denominator.  Unless your friend really never accepted this and truly wanted a deeper relationship.  In that case, there may not be a lowest common denominator that you share.

Was this friend ever your friend to begin with?  You may have thought so  while you were happy being single.  Apparently this friend interpreted your dating as the opportunity the friend was waiting for.  You have always been clear that your boundary is and was a basic friendship, no dating involved.  You could see that as the point when the friendship stopped, when your boundaries were violated.

I imagine that both of you have quite different interpretations of the ebbs and flows of this relationship.  When I meet couples in therapy like this, participants report different and opposite experiences and interpretations of being in the same relationship, even while living in the same house.  You don’t get to decide or control what someone else thinks, or says or feels.  And they don’t get to decide for you.  You may have to decide to draw a tighter boundary, as the looser one was apparently open to misinterpretation.

It can be confusing to navigate friendships, as some people may not be clear in communicating their interest and desires and may interpret the relationship completely differently from you.  I remember writing my family history and autobiography for graduate school, which helped me understand what dynamics helped to shape me and  my relationships.  I shared it with a good friend.  She called me up to scold me for mentioning my friendships with her, but not giving it enough weight in my autobiography.  I ended up hanging up the phone on her and we have never spoken since.  I realized that she was offended that I only saw our relationship as platonic friendship, but she clearly thought we were “in a relationship” on a level I never considered.  The bottom line, I realized, is no one can define me and how I understand myself and my relationships.  And how I perceive a relationship may change over time.  And the friendship in question may be perceived completely opposite by the other participant.  Confusing?  Yes.  Healthy relationships require lots of communication, honesty, respect and talking about each person’s boundaries and expectations.  Otherwise assumptions are made, and we all know what assumptions create:  an ass out of u and me!

Take care,

Christine C Cantrell, PhD,

Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D., LLC
Licensed Psychologist #6301009340
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

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