How to Deal With a Friend Who Is in Love With You but You're Not in Love With Him

Be careful not to lead your friend on.
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If your friendship has just taken a veer down the uncomfortable path of unequal attraction, you're not alone. In his book, "Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication," researcher Michael Motley points out that a full 80 percent of people have experienced "unrequited romantic attraction" in a friendship, often more than once. While friendships don't always survive this situation, you can increase the chance that you'll remain friends by treating your friend with respect while seeking to avoid awkward moments.

1 Be Honest

No one wants to hurt a friend, and telling him that you don't return his feelings is likely to do so. Honesty, however, is the best policy here, as not to do so means you'll likely create far more hurt feelings in the future if he thinks he has a chance at gaining your affections. You don't need to let him know that you'll never be attracted to a person with a unibrow and obsession with video games, however. There's a "delicate balance between being brutally honest and being tactful and sensitive to another person's feelings," writes psychologist and friendship expert Irene Levine in the "Psychology Today" online article, "How Much Honesty Is Integral to Friendship? A Case of More is Less." Let your friend down gently by letting him know that you value his friendship and just don't feel the chemistry for something more intimate.

2 Be Kind

Think back to the last time you had a crush who didn't return your feelings and recall the agony you felt. Chances are your friend is experiencing some of the same emotions. Love is a "powerful drug that holds the possibilities of agony and misery," asserts psychologist Roy Baumeister in his book, "Breaking Hearts: The Two Sides of Unrequited Love." Treat him kindly by not giving him the brushoff or entertaining your friends with the story of how he showed up at your house one night with a bouquet of flowers and awkwardly announced his love. Continue to offer him respect as one of your valued friends, and the chances that your friendship will make it through this awkward time will increase.

3 Socialize in Groups

When a friend is crushing on you, it's a good idea to avoid situations in which you'll be spending lengthy amounts of time together alone. Such circumstances can lead to awkward conversations about his feelings that you're probably more comfortable avoiding. You don't need to cut him out of your life, however. Include him when you gather your friends together for an afternoon at the lake or a night out bowling and you'll get to enjoy the camaraderie of your friendship without the awkward moments.

4 Stay Firm

Be careful not to inadvertently lead your friend on in moments of weakness, such as when you're down after a bad date and thinking that some solace in the arms of your friend wouldn't be such a bad thing after all. A friend who's in love with you can be easy to take advantage of, so you'll want to handle his heart carefully, lest you take him on a roller coaster ride of emotions that could eventually destroy your friendship. When you're feeling lonely or down, call on friends who aren't as attached as this one so you'll be better able to resist the temptation of his loving company.

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.