How to Handle a Friend Who Falls in Love With You

Finding out your friend is in love with you can be an awkward experience.
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You've hung out with your friend for ages, to the point where acquaintances ask if you're a couple. You always thought that was funny, until you discovered that your friend also thought you'd make a great pair. Now you're stuck trying to figure out how to preserve the friendship and your desire not to become romantically involved. While this is a recipe for awkwardness, keeping a few ideas in mind as you go through the process of renegotiating the friendship will prevent you from having a full-on freak-out.

1 Speak Up

If your friend has announced that she is in love with you, speak up if her romantic feelings are not reciprocated. Let her know that you care about her as a friend, but you are not interested romantically. If you don't do so, you may inadvertently end up leading her on and have to deal with even more awkward situations down the line. Say, "I value you very much, and think you are a wonderful person. I don't share your feelings, but I wish the very best for you and know you'll find the perfect guy someday."

2 Set Limits

When a person is in love with you, it can be difficult for him to understand that the feeling is not mutual. He may hold out hope that you will change your mind, given time. To keep your relationship from becoming intolerably uncomfortable, set boundaries. Identify your limits and decide what you can accept or tolerate, advises psychologist and coach Dana Gionta in the "Psych Central" article "10 Way to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries." This will make it easier for you to let your friend know when he has crossed the line. For example, if you're uncomfortable with physical contact and he puts his hand on your knee, remove it and say, "No touchy touchy" with a smile.

3 Say "No" to Guilt

When you set limits in a relationship, they can be difficult to enforce if you feel guilty about the situation. Keep in mind that it's entirely OK if you don't return your friend's feelings so that you can avoid situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Keep telling yourself, "Everything will be OK," says stress management expert Karen Kleiman in the "Psychology Today" article "10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better." That way, when your friend asks you to spend more time with her than you feel comfortable with, you can say, "Sorry, but I'm not able to hang out right now" without feeling guilty.

4 Be Compassionate

While you can't help the fact that you're not equally in love with your friend, you can treat him in a way that honors his feelings and shows him respect. Tap into your compassionate side and think about a time when you have had a crush that wasn't reciprocated. Preserve his dignity by avoiding gossip about his feelings with your other friends or behaving in an off-putting manner because you are uncomfortable with your feelings. Remember, he's the same friend you cared about before you discovered his feelings, and he is human just like you. Keeping this in mind will soothe awkwardness and prevent you from expressing your discomfort in ways that could be hurtful to both of you.

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.