“Help: My guy friend is sending seriously mixed signals”

Dear Sarah,

I’m in my first year of college and I just got out of a three-year relationship that ended when I declined my boyfriend’s marriage proposal. I felt I was too young to get married! So, now I’m single for the first time in awhile.

I recently got to know a guy at school who lives in my dorm, and he is absolutely wonderful. He is driven to succeed, hilarious, and handsome. He has been coming over to my room a lot since we first met. We talk about anything and every thing. I never thought I’d meet someone who I could share so much with.

The problem is, he told me he has feelings for a girl at another school. I want to be a good friend and support him, but sometimes I find myself caught up in the way he looks at me. I feel like our late night hangouts are not simply friendly, and think maybe he feels our connection too.

I’m just so lost on how to handle this situation without being jealous. And I don’t want to ruin his potential relationship—or lose him as a friend. I really want the best for him.

—Freshman Feelings in Toronto

Dear Freshman,

I really respect the way you are handling this. It’s very easy to tumble into a hook up without thinking about the emotional repercussions and then feel broken-hearted or regretful later.

Your friend may be experiencing a crushy connection to you as well, and you could spend a lot of time trying to decode every statement or gesture, but honestly, that’s a time-waster. The fact is, he himself might not be clear on his feelings or intentions—let’s be real here, 18 year-old guys are not exactly the most introspective. Not to criticize 18-years-old guys; to a certain extent, all of us are just improvising through life, acting on our emotions and impulses and new situations as they arise. However, something that your friend has articulated explicitly is that he likes someone else, so the takeaway there is that she’s currently his romantic priority, no matter what he’s vibe-ing to you.

Perhaps he does feel conflicted, but since you can’t read someone else’s mind and there is no such thing as a functioning crystal ball, now is the time to examine your own feelings. Would you still like hanging out with him if he started dating this other person or would it be too difficult? How much time you spend with this guy moving forward is really dependent on what you can honestly handle despite whatever his relationship status is.

If you can’t stomach being ‘just friends,’ then maybe take a break from the late-night chat sessions and make more time to get to know some other people. You recently ended a long relationship in what sounds like a painful manner—do you really want to be in a complicated love triangle when you are just starting your new life at college? There’s also the truth route: if he’s wondering why you are backing off, you can tell him that your feelings have grown out of the friend zone and it has become awkward to hang out since he is pursuing another girl. If you really can talk about anything with this guy, consider putting it out there simply and without shame.

You sound like a thoughtful, smart young woman. Your whole grown-up life is an open vista before you. Don’t worry too much and keep being you.

Love, Sarah

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