How to deal when a friend has an unrequited crush on you
We know it's tough to have an unrequited crush on a friend, but it's also tricky to be the other person in the equation. Your friend is great. You want to see your friend happy. You hate it when your friend is hurting, especially when you are inadvertently the cause of that pain. But you can't change the way you feel, and you shouldn't feel like you have to. You are not the bad guy for not having romantic feelings for someone, no matter who it is. It's not always easy, but there are ways to help make the situation as painless as possible, for both of you. Here's how to deal when a friend has an unrequited crush on you.
Don't lead them on
It's nice when someone has a crush on you. Who doesn't like feeling attractive and wanted? But don't let feeling flattered cause you to react in a way that could give your friend the wrong idea and ultimately hurt them. If you know your buddy has a thing for you, it's your responsibility to clearly let them know you don't feel the same way.
What if you've told your friend you aren't interested, and they still seem to look at you as more than just a buddy? Evaluate what you two talk about and do together that could be giving the person false hope. What that would look like could vary from relationship to relationship, but it may include complaining about the people you date and saying what a great catch your friend is, spending excessive time with them or being physically playful or flirtatious. Even if you are a super friendly person with everyone, when someone has feelings for you, it's a good idea to scale it back a bit. That way you can be sure you aren't giving them the wrong idea. If you've led them on, recognize your friend might be a tad resentful about it. If that's the case, recognize their feelings, apologize and then try to move forward.
Be kind, but clear
It's necessary to let your pal know you don't have feelings for them, but it's just as important to be sensitive about how you do it. Remember, it's incredibly difficult to tell someone how you feel and have them not return the sentiment, but it's even harder when it's a friend. You know so much about that person — you've gone through a lot together — and now it may seem to your friend that the person they care about the most is rejecting them because they aren't good enough. That seriously sucks. Especially since it's not true! Assure your friend how much they mean to you. Let them know how important their friendship is and how you don't want this situation to put that in jeopardy.
Don't make it a big deal
Part of being kind and preserving your friendship is protecting your friend. If you have mutual friends, chances are they'll know about the situation. That's fine; both you and your friend need your pals for support, now more than ever! But it's important to try to not allow the situation to turn your entire group upside down – for both of your sakes. Sides may be taken. Gossip can make things turn ugly, or at least uncomfortable. It can be embarrassing to like someone who doesn't like you back, and all the more so when everyone knows about it. It will be easier for you, your friend and the rest of your group to move on if you don't spend a lot of time focusing on the situation. Seek support when you need it — and understand and accept that your buddy has the right to do the same — but be considerate of your friend in how you do so.
Give them space
Even if your friend isn't trying to get space from you, they probably need it. It's hard to get over someone when they are around all the time! You shouldn't abandon your friend by any means, but the intimacy you've established might have to be sidelined for a while, for the sake of your friend. It will hurt you, too. You'll miss your bestie! But it's selfish to pretend like nothing needs to change, at least until your friend moves on. Being a good friend is having your pal's best interest at heart. And that might be to get some space away from you to help them heal. As long as your friend knows you are there for them when they need you, they'll probably understand.
When a friend has romantic feelings you don't return, it can be hard for you, too. You will feel bad that you're involved in your friend's suffering, albeit unintentionally. It's important to remember it's OK to not have romantic feelings for someone, even if they are one of your pals and you care about them deeply. Handling the situation with as much sensitivity as possible will help you and your friend cope. Chances are they will eventually find someone who feels the same way about them, and they will end up truly happy, which is what you all want. If you've tried your best to be a good friend during this difficult time, you'll have done your part to maintaining the friendship. And that's all you can really do.