There is a pair of my friends in a happy, healthy relationship of several years. Being around the two of them is distressing to me, since I have a longstanding crush on one and feel intense envy when they act affectionate. This also makes it hard to be around the crushee, since I feel that my relationship with them is in some sense based on dishonesty or that I am betraying the trust of their partner by being-around-them-while-being-attracted-to-them.
Crushee knows I had a crush on them in the past, but doesn’t (I think) know that it hasn’t stopped. So: what’s my most ethical way forward? Is there a way I can pursue reducing the associated feelings of envy, or of extinguishing the crush? Is it wrong for me to spend time around the one I’m crushing on without their partner, even though I don’t have any intention to do anything about those latent feelings?
I’m going to split this out into three concerns I see, and go from there.
Obligation to tell Crushee:
What would be the message you’d like to send by sharing?
Would you be sharing preventatively, so that you don’t experience distress if Crushee talks about how you ‘used’ to have a crush on them?
Would you be sharing because you want them to take a specific action based on this information?
Would you be sharing because you think some of how you two interact would be different if Crushee knew how you felt? (For instance, some people feel less comfortable with skinny-dipping if they know one party has an unrequited crush).
Would you be sharing because you think Crushee would prefer to have this information?
Would you be sharing as a form of self-punishment for having Bad Feelings?
Would you be sharing because it’s a part of your life you’re working on and something you’d like to let them know is ongoing?
Please consider what outcome you would expect for both yourself and Crushee based on sharing this information. (And a good dose of “you don’t have to do anything with this information and I am working on it myself” never hurts. Sometimes sharing a crush feels like expecting a specific response, and it’s worth it to counter that in advance.)
One-on-one time with Crushee:
This is a trickier one, because there’s a two part question hidden in here:
(1) Is it ethical to spend one-on-one time with Crushee?
(2) Would Crushee be upset with me if they found out I had a crush on them and we were spending one-on-one time together [despite this]?
What actions would differentiate between how you hang out one-on-one with Crushee when, well, they’re a Crushee, and when they’re a friend?
Some things that came to mind:
-if you were encouraging Crushee to leave Partner behind to hang out with you.
-if you were planning hangouts that are focused on getting physical contact with Crushee (that is, I don’t think it’s a Bad Thing if friends do fun things around physical contact, but if you’re trying to cultivate this in a way you wouldn’t expect from your not-crushing-on-Crushee self, that might be a warning sign)
I suspect that one way you can minimize explosions related to this unrequited crush are by focusing efforts on doing Definitely Friend Stuff, and just keeping an eye out for the above actions.
What would you want if you were the Crushee in this story?
This isn’t a perfect way of modeling how your real Crushee will feel, but it might give you some sense of what you’d expect from others. It’s also [often] a way to step away from guilt about potential Badness of yourself, and figure out what you’d expect of others.
How to reduce guilt/envy feelings:
lksadjflaskjdf I am not really sure.
What has worked for you (if relevant) when getting over a breakup?
I suspect the mechanism might be similar. Is it going on dates with others? Is it developing other friendships more deeply?
What things cue the worst experience of these feelings?
Is it being a third wheel? If so, you could hang out which each of these two friends one-on-one. Is it being asked about who you’re interested in? Is it conversations about Crushee’s relationship with their partner? I’d suggest avoiding the worst things and trying to decrease the envy on the unavoidable things.