What Could Have Been?


Emma writes:

Loving someone who doesn’t feel the same way sucks. I don’t need a lengthy explanation of the amount it sucks or all the different ways in which unequal love sucks. We all know that it does. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and blah, blah, blah. Yep, still sucks. What’s even worse though is living in perpetual fear of not being loved. When you are so afraid of rejection, hurt, disappointment and loss that you trek through each day cautiously. Never revealing too much. Never telling someone how you really feel. Holding it all back for the sake of what exactly?

When the coaches and Stylelife explained to me how much time and talk and attention is paid to the “friend zone,” I was a bit surprised. If you like someone that much, just tell them! I thought. Be bold. Be brave! I advised, without connecting that advice to the harsh risky reality of not being loved back. It’s a real fear. It holds us back.

I was recently in what I would categorize as an unequal relationship. I knew that he cared about me. We were friends. But the way that he viewed the relationship didn’t hold a candle to my investment in our friendship. I would neither risk losing our friendship nor pony up my true feelings. And so we stayed friends-ish. This went on for two years. Tw blissful years and two miserable, sad, crying-at-the-Christmas-dinner-table-to-your-family kind of shit years. I wouldn’t recommend that.

To me, there are three choices here:

1) Walk away from the situation entirely. Maybe she will realize what she had and seek you out. Best case scenario, she professes her undying love for you. She probably won’t. You chalk the whole thing up to what could have been, the one who got away, etc. There are many fish in the sea both friendly and romantic. Maybe time will settle your emotion and you actually can just be friends. Time heals.

2) Cross your fingers and tell her the truth. Sure, you risk losing a friendship, your pride, your self-esteem, your courage, and your companionship in one fell swoop. There is no one to see stupid movies with you. No one to tell you your piss poor editorial is amazing. Except your mom. No one to give you advice on girls. And now more than ever, you need it. If love fails my friend, you are screwed. But you have a damn good screenplay on your hands.

3) Stay friends. Say nothing. Soldier on. In no world would I advise this. Saying nothing and just leaving the situation blasé is a wimpy, mediocre, pansy move. It’s inauthentic and brings inauthenticity into your friendship. Plus, it’s actually kind of creepy to be friends with a girl whilst harboring heart-pounding romantic feelings. You are better than that!

Life responds to action. I don’t know the exact science behind that but I know that the argument that life responds to action is definitely true. From nothing, comes nothing. From action, comes something, and that something is rarely what you think it will be. I wasn’t prepared to have to state my case time and again, yet in countless conversations I encouraged the man I loved and love still to believe in us. I sounded like a damn fool. I sounded desperate. But I said it. I said it again and again and again. Walked away again and again and again. I overdramatized my arguments and my exits. Everything probably came out wrong. But I stuck to my conviction. I love you. I want to be with you. We can do this. Give it a try. For the love of god please just give it a try. And finally he did.

Now I don’t know how the hell that ended up working out, but I know that it didn’t happen because I gave up and walked away. It didn’t happen because I didn’t say anything and let our relationship float along the way it was. I bucked up and spoke up. And it wasn’t the first time. I have put myself out there lots of times, and most of the time – okay, every time except this one – it didn’t work out. The other person didn’t feel the same way. Or they did feel the same way and it still didn’t work out. Relationships don’t work out. That’s okay. Why do you think human beings are so resilient? Why do you think kids can lose both parents and then raise their five siblings? Husbands die fighting in wars and the wives go on. We are the most resilient species on earth.

And it works both ways. My best guy friend from high school loved me. I knew he loved me. Everyone knew he loved me. Sometime in college, we had too many drinks one night, and I kissed him. The next day I knew it was wrong. I didn’t say anything. He didn’t say anything about it. It was like it never happened except from then on there was something blatantly inauthentic in our friendship. He never told me that he loved me. He never said a thing. Eventually, I moved away and he met someone else. They married. They have two of the most adorable children I have ever seen and once every three months, on the dot, I wonder what my life would have been like had I married him. It probably would have been amazing. He is such a cool guy and a great father. We like all of the same things, and he makes me laugh. We have both moved on, but there’s a lingering question because he never said anything. I wish he would have. Because maybe it wouldn’t have worked out and we would end up just friends like we are now, but we would know that it wasn’t meant to be for us. When you don’t take a risk, you don’t know. From nothing, comes nothing.

Life is long. There are lots of people to be your friends, but there is only a window of time to do the courageous thing. Just say, “Do you want to go on an actual date? Like I take you to dinner. It’s a date.” If she says she is afraid that will ruin the friendship then tell her that is a risk you are willing to take. Then let it marinate. Sometimes it takes a while for people to come around. The first ask might not be the golden ticket. It might happen a day later. It might happen a year later. It might not happen. But take the risk. Because as a girl on the other end, I would have liked to know what could have been.


About Emma

My commitment: to make this worth the read. Humorous, fun and introspective. I welcome your thoughts, ideas and feedback via email at emma@stylelife.com.

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2 Comments on “What Could Have Been?”

  1. ArtfulDodger

    This is a great column. As the Romans used to say, “Fortune favours the bold.” Of course, many of the Romans who said that went on to get slaughtered in battle, but at least they died trying.

    1. TimDrake

      Emma.I agree with the whole making a move thing and waiting for results. For every action there’s a reaction.

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