I’m a single, straight guy in my late 20s. One of my best friends is a woman I went to college with—I’ll call her Kathy. She’s been a great friend to me, and we’ve never had any romantic involvement; we’ve both been through several significant others over the time we’ve known each other. In fact, both Kathy and I went through tough breakups at about the same time several months ago, and she was a real help to me in the wake of the breakup. So she means a lot to me.
What’s getting difficult now is the fact that she’s started doing these things that feel kind of possessive. Like she’ll eat from my plate without asking, brush up against me when we’re out together, always be the last one to comment on stuff on my Facebook profile. It’s not like any of this is unprecedented, but somehow it’s the pattern that’s bothering me now. I’m pretty sure at least some women are keeping their distance from me, assuming that Kathy and I have something going on. It’s hard to talk to Kathy about this, since she’s been such a great friend and there’s no one thing I can point to that’s particularly inappropriate. What do you think I should do?
This is such a sticky situation. Sad, too, because likely the great friendship is changing in ways making it difficult to continue the friendship as you’ve known it. At least a couple different things may be going on with Kathy. When you had the tough breakups and you both commiserated and bonded over these, she may have begun viewing you in a new light: as more than a friend. You both are free, you empathized with her (as she did you), and through the pain, she quite possibly began considering you as a potential next love, developing intimate feelings toward you: a caring, sensitive guy who’s always been there for her. It’s not rare for friendships to evolve into love relationships as people realize their best mate might have standing next to them all this time. She may have been harboring feelings for you for a long time, and keeping it quiet so not to disrupt the friendship, or it may be a more recent revelation to her.
The other possibility is that it is difficult for her to see/deal with you potentially moving on, into another relationship, without her—leaving her alone. Sensing this, in a subconscious (or possibly conscious) effort to avert losing her partner in misery—by commenting on all your Facebook posts, brushing you and eating off your plate, and other various visual cues of intimacy to the general public, she is being territorial so to discourage your potential suitors—either to keep you in the same place as her, or keep you to herself.
While not particularly inappropriate, it’s disrespectful of your friendship—pretending in public to be your girl. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, she may not realize she’s doing this. And it sounds like she has been doing it a long time, but you haven’t been bugged by it till now because you want to be free—to really be by yourself, or with another down the road—either way it doesn’t matter, you just don’t want to be with her as more than a friend. You are right in hesitating to talk with Kathy about this as it’s a delicate situation, and you want to ultimately keep this valuable friendship longer if possible.
You may want to talk with her gently, expressing that lately you’ve noticed more than the ordinary amount of attention, and that its making you feel a little uncomfortable in terms of your being friends rather than lovers. Note that you would like a little space to be independent and appear solo in situations where you might meet women you might want to date—but emphasize that you can still spend time together, just not necessarily times people are normally out on dates. (A good rule of thumb I’m poaching off Californication: if you’re out with a girl after 7, especially on a Friday, that’s a date. No matter what you think it is, its known as a date in the public realm.) Regarding the inundation of Facebook comments, you might note this is more attention than you’re comfortable with as well and request she pull back on these a bit.
She may well feel hurt and defensive when you say these things, but if you want to maintain the friendship as it has been, I feel you should try. Letting it continue as it has, without talking about it, will only cause you to begin harboring feelings of annoyance and resentment, and you’ll begin to say hurtful things or act in ways which you’ll regret. If you don’t feel you can address this candidly with her, you could, at least, simply request some space to figure your own things out—you have to do it alone for awhile. She may not understand now, and be in some pain over this, but that seems inevitable at this point—either way, you and she are not in the same place at this point. Over time you and she can revisit it, as she’s had more time to heal and move on. Hope this helps!