I’m a female and a junior in high school right now. In freshman year I started liking my best friend Ben. Things have been intensifying over the past two years and I always thought Ben was flirting with me. He would touch me, play with my hair, and hint at things like kissing me and dating. Then, 2 weeks ago, Ben was asked on a date by another girl. He called me for advice and, though it killed me, told him to go for it. He told me he didn’t want to and it was very complicated. I asked him why and jokingly asked him if he was gay. He surprisingly answered with an “I think I might be.” What do I do so as not to ruin our friendship? Why did I like him so much? Why did he flirt with me? And most of all, why didn’t he tell me sooner? I could have gotten over him a lot easier if he had told me last year. I mean, we are BEST FRIENDS and I would die without him. The only problem is, him being my best friend, I have no one else to talk to about this. I’m the only one he’s come out to.
Thank you for writing in and sharing this difficult situation with us. You have asked many questions, so I will try to answer them in a stepwise manner, and in the order that they appear.
“What do I do so as not to ruin our friendship?”
From the way you’ve described your relationship with your friend Ben, it sounds like you two are really good and important friends to each other. If he let you know that he is questioning his sexual orientation, you can be sure that he trusts you enough to be able to be open with you about really personal and sensitive issues. The best thing you can do for him is to support him by being his ally during this time of sexual orientation exploration. Try to put yourself in his shoes. What if you were the one struggling over your sexual orientation and didn’t have anyone to talk about it? It’s definitely a difficult situation and you’d probably wish that you had a person close enough to you to be able to discuss your feelings. If you don’t want to ruin your friendship with Ben, be that listening ear for him. He’s probably just as stressed out over it as you are, maybe even more! So be there for him; listen to what he has to say and try your best to not judge him. That doesn’t mean that the conversation between you two is a one way street though. If he is open with you, you should also be able to be just as open with him. Talk about your feelings regarding his sexuality and if you’re feeling brave, about how you’ve felt for him over the past couple of years. If you can, listen to him without being immediately judgemental; he should be able to do the same thing for you.
“Why did I like him so much?”
From what you’ve said, it’s not hard to believe that your feelings for him evolved from friendship to something you saw as more. It seems that Ben really likes you for who you are and you really like him for who he is. What a great feeling! However, this feeling of liking someone for who they are can easily be confused with feelings associated with a deeper relationship than friendship. That being said, it’s not surprising that you started liking him so much, especially because he would do things like touch you, play with your hair and hint at things like kissing you and dating. Even if he was joking, it’s pretty hard to have that kind of interaction with someone without suspecting that there was something more to the relationship. All that flirting would give anyone the impression that there could be some possibility of dating and it’s easy to start liking someone because of that potential.
“Why did he flirt with me?”
One possible explanation regarding Ben flirting with you is that you may have been the only person he felt comfortable enough to have that kind of interaction. Even though he has not confirmed anything about his sexual orientation, let’s assume that Ben is pretty sure he’s gay. Logically, that would mean that he would like to flirt with other guys. However, he might not feel secure enough to do that yet or he doesn’t want to risk outing himself before he is sure of his sexual orientation. So why did he choose to flirt with you instead of with other girls? Well it could be because Ben is sure enough that he’s not interested in girls that he doesn’t want to flirt with them and draw unnecessary interest from them. You, on the other hand, do not fall into that category of “other girls.” Since you and Ben know each other first and foremost as friends, he may feel that he can express his flirty side with you because he doesn’t think of you as a potential girlfriend. He probably joked about dating you because he really thought that that would never happen. You might have been the only person he felt that he could be flirty with; a situation that is flattering and also probably confusing for you.
“Why didn’t he tell me sooner?”
For many people who identify as gay, revealing their sexual orientation to others can be very difficult. You run the risk of being judged, not accepted, treated differently etc… As strange as this might sound, it’s usually hardest to tell the people that are closest to you, out of fear of losing them as a friend/loved one. Think of it like this: if you accidentally became pregnant, would it be harder to tell your parents or a stranger? Most likely your parents because you care about what they think about you. Ben probably didn’t tell you sooner because he may have felt like he wasn’t ready yet. By sharing his secret, he could be running the risk of losing you as a really good friend. It’s true you might have been able to get over him a lot easier if you had known last year but it could have been too early in your friendship for him to have been open about it. He also most likely had no idea that you were entertaining thoughts of dating. Perhaps if he had, he may have said something sooner.
I hope that these answers help you clarify your feelings. If you feel like you still have no one to talk to about your situation, there is a phone line that you can call if you want to speak to somebody one on one. The YAH! Hotline (Youth America Hotline) is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days and week and is toll free: 1-877-YOUTHLINE (1-877-968-8454). They have teen peer counselors that will listen to any problems or concerns you may have. Good luck on working things out with Ben and you are always most welcome to write in to Alterhéros if you have any other questions.
K-Wo for AlterHéros