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In love with my best friend – and she’s asexual (fixed the age, oops)

Question:

For about a year now, I have been extremely close to my best friend. We became friends by accident – I was seeking friendship with a friend of her’s, and we ended up bonding more. Since then it’s been the most fantastic, healthy friendship I’ve ever had.

When we became friends, she was openly bisexual. But I had never heard of or saw her date or even talk to anyone romantically or sexually. I found out early on she is a virgin, and that she hasn’t dated anyone for years (since high school, she’s 21 now). Even those relationships were short-lived and awkward. She always left the guys she dated before things went past kissing, and to my knowledge she only let two of them kiss her and it always royally freaked her out. She left a guy once because he wanted to go past holding hands, it’s that serious. I used to tell a friend of ours that I thought she was asexual, because she had zero interest in sex and didn’t even seem to have a drive to date. She’d comment on how hot or sexy a guy was but in a way that almost sounded juvenile. It was similar to how I used to think of guys when I was young, like 13/14 years old. Where you think ‘oh, they’re hot’ but you probably wouldn’t really have sex with them or even try to because sex is still a very foreign, distant-feeling thing. Our mutual friend kind of harped on me and said I was trying to deny her bisexuality because she just didn’t act sexual, which was not remotely what I was intending, so I sighed and let it go.

I have always personally identified as straight. I have never, ever found a girl sexually or romantically interesting. However I used to joke around that I was ‘.5% bi’ because I always felt it was stupid to rule out the possibility of love not looking how you think it’s going to look. And then, it happened. After a good 8/9 months of intense friendship, I fell for her. She treats me like a goddess, she spoils me rotten, she is sweet and endearing. She holds me, hugs me and kisses me on the cheek, insists on being the ‘gentleman’ (she prefers being androgynous) and holding out her arm for me or paying for my meals and holding the door for me, etc. I started to notice my feelings about 6 months ago, and I used to cry all the way home feeling very confused. Because I’ve never loved a girl before. Ever. And I didn’t want to get into it with her if I wasn’t sure, because I didn’t want to hurt her. So I started dropping hints. Heavy ones. I said I was open to girls if I found one, and I asked her a lot of questions about what she wants in a relationship or what kind of girls she likes. I started flirting more heavily back, I brought up sex a few times to see just how terrified she really is of it, etc. The kicker for me was a time I stayed the night and she and I were laying on her couch and she playfully tickled my legs and eventually moved her hands up on me. It was nothing past playing around, but I felt like she was basically saying, “Yes, I am comfortable with you.” So I finally had ‘the talk’ with her.

And she said she felt the same. She said she felt it for a while. But she seemed extremely scared and hesitant. And after only a week of us ‘trying it out’ she backed out because something was ‘wrong.’ I was completely devastated and heart broken, and so was she because she didn’t know why it wasn’t working. We make a lot of ‘sense’ together. A few weeks after, she came across a website about asexuality, and she wrote me at 2am, crying, saying she thinks this is really it, this is who she is, that it explained her to a ‘T.’ That she felt love, but not the way I do, and that she has no interest in romantic love, like kissing and physical intimacy.

I have tried very, very hard to be supportive of her. She’s traumatized and transitioning into accepting who she is. She’s my best friend, she will always be, and I love her so deeply. I backed away for a while to try to heal, and I felt like I was doing fine. And I knew she needed me, so I couldn’t bare to stay away for long. A few months went by okay. But as our friendship progressed and she became more stable, I started to struggle again. Because the truth is, despite this revelation, I’m still in love with her. It went beyond a crush no matter how hard I tried to stop it. She is so perfectly my other half and she is the only woman I look at this way. She is so incredibly beautiful and perfect to me, inside and out. I think about kissing her and holding her all the time. It’s almost consuming me. Every time we’re together and she cuddles with me, I have a hard time not pulling her in too tight. She usually does it anyway, because she doesn’t see anything romantic or sexual in it the way I do, and that only makes it harder. I’ve tried for so long now to stop, I’ve tried to back away from her, but it feels hopeless. She is my only friend, and I have no family or friend connections outside of her to support me. I have serious depression and suicidal tendencies and she has been my rock through it all. And it doesn’t help that she’s been getting more and more intimate with me lately. She’s gone back to cuddles and kissing me on the face or hand, lately she has been falling asleep spooning me (this is a HUGE deal for her, she has always been terrified of closeness), and she likes to (in a non-sexual way) touch me all over and tell me everything about me is beautiful and I shouldn’t feel self-conscious. It kills me. It’s just absolutely killing me.

I guess the summation of my problem is this: She says she’s asexual, but my heart doesn’t want to believe it. I know it. It’s just so hard to believe when she acts the way she does that she doesn’t love me like I love her. I know for a fact if I told her I need her to back off, she would in a heartbeat. But the truth is, I’ve been so suicidal lately, and lonely, and she’s all I have, that I’m afraid to. I’m clinging desperately to some hope that I might be her ‘.5%’ chance of being bi, just like she was for me. But it’s destroying me inside, and I’m terrified of it destroying our friendship. It’s not fair of me to not be 100% behind her sexual identity, and I hate that my love for her is holding me back. How can I? How can I learn to not only accept that she’s asexual, but understand how she’s able to be so loving and intimate without ‘feeling’ the way I do? How do I stop loving someone who is such a huge part of my life without falling apart completely? I just want to learn how to love and accept her without taking it so deeply to heart…

Letter submitted by:

Answer:

Trevor Staff

Hi,
Thanks for writing to AskTrevor. First of all, you’re obviously very intelligent and introspective. From what you’ve written, I can tell you’re very aware and have thought deeply about your relationship with your best friend. It seems to me that the dilemma is choosing between the pain of unrequited love (at least in the way that would be ideal for you) and the pain of possibly losing a vital support system of yours, the latter of which may very well feel like “giving up hope” that you and she can be a couple.

The most important thing for you is your mental health. Your actions should be driven with that goal in mind. As such, my first recommendation is to discuss with your psychiatrist/primary care provider about your recently increased thoughts of suicide. Continue to take any anti-depressants you may be on. If you think that they’re not working, contact your medical provider to see if a medication change is possible. If your depression and suicidal ideation have not been addressed by a medical provider, please make an appointment to do so. In more emergent situations, call the police or the asktrevor hotline at 866-488-7368.
My second piece of advice is to increase your support system as much as possible. You mentioned that your best friend is your sole support system. For your own mental health, it would be helpful to be able to talk to somebody else, whether it is a friend or family member. You might agree that telling your story to somebody else may help you come to terms with it. Obviously, this takes effort on your part, but it would definitely be a proactive step towards better mental health regardless of whatever else happened.
Thirdly, it seems like you find your relationship somewhat difficult with your best friend because it seems so strange to you that there aren’t any sexual feelings/motives behind these seemingly intimate/sexual gestures. I think that totally makes sense since you are not yourself asexual. To better grasp how that might work, I’d recommend finding a book about asexuality or even simple testimonials online.

Lastly, you don’t have to stop loving her. Asexual individuals can be in romantic relationships if both parties agree on what is permissible. I take it that you don’t think you can be in a relationship with her without the physical intimacy that you want in a relationship. If that’s the case, I would suggest setting boundaries with her. I wouldn’t particularly recommend spending less time with her or supporting each other less. It seems to me, however, that much of your difficulty is when you are physically close to her. For you to begin accepting that this friendship will remain as such, it’d be helpful if you kept each other’s company with rules that you both agree on. I’m sure it’ll be difficult, but you may agree that that could be helpful in coming to terms with her remaining a friend.

Again, please consider your mental health regardless of what you do. I understand that you’re stuck in a tough place, but broadening your support system and keeping clear boundaries with your best friend can help. It’ll take effort on your part, but hopefully you’ll agree that it is a healthy approach. Thanks again for writing to AskTrevor, and feel free to write again if you have any other questions.