Hi, Carolyn: About a year ago I developed a crush on a female friend, whose boyfriend I also know independently of her. I suspect the attraction was mutual but we never acted on it.
However, I am pretty sure the boyfriend noticed, because I am pretty sure he hates me. He tries to hide it and behave cordially toward me, but the tension is obvious. I’ve tried reaching out to him to hang out, but it always feels forced and I can tell he doesn’t want to be there. Any suggestions for defusing this tension? - Hated
Remorse defuses best. I thought I picked some up in my first reading of your letter, but upon rereading I’m not so sure.
If you do feel bad about your actions, and not just their consequences, then you’ve done most of your part. You can make any warranted apologies, but beyond that there’s no easy fix; everything else depends on his letting go of the grudge. Since a year (plus his girlfriend’s apparent, sustained loyalty) hasn’t softened him, waiting him out doesn’t seem promising.
I get that it’s hard to accept a new normal of someone hating your guts. We all deploy a certain amount of denial about our acceptability to the rest of the world, just to get through the day in peace, right? And such open hatred reduces that shield to smoking embers.
If you can’t get used to being the bad guy, then there’s this: bow out. Or, less drastically, shift your social center of gravity away from these two. You tried, innocently or otherwise, to usurp a man’s beloved. Exile is usually the next plot point in that story even when you succeed, so his being civil-ish is a gift.
Just remember this when you crush on the lady-friend of your sibling, neighbor, boss: The price of encroachment is high.