Man Who Gave Up His One True Love

Dear Doctor, I am writing this out of immense pain, and I need you to help me.

I am a 20-yr old college student torn between 2 different friendships and whatever I choose to do is seemingly disastrous.

I have known this girl JJ for a long time and she is absolutely the sweetest person I have ever met. We got really close this year and she is simply someone, in the past half a year, who made me a better person. That is the only way I can put it for you.

Earlier this year, after going to a hockey game with her and a few friends of mine, I found out that I have hopelessly fell for her.

I was about to ask one of my best guy friends, BT, what I should do - when he told me that he is in love with JJ. At that moment I simply swallowed what I was about to say.

I thought about it a lot that night and decided to help my friend out, simply because I thought he had a higher chance than I do, and he is a more deserving person.

Even though I helped a lot, created chances for them to be alone, in the end she said no to him.

Yet I can tell that she said no simply because she is afraid of a relationship (past experience was too painful). But deep down I know she likes him, and now they are as close as two persons can be.

Watching them spending time together everyday is a living torment for me. For the whole time my affection has not weakened. But even though BT failed, they are practically a couple as they spent almost every minute together.

Naturally then I have become secondary in her life. She still cares about me, but I could have had much more.

I am not mad at neither of them, and I know I should not be mad at myself. But I am so envious that I can't bear looking at them anymore.

All I wanted is a close friendship with her. I never thought I would'get her 'to begin with but I found out that what I really need is being her best friend.

I see all this in the relationship between JJ and BT and I can't help but think that 'I could have been just like this '.

But I really wanted my friend BT to be happy and I know that he is right now with her, and so is she with him. But I am not, and I can't say a word to neither of them.

If I tell BT he would never trust me again, and if I tell JJ she would be devastated. I don't want that to happen, but I really can't bear the pain anymore.

I can feel that I am losing her because they are getting closer everyday, and she wants to spend time with him only. She still cares for me, but it's a passing concern.

I cannot tell her how I feel because I love them both, and anything I do will be potentially disastrous.

I have been telling myself to get over it but I can't - I am simply very envious and pained by the thought that I lost her through a hopeless circumstance.

I wanted to alienate myself from them but I couldn't, simply cuz I still really love her. Sorry for this awfully long and winding email, but please help me. . . .

Answer: 

I can see why you are feeling torn up. Every day that you see them together, it feels like a knife is being driven into your heart.

There is no simple solution to this situation, and no textbook correct way of handling the bind in which you find yourself. All you can do is to choose a course of action that will be the least hurtful to you.

Your choices can range anywhere from telling them both the truth--to get it off your chest, to making peace with the situation, or even minimizing contact.

No choice is going to perfect, but it would help you to make a decision and then come to peace regarding whatever choice you make. Being in limbo is hell.

There is also something else that I would encourage you to do. Allow this unfortunate circumstance to teach you some important lessons about yourself, so that you don't experience similar misery in the future. If you learn nothing else from this situation, learn that you are self-sacrificing to the point of self-destructiveness.

When you say that your male friend is a more deserving person than you, you are trashing yourself in the process. Out of your sense of unworthiness ('he's a more deserving person than I am') you completely sacrificed your own happiness, by stepping aside so that your best male friend could have a clear path to your beloved! How tragic and sad.

Self-sacrifice may be tied up with your low self-esteem. Many people who don't feel worthy of love will make extreme sacrifices hoping to be liked.

In this case, no one even knew about your sacrifice, so you didn't even gain from the sacrifice! Yes, you may gained in that you have kept your friendship with your male friend intact.

Or did you?

You can't even look at him without suffering. And, being around her is torture too. I encourage you to find find the root of this feeling of undeserving that is plaguing your life.

Figure out when you began feeling this way. Ask yourself who in your formative years told you or treated you as unworthy of love. Once you identify the origin of the feeling, you can begin to heal.

You aren't unworthy of love. It is your God given right.

Next, become acutely conscious of your self-sacrificing tendencies. Find out where you learned to put yourself last (are you modeling a parent who was a martyr)? Or were you so deprived of love in childhood that you have come to believe that you aren't entitled to be loved, hence, your willingness to step aside.

You might also figure out what type of unconscious gains you get (or wish to get) out of this sacrificing behavior. People who feel unworthy of love will often engage in self-sacrifice thinking that they will win love this way.

Your self-sacrifice may also reflect a tendency to stick with a pattern that is familiar (if you didn't get loved in childhood, then it's familiar to go without).

Your self-sacrifice may also be a form of self-protection.

Since you didn't feel that you had a good chance with her, stepping aside protects you from being rejected by her--kind of like dying by your own sword.

Another possible cause of self-sacrifice can be traced to an unconscious need to feel like a victim.

To elaborate on this last point. People who sacrifice to the point of punishing themselves often have guilty consciences, and the unconscious mind arranges to punish the guilty. What could you be guilty about?

Yes, you may have done or said things that you aren't proud of, and punishing yourself can be a form of atonement for your 'sins. 'The most common cause of guilty feelings, however, is buried rage.

Here's how this works. If angry feelings aren't owned, discussed and released, they resurface in the form of self-attack, self-criticism, self-destructive acts, depression, and/or guilt feelings that don't quit.

I can tell you right off the bat that people who self-sacrifice are furious all the time because their needs aren't being met. So, you can see that you are caught in a vicious cycle in which you may be sacrificing to atone for your hidden anger, but the more you sacrifice the more angry you become, and on and on.

I have given you a lot to think about and work on. I encourage you to examine the issues you outlined. You deserve much more out of life than you are allowing yourself to have.

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