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Seeking adivce: I panicked after a friend confessed


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Hey there, I'm new here, but I don't know any other aro people personally and am looking for a community that "gets it." Ready for my life drama of the past year? Long post is long, but I could really use some commiseration, advice, and/or insight if you're willing!

So I went through all my life without ever having had any person confess to a crush on me. Then at the beginning of 2020, right before I turned 27, my best male friend - let's call him Adam - said he respected my identity, but to be more comfortable himself, he needed to tell me that he thought he had a crush on me. I thought I understood, I knew he wasn't asking for anything in return, and I thought I could handle it like an adult. I've seen hundreds of shitty movies where the people don't communicate and the relationship crumbles, but I wouldn't be like that. I told Adam, "it might be weird for a little while, but I think we can still be friends. I might act funny."

Well, I've basically stopped talking to him, and I don't know why. He's been extremely respectful and took full steps back, even really just waiting for me to reach out. I thought I was getting better about it, but it's very hard to actually bring myself to talk to him. Even better is the fact that he's a coworker, so once we actually get back into the office after the pandemic, I'll probably see him in the halls. Maybe the isolation is part of it?

Now comes the kicker. In place of Adam, I started talking with another male coworker, maybe 10-15 years older than me, married with a 7-ish year old child. Let's call him Jack. Things were pretty good, I had someone to talk to who wasn't Adam and still liked the things I liked, so I should be safe to figure myself out. Sure, Jack has some issues and comes to me with a lot of negative thoughts looking for reassurance, but not everybody has had a chance to see the world more broadly.

Well, at the end of the summer, I'm having trouble remembering when now, maybe September? A topic came up at work and it got me to confess to being queer to Jack. He was curious because Straight White Man (tm), and I tried to define aromanticism for him. I even related the story about Adam and how I was having trouble being normal around him. I had been oblivious and I had panicked when something was said. And then Jack says, "I have a question but I'm afraid to ask it."

Ah. The aro question. Alright, shoot, dude. I'd rather you ask me these questions where I can teach you about this and try not to be offended. He says something like, "So, hypothetically, say I thought I might have been developing feelings but since I didn't see any indications of them being returned, I was going to move on and now that it's out there we can go back to normal and pretend it never happened haha hypothetically...?"

And I just.....

What do I do? We have a work chat where I've seen a message from him show up in my notifications, and I just get so anxious. I can't even work normally any more because I'm afraid that I'll have to interact with Jack in some way that will make me uncomfortable I guess? I'm having a hard time parsing out why it's so complicated to deal with. Adam has been great, backing off and being respectful when a work question did come up, and I tried to explain to him at some point that I knew my silence was probably hurtful, apologized, and thanked him for his patience. Jack is trying to be as normal as possible, and maybe that helped at first? But it came to a head at the beginning of December and I just shut down. I haven't read or responded to a message from him directly in a month at this point.

I sometimes feel like Jack sees me as an emotional release, someone who actually listens and understands (damn you, empathy) and that he is putting feelings where they don't exist because he's found validation? I'm trying to type up a message to him explaining the gist of why I've been quiet and hope it helps. But he's part of my D&D group so now I'm worried that if I tell him, "hey, for some reason I would rather not speak to only you in chat messages now, but if we're in a group it's better," that he'll get hurt or pissed or something. Not really all that likely I don't think, but still. The anxiety is there.

Could I be romance repulsed only when someone has directed feelings at me? That's a general subset of aromanticism I think I've seen. I don't want to totally cut off friendships with either of these people, but I don't know how to go back to consistent messaging without going through a really uncomfortable phase first. Have any of you had some sort of similar experience? How do you maintain a friendship with someone who had feelings for you? I have never had the chance to create coping mechanisms for myself about this.

Disclaimer: neither of these men is in a position of power over me, nor are they the kind of people who would seek revenge for being snubbed/hurt/etc. I do not feel unsafe with them, just like I'm walking on eggshells trying to spare their feelings I guess.

And maybe that's actually the crux of it?

Thanks for reading, friends. All discussions welcome, and please ask for clarification on any point. I know I have a tendency to compact my meaning into indecipherability.

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Difficult situation.

I can't really help. Confessions happened to me twice when I was a teen. For one it was a guy I don't even ike as a friend but who still follows me everywhere and thretened to commit suicide when I rejected him... I don't need to say I talked to him after that, I told the suicde threat to is mother and let her handle it.

The other, the guy confessed when he was 12 or 13, and we became friends only the year later (before I hated him lol). I kinda knew he cold still be interesting but didn't bother. Our whole class shipping us was more bothering than his actual feelings, but I didn't panic. It was just annoying. Maybe, I would have reacted differently if I knew I was aro at the time, I don't know. I just focused on my friendship and didn't bother. I guess, I just expected that he gets "no is no", and won't act romantically with me.

 

So I don't really have an advice, expect maybe try to talk with them again and see how it goes? They'll probably move on anyway. If their friendship is important to you, it could worth it. Talk and see nothing bad or romantic happen could work. But if you are still uncomfortable after that, I don't know. That's not an easy situation. I hope it'll get better.

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Not sure what you should do but I agree with your idea of messaging him to explain why you have been quiet. I dont think that is likely to piss him off and if it does then what would not giving him an explanation do. You know your situation best but to back you up, that sounds a sensible idea.

11 hours ago, geckoco said:

Could I be romance repulsed only when someone has directed feelings at me?

could be, that seems reasonable and would be a possible explanation for your discomfort over this.

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3 hours ago, nonmerci said:

I can't really help. Confessions happened to me twice when I was a teen. For one it was a guy I don't even ike as a friend but who still follows me everywhere and thretened to commit suicide when I rejected him... I don't need to say I talked to him after that, I told the suicde threat to is mother and let her handle it.

Oof, sounds like a manipulative one. I think you did the right thing there. But if he's still following you, sounds like a potential stalker. Hope you stay safe!

I've written up a draft of something to send to Jack and I'll try to get it sent out soon. Why are personal relationships so difficult?

Thanks very much to both of you for commenting!

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21 hours ago, geckoco said:

But if he's still following you, sounds like a potential stalker. Hope you stay safe!

Oops I got it wrong with my grammar. I should have used preterit. He is not following me now, it happened a few years before. I don't have any recent experience of people liking me, or I am not aware.

But yeah he was kinda a stalker. If he met not only me but a member of my family in the street, he would change his entire way to stay with us until we come back home. And at some point he pretended we were dating though we were not. That was not very comfortable, but I don't see him any more,  he doesn't live in my town anymore.

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