Unrequited Love: How to Stay Friends

January 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Unrequited romantic feelings don't have to sink friendships, according to research by Michael Motley, a professor of communication at the University of California, Davis.

"When romantic attraction is disclosed and rejected within a friendship, the result is virtually always awkwardness and embarrassment for both partners, and usually this causes the friendship to end," Motley says. "But certain behaviors and conditions allow some friends to handle the initial awkwardness, put the episode behind them, and reestablish a mutual friendship."

Through analysis of hundreds of interviews with college undergraduates, Motley has found that friends who stay friends tend to:

• Affirm that they can accept and can handle the situation, and that they value and want to maintain the friendship -- and then drop the matter.
• Return to their earlier patterns of communicating and getting together, rather than avoiding each other.
• Tell each other about new romantic interests as they develop.
• Have known one another as friends for a long time and spent a lot of time together before the disclosure-rejection episode.

Motley has also identified big "don'ts," including:

• The platonically inclined friend should not tell any third parties about the amorous disclosure.
• The platonic friend should not invent a new love interest to justify the rejection.
• The romantically inclined friend should tone down any flirtation or sexual innuendo that may have characterized the friendship.

According to Motley, deciding whether to reveal romantic attraction for a friend is among the most common serious communication dilemmas reported by college students. He says that eight in 10 have experienced at least one instance of unrequited romantic attraction within a friendship by the age of 20.

The research appears in "Studies in Applied Interpersonal Communication" (Sage Publications, 2008), a new book edited by Motley.

Provided by UC Davis

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not rated yet Mar 18, 2009
It's interesting. Apparently, romantic love at least at a certain age has complex psychological correlates that make one fear it. Casual partners come and go, but friends who became romantic partners at some points will either stay or go due to what just happened, both cases including some kind of long-term decision that the teenagers probably feel not ready to make.
Personal comment: I remember when I was a teen that every time when some romance appeared between a friend and me, my worry was that I would end up marrying him (for there's no reason to break up being such good friends, knowing each other, etc) wasting my chances to actively seek other romantic partners and "getting to know the world" before making such an important decision.
not rated yet Mar 18, 2009
at the same time, breaking up needed some kind of excuse and finding reasons for quarrel meant losing a friend. Therefore, immediately finding a new romantic partner became a priority. "A friend would understand" :)

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