I am a 37-year-old gay man who was been friends with a straight woman the same age since we were in college. She is pretty much my best friend and confidante. Over the years mutual friends have told me that they think "Jane" is in love with me, but I told them we were just very close and that was that. "Jane" is an attractive and wonderful person in many ways, but for some reason she's just never found the right guy, even though she's dated many guys. Lately she keeps saying -- since I've never found the right guy, either, although I, too, have had many boyfriends -- that the two of us should face facts and just get together. She even suggested we go to bed together, but later said she was just being facetious. However the other night she kept trying to tell me that I was bisexual, everyone was bisexual, and that we would make a great couple since we already loved each other. She even said she was attracted to women but suppressed it and that I was also suppressing my attraction to women. I should explore it and we should have sex.
But Dr. Bill, I'm not bisexual, I'm totally and happily gay. I dated women in high school but realized that I had no romantic or sexual feelings for them, and I have absolutely no romantic or sexual feelings for Jane, I only love her as a friend and I'm very concerned for her. Lately she's been drinking too much and mutual friends say it seems as if she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Any advice, please? PK.
It sounds as if Jane is going through a bad time, all right, and there are a couple of possible reasons for it. She may have been pretending to be bisexual only in an attempt to convince you that you were bisexual -- and therefore not out of the running -- but maybe not. If that's not the case her talk about repressing her feelings for women is troubling. This could be the old story of the self-hating lesbian wanting to marry the gay guy so the two can play house and pretend to be happily heterosexual OR --
It's also possible that Jane -- be she straight or bi -- has fallen in love with you (or at least thinks she has). She has come to realize that the one man she can always depend upon, who is her greatest friend and confidante, the one she has the most fun with and who she spends the most time with ... is you. Maybe the straight guys she dated came up short, or she's getting tired of waiting for the right one to come along. If she has a strong sexual attraction for you as well, I can understand why she's drinking too much due to her pain, frustration, and confusion.
I know it's often easier to discuss these difficult matters with friends when one or both of you is under the influence, but I think this time you and Jane need to have a plain and sober conversation. Don't start with the possibility that she's in love with you -- start instead with what she said about being attracted to women. Find out what's really up with that. If she has homosexual desires she needs to face it, accept it, and enjoy it.
If the problem is that she's a closeted lesbian who was desperately reaching out to you for some phony hetero solace, then you don't have to worry about her having inappropriate feelings for you, and you can help her be happily gay. On the other hand, if she was just trying to start a conversation on bisexuality in the hopes you'd say you were secretly hot for women (and her), then at least you'll have a way to let her down gently. Don't ask her if she's in love with you; ask her if perhaps she was hoping the two of you would "move on to the next level," as friends sometimes do. Before she can answer (so she can save face if she wants to), tell her that you are not bi, you're completely gay and like it that way, and you are not capable of or interested in having a romantic or sexual relationship with a woman. Any woman. And that's that. Keep it light, don't embarrass her, but be firm.
Nobody likes to be rejected by someone they are desperately hoping to have a relationship with. But at least Jane will know that you aren't rejecting her per se. Hopefully she will accept what you have to say and recognize that she has to move on. Hopefully she'll be able to maintain a friendship with you, but you'll have to understand that it may be too painful for her to do so.
What Jane could be going through is the reverse of the situation where a gay guy desperately hopes a straight friend is really gay because he's smitten with him. But just as we gay guys have to accept that, yes some men are actually straight, Jane and women like her have to accept that some men are totally, happily gay and they're not going to change -- or "suppress" -- for anyone.
In the meantime, do you know any straight single guys you can introduce her to?