Dear Harlan,

I am in love with my best friend. She is the best person I have ever met and I can’t imagine being with anyone else. But there’s a problem: She has a serious boyfriend, whom she has been with for two years. She loves him as much as I love her. She doesn’t know how I feel. What should I do?

Painfully in Love

Dear Painfully in Love,

Start imagining dating someone else. Your friend is not available. She hasn’t been for two years. All signs point to her not being available for a long time. There are approximately 6.9 billion people in the world at the time I’m writing this column. Yes, I agree that there will be no one like her, but there could be many women just as good as her, or even better for you. The relationship is perfect and safe because nothing is more perfect and safe than an imaginary relationship. And yes, by pining for her you are dating your friend even though she is not dating you. If you want her to find you attractive in the future, date other women. If you can’t respect this friendship and date other women, distance yourself from her and the friendship. Tell her why you’re taking a step back. In the kindest way, explain that you are pulling back because you have strong feelings for her and it’s not fair to her, your friendship or her boyfriend. Let her know that you’re telling her the truth because that’s what friends do. Apologize for not being able to be just friends, and give her an open invitation to be more than friends in the future. Then start meeting other women. Or, you can continue to torture yourself and focus all your time and energy on someone who can’t give you what you want.

Hi Harlan,

There is a guy I’m dance partners with for an upcoming dance. Last weekend, we went to a party and started to hook up right after. He wanted to go all the way, but I refused, since I’m not like that. He agreed and said that dance practice would be awkward, so we would wait. He has not texted me since then, even though we agreed to be friends. I just don’t want dance practice to be awkward, and I also would like something more with this guy. What’s going on?

Dancing Solo

Hi Dancing Solo,

He might be embarrassed or looking for sex somewhere else. Either way, you did everything right. Women should make it easy for men to date them — but not be easy. If you had decided to have sex with him and he had stopped talking to you soon after, it would have been much more uncomfortable. By not having sex, you set boundaries. You made it clear that sex is special to you. The next time you see him, make it clear that you would be interested in dating him. Help him get over any lingering embarrassment, and give him an opening to date you. If he’s looking for more than sex, he’ll ask you on a date. If he’s looking only to dance in between the sheets, he’ll pass.

Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.