Join 3,380 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How to friendzone gracefully
September 20, 2010 4:24 AM   Subscribe

I want to make friends, I keep getting dates. I'm not interested in an exclusive relationship with anyone at the moment. How do I turn a first date into a friendship without bruising egos?

I'm an attractive twentysomething female, just moved so I'm trying to make friends inside and outside of work. But I keep getting asked out on dates. I don't mind going out, but I just got out of a serious relationship and I have no real desire to get exclusive in the next couple months.

I don't want to turn someone down for a first hang-out request, because that's presumptuous ("he wants to do lunch, must be attracted to me")... and more importantly, I still want to get to know these guys! Am I doing wrong by him to NOT say "OK but JUST AS FRIENDS" before I agree to have a cup of coffee?

So let's say there's a guy I've been out with once, and we had a great time. He asks me out on date number two. How and when do I start dropping those hints and/or having that conversation? Before we go on the second date? Before he tries for a kiss goodnight? Do I need to do this in person (read: on the date), or should I call beforehand?

I'm usually a pretty blunt person, but I do recognize the important role of subtlety in protecting egos. This thread gave me some good thoughts, but what if we've already made it past date one?
posted by ista to Human Relations (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stop going out on first dates. I don't think it's presumptous at all to assume single men asking you out = date.
posted by crankylex at 4:56 AM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have this problem too. One way I get around it is if Guy A asks me out to dinner, I'll say "Great! I would love to! Where were you thinking of? I'll check whether Acquaintance B and Acquaintance C are free for dinner, I'm sure you'll like them!" Rinse and repeat.

Even if Acquaintance B and Acquaintance C can't make it to dinner, and you still end up having dinner with Guy A alone, guys usually get the hint when you try to invite someone along whenever he asks you out on a 'date'.

Sometimes Guy A will persist a little further and say something like, "I would like to take YOU and only YOU out for dinner." This is when you have to be blunt about it. Otherwise, the subtle response works for the subtle request.
posted by moiraine at 4:57 AM on September 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't mind going out, but I just got out of a serious relationship and I have no real desire to get exclusive in the next couple months.

You know you can date without being exclusive, right? Or is it that you have no desire to date, either?
posted by amro at 4:57 AM on September 20, 2010


I don't know that this is possible. People who are attracted to you romantically or sexually, well, they don't necessarily want to be your friends.

If I have it fixed in my mind that I want a steak, and the steakhouse tells me all they have for me is salad, that's note going to suddenly make me want salad. Even if it's a great salad with candied pecans and arugula, even if it's a salad I might otherwise really enjoy, I'm still going to be thinking about that thick juicy steak I hoped/expected to have.

It's not about you or your qualities as a friend, it's not really about the guys trying to date you, it's about expectations and how they shape our perceptions and reactions to events. Having come to the table desiring a romantic outcome, an other of "mere" friendship is going to seem like an undesirable failure.

Your best best is probably to decline the date, rather than to have a date which will be perceived (rightly or wrongly) as unsuccessful, but even then, friendship isn't what these guys are looking for, isn'rt what they want from you.
posted by orthogonality at 5:02 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When he asks you out, you can always ask "Do you mean like a date? Or like hanging out?".
posted by emilyw at 5:03 AM on September 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


The suggestion to turn it into a group event is a good one. It sends a pretty clear message.
posted by modernnomad at 5:04 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Invite another guy or another girl out.
posted by Biru at 5:10 AM on September 20, 2010


So this is really two different questions: 1) how do you head off the "dating" idea before you accept the first possibly-a-date-possibly-not cup of coffee, and 2) how do you stop it in its tracks after you've already had that cup of coffee.

For #1, just (kindly) ask the guy if it's a date. There's not really a better way to get around the issue of assuming it's a date because you're a lady and he's a man. If you're a blunt person, the asking shouldn't be an issue. Depending on the guy, he might feel embarrassed or flustered, but he should be able to answer the question. It's not really an ego hit to admit that you want to date someone. If he says yes, then you have to choose whether you a) don't go (safe route) or b) you warn him and go anyway (path of possible drama).

For #2, you should have that conversation ASAP, in person, early into the second date. That way, if he's truly hurt, you can cut the date short. If you wait until it's goodnight kiss time, he might feel like the date was a bit of a sham because you knew the whole time that you were going to turn him down. Whether or not you can be friends with the guy depends on how that conversation goes and on the people involved; in any case, it's probably good to take some time off hanging out, so you don't fall into the "dating without actually calling it dating" trap.
posted by neushoorn at 5:12 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only time I have NOT had my feelings a little tweaked by being friendzoned is when the women involved came right out and basically said, "As a date, or as friends? I'm only available for Friends only, is that cool? (insert reason why) Let's do it (lunch / coffee / whatever)" as soon as I asked the first time.

If you've already made it past date one with someone you want to continue hanging out with as a friend, consider starting to be clear about your expectations the next time you two have contact longer much than a passing hello. Definitely take control when talk turns to going out again.

The biggest thing is: pay your own way. You should be able to get a sense of whether the person you are with accepts the situation well enough to handle the easier-to-manage convention of trading off paying for rounds or activities, or if you'll have to be firm for a while and pay your half each and every transaction to hammer in the point.

If you're literally, actually, honestly "not interested in an exclusive relationship with anyone at the moment" that might make things thorny because if you say just those words to them, it SOUNDS like a code for either "I'm letting you down easy, and it's really you, not me" or "not so fast buster, feel free to audition for the Future Role of Boyfriend though". Maybe other posters will say it's clear enough as is, or help refine it if there's a better way.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 5:16 AM on September 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Am I doing wrong by him to NOT say "OK but JUST AS FRIENDS" before I agree to have a cup of coffee?

Be clear and unambiguous about your intentions. If you don't want to date, then for god sakes when someone asks you on a date, say you don't want to date, would rather just hang out as friends. It makes for much less awkwardness and ego bruising later.

Think about it in reverse. If you wanted to date a guy and ya'll went out (either he asked you or you asked him) and you're thinking things are going great and you're just waiting and wanting to kiss him. Then as you go to kiss him, he says "Whoah, sorry, just want to be friends." Would you feel foolish? Would you have feel more foolish that if he has said up front he was only interested in friendship?

Look, if person A likes person B, the last thing they want is to find out after a date is that they're in the friendzone. That means they've been trying to be flirt, be cute and attractive, they've put effort in it and hasn't worked. It doesn't matter if wasn't going to work anyway, they've expended emotional and mental energy towards that goal and then you're telling them "Let's just be friends". That's more ego crushing that an upfront "Yeah, I'm not dating right now, so how about we just hang out as friends?" The former could be perceived a rejection of a person, the latter is more "Oh, it's not me, it really is her."

The suggestion to turn it into a group event is a good one. It sends a pretty clear message.

I'm going to disagree. It sends a clear message to people who perceive that as a clear message. Others may not get it, because it is not a universally clear message and it's certainly not as clear as saying "I'm not interested in dating anyone, let's just be friends".

Be blunt and upfront. If not before the first date, then definitely before the second date.

but what if we've already made it past date one?

You're over thinking this, it's not complicated. You know what you want and don't want. Call them up and specifically explain where you are and what you are and are not interested in. It's more respectful of the person and their time if you make a point of being clear to them in an unambiguous and private way that you're just not interested in dating anyone.
posted by nomadicink at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Let's see if Friends B and C are also available!" doesn't necessarily mean "I don't want to date you, I just want to be friends." It can also mean "I don't like high-pressure FIRST DATES, I like things being a lot more casual to start;" I also have some more traditional friends who aren't comfortable with 'normal' modern-American style first dates with guys they don't know well, and would definitely do this while being interested.

If you don't want to date a guy - as in, romantically/sexually - tell him that. Don't try mind games and trickery and vague hints that may or may not work. For that matter, even if you do want to date but don't want it to be exclusive/serious at all, please disclose that too, as soon as possible. Look at it this way: You're looking for friendship, and not an exclusive relationship, and there's nothing wrong with that. But he's looking for something too - maybe a serious relationship. So, yes, saying "OK but JUST AS FRIENDS" is totally correct.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:57 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't casually mention inviting friends as a means to suggest you're only open to friendship. Do everyone a favor and make it explicit. Say you're only looking to make new friends right now. There's no and if the person you are going out with is an adult they'll understand what you mean. It's really not that awkward to let someone know you're not interested in dating them and it saves you so much trouble down the road.
posted by grizzly at 6:28 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know that this is possible. People who are attracted to you romantically or sexually, well, they don't necessarily want to be your friends.

Bah. If I asked a woman out because I was attracted to her and I thought she was rad, and she was all "Oh, I'm not looking to date anyone, but you seem really cool and I'd love to get a beer", I would totally not say "No thanks, you're rad and I think we'd have a good time, but since I have no chance of sleeping with you, I don't see any reason for us to hang out."
posted by 23skidoo at 6:29 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bah. If I asked a woman out because I was attracted to her and I thought she was rad

A lot of people aren't like you in this regard, in that their interest would completely dry up, or else they would only become friends with her to continue "auditioning".
posted by hermitosis at 6:47 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I've been in this situation: I was in a bad relationship place--neither in nor out--and did not want to date, but I was in a new neighborhood, new job, losing most of my friends because of the bad relationship and for other reasons, too, was looking to make new friends. In my experience, you have to be upfront about it. Really, it seems weird, but it's no more weird than trying to suss out if someone is single or not. You're single, but you're not looking for a romantic relationship.

I had the "oh, I don't date" conversation in the middle of a date and it was a pretty mean thing to do, even though I hadn't intended to be mean and hadn't realized until the middle of it that it was a date. I also had the "but not a date, right?" conversation at the time of being asked out (somewhat ambiguously, I thought) for a drink after work. That was also pretty awkward, but we managed to be friends for a short while before drifting apart through lack of interest.

However, the guy I said up front "I don't date" to, before it was even a likelihood that we'd meet up outside of work, is now a really good friend. We used to chat all the time about stuff and had a lot in common, and one day--awkwardly and probably seemingly out of the blue--I said "Hey, you know I don't date, right? It's an awkward place I'm in, right now, and I enjoy your company a lot, I'd like to see a movie or a show sometime with you, but I want you to know that it's just friends." Less awkward versions of that conversation included "Hey, we should grab coffee sometime, just as friends." and yielded equally good friends. I think if you're doing the inviting, suggesting that you grab a drink sometime, and mentioning including someone else, is perfectly reasonable, but it's not a substitute for making it clear that you're striking up a friendship, not a romantic pursuit.

Like I said, it's just like figuring out if a person is single or not. If you're looking for friends, you just make it clear that you're not looking for a boyfriend, even if you're single. If you're looking for friends and the occasional roll in the hay, I don't have any suggestions for how to have that conversation, but I would think "I don't date" doesn't close off getting there eventually with someone who already knows you don't want a relationship.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:00 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bah. If I asked a woman out because I was attracted to her and I thought she was rad, and she was all "Oh, I'm not looking to date anyone, but you seem really cool and I'd love to get a beer", I would totally not say "No thanks, you're rad and I think we'd have a good time, but since I have no chance of sleeping with you, I don't see any reason for us to hang out."

You're not everyone. I mean, I've established several friendships with women I've asked out, who either had relationships, just weren't looking for one (at the time, at least), didn't work out with me, etc. But this isn't always true. In particular, if I'm really into someone - genuinely crushing/interested - I can't just sublimate that into platonic friendship because it's more convenient. Sometimes the better thing to do is just walk away from her, and move on, because spending time with someone you're interested in can make it "worse."
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:17 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think if you don't want to be in the position of telling somebody you don't want to get into a relationship, then you should probably stop agreeing to go out on dates. Even if you like the person and want to be friends, don't go on a date with them. No one on one stuff. There are other ways to get to know people platonically and send a more clear message without having to tell them straight out they have no chance (which could really hurt their feelings or embarrass them and make you feel bad in the process.)

I think the best thing for making friends is to organize a group thing where you invite several people who you think would get along and ask them to invite somebody if they'd like. I usually try to think of a creative activity of some kind to bring people together, like make up some sort of weekly club or something. Like a dinner club. Or something. If you're in a group of people it's easier to bring up in conversation that you feel like you'd really like to focus on making friendships and not date at the moment. I mean, not like an announcement or anything. It would probably just come up naturally. "Wow, it's nice to be around a group of such awesome people and not have to focus on dating. I'm sort of not into dating right now. Just got out of something intense and I'm not even kind of ready to date."
posted by smirkyfodder at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


orthogonality: "I don't know that this is possible. People who are attracted to you romantically or sexually, well, they don't necessarily want to be your friends.

This is true. When someone asks you out on a "date" date, I think it's your obligation to tell them from the start that you're not really "dating" at the moment because you just got out of a serious relationship, but if they want to hang out sometime, sure. That way, you'll get you message across and they won't have any reason to think you've misled them. Waiting until after the date to drop that bomb is kind of unfair, imho.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:43 AM on September 20, 2010


I don't want to turn someone down for a first hang-out request, because that's presumptuous ("he wants to do lunch, must be attracted to me")... and more importantly, I still want to get to know these guys! Am I doing wrong by him to NOT say "OK but JUST AS FRIENDS" before I agree to have a cup of coffee?

Just tell the dude. If you know you're not interested, don't try to turn them into friends. They don't want to be your friends. Respect that they had enough courage to ask you out and make sure that you don't give off the wrong signals. Tell him you are "pursuing other interests." Make friends with people who aren't asking you out on dates. It is the respectful thing to do. From the situations you describe, none of these men want to be friends. They have romantic interests in you. Nor do you want a bunch of male "friends" who are really just pining away for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:48 AM on September 20, 2010


Stop going on "dates." Instead, go do shared activities, perhaps with other people.

There is nothing more rude than accepting an invitation for what is obviously a date without having any intent to explore a romantic engagement.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:55 AM on September 20, 2010


A little more.

If you have already got past date one (just saw that part) then tell him you don't want to do anything romantic and you aren't really looking for that kind of thing right then. From that point, stop trying to do anything with him and stop trying to make him into a friend.

And finally, whatever you do, do not invite a friend last minute to a percieved date. There is nothing more disrespectful than that. Better to break the date and say you wanted to make sure they understood this was not a romantic thing.

Also, realize that for these guys, you may be only one of several people they are going on casual dates with. It won't be that big of a bruise to their ego. We're guys, we're used to asking out a lot of women and some of them saying no. Its okay. We will survive.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:10 AM on September 20, 2010


Keep in mind that a lot of guys just won't respect you saying that you're not looking for a relationship now.

I remember when I was doing this, after getting out from under a terrible divorce - I outright told guys 'I don't date right now' and THEY DIDN'T BELIEVE ME. Or they thought that they would be the one to convince me. So they'd say, "That's fine, you're cool, I'd just like to hang out" and then we'd go out a few times and then BOOM he's trying to kiss me in the hallway of my building, even though I totally thought I was clear that I was not ready to date and I paid my own way and made my own way to the restaurant or event and could not have treated him more like a friend and less like a boyfriend. I'd get "but you kept accepting my invitations!" "yes, because you're fun to hang out with" "so why won't you date me?"

AUGH

Also, you are not required to justify your reasons for not dating to anyone, at all, ever, unless YOU want to.
posted by micawber at 8:11 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread gave me some good thoughts, but what if we've already made it past date one?

Most of what you're asking about was answered in the previous thread. The only new thing here is the "how do I deal with this after date 1?" The answer is the same way you would if you went out on a date with someone that you decided you weren't interested in: don't call him back, turn him down for other dates, tell him you're not interested in taking it any further, etc. If you want to keep in touch with him, invite him to some group events: if he's open to meeting new friends, he might show up. If not, odds are he really isn't looking for new friends right now.
posted by deanc at 8:14 AM on September 20, 2010


Needed: Your definition of a "date." I agree with those who wonder if the problem is with "dating" or with a relationship. I am one that believes they can be a exclusive of one another. Lots of people "date" (my definition, which may not be yours) without looking for a soulmate. It used to be done all the time. From some posts above, sadly, some see it as nothing more than an audition for something more. Enjoying company, having fun, participating in activities, etc. does not necessarily have to be done on the basis of "Do I make the cut for a husband?"
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2010


Him: "Would you like to get coffee sometime?"
You: "Sure! I'm not really dating right now, but I'd love to hang out with you sometime. Let me know when works for you!"

Alternately, try to make sure the first hang-out is something low-pressure, e.g. coffee, and then slip in the "not really dating right now, but enjoying meeting new people" thing relatively early. I do sympathize with your hesitance-- it is so unbearably awkward to put "just interested in friends" out there, especially because regardless of the reason the response is often a shocked (or mock-shocked) "well, that's all I wanted anyway," and then they never talk to you again.

I think an important thing to remember-- and I only figured this out recently-- is that if they never talk to you again, it is not because you were so awkward about the "just friends" thing that you mortally offended them forever. It is because when they said they hadn't been romantically interested in you in the first place, they were lying. The whole situation is the reverse of the you-can't-make-a-friend-fall-in-love-with-you issue: if a guy is only interested in you romantically, you can't make him want to be your friend with no romantic potential.

You mentioned subtlety and protecting egos. Awkwardly but bluntly laying the situation out for them (just friends!) does allow them to save face; it turns the awkwardness on you, because it allows them to imply that you're some narcissistic weirdo for thinking they were interested in the first place, but that's a sword I think you just have to be willing to fall on.
posted by posadnitsa at 8:21 AM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd add another thing to consider - don't say "I'm not dating anyone right now" to a guy who you wouldn't consider dating even if you were. Because then if you do become friends, you're going to one day (when you are ready to start dating again) have a friend who thinks you lied to him. Really, it's best never to blame circumstances unless those circumstances are 100% responsible for why you're not dating someone. People are astonishingly good at ignoring the signs that they're being let down easy.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:22 AM on September 20, 2010


You want to have friends but not dates, OK. Friendship should have some specific focus. What do you want to do with your friends? There are various options: join them for dinner (possibly cook dinner for them and eat dinner that they have cooked for you), watch movies together, go camping together, talk about books, talk about politics (etc.), gossip about coworkers, plot the downfall of the corrupt capitalist system, share fashion tips, and so forth. So, when you are getting started, tell them specifically what you have in mind, so there is no misunderstanding. I would like to get together with you to talk about books, are you interested?
posted by grizzled at 8:28 AM on September 20, 2010


When he asks you out, you can always ask "Do you mean like a date? Or like hanging out?"

Gaaaaaaaah. Please don't do this. It's rude, and puts the guy in an awkward situation, where he has to be upfront about his emotions toward somebody that he's (most likely) just met. If he really does want a "date," you're prompting him to make a comment that many would consider to be crass and offensive to women, and you'll come across as baiting the question.

Also consider that he might not actually know yet whether or not he wants to date you, or if he wants to leave the possibility of friendship open. You'll both likely know the answer to both of these questions after the first/second date, even if you don't directly talk about it. Non-romantic male/female friendships are pretty common these days.

And, guys: If a girl does ask you this, the best response is "I don't know just yet. You seem cool, and I'd like to get to you know you a bit more"
posted by schmod at 8:33 AM on September 20, 2010


Gaaaaaaaah. Please don't do this. It's rude, and puts the guy in an awkward situation [...] You'll both likely know the answer to both of these questions after the first/second date, even if you don't directly talk about it.

As a guy, when I ask a girl out on a date, I'd rather she be upfront if she isn't interested in dating me.

Otherwise you end up being this guy wondering why a girl is calling her boyfriend while she meets you in a bar.

Of course, I can implement this myself by being clear I'm asking someone on a date when I ask them on a date. IMHO if a guy doesn't use the words 'on a date' when asking someone out, he's got to expect that sometimes he'll find his date isn't a date.

As to the OP's question, if/when the guy contacts you to arrange a second date, I'd say to him "I feel I should be upfront with you, I'm not interested in you romantically. However, if you'd like to hang out as friends, I'd like that.
posted by Mike1024 at 8:53 AM on September 20, 2010


I know this will 90% likely sound too difficult/idealistic/"Conservative"/"Christian"/etc to taste.

However: friendship date.

The problem is the definition of "dating" not the defn. of "friendship".

Here's the super-short version:

1. Simple friendship - a casual relationship as you would have with anyone of either sex
2. Friendship dating - a bit more formal, non-exclusive relationship, in which the couple talk on the phone a couple times a week and see each other once a week
3. Exclusive friendship - an exclusive relationship in which the couple meet twice a week and speak on the phone often


And *here* is the relevant (longer) section linked to from the above.

No excuses made for the contraversial source of this advice. Either you are willing to consider an idea may be helpful, whatever the source, or not :D

This will take a lot more of a mindset / lifestyle adjustment but I think (and my experience has shown me) it is more fulfilling and less complex/messy overall.

Start acting according to this 1-2-3 model and the message will be clear, even if you don't have to spell it out.
posted by KMH at 9:09 AM on September 20, 2010


Start acting according to this 1-2-3 model and the message will be clear, even if you don't have to spell it out.

A woman who attempted to act according to this 1-2-3 model with me would be sending an extremely unclear message to me, and would definitely need to be spelled out.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:16 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're not everyone. I mean, I've established several friendships with women I've asked out, who either had relationships, just weren't looking for one (at the time, at least), didn't work out with me, etc. But this isn't always true.

Whoa, I never said it was ALWAYS true, I merely said what was true for me, and intimated that it wasn't impossible to maintain interest from guys by saying "I'm not dating right now" when she gets asked out on dates. There is not way of knowing how interested a guy is when he asks her out. Sure, some guys who are totally squirrelled up over her may not be interested in being friends, but my data point and your confirming data point hint at this strategy being able to produce friendships.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:26 AM on September 20, 2010


I have successfully used/am using the method posadnitsa mentions: "I'm not really dating right now, but hanging out and going to _________ sounds awesome" and then quickly moving into talking about the awesome hanging out thing, rather than stalling very long at the I don't want to date you thing. Simple, short, sweet, gets the point across--that it's not about him or not thinking he's cool, it's that you're just not dating. If he is in fact cool, he will get it and respect that and still probably want to hang out. If he's not so cool and just wants to hang out for the possibility of something other than what you are clearly delineating as possible, then you'll find that out even more quickly and be able to prevent yourself from wasting that time.

But talk about these things BEFORE you hang out at all, because otherwise it seems like it's a thinly-veiled rejection based on not having that much fun or not liking him. Just be up front, and it will set a better tone for everything and everyone.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2010


Hey, thanks for all the responses so far. All these perspectives are great, marking the answers that pointed out new ways of looking at the situation for me.

orthogonality, you're absolutely right, a guy has as much right to be uninterested in a friendship, as I am in a relationship... that's a risk I'll take.

I'm not opposed to dating in principle, but the last couple times, I've gotten pretty stressed/squeamish about even thinking about committing to see each other on a regular-ish basis (no matter how great they are). So maybe it's not a good idea for me after all. Also I know there's a "casual dating" gray area but I'm afraid that entering into this area means possibly never being friends, which is a drag especially if we have mutual friends or whatever.
posted by ista at 4:13 PM on September 20, 2010


Don't flirt. Some people are flirty by nature. It's kinda crap if a girl flirts cause that what she does and yet isn't interested. It goes both ways though, I've been in a few "Doesn't this car have an ejector seat"? moments because I was flirty for the sake of it when I really shouldn't have been.
posted by Biru at 4:41 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Do I have the wrong graphics c...   |  Does Google (or other search) ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.