How to deter an unspoken crush without cruelty?
February 13, 2012 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Awkward situation with male friend and obvious crush on me, though he will deny it up and down. What to do?

I am a woman with a male friend who clearly has a strong crush on me. There are many reasons why this is not so great: I am dating someone, he is married, he has multiple kids, I am not attracted to him and would not date him even if none of the above issues existed.

The guy is a good guy. He is tremendously helpful to everyone. He is well-meaning. He is going through an extremely tough period in his marriage right now (wife is having problems), and spends a lot of time talking to me about it and I know that does not help the situation. Because he is a good guy I feel bad about ignoring the sad texts. Recently I have been doing so more and more often as I get more and more uncomfortable. When I do reply it is along the lines of "That sucks," "Go to counseling," or "Be there for your kids." When I ignore him too long though he complains, and I do not know how to convey the message that I do not mind him as a polite acquaintance but am uncomfortable about his attention. Especially since before I was wise to the crush I assured him I was not.

We share a mutual hobby and without dropping it entirely I cannot completely avoid him, and due to other people in our hobby I need to stay polite (plus like I said, he is a good guy, no need to be a jerk to him). I avoid the few invites to other things he throws to me, so my sole interaction with him outside this hobby is when he texts me. Until now. Now he has started bringing his kids to see me at some of my performances (weird), even when it involves hours of driving (double weird). He invited himself to an activity I was doing with someone else from our hobby--he is good at this activity and would be a good instructor to me, but I am not interested because of the crush weirdness. I would have turned him down but he asked the other person first and I do not want to cause drama by telling the other person to disinvite him. He also helped fix my car once and now expects me to bring it to him whenever there are problems. I do not have a good reason to say no because everyone knows he does it for free and does a really good job, and if I stopped taking it to him he would raise questions with other people. I do not think he is actively trying to force himself on me, I think he is infatuated and in his head he has convinced himself he is just casually being nice and helpful.

He is a very protector-I-Am-Man type of guy and he is trying to take that role over me. I do not want it, he is married, I can take care of myself, and I am dating someone else. Who, by the way, is not thrilled about the attention but also has no good idea of how to deter the guy. Crush Guy has made a couple digs at my boyfriend (which I immediately berated him for doing) but otherwise has only said how much he respects our relationship, thinks we are great together, etc etc etc. Which always came off weird and disingenuous by the way, because those comments usually came out of the blue and nobody randomly says that when it is not an issue.

If Crush Guy was openly propositioning me it would be really easy, I would shoot him down, that would be that. But he has not actually admitted to the crush and never would. Instead I am getting the Nice Guy treatment and he still has plausible deniability. What do I say, "Friend, you are a good friend but everyone knows you have a crush on me, please cut it out"?

To make matters worse I have been thinking about ending my most current relationship for unrelated reasons, but one of the reasons I am balking because I do not want the awkwardness coming off this guy to get any worse. This is also why I do not want to use the "My boyfriend does not like us talking" card, because not only is that copping out but if I break up with the guy Crush Guy will think I am open season.
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse to Human Relations (58 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't put the onus on him, put it on yourself, but be firm. "Friend, I am very uncomfortable with the level of interaction we're having, given your problems in your marriage. I'm going to pull away for awhile, because I don't think that the amount of attention you pay to me is healthy for your marriage, and also, because I have no interest in you other than as a casual friend."
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


If he is really a good guy then honest will probably work. Tell him his behavior is making you uncomfortable, regardless of whether it's labeled as a "crush".
posted by ook at 6:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Leave the "crush" part out of it. Just tell him that you are uncomfortable with his actions and that while you are happy being acquaintances, you would like him to tone down the amount of attention he gives you.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:36 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


xingcat's phrasing is good. I might actually phrase it with less emphasis on his marriage, however, since you don't even need that excuse/reason: "Listen, Greg, this is difficult for me to say because I think you're a great guy, but the attention you have been paying me is making me uncomfortable. I don't think it's appropriate for the relationship we have. Although I am sympathetic about your marriage problems, I am uncomfortable getting text messages about them. I feel like your bringing your children to my performances is awkward. And your digs at my boyfriend, who I love very much, are unwelcome. I'd prefer you pull back and we continue this friendship as [members of X activity/club]. I need my space."

Don't mention the crush, just be very civil but blunt about needing your space.
posted by jayder at 6:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're busy. You're really, really busy. Too busy to text.
posted by stockpuppet at 6:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even though you might be, and probably are, right about him having an (inappropriate) crush on you, I wouldn't make this about the crush when you talk to him. Making it about the crush means you are talking about something which he is the expert on -- himself -- and which you will have a hard time persuasively gainsaying him on.

Instead, make it about your own comfort level and your own boundaries, because those are areas where you are the expert and he cannot -- without being a jerk -- gainsay you.

And -- while I am sure you are a capable person who is fully able to stand up for herself -- it might not be a bad idea to alert this third party with whom you have a hobby activity to what's going on or what your fears are, if you think you can trust them to reduce, rather than elevate, the level of drama. What you need is a wingman (or wingwoman) -- and this person might, or might not, be wingman material -- but for the opposite reason to why most people need a wingman. You need someone you can trust to helpfully, smoothly, gracefully head this guy off at the pass for a couple of months. You don't have to shit all over Mr. Helpful-but-Inappropriate, you can explain the situation candidly and put the guy in the best possible light for his actions. Unfortunately the best possible light is that he has virtually no self-awareness around you, but that's not your fault.

You are doing everybody a favor by having good boundaries and dealing with this appropriately. Remember that.
posted by gauche at 6:41 AM on February 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Also, one thing- you seem hung up on the fact that he's a good person. But he's married, and actively pursuing a crush. He may be a helpful guy, but that's pretty jerkish. Insulting someone's boyfriend is always jerkish. Dont feel so bad about hurting his feelings that you can't say no- he's not a perfect angel, and it will help to remember that. And sometimes we have to be cruel to be kind.
posted by stockpuppet at 6:54 AM on February 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


"Crush guy, I am sorry. I really don't think I can help you with your relationship problems. I wish you luck with them, but talking about it with you makes me feel very awkward. So, in the future, I'd just like to keep things between us light and friendly."

It's establishing a boundary. It's not wrong to do so. And you can't avoid it being awkward completely. It's already awkward...except right now it's only awkward to you. He should know how it makes you feel so he can stop doing it.
posted by inturnaround at 7:00 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, you need to be up front and firm with this guy because he apparently doesn't take hints very well and has already escalated this well beyond your comfort level. I like jayder's line above, which lays it all out on the line, honestly and unapologetically.

Besides that, ignore the texts and the guilt trips. You owe this person nothing.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:04 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've seen this before. Women get worried they will be labeled as a bitch or come off as horrible people if they make their wishes known. And it is true. But at the same time, you will get used to how to do it best, and you will gain respect. Shut this guy down, end of story. You don't need to be nice to everyone you meet, let everyone in, and be afraid to have someone think anything less but overwhelming adoration of you. These guys don't take subtle hints, they take any opening as an opportunity and think that signals some kind of latent interest. Shut him down. "Mr. Nice guy, I need you to dial it way back. I can't really help you with your situation and I don't mean to be rude, but sorry."

That's it. When he tries to rope you in emotionally, don't even contemplate whatever he is going on about. If he is driving hours to see you, and you want nothing to do with the guy, shut him down. He's gonna be butthurt and weird for a while, but he will get over it, and hopefully leave you alone. Don't try to be that nice person who questions herself and presumes herself to be a meanie because she won't talk to the married guy who is trying to get with her. You're not mean. Shut him down and stop interacting with him. Firm.
posted by cashman at 7:14 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


He's not a nice guy, he's married but using his kids as an excuse to go check out his crush, that is not something a nice guy does. A nice guy doesn't make mean comments about someones SO. A nice guy doesn't bitch about his wife to people who are supposed to be acquaintances. A nice guy takes the hint that you are not interested in texting when you don't answer and a nice guy wouldn't complain if you didn't answer anyway. A nice guy wouldn't make you so uncomfortable

He may be a nice guy to other people and may do nice things, he is not being nice to you (or his wife and kids) anymore you owe him nothing but a polite but firm I am uncomfortable please stop doing these things. If he doesn't stop when asked politely he has left nice guy territory far behind and you I would also maybe casually bring it up in the hobby/group situation what he is doing so that he is doing these things, you don't have to be bitch just sort of conversationally. Right now he thinks he is being sneaky ninja about his crush on you and getting off on it being all secret and exciting, if other people know and start seeing it for what it is (creepy) he might get a reality check.
posted by wwax at 7:15 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Too late - way past the point of boundry-setting. You allowed him to help you fix you car, a guy who is already inclined to be "protective" over you. He will have his own comebacks of your encouragement of his behavior. Where there's smoke, there's fire.

And, he already knows you're not interested in him.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:19 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


With regard to this:

He also helped fix my car once and now expects me to bring it to him whenever there are problems. I do not have a good reason to say no because everyone knows he does it for free and does a really good job, and if I stopped taking it to him he would raise questions with other people.

You have a perfectly valid reason to say no. You want to do business with a mechanic you've chosen, who happens to not be Crush Guy. Factors in your decision to go with a different mechanic could include:

1. You prefer not to do business with friends: it's much easier to go back to someone you've paid to do work and say, "I'm not satisfied with the work you did; let's talk about how to fix it," than it is to go back to a friend who did the work for free.
2. The new mechanic has a ton of experience and does high quality work.
3. The new mechanic is conveniently located near your home or office.
4. The new mechanic is available whenever you need repairs, can give you a loaner car, etc.
5. You don't want to be further involved with Crush Guy because he's already making you uncomfortable enough.

Note that none of these need to be articulated to anyone. If Crush Guy asks, you say, "I really appreciated the work you did, but I'm happy with New Mechanic. Thanks." If anyone else asks, you say, "Why does it matter to you who repairs my car?" What kind of person would butt in on something as mundane and totally not their business as who repairs your car?

If it makes you feel more comfortable to be able to give a short explanation, that's fine--just be aware that Crush Guy will see such explanations as challenges to overcome ("Oh, he's really experienced with your type of car? Well so am I: problem solved, bring your car to me...").
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:30 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


So this "nice guy" berates your boyfriend, tries to flirt with you while his wife (and marriage) are having problems, etc? He's not a nice guy, he's a Nice Guy (TM). And Nice Guy(tm)s are really assholes who get off on everyone's perception of them.

Xingcat's verbiage is probably too nice.
posted by notsnot at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


When I ignore him too long though he complains

This is a good opportunity to be like "Hey you have a wife and I have a boyfriend. You are making me uncomfortable with this assertion that I owe you something. I am sorry you are having a difficult time but I am becoming uncomfortable with your increasing attention. You need to dial it back, no more texting. I'll see you at the next hobby meeting." and then go into what I call "robot mode" where you just repeat some variation of this, do not engage with some relationship-style discussion about your "relationship" because, honestly, friends do not have those sorts of discussions. I know it's tough because you're at a point in your own relationship where it might be nice to have a supportive friend but this guy is pushing your buttons and is not the right person to be your friend right now.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 AM on February 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


Too late - way past the point of boundry-setting. You allowed him to help you fix you car, a guy who is already inclined to be "protective" over you. He will have his own comebacks of your encouragement of his behavior. Where there's smoke, there's fire.

This is my main concern. I have already been a sympathetic ear to his problems, and as I said, when I was still in denial about the crush thing and feeling bad for him I told him it was totally OK for him to talk to me about the marital issues. Now I'm kicking myself for not shutting him down right then. If I've already been the confidant how can I claim that I'm not comfortable with it now?

---

He's not a nice guy, he's a Nice Guy (TM). And Nice Guy(tm)s are really assholes who get off on everyone's perception of them.

This is a good point though. Maybe I say the situation has changed?
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2012


Maybe I say the situation has changed?

It's totally okay just to say that you've changed. "I am not longer comfortable with this" is totally an okay thing to say and anyone who pushes back on that is pretty much not respecting your boundaries. Letting a guy fix your car once doesn't mean you have to listen to him detailing his crumbling marriage forever.
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 AM on February 13, 2012 [22 favorites]


Mmn, I like jessamyn's advice except for the confrontation up front (for me, conversations like that, eek). Can't you just freeze him out and carry on? Do a chill smile, non-committal answers, no replies to non-in-person communications, professional demeanor, robot mode. It might take a little longer than with an in-his-face confrontation -- like 2 weeks longer -- but he's already got the message like Kruger5 said. He's just trying to move in because he senses you are wavering right now. Shut down.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is one case where I think you'd be perfectly justified in doing the ignore/slow-fade routine. Just stop responding. Act coolly towards him when he shows up. You aren't responsible for him or explaining to him.
posted by yarly at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I was still in denial about the crush thing and feeling bad for him I told him it was totally OK for him to talk to me about the marital issues. Now I'm kicking myself for not shutting him down right then. If I've already been the confidant how can I claim that I'm not comfortable with it now?"

I know I said you could confide in me, but I'm no longer comfortable with that. It's becoming awkward for me at [hobby]. I also don't think it's helping your marriage, and I like your wife.

"But who will I taaaaaaalk to?"

I suggest you get counseling, but I can't discuss this with you any more.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


If he wants to work things out in his marriage, he is being destructive to it by using you as an outlet for his problems with her. This can be part of your advice when he next complains. Then you can actually claim to be being helpful to him when you refuse to participate in that interaction.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:32 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can't read minds. I'd start with the assumption you have no idea what this guy is thinking.

Instead of focusing on what his motivations are, focus on the behavior. Tell him that you need space.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:35 AM on February 13, 2012


Perennial Gift of Fear recommendation. I'm not saying this guy is going to escalate into an all-out wacko, but it sounds like you may need some help figuring out which "favors" are truly that and which are what I've heard termed "giving to take." He is not a nice guy, as others have already said.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:40 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I've already been the confidant how can I claim that I'm not comfortable with it now?

Well, you're not comfortable with it now. That's ok. You felt one way, now you feel another. There's nothing wrong with that.

The guy is in a troubled relationship and is bringing his kids on hours-long roadtrips to see you perform, when you didn't even invite him. Don't ignore your response to that. NiceGuy(tm) has taken advantage of your friendly sympathy for his situation by using it (and his kids) to betray his wife and keep you on a guilt-leash.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with you saying "my feelings about this situation have changed and I'm no longer comfortable being your confidant. Good luck with your wife and family."
posted by headnsouth at 8:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Friend, you are a good friend but everyone knows you have a crush on me, please cut it out"

I'm sorry, but this sounds so self-involved to me. I think it's because any crush he has on you is not really about you, but probably more about his deteriorating circumstances. Perhaps he is looking for a life ring and you're throwing it to him. When you think about it on those terms, it might be easier to talk about what's bothering you and suggest that he knock some of it off.
posted by amodelcitizen at 8:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The guy is a good guy

He does not sound very good to me. He sounds like he's trying to angle you into a relationship-of-obligation that you don't want.

Put up a clear boundary (or several) back where you'd be comfortable with his behavior. It should be some retreat from where he is now; you're uncomfortable with his current behavior.

Pay attention to whether he respects those boundaries.
posted by ead at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2012


It's unfortunate that some of us are raised to be nice rather than to be clear.

First off, you won't get anywhere telling him how he feels. He's so compartmentalized right now that he can not and will not respond with anything but humiliation and, perhaps, knee-jerk anger and generalized shittiness toward you. Don't tell him how he feels. Tell him how you feel and then follow up with clear, unequivocal, appropriate actions. You have to tell him where the rubber meets the road and refuse to engage in bargaining, "Well, if I promise to [x], will you give me another chance at [y]?" conversations with him.

To wit:

- "It makes me feel uncomfortable when you text me. I am not going to respond to your text messages anymore because they're inappropriate and cross a line with me."

- "It makes me really uncomfortable and angry when you show up unannounced at my performances, particularly with your children in tow. This is totally unacceptable and from this point forward I am going to leave word with the (house, box office, door) staff that you are not to be permitted to the venue." (Avoid pointing out to him that this is kind of sick behavior. It will only backfire on you because, again, he's desperately got to convince himself that he's just interested in you as a friend, not trying to sculpt you into his next perfect dream wife, or something, and using his kids to this rather deluded end.)

- "It really made me angry when you ran down my boyfriend. I don't trust you as a friend anymore because of that and I don't plan to have further discussions about personal issues with you."

- "I feel prevailed upon to behave with a level of intimacy that is just not appropriate for a strictly platonic relationship. Because of this, I will be seeking training in (shared hobby) elsewhere."

- "I'm no longer comfortable discussing your marriage with you. I will not engage in further discussion about it and I encourage you to talk to someone who is in a position to help."

Best still:

- "I don't like how our relationship makes me feel anymore. It feels inappropriate and potentially damaging to everyone involved. For this reason, I no longer wish to hang out as friends. Do not call, text or e-mail me, and do not come to my performances. Respect my boundaries and leave me alone."

Be clear, be firm, and be resolute. Anything else is going to be interpreted by him in his currently addled, porous-boundaried head as either a tacit invitation or a potential opening that he can take advantage of once you've "calmed down" and perhaps need some sort of home repair he can gallop over on his white steed and vanquish for you. Sure, he may get pissed off and feel bad. That's what you open yourself up to when you indulge in extra-marital dalliances that blur the lines between sexual conquest and platonic interest.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've learned the hard way that slow fades and noncommittal responses don't work with this type of person. This guy is looking for plausible deniability, and he'll take it wherever he can find it. That's why you have to be very clear in describing the kind of behavior you won't accept.

I think an email is a good medium. It gives you time to express yourself as you would like, without him challenging you on the spot. Also, you want a written record of this communication, and you want him to know that you have a written record.
posted by Mila at 10:02 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I might be unique in this, but I don't know that this is necessarily signs of a crush. What I see this as are signs of, as amodelcitizen says, looking for a lifering. People having marital difficulties or contemplating divorce are occasionally very, very clingy. If they've been married for a long time, it's possible that he may not have a lot of close friends that are not also friends with her. The concept of talking to someone that he can be honest with might be incredibly attractive-more so than the actual idea of being with you romantically. He may be attempting to do things for you-going to your performances, helping you with your car-just because he wants to spend time around another human being.

Now this doesn't mean that you shouldn't feel okay in setting boundaries-you absolutely should!

But some questions.

If you knew for certain that he were not romantically interested in you-or if this were a woman doing this-would you be comfortable with the level of interaction you're having? I.e. talking about the marital difficulties, the help, etc?

If so, then I think you should talk about the crush aspect: "I'd like to talk and hang out and help with you, but I've started to feel like you're romantically interested in me, and that is not okay in any way."

If not, then yeah, definitely kill the friendship.

Also, what precisely "put you wise" to the crush?
posted by corb at 10:22 AM on February 13, 2012


I like gauche's suggestion above about finding a wingman in your activity group to help ease a barrier between Crush Guy and you. I also think with my YMMV level of paranoia that it Wingman/woman may prove helpful as a witness to YOUR side of the story if Crush Guy takes the gentle "back off" poorly. Because he sounds like a Nice Guy, not a nice person, and Nice Guys & their female equivalent revel in drama. You share a small social circle with him; some details of the awkwardness between you two are going to trickle out eventually. You can let the diplomatic, drama-crushing version ease out first. You don't want the first time your friends hear anything about this to be Crush Guy coming out with "Nonny Mouse was trying to break up my marriage / was leading me on / hates my kids / selfishly thought I was hitting on her / is so meeeeeeaaaan!" and suddenly you're playing He Said She Said after the fact.

This is why it's a dick move when Nice Guys raid their friend circles for female targets, because they can use those same circles as a weapon and women know it, and often end up tying themselves in knots to avoid confrontation and appearing meeeeeeeaaaan. On the other hand, this is totally nobody else's business, so I dunno. Use Wingman for gauche's reasons above!
posted by nicebookrack at 10:24 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since when is it anyone's business except your own whom you decide to use as a mechanic? This is all about boundaries. Set some!

An ounce of temporary awkward is worth a pound of permanently letting people make you uncomfortable, or something like that. Good luck.
posted by cyndigo at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2012


I wouldn't start with a blanket statement about the attention he's giving you. I'd comment on individual things -- as in the examples Tilapia gives above. The phrase "I feel uncomfortable" is not up for discussion. If he says "You shouldn't feel that way," ignore it or tell him you disagree.

Try to be ready to stay silent rather than countering his objections. It also helps to repeat your basic statement: "Please don't come to my performances." " I'd rather not talk or text about your relationship with your wife." Repeat it as often as you have to.

He may protest that it's been fine up to now, and why are you making a sudden change? Respond that you've been uncomfortable up until now, but you put off talking about it because you didn't want to argue, or you weren't sure he would understand.
posted by wryly at 10:31 AM on February 13, 2012


Sorry to thread-sit but wanted to clarify some things on the "crush" aspect.

I wish it was just self-involvement on my part. I saw that he was giving me extra attention and venting the marital issues and stuff, but did not think it was an issue because I saw him as a very upstanding guy. I think I also was flattering myself that I was a good listener. I admit a fault of mine is that I like to feel needed by others and it probably led to me ignoring warning signs that should have told me to back off.

My boyfriend began to be concerned very early on. Other people from our hobby group began to independently make comments or jokes to me and my boyfriend about his behavior, from "[Crush Guy] has a thing for your girl" to "[Crush Guy] sure has been talking a lot about you recently." That was a big red flag. Crush Guy also does things like respond to every post on my Facebook wall and posts I make on the Facebook walls of others (even if he does not know them). Frequently if someone says something remotely critical of me on Facebook or disagrees with me in a perfectly normal, polite way over the course of a discussion, even when the criticism or disagreement is warranted he will come to my defense in an incredibly public, vehement, and kind of embarrassing way. Sometimes in the course of online discussions about our hobby he will out-of-the-blue start using me as an example of how to do one thing or another, tagging my name to get my attention, even when I am not very good at that thing.

In the past if we have disagreed about a tactic or technique I use for our hobby, he has started public online discussions about said technique under the guise of asking for advice for a "friend" to try to get more backing to get me to fix my methods. He has never done this for anyone else. This is the case for a lot of disagreements. Even after I say I do not want to discuss things any longer he will keep pushing the issue because he says he is trying to help me and make sure I do things correctly. It feels to me there is a whole I-Am-Alpha-Male-Protector-Of-Hey-Nonny-Nonny-Mouse fantasy going on in his head where he needs to defend me from other people and teach me the correct way to do everything. He is more skilled than me in many things but not everything, and while I appreciate the advice and his defense of me is well-meaning it sometimes feels overwhelming and somewhat oppressive and unrelenting.

His first interactions like me were not like this. Everything has been escalating and I have been trying publicly to pretend nothing is happening or weird. I have been trying to pull back and drop hints without making a big deal of it and still being sensitive to his current tumultuous life situation. Now that I am uncomfortable I feel I have dug myself into a hole.
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse at 11:46 AM on February 13, 2012


What I am saying is he has not exactly been subtle. I spent my performance hoping his teenage kid was not old enough to see what was going on because he loves his dad. It was very awkward.
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse at 11:52 AM on February 13, 2012


Stop being sensitive to his current life situation. His current life situation is not your problem. What is your problem is that he honors exactly zero of your boundaries and you are not being firm enough with him in rejecting that kind of behavior.

Sounds to me like this guy is very conservative in his thinking about women. Put another way, he thinks in a pretty paternalistic way. What this means is that your thoughts, feelings, wants, desires, needs just do not compute. You are what he wants you to be - pretty, young, perfect, fantasy, dream girl that he gets to fantasize and obsess over, rather than who you are, which is a woman with whom he's casually acquainted who would really rather he just worked on his marriage and stopped being creepy. You are being too nice to him. You need to tell him to buzz off, that his behavior is totally inappropriate, embarrassing, unwelcome and intolerable. You can do this without screaming or losing your cool or having a scene. You can do this privately, without embarrassing yourself or him.

You can walk up to him the next time you see him and say, "Terry? Can I have a moment of your time? Thanks." **go to private but not secluded area** "Yeah, you know how you were just talking about me with [group of people who now have raised eyebrows about said talking]? That makes me really uncomfortable and I really need you to know and understand that. Now, this is coming on the heels of many things which have made me uncomfortable but which I've been ignoring until now to avoid hurting your feelings. But I can't ignore those things anymore. Specific examples of things I'm talking about? Well, sure. For one, I felt that it was inappropriate for you to drive hours to see my show and bring your son. It's inappropriate to text me as frequently as you do with the sort of intimate tone you use. It's inappropriate to comment on everything on my Facebook wall as if we are extremely close. It's inappropriate to share the sorts of confidences about your wife that you've shared and I now feel embarrassed knowing what I know about her. Let me be clear - we are not intimate friends, Terry. We are not in a romantic relationship. I'm sorry to say this, but I am beginning to feel unsafe around you, which I am sure is not your intention. But it is how all of your attention is making me feel. Don't text me anymore; I'm not going to respond. Don't call me or rush to repair things of mine or correct my [hobby] technique anymore, because all of those things feel invasive to me. Respect my boundaries and leave me alone."

And then walk away. This will be a very uncomfortable situation and he is going to talk over you and be a pain in the ass because he wants what he wants, and doesn't really get that this is the exact opposite of what you want or need. Nor does he care, frankly. That is why you will need to repeat yourself, stay calm, stay on message, keep it brief, and simply walk away when you are done. You will need to stick to your word and not engage him anymore.

Frankly, in my opinion, and I am a bit biased because of my own history, but if this guy weren't married with a teenage son, which situation presumably makes him accountable to someone about his whereabouts most of the time, I would expect him to be full-on stalking you at this point.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:13 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, this guy sounds like a major creep and weirdo and not a nice guy at all. "Nice guys" do not do the sorts of things you describe in the following paragraph; controlling, manipulative, and insecure guys use a veneer of surface niceness to entrap women like you in their webs. You need to protect yourself. This guy, in your own words, is "escalating" this stuff and it really seems like, if you don't kill his behavior now, it could get very ugly and scary.

This is weird, creepy stuff. The hours of driving with his teen child to see you? Yeah, this is pretty strange, and I think you should be pretty decisive and unapologetic in shutting it down. This is way past the point of you needing to worry about his feelings.

In the past if we have disagreed about a tactic or technique I use for our hobby, he has started public online discussions about said technique under the guise of asking for advice for a "friend" to try to get more backing to get me to fix my methods. He has never done this for anyone else. This is the case for a lot of disagreements. Even after I say I do not want to discuss things any longer he will keep pushing the issue because he says he is trying to help me and make sure I do things correctly. It feels to me there is a whole I-Am-Alpha-Male-Protector-Of-Hey-Nonny-Nonny-Mouse fantasy going on in his head where he needs to defend me from other people and teach me the correct way to do everything. He is more skilled than me in many things but not everything, and while I appreciate the advice and his defense of me is well-meaning it sometimes feels overwhelming and somewhat oppressive and unrelenting.
posted by jayder at 12:48 PM on February 13, 2012


Oh yeah, and I heartily second Try the Tilapia's comment -- even if he's not stalking you, he is engaging in stalker-like behavior and has a stalker-like mentality.
posted by jayder at 12:50 PM on February 13, 2012


Everything has been escalating and I have been trying publicly to pretend nothing is happening or weird. I have been trying to pull back and drop hints without making a big deal of it and still being sensitive to his current tumultuous life situation. Now that I am uncomfortable I feel I have dug myself into a hole.

You haven't dug yourself into a hole. Don't feel embarrassed or guilty for not speaking up sooner, because that will undermine your ability to speak up now, and it is important that you speak up. You have every right to tell this guy that he's making you uncomfortable. Full stop. End of story.

Did you put up with it before? Doesn't matter. Are you being unreasonable? Doesn't matter. Do you owe him an explanation? No. Is it okay if he just does this one thing like post on your facebook wall, or text you between the hours of 5pm and 9pm on weeknights? No, it's not. Because you say so, that's why. Please. Stop. You can be polite and pleasant at hobby group, but that's about all.

I continue to think it would be a good idea to take someone you trust at hobby group into your confidence about this. If there's nobody at hobby group who will be sympathetic to a young(?) woman feeling like a man is being overbearing, you're in a hobby group filled with awful awful people. I bet you aren't.* I bet there are people there who will have your back on this one.

You also have every right to de-friend him on facebook if you want to. If you don't want to go that far, you can look into setting up some privacy settings around what he can see and do on your facebook profile. This is the part that sounds particularly creepy to me, to be honest.

Best case, he's genuinely clueless and you're doing him a favor by giving him some valuable feedback about appropriate behavior with acquaintances. I don't think we're in best-case-scenario-ville, though. I think we're more in nascent-to-outright-creepertown.

Note: This statement brought to you by male privilege. Your mileage may vary.
posted by gauche at 12:57 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think he's stalking you. Really, he has to post EVERY SINGLE EFFING TIME you do on Facebook and drive for hours to see you and always, always be pestering you? EEESH.

Honestly, I think you need to get the hell away from him, block him online, etc.. And I am going to specifically say to drop out of hobby group or anything else you would see him at. Yes, I know you don't want to, yes, I know it sucks that you have to suffer and lose the group because of his stupid crush. But you need to get the hell away from this guy. Anything of you is fueling his crush, and while yeah, he hasn't gotten violent yet and theoretically has a lot to lose if he comes out of the crush closet, I get worried at guys who don't care what you want and keep on coming. Hell, that's how I define creepy these days. He is all over you like white on rice in all but physicality right now, and at some point I bet he would make a move, married with kids or not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I should probably clarify the dropping out of group thing as something that really has worked for me when it comes to crush situations like this. I know it sucks, but I felt like I was fueling his fire just by existing in the dude's presence, and that was even before Facebook where he can fill up on you all day and night long to boot. Stop giving him opportunities to see and talk to you. Cut him off from his drug.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2012


Now that I am uncomfortable I feel I have dug myself into a hole.

Just wanted to say this is not your fault and you didn't do anything wrong. You tried to be there for him as a listener and you tried to give him the benefit of the doubt before he started acting really freakish. You acted in a perfectly normal and kind way towards him. His behavior wasn't a reasonable response to your actions. His behavior wasn't some kind of given that you should have expected based on your actions. You didn't dig a hole, HE was the one responded to your normal and kind behavior by digging the hole of freakishness. HE was the one who escalated all of this.

I am worried that you feel bad being very blunt and firm with him because you feel as if you led him on in some way. In my opinion, you didn't do that at all.
posted by cairdeas at 1:11 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


If I've already been the confidant how can I claim that I'm not comfortable with it now?

First of all, you don't need any excuses or justifications to not be comfortable with something and not want to do it. It is okay for you to just say so and not apologize for it.

The other thing is that this isn't what you "signed up for," so to speak. You thought you were going to be an occasional kind ear. Not... whatever this is now. You can tell him you weren't expecting this when you told him you were okay with being the confidant, it's way more than you can handle, and you're not longer comfortable with it now.
posted by cairdeas at 1:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now that I am uncomfortable I feel I have dug myself into a hole.

I agree with all the others. You DID NOT dig yourself into a hole. People like this guy, with the nice guy routine, the just-wanting-to-help routine, are masters at slowly raising the temperature of a relationship to the point that, when you finally realize something is off, or doesn't feel right, you feel like you have gone to far to stop. They have intentionally engineered the situation to make you feel this way. I'm not saying the guy is a criminal or sociopath, but what he's doing is he same thing that child molesters and other abusers do, to maneuver a victim into a position for maximum exploitation. They try to create a situation in which the victim feels partly at fault, embarrassed to reach out for help, etc.

You always have the right to terminate interactions that make you feel uncomfortable. You don't have to apologize for it.
posted by jayder at 1:19 PM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh honey! I just wanted to say that in your shoes I'd probably have done exactly the same thing and felt just as bad and dumb about it. Listen to these wise people here, you can bow out any time because it makes you feel uncomfortable. You haven't signed away anything.
You're a decent and wise person for recognising your feelings and deciding to draw boundaries.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:28 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


How to deter an unspoken crush without cruelty?

If you are serious about the "without cruelty" part, I would encourage you take advice like "[t]hey have intentionally engineered the situation to make you feel this way" with several grains of salt. You know this person better than any of us do, so don't start treating him like a child molester just because some schmo on internet says so.
posted by Dano St at 1:52 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, Dano St's point is well-taken, and I do not mean to suggest you treat the guy like a child molester. It was just your statement that "it sometimes feels overwhelming and ... oppressive and unrelenting" that got be making that comparison, and that makes me think you should be regarding your safety here.
posted by jayder at 2:07 PM on February 13, 2012


If you are serious about the "without cruelty" part, I would encourage you take advice like "[t]hey have intentionally engineered the situation to make you feel this way" with several grains of salt.

That doesn't follow. It's possible to treat this man without cruelty and still seem him as acting deliberately. It's possible to treat him without cruelty and NOT see him as acting deliberately.

Also, no matter what his intentions or motivations are, it's not cruel to express discomfort. It's not uncruel to express unwillingness to do something you don't want to do. It's not cruel to tell someone that their actions are seriously bothering you. It's not cruel to tell a person that they need to stop doing something that bothers you.
posted by cairdeas at 2:28 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


[derail gets nipped in the bud now here folks. Additional off topic comments need to go to email. Please make comments answers to the OP, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2012


I have dated a few girls in my time. There were those who were like you. Too kind. Couldn't be firm. Let guys continue flirting with them even though they didn't like it. It made us both uncomfortable. I have also dated girls who don't have this problem. Simply put: they don't put up with that shit. They are clear, forward, and blunt. They are kind but firm. It is much nicer to be in a relationship with a woman who has that strength. I urge you to find that strength. With all due respect, while you seem to view yourself as a sort of strong woman who is just respecting his feelings, you are actually acting weak and being unfair to both yourself and your boyfriend.
posted by jjmoney at 2:40 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


As a lapsed serial Crush Guy who is working through his own I'm Such a Nice Guy issues, I urge you take the advice of the many who have said, back away, no excuses needed, set your boundaries clearly and firmly, and brook no overstepping. I hope you can find the strength to do it for yourself. Crush Guy has real problems but you are not one of them and you have not caused them.

It might seem hard to believe that you can speak to someone in the way that has been mentioned in this thread, but nobody has posted anything that would be inappropriate for you to say to him face to face and expect yourself to be heard and respected. (I say that only because I think I detect some hesitancy in your part -- if I'm wrong, just ignore the above, or, that is, you know it already.)

Best of luck.
posted by Infinity_8 at 3:09 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Crush Guy also does things like respond to every post on my Facebook wall and posts I make on the Facebook walls of others (even if he does not know them).

In addition to setting boundaries verbally, you should feel free at the very least to adjust your FB privacy settings so that he can't keep doing this.
posted by scody at 3:56 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You don't need to believe he's malicious, or a master manipulator, or otherwise be acting intentionally in order for it to be appropriate for you to reduce your contact with him. It's possible for someone to both behave badly and be totally clueless about it. It's not cruel to call someone out for bad behavior, and the sooner you believe that the better your life will be.

Moreover, your having said you'd listen to him vent about his troubles does not commit you to listening forever. Even with non-crush situations, being someone's go-to confidant when he needs to vent is draining, and it's totally fine to say, "You know what? I thought I could handle this, but I can't. I can't offer any better advice than I already have, and I don't have the energy to be the person you vent to."
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now he has started bringing his kids to see me at some of my performances (weird), even when it involves hours of driving (double weird). He invited himself to an activity I was doing with someone else from our hobby--he is good at this activity and would be a good instructor to me, but I am not interested because of the crush weirdness. I would have turned him down but he asked the other person first and I do not want to cause drama by telling the other person to disinvite him. He also helped fix my car once and now expects me to bring it to him whenever there are problems. I do not have a good reason to say no because everyone knows he does it for free and does a really good job, and if I stopped taking it to him he would raise questions with other people.

Weird, weird, presumptuous, controlling.

You've gotta stop letting this guy or anyone else set your standards for you. It's not jerky behavior to NOT let someone into your life in ways you find uncomfortable.
posted by desuetude at 11:09 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


OP, lots of excellent advice here; I'll just add my perspective: you don't have to smarten up every asshole. It's not mandatory that you confront the behavior. It's not your obligation. You most likely will not "talk sense" into this person, don't bother unless it's someone you really care about. Just seriously and unequivocally and obviously move away from it.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:13 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Boundaries help people deal with what is real, help people to not be 'led on.' It is kinder to have good boundaries.
Deflect to the appropriate place:
-Friend, I'm so worried about you and your marriage. When are you seeing the counselor?
-Friend, I know this is really a difficult time. How are your children?
Yes, Friend, that sounds sad/painful/unpleasant, how is your wife coping?

-Enforce with humor:
-Hey, Friend, you know I'm Cuh-raaazy about my BF, let's leave him out of this.
-Dude, you traveled 2 hours to come to my event? Such loyalty is charming, but you know I'm taken, right? Right???

Enforce with kindness and firmness:
-Friend, I have compassion for your troubles, but I can't spend this much time on *your* relationship. That steals time from *my* relationship. Thanks for understanding.
-I know you'd like me to text/phone/email/chat more, but I think maybe you should be spending this energy on your family. I certainly need to spend my energy on my sweetie and my family. If it's really bad, you should be getting more professional help than I can give.

You have been a good friend. You do not need to respond to his needs. Ignoring his needs that are over the line is appropriate. This is not bitchy, mean, etc.
posted by theora55 at 9:38 AM on February 14, 2012


A follow up. After all this excellent advice I told him I had become very uncomfortable with our interactions and it was better if we backed off. He responded with a few more days of text argument (and I responded to nothing after my "I am uncomfortable" message) and then relented.

Until tonight, when I got three (!) hours of barrage through calling, texting, and Facebook where he begged me to contact him. I finally sent him a message to inform him I was with my boyfriend and it was late. He told me he was only doing this because it was important. Maybe he was honestly going through some sort of crisis? I asked him what was up, and that whole mess was because he wanted to know what was going on with "us", he needed me, I made him a better man, he had no one else, what had gone wrong. Wow. My reply was not as polite at this point. He should be leaving me alone now.
posted by Hey nonny nonny mouse at 11:09 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


He should be leaving me alone now.

I certainly hope he does. However, on the (not entirely remote) possibility that he continues to harass you -- and it is harassment; you need to recognize it and name it for what it is -- please follow the advice in this thread to read The Gift of Fear and to take more serious steps to protect yourself. If he continues to contact you once you've told him in no uncertain terms to leave you alone, he's entered into stalking territory.

Again, I really hope this is indeed the end of the story, but I think you have to be prepared in the event that it's not. Good luck.
posted by scody at 11:24 PM on February 25, 2012


Wow. My reply was not as polite at this point. He should be leaving me alone now.

Good for you.

If he doesn't leave you alone after this, please seek out help. I am worried for you, he sounds so incredibly entitled to your attention and so disrespectful.

Nthing the Gift of Fear, I have a copy I'd be happy to send you if you don't have access to one.
posted by cairdeas at 12:38 AM on February 26, 2012


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