Help me decide whether, and how, to man up with a shy friend I like-like with a significant age gap. Cue the snowflakes.
posted by hungry hippo to Human Relations (35 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
So I have this friend and he's an awesome person. Kind, generous, good listener, similar values, and I feel like a better person around him. He is also quite shy. I'm debating whether to tell him I like him as more than a friend, and I'm hoping you fine people will help me weigh the ins and outs. (I know there are existing questions related to mine but I feel mine has some mitigating factors so why not make a fresh start in asking.)
Before you comment, please know I am fully aware that I'm over-thinking and trying to predict the future. I just want to make a conscious, conscientious choice - so that means trying to think through all the different sides and potentials. I think my reasons for trying to think this through so much are very good, valid reasons. It isn't natural to me to think things through in this way, so it probably comes across like one of those girls who pictures marriage on a first date. If I don't look at these aspects - even if I look like a crazy fast-forwarder - I could make a poor decision. And that's where you come in, MeFites.
Sources of concern about confessing
* Maybe I'm misreading him.
He always responds to me and makes an effort to be around me in shared group activities. The last time I saw him he seemed to be fumbling on his words. Although I initiate much more, he initiates contact some - and it seems more than just friendly. On a particular website where we are connected, he has engaged me there more than any of my other friends over the last few months. Every time I invite our group to go do something he goes, or if he has a conflict, then he is clear about being eager to spend time together at a different time.
* I've been the pursuer before, in most of my relationships. (I'm a girl - and not too good at following gender roles, heh.) The last one where I was the pursuer made me feel resentful at being the one to initiate contact, sex, etc. about 95% of the time. Of course, in his case the lack of initiative seemed like laziness. In the case of this guy it seems more like shyness and innocence. But I already know there is a flavor of non-pursuer that irks me, and so I hesitate to risk the same patterns cropping up.
* He's about a decade older.
That doesn't bother me from a social perspective, and friends who'd judge aren't friends. He's a really awesome person, we've been friends for several months, and he could possibly be long-term material, but I want to be sure I think through the practical side of getting involved with a ten-year gap before I attempt to change our relationship.
For example, I might want kids and he's starting middle-age. I'll be able to have kids for about ten more years I think. Is it wise to pursue this from that standpoint? I'm not worried about the potential power imbalance in an age gap relationship because I don't think it applies here, nor am I worried about being treated like a child because I don't see that applying either. I'm not worried about the different cultural memories, because we were both pretty out of touch with all of that anyway. I am a little worried about differences in energy levels or the fact that he's known himself longer and is more established so I may look irresponsible by comparison in some respects.
* I don't want to mess up our social group.
Our shared group is tightly knit, and if we end up dating at some point they may find out, and if things go south I don't want the group to be weird for either of us. Also, things going south could make things difficult for either of us in another way, that I won't spell out for privacy, but let's just say it would be awkward city - and very publicly and obviously so.
*I don't want to hurt him.
My sense is that this guy doesn't have much relationship experience - at this point he is still too private about it for me to know for sure (another reason I think my sense is accurate). The last thing I want to do is try for something and then it looks like we aren't as compatible as I thought in the thick of Spring, and it ends. He's so cool... and if I'm reading the signals I think he is pretty into me too. So it would feel horrible in a worst-case scenario to know I was partly responsible for his heartache. And not just from the experience angle (though to me ending a relationship with a late bloomer is somehow worse than ending one with someone who's had many relationships) - I don't want to hurt him because he's an awesome person and doesn't deserve that.
Reasons I want to confess
* This is the first romantic interest I've had where I felt really stable about it and where I felt like being around the person made me my best self.
* There is something about his shyness that makes me feel really safe and that is a priority for me.
* I'm not sure how much more I can be around him feeling this way towards him without blurting it out or stealing a kiss or something. Plus, he's awesome and deserves to know someone is noticing.
1. Do you think I am reading the signals right?
2. I'm generally good at helping people feel comfortable, but is there anything else I can do to help my friend feel more at ease and less guarded about himself?
3. Asking shy guys (and others) for personal insight - If there is an existing friendship and fairly strong signals of romantic interest - would it put less pressure on a shy guy for a girl to ask him on "a date", or would it put less pressure on him for her to instead say something like she would not mind being kissed, leaving the labels and expectations of "dating" out of it? Also, would it be easier on a shy person to share this stuff in writing just before parting so they don't feel rushed to respond or would it be more appropriate to share when they could respond in the moment?
4. What are the practical considerations of a relationship between someone around 30 and someone around 40? How viable is it?
5. My interest in this person kind of caught me by surprise, and it is not so intense to make me feel crazy but I do think there is at least some portion of simple infatuation here. How can I make sure I make this decision based on the best interests of both parties, and not based on Spring fever?