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I ought to be... flattered?
May 20, 2012 6:48 PM   Subscribe

She (possibly) likes me. I don't. Now what?

So there's this girl that I was in the same class in last semester, and we got along pretty well. We exchanged insider-jokey messages on each other's Facebook walls that others didn't understand, chatted during class and so on. For someone like her, this was a rare level of engagement with someone from the same school, since other people found her intelligence intimidating.

One time when I was very tipsy we had a very long talk about many things, one of which was whether I had ever dated before. I made it clear (I think) that I would not date anyone within the same school, since it was a small school and I didn't want the accompanying drama of a relationship and a break-up to take place within school.

Over this semester break, she asked me out for dinner, together with a few of our mutual friends. Our mutual friends left early and left us alone, where we had another long talk. At the end of it, when we parted ways she surprised me by giving me a hug (this is coming from a culture that doesn't hug others freely). I hugged her in return, but that was the first serious sign that she possibly liked me.

We went for a film a few weeks after that with the same group of mutual friends, and again our friends left earlier. I had somewhere else to go, but she requested that I accompany her for a little while longer. We got desserts, and when we sat down she could have picked the bench opposite mine, but chose to sit next to me, and in close proximity (literally right next-to-you proximity). When I left, she looked so forlorn that I gave her a hug spontaneously (I know, I know, shouldn't have done that).

Other than the incidents above, there have been hints dropped along the way that she wanted something more than a friendship, although there has been nothing overt. My friends who know of her (although not personally) confirm this suspicion of mine.

Problem
I don't like her that way. I like her as a friend, but not romantically. I feel like I have been stringing her along by returning her hugs and allowing her to sit next to me, and by going out with her at all. But at the same time I am one of very few people in school that she actually knows and trusts, and I don't want to push her away.

Questions
1) Have I been a complete asshole/douchebag towards her?
2) I need to know how to let her down gently but unequivocally, that I don't see her that way.
3) Also, I need to know how to do this without embarrassing either of us, especially since she hasn't actually said anything overt.

Throwaway email: letmedownplease@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
A couple of hugs are not a big deal, but if you are looking to head her off at the pass, the next time you see her make a big deal of how much your friendship means to you and how it can often be difficult for close friends to connect platonically like you do. That will send a clear message.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:55 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I made it clear (I think) that I would not date anyone within the same school, since it was a small school and I didn't want the accompanying drama of a relationship and a break-up to take place within school.

This means nothing.

I feel like I have been stringing her along by returning her hugs and allowing her to sit next to me, and by going out with her at all.

I don't think so. There's nothing inherently romantic about a hug, and she was the one who chose to sit next to you (which does happen amongst platonic friends, although usually in a situation where it's required by the room setup).

Have I been a complete asshole/douchebag towards her?

No.

I need to know how to let her down gently but unequivocally, that I don't see her that way.

She seems pretty cautious about this whole thing, so she might drop it herself since she probably isn't getting the encouragement she wants. Unless she asks you out on a date or something like it I would probably just leave it alone.
posted by grouse at 6:58 PM on May 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


The answer to 2 and 3 is to not turn how down unless she actually does something to turn down (like asking you out or trying to kiss you). She's probably tiptoeing around this to avoid rejection, and you come across as a full of yourself and a jerk if you preemptively reject someone.

If you want to be her friend, be her friend. Otherwise stop hanging out with her. Do you really (honestly) want to be friends with her?
posted by J. Wilson at 7:07 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think you're being an asshole or leading her on. Not returning a hug is frankly kind of awkward, and what would you possibly do about her sitting next to you? Climb over the table to the other bench? I'd stop hanging out with her solo, at least for a little while, in sorts of situations that could be construed as date-y (movies, meals, drinks, etc.).... not forever necessarily, but until she gets the hint. It seems like it might be harder on her to have this kind of thing and then for it not to be working out the way she wants it to, perhaps. (i.e. "this looks like a date but it's not and I wish it was")
Like grouse said, she'll likely drop it after a bit when she realizes you're not moving things forward (especially since you've made it sound like on her scale of things, she's sending clear signals). I also think Rodrigo's suggestion of talking about how much you value your friendship, etc. etc. is a good one.

If this keeps up for too much longer after that, I think then is the time to start thinking about the "Hey, we're not going to date, you're just my buddy" conversation.
posted by jorlyfish at 7:09 PM on May 20, 2012


You are allowed to hug your friends and let them sit near you.

If she goes in for the kiss, I suggest you act then. Sorry, I'm just not interested in anything other than friendship. Otherwise, I don't think you should really pre-empt anything - you might be misinterpreting things here and that will make you seem like a real asshole.
posted by mleigh at 7:20 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You haven't been doing anything wrong.

Perhaps in the future you could avoid being alone with her, whenever possible. If you're never alone with her for an extended time, it will be hard for her to "make a move".

If she does tell she likes you, I would go with the direct, "I see you romantically, sorry."

Don't make excuses like, "I don't want to lose the friendship", or "I don't want to date someone at school.". Because if one day you DO date someone at school or who you have been friends with, she will likely be very hurt. (if you say that, I mean)
posted by bearette at 7:25 PM on May 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


DOH! That's," I DON'T see you romantically", obviously.
posted by bearette at 7:25 PM on May 20, 2012


I'm older than you. Here's what happened to me when I was her and you were my friend who was as thoughtful as you are...

He was lovely to me as a friend. Eventually I liked liked him. I wasn't sure it was mutual, but man, I could not tell!

Finally, I asked him! And he told me a firm "No."

Guess what?

We're still best of friends. I'm married, he has a girlfriend I adore.

---

You might wait until she makes a real move, since I agree it is a little unsure at this point if she is hinting or not.

Don't be afraid to speak up and tell her that you like her as a friend, but romantically, it is not going to happen!

If there is a real basis for a friendship there, it will work out:))
posted by jbenben at 8:02 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


you come across as a full of yourself and a jerk if you preemptively reject someone.

Yes! I once got an email from someone I wasn't the least bit interested in, although I did enjoy his friendship, telling me that in case I was interested, he wasn't. He was lucky there's no way to attach a slap to a return email.

You sound like a really considerate and kind guy. You haven't done anything wrong. Just go on being this girl's friend if you want to, and don't do anything that might be construed as romantic interest. Hugs are fine, but don't sit close to her or touch her or do anything you wouldn't do with a male friend. Don't explicitly tell her you're not interested in her unless she explicitly indicates interest in you. And if that happens you say "I'm not feeling it, I'm sorry" or "I don't think we have chemistry" or something along those lines, something tactful that expresses the real reason you don't want to go out with her, rather than any other excuse that might be proven false next week when you take up with someone else.
posted by orange swan at 8:03 PM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


DOH! That's," I DON'T see you romantically", obviously.

That's always kind of harsh. How about something like,"I'll be honest, I don't want to waste your time, in that way. You're great, you should find someone like that. I hope we can still be like this, because I like these times we spend together."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:25 PM on May 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


And stop staying around after the general crowd has left.

yep, I had this happen to me.
I was friendly with a friend and he was friendly too.
a few of these [everyone else has left] moments happened.
...until I was tipsy and tried to kiss him...

I'm glad he just backed off and never mentioned it again.

We are still friends, although he's moved to another city.

Yes, it was a bummer when it happened, but life goes on.
She'll be fine; your friendship will most likely continue, you just need to be gracious about it.
posted by calgirl at 8:46 PM on May 20, 2012


DOH! That's," I DON'T see you romantically", obviously.

That's always kind of harsh. How about something like,"I'll be honest, I don't want to waste your time, in that way. You're great, you should find someone like that. I hope we can still be like this, because I like these times we spend together."

Personally, I don't think it's harsh. Most people realize that having or not having feelings of a romantic nature is unpredictable and not really based on qualities that a person does or does not have. I think on the other hand if you hem and haw and make your reasons seem vague, it can kind of string another person along, and in the end, this is more hurtful. (it happened to me).
posted by bearette at 9:00 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I don't want to lose the friendship", or "I don't want to date someone at school.". Because if one day you DO date someone at school or who you have been friends with, she will likely be very hurt. (if you say that, I mean)

Agree with the second example but not the first - you may really want to keep this friendship. If you do there is nothing wrong or unreasonable about that. Friendship does not suddenly end when some wild romantic feelings appear. This is this and that is that - I too have some friendship at some point of time involved one-sided feelings but thankfully survived through all that.

I think it is important to be clear and honest with her, in honor of your friendship, with care and respect for her feelings. Good luck!
posted by eisenl at 9:08 PM on May 20, 2012


Personally, I don't think it's harsh. Most people realize that having or not having feelings of a romantic nature is unpredictable and not really based on qualities that a person does or does not have.

The sentiment is not harsh, but the phrasing might be. If indeed she is thinking along these lines, and she is rebuffed, she will likely replay the exact words over and over in her head for some time. So, that's why I'd try not to leave any explicit "you don't float my boat" words ringing in her ears.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:58 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


If she is, as you you say, really intelligent, consider complimenting her if/when she makes something that is clearly a romantic move by saying something like, "I hope one day when you win the Nobel Prize (whatever), you will remember we went to school together and you'll speak to me in the lobby because I'll be there. I hope you keep on liking me because I really enjoy our being able to talk and joke the way we do. Do you think we can keep this friendship? At least until one of us wins the Nobel Prize?

And don't treat her like she's going to assault you. Be friendly and feel honored she likes you. Introduce her to people she might like, if you know any, and if one day she dates someone else, be glad for her and keep on being her friend.
posted by Anitanola at 10:33 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


(this is coming from a culture that doesn't hug others freely)

This is key information. How is anyone supposed to infer what her behaviors might mean, when she is from a culture that has different meanings attached to different behaviors. This information is also important to determine if you've "been a complete asshole/douchebag towards her".

The way that is phrased also implies that you to are from different cultures. Cross-cultural relationships are completely different than infra-cultural. You are probably aware of this already, but leaving this out of the question has resulted in a bunch answers that most likely don't fit your situation.

(I apologize if I sound too gruff. I don't mean it that way if I do sound that way. But as a person who has married cross-culturally, it seems to me that either you're not being sensitive enough to the fact that she from a different culture with different norms and expectations, or your not giving us enough chance be sensitive to that fact.)
posted by BurnChao at 12:33 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think you're being a jerk - and I would say just play it cool until she actually does something.

A study a few years back showed that men tend to confuse flirting with friendliness, and vice versa. When women are just trying to be friendly, many man misconstrue that as flirting.

Two things I would recommend to you, though - 1) don't lie 2) don't act like a jerk whose noncommittally trying to break up with his girlfriend



I am pretty reserved about most people....basically I click with few people, but when I click I really click - and my entire world narrows to this one friend for a few months. I was getting along really well with one guy friend. We went out for way more than two outings and mutual friends didn't attend. On my end I was definitely bonding, but no more than I had with other friends.

I was reeeeeally irritated to find out from a mutual friend that this guy thought I had a crush on him, and wasn't sure how to tell me it wasn't mutual....but then realized it did explain this guy's recent behavior of repeatedly breaking plans last minute (but then calling me the next day to make more). When I asked him if he was interested in a friend of his I'd met he said no (I think to spare my feelings) and then less than a month later I find out. I did get pissed at him, and to this day he probably thinks it's because I was in love with him, but really it was because he'd lied to me about not having any feelings for this person at all, which led to me agreeing to go on a out-of-town trip with the two of them for the weekend. I wouldn't have agreed to stay for a weekend with ANY couple who were just seeing each other again for the first time in months.


....

Anyway, TL;DR - don't assume, don't lie, don't be a jerk. Just react to what she *actually* says and does.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:12 AM on May 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


(ack - edit to the above - I found out that less than a month after he told me he had no feelings for her whatsoever, that he was now dating her.) And that could be a tactic as well if you're really worried.... don't say you'd never date someone from your campus or whatever - because most women know that this is a BS canned response. When love comes, love comes. Also, even though you're trying to spare her feelings, if she's actually into you it will just hurt doubly so if you DO end up finding the girl of your dreams at your campus, or if you both graduate and still hang out together, but now that you're not at the same campus you've lost your excuse.

So if the topic like that comes up again, there's no need to set specific, reachable boundaries - simply say how you feel (not really naming names). "Oh, dating? I haven't really met anyone recently that I want to date....maybe I should try some mixers...." It doesn't name her specifically, but it would tell her that's she's not in the dating pool for you, and also give a relatively hurt-free excuse for when/if you meet someone you DO want to date at the campus.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:22 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm going to deviate from the norm here and disagree with the "just play it cool until she actually does something." approach. She already has done things that have made you think she likes you. Just because she hasn't actually kissed you or professed her feelings in so many words doesn't mean you should wait and let this whole thing play out in excruciating (for you) and embarrassing (for her) detail. You haven't done anything douchey thus far, but it would be douchey to allow her to invest more time and energy and feelings in you if you know you're not interested.

What you need to do is clear: next time you are together, whether in a group or alone, talk about a date you went on with someone else and how well it went, or about a woman you are interested in. This sends a clear message that your romantic interest is not focused on her, while allowing her to save face by not bringing up the topic of her possible interest directly. And if by chance you are wrong about her interest, no harm done.
posted by parrot_person at 4:05 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a guy do this to me in college. It went on for three years. I sent him an email telling him that I liked him and that he was leading me on, to which he denied yet still gave me mixed signals. This was when I was fresh out of high school, and he was my first real crush and first real possibility that something could happen between us. This went on way, way longer than it should. I never initiated physical contact with him, but he still asked me to hang out with him, do stuff with him, be with him all the time. It took me three years to figure out that he wanted me to pay for things, to vent to about other girls that he liked, and to finally figure out that our "friendship" that I so wished and hoped would turn into a real loving relationship was never equal.

By the time I figured this out, three years had passed. I wish that when I had initially sent him an email confessing my feelings, I wish that he had had the balls to say that he wasn't interested, and that we shouldn't hang out any more. I could have dealt with that. But instead, he chose to manipulate me and completely fuck up future relationships with other men. I wish he would have just been cut and dry and moved on.

Stop hugging her. Stop interacting with her. You're not the only one she knows at school and if you really are, she'll find someone else. I did.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:29 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw, anonymous, you sound like a sweetheart. No, you're not being a d-bag by any stretch of the imagination. I really like parrot person's advice, because someone I liked when I was in college did that for me, and it was just a nice kind of let down.

It can be hard to interpret other people's actions and feelings. For example, when I was in college, I spent hours on the phone every weekend with one of my male classmates and we talked about EVERYTHING and were like two peas in a pod everywher we went. Surely this was a sign that he liked me!

When I actually told him that I felt like I loved him, he surprised me by saying "I don't feel that way about you." This can often be a confusing time for relationships, to say the least. Good luck though!
posted by Calzephyr at 6:38 AM on May 21, 2012


The classic move here is to ask her advice about dating other women, or say something like "I'm not interested in anyone at this school, thank God--it's such a small program". No need to make it personal unless she really doesn't get the hint.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:57 AM on May 21, 2012


You're in a tough spot. You're navigating the waters of different cultures and the possibility that someone you like has a crush on you.

I would ratchet down the jokes and alone-time with her. Perhaps miss a few of these friendly meals/outings. If you have an interest in someone else, it coldn't hurt to mention it to her.

Some of us, when we have crushes on people, and we're inexperienced in relationships, is to blow very small, ordinary things WAY out of proportion. So yes, staying after everyone else has gone, to chat and eat cake is encouraging romantic feelings.

Until she finds someone else and declares that she's involved, you've got to be a bit stand-offish with her.

Don't come right out and say anything to her, it's presumptuous. Don't talk about it to others in your group, but head this off at the pass. Discourage her, and hopefully, she'll get the hint. If she becomes more aggressive, then at that point, you'll have to be firm, but at this stage, not being so intimate with her should do the trick.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:05 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're doing just fine, OP. You haven't done anything malicious. And you were clear (you think) with her that you don't want to date someone from school. That's great!

I've been in this situation a bunch of times - on both sides of the equation - with behaviors that are drastically more obvious than anything that she has demonstrated. The best solution is to pull back. Hit the brakes. Let a little distance grow between you.

You should NOT bring it up. Honestly, even if she had a shrine to you at home with a lock of your hair and a bunch of Virgin Mary candles... it isn't ever going to pay to bring it up until the issue has been forced. If she does like you, she'll be hurt. And hurt people sometimes become defensive. And defensive people will use whatever ambiguity exists in the situation (and there's plenty here!) as both their weapon and their armor. They will deny all interest. Then they will turn it back on you and try to hurt you, by proclaiming you presumptuous, egotistical, narcissistic, whatever.

Since you can't control how someone else might behave, you have to focus on your own behaviors.

New Rules:

- See each other only in group settings. Be careful with how you word your regrets if you need to decline an invitation. Don't lie. If you need to decline her invitation I'd stick with something simple that can't be quibbled with (ie don't give an excuse/reason) and then I'd turn it around and counter with a group outing of some sort. "Gah, can't do that. But a bunch of us are going to see Avengers this weekend, if you're interested!"
- No hanging around with each other after the rest of the group goes away. "Oh, sorry, really have to dash! See you soon!" Best way to handle this is to avoid getting caught being one of the last people hanging around. Once you see someone break off from the group to head out, resolve that you'll be next. Start saying your goodbyes, and then head out.
- Hugs are borderline, and I'd avoid them for now, especially if you believe that there is some cultural significance to them.

Also, as a note, don't try to casually squash her burgeoning lurve for you by making up a Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada. That's callous and mean. The only thing worse than the person you like preemptively telling you that they don't like you - is listening to them talk about the person that they do like and having to put 2 + 2 together on your own.
posted by jph at 7:35 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would wait. Maybe she is opening up with you (hugging), because she trusts and feels safe with you as a friend, which sounds like that is new to her, and she is testing how much freedom she can have.
posted by Vaike at 8:08 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


oops... So ask her about hugging and what it means to her. It could clue you in, and you might find that you are worrying needlessly.
posted by Vaike at 8:09 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If in fact it's true that you won't date anyone from school, then that is your easy out. You've already stated that boundary with her, but since you were very tipsy at the time, you may want to find an excuse to re-state it while clear-headed next time you are with her and your friends. It may be that in your tipsy state, you weren't as clear as you thought.

If, after that re-statement, she chooses to ignore your clearly-stated boundary, well...that's on her, not you. It's not your job to molly-coddle anyone who disrespects your boundaries.

It's nice that you're being thoughtful of her feelings, but she needs to be thoughtful of yours, too. That's what friends do for each other.
posted by quivering_fantods at 10:25 AM on May 21, 2012


Methinks thou dost protest too much. Are you sure you don't like her romantically? For someone who doesn't like his friend romantically you are spending way too much of your energy finding and deciphering little hints of her interest in you and then later asking about it anonymous people on the Internet. You even created throwaway e-mail. She isn't stalking you for God's sake, she just drops tiny hints.

Best way to show that you are not interested is just it: being not interested. So if you're really not interested just behave as if you're not seeing anything out of order (and there isn't -- she may just like you as a friend). She'll figure it out eventually and there is possibility of a beautiful friendship in the future.
posted by przepla at 11:14 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I agree that whether or not she has an interest in you is fairly questionable. She might just feel close to you. If you connect well, there's no reason you wouldn't stay talking after everyone else is gone. I know it's easy to think of intimacy in terms of romance, but I agree that unless she actually asks you out, don't think about it too much. I also don't think it's neccessary to start getting avoidy unless she drops some much more substantial hints.
posted by windykites at 12:10 PM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


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