Is a man who pretends to be friends with a woman when he is actually interested in more than friendship doing something shady?
Should said woman (myself) drop him as a friend or give him a chance to adjust? He’s a good friend and generally a positive, interesting and charming friend to have (smart, insightful, witty, capable of deep conversation, trustworthy with secrets, understanding…). I’m simply not interested in dating him (for many reasons, the most glaring of which is that he’s sexist in subtle ways that I couldn’t tolerate in a partner), but I value and love his friendship and conversation. I do not want to date him, ever. I don’t know if I should salvage our friendship or let it go, for his sake and mine...I've included the details below but I think this summary captures what I am trying to intellectually and emotionally figure out.
posted by grassbottles to Human Relations (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a male friend (“T”) that I’ve known for the last 6 years. The first four years could be called the “good buddy” stage of our friendship. The last two years could be called the “close friend” stage of our friendship. We became good buddies because he is very funny, introspective, insightful and has had interesting experiences in life that fuel unusually fun conversations. I have had my share of interesting life experiences, and so between the two us, there is rarely a dull moment. We get along really well under “normal” circumstances. In the last year, we became “close friends” because my closest female friends (brilliant, hilarious women) got married and virtually disappeared (we are in are late 30’s, fairly busy people) As a result, I started spending more time with “T”, who lives across the street from me. It was easy to do because he is funny and smart and there is never a dull moment.
In the first year of our “close friend” stage, I presumed and trusted in our platonic friendship. I don’t trust men easily so I was really grateful for the way he earned my trust. In the back of my mind, I worried that in spending so much time with him, he might get the wrong impression. I have never been attracted to him as more than a friend. He is a special person, and I wanted to keep his friendship and nurture our great ongoing dialogue on life. I worried that he might be assuming there was more just because we were getting so personal in our dialogue. I am in search of the right person for me, and that person has qualities that T does not have.
Anyway, for a long time, I could not say anything to T about not having romantic feelings for him because it felt presumptuous – he never made a move or indicated that he had an interest in me other than friendship, so it would have been weird for me to say “hey, I love our friendship but please understand that I do not want to have more than a platonic friendship with you”.
About 8 months ago, on a night that he had drank a lot (I had too, but I was aware of what was going on), he attempted to sit too close to me on the couch we were sharing and put his arm around me, the vibe was very much like we were in a relationship. I instinctively felt revolted and dislodged myself, and called it a night. I don’t think he remembered the next day, and I was happy to forget it myself and go on with our friendship.
2 months later, he brought up one night that we should date each other. I felt like all my fears about his feelings for me came true, and I felt really guilty and bad for him. I said we were not a good fit, and offered to be his wingman to find the right woman for him. He was offended, said he didn’t need a wingman. We changed topics and I hoped he understood. I hoped that I would not have to say more. It felt painful to not be able to give this friend that kind of affirmation.
1 month later he started to get a bit more possessive in some random actions (evidenced in how he referred to me to our mutual friends and some other random things he did). I started to distance myself actively, and disclosed to him that I was dating people (I had just started dating someone). He became very snippy and the next couple of times we hung out, he found random ways to insult me and my intelligence. He found ways to weave subtle snide remarks and insults that had never been part of our conversation before.
So I noted the change and chose not to be hurt by it because I knew that it may be coming from his feelings for me. Yet at the same time, I was pretty hurt by his insults. I trusted him and let him into my heart as a person whose opinion I valued. Disparaging words from him hurt me and made me feel insecure, even though I rationally knew that he was just saying these things because he felt rejected by me. I rationally wanted to “wait out” his feelings of rejection and insults, but in the meantime, I started getting upset by his words. The insults got stuck in me somewhere, and I felt resentful – even though I felt like it was petty or childish of me to be fooled by his childishness.
I feel like he took my trust as a friend and used it to hurt me when he didn’t get what he wanted.
Anyway, 3 months ago, we had a final blowup, a silly argument about some stuff to do with our lines of work. He found a random excuse to dismiss me as “fucked up person” and a bad friend due to a random comment I made about something work-related. It was not consistent with the normal tone of our friendship, emotionally shocking, and depressing for me. I knew where it was coming from in the back of my mind (his resentment that I would not date him, not the conversation we were actually having), and yet a good part of me was so hurt that he could try to make me feel like a bad person and like our friendship was meaningless. It felt manipulative and I felt betrayed. I have a history of dislocating my feelings from myself due to my family history, so I tried my best to suddenly take an arm’s length to his behavior, but it really hurt me.
I never once called him out on his behavior (on the fact that all this was happening because he had feelings for me that were not reciprocated). I did not call him out on it because I didn’t want to embarrass him or hurt him more. This is also to do with my family history. But the result was that T gets to treat me like there’s something wrong with me, that I’ve disappointed him.
Although I could not date him, I’ve tried to be there for him in every meaningful way I could be. As supportive and thoughtful towards him as I have with any close and dear friend.
The whole drama with T affected me more than I ever thought it would – I felt alone, villified, unfairly wronged - mainly because my old friends are not around, my family is far away, and I don’t have a lot of friends I could share this level of detail with. Among the few close friends I do have, I had introduced T to them and I did not want to embarrass him or myself by revealing this development to them.
T recently sent me an email randomly asking me to meet him for a drink. It was quite abrupt – not overly cheerful or apologetic (nothing to acknowledge or rectify the drama), just very matter of fact as if nothing had happened. It was seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had said some very hurtful things.
I responded in a stern way, stating that I was willing to work out our issues but that things had to change in the way we interacted. He wrote back a vague email, saying he wasn’t sure if it was possible for us to reconcile (not stating what it was exactly that made it impossible), but that he was willing to try to work it out.
I can't figure out if I'm chasing a dream thinking that he and I could be real friends. I value his presence in my life, I don't want to lead him on. However, I am bad (or have a bad historical track record) of making friends with people who are good to me. He is good to me, except on this front, I am confused. Please help me figure out if I need to block out this friend or work with him to help us both be better friends to each other.