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Lose a good friend or try to fix it?
February 28, 2013 6:12 AM   Subscribe

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.

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.
posted by grassbottles to Human Relations (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It doesn't sound like the two of you are capable of being the kind of close friends you envision. It's not far to him for you to lean on him heavily for the things you want (and not the things he wants) just because all your other friends have disappeared. Continued distance could be good at this time while he licks his wounds and you work on strengthening your social circle.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:21 AM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think you're probably at the point where you should let this friendship die off in a quiet and dignified way. You've made your position clear about what you want your relationship to be. He seems to have issues with emotional boundaries, not to mention physical ones. This level of drama (for want of a better word) seems to indicate that he can't keep the relationship from straying out of strict 'friends' territory in his mind.
posted by pipeski at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think the issue here is him being "shady" so much as it's him being an asshole. He's interested, you aren't, and his response is to start insulting you? Not worth your time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


Is a man who pretends to be friends with a woman when he is actually interested in more than friendship doing something shady?

Hell yeah. It means he wasn't relating to you as a person, but only as a "potential future lover".

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.

The only way you will have any hope of salvaging this friendship is if you do. He needs to understand that this is your boundary, and that he must abide by it. And then it is up to him to decide whether he wants your friendship, or if his affections were only conditional on your maybe someday wanting to date him.

Fuck whether he's embarrassed, quite frankly. He's made you uncomfortable, hasn't he? Why spare him?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


How you present it, I think it is likely that this guy has had feelings for you, probably for quite some time. If so, it also may be the case that he is stung more deeply by your rejection of him than you would expect. Your rejection of him may have shaken him and his ideas about the character of your relationship just as much as his attempts to pursue you, and his response to your rejection, have shaken yours.

I say this not to excuse his behavior, but only to explain it. How you've presented it, this guy is way out of line and you would be right to set some firm boundaries around what you will and won't put up with as a friend.

It's possible this friendship has run its course, sad though that is to say.
posted by gauche at 6:24 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


This guy was far too presumptuous. Sure, he was interesting in conversation and was good to you...to a point. That point being you declining his advances. I wouldn't and couldn't trust him at this point. You established a boundary and he threw a fit that you did so. Know who does that? Jerks, not friends.

Decline the invitation for drinks. Tell him that, while you enjoyed your friendship at the time, it's all better left in the past.
posted by inturnaround at 6:25 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with Pinksuperhero in that I think you need to cultivate a bigger group of friends so you do not feel reliant on him (which is what's coming across), and do not worry about hurting his feelings by simply telling him the truth (i.e. that he may have the impression you could get together, but that it will never happen). And you will need to have that discussion if you want to keep the friendship. Part of friendship (acutally any good relationship) is calling people out on unacceptable behavior.
posted by Sakura3210 at 6:27 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


An addendum: if he responds poorly when you try to have said conversation (as in refusal to engage), then I would consider the relationship over.
posted by Sakura3210 at 6:29 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like he took my trust as a friend and used it to hurt me when he didn’t get what he wanted.

Exactly. And yet you're still calling him a "good friend" and rationalizing his behavior for him. Don't do that, with this guy or with other people. You are responsible for your own actions and words; other people are responsible for theirs.
posted by headnsouth at 6:30 AM on February 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I don't think the issue is his crush on you. I think the issue is he's a jerk.

This kind of drama was unnecessary and out of line. Period. And yeah, if you're right about his motivations, it would also be kinder to him to move on separately.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The types of things you excuse in friends who have a crush on you:

- Excessive flattery, invites, attention in general
- Lovey dovey puppy dog eyes
- Earnestness

I hope you see the disconnect in what you have excused in this man. This man is not acting out because you didn't consent to being his lady, he is acting out because he is an asshole.
posted by skrozidile at 6:49 AM on February 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


If he's only around you because he wants to get in your pants, you're not his friend. Speaking as someone who has had to unlearn this behaviour, yes he can change, but he's sure as hell not going to if you don't set and enforce boundaries.

Forget leading him on. Don't lead yourself on.
posted by fearnothing at 6:51 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


He needs to understand that this is your boundary, and that he must abide by it. 

You can't put "boundaries" as easily on attraction and subsequent feelings.

This happens all too often. Girl becomes friends with guy and convinces herself all this hanging out and sharing of deep emotions will self-prevent from turning into something more than platonic. AskMe is replete with so many such "friendships" taking a terrible ending. Yes, there are exceptions, but it is really a fundamental misunderstanding about how a man's mind and body work (not all).

I suggest bringing this friendship to an end, and caution in future such endeavors.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:51 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is possible to be friends, have one person develop a crush that is not requited, make an advance or two, and return to friendship.

But that's not what's happening here. This guy did not make forthright advances that made it safe and easy for to to decline, and then when you did make it clear that you weren't interested, he stopped treating you as a person deserving of his respect, much less as a friend.

I'm hugely disappointed on your behalf, and I think you would do best to write off this friendship. But know that this is not necessarily a universal thing -- some people would have handled being on his side of this equation much more honorably.
posted by spindrifter at 6:57 AM on February 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think you need to stop making excuses for his behavior and take his actions at face value. Yes, so he's probably hurt that you're not interested in him. But these things happens. That's simply no excuse for being an asshole. Just drop him completely from your life. I've known guys like this before and the only way to stop being sucked into the drama is just ripping the bandaid off, no matter how much it sucks at first. Try to get properly angry at the things he's doing without adding the mental caveat, but he's only doing it because he's hurt. Grown-ups don't get licence to act the way he's been for no reason at all -- and the worst part is he's acting as though it's somehow your fault that he's being a jerk. Don't let him get away with that. Just drop him, he's not worth your time or your angst.
posted by peacheater at 7:10 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have been close to being the guy in your scenario before and find this XKCD helpful in understanding what is going on.
posted by TedW at 7:11 AM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


This whole thing stinks to high heaven, and I hope you recognize the huge throughline connecting the subtle sexism which you say is the major dealbreaker and the way he's treating you right now.
posted by alphanerd at 7:15 AM on February 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


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.

Agreed with all who've said "set boundaries."

Right now, a good boundary to set might be "I'll be happy to see you when you can meet me as a real, actual friend with no ulterior motive, but not until then."
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


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 dunno, if I was T, and I actually came to the realization that your friendship has value even with no possibility of a romantic relationship, I would try to make it clear in my email that I wanted to apologize to you for acting like an ass after you shot me down. He's being waaaaayyyyyy too casual with his reaching out to you.

His casualness makes me think he hasn't processed through his crush for you. Unless you have any good reason to think that he's had some sort of epiphany, I'd just let this friendship die.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is a man who pretends to be friends with a woman when he is actually interested in more than friendship doing something shady?

Not necessarily. Is this guy? Most definitely.

Things he could have done to make it not shady: 1) once he expressed his feelings and you did not feel the same way, he could have taken that at face value and continued the friendship without suddenly becoming an asshole. 2) realized that he was hurt, and therefor had to take a break from the friendship, without suddenly becoming an asshole.

He did neither of these things. And now, it sounds like he might be gearing up to blame this change on you. Drop him.
posted by dysh at 7:30 AM on February 28, 2013


Sorry, this has gone sour (and it sounds like he's done most of the souring), there is no walking it back and it's time for you to move on.

Personally, I'm a cynical old bastard. Any man who goes from BFF to insulting your intelligence once he's off the romantic list is a potential girl-hitter in my eyes. Avoid being alone with this guy. He's already demonstrated inappropriate touching and possessiveness.

His pride and masculinity have both been wounded and rejected and men do crazy-ass shit when that happens.

This is why you never tryst a guy who's only a woman's friend because he's trying to become her lover. Not all of them flip out when she rejects him. But enough of them do that I advocate trusting none of them.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:31 AM on February 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Nope, put a period at the end of the sentence and move on. He ruined your relationship by being an ass to you. His feelings for you don't really factor in.

It can be lonely when you lose a close friend, so you might want to do some new activities that will put you in a new circle of friends. Take a night class in something fun like Conversational Spanish or Pottery. Learn to cook Basque food. Volunteer somewhere. This will give you something to do and a way to meet new people. (I went to grad school, you know, whatever works.)

As for explaining to your friends about why that sexist, annoying asshole isn't around any more, "We have a falling out." Most people will probably wonder what took you so long.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:33 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know you.
I don know him.

But from what you have described I think your friend thinks he's a 'Nice Guy'.

'Nice Guys' are generally deeply broken people, who genuinely beleive that if they stay around long enough, do enough nice things, and are just *persistant* enough, then eventually the object of thier affection will return their feelings of lurve.

No matter how many times you have a realtionship with someone else.
No matter how many times you tell them a firm and unambigious "No."

Friends - true friends - respect one another's boundaries and listen, really listen to what their friends say. Sounds like he is doing neither, and so IMHO you are better off without him as a 'Friend'.

For more on 'Nice Guys' and Friendzoning see this article; here
This quote from the linked article is most apt;
Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put Kindness Coins into until sex falls out.


Good luck.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:33 AM on February 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


The genie of unrequited love can't just be put back in the bottle. He's not a total jerk, but he's also not able to separate his feelings. Let him know that the only friendship going forward would be as part of a larger group circle, and not the close one-to-one that you used to have.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The other answers have done a good job of pointing out his issues and flaws as a person. All of which are true -- his behavior is inexcusable.

But what is going on with you? Have you been celibate for the last six years? Do you have social blindness to become emotionally dependent on this type of person? By your own admission you knew something wasn't right with him from the very beginning.

No one deserves the treatment you received, but for your own self-growth examine what choices you made to put yourself into such a situation.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:05 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not going to work. He thinks he deserves to be with you because he has been such a good "friend" for all these years. Letting him build up more friend points is just going to make him feel more entitled and resentful. Now that you know what is going on, you should put an end to it.
posted by steinwald at 8:15 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a guy like this in my life, and once his crush had burnt out it was a whole lot easier to be friends with him. Until then, I had to keep him at arm's length and it was only when I started really, sincerely doing that (and it hurt, because I really liked him and if I'm honest, his attention to me was flattering and enjoyable until it started crossing the line) that he was able to let his feelings die away.

It took time for him to do it, and once he had, we had a little re-framing to do and ended up not being amazingly close for a while. But we still talk (like, 12 years post-crush) and very occasionally hang out, so I'd count that as a win.
posted by greenish at 8:32 AM on February 28, 2013


By giving him a pass on his bad behavior, you've been tacitly validating his perspective that you have somehow wronged him or treated him badly by rejecting his romantic advances, and that you deserve his anger. I know that you were just trying to smooth things over and be a good friend (believe me I have been there), but when you have a guy who has some issues with women to begin with ("sexist in subtle ways") getting away with being an asshole to his supposedly very close friend, you are not actually helping things go back to a purely platonic state. You are inadvertently reinforcing his mindset that your rejection of his advances is as mean and unfair as how he's treating you now, and possibly even that since you recognize this, you will eventually capitulate and realize that you "should" date him. Which is obviously utter bullshit.

You don't tell us the exact wording of your most recent response to him, but if it was as moderate as "willing to work out our issues," that again just seems to confirm that the issues are not only his (as in fact they are), but that you too should change something about how you've treated him.

In fact, the only thing you should change is your tolerance of and reticence about his unacceptable behavior. Just because you are sympathetic to his hurt feelings does not mean he is allowed to take them out on you in a cruel and childish manner. You wouldn't be treating him this way if he'd been the one to reject you, right?

I obviously don't know this fellow at all, but from your story my feeling is that if you want to have any chance of rebuilding a friendship with him (and you'd be totally justified in not wanting to), you will need to be extremely blunt about your feelings at this point (to counteract this whole subtext he's reading into your relationship), and probably take some time apart for him to process his shit. I know that kind of confrontation can be really tough, but if it helps, you'd be doing him a favor by spelling out what he's doing wrong.

Of course, no matter how hard you try, it's even chances that he'll eventually just move on to the final stage of the story he's telling himself, where he decides you are a cruel temptress who led him on and manipulated his feelings and then tossed him aside when you couldn't squeeze any more unrequited affection out of him. If that happens, nothing you or anyone else says is likely to dislodge that belief.

Also, among the many things you do NOT owe him (including of course guilt over not dating him and acceptance of terrible treatment) is concern for his potential embarrassment if you talk about this with friends who know him. If he didn't want anyone to know he was being an asshole, well, he should have thought of that before he started acting like an asshole. It's not on you to protect him socially. Besides which if he's anything like the guys I've known who've done this, as soon as it's sunk in that you're not going to change your mind and date him, he will just move on to one of those mutual friends and try to "nice guy" himself into a relationship with her instead, so it's really better if they're warned in advance about his tactics.
posted by unsub at 9:20 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am going to go against the tide and say that you (and many of the other answerers here are making HUGE assumptions)

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.

How the hell do you know that? You know you rejected him, and _maybe_ you can assume that he's hurting, but I don't think you can leap to "he said this because I rejected him", especially given:

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

There's a lot of dislike on the green for the "Nice Guy", or "Fake Guy Friend" creeper archetypes. It's perfectly possible to develop romantic feelings for someone who was previously just a platonic friend, and to go back to being platonic friends if the romance thing doesn't work out. How both sides of the friendship deal with that is what makes the difference

Now... You're kind of both being jerks. He's using behaviour that if he was a gross PUA type guy would be straight out of the negging handbook. On the other hand, you're not calling him out on it at all. So, you don't know why he's acting like that, and he doesn't necessarily know what about his behavior is bothering you.

It sounds like you've decided not to be friends with him anymore, and if that's your decision, fine, but I don't think it's fair to write him off because of why you _think_ he's acting the way he is.

The way I see things now: He emailed you to invite him for a drink, you responded by scolding him, and he said that he'd be willing to try to work on the friendship.

If you don't give him a chance now fine -- just know that the friendship ending is on you.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:28 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh no. The Back Massager. The guy who uses his friendship to make non-stop, socially acceptable passes at you because he's too cowardly to face rejection. RUN!

I'm so sorry to have to tell you this, but he was never your friend. In his mind, he was slowly buying you on a payment plan, using his attentiveness and good works as currency, and the fact that things have come to a head now means he thinks he's paid enough and now he's getting impatient for his prize. As soon as he realizes that investment gave zero returns, things are going to get very ugly. He's going to manipulate you, lash out at you, give you the cold shoulder--do anything he can to punish you for failing to adequately rewarding him. He will make you suffer until he feels better. It's not something that can be talked out, it's not something that can be worked out.

And girl, I gotta give you some tough love here: it was within your power to avoid this whole situation. You admitted that you suspected for months that he was into you, and you didn't follow up on that suspicion. You need to trust your instincts and act on them. You said you felt "revolted" when he sat kinda close to you? Damn, girl, that's not normal--that's your sub-conscious saying get this creep away from me and you let your fear of an awkward situation control your reaction to that. Unfortunately, your instincts are all you have to rely on. These types of men are passive aggressive and full of self-denial, so they're not going to hang a sign around their necks to help you identify and avoid them.

I once waxed philosophical with a long-time platonic guy pal about what made our friendship non-awkward, even though we were both each other's "types" in many ways. We decided it was because we felt free to own up to a physical attraction without reading any deeper intentions into it. I'm "his sexy friend so-and-so" and he's my "adorable friend such-and-such" and neither of our long-time significant others raise an eyebrow because they know that's just how we roll. True friendship conquers awkwardness every time.
posted by piratesriding at 10:05 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had a guy friend like this too - I get really angry at myself whenever I think about him now, because I wish I had more courage and self-respect to completely cut him out of my life.

At the end of the day we really should be spending our time with people we can trust, and who have proven themselves worthwhile. No one should be tolerating random sly insults and power plays from people they consider their friends. And those friends should be begging you for a second chance if they really care about keeping you in their lives.

So be strong, trust your gut next time, and don't let people walk all over you. If something isn't cool you need to let it be known right there and then. No dancing around uncomfortable conversations, no ignoring subtle signs that a friendship is heading south. This one definitely is, and I think it'd be much better for you to just let him go and move on. It'll hurt to lose a friend, but hell - he just isn't a good one at this point.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 10:17 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's your friend. Treasure that, because friends don't grow on trees.

Try this on for size:

Listen, Alvin, you and I are soulmates on so many levels it creeps me out to even think about it. Dating you would be like dating my brother.

I hope you can handle this because I love you and cherish our friendship--but there is no way in hell that I can even begin to conceive of having a romantic interest in you. If you want a friend I'm here for you, but you are going to have to look elsewhere for a lover.

And, to break the sudden silence that will probably ensue: Now quit whining and let's go somewhere and get a coffee.
posted by mule98J at 10:26 AM on February 28, 2013


A dissent to the dissenters:

If he was concealing the truth from you about what he really wanted the relationship to be, then what else might he have been concealing from you? And if he was concealing things from you, then how certain can you be of his friendship?

There are people in here emphasizing that "he was your friend and that is rare" - but manipulative people know how to make you trust them more than they deserve. That "soulmate" feeling you're feeling towards him may have been something he was manufacturing.

But there's only one way to know for sure whether he was manipulating you or whether it really was a genuine connection - call him on it by saying "look, we need to talk" and making it clear that his behavior was not welcome because you do not reciprocate the desire to date, and that you will not change in your opinion on that score.

Then see what he does. If he accepts this, then you have a genuine bond. If he doesn't, then he was being manipulative and your bond was false.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


How the hell do you know that? You know you rejected him, and _maybe_ you can assume that he's hurting, but I don't think you can leap to "he said this because I rejected him"

OP, I want to point out that assuming he's only acting like a jerk because he's hurt is actually quite charitable of you. Because the alternative is assuming that he's acting like a jerk because he actually is a jerk, and you're very obviously giving him a ton of benefit of the doubt here. I think the truth is probably somewhere in between. You already know that he harbors sexist attitudes that sometimes rear their ugly little heads. That makes him at least somewhat actually-a-jerk. And as you know, now that he's not getting what he wants from you, he feels it's appropriate to treat you badly. This shows a tremendous lack of respect for your agency, and your value as a person beyond "woman I want, who's not letting me have her." That also makes him actually-a-jerk.

Now... You're kind of both being jerks... On the other hand, you're not calling him out on it at all. So, you don't know why he's acting like that, and he doesn't necessarily know what about his behavior is bothering you.

If you want to salvage the friendship, I agree that you absolutely do need to say something to him. Letting things slide and keeping your hurt to yourself have not had any positive effect on his behavior. But ultimately, there isn't any obligation on you to tell a jerk that he's being a jerk. Jerks are responsible for their own actions, and if their actions drive people away, it's entirely on them to figure out why they can't maintain healthy relationships and change their behavior.

Additionally, people don't suddenly change from being a great friend to being an asshole hurling insults. It's clear to me that your friend is deliberately hitting you where he knows it'll hurt. It's not like his problem is bad breath, and it's your duty as a friend to tell him because he doesn't know why people don't want to talk to him at parties. He knows he's being a jerk, and he's saying these mean things to you because he wants to hurt you. So call him out because you want him to know that you're not going to tolerate this treatment from him anymore, and he can shape up or ship out -- not because you owe him anything, because you really don't.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:29 AM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Soulmates don't insult soulmates. Brothers don't tell sisters they're "fucked up people" and not worth spending time with.

This guy was a good friend until he started acting like a toxic jerk. Maybe he can pull out of that and become a decent friend again, but he's never going to be your soulmate or like a brother again, so you need to expand your social circle.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:31 AM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


What's the difference between relating to someone as a person and as a "potential future lover"? I relate to my potential future lovers as people.

I also don't believe that there are people in the world who are jerks, and people in the world who aren't jerks. People have reasons for acting the way they do. If someone's behavior is confusing you, you can talk to them about it, or you can end the friendship.

Friends call each other on their shit.
posted by 4bulafia at 12:32 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm also not sure what it is to "pretend" to be friends with someone. That's not the sort of thing you can fake.
posted by 4bulafia at 12:43 PM on February 28, 2013


I had this guy as a friend, too! Most women probably do, at some point in time. And like Tequila Mockingbird, I feel angry when I think about him. I feel used, I feel lied to. He will keep cutting you down, it will only get worse and worse. The fact that he went from being a really great friend to a complete shitbeak so quickly....it sounds like he stopped seeing you as a friend when you shot him down.

I mean, I think you should cut him out completely, but if that is too much then just make him a small-dose friend. Don't hang out with him one on one, and don't do that too often. You can reevaluate in a few months.
posted by troika at 3:30 PM on February 28, 2013


What's the difference between relating to someone as a person and as a "potential future lover"?

Because in this situation, it translated into this:

In his mind, he was slowly buying you on a payment plan, using his attentiveness and good works as currency, and the fact that things have come to a head now means he thinks he's paid enough and now he's getting impatient for his prize.

He wasn't her friend, he was waiting for her to cave in and put out already. She's a coin slot. Potential future lover means "waiting for her to cave in and fuck me."
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:34 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I do not buy the general consensus that this guy is a jerk who only pretended to be friends in order to get the OP in bed. They were good friends for 6 years without problems until 8 months ago, when the weirdness began. No one pretends for 5 years; that's just silly. People change. For some reason he decided all of a sudden that he wanted to date you and he handled it very badly. You cannot undo history, but if you want to lay it all on the table and see if he can respect your boundaries, I would say give it a shot. But be prepared in case it does not work. If not, drop him and move on, but don't feel obliged to erase from your memory the 5 good years you had as friends.
posted by ptolemy chennus at 9:49 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mefites rock! Thank you so much for these insights. You're right.

I'm not sure he will admit or acknowledge what has happened even if I am direct but I think I need to be open with him about this and move on, for myself. Many of you called it out, albeit nicely: I need to trust my instincts, be ok with thinking he has been a jerk (its not a final judgement on him, its an assessment of his past behavior), and I need to be better about protecting myself.

TedW: so right, I felt relieved to see that cartoon. Would it be cruel to show it to him? I feel like it would do him good and expand his mind, but I've also felt like it is mean because I don't think he has much success with women, for whatever reason (or the women he is interested in, anyway). I don't know if it would be worse to rub salt in his wounds. But now I'm sort of mad about this and I am having a hard time accepting his ignorance.

Kruger5: I see your point, but it is so sad to me to cut myself off from the rich minds around me just because I'm worried they'll get the wrong idea. It feels like an unfair piece of baggage to carry around. I would like to be open in my access to friendships and people. In hanging out with him, I always dressed down (I mean, very covered up, sweatshirts, ragged khakis - never any makeup or anything like that...I couldn't have been more signaling of not trying to impress him in that way). is there no point to trying to be friends with someone who doesn't automatically fit into an approved box on first glance?

alphanerd: yes, and I cannot reconcile how we can have deep conversations and he seems to respect and seek my opinion + advice on complicated work and life matters, but treats me like a fool when it comes to his romantic interest in me. What is up with that? How does a guy manage to balance that thinking / behavior??

To the folks who asked me what is going on with me, why have I put myself in this situation, and called me out on the polyanna approach I've taken to this friendship - thank you. You are right, and I appreciate the tough love wisdom.
posted by grassbottles at 10:51 PM on February 28, 2013


regarding 23skidoo's comment - I know I have no obligation to help him get to an epiphany, but isn't there some sort of karmic obligation to give people data if you're in a position to? Especially those that you've made time for as a friend, and vice versa? We all have our insanities and blind spots...
posted by grassbottles at 10:59 PM on February 28, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: paint me a naive fool, but I think there is some truth to this idea that he has not processed his emotions fully or at least that he's not willing to own his behavior fully (even to himself). It is childish. The manipulation portion - you're right. I hate that idea, and yet I don't fully believe he's aware of it if he is engaging in manipulation.

Tequila Mockingbird

'So be strong, trust your gut next time, and don't let people walk all over you'

and mule98J

'friends don't grow on trees'


I feel both ways of thinking and resent both ways of thinking, which is exactly why I've been so confused. People are precious, as are friends. But I need to get some boundaries.
posted by grassbottles at 11:17 PM on February 28, 2013


I cannot reconcile how we can have deep conversations and he seems to respect and seek my opinion + advice on complicated work and life matters, but treats me like a fool when it comes to his romantic interest in me. What is up with that? How does a guy manage to balance that thinking / behavior??

I don't want to stereotype guys, especially since I am one, but I can tell you that in guys general are really, really, really good at compartmentalizing shit. This can be very useful in some situations but terrible in others.
posted by Broseph at 11:59 PM on February 28, 2013


Ah yes, good 'ol compartmentalization.
posted by grassbottles at 12:23 AM on March 1, 2013


Gah. "in guys general" = guys in general. Missed the 5 minute window. Carry on.
posted by Broseph at 12:30 AM on March 1, 2013


Kruger5: I see your point, but it is so sad to me to cut myself off from the rich minds around me just because I'm worried they'll get the wrong idea.

You don't have to cut yourself off from rich minds - there's a wide middle path. Interact with men, use a group dynamic, just don't overly indulge in 1:1 hanging out and drinking, long phone calls, and sharing of deep personal emotions.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:19 AM on March 1, 2013


I felt relieved to see that cartoon. Would it be cruel to show it to him? I feel like it would do him good and expand his mind, but I've also felt like...

Stop overthinking this, don't try to fix him, move on. Moving on means directing your attention at yourself, rather than at this person who has lied to you and treated you poorly.

But now I'm sort of mad about this and I am having a hard time accepting his ignorance.

His ignorance is not your problem. Focus on you, not on him.

isn't there some sort of karmic obligation to give people data if you're in a position to?

Nope. Your obligation is to yourself, not to people who lie to you and treat you poorly.

Especially those that you've made time for as a friend, and vice versa?

That's really the karma you're looking for. You want to enlighten this guy so that he'll see the error of his ways and apologize to you. It won't work. Don't go there.

paint me a naive fool, but I think there is some truth to this idea that he has not processed his emotions fully or at least that he's not willing to own his behavior fully (even to himself).

It doesn't matter. Your actions need to be based on your emotions, your processing, your feelings, your life. Not someone else's.

I don't fully believe he's aware of it if he is engaging in manipulation.

Who cares. Focus on you, not on him.

I need to get some boundaries.

This.
posted by headnsouth at 6:21 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, I'm overwhelmed with the hostility in this thread. What you've described, OP, is a really messy situation. This kind of stuff happens in life all the time. You can't control this guy's behavior whether it's right or wrong.

Look at your own behavior. You are playing a part in this situation even if you can't see that right now.
posted by strelitzia at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cannot reconcile how we can have deep conversations and he seems to respect and seek my opinion + advice on complicated work and life matters, but treats me like a fool when it comes to his romantic interest in me. What is up with that? How does a guy manage to balance that thinking / behavior??

I'd look at it more as a lack of balance than as a balancing act. For a dude in his situation failure to see women as equals and rejection sensitivity can be two manifestations of the same phenomenon that feed into each other and perpetuate bad behavior like this. If he's got issues with rejection sensitivity, he can avoid that by not being honest or direct about his intentions with you, which of course isn't fair to you, but it's permissible to him if he doesn't recognize your right to forthrightness about these things.

From the not respecting women as equals thing, it's a lot harder to deal with rejection when you have a sense of entitlement to sexual or romantic involvement simply in exchange for an investment of time/emotional energy/whatever. It feels to him like a violation of something he's got a "right" to because your status as a person with autonomy is less of a part of the equation. And having this sense of violation kick you in the ass every time someone turns you down can make you sensitive to rejection, especially if (a) your fear of rejection keeps you from approaching people and (b) it keeps happening, in no small part due to the misogyny you're signaling to people.

So, when he's having deep conversations etc. with you, he's (to choose an oft-trotted-out AskMe analogy) sort of treating you like a sex vending machine that he puts niceness coins into, and when he treats you badly after you turn him down, that's his rejection sensitivity.

(If he's got a smidgen of self-awareness, he may be aware that he acts like an asshole these situations which may both justify his decision not to make his feelings known to you (since on some level he knows it's bad to put you through that) and heighten his rejection sensitivity, since he can now add fear of the feelings that come with rejection to the unpleasantness of not getting what he wants.)

But they're really two sides of the same coin.
posted by alphanerd at 9:10 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone, this has been incredibly helpful and clarifying. I'll be coming back to these comments just to remind myself / re-direct my brain a bit when dealing with this issue. Thanks!!!
posted by grassbottles at 6:08 PM on March 1, 2013


The hostility to the OP's friend in this thread is indeed remarkable. Are we really doing the OP a favor by telling her that her long-time friend is merely a character from a cartoon? After many years, he makes a drunken pass. The OP deals with it not by saying no to him but by pretending it never happened and thereby offering him hope that it was not unwelcome. Meanwhile she says that she clearly indicates her lack of interest in him by what she is wearing (!) and the friend is supposed to parse the sartorial semiotics unaided.

None of this is to excuse the way the friend acted, but there is no real evidence the friend had ulterior motives until recently. Many friendships end when one party wants something the other cannot give. It's sad but no reason to get out the torches and pitchforks.
posted by ptolemy chennus at 10:18 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted; OP, Ask Metafilter is really not for having a dialogue or arguing with people who are answering. You can briefly clarify info or answer questions, but it's not a space for debating a position. The convention is that you choose among answers for what is most helpful, and ignore answers that don't help you with the problem. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 6:34 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


To briefly clarify - there are multiple ways I let my friend know that he was just a friend to me, direct verbal communication as well as indirect signs. I've made it pretty clear. My question here was whether I should hold his ulterior motives against him. Sounds like a yes from most Mefites, which was very helpful to understand. And in fact, seeing some of the indignant responses here helped me see my own mild outrage. Although I'm open to alternative views that take into account all the correct facts in my OP, I think have what I need. Thanks!
posted by grassbottles at 2:57 PM on March 2, 2013


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