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I think I like-like him.
April 9, 2014 12:51 AM   Subscribe

Are we friends? Are we dating? How do I find out without ruining everything?

I like a guy. I think. But I don't know if we're friends or?

Where do I even start with this? I guess I start at the beginning. So this guy messaged me on okcupid last month. His message was…I honestly don’t even remember, but it was decent and passable and genuine enough that I wrote back, and we bonded over photos of the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake. (I’m not even that outdoorsy, but I have an appreciation for national parks instilled in me by my dad.) Then he asks to meet for coffee, after a few messages back and forth. I say I’d love to. Only catch: He says “I seem interesting and fun and he needs new friends.” He’s a phD student in science, and your pretty stereotypical slightly-awkward (but still pretty socially capable, as they go) nerd.

I go on the coffee date. I basically just blow in there, expecting less than nothing, made a decent effort but not a huge effort, and treat him like a friend. I was burned out on okcupid dates because I just went on a string of like ten and they all were fairly boring and nothing horrible or dramatic happened but there was no chemistry and they went nowhere, and the only one I actually liked turned into a two-week-long fling and then crashed and burned, and my latest one was with another dude that seemed promising and was totally wrong for me- blah blah, the point is, I was barely trying, I had zero expectations, I was tired of the whole thing, I really don’t invest much energy into it anymore, you get the idea. I was probably kind of borderline rude in my not-tryingness, because normally I am pretty charming, but I was just super low key and whateeevvs.

My immediate impression of him is that he’s handsome. That was a bad sign, because he’s handsome in a way that slightly intimidates me and definitely makes my heart go pit-pat a little bit. He dresses like a nerd, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some attraction there. He looks better in real life than in photos.

Well, I have a pretty good time, he tells me a really interesting story or two, and I’m glad I went out on the date/friendship hanging out goodtimes/whatever the hell it is. It’s not super awkward or anything, it’s going pretty well. I pay for my stuff, he pays for his, it’s all pretty platonic. I suggested the place to him. But then! Then the bakery closes and he has to finish telling me a story. So he asks me to go to a bar nearby to get beer. We get beer. He pays for the beer. He suggests the place, and picks the beer. We chat a lot about books. We both get slightly tipsy and he tells me in passing that I’m pretty and there’s definitely more-than-friendly mild and slight banter going on. Enough that I think, “I’d better eject, this guy clearly wants more than friendship.” By now it’s like 8 or 9 at night.

He asks me to do stuff later that week, and as I always, always always do after a first date, I say something like, “My work schedule is busy, I’ll text you.” I do this partly because it’s true and partly because I always need time after a first date to decide if I like the guy.

He texts me like, the next day or two and invites me out to do stuff that week. My work is crazy and I’m tired and on the fence and I say no. He’s out of town that weekend. The next week, he wants to meet up, and I totally intend to, but then things get busy, whatever, I don’t know, I didn’t respond. I was worried that he was going to want sex and I wasn’t ready for him to want sex, basically. I would legit be friends with this guy, but I couldn’t tell if he legit wanted to be friends because of the whole beer thing.

So then later that week he messaged me on okcupid and says he’s sorry that I’m not interested in getting to know him more because he thinks I’m interesting and he liked me. It seemed pretty genuine and not manipulative or anything. I guess it worked, because I felt bad.

I told him I liked him too, and I had a good time (true) but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date someone religious as an atheist, because I had tried in the past and it didn’t go well (very true.)

Did I mention he was raised in the most stereotypically Irish Catholic family ever? And I am a hardcore atheist at this point in my life. He doesn’t go to church, and he left “religion” blank on okc, but I insulted Christians in front of him and he kind of cringed so I figured out he was like a lapsed-Catholic-not-quite-agnostic. Awkward.

He replies “Oh no, I really just wanted to be friends, sorry you misunderstood.”

I was like, “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Friendship with straight guys? Ones I meet on okcupid? Has this ever worked ever in my life?”

But, hey, if the guy actually likes me, and isn’t going to push for sex and I don’t have to feel guilty about leading him on…fair game, right? I consult some girlfriends, they concur that this is more than fair game. He’s putting himself on the line. He says he wants to be legit friends. It’s not my fault if I break his heart.

So I’m like, “Okay, let’s legit be friends! Add me on Facebook! We can do legit friend things!”

And he’s like, “Okay!” And he does and it’s awesome.

So then he invites me out to this comedy show on Saturday night. Some of his friends are in the show. It’s a good show, I like it more than I expect. He buys the tickets. I try to pay him back, he says no. Then I buy cheesecake and he takes like a bite or two. I tell him I love cheesecake, it’s my favorite dessert. He walks me to my car and then it’s totally awkward because it would be a hug moment but it isn’t because, right, friends. We’re like “Bye, friend! Thanks friend!” He texts me later and says, “Glad you had a good time, hope I didn’t scare you off this time.” And I said (and meant it) “No, not at all.”

Then Monday. Work sucks, I have a bad day. He texts me halfway through the day and says, “It’s your fault, I was thinking of you and I just made cheesecake.” That made me smile. Really smile and laugh. I was having a shit day, it kind of melted my heart, whatever, I’m a sap. The key to a woman’s heart is definitely through her sweet tooth, if the woman in question is me.

So I told him “We’ll have to eat it and then dance it off.”

And he invites me to swing dance. I go with him. It’s fun. He invites me back to his place for cheesecake after. Turns out he lives really near where I work (and also near where I live), which is a huge plus. (Yeah we danced and ate in the wrong order.) His place, right? He baked for me? We sit on the couch and it reclines? This is totally the part where SEX jumps in and messes everything up, right?

Nope, we end up legit talking. I told him about my ex-fiance and stuff, and he seemed understanding. He leant me a book on the history of the English language, which OMG, that also is a big points winner. Like major points.

Problem: Shit, I might like him now. Shit. Can’t even look him in the eyes on the couch ‘cause I like him. But he wants to be friends, right? Even though I’m pretty sure we’re both attracted to each other? And he’s possibly a mild non-church-going lingering Christian (who is pretty hardcore into science and doesn’t mind being friends/flirting with a hardcore atheist, though, so how Christian can he be, right?) He mentions during our conversation about exes that he has never felt Catholic guilt after having hot sex, and I said I hadn’t done that either, and he said, “Had hot sex?” and I said, “No, felt Catholic guilt." It made sense in context and wasn’t creepy and gross, I think. But it was also definitely flirting. Right? Or was it?

We’re dance partners now and we’re going out on Sunday again, and probably sooner, to “practice dancing.”

Basically, I have to figure this shit out quickly. What the hell do I do? Do we be friends? Is he playing me? Am I playing him? What? ARGH. I don’t know what’s happening, the ambiguity is going to kill me. I hate ambiguity. Do dude and lady friends just flirt with each other sometimes and it’s all just chill and okay? It doesn't really mean he like-likes me? Is that a thing that happens, in the world, to other cooler people who don’t go freaking cray cray? The last time I was legit good friends with a straight boy I was 11 and we got teased on the bus every day for it. Is this reverse psychology or voodoo or something and he actually wants to date me? If we stay friends for too long, will I stop being attracted to him? Will we start dating other people? Or will we just become hetero life-mates and cock-block each other forever, like Olympic ice dance partners? What the fuck? I actually do want to be friends with him. But I also want to possibly sleep with him at some point. But I don't know the protocol for these things. Before anyone asks, he's definitely not gay.

Why does online dating suck so much?? I literally have no other way to meet straight guys in my daily life or work circles, so I pretty much have to use it, but then things like this happen.
posted by quincunx to Human Relations (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Go look at his OKCupid profile and see what he's Looking For. For example "long term dating" "casual dating" "hookups" "activity partners" whatever. If he's only on the site looking for friends, his categories here will likely reflect that.

In general, I feel like OKCupid contact somewhat assumes romantic, or at least you wouldn't be wrong to err on the side of "more than friends". The ball is definitely in his court to specify, and "I'm always on the lookout for new friends" is not specific enough in that regard.

"You're Pretty" and buying you a drink = more than friends, in my book.

Quick aside: you are sending hugely mixed messages with this question. Are you looking for someone to date, or not? Are you into this guy or not? At first I thought you were coming from the perspective of liking him and not knowing if he liked you back or was looking for anything relationshippy, but later in your question it seems like you aren't interested in him at all and are backing off pretty hardcore. You need to decide what you want, and present a united front. Which might mean just telling him what's up.

I don't really understand why you're in this situation where you met someone via a dating website, and you met them and are attracted to them and are getting those nice nervous "I think I like you" butterflies, and that's inspiring you to pull away. This isn't sixth grade. If you don't want to date people, don't go on OKCupid dates.

Just go date this dude. Unless you're not interested in him, in which case stop dating this dude. There are really only two options here, and it's a win-win assuming you follow your heart.
posted by Sara C. at 1:07 AM on April 9 [15 favorites]


Hmm.

The first portion of this would, to me, if someone was doing it to me feel like push-pull game playing bullshit. Sorry if i come off as overly harsh there, but it just would. The diaffectedness on the date, the blowing him off after. You spend a lot of words justifying why you did it, but this guy isn't reading your playbook.

If i was him, i would have just been like "Meh, lets see what happens" at this point and would still want to be more than friends, but would have at least partially cut my losses and just been waiting to see where it goes knowing it could flame out.

What i don't get though, from reading it, and bits like Enough that I think, “I’d better eject, this guy clearly wants more than friendship.” By now it’s like 8 or 9 at night. and other bits like the atheism thing you directly told him make me think... yea... What do YOU want from this?

I think it's wide open for you to just tell him you like him and you want to start doing date-y stuff, but i also think you approached this in a really weird way when it seems like, from everything you've wrote, he was shooting completely straight. Any awkward corners you've ended up in here were created by you.

Is this reverse psychology or voodoo or something and he actually wants to date me?

No, he's just like "You've sent me really mixed messages, so i'm fine with doing friend-stuff just to figure out wtf is going on".

I've been on the other side of extremely similar situations. And it's like, fuck, i wish the other person had just told me how they felt before too much time had gone by and i had to ask them, and by then it was awkward and unrecoverable. This is way more than enough still early on to just ask questions directly, state what you want, and pull it out of this weird spiral of crypto second guessing shit.

I also, for what it's worth, think you're drawing too much of a line between friend activities and date-y romantic/friend you would possibly fuck activities. Be clear with what you want, but you can't suddenly not be friend just because you want to do not-strictly-platonic things.
posted by emptythought at 1:15 AM on April 9 [9 favorites]


Don't overthink this - just ask him and be honest about how you feel. Oh, and know how you feel before you talk to him.
posted by summerstorm at 1:19 AM on April 9


"I know you said you want to be friends, but do you really want to just be friends or do you want to date, because if you want to date, we can date."

Ordinarily that wouldn't be the way to approach it, but you met him on a dating site, so chances are he wants to actually date.

And stop playing games with people that you want to date. You're lucky he even persisted after you blew him off.
posted by empath at 1:23 AM on April 9 [23 favorites]


This is no kind of guarantee, but I know a number of people who've used OKcupid have used "looking for friends" to mean something along the lines of "I need to make friends with someone first before figuring out if I want to actually date them". This does not, of course, make any kind of guarantee as to whether, after the friends point, any individual person has made it over the hurdle into potential romantic entanglement.
posted by Sequence at 1:49 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


If you want to date him, I'd bring it up one more time and be 100% clear you actually DO want to.

But I'd be careful about reading too much into actions - I've met plenty of men who wanted to wine and dine me and would have been perfectly OK with sex or something happening, but still never considered it more than friendship and were 100% honest about that. This setup would usually end when one of us met someone else.

My read of things would be that by inviting you out for the beer he was showing interest; you left early. Then you declined plans a couple times, then told him you weren't interested in dating him. If this was me, I would have written you off as a romantic prospect at that point. But I wouldn't see anything wrong with flirting or going swing-dancing or whatever if there appeared to be a mutual understanding of just-friends-ness, which you both seem to think you have butyeah.

Also, have you thought that it might be more beneficial to YOU to remain friends with him longer? You're not even sure you want to date this guy yet. It's very possible to decide you'd rather not date him but still sleep together at some point.

FWIW, most of my friends are straight men and I've been attracted to many of them at some point. The longer I'm friends with them, the more the sexual-feelings fade and the more the thought of sleeping with them makes me gag. Note that this only seemed to be the case with the ones I *didn't* also have romantic feelings for, so YMMV.
posted by Autumn at 2:16 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


You're sending him terribly mixed messages and he's following your lead.

It sounds like he'd be ok with either friends or dating; you just need to make up your mind. If you "hate ambiguity" stop acting so ambiguously.
posted by ook at 3:14 AM on April 9 [23 favorites]


I'd basically concur with others who are suggesting that he was initially interested in dating, but responded to your coolness by backing way off. He likes you enough to want to get to know you as a friend, if that's how you want it to be. I strongly suspect that he's biding his time with half an eye on whether this friendship develops into something more, and isn't being sleazy about it. In my experience a lot of people find it very difficult to make the transition from that initial date to a full-on relationship - for some people it's just 'first date, next date, some more dates, relationship', while for a lot of people things take a more indirect route.

If you feel something for him, admit to it. Or wait for him to admit whatever it is he feels (which I'd put money on being much the same as what you're feeling). You've both danced around the issue enough (no pun intended... well, ok, pun intended) to have a pretty good idea of what you actually want from this.
posted by pipeski at 3:36 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


If you cut out all of the crap that's a tired cliche or you assuming things about him without asking (we're at a bar, therefore he wants sex), this is a mostly straightforward scenario. The complicating factor isn't OkCupid, or this guy sending you mixed signals, it's this:

I actually do want to be friends with him. But I also want to possibly sleep with him at some point.

How can you expect anyone here to be able to comment on what a guy they've never met wants, when you yourself aren't able to even define what it is that you want?

If you want friendship, or you want sex, or you want a relationship, the way to have non-complicated relationships in your life is to figure your shit out, be direct and not to play games with them.

He's not a mind-reader, neither are we - you have to define what it is that you want, then you have to execute on it. That's how people who have successful male-female relationships and male-female friendships do it.
posted by rutabega at 3:56 AM on April 9 [10 favorites]


I for one am not sure what your atheism has to do with anything, unless you do want to consider a relationship with this fella, and at least in my mind having a religious debate is something for way down the line and not such an immediate deal breaker. If you were really just interested in friendship, would you care that much that he was raised in a church he says he doesn't go to anymore? That seems like either a stalling technique or a way to weed out potential mates to me.

On a side, anecdotal note, I met my husband on OKC but only after I had decided to treat everyone I met there as a potential friend first. I get where you're at; I wasted a lot of time getting attached too soon to people, so I sort of admire your ability to play it cool. But this guy has given you a TON of chances, which suggests he's the real deal...if you enjoy him as much as you say you do, then go ahead and enjoy him as much as you say you do!
posted by Otter_Handler at 4:19 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


Stop playing games and stop making assumptions about his religious beliefs. You almost seem like you're trying to sabotage the first good okc prospect you've had in a while. He is clearly interested in you as a potential dating partner, and you are interested in him as well. This does not mean you have to have sex right away. In fact, because you have sent him such mixed signals, he will probably wait for you to make the first move which will give you the control that you seem to need. As far as religion, you don't know what his feelings are and you are coming off as pretty close-minded. My husband is Catholic and I am agnostic and culturally Jewish, ad it's not an issue because we have respect for one another's beliefs.
posted by amro at 4:51 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


Here's what I'd say, "We've been spending so much time together and I'm really enjoying it, and I think I'm getting a crush on you. Frankly the whole thing is confusing to me because I truly went into this wanting to be your friend."

Be 100% honest. See where the conversation goes.

If he really is serious about wanting to be your friend, then he'll reiterate that. If he wants to try and date you, that might work out.

As for the faith/atheism thing, Husbunny and I have friends who are very convicted Christians, and our faiths....are VERY different. We are all very close and have a total respect for each other's beliefs. So it is possible.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:12 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


It's more important to be clear about what *you* want. It sounds like he wants to pursue a relationship. Stop with the danger flags - he's good-looking, enjoy it. He has a Christian background and isn't used to atheism - he doesn't have to think just like you. He might want sex - well, yeah, people like sex; by now, you should be comfortable saying no calmly. I think you're over-complicating it, and will be happier if you give him a chance.
posted by theora55 at 5:48 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


You sound like you have a hard time deciding what you want- first you say you are tired of OkC dates (I completely relate) but then you start talking about religion and incompatibility. I think perhaps this guy isn't sure you want to date him, and wasn't sure from the beginning based on your signals, so he was following suit.

People don't generally use OkCupid to meet purely platonic friends- some kind of physical relationship is usually on the table or in thought if someone contacts you (especially for guys, in my opinion and generally). I've heard of people using the site to "make platonic friends" but they are usually in relationships or else it doesn't really work/is rare. So I think he probably, at least at some point, was at least interested in some kind of physical relationship with you. I don't think many guys would bother messaging women on that site just to "make friends".

He may or may not currently be interested- you have to talk to him.
posted by bearette at 6:06 AM on April 9


I have learned that people can do sweet, caring things with absolutely no intent of developing a relationship. I've also learned through a lot of hard practice not to bond with sweet caring guys who are into casual stuff (and that can include movies, outings, dinner and very hit regular sex). I suspect I will have no idea if a guy I'm seeing is interested in developing a partnership, because all my (good) dating experiences don't go in that direction. It's almost like the whole paradigm of two together - partnership- love only occurs when (for me) the guy either wants and specifically says so - a long term monogamous relationship / and or children.

So, putting my lens over your situation, it's possible this nice guy would like to have sex, do nice things together, without considering it a relationship. Are you ok with that? I wasn't until my only options became partner with inappropriate people or not have those touch-needs met. I'm only ok with it - I'm not "holy fuck, this is awesome, I never have to worry about washing anyone else's anything ever!"
posted by b33j at 6:08 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


He's someone who likes you. You made it clear you only wanted to be friends, he said that was cool and, while it was likely disappointing to him, it seems he accepted that because I don't think he's done something out of the norm for friends. Judge people on their actions, not on your guesses.

But he clearly likes you and, if you wanted to go there, you almost certainly could. So go there or don't. Just don't murky the waters by reclining on couches with him. Be clear with yourself and with him on what you do or don't want.
posted by inturnaround at 6:42 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Yes, you're both flirting, and yes you are playing him by sending hugely mixed messages. He has done his best to mirror and respect your mixed messages from what you describe.
It sounds like you would like to date him given that you are both attracted to him sexually and enjoy his company. I don't think his possibly religious background is an issue if he's not actively church-going and has no issues with dating/being friends with a professed atheist. Men don't tell women they're pretty on a first meeting unless they mean it and are attracted to them. If you are genuinely attracted to him and like spending time with him you should continue dating him but make it clear it's a date and not a friend thing.
posted by lafemma at 6:45 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Baggage Reclaim has a list of signs someone isn't interested or is only half-heartedly interested.

I think several of them apply to your behavior, but I don't see where any of them apply to his behavior. If you actually are interested, stop doing the things on the list.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:59 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


If you're interested, tell him you're interested. As it is, you're playing games with him and then trying to make sense of all the game-playing that's going on.

It's entirely possible he's attracted to you but likes your company enough that he believes he can manage that attraction and just be friends. This sounds like what you, also, were trying to do here, and as this question demonstrates, that hasn't worked out so well for you. So it may not be super easy for him, either.

Just be honest about what you want. Make your decisions based on the results of that conversation.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:03 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


This sounds like the flip side of SO MANY Ask Metafilter questions: "I like her, and I'm almost positive she likes me, but she said she just wants to be friends. What now?"

I can tell you what every single one of the responses would say:

She's playing games; not worth it.
Listen to what she said and back off.
Try to find someone who actually wants to date you.
You're torturing yourself by being friends with someone you want to date; don't do that.

Don't be that person. Rectify the situation post haste.
posted by supercres at 7:18 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


Is this reverse psychology or voodoo or something and he actually wants to date me? If we stay friends for too long, will I stop being attracted to him? Will we start dating other people? Or will we just become hetero life-mates and cock-block each other forever, like Olympic ice dance partners?

Life doesn't work this way. This is romcom stuff. If you do choose to remain friends, and nothing more, you may find that it is a perfectly fulfilling, rewarding, life-enriching friendship. Even if you do date, you have the option to go back to friendship. Just be honest with yourself, and honest with him, and maybe even err on the side of over-explaining yourself. You have nothing to lose by doing so.
posted by magdalemon at 8:14 AM on April 9


To be honest, based on your writing, all the "cray-cray" in this situation is being caused by you and you alone. Stop being overly dramatic and childish and just own up to what you want out of this relationship and then talk to him like another adult.
posted by Julnyes at 8:27 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


Problem: Shit, I might like him now.

Isn't this the answer to your question, rather than a problem? You like him. He obviously likes you. You're on a dating site and you've found a nice, smart, handsome guy who makes cheesecake and takes you dancing? Go you! I think it's time to sit him down and say you like him-like him and see what happens from there. He says he just wants friendship? Then you have a great new friend. He wants more? Great! If you take the chance and it doesn't work out? No one died.

As to the lapsed Irish Catholic thing, I'm one too and my last two serious relationships were with atheists. I don't see it as a problem. I too would cringe if you insulted anyone's religion in front of me, not because there's some underlying attachment to the religion but because it's rude and disrespectful (I mean, if he was brought up that way then I assume his parents etc are still in the faith). So leaving that aside just go for it and stop complicating things for yourself. Just be honest and open and take the risk.
posted by billiebee at 9:27 AM on April 9 [6 favorites]


Did I mention he was raised in the most stereotypically Irish Catholic family ever? And I am a hardcore atheist at this point in my life. He doesn’t go to church, and he left “religion” blank on okc, but I insulted Christians in front of him and he kind of cringed so I figured out he was like a lapsed-Catholic-not-quite-agnostic. Awkward.

You may be overthinking this. I was raised in a religious family and I despise the religion in question. I do not attend services or have anything to do with it. And yet. If I were out with someone socially and they were insulting Christians, I might also cringe a little. No matter what my feelings are about the religious institution, there are good people who are members and also it is just plain rude to offend people who may be nearby and might overhear you in a bar, cafe, et cetera.
posted by mlis at 2:54 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


As an atheist who is a lapsed Irish catholic, I'd wince if you started going off on Catholics, because you're talking about my family. Nothing to do with being religious at all.
posted by empath at 6:01 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


The times I have been single, I found that it's better to just be friendly. If something is going to develop, it will. If I was inclined to want romance with a woman, I would not assume that she would want that from me. I'd do something like making a cheesecake because it's a nice thing to do and that's the kind of person I want to be. If she didn't respond to that sort of thing by becoming interested in me, so be it. I make the deal with myself beforehand that just because I baked a cheesecake and she didn't fall in love with me doesn't mean I'm going to end up in her yard with a boombox over my head. And seriously, cheesecake without romance is still CHEESECAKE, the guy can't lose.
posted by zero point zero at 10:09 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


For people who think I'm leading him on: he has other female friends. He did ask me out as friends. He hasn't made any direct moves on me. I do think he's attracted to me, but not sure if it's a "you're a pretty girl" thing or "you're you" thing, does that make sense?

For people asking me what I want: a serious relationship or a friendship that is totally platonic. Nothing in-between. I think I didn't really make that clear, and that's kind of what's tripping me up.
posted by quincunx at 11:44 AM on April 10


Do dude and lady friends just flirt with each other sometimes and it’s all just chill and okay?

Yes, sometimes.

On your followup: Tell him that you want either a serious relationship or a friendship that is totally platonic. Nothing in-between. Explain what you would want from each of those.

You are unlikely to get teased on the bus for having a dude friend, and if you do, so what?
posted by yohko at 4:48 PM on April 15


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