Skip

A friendship worth strengthening?
August 11, 2014 3:03 PM   Subscribe

A longtime casual friend, that many of my other friends dislike, is moving to my city and expecting us to become much closer friends. However, I don't feel particularly close to this person, our conversations have always been kind of awkward and I'm uncertain we can ever have the close friendship he wants. Should I give it a chance? Is it worth it? How do I handle this situation without hurting anyones feelings? Details inside.

I met my friend, lets call him 'Doc', online in 2005. Doc is in his late 20s, is a large guy (tall and heavy), loud and forceful when he speaks, kind, physically demonstrative with his affection (ie: touches a lot) and the sort of person who spends his time at a party making sure everyone else is having fun/in good spirits/doing damage control - yes, even if it's not his party. He lives several states away, has friends/family, is employed (security), does some volunteer work, but seems very isolated/devoid of close friends. We initially began talking because of our mutual interest in a specific genre of art/stories and became a little closer because of a few other shared interests. He's been a presence through several very trying periods in my life (including a very messy break up), is accepting of who I am (I'm transgendered; post-op FtM) and is supportive of what I do. The friendship has always toed the line of casual for me as he's good friends with my ex (and has guilt-tripped me in the past over not forgiving/communicating with said ex) and we haven't had enough conversations about our lives, in my opinion, to connect on a deeper level yet. Our friendship appears to be much deeper/closer for him even though we keep in pretty infrequent contact (every few weeks/months but increasingly so). We've met several times over the years, but mostly in the context of parties or conventions.

Contact with Doc is usually pleasant, but has a tendency to end awkwardly. He revealed very early on that he was romantically interested in me, even though he knew I was in a relationship at the time (not the same relationship I am in presently) and even though he identifies as strictly gay (recoils at vagina - which I do have - and partly why I 'came out' to him when he professed his attraction for me). I was flattered and I thanked him, but was pretty clear (I think) that the romantic interest was not mutual. Since Doc has had a couple of relationships over the years, I thought we had moved on.

Except that doesn't appear to be the case and I can't help but notice that nearly all of my conversations with Doc inevitably end up the same way: him gushing about how attractive he finds me, how much he'd love to fool around with me (which -really- confuses me at best and makes me kind of feel like a novelty sex toy at worst) and how happy/lucky he is that we're such good friends. I am NOT a self-confident person, so at first I was flattered by these sentiments - and I thanked him for them (as well as for his friendship), but the topic always persisted, resulting in my not knowing what to say (which I have told him. literally.), a general feeling of awkwardness and ultimately the death of the conversation itself (I simply stop responding and this doesn't appear to bother him). This has been going on for several years.

At one point I reached out to some close mutual friends for advice on how I could approach the subject without offending Doc and was surprised to learn that a significant number of them can't stand him. Some have cut him off entirely, some are reaching that point, and everyone else just seems to be tolerating him to avoid confrontation. More importantly, I also discovered that even my partner -really- dislikes Doc. Given that my partner is the calm, level-headed, more extroverted one in our relationship, it's unusual - and he pointed to a few interactions he had with Doc that made him very uncomfortable, such as Doc introducing him to other people as his 'good friend' (even though they do not talk) and especially the touching (bearhugging, grabbing, restraining, ect.). He describes Doc as a creeper, manipulative, someone who forces their friendship on others, a liar and someone who doesn't bring anything to the friendship (ie: all 'taker').

I do see some of these qualities in Doc. He does lie, yes, usually about being friends with people he hardly knows, and his physical demonstrations of affection (bearhugs, particularly from behind) can be -very- unsettling/disrespectful for people (such as my partner). However, his behaviors don't seem severe enough for everyone to have such negative views about him. Everyones complaint just seems to be that he tries way too hard and they don't like him, which I feel like he could do something about if people were open with him about their issues (ie: tell him directly "you do x. It makes me feel like y and that's why we're not friends."). But maybe they have, and it didn't help. I don't know.

MeFi... I could really use some more objective takes on this. I'm at a point in life where I want to strengthen the relationships that matter. I don't have a lot of experience navigating friendships or interacting with people (and unfortunately what little I have is mostly negative). My inexperience is making it impossible for me to determine whether I should strengthen my friendship with Doc or continue to keep the friendship casual (or at all?). Am I being way too naive here? Is Doc's behavior creepy? Am I overlooking red flags? Should I try to talk to him about it? If so, how? How can I bring up these issues I have without hurting his feelings and/or avoiding drama now that he'll be living so close?

Thanks for your help and I apologize if I left anything out in an effort to keep things anonymous.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total)
 
Red Flag: He has repeatedly made you uncomfortable bringing up how much he wants to have sex with you, despite knowing the interest is not mutual. He's been testing your boundaries, and seems to have found that he can walk all over them. Run away.
posted by florencetnoa at 3:18 PM on August 11 [36 favorites]


This is a huge red flag: nearly all of my conversations with Doc inevitably end up the same way: him gushing about how attractive he finds me, how much he'd love to fool around with me (which -really- confuses me at best and makes me kind of feel like a novelty sex toy at worst)

I think Doc isn't being a very good friend at all, and you should feel okay about letting the relationship go. He's not respecting your boundaries, seems clueless about the inappropriateness of his physicality, and your partner (whom you say is level-headed) can't stand him. I don't see very much here about what is good about the relationship.

You can either do the slow fade (my guess is that his personality type isn't going to let him get the hint), or tell him you simply aren't interested in being friends with him any longer. If you go with the latter, keep it simple. Don't get into an argument or debate about it, just say what you have to say and disengage. Meet in a public place so you can leave right away.

You're obviously a caring and thoughtful person. You deserve better friends than this.
posted by Specklet at 3:19 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


without hurting his feelings and/or avoiding drama
Don't be so concerned about preserving his feelings when he is restraining people, repeatedly hitting on you, lying and - yes- acting like a creep. If everyone loathes him, you can bet that many people have told him point-blank to stop these behaviors and he has not stopped them. That is a huge red flag.

Cutting him off will be a bit uncomfortable for you, but that is his fault and not yours.
posted by soelo at 3:20 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


his physical demonstrations of affection (bearhugs, particularly from behind) can be -very- unsettling/disrespectful for people (such as my partner).

Has he been told that this is unsettling and disrespectful and if so, does he continue to do it? If so, that's a really concerning person to have around your friends. It would be a huge, unconditional dealbreaker for me as far as spending any time with him, and you by extension (if you're bringing him places).

Besides that, I agree that his disrespect of your own boundaries should be a major red flag for you.
posted by randomnity at 3:21 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I don't feel particularly close to this person, our conversations have always been kind of awkward and I'm uncertain we can ever have the close friendship he wants. Should I give it a chance? Is it worth it? How do I handle this situation without hurting anyones feelings?

Even at the beginning of the question, it's clear you don't really want to interact more with Doc. You aren't missing out on something by not pursuing this "friendship." The relationships that matter will be with people who you actually like and who respect your boundaries.
posted by grouse at 3:53 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


This took me a long time to learn: Just because someone has been supportive in the past does not mean that you owe them anything in the present. It is great that Doc was there for you during trying times - I am really glad that you had a friend to help you when you needed it.

But this guy is no longer a friend. He is not treating you with respect, the way a friend treats people he cares about.

This also raises big red flags: Our friendship appears to be much deeper/closer for him even though we keep in pretty infrequent contact.

People who act like they have more with you than they actually have with you in reality are boundary-pushers.

Boundary-pushers may mean well, they may not be bad people, but the fact remains that they will push you and try to get more from you than you want to give to them, and they will do it repeatedly, and it only spells drama and trouble.

I can't tell you how much better my life is without boundary-pushers in it. I just refuse to engage with them anymore and guess what? They no longer push my boundaries, because they don't get the time or space with me to do it anymore.

Don't let this guy in. He has shown you that he will push your personal boundaries - making you feel like "a sex toy" is just awful, and I am so sorry that someone is doing things that are giving you those feelings - and the boundaries of others in order to get whatever it is that he wants from the interaction - attention? Being liked? Sex? Who knows, he probably has multiple reasons for doing what he does, but you won't have to think about it or worry about it anymore if you decide not to engage with him.

Best of luck to you.
posted by sockermom at 3:58 PM on August 11 [7 favorites]


However, his behaviors don't seem severe enough for everyone to have such negative views about him.

They're severe to the people who don't like them and who keep being on the receiving end. As you are, with the endless confessions from him about how he feels about you when those confessions make you feel uncomfortable and gross.

He's already reset your expectations for what you can define as reasonable or "not so bad" from him. Don't let him reset them further. There isn't really any way to stop being friends with someone who still wants to be friends that doesn't hurt their feelings or bring drama, but I think you have to go there. I would.
posted by rtha at 4:01 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Oh, one more thing:

Everyones complaint just seems to be that he tries way too hard and they don't like him, which I feel like he could do something about if people were open with him about their issues (ie: tell him directly "you do x. It makes me feel like y and that's why we're not friends."). But maybe they have, and it didn't help. I don't know.

Well, you could do this also. But I promise you - he has been told about this in the past, and he chose to ignore it. There is no way that he has been through this much life without interacting with someone who set boundaries with him clearly and concisely at least once. And once is enough.

Since you aren't that close with him, I wouldn't recommend saying this to him - I'd just fade out. But even close friends don't listen. I had a close friend who was just the biggest pusher of boundaries and you know what? I had repeated conversations with her about it and she really, truly, honestly thinks that those conversations never happened.

People have a hard time hearing what they do not want to hear. It's a sad fact, but it's a true fact, and the bottom line is that someone - probably many people - in Doc's life has said to him, "Hey man, quit it," and he kept doing whatever "it" was. People who are not operating logically cannot hear reason.
posted by sockermom at 4:03 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Late twenties is awfully late for this behavior to be just based in misunderstanding and awkwardness - if the kid were 18, that would be another thing, maybe.

I think that life is too short to deal with kinda-sorta friendships that make you feel awkward and crappy. If you're insecure, I think it's really easy to have bad...hm, not exactly boundaries, but standards or expectations, where maybe you've had so many shitty things happen to you that any friendship where people are not obviously acting with conscious malice and betraying your secrets is acceptable.

Depending on how you feel about the guy, it might be worth it to you to have a serious talk or email with him where you say that in order to keep being friends, he needs to stop grabbing at you or people around you and he needs to stop complimenting/propositioning you. It is conceivable to me that a lonely guy could think he's being affectionate and complimentary in hugging and propositioning - that's something where you have to use your judgment. And awkward people really can be the goat in a social circle. But if you do this, I'd say to do it seriously and stick to it - if he starts grabbing or propositioning again, cut him off.

The thing is, if you're going to have friends for whom you feel vaguely sorry and who are kind of fucked up, you have to be able to set really serious boundaries with them and they can't be in the habit of Doing Something That Really Freaks You Out. Sometimes you can have a messed up friend, put up with some stuff, be there for them and then, lo, in a couple of years they get their act together - I've seen it happen. It's worth putting up with a moderate amount of unpleasant stuff if someone really needs you. But you have to make sure that you are not wearing yourself down in the process.
posted by Frowner at 4:04 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Doc is a shitty friend, at best, and you should friend-dump him and move on.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:16 PM on August 11


A friend is someone who...

A) keeps making sexual remarks after I have clearly stated my disinterest and makes me feel uncomfortable and who is more invested in the relationship than I think is warranted.

B) generally makes me feel understood and secure, even if we have periods of awkwardness or times we are not at close
posted by warriorqueen at 4:24 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Here's what you tell Doc, try it in email, it's easier. "I'd like to get some distance Doc. You continually push my boundaries by talking about me as a sex-object and it makes me uncomfortable. For now I'd rather not remain in touch. I wish you the best."

Leave it at that.

Don't answer calls, don't reply to email. Just ice him out of your life.

You don't owe anyone your friendship, especially someone who doesn't deserve it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:00 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


At one point I reached out to some close mutual friends for advice on how I could approach the subject without offending Doc and was surprised to learn that a significant number of them can't stand him.

Please forgive me for saying so, but I actually laughed out loud when I read this sentence. That's how much I am surprised that you were surprised by this.

This guy objectifies you in a way you've repeatedly said makes you uncomfortable, to the point of you totally stopping the conversation because you can't stand him doing it, and then he turns around and just does it again?

Jesus, I hate this guy and I have never even met him- and I am reading a description of him written by someone who considers him a friend! This guy is bad fucking news.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:29 PM on August 11 [15 favorites]


Please don't see this person again. For your own sake. He's bad news.
posted by learnsome at 6:49 PM on August 11


You say you are "NOT a self-confident person." Part of self-confidence is realizing that it's ok if people don't like you and that you don't just have to settle for spending time with whoever will have you -- you get to actively decide what relationships you want in your life.

I suspect that what you're seeing as your friends' not understanding Doc is actually you not understanding how self-confident adults conduct themselves in relationships (platonic or otherwise). You seem to be trying to get your friends and partner to lower their standards to yours, when you should be looking at raising your standards to theirs.
posted by jaguar at 6:50 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


I mean really. Volunteering and all that good stuff doesn't change the fact that he somehow can't stop making you or the other people around him uncomfortable. Plenty of skeezy fucks live objectively productive lives.

I acknowledge that there's some nuance I'm ignoring here, but his problems are his, not yours, and that you're asking this question illustrates to me that, deep down, you're not willing to help him figure his mess out. Nor should you be.
posted by Chutzler at 10:12 PM on August 11


Anonymous, having known people who sound a lot like this fellow, I have some thoughts that I would rather share privately. If you have a throwaway account, please feel free to email me at the address in my profile.
posted by desuetude at 10:19 PM on August 11


The fact that you are feeling pressured and obligated to spend more time with some guy that you really have reservations about says all that needs to be said, IMO. Run.
posted by zug at 10:22 PM on August 11


He doesn't want to be friends - he wants to sleep with you. You don't want that, have told him so, and he won't take no for an answer. That alone is very bad news.

PLUS: He makes you feel bad, like 'a novelty sex toy'. He lies. He has boundary issue and ignores other people's personal space. He creeps your friends out.

Where is the upside for you in this? Stay away from this guy. If he doesn't like that, tough. His feelings are not your problem.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:32 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Everyone above is right. Maybe it also helps to consider that this is not fair on your partner. You're letting someone who he can't stand continue to make sexually charged conversation with you. Not because you like it but because you're scared to break it off.

I had a guy friend like that who was 40! They never learn. All their talk about how they have no friends is not so that you actually help them change their friendship destroying ways - it's just to make you feel sorry for them and provide a them-centric topic of conversation.
At one point that friend wanted to visit me and I felt instant dread. I didn't feel like I had a good reason to say "no, don't come", though.

Well, here's the news: that feeling of dread is reason enough. You shouldn't have to argue about it. You're not feeling it. "Friend, you make me feel uncomfortable most of the time. It's time to end the friendship. I won't be in contact with you anymore."
Reactions include:
- but you never said anything!
- I can change!
- but what did I do? Explain it all so that I can rules lawyer my way our of it!
- why are you so cruel? I shall die friendless.
To which you don't reply. You only keep repeating: "regardless. This friendship is over. Nothing you say is going to change that."

And you know what - even if it isn't his fault. Even if you choose to blame yourself for being cruel / poor boundaries / whatever. It doesn't have to be his fault for it to be over. You are clearly not equipped to handle your boundaries around this guy. This friendship is bad for you. This is reason enough to end it.

It's okay for you to be the bad guy in his eyes. There are no magic words to make him not be sad and mad at you. Be okay with being the bad guy for now. It'll be okay. You will feel relief.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:51 AM on August 12 [7 favorites]


Doc isn't a friend. He's trying to sleep with you. He wasn't doing a very good job to begin with, and he keeps doing it when you are uncomfortable. Just drop him.
posted by spaltavian at 7:54 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


"[...] but seems very isolated/devoid of close friends."

That's everything I needed to read. I used to think that it was somehow part of my job in life to be the friend for people who don't have friends. I have come to learn that not only is it NOT my job, it's not anyone's job. Someone who doesn't have friends is creating that situation for themselves and has the ability to make a change. They won't make that change until they have no friends.

Additionally, it's a HUGE RED FLAG that Doc is moving cities. In my experience, people like Doc "use up" a city by being creepers and bad friends. Eventually, in order to have more people to suck dry they move geographic locations. He's moving to be near you because you haven't had boundaries. The time to start having boundaries is BEFORE he shows up in your town. If everyone you know and love doesn't like him? Don't alienate yourself from the friends you have by inviting him around. He'll work to isolate you, and you deserve better.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:25 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


« Older I love the androgynous, monoch...   |  The missus and I are working t... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments



Post