Just Friends
December 2, 2004 7:43 PM   Subscribe

JustFriends filter: A thirtysomething female friend of mine in the throes of divorce meets a guy via the internet. She's *very* clear the whole time that she just wants friends and does not want a relationship in any way, shape or form besides friendship. She likes talking to the guy and says that he's got a great sense of humor, but she's not willing to go any further. From the emails I've been forwarded, it seems that his big head gets it but his little head thinks she's just coy. Any way for her to turn him into the friend she'd like him to be rather than having to beat his advances off all the time?

Oh, and just to give some context, she's in her 30's and he's just over the "40" hill.
posted by SpecialK to Human Relations (29 answers total)
Dude, I really don't mean to be flip, but this is just a _recipe_ for disaster. I mean, all the horror stories about Internet stalkers start with "He seemed like such a nice guy!"

What are the odds of it turning out well when it starts with "He doesn't seem to take a hint!"?
posted by LairBob at 7:48 PM on December 2, 2004

Men and women can be friends?

Ok, perhaps under circumstances. But probably not when they meet on-line and when one wants to bone another.
posted by drpynchon at 7:58 PM on December 2, 2004

Sounds like she totally loves the attention (why is she forwarding you the e-mails? 8th grade, anyone?), as long as she can pretend he doesn't want her. Because he's making it clear that he does, she can't. I say, find a new friend, because this one is a lost cause.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:03 PM on December 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

It comes down to a few simple things:

Men want to sleep with all of their female friends, unless the women are not in any way attractive. They may never act on it, or even admit it to themselves, but that's just the way it is, folks.

Women going through a divorce are easy targets.

Men who don't bring up the possibility of a relationship, even jokingly, don't have as many relationships as men that do.

Even if he is a perfect friend, other than the advances, don't forget - even perfect gentlemen still want to get laid.

He might be a genuinely nice guy, but the odds are against it in this case. Your friend can't turn him into someone else. If she doesn't want a relationship, have her end it now. He won't give up on the idea, even if he says he will.
posted by bh at 8:08 PM on December 2, 2004

I know a lot of women who, regardless of their age, are extremely naive about the men who are their "friends" and think that the men don't want them in that way, when it is apparent that these men are looking for sex. The women I know that have this problem more than others seem to be women with low self esteem, or self esteem issues. No idea if that's the case here, but it seems that way to me.

I definitely agree with LairBob, and that there's little chance of this working out if the guy seems like he's wanting more out of this relationship than he is. His expectations have probably already been set, and changing expectations after the fact almost never works.
posted by stovenator at 8:12 PM on December 2, 2004

Well, I don't necessarily think there's "little chance" of this working out, but your friend is going to have to accept the fact that if he's attracted to her, he will probably always be attracted to her, whether she likes it or not. If she doesn't mind reminding him over and over and over again that they're "just friends," there's no reason why they can't be.

I have a couple of friends who are in this situation. My female friend and I never went anywhere because I just wasn't interested in her sexually. My male friend, on the other hand, is very attracted to her. We all get along fine, but she doesn't like hanging out with him without me. They can, but as she tells me, "It's wierd."

And to her credit, she's absolutely correct. I'll talk to my male friend after one of these "wierd" encounters, and tell him, "Look, you know she's not interested, right?" And he'll respond, "I dunno, man, you weren't there. She really seemed like she was diggin' me."

It's at this point when I have to smack either myself or him on the head.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:31 PM on December 2, 2004

I'm not sure why everyone wants to smear her as attention-seeking or naive. It sounds like she's been extremely upfront and direct about what she wants. Plenty of male-female friendships succeed just fine when one party is attracted to the other if they're both mature about it, and it sounds like this guy has some possibility of being mature. A mature person can simultaneously want to sleep with someone and accept the fact that it won't happen.

And the fact that they met on the Internet doesn't really matter. SpecialK doesn't say how they met on the Internet - maybe one of them read the other one's blog or something.
posted by transona5 at 8:32 PM on December 2, 2004

How about a little honesty? If she tells the guy, "Look, you sweating me for sex is something that's going to prevent us from being friends if it continues," then he can make his decision.

Either he thinks she's just being coy and really wants it, or he thinks he can talk her into it. If that's really not what she wants, an honest talk should set her right.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:35 PM on December 2, 2004

Response by poster: She's one of the most blunt and direct people I know. (Which is part of the reason she's going through a divorce, but that's a whole nother story.) She has been very, very plain. He's answered with innuendo. She forwarded his innuendo to me and asked, "I'm thinking a few more 'just friends' comments are warranted?" (To which I replied, no, a few more shots of pepper spray...)

I'm just wondering how I can point out that men generally want to get into her pants, and she shouldn't trust them, without being a hypocrite because I'm a man and while I wouldn't mind spending time in her pants, it's not in my top ten list of things to do today, or next week, or next year for that matter. Where's the line and how do I describe it in a way she'll understand?
posted by SpecialK at 8:42 PM on December 2, 2004

This is becoming so Jerry Springer, I quit.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:47 PM on December 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

It's a disaster waiting to happen. If he can't get it out of his head that she doesn't want him then she needs to cut her losses.
posted by bshort at 8:50 PM on December 2, 2004

Response by poster: Oh, and by the way, yeah, naive. She's been out of the dating "market" since high school.
posted by SpecialK at 8:52 PM on December 2, 2004

How about saying: "Looks to me like he wants some of your goodies, otherwise he would have stopped sweating you by now. Makes sense to me that he would find you attractive, because you are. But if you aren't up for a bit of horizontal refreshment right now, I'd advise you to bid him farewell."

I'm nearing 40, and the attractiveness (the mystery!) of would-be romantic partners having to guess what I want and hope has completely worn away. So I'm admittedly biased in that direction.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:57 PM on December 2, 2004

That direction being bluntness.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:58 PM on December 2, 2004

She needs to take the absolute DIRECT approach and tell him.

"No, I don't want to have sex with you, I want to be friends, ONLY."
posted by kamylyon at 8:59 PM on December 2, 2004

As long as she's stated up-front (to the guy!) that she doesn't want anything to do with his penis (nor prostate), then she should be absolved from whatever grief/frustration the guy might get into.

Heck maybe the guy likes flirting, to feel like he's still desirable, and that's all they want. Heck, maybe.

If she hasn't stated explicitly to the gentleman, then she really really should. Explicitly and unambiguously. I'm assuming that they have seen the likenesses of each other?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2004

Response by poster: Yep. They've met in person. That's when the full-court press started.
posted by SpecialK at 9:02 PM on December 2, 2004

Ah so.

The answer is no.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:07 PM on December 2, 2004

She just needs to tell the guy he's ugly / unattractive.

That should break his spirit sufficiently to turn him into the spineless, obsequious "friend" she's after without him giving her too much trouble.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:14 PM on December 2, 2004

Upon reflection - still "no" unless (or maybe just possibly she can hook the guy up with someone else.

upon preview Space Coyote - she did kinda want to keep him around as a friend, and not someone who's going to mail her talcum powder through the mail.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:16 PM on December 2, 2004

No way, no how.
posted by majcher at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2004

Is a friend who changes him into the kind of friend she wants him to be the kind of friend he wants to have?

When you parse that, let me know; I'll be over here doing brain surgeries and stuff.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:35 PM on December 2, 2004

A man who has a female friend he finds worth keeping around for other than sexual reasons is "spineless" and "obsequious." A woman who isn't interested in a man sexually is trying to change him. Unbelievable.
posted by transona5 at 11:19 PM on December 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm wrong, but it sounds to me as though she has met her online friend during this divorce trauma period, and so I'm guessing that there has been a lot of conversation about this, which would suggest fairly personal exchanges, etc. And she did agree to meet in person, which probably shouldn't mean anything, but evidentally does, to him... If this is the case, then I can see how the guy might have the wrong picture. If their discussion mostly centers around a shared hobby or project, that's a different story, but if not, I just don't think that they are sharing the same friendship, and it's so muddled now that there's not much chance of it getting all starched and pressed.

Not enough information for me to say, but if the story is as I suspect, I would advise her to tell him, "Look, I'm sorry, I'm probably not at my smartest right now, and perhaps I've set a tone that seems as though it might reasonably lead to some sort of romantic conclusion, when in fact it's not what I want at all. I think it would be best if we discontinued this... my mistake... blah... blah.
posted by taz at 11:23 PM on December 2, 2004

Men want to sleep with all of their female friends, unless the women are not in any way attractive. They may never act on it, or even admit it to themselves, but that's just the way it is, folks.

See also: Ladder Theory.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:43 PM on December 2, 2004

It seems that persistence pays off often enough that it's worth it for some guys to keep trying. It's not even about what she says or does, it's about what he thinks she wants deep down inside, perhaps so deep that she doesn't even realize. She needs to draw firm boundaries and stick to them. If she ever accepts a drunken come-on (even in the interest of being nice), it would encourage him more. I would say that the best bet is to ask him for an apology for the inappropriate comment. He needs to register that it's serious and not just her protesting too much. If he persists after that, cut off contact for a set period of time and tell him that it's because of his actions. She needs to separate herself from the women whose mouths say "no" but whose hearts say "yes". If that still doesn't work, it's probably time to cut him loose.
posted by hindmost at 1:16 AM on December 3, 2004

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone.

I selected some choice quotes from this thread and assembled an email saying ... "this is what I told some people I know. This is what they said in response. Your choice." And went on to say that if it was me I'd say very explicitly, "no." ... give him a chance to be friends (because many women did with me, although not along these particular lines since I was 20) and keep him at arm's length, but if he doesn't get it or pulls anything that's not gentlemanly, rubbish can him faster than a two-week-old pumpkin pie.
posted by SpecialK at 1:43 AM on December 3, 2004

ugh, I would advise her to cut bait and look for a friend elsewhere. I had this situation with a guy 16+ yrs older, not physically attractive to me at all, etc., but he packaged himself initially as a "safe", "just friends" kinda guy. But the sexual innuendo started at about the 4 month mark and never stopped, even though I was as direct as I could be without actually saying "I think you're ugly", as someone here as suggested. (Of course, the problem with being a nice friend about a refusal instead of, "the reason i would never sleep with you is your physical appearance", is that you leave yourself open to argument, bargaining, etc.) The moments of platonic friendship were punctuated with the aggrevation of dealing with things like, "we're driving to a city 2 hours away for a day trip, so why not get a hotel room on the way there or back--we're friends, right?", sexual comments on my body or clothing completely out of context of whatever was happening or being discussed, cataloging the people he knew (who were strangers to me) who thought we were a "couple," parading around shirtless after he needed to stop and change clothes after a hike, etc. His sexual advances just went underground as passive-aggressive behavior that he could defend as "normal" while insisting that he was OK with being "just friends."

In short, I think that "ladder theory" site is pretty bogus, but I do agree that people can't necessarily hit a switch and stop seeing you as a potential sexual partner just because you say, "nope, friends only." Especially if they are single.
posted by availablelight at 7:02 AM on December 3, 2004

What Hindmost said, but more explicit. Whenever he makes an inappropriate comment, say "That's inappropriate, and if you do that again, I'm leaving (or hanging up, or signing off." If he does, then she needs to keep her word and leave. In the middle of a drink, in the middle of a conversation, whatever. She may think she's been blunt, but obviously she hasn't made the consequences of his acting in a way that she doesn't want clear.
posted by occhiblu at 8:20 AM on December 3, 2004

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