My Boyfriend Wants To Be Just Friends
August 29, 2009 5:34 AM   Subscribe

My Boyfriend Wants To Be Just Friends?

Tonight, my boyfriend of 7 months told me he feels our relationship going back to more of a "friendship" ( we were really good friends for a long time before going out ). It was in a text message, which i didnt get until now because i was sleeping, so i havent talked to him yet. The last few weeks, he was affecionate (kissing, cuddling) as always but not anything like making out or higher, which we had oppurtunity to i suppose but didn't, which usually wouldnt be the case. I felt like we didnt spend enough alone time together with just me and him but i dont want to be quick to blame it on that. He said he wants to be good friends, like me and my best friend aaron, who is like a brother to me and he knows that. Me and aaron are together all the time, talk all the time, so i suppose thats what he wants? He also says he misses being single. And that he doesnt want to hurt me and that that is the last thing he wants to do. I know he still cares about me and wants me to be in his life but im confused on something. Im not sure if he only feels feelings of friendship toward me OR if it was just the relationship getting too close to being a friendship and he needs some space from the actual relationship to figure out what he wants. I know i havent talked to him yet, but i need some insight and advice to what is going on. And i also need help with what to do at school when i usually see him, because im not ready to be jumping into being his "best friend", like we were long before. I have him in my history class, we sit next to each other. Please help me. He is my best friend/ boyfriend/ lover/ all bundled into one and he means alot to me. I dont want to lose him. ive noticed that the past couple days at school hes been hugging me very closely, kissing me more than usual when saying goodbye before each class
posted by xopaigexo to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One: Talk to him. We don't know you, we don't know him, and we don't know your context. Specific advice is not going to be forthcoming.

Two: Exactly how old are you two? If you're in high school--and it sounds to me like you probably are--I really wouldn't be taking any of this too seriously. Neither of you has any idea who you are or are going to be. Drama much? If you're in college, yeah, things can be a get more serious there, because you'd theoretically be in a position where being serious about someone is a possibility. But even then, chill. Why?

Because three: If you make any one person the key to your happiness, you will never be happy, because people are exactly that: people. We're all flawed, will screw up, and can never possibly live up to the kinds of expectations we put on each other. If you aren't okay by yourself, adding another person to the equation isn't going to change that.

So four: take a deep breath, talk to this guy, and recognize that no matter how this pans out, it's not the end of the world, and you'll be okay. If you need to spend a weekend crying and eating ice cream with your girlfriends, feel free to do so, but don't mope. It ain't worth it.
posted by valkyryn at 5:46 AM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]

The way I read this is that he doesn't want to hurt you, but he wants something (maybe another girl, a cooling off period, etc.) that he knows will hurt you, and so has been extra lovey because he feels guilty. Sorry, but it's gonna hurt. It's okay to not like that. Seek support elsewhere. Don't feel you owe him that best-friend status he's asking for.
posted by jon1270 at 5:47 AM on August 29, 2009 [16 favorites]

If you don't know what's going on in his mind, we really won't know. But, you can look at what he's told you: He does not want to be in a relationship with you, and he doesn't want to hurt you. There's no need to try to understand it any further, because you are now not in a relationship with him. Believe him when he says he wants out. The wildly popular advise on this site is: Believe what people tell you about themselves. You will save yourself a lot of grief in life if you learn this. A bit of advice: Wailing "But whyyyy!" or "What can I do to fix this?" or "But I loooove you!" will not work. I promise.

So, it hurts. There's been a bit of teasing about your (possible) youth. But we've all been there, and it hurts to not have someone you love, love you back -- whether you are 12 or 120, it hurts.

He's made a counter-proposal: Friends. You can accept this or reject it. If it were me, I'd counter the counter-proposal by saying you'd like to be friends after a period of time to get over him romantically. There's nothing wrong with needing a cooling-off period at the end of a romantic relationship before renewing a friendship.

The school year has just started. Focus on your schoolwork, after-school activities, hanging out with old friends, and making new friends. Maybe give yourself a deadline: You'll give yourself a break from all contact with him until, say, Christmas, and then make a decision about whether to be friends with him or not at that time. I recommend Christmas because it usually takes about half the relationship time to get over someone. You were with him for 7 months, so give yourself about 3.5 months to get over him.

(And you can do better. Breaking up by text message is a totally uncool, immature, and cowardly move. You may not see it now, but you deserve better.)
posted by Houstonian at 6:19 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm sure the collective wisdom here will agree upon many things, but probably most important for you right now is:

1. Yeah, you should talk with him. Don't make it heavy; just hear him out. Of course he likes you; you're eminently likable but he's just not wanting to make this an exclusive relationship. That's cool.
2. It will get better. These types of things do really suck, but it won't always.

You really will survive this.
posted by dzaz at 6:31 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know he still cares about me and wants me to be in his life but im confused on something. Im not sure if he only feels feelings of friendship toward me OR if it was just the relationship getting too close to being a friendship and he needs some space from the actual relationship to figure out what he wants. I know i havent talked to him yet, but i need some insight and advice to what is going on.

So you do understand that EVERYTHING any mefite (including myself) write on here is PURE conjecture, and DEFINITELY not anything we can back up with ANY evidence, right?

If you REALLY want to REALLY REALLY bad...the person who can tell you the absolute truth is your ex-boyfriend.

Good luck, and I hope you are already in the process of moving on.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:32 AM on August 29, 2009

In my experience, significant relationships between people do not start with explicit proposals and donning of titles.
posted by phrontist at 6:33 AM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

Exactly how old are you two? If you're in high school--and it sounds to me like you probably are--I really wouldn't be taking any of this too seriously. Neither of you has any idea who you are or are going to be. Drama much? If you're in college, yeah, things can be a get more serious there, because you'd theoretically be in a position where being serious about someone is a possibility. But even then, chill. Why?

Aw, even though this might in hindsight appear to be true to OP, it still really, really hurts to lose someone that you care about, or to be dumped. Maybe doubly so the first couple times you fall in love.

OP, I'm sorry your ex's behavior and choices have hurt you. You could ask him why he's making these choices, and ask for clarification, but I think the smartest thing you could do is ask for space. You've said it yourself--you're not ready to be just friends--and your emotional attachment could cause you to make choices that, deep down, you're not really comfortable with--being quasi-together, being friends-with-benefits, etc. Tell him you need a couple weeks before hanging out. He might hem and haw about it, but it's up to you, as the dumped party, to protect yourself and look out for your own needs. Spend some time with real, platonic friends. Take care of yourself.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm really sorry you're dealing with this right now. 7 months is a long time to be involved with someone, regardless of how young you are. It sounds like he cares about you, but this relationship is not what he wants or can handle right now right now. It sounds like the intensity and depth of the commitment might be too much for him at this point in his life. This doesn't make him a bad guy, but it hurts to be on the receiving end of this decision.

I agree that you should give him his space, and also take some space for yourself. You might be able to be good friends someday, but you will need some time apart, not interacting to make that transition. The two of you have developed a way of interacting over these past 7 months that is not conducive to being "just friends" without some time to adjust to your new dynamic. Acknowledge his decision, and then ask for him to give you some time and space to accept this. I understand that you don't want to lose him, and this is just going to suck, but it will get better. As frustrating as it is, it just takes time. Right now, hang out with your other friends, treat yourself to something which could be as simple as an ice cream sundae or a pedicure, and let yourself be angry or sad sometimes because letting those upset feelings out is the first step in smiling again. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 7:35 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You sound young. So if you're under 30, listen to the cranky old people here: this won't matter later. Really, it won't. So don't beat yourself up too much over it right now.

He MIGHT be just jealous of the time you spend with Aaron, and maybe he wants some of that attention. Or he might be indeed cooling off on the whole relationship thing. As you'll learn over and over again later... seven months is about the right amount of time for the hot-crazy-madness of love and, um, chemicals to cool, and that's about the time ALL relationships need to me an adjustment: either to long term (but cooler) ones, or into drifted-apart "over" variety. Ironically, both of those involve forgetting about hot-sex all the time, and thinking about boring things like friendship and making each other laugh. It doesn't have to be a bad thing.

But you won't know until you talk... and even then probably not.

So be friends for awhile, see what happens, and whatever you do... don't invest too much of your heart into anything just yet. There are many, many long-term outcomes here, and many of them are good ones. It's not a black and white thing.

Relax. Breathe. And when you talk... listen. A lot.
posted by rokusan at 8:22 AM on August 29, 2009

maybe the entire relationship is being too clingy and mentally draining on him. id say that the "lets remain best friends" speech is the best answer to prevent talking about the real issues.
posted by Ponzimoon at 8:23 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound harsh, but maybe he wants something from you that you haven't given him, and he's over trying to get it from you. The wording of your question is very unclear; I can't tell from it if you've had sex with him or not. You sound young, and you sound like someone who takes it slow, and I've been in that exact situation. My boyfriend at the time was just downright fed up with waiting for me to be ready, and wanted to break it off so he could play the field without guilt, and preserve me as a friend. If this turns out to be your case, he wasn't worth your time or worry, and you should do your best not to let it affect your personal choices in the future.

Either way the situation sucks. He seems to have dumped you by text (a classless thing to do) with little warning or explanation. But try your best not to get outraged and irrational, or scared and hating yourself. Sit down with him and figure out the best course of action for the both of you. And, do the world a favor: impress upon him the idea that breakup via text is something he should never do to anyone. Don't let him squirm out of a conversation, get concrete answers and justifications, and try to find some kind of closure before heading straight into being friends again.
posted by Mizu at 8:54 AM on August 29, 2009

It doesn't matter if you're young or not, these things suck when they happen. And they will happen from here on out, for the rest of your life, unless you are very lucky, if you want to call it luck. I know how much you hurt right now. But you know what? Sending you a text like that was a crappy thing to do. He's essentially putting the ball in your court to make the next move-- call him, seek him out, whatever.

You will feel so much better about yourself down the road if you wait for him to come to you with an explanation. In a day, in an hour, in a week, on Monday in class, you bet he'll approach you. That's when I'd demand an explanation. It's his right to change his mind about a relationship, and boy does it ever hurt, but text messaging that change of heart says a hell of a lot about him. Let him come to you in a more dignified manner.

Try your hardest to keep yourself busy in the meantime with Aaron or with homework or something. You can memail me if you like when you get the urge to call him.
posted by vincele at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Awesome! He's telling you how he feels, in a straightforward way. When you're your age, relationships will come and go; you're extremely unlikely to meet the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with at this point in your life. So, accept that it's totally normal for relationships to start and end in a relatively short period of time, and everyone your age is searching around trying to learn what it means to be in a relationship and what kind of people they want to be in a relationship with. If his dumping you has anything to do with you, it's just as likely to be about him wanting to try something new or realizing you're awesome but incompatible as it is a flaw with you.

At the same time, dumping by text is childish and foolish, and who wants to be friends with someone like that? So text him back "k" and leave it at that. If he's emotionally disconnected from you, that'll be that, and seeking out closure with a young boy tends to be pointless anyway. Then get on with your life, and tell your friends that wonder what's up with you two that "he wanted to be friends again, and I realized that worked pretty well for me, too." If he starts trying to spend time with you or otherwise re-engage after your "k", don't get sucked into the drama -- just be friendly (not necessarily friends) and respond to any advances or whatnot with "well, friends don't do that sort of thing, and I don't do friends-with-benefits."

Meanwhile, don't dwell. Seven months is a long time at your age, but seven months from now (when you're dating someone else and don't really give him much thought) it'll seem like nothing.
posted by davejay at 10:20 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

He broke up with you.

Whether he really wants to be friends or just wants to try not to hurt your feelings anymore than necessary is immaterial. Putting aside your desire to continue to date him since that is off the table, what do you want? Do you want him in your life or would it be easier for you to kick him out of your life? Either will be hard and painful. Keeping him in your life will draw that pain out a bit more than if you shut him out. It's a question of ripping off the band-aid versus pulling it off slowly.

Either way, the best way to get over somebody is to start dating somebody else, so think about finding somebody else to be flirty with for a while.
posted by willnot at 10:28 AM on August 29, 2009

I can't speculate on his reasons, because I don't know enough. But I will say this: In high school, I was very, very good friends with a guy. We dated for nine months and were quite in love. When we broke up, we really didn't take any time before going right back into being best friends. But now we were best friends with a sort of resovoir of love and lust and pain and confusion and history. It worked for a few months, then we starting drifting back into a romantic relationship (in secret). We both did a lot of confused silent pining and resenting, and it resulted in us hurting each other a second time. We ended up full of resentment toward each other, and I've always really regretted it.

He was a great guy and a good friend. I have always wished that, after the breakup, I we hadn't tried to be friends again so fast. It was easy and natural to be around each other. We'd been friends before we dated so we just plain missed each other. It was easy to fall into old patterns without meaning to, but the result was something that was neither romantic nor just a friendship and a lot of pain. I think if we'd had more time apart to get over each other, we could have been friends again later without getting our wires crossed.

So, again, I can't speculate on why your boyfriend wants this. It sounds like he wants to break up with you but doesn't want to to feel pain or hate him. You probably will feel pain; that's just the way it goes with breakups. He wants to be a nice guy, but your feelings are your won. My only advice is not to try to be just friends with him right off the bat. Give yourself space to feel and express your pain without having to act all fine and fun around him. The transition from lovers to friends can be long and a little complicated. If you give it the time it needs, you may very well end up being friends with him again. But I really believe you need time and space to work out the love you feel now; if you don't take it, you may just end up prolonging the breakup anguish for much longer.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to discuss the situation with him. If he's resolute in breaking up, then you need to be away from each other until you've both gotten over your romantic relationship.

I tried being friends with an ex right after a breakup because she was so emotionally fragile. It ended with her trying to kill me. Needless to say, we haven't talked since.
posted by reenum at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2009

"I think we should just be friends" is something you say before any sort of serious romantic relationship develops; it is not really an option 7 months into a relationship. (Yes, yes, exes can be friends, but generally not straight away after ending a romantic relationship and certainly not that soon if only one person wanted to break up.)

Talk to him, but keep in mind that the top three things he says he wants (to not hurt you, to keep you in his life, and to be single) are probably mutually exclusive. Also, at some point, one of you will need to actually use the term "break up" because it sounds as if he never got around to that in his text message. You are not "going back to being friends," you are breaking up. You may need to set a few ground rules for your post-break-up interactions (i.e., in class)--one might be that he needs to leave it to you to decide when you're ready to be back in contact past a basic civil "hello" when you have to be in the same room.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:45 PM on August 29, 2009

He is my best friend/ boyfriend/ lover/ all bundled into one and he means alot to me. I dont want to lose him

I thought Aaron was your best friend? I say this not as snark, but because it sounds like you actually do have a best friend who is not your ex-boyfriend, which is always really helpful in getting over a breakup.

And yes, this is a breakup. "I don't want to be your boyfriend anymore; I want to be single" is a breakup. Breakups suck, and I'm sorry that you're feeling hurt.

So no, you don't have to be super-close tight friends right away with your ex-boyfriend; take that at a pace you feel comfortable with, and don't get guilted into rushing your own feelings. Do what feels right to you. Turn to Aaron and other friends (I hope you have female friends, too!) for comfort; don't turn to the ex-boyfriend for comfort about the breakup because that only ends in frustration and tears.

I'm sorry this relationship hasn't worked out the way you want it to. Kudos to you for looking for advice on how to handle it. This stuff is hard, and it doesn't come naturally to anyone--we all have to learn how to manage it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

You don't text message breakup!

I'm sorry, Paige. It looks to me like he wants to see other girls without feeling guilty about treating you badly, and thinks that he can do this by saying he'll still be your friend.

If you talk to him about this, and he tries to tell you it's about you as a person -- don't believe it. It is just a thing he has done, for his own reasons only. It doesn't mean he's bad, necessarily, but it's all him.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:23 PM on August 29, 2009

I'm really sorry. As others have said above, he is trying to sugar coat things with you so that you won't hate him and his life won't be that disrupted, but this probably means he wants to see other girls. But at the same time he wants to keep you as a friend and not go through all the pain of a break up. But in reality it's a break up.

I know how frustrating it can be not to know the whys and hows of someone falling out of love with you. Even though he is being ridiculously immature about this, I think you need to accept that you are broken up. I know that it will be tempting to play along with his terms and be friends with him in the hopes that he will come to his senses and realize how good you are together and be your boyfriend again, but I really think this is not going to be good for you because you won't heal and won't move on. Plus you would be giving him exactly what he wanted -- your friendship and emotional support plus the freedom to date other women -- so it seems unlikely to me that he would give that freedom up to go back to the status quo that he found unsatisfying before. And, really -- break up by text message? He doesn't deserve your friendship.

Let me end by quoting a very wise jennyb in a previous thread about trying to remain friends after a break up:
It's not a "cooling off" period that you need to become friends with an ex. It's a period of white hot anger that burns with more ferocity than a thousand suns.

Because, see, right after a break-up, both parties are still harboring that "Oh so and so is really a good person and I really wish him or her well" because from the dumper's standpoint, you don't want to hurt this person any more than you already have, and from the dumpee's standpoint, you really hope you can get back together again. Both sides are just putting on a facade, and as long as there is this facade, an honest friendship will never, ever happen.

BUT! But, once you can tear away this facade and get down to the truth of the matter, then you're making progress. The dumper has to really understand why he or she pulled the plug, and really start to HATE the dumpee for being such a fucking chump about the whole thing. The dumped has to really get angry at the dumper for the dumping, and for not understanding the pain that the dumpee is going through.

The righteous fires of fury must burn away the old, sickened vegetation of the relationship so that the new, healthy growth of friendship can bloom.

So, to answer your question, yes, two people can be friends as long as sufficient time has elapsed for one or both of you to try to publicly decapitate the other with a flying pint glass full of beer at a local bar, and really, honestly find yourselves disapointed that you failed. Once you have honestly wished death on your ex, once you have realized that you will never, in a million billion years be friend with that asshole again, once you vow to the depths of your soul that you would not piss on that bitch if he or she were on fire... then you are ready to be friends.
Some people don't seem to need this time and distance to be friends with their ex, but from the sound of your post, I think it would be helpful. Again, I'm very sorry about your relationship, and I'm really sorry the guy did this via a text message. You can do much better.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:03 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

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