Should I tell him that I -like- him like him?
November 9, 2009 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I am a relationship tease or a welcome ego boost?

I was introduced to a gentleman through some mutual friends. He and I hit if off instantly and have had the opportunity to get together (platonically) without our pals tagging along and have had boatloads of fun.

However, for all intents and purposes I am happily unavailable to new relationships. Even if I were single there are a bevy of logistical reasons why things wouldn't work out. Now, the object of my crush hasn't had the best of luck with the opposite sex lately, and I learned that his lack of relationships has caused a small dip in his self confidence. I'm considering letting him know that I think he's a catch even though I have no intention of trying to get together with him.

Would I just be making his situation worse if I told him that I think he's dreamy? If the tables were turned I think it would be nice to know that someone thought that way about me. Am I considering committing a giant psychological no no? Or am I putting way too much thought into something that's a simple as "If I were single, I'd date you"?

Please leave the status/quality of my current relationship come to question in your answers.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's only fair for you to tell him a) that you're unavailable, and b) that you think he's a great catch for someone who is available (which is not the same thing AT ALL as "If I were single," which is stringing-along behavior in my book).

Now, here's the thing: are you serious enough about the "he's a great catch for someone who is available" to set him up with possible matches? Or at least offer to do so?

Or do you kind of want to string him along? Because "Let me introduce you to my friend Susan" has a very different impact from "Alas, if only I were not promised to Another" and I'm kind of guessing that you already know that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:49 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]

If it's already been clearly and firmly now and forever established that you're unavailable and/or that the two of you will NOT be hooking up, I'd consider "you know, I think you're dateable" Otherwise, there are many zillions of ways a kind-seeming statement might be potentially taken as a "gee whiz if situations were different...." and possibly leading someone to maybe wait around to see if situations change.

I don't understand your last sentence, but I'd be a little concerned why any other ego-boosting you might be tossing his way that isn't very specifically a "you and me together" oriented one wouldn't already do the trick. I personally do not like hearing that unavailable people I have a crush on do not want to date me, other people might.
posted by jessamyn at 12:51 PM on November 9, 2009

I wouldn't say anything, at least I wouldn't say anything like "I'd date you if I were single". Why not just tell them you think they're cool, without saying anything about their sexual attractiveness?
posted by palomar at 12:54 PM on November 9, 2009

Sorry, but this sounds like it will be nothing but a cruel tease for him, even if it is an ego boost for you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:56 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Would I just be making his situation worse if I told him that I think he's dreamy?

Sweet fancy moses, whatever you do, don't frame it that way if you do say anything. Otherwise you are opening the door wide open to misunderstanding and drama. (A sincere question, not meant as snark: is it possible, even slightly, that part of you might enjoy a bit of drama?)

That said, if he brings up the subject in conversation along the lines of "ugh, I'm a troll," then I think there is a kind, sincere, and truthful way to say something supportive like, "put those negative thoughts out of your mind. I know you're an attractive, bright, lovely guy, and I know you're going to make the right woman feel really lucky one of these days."

When you say this, DO NOT FLIRT. Be sincere, but be clear in your body language. Your hand is not on his hand. You are not leaning in provocatively. You do not follow up your statement with a double-entendre. Otherwise you layer in a whole level of ambiguity that is portentially confusing and problematic, and which will probably lead to an AskMe thread a few days later along the lines of "New female friend says I'm a catch -- for someone else. But now I'm wondering if she meant for herself???"
posted by scody at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Don't inflict yourself on this person without making it absolutely clear you are unavailable to him, which doesn't have to be any more complicated than "if I were single..."

It kind of sounds like you want to elide this fact so that you have the most impact possible, which would be attention-whorish at the least, and emotional cheating at the worst. There are better ways of being his female wingman than manipulating in the way you seem to be proposing. In my experience, "you're dreamy" is not said to people to whom the speaker has no intention of dating.
posted by rhizome at 12:57 PM on November 9, 2009

Tease. Please don't make us mens' life more difficult. He's gonna think you are fishing for an affair.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2009

No need to say anything unless he makes it clear he wishes to be more than friends.
posted by bravowhiskey at 1:06 PM on November 9, 2009

If one could answer anonymously I would have much more to say, but at the very least:

This is more an ego boost for you than it is for him. I would hazard that it could be even called an ego boost for you at his expense.

You are leading him on, unless you make it clear, immediately that you are not available and consider him only a potential friend and not at all a potential partner.
posted by idiopath at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2009

If I want to let a female know that I find her attractive, I say, "If I were single, I would be camping on your doorstep." I mean it as a compliment, and since my behavior is such that I am not trying to escalate the situation (even though at times I want to), this seems a kind and good thing to say.
posted by Danf at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2009

I'd say "no." There are two ways he could take it, neither good:

1) He will think you want him, than get upset and lose more confidence when he finds out you don't, really.

2) He will think you are feeling sorry for him and lose more confidence, especially if you use castrating grandma words like "catch."
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd say be honest and let him know that you would be very interested in another time and another place. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by reenum at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2009

If I want to let a female know that I find her attractive, I say, "If I were single, I would be camping on your doorstep." I mean it as a compliment, and since my behavior is such that I am not trying to escalate the situation (even though at times I want to), this seems a kind and good thing to say.

I do not know what your women friends think of this, but I always hated hearing this when I was single. I much preferred "You're awesome--smart, funny, pretty--any guy would be lucky to get you" to any bald statement of "If I were single I'd hit it."

But maybe that's just me.

The larger thing here is that this actually isn't gender-reversible in most social milieux. A woman saying to a guy "If only I weren't dating so-and-so, I'd be all over you" is generally perceived by guys as a come-on, not as a compliment.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

There's a 99.9% chance he's already got a hopeless crush on you so you might as well make it much worse by explicitly making it sound like he's got a shot at your drawers.

Seriously please don't do this. Also bring your bf along when you hang out with him. I know it's unfair, but practically women have to tape a paper sign on their boobies saying NO CHANCE SPOTTY for a guy to realize she really does just want some fun flattering opposite sex friendship attention rather than a new bedfellow. The fact that you'd even consider this makes me think you aren't clued in to this tradition. Get hip to it asap. Men and women can be great friends, but only after all the cards are on the table or when both are unavailable and have secret sex dreams about eachother but that's another story.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:27 PM on November 9, 2009

Honestly, it sounds like the bigger issue here (even if you don't tell him you think he's dateable) is to make sure that he really realizes that you're not in the market for dating. It sounds from your post like he might very well already think that you're interested.

I don't mean to imply that women in general have a responsibility to go around making it clear to their male friends that they're not interested. But in this specific case it sounds like this might be the decent thing to do. Especially since, well, in your question there's something about the way you talk about your actual relationship that gives the impression — however inaccurate this may be — that you actually might be interested in him, despite being in a relationship.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:28 PM on November 9, 2009

I have been in that relationshipless slump before. It can lead a person to cling desperately to any shred of hope, any hint of interest, however microscopic. It's likely he's not going to think "some person thinks I'm dreamy, that means I have a chance with the ladies," but rather "this person thinks I'm dreamy, that means I have a chance with her."

It's really not a good idea to lead him on like that. Not for him, and not for your current relationship (and although you said to leave that out of the question, you and your friend are not in a vacuum).
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:31 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

This has happened to me twice in my recent past. Don't. Just don't.

Enjoy the time the two of you spend together and leave it at that.
posted by Gainesvillain at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2009

Absolutely not. I did not have a date in High School at all, but boy did I ever hear the "you're going to make some lucky girl happy some day." I'm assuming you're older than High School, but it hurt back then more than it ever flattered, and I'm sure it'd hurt a guy now.

What would flatter a guy? "You're a real catch, I'm going to introduce you to my friend Jenny" (or whatever her name is.)

Doing this shifts the attention from you onto her, and even if it turns out that they don't hit it off too well, you've successfully flattered him by explicitly stating that he's dateable, doing him a favor, and not implying that you're available.

However, the "I'd date you if I weren't unavailable" thing is about as cruel as eating a sandwich in front of a hungry guy and saying, "I'd share this sandwich if I weren't so hungry."
posted by explosion at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2009 [13 favorites]

don't if it were me and you did this, i would assume it was you telling me to pursue you.
posted by lester at 1:59 PM on November 9, 2009

If you choose to say something make him the focus, not your feelings about him. So not, "If I were single, we'd be making out RIGHT NOW!!!", rather, "You are smart, funny, and attractive. I have heaps of girlfriends that value all your qualities in a guy, and the ones that aren't single are with guys just like you."
posted by smoke at 2:00 PM on November 9, 2009

This is how affairs start. Not to be overly dramatic, but you're hanging out with him one-on-one and telling him you think he's hot? That's exactly what you would do if you were wanting to get in his pants. It's basically a come on. Qualifying it will depress him and mire him in thoughts of "what if" and it's generally not great to hear. I know that sounds counter-intuitive because we all like compliments, right?

But it's basically like saying "wow, if you'd bought that lottery ticket yesterday instead of today, you would've won a million bucks! COOL!" No, it's not, it's frustrating.

Chill out with the alone time and start introducing him to single female friends and hanging out with him in a group. You don't want to take up the time and emotional energy that he could be using for dating and getting himself out there.
posted by kathrineg at 2:12 PM on November 9, 2009

Would I just be making his situation worse if I told him that I think he's dreamy?

Holy crap, yes you would. You would then be telling him that the only women he can currently attract are women who are unavailable. This is the same thing as telling a guy, a guy who likes you, that said guy "makes a great friend". No guy worth his salt who wants to actually get in a relationship with someone wants to hear that phrase. If you told him this, you are saying it for YOUR benefit, not for his. "You're great but I'm not going to date you" is not a compliment. It's a "nicer" form of rejection but it still is rejection And who likes rejection?
posted by Stynxno at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2009

Am I missing something here, because if I understand your situation correctly, you have a crush on him. You don't really mention that he has the same crush on you. Let's assume he does, because otherwise the question makes me a little uncomfortable in that it seems a bit patronizing.

Despite the disappointingly oft-well-earned stereotype, all guys are not interested in dating, or are even hopelessly physically attracted to, all women that they are friends with. Let's, at least on principle, give him the respect he deserves as a great guy who is seemingly capable of having boat-loads of platonic friendship fun. Until he expresses a desire to change the nature of your relationship, maybe you should assume that he values and enjoys your...friendship. Is it possible that he is aware, perhaps through your mutual friends, of your unavailability? In that case, even if he is attracted to you, maybe he is willing to (gasp) respect/accept that boundary and enjoy your company anyway. Even if he hasn't had the best of luck lately.

Having at times been an "unluckiness" expert, I feel qualified to say that our self esteem is certainly bolstered by the quality of the friends we keep. When I am hanging out with friends (male and female) that I respect as being fun, funny, intelligent, witty, etc., it makes me feel better about myself. It makes me happy that they apparently feel the same about me. Everybody likes hearing they are desired, but I gotta say, I would rather just be treated with respect. If the sexual availability issue isn't part of your whole equation now, and if things are great anyway, why introduce that element?

It seems like you may have achieved the rare and elusive "Healthy M/F Platonic Relationship" so many women (and some men) are after. Why muck it up by bringing your crush into it, especially if you have no desire to make that a part of your relationship? There is only one ego that would benefit from that.

Just have a good time together. Trust me, guys really are capable of this.

I'm not, but I know many who are. Good luck.
posted by nickjadlowe at 2:29 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Giant, mean, unwelcome, unpleasant tease.
posted by Netzapper at 2:53 PM on November 9, 2009

Oh man, I just saw the "I _like_ like him" title of your question. Yikes. You have a crush on him, no? I'm now thinking of revising my previous answer in favor of a straight-out leave it alone, because I don't actually think you're in a place where you wouldn't be leading him on.
posted by scody at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your own ego boost in your motive. Throw the fish back in so he can swim freely and find his own happiness. Your creel is full.
posted by Acacia at 2:57 PM on November 9, 2009

Personally, I always found such comments to be a bit patronizing and disingenuous when they were used towards me. Could be more of my own self esteem issues than anything else, but I never saw such a comment as angling for an affair or any such thing, just an easy thing to say, for the person who was already attached. Didn't make me feel any more dateable.
posted by freezer cake at 3:14 PM on November 9, 2009

What would your partner think if they overheard the conversation or if it got back to them?

I'd just leave it alone.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:22 PM on November 9, 2009

You know, a coworker I liked and respected pulled something similar on me not long ago. I let it go because he was under extreme personal stress at the time, or so he said.

Then he acted sheepish and awkward and sentimental, insistently urging me to keep in touch after he pissed off to his new job, implying that he valued my friendship.

Of course, he now barely talks to me.

I didn't have to believe I had a chance with him for this to hurt. explosion has it.

Worse, now I'm living with the realization that I was so dumb, I thought this guy I worked next to every day, and seemingly got along well with, might actually like me. Might enjoy having me around.

I feel like Carrie getting pig's blood dumped all over her at the prom.

You might want to think about that before you torment this guy who, to his misfortune, you call a friend. Not for long, if he knows what's good for him.
posted by tel3path at 3:59 PM on November 9, 2009

The thing to do here is, if you have a friend you think you want to set him up with, ask him if he wants to be set up with that person. Helping him through his problem will get a better response than anything that can be construed as flirting.
posted by davejay at 6:01 PM on November 9, 2009

I went through a similar experience with a former roommate years ago. He had just separated from his wife, answered my roommate wanted ad, and moved into my apartment. It was strictly platonic but clear that we were attracted to each other. I was unavailable at the time, having just met the man who I would later marry.

After a night of many drinks, Roommate came on to me -- nothing sordid, it was actually sweet. When I (gently) turned him down, he said, "It's just that I like you soooo much." I wasn't offended. I thought it was cute. Probably because HE was so cute. I just said, "I like you too. But I can't."

He eventually moved out, but kept in touch with me during the beginning of my marriage. He would email me from time to time, always the same one-liner: "Are you still married?" I got a kick out of those emails. I genuinely liked him. He's a great guy. Maybe the one that got away. He met someone and the emails stopped. Flash-forward years later and I'm going through a divorce. I might just start sending him one-liner emails of my own.
posted by Majorita at 6:35 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't say it, it leads him on. I'd introduce him to (women)-friends though, this could actually be a fun occupation for an evening. I have had some good stories to tell from evenings spent roaming bars with a "wingwoman".

why is the epic question "If you killed somebody, how would you dispose of his body" a related question?
posted by lenehan at 4:08 AM on November 10, 2009

Jesus, no, don't do this. He'll just get more hung up on you or resent you being a tease.
posted by spaltavian at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2009

i (female) have said this to gentlemen in the past, and have no reason to think that it led to hurt feelings. the targets of these comments have always known and spent time with my boyfriend so there was no danger of misunderstandings, which is i think the only real reason not to give someone a compliment like this.

actually, now that i re-read the thread, you can't say "i have a crush on you" & "but i am absolutely unwilling to cheat on/leave my boyfriend." you can say, "i'm completely happy with x but you're a fox, y'know that?" and then continue on your way.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2009

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