Stuck in the dreaded “friend zone”!
November 22, 2009 2:55 PM   Subscribe

So as fate would have it, I am sharing an apartment with a girl that I am very attracted to. And now it seems as if I've been perma-friended. (For the sake of discussion, lets forgo the “dating roommates is a bad idea” discussion.)

Roommate: Female grad student from China in her late 20s. Never left home through college and graduate school, until she came to the United States and became my roommate. Never dated, let alone had a boyfriend. Currently single.

Me: Late 20s male grad student. Never dated.

Goal: Establish a long term romantic relationship with aforementioned roommate.

We have a very good rapport, and have high opinions of each other.

The problems: 1) Lack of relationship experience on both of our parts (and potentially the cultural barrier as well) makes it hard to subtly suggest that I am interested in her. In addition, many of the subtle "I'm interested in you" signals simply aren't available anymore. We frequently treat each other to dinners, cook for each other, take over chores, buy things for each other (i.e. flowers, geek toys, etc).

I suppose I could man up, and directly ask her, except...
2) Since she has no car and we live in a public-transit black hole, she's rather dependent on me to get to the grocery store, medical appointments, and such. If she's not interested, bluntly bring up the issue would make life very awkward and difficult for her, very quickly; more so than the average "roommate relations went sour" scenarios.

Moving out is out of the question; when I brought up the possibility of moving, she assumed that she'd move with me and started giving input on what “we” should look for in a potential apartment. Staying this way indefinitely is not an option; eventually she'll fall for somebody, and I don't want to be that "awesome roommate" who spent all weekend helping her move her stuff into her boyfriend's place.

The geek solution of googling for the answer has failed, so I'm turning to you, the MeFites: How the hell do I get myself out of the friend zone?
posted by RandomGradStudent to Human Relations (117 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
No need to discuss your attraction with her, just try to kiss her sometime. If she pulls away shocked, then she's probably not interested. Its also possible that moving to kissing is too fast for her, but at least she'll know you are interested and she can make the next move. And if it doesn't work out it really isn't the end of the world. It sounds like you're really good friends, you both should be able to get past a little awkwardness and continue with the friendship.
posted by wigner3j at 3:04 PM on November 22, 2009

Step 1: Make it clear that you are interested in something more than friendship. You haven't done that yet.

It doesn't make sense to worry about her discomfort in relying upon you, if it turns out that she is not interested. Either you throw yourself out there and make it clear what you want --- which entails the risk of her rejecting her --- or you resign yourself to mere friendship in the interest of roommate comity.

You can't pursue this without rejection being a real possibility. All of the ways of getting yourself out of the "friend zone" carry some risk of a humiliating rejection.
posted by jayder at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2009

Roommate: Female grad student from China in her late 20s. Never left home through college and graduate school, until she came to the United States and became my roommate. Never dated, let alone had a boyfriend. Currently single....Since she has no car and we live in a public-transit black hole, she's rather dependent on me to get to the grocery store, medical appointments, and such. If she's not interested, bluntly bring up the issue would make life very awkward and difficult for her, very quickly; more so than the average "roommate relations went sour" scenarios.

She's not yet wordly enough to date. Sorry. If you weren't her roommate, I'd say pursue it, but this looks too much like taking advantage of a sheltered, naive person. Start spending time with other women.

Since she has no car and we live in a public-transit black hole, she's rather dependent on me to get to the grocery store, medical appointments, and such. If she's not interested, bluntly bring up the issue would make life very awkward and difficult for her, very quickly; more so than the average "roommate relations went sour" scenarios.

For the aforementioned reasons, this is a bad idea. OP, you've just too many conflicts of interest here. She's a close friend who is reliant on you for a lot of things in an unfamiliar social and cultural setting. You need to preserve or gradually discard that relationship, not try to convert it to something romantic when you have the upper hand (I don't mean intentionally) in a lot of ways.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:08 PM on November 22, 2009 [27 favorites]

The only ways I see are either 1) telling her flatly that you an interested in her romantically, or 2) kissing her, if there's an opportunity. As you write above, just hanging around in the hopes that she falls in love with you is not likely to be worthwhile. And, for all of your mutual relationship inexperience, she may be sending you what she thinks are clear signals of her interest right this very minute, and you won't know until you attempt either 1) or 2).

But... while you suggested we forgo the dating roommates is a bad idea chestnut, it would seem that dating this roommate is a particularly bad idea. With her limited resources, you are in a real position of power here (e.g., you drive her to her medical appointments), and it sounds like she may be socially isolated. This could be a rather threatening dynamic if it goes poorly.

All things considered, I'd let this one pass until other living arrangements can be made, or she gets a car or something.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: In order not to appear creepy, you basically have to wait for her to make the first move here.

Seriously, even the most considerate approach is going to be really awkward if she doesn't reciprocate your feelings.

If you must do something, do this: find another place to live. Inform her that you are looking for a new place to live, because it turns out that you have feelings for her and you don't think it's fair to put her in that sort of situation, regardless of whatever she's feeling -- even if she DOES happen to like you, she deserves the luxury of being able to change her mind without jeopardizing her living situation. And if she doesn't, well, then she'll probably be very relieved.

Do not try to kiss her. Do not make her feel potentially unsafe in her own home.
posted by hermitosis at 3:13 PM on November 22, 2009 [43 favorites]

Pretty much any time you are going to ask out someone who started off as a friend you are running the risk of making things awkward for them if they don't feel the way you do. IMO this concern should be ignored providing you are prepared to lose them as a friend or in this case roommate. Whoever feels the most awkward can be the one to move out if they really want to.
You didn't really mention if you probed the casual 'So, seen any cute guys around campus? / Are you looking for a boyfriend?' line of questioning. It's an innocent line of questioning between friends and if she was interested in you or otherwise that would be a golden opportunity for her to show her hand.
Don't move out just so you can ask her out. Ask her out, then the moving can happen if it really needs to if people can't deal with it.
posted by GleepGlop at 3:13 PM on November 22, 2009

Wow, yeah don't just try to kiss her or any other physical way of declaring your feelings. Sit her down and talk to her.
posted by GleepGlop at 3:15 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The real problem isn't the humiliation and awkwardness of rejection; the problems is that she is dependent on me for day to day stuff like obtaining groceries, or navigating certain American institutions (like the department of motor vehicles, banks, and such). It feels a bit unethical.

I guess short of a good solution how to de-complicate our relationship, I need some anonymous internet validation on how it's okay to potentially make her life difficult simply to fulfill my urge to be in a relationship with her.
posted by RandomGradStudent at 3:16 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since she has no car and we live in a public-transit black hole, she's rather dependent on me to get to the grocery store, medical appointments, and such. If she's not interested, bluntly bring up the issue would make life very awkward and difficult for her, very quickly; more so than the average "roommate relations went sour" scenarios.

Look... I know you don't want to hear the typical "dating roommates is a bad idea" thing, and I'm not going to be all philosophical about it, but you need to think about this more. You're in a position of power over her. Even if you float the idea gently, being in a relationship where someone holds power over the other like you do here is not a good thing.

So, basically I agree 100% with hermitosis.

I need some anonymous internet validation on how it's okay to potentially make her life difficult simply to fulfill my urge to be in a relationship with her.

Sorry. If you care for her, you know that this in unacceptable.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:18 PM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

when I brought up the possibility of moving, she assumed that she'd move with me and started giving input on what “we” should look for in a potential apartment.

Seems pretty obvious she did this because she relies on you so much for cultural/social/practical support in a strange place. Leave it alone, hang out with other women.
posted by bradbane at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

It feels a bit unethical.

IT IS. Don't do this. FFS, do we need to send you a singing telegram?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2009 [8 favorites]

No need to discuss your attraction with her, just try to kiss her sometime. If she pulls away shocked, then she's probably not interested.

I disagree with this one, entirely based upon the fact that if a good friend up and kissed me out of the blue, I would definitely pull away, shocked. I tend to do that when people do things I don't expect (especially things that involve surprise! physical contact with me). That wouldn't necessarily mean I didn't like it, although the possibility's there.

(I also wouldn't think too highly of a surprise kiss, and I'm sure I'm not the only woman who'd think so. Really, dude? We're such good friends, and yet you can't think of any other way of making your feelings known than just landing one on me without warning? That kind of nonsense only works in crappy movies.)

Of course, I also don't believe in nonsense like a "friend zone", so take that as you will.

If your goal is truly to establish a long-term romantic relationship with this woman, I'm afraid you're going to have to remove the "roommate" part. There's too much there that can go wrong, especially given how dependent on you she currently is. If you can't be her roommate in good faith - without subconsciously keeping a mental tally of how much she "owes" you for being such a nice guy, and preemptively getting angry at any future dates she'd have - you owe it to her to find your own space and explain clearly why.
posted by Salieri at 3:19 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

What you want is a tough and risky transition. Tough because the relationship you have is well-established and thus resistant to change. Risky because if things don't go well you will likely introduce a lot of negativity and strife into both of your lives.

I started to type out a "You should do XYZ" sort of response, but then I deleted it. Your query follows a common one: "Guy with little dating experience, probably socially awkward and definitely shy, seeks specific help with a specific dating situation." That's a bit like signing up for a piano recital without ever having touched a piano and then asking for tips.

My new advice: Don't risk jeopardizing an awesome relationship you already have. Barring some extreme luck, to have a fulfilling dating life you will likely have to build your dating confidence and skills from the ground up. It won't be a fun process, especially in the beginning, but the potential rewards are huge. Good news: there's a lot of information and encouragement available. Search mefi on it.

I realize this isn't what you wanted, and I'm sorry. But ask yourself this: if you were actively dating three other people that you liked, would you even consider the risk of trying to date your roommate?
posted by dualityofmind at 3:21 PM on November 22, 2009

Since it sounds like you're both socially 'awkward' (and apologies if that is wrong, I'm just guessing that of two people in their late 20s who've never dated), it seems unlikely that both of you are suddenly going to find themselves dating other people any time soon.

I think your only option is to address the issue directly, with your roommate. If she doesn't feel the same way, you've got to move out, no two ways about it.
posted by modernnomad at 3:25 PM on November 22, 2009

If the problem is that she's too dependent on you, could you try to help her make some friends and get a support network outside of you? You could encourage her to go to events, parties, whatever social opportunities you guys have, and go with her. It's much easier, in my experience, to meet new people and make friends when you aren't alone. Even if you aren't super socially adept, you're at least familiar with the culture. I get the sense from your question that this might be hard, but it seems like the only solution to your problem. If she had friends who could drive her to the grocery store, etc., you could move out without leaving her stranded and then make your feelings known.
posted by MadamM at 3:27 PM on November 22, 2009

i dunno, from my perspective it looks like she might also have feelings for you. people from those types of background ('sheltered, naive') often know what they are getting into by living with someone and then being dependent on them.... for all you know, she wants to continue to be depending on you for more than just friendship, but for the long-term. My advice would be not to find out by kissing her, but maybe by seeing how she reacts if you try to take her hard. if she doesn't pull away, and holds on, start to move forward subtlely. if she does pull away, and seems shocked, and acts uncomfortable around you for a bit, you know she's not okay with the idea of being romantic with you. and since taking someone's hand for a quick second isn't the end of the world even if you are just friends, it's a pretty safe move. if you find yourself from then on always holding hands, you know your answer. and i'm giving this advice from how I would feel as a relatively sheltered person myself. good luck
posted by saraindc at 3:33 PM on November 22, 2009

Forgive me if this sounds harsh, but given your (lack of) dating experience, I can't help but suspect that your interest in this woman is due to the current "girlfriend experience" she's giving you. She lives with you, shares chores with you, depends on you for certain things, exchanges "just because" gifts with you... I agree with other folks on here who say that you need to move out, perhaps reassuring her that you would continue to help her with her logistical needs and keep spending social time with her. And if you can't do that, then I really think you need to back off on your feelings for this woman and spend more time with other single women out there who aren't so dependent on you.
posted by pammeke at 3:34 PM on November 22, 2009 [8 favorites]

I think you need ask a very traditional Chinese person for the best way to go about expressing your interest to her/trying to date her.

Other than that, I agree with Inspector.Gadget about the power imbalances, but I don't think that means you have to forget about making the situation happen with her. I just think it means you have to try to get rid of those power imbalances and be very mindful about the ones you can't get rid of.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:48 PM on November 22, 2009

Have you consulted any of your roommate's friends? Asked them, maybe, what her take on the situation is?

Actually, though.

You make it sound as though she doesn't have any friends, except for you. Surely, that's not the case...? If it is the case, then your goal should be do what you can to help her socialize more, so she can develop a more robust support structure in her life---one that won't break if you're not in it.

If it isn't the case---if she has a good friend or two---then maybe she isn't as reliant on you as you think.

Either way, what you need is information from someone who actually knows your roommate. Such a person doubtlessly has deeper insight into her feelings about you than a bunch of internet strangers have. (Which isn't to say that random internet strangers aren't awesome.)
posted by aparrish at 3:52 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

After reading your response....

I need some anonymous internet validation on how it's okay to potentially make her life difficult simply to fulfill my urge to be in a relationship with her.

Please don't do that, ever, because it's not okay. Don't show her that kind of disrespect.

I think I need to modify my advice. You should move out whether or not you intend to pursue her romantically. That you would think that way about someone you claim to admire isn't the sign of a true friendship.
posted by Salieri at 3:53 PM on November 22, 2009

I need some anonymous internet validation on how it's okay to potentially make her life difficult simply to fulfill my urge to be in a relationship with her.

It's not ok. A big part of a relationship involves considering, and actually caring about, what the other partner wants.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Google really is your friend:

Expressing Affection with Things in Ethnic Minorities

Dynamics of Dating and Courtship in China
posted by FauxScot at 3:58 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok first of all I want to second everything people have said about power imbalances being a prohibitive factor here, which I think you already understand. If there is any chemistry, it's pretty natural in your situation to get attached to somebody. But she isn't in any place to make a free choice. Assuming you could get her out "into the world" a bit more and even those imbalances out a bit, though--

Have you talked with her much about her cultural and familial expectations? The fact that she is from China and living away from her home country for the first time is probably a HUGE factor here. Depending on where she lived in China, where her parents were from and what they are like, she may have extremely different expectations regarding dating and relationships. I'm no expert on Chinese culture, but in the asian country I lived in for a while, any moderately serious relationship was expected to lead to marriage. That alone could be a huge complication, and there are probably a lot more neither of us would ever think of. Is she staying in the USA after school? Bring up the topic of dating in general in casual conversation, talk to her about her folks and her future plans. Or have a mutual acquaintance do it if it's too awkward.

In summary, you can't do anything while she is so dependent on you. It might seem nice to have a cute fun girl all to yourself all the time but I think independence is generally seen as a healthy thing in relationships these days, at least to a degree. If you can get to the point where both of you are in a place to make independent choices and she wouldn't feel threatened by giving you the wrong answer, then that is a time you can show her how you feel. I agree with jayder that you haven't really exhausted all the "I'm interested in you" signals, unless you already touch or hold hands a lot or even make eye contact in certain ways.
posted by ropeladder at 4:10 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So the consensus (Inspector.Gadget, Admiral Haddock, hermitosis, and many others) is that pursuing a relationship is a bad, bad idea, and is unethical.

The plan is that I should wean her off of me, then move out, then potentially approach her a few months after that.

A few thoughts on the moving out option:

1) How do females interpret it when their roommate moves out and refuses to allow them to come along, and a few months later, asks to date? (“I really like you, and that’s why I’m leaving” sounds... weird.)

2) How much of an obligation do I have to make sure she’s not left in a “learn to do everything and find your own transportation” lurch before moving out? She hasn’t made any attempts to make close friends, being comfortable with the nook that she’s carved for herself.

Odinsdream: Staying this way indefinitely isn't a mere "inconvenience". While the current situation is great for her, it makes me feel like crap. This will make me sound like a selfish ass, but why should I stay and pull boyfriend responsibilities if I’m not even in a long term relationship with her? I feel like I’m a drop-in surrogate parent, and it is frustrating.

Apparish: She has very few friends; mostly co-workers. We don't share a social circle, and she never brings anybody home, so there's no way to get 3rd party feedback.
posted by RandomGradStudent at 4:15 PM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: Reading this question made me cringe, and thank god that I'm not Chinese, because otherwise I could have been your roomie last year. Look, I know you want to be with her romantically, but you're going to have to move past it. Even if, as has been suggested upthread, she's secretly interested in you too, it's just a straight shot from roomies to partners to the messiest, worst, most scarring break up either of you will ever have. Coupled with the fact that neither of you have any experience with that sort of thing, you're on the fast track to therapy, or at least having her write you out of your life.

I've lived with guys who wanted in my pants and in my heart, and I dallied with the idiotic idea that it could all lead to something more, but either I could never actually will myself to like the guy enough, or the guy ended up having life habits I despised, or, and this is the big one, I became so dependent on him for important things like transportation and chores and emotional support that the idea of it not working out terrified me.

Here is how you get out of the friend zone: Move out. Express to her that you want a relationship, not necessarily with her, but with a woman, and that you want to try living on your own, being independent, and getting out into the world a little more. Work with her on figuring out how she can get herself around town, maybe she can find another roommate among mutual friends, maybe she wants to move to a part of town that has public transport, maybe she'd like to be a little more independent too. Keep her as a friend, see her fairly often with mutual friends, ask her to the movies once in a while or to some fun weekend activity. And then make your move, after she's no longer so dependent on you, and you aren't so dependent on her.

Sorry about that. But unless you're 100% meant for each other and destined for true love, any romantic advance you may attempt at this juncture is cruel to her and potentially lethal to your friendship, which sounds like it has a lot of merit.
posted by Mizu at 4:30 PM on November 22, 2009 [6 favorites]

I have very limited experience with sheltered young Chinese women living abroad and without her parents for the first time (sample size: 1). She did seem to think of her housemates and colleagues (I was a colleague) as her surrogate parents. Given that your roommate has a few friends and you (presumably) have a few friends, and yet neither of you has ever extended/accepted a social invitation to join the other's social circle for an afternoon or evening makes me think that perhaps you're right in your latest conclusion: You are her drop-in surrogate parent. Again, apologies if this sounds harsh - I say this only in an attempt to be helpful in possibly showing what her perspective on the situation may be.

As for how females interpret having a male roommate move out and then ask them out a few months later, it would depend on the two people in question and whether or not there are any romantic feelings there - on both sides.
posted by pammeke at 4:32 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

First of all, just takes things real slowly, and don't do anything rash. You seem to be aware of the possible fallout that could result, so don't lose sight of that. Considering that she's in another country for the first time, that you are roommates, and that she depends on you for a lot, you almost have to look for reasons to not get into a relationship with her, rather than reasons to do so.

You definitely don't want to ruin the experience for her by rushing things, and making her lose trust in people here. If she starts to express interest in making in more than just friendship, then go from there.

The cultural barrier is another thing, roommates aside. If you're having enough trouble trying to decide if you can be a couple, it might be just as difficult to maintain a relationship if it did happen.

Obviously you should encourage her to be more independent over time, but don't feel like you're pulling boyfriend responsibilities. She's new in the country and doesn't have much support, and if you consider her a friend (even if you wish it were more), be a good friend/host and help her out. And yes, be the "awesome roommate" for the time being.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 4:38 PM on November 22, 2009

I'm here to go along with what others have been saying upthread, but I'll also add this:

I think you need to ask yourself if you're interested in her because she's really that awesome, or because your choice of potential partners is so small. You say you're in your late twenties and have never dated, which says to me that you're getting pretty desperate, and hitting on the one girl that's already living with you is taking the path of least resistance.

This isn't to say that she really isn't as awesome as you say she is. But I think your desire for relationship/intimacy/sex is distorting your thinking. If you really want to "man up" then you need to expand your social circle. Join a club, a gym, something. Find other women to hang out with and get some experience with the opposite sex, rather than using your power and influence to go for the woman who is already dependent on you for so much of her daily life.

And since you've mentioned googling the answers and you're asking this question on AskMe, I'd say you need trustworthy guy friends you can talk to about these things too, but that's advice we can dispense on a future question.
posted by sambosambo at 4:38 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Why should I stay and pull boyfriend responsibilities if I’m not even in a long term relationship with her? I feel like I’m a drop-in surrogate parent, and it is frustrating.

Putting aside all the other reasons that this is a bad idea, consider what happens if you could somehow transform this into a romantic relationship. Well, then overnight you've got yourself into a dull co-dependency situation. You'd be a starting a relationship at the point where they usually start collapsing.

There's a reason these things don't work if the power dynamics are all wrong at the outset. Think of it in the same ballpark as sexual harassment of an employee of yours. If you want her that much, you quit your job, which in this case is even easier: you just move out.

Any relationship won't work until she's independent enough to bring as much to a relationship as you can. That's not going to happen if you start it hobbled.
posted by bonaldi at 4:41 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) How do females interpret it when their roommate moves out and refuses to allow them to come along, and a few months later, asks to date? (“I really like you, and that’s why I’m leaving” sounds... weird.)

I don't think it sounds weird, I think it will probably sound deeply respectful and endearingly honest -- even if she doesn't return your feelings.

2) How much of an obligation do I have to make sure she’s not left in a “learn to do everything and find your own transportation” lurch before moving out? She hasn’t made any attempts to make close friends, being comfortable with the nook that she’s carved for herself.

Virtually none. She's a grown-ass lady, and if she's going to travel the world, then she needs to learn how to take care of herself. She hasn't done this so far because she hasn't needed to, and I think it's a little condescending to assume that it's because she isn't able to.
posted by hermitosis at 4:44 PM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: Hrm, upon reading your most recent response, a few new thoughts:

Look, it's not weaning her off of you. You are not a teat from which she is suckling. You are in a mutually beneficial situation. She needs to get out of her shell a little bit more, but you need to handle the idea that you're not so free to escape from her, either. She provides so much in your current relationship that you're extremely attracted to her; that counts for a lot. How would you feel if she was suddenly gone? I bet you'd miss more than just her pretty face.

1) How do females interpret it when their roommate moves out and refuses to allow them to come along, and a few months later, asks to date? (“I really like you, and that’s why I’m leaving” sounds... weird.)

This isn't "females", it's one particular woman. We're all different, just like males. The way you framed this question it's like you want to have a plan of attack, a strategy to achieve your goal. But you're young and have options and both you and your roommate need more life experience; moving out isn't just so she'll miss you and want to be with you, it's so the both of you can grow as people. Framing it as "I really like you, and that's why I'm leaving" is quite full of fail, yes, but framing it as "I need to work on being on my own, I'm too dependent on you and I'd like to see what it's like" is a lot easier to comprehend, and isn't a lie. The dating a few months later thing isn't guaranteed, it's simply a potential possibility. In the meantime you should be getting to know other women as well.

2) How much of an obligation do I have to make sure she’s not left in a “learn to do everything and find your own transportation” lurch before moving out? She hasn’t made any attempts to make close friends, being comfortable with the nook that she’s carved for herself.

Are you her friend? If you're her friend, and she's developed this friendship with you with the fact that you can drive her places foremost in the friendship agreement, then yes, you're obligated to help her out. Why can't she drive? Can she not afford a car? Is she afraid to? Work on finding a part of town that has public transport, and yes, help her figure out how she can afford a car. Let her know you know it's going to be hard and that you're not going to just abandon her, but if she balks and refuses to accept your inevitable leaving, she doesn't sound like a good friend to me and perhaps doesn't deserve your romantic attentions, either.

This will make me sound like a selfish ass, but why should I stay and pull boyfriend responsibilities if I’m not even in a long term relationship with her?

Pull boyfriend responsibilities, or share roommate duties and friendship duties? What you see as boyfriend jobs she may see as things friends do for each other. What does she do for you? If she's not contributing anything to the arrangement, ask that she step it up. If she refuses, then she's using you. But either way, the way you said that makes my skin crawl a little bit. Just because she's a woman doesn't mean she's useless unless you're in an LTR with her. Just because you're a man doesn't mean you're acting like a boyfriend or a father to her. Reframe it: if she were a guy, what would you see as being wrong in this situation? And then try to rectify it. By framing it that way, she might see the inequalities too, and be more on board with the idea of mutual independence.

As for your lack of mutual friends, fix that. Pull her into your group of friends! Even if you want to move out, you'd like to still be friends with her, yes? So encourage her to know your friends, and maybe she'll be able to spread her wings a little more, without your direct influence.
posted by Mizu at 4:52 PM on November 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Uh, you pull boyfriend responsibilities while you feel like a surrogate parent, while for her the situation is great, and you haven't even really talked about this? Something in these roommate relations smells sour to me already.

Do you want to long-term-romantic-relationshipicize the situation in order to feel more okay pulling the same parent and boyfriend responsibilities, or because you actually have faith in the future in some more profound manner? And if the latter, why should we, anonymously, intervene?

As to advice about 'relationship experience', well:
1) relationships, where one partner drives, hauls and is indispensable, even parent-like, while the other finds the situation great, and relies on these qualities and commitments (and even tacitly assumes that you would move around together, while you're still on the old Filter asking fundamental questions) very rarely work out (unless both get a real and lasting kick out of such an unbalanced constellation).
2) there is no substitute for good communication. Mutually finding out about each others' expectations (culturally determined and otherwise) is a must in a situation like the one you describe.
posted by Namlit at 4:53 PM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: No need to discuss your attraction with her, just try to kiss her sometime.

DO NOT DO THIS. Creepy. Weird. Borderline psychotic.

Say: "I think I'm going to have to move out X, because I am developing romantic feelings for you, and I don't want to put you in a position where that is awkward or you feel obligated to respond to me because we live together and I helped you at the DMV, etc.

"Obviously, if you would be interested in dating me, I would be overjoyed. However, if you wish to remain friends, I would be happy and honoured to be your friend as well. Either way, I think I should move out because I don't want to put any pressure on you - as a friend or as anything else. what do you think about this?" (italics added for emphasis).

If you care more about her than your self-esteem, you will have this conversation sooner rather than later. If you fail, you fail; but either way, you will be a happier person.
posted by smoke at 5:23 PM on November 22, 2009 [11 favorites]

I don't think you should peruse a relationship, but what you have now doesn't sound healthy either. I'd say move out before she becomes any more attached and in a few months see if she wants to get coffee and see how shes doing. At that point take it from there.
posted by mattsweaters at 6:33 PM on November 22, 2009

Response by poster: So going off the link from FauxScott:
"Related, if the girl invites you to meet her family, this is symbolically equivalent to a formal announcement of engagement in the West. It would be best not to agree to meet her family unless you have marriage in mind."

Her mom thinks I'm the best thing since sliced bread, and has repeatedly requested that I come visit them. Her mother's offered to take a month off of work so that the three of us can travel around China. I always just kinda thought of it as a parent being grateful for someone looking out for their only child. Is there significance in this? And does it muddy the waters even more?

There is so much potential for abusing this relationship...
posted by RandomGradStudent at 6:54 PM on November 22, 2009

No need to discuss your attraction with her, just try to kiss her sometime.

Do. Not. Ever. Do. This. I have had this done a couple of times by people who had made no indication they were interested. It is horribly invasive and unspeakably awkward afterwards. Move out, don't say it's because you like her, ask her out once you're in your new place.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:34 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: Just told her that I will be moving out in 2 months, because living together is stifling both of our growth as individuals. Offered to continue helping her with logistics after I move out, until she gets her car. After about 15 seconds of awkward silence, she got very upset, didn't say anything, and locked herself in her room.

That did not go well. I feel like a heel.
posted by RandomGradStudent at 7:50 PM on November 22, 2009

You did not tell her WHY you are moving out, silly boy! She heard, "I'm moving out because you are holding me back."

For goodness sake, knock on the door, and TELL HER THE TRUTH, I don't know, mention THAT YOU LIKE HER. Sheesh, relationships are so much easier when you're honest.

Also, for the love of god, disregard _any_ cross-cultural romance tips you read on the internet. It's the self-help equivalent of "Black guys drive like _this_, and white guys drive like _this_", and is 99% of the time is about as culturally relevant.
posted by smoke at 7:58 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Why did you do that? You even marked as "best answers" ones that told you tell her how you felt... If someone told me they didn't want to live with me any more because I was holding them back, I sure as hell wouldn't parse that as a statement of romantic interest.

Try again... this time, with feeling.
posted by modernnomad at 8:25 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have a hunch your roommate (and her mother) already think you are in a relationship.

"because living together is stifling both of our growth as individuals."

Ouch. Bad. Did you not mark Hermitosis's answer as "Best" above? The whole point of that answer is that you are moving out because you have feelings for her.

The purpose is to give her a chance to process that, and perhaps respond. "Stifling our growth as individuals?" That sounds like you are dumping her.
posted by rokusan at 8:26 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: At the last minute I concluded that the "I'm moving out because I'm interested in you" line sounds like an ultimatum. I'll see what happens in the morning.
posted by RandomGradStudent at 8:33 PM on November 22, 2009

Oh god, you just Ultimatum'd the woman with no discussion beforehand? Just like that, out of the blue? A lot of the answers you marked as "best" mention doing some personal reflection and thinking hard about the situation you are (were) in. You can't do that in a couple of hours and come to a hard conclusion! You could have at least slept on it, dang.

The way you write things makes you sound like you're some kind of robot man, sucking in facts an figures and coming out with an immediate response, executed in as obvious a way as possible. Take an empathetic approach. Ask her how she feels, about you, about handling her own life, and especially about herself. Try to imagine yourself in her shoes. Take it slow. Criminy.
posted by Mizu at 8:34 PM on November 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

These waters are very muddy indeed. Dear Sweet Mom inviting you to month-long China tours; this isn't casual, your roommate has given DSM good reports and DSM wants to check you out in person, see if you wear clean shirts, do you shave daily, are you covered in tattoos, etc and etc.

Raised in an entirely different world, and lived with her parents all her life, she's not going to question DSMs inputs on this.

Review: AAACCCKKK !!! You told her that stuff? NOW you're going to HAVE to level with her, to tell her what you've told us -- that the reason you're moving out is because she rocks your world.

You're going to have an interesting morning. I'd love to see the video, I bet we all would, so's we can squirm along with you -- my gut is hurting just thinking about it. Ask her if she'd mind if you got it on tape, tell her it's an old American custom, brought over on The Mayflower and stuff, VERY traditional around our Thanksgiving holiday...

Matters of the heart make just the biggest fools out of us; we're all in this with you, my friend.

Sleep tight!
posted by dancestoblue at 8:53 PM on November 22, 2009

Yeah, I want to double down on my bet now.

I say that in her view (and her mother's), you were already dating... and now you have dumped her, dramatically and unexpectedly.
posted by rokusan at 8:56 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ultimatum? Lord, I'm starting to worry that you are beyond help. Damage control immediately, not in the morning: tell her how you feel.

What you have done instead:

1. Effectively told her you don't like her.

2. Upset her terribly.

I thought you wanted to do the opposite of these things???
posted by smoke at 8:59 PM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

This thread is really exciting!

I also suspect that she may have taken your "stifling each other" comment as an insult. I think you will do better to be honest about all this.

I don't think that the "I'm moving out because I'm interested in you" line sounds like an ultimatum... rather, it sounds like you telling her about your decision and giving a reason why.

What is the supposed "ultimatum" in this situation? Do you fear that she will think, "If I don't get into a relationship with OP, I will lose my roommate and friend?"

I wouldn't interpret it that way, if I were her. What matters is your reaction AFTER she tells you how she feels. If you act like a weirdo, she'll feel blackmailed. However, if you act as normally as you can until you move out, she'll feel safe and supported.

It's also not your fault that she carved out a very small niche for herself. You need to protect yourself, just as much as she needs to expand her social circle.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:06 PM on November 22, 2009

No, you do not wait to see what happens in the morning.

You upset her. You did not tell the truth, you acted rashly, and on the impression that "females" function in some obscure and dogmatic manner that you cannot comprehend. You feel like a heel because you acted like a heel.

If you want to fix it, you should fix it now. Now, not tomorrow morning after she's had all night to think about how awful you are and how much of a fool she's been for even considering you a friend. Be honest. Tell her you like her and that while striving to not make things awkward for her, managed to fuck it up.

If you let it go until morning you are just compounding the problem and acting like a coward besides. If you like her, tell her. If you don't like her enough to actually make sure she's on the same page as you then for god's sake stop kidding yourself into thinking this might work out. It's not fair to her.
posted by lydhre at 9:10 PM on November 22, 2009 [8 favorites]

Seconding smoke and lydhre. Tell her now - if you don't tell her now, then you're not going to tell her tomorrow -- you're just putting off what you know is the right thing to do. And if you don't tell her what you actually feel, that's not being fair to her as your friend.
posted by suedehead at 9:17 PM on November 22, 2009

Ok, do NOT mention you like her like smoke suggests. She is already upset and if she does not reciprocate you've just tossed a handful of leaves into an already smokey fire.

Tell her (probably through a closed door) that you realize that came out really wrong and did not mean it like that. Tell her you feel that YOU are holding her back and while you will always be there for her as a friend, you wanted to give her some freedom to be more independent. Explain that you will still be there as a friend to help her out in any way she needs and that she doesn't have to worry about that. She heard your version of it as you thinking SHE is stifling YOUR growth.

Under no circumstances bring your feelings into this discussion (or any future ones until you are moved out).

I've been in a similar situation before and had similar views on things as you do (when I was 21). You have to learn that she is a real person with real emotions and not some stereotype as defined by whatever speed-seduction website you may have been perusing. If it helps, then just tell yourself that you will never get together with her and put it out of your mind entirely. Neither of you are in a place emotionally for this relationship to have any shot.

So go and try to mend things and try to explain to her that you are a huge idiot (be self-deprecating) and realize how stupid you just sounded and want to talk about it. And when I say talk about it, I mean say a few things that don't sound so final and damning as "I'm moving out in 2 months" and then LISTEN to her.

Oh, and you seriously need to work on thinking about how you can abuse X or Y situation. Mature individuals who are ready to have healthy relationships do not think of things in those terms. I hate to come of as a dick with all of this but you clearly need to be whacked with the clue bat.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:19 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I'm seconding the request for the video. This is ridiculous.

Don't take this the wrong way but the manner in which you've approached this situation reminds me of my friend's brother who has sociopathic tendencies in the sense that they see the world as a series of rules where if you figure out the exact way to do X, you can accomplish Y and it is not always that plain and simple.

You are treading in a very gray area right now where tensions are high and emotions will hinder the ability to think/act rationally (for both of you).

You need to do some damage control for right now to reassure her that no, you didn't just totally upend the world as she knows it and toss her into the deep end in a culture she is not familiar/comfortable with. Once you calm her down (and I hope you are able to do so), you need to take some time to do some thinking about the matter and not just do a gut reaction like you did just now after reading some advice on AskMeFi.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:26 PM on November 22, 2009

Damage control now, definitely.

Maybe "I'm sorry I communicated poorly earlier. See...I think I'm developing feelings for you...and I don't want to put you in an awkward situation with a roommate."

Then leave it at that. If she follows up with a question, answer her. But don't press her for her response - that places her in the position of having to process this information immediately. That also places a social burden on her to somehow assuage you, which gets into the whole power imbalance thing. If you tell her the above, it seems like she'll have the info she needs to think about and decide, at her leisure, how she wants to deal with it.

There: you've been honest, open and transparent with her, put the ball in her court if she wants to respond in some way, while additionally showing her respect by allowing her to react when she feels ready. I think that's all we can do with each other and if we get that far, we've been as decently human as we know how.

Hell, we're all in the dark when it comes to each other, though. Best of luck to both of you.
posted by darkstar at 10:16 PM on November 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

I wish people would stop saying "now is the time to confess!"

Let's look at this objectively. You've sprung a major life-changing scenario on her out of nowhere by randomly and bluntly telling her you are moving out in two months. Since she is so dependent on you she probably has quite a bit racing through her mind right now in terms of how she is going to cope with the new situation.

Knowing that, I'm baffled how anybody can honestly think that now is the proper time to make your romantic advances. Damage control first, then get yourself out of the situation by moving out, and only once you've both gained some independence can you CONSIDER telling her how you feel.

Anything else is doomed to failure at this point.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:57 PM on November 22, 2009


I can't believe things have changed so fast in this thread!

I was going to disagree with most of the others already posted in the thread and say that from a Chinese perspective it sounds like you've courting her all along and that if you want to date her you need to decide if you want to marry her. Most of the comments upthread about you needing to move out before making a move are from a Western cultural perspective and may not apply to your situation. I WAS going to suggest inviting her to dinner and movie and then gently holding her hand over dinner and saying that you would like to court her (which you have already BEEN effectively doing).

Based on these updates, it sounds like you've been vetted by the parents and now what is expected (if you want a romantic relationship with this woman) is a marriage proposal.

I suggest you do not wait for tomorrow morning, but go knock on her door. Explain that you believe a cultural misunderstanding has been going on. Explain that you have feelings for her and would like to ask her parents/her for permission to court her. Explain that in the US / western culture, its considered taking advantage of someone to do so if you live in the same apartment and you were planning to ask same once you moved out.

Best of luck and keep us updated

(Female here, for what its worth)
posted by zia at 11:01 PM on November 22, 2009 [15 favorites]

Oh! And don't LIE and tell her it was for her own good / independence / other bullshit. Just tell the truth.
posted by zia at 11:02 PM on November 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Outstanding, zia!
posted by darkstar at 11:09 PM on November 22, 2009

Best answer: Instead of favoriting the seven messages that I'd like to endorse, let me summarize the conversation you really need to have with this girl asap:
1. "I'm so sorry, I am a gigantic stupid idiot and I lied to you because I am shy and embarrassed.."

2. "The real reason I think I should move out is that I am so attracted to you that I do not know what to do."

3. "I have always wanted to date you but I do not know how to ask."

4. "What do you think I should do now?"
Now go and undo the damage!
posted by rokusan at 11:44 PM on November 22, 2009 [43 favorites]

I am favouriting Rokusan so hard I pulled a muscle in my favouritoid.
posted by smoke at 12:52 AM on November 23, 2009 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: So I knocked on her door last night, and she didn't answer. I apologized through the door, and said I was an idiot and that there's been cultural misunderstanding.

I was woken up at 5 am by knocking at the door. It looks like she's been crying. She says she's been up the whole time talking to her mom (she talks to her mom for at least an hour most days). She say that she doesn't want me to go, and doesn't know what to do. I say I don't know what I was thinking, but that I might stay after all. We share an awkward chuckle. Then I tried to muster the courage to tell her the real reason. (I know some of you might be doing a face-palm at this moment, but keep in mind that I just woke up and am not a morning person.)

She says she wishes I would stay, puts her hand on mine, and leans over to try and kiss me. At this point I'm shocked and totally freaked out internally; this isn't one of the scenarios I had practiced for. (Yes, I mentally rehearse potential social scenarios; I have social competency issues, if you haven't realized yet.) Out of reflex, I pushed her away, and managed to fumbled out a "wait... no... this..." before she quickly retreated back to her room. I've never seen her look so small and dejected in the 14 months that I've lived with her. I could rationalize it as "it just isn't the right way for a woman to receive her first kiss", but that's simply not true. I panicked; I am made of fail.

So I gathered my wits, then went over and told her through the door that this is a big misunderstanding, and that I am interested in her, and the reason why I wanted to move out.

She opened the door, accused me of saying that I' interested only because of what happened, and was out the front door. Again, totally not a scenario that I've mentally rehearsed, and I froze. By the time my brain shifted from "what just happened?!?" and started screaming "Saying nothing was the worst possible response. GO AFTER HER, YOU IDIOT!!!", she was nowhere in sight. Looked for her for an hour, walking and driving around in my PJs, and now I'm back here...

She's not at her usual haunts. I'm torn between waiting for her here, and stepping out to get her flowers.

I'm not sure how I'm going to disprove her accusation of offering a pity relationship, short of showing her the date stamped Ask.MeFi, which I'm not even sure is a good idea for any female, let alone a foreign female.

What's worse, now I'm not sure if what's driving her is fear of me leaving, maternal pressure (which I never considered before), actual reciprocation of affection, or some combination of this above. And the paranoid part of me says that I unethically abused my position to nudge her towards something she didn't want, even though that was the complete opposite of what I intended.

I wish I had a chance to read Elminster and Zia's posts beforehand.

Zia: Your response seem the most chinese-ified one so far, but are you serious about what you wrote? A MARRIAGE PROPOSAL to progress my relationship with her? That seems extreme to say the least, and is freaking me out even more.

I need a way to rewind the last 12 hours. New post: Dear MetaFilter, I am in a hole. How do I stop digging and climb out? Or... does anybody have a time machine that I can borrow?
posted by RandomGradStudent at 5:25 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

After reading your update, I would recommend writing her a letter to get down everything that you want to say, since you're having trouble getting yourself across at the moment.

Just write it out all - that you've been interested in her, that you didn't know what to do, that you decided to try and do the right thing and move out, that you feel awful, the whole misunderstanding, etc. Give it to her, then give her some time and space - go for a walk for a few hours. Then come back and hopefully try to have a conversation with her.
posted by ukdanae at 5:35 AM on November 23, 2009

Don't write a letter. Kiss her.

Also, I just wanted to say:
"In order not to appear creepy, you basically have to wait for her to make the first move here."

This is ridiculous.
posted by pollex at 5:52 AM on November 23, 2009

Thanks for your update. Don't despair - the girl of your dreams is into you!!!

This is good news - now you just need to get rid of the drama :)

RE: Marriage Proposal question. You don't need actually propose. But I would suggest that you have a heart to heart with yourself and realize that Chinese girls don't/rarely "date" the way American/western women do. So you should understand that shifting to a romantic relationship will be "dating with intention to marry" not dating because you want a good buddy and some sex.

Also, don't worry that you've pressured her into this - it sounds like this was percolating with both of you and you have successfully if rather clumsily brought this to a head and if you can sooth feathers, to the conclusion you hoped for.

Perserve and congrats!
posted by zia at 6:06 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Soothe, not sooth!
posted by zia at 6:07 AM on November 23, 2009

Don't leave the house. She doesn't need flowers, she needs to know that you weren't lying about not leaving.

Write out everything as much as you can like ukdanae suggests. This is not so much for her as it is for you - it will help you get your obviously jumbled thoughts into some semblance of order.

When she comes back, if your letter is really excellent, clear, and will explain the cultural misunderstandings, you can give it to her and then give her some space. Let her know that she can call you and you'll be back at the drop of a hat, and that it's her move now - you have no desire to take advantage of her or confuse either of you further, and you want to make sure everything is explained, to the both of you, from both sides, soon.

If your letter sucks, and she tromps right past you and slams her door, explain that you're letting her have the house to herself until X-oclock and you REALLY want to talk when you get back.

If she shows up and is wanting to talk to you, and tries to have a go at a romantic advance again, yeah, kiss her. Then talk it out. Then hopefully try kissing some more?
posted by Mizu at 6:11 AM on November 23, 2009

Oh and write a letter, buy flowers, AND kiss her when she comes back
posted by zia at 6:15 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Okay true, flowers never actually hurt, unless the girl is allergic. But I still say don't risk her showing up in the 20 minutes you are there. It's definitely time to call in a favor to a friend and have someone go buy flowers for you. If your friends refuse, they are heartless jerks. It's a romance-emergency!
posted by Mizu at 6:18 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

God. AREN'T there. Do you know I've been awake all night since you went to sleep? I have to know what HAPPENS, now.
posted by Mizu at 6:18 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

the paranoid part of me says that I unethically abused my position to nudge her towards something she didn't want

This rings false to me. I think you're right when you say you're scared of reciprocated affection and you may be talking yourself into thinking this situation couldn't possibly be true.

Anyway in case it isn't clear enough: she made the move, she wants you!

Yes, "saying nothing" < "saying something awkward and potentially foolish." There are going to be many situations in a relationship that you've never encountered before and you may panic about. If you two pursue something, you should be clear with her that your initial reaction to new situations may not be your real reaction and that she needs to give you time to process feelings.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:27 AM on November 23, 2009

Response by poster: Called her lab; she took the day off. They were surprised that I didn't know she was "sick at home".

Her cell phone is still off. I've left 2 messages apologizing for upsetting her and asking her to come home; it's pointless an identical message every time I called.

Friend came over with two dozen red roses and a dozen daffodils of assorted colors (her favorite). He expressed his doubts about the whole thing, saying that there'd be too many unrealistic expectations on both of our parts. Like sambosambo, he also pointed out that I may be interested in her simply because she is available and it is the path of least resistance. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

I have never upset her before. In 14 months we've never had any conflicts, beyond a few calm discussions about bad habits that were quickly remedied (e.g. I used to defrost chicken in bags, without trays to catch potential leaks; she used to frequently leave without turning TV off). I'm not sure if she's hiding and avoiding conflicts, but from my perspective we mesh uncannily well in terms of interests, outlooks, and living style. It's part of the appeal of a committed relationship with her. I absolutely hate knowing that I hurt her, inadvertently or not.
posted by RandomGradStudent at 8:45 AM on November 23, 2009

Friend came over with two dozen red roses and a dozen daffodils of assorted colors (her favorite). He expressed his doubts about the whole thing, saying that there'd be too many unrealistic expectations on both of our parts.

This is one of your friends? Bringing red roses for her? You sure he's not interested? I, frankly, wouldn't listen to him.

This is such a clusterfuck. I think it's pretty clear to everyone here that you like her, and that she likes you, but you're letting your own inexperience (and really, it's your inexperience that's the problem here--it's clear from the post that you have some naive and complicated attitudes about women and have been making a wealth of excuses not to let things mature into a real relationship with her) cloud that.

So it's time to step up. She's done something incredibly brave in kissing you. Before she gets back, you need to write her the letter that everyone here is telling you to write. If you're uncomfortable focusing on the future, focus on what you like about her right now. Tell us everything you've said here about how much you love spending time with her and what a good team you think the two of you make. And apologize. Remind her of your own inexperience. Apologize again. Then end by telling her again how terrific you think she is.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:02 AM on November 23, 2009

Oh, okay, I see--these are from you. Still, I wouldn't listen to him. You have to start taking risks in love at some point or you'll never gain any experience. This is true for both of you. As it stands, though, if you don't pursue it--don't risk something--you'll almost undoubtedly ruin your friendship with her, because you'll be rejecting her completely.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:07 AM on November 23, 2009

Best answer: So. Much. Drama.

Dude, just show her this Metafilter post. She might be somewhat offended by the descriptions and assumptions of inexperience and romantic naivety, but this post essentially shows her you meant well and you aren't just "using" her for company (what I mean about "using": she really really likes you, and you kinda like her, but more importantly, you like the companionship/ sex, hence instigating this relationship).
posted by moiraine at 9:30 AM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Perhaps you can reach her through one of her friends.
posted by tss at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2009

Response by poster: She came back!

She was having none of that flowers stuff, and was about to re-cloister herself in her room, but I stopped her and told her how much she means to me and how I think we have tremendous romantic potential together. I then told her my worries and fears, pointed her to this MeFi thread.

She then went to take a shower to "think about things", and I told her not to rush things, and to take as much time as she needs. She had a response ready when she emerged: "I can not believe you made me go through all this. What took you so long?"

She's snuggled up beside me on the couch as I type this. I'm sure there will be issues, and hopefully we'll be able to deal with them as they arise. (And it's time to retire this throwaway account, lest I screw myself over by writing more stupid things.)

Thanks, for putting up with the drama and providing helpful advice, MeFites!
posted by RandomGradStudent at 10:00 AM on November 23, 2009 [69 favorites]


Now get with the kissing!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:02 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

looks like the power arrangement is gonna get shaken up. dude, you got a girlfriend.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 10:10 AM on November 23, 2009


Congrats RandomGradStudent & Girlfriend!
posted by zia at 10:18 AM on November 23, 2009

Yay. Another victory for the Green Team.

Since you seem new at this whole girl thing, be ready for this: she may be annoyed at you for awhile for being so stupid and shy. And you were stupid and shy. Don't blame her.

Also, she might be embarrassed and angry at you later, if/when she reads this thread, because if she is from a very traditional background, it might be "too personal".

If this happens: apologize, explain how confused and shy you were, and let her be angry for awhile. Don't make excuses. She'll forgive you.
posted by rokusan at 10:20 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

This thread practically made me cry. I'm so happy for you both, and that it worked out in the end.
posted by misha at 10:29 AM on November 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

YAAAY! I'm glad things worked out - AskMe to the rescue!
posted by suedehead at 10:29 AM on November 23, 2009

This was better than any television show I have watched this year.

I wish you the best and hope you can mend your cultural misunderstandings and extreme socially awkward responses.

posted by WeekendJen at 10:39 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

This thread was so worth the popcorn. Good on you guys. Now go on a proper date.
posted by dabitch at 10:45 AM on November 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

I can't believe it...its like the worst teen romantic comedy I've ever seen, complete with cheesy ending where the dorky, inexperienced guy gets the girl.

Well, just a few closing notes then...

First, congrats! You may have your first girlfriend. I say "may" because when she gets time to fully read the actual post, she may decide otherwise. You said some pretty bone-headed things in here that indicate a general lack of maturity when it comes from girls (which can be fairly attributed to your lack of experience) and from personal experience, girls tend to not like it when guys share the inner workings of their relationships (which you did) to the entire interweb.

If she reads this post then I'll say to her: "His posting here shows he made the effort to try to do what was best for you and the situation and while he may have been slightly misguided, he is worth trying to educate as he has heart, which is the most important thing."

Now, as much as you're going to hate this, the thing you need to do is sit down and have a talk with her about whether both of your emotions are arising out of your co-dependency or out of more substantial things since that will play a large role in how successful any relationship might be between you guys. It may mean that things don't work out but it would be best to figure that out now than wait till a month from now where you hate each other and have to move out under much less positive terms.
posted by Elminster24 at 11:22 AM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can't believe you made US go through all of this; I have felt anxious all day.

Just joking, I'm relieved and I hope everything continues to go well.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:59 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just remember, the reason why she likes you (and her mother too) and wants to be with you is that you are a gentleman, and that you are kind at heart. Never forget that.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:08 PM on November 23, 2009 [9 favorites]

You're right, WeekendJen. People have been wondering why I've been shouting "go get her, you aspie bastard!" at my computer.
posted by dr_dank at 12:33 PM on November 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

That's really fabulous! I'm glad you overcame your shyness, and I'm glad she turned out to feel the same way about you. Hurrah!
posted by ocherdraco at 12:36 PM on November 23, 2009

posted by rmd1023 at 1:26 PM on November 23, 2009

Jebus, is that all? Not to downplay your angst, but...less than 24 hours of drama from the time you expressed your attraction to the time she is snuggling with you on the couch?

Either you're one of the luckiest bastards ever to engage in a mating dance or this whole thread is a troll.

The better angels of my nature demand that I imagine that you're just one really lucky guy. Best of luck to both of you!
posted by darkstar at 2:33 PM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

I had to skip to the end of this....

Normally, it is advisable to avoid relationships with a roommate, but in my opinion you're already dating. You need to talk with her about your feelings. Tell her you'll be okay either way, but things simply cannot continue as they have been. Anyway, there's a good chance she likes you if all the gift giving, etc. you've been describing has been going on. If things don't work out, you'll figure out how to extricate yourself and be a good person to her all the same. If you don't do this, I think you will seriously regret it someday.

Some of the posters above are saying you're basically trapped. I don't understand this at all. She's an adult. You're an adult. This is an adult issue and should be treated that way.
posted by xammerboy at 3:21 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Or reading above - wow! congrats!!!!!!! What a great thread!
posted by xammerboy at 3:46 PM on November 23, 2009

Sounds like you've got a chance to start fresh. I think it's really important that given your (in)experience and personality, you keep in mind the following guidelines as you proceed from here:

Do not lie to this girl about anything. Do not skirt around the truth. Do not gloss over icky parts to make things sound better. If she feels you're still hiding even a sliver of your feelings, you're going to have trouble. You need to communicate 100% openly and honestly with her from now on. You are eating a generous portion of humble pie, and will continue to in order to atone for your missteps. You will lay bare your soul to her. You will be vulnerable. You will also experience waves of catharsis and grow closer to her as a result. Good communication is the most critical part of a successful relationship and I simply can't stress it enough.

And I'm not just talking about for today. If you want to make this thing work, that's your new lifestyle forever. It's not a bad thing at all, but you'd better get used to it. It doesn't come naturally to anyone.

Sorry to be harsh! I hope you read this. After reading through the whole thread, I think that's one thing you really need to hear now that you're at this point and wondering what happens next.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:49 PM on November 23, 2009 [6 favorites]

Glad that worked out. Your 5:25 a.m. misunderstanding sounded like one that happened to me when I was dating someone from a very different culture, who thought I was rejecting her when I was just being a dumb American.

Because everyone is a unique human being, I don't want to say it's the same thing. But a lesson I learned was never to assume that the "friend zone," the "where's this relationship going" talk and other neurotic dating fictions that Westerners take for granted on Friends were universal to the world. Enjoy your new girlfriend!
posted by Kirklander at 5:14 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best askme ever!
posted by serazin at 5:44 PM on November 23, 2009

So let me get this straight - a little while ago you had never dated anyone, and now you're practically engaged (based on the advice above).

I can't help but feel that this could turn out very very badly.
posted by awfurby at 6:20 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

What a rollercoaster! I say bah humbug to awfurby. I'm rooting for both of you.
posted by umbú at 7:02 PM on November 23, 2009

I can't help but feel that this could turn out very very badly.

Why so cynical? I've had some great relationships that began somewhat oddly. I think that this kind of beginning makes for great stories -- whether they are stories you tell your grandkids or while you are crying into your beer depends on how it turns out, but the stories will be good either way.
posted by Forktine at 7:02 PM on November 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Why so cynical? I've had some great relationships that began somewhat oddly."

Emphasis on the past tense there. THAT is why we are so cynical.

Ok ok, so your relationships may not have ended horribly, but they still ended. The point awfurby, myself and others have been trying to make is that this whole "relationship" has developed under some circumstances that give it a very low chance of success and a very high risk of issues. They are both essentially co-dependent on each other (him for emotional closeness and her for possibly that and a myriad of other things which are necessary for living an ordinary life in a foreign country). Not exactly a good foundation for a healthy relationship.

Don't get me wrong, we're all happy for them...we're just dreading the follow-up post if they breakup down the line.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:02 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

The point awfurby, myself and others have been trying to make is that this whole "relationship" has developed under some circumstances that give it a very low chance of success and a very high risk of issues.

Oh, pshaw.

They get along awesomely. They both really liked each other but were clearly too shy to bring it to the next level. They are close friends who actually have romantic attachment towards one another.

Maybe it won't last forever. Actually, of course it won't last forever. But perhaps it will last. Crazy drama like the past 24 hours or so is par for the course in most relationships. The question is, do you have constant crazy drama, and what is the drama about?

Sounds like the drama here was people being hurt and goofing up on interaction. That is easily the least problematic of drama causes in a long term relationship. Anger, sadness, fear (not "I'm scared of this person", but rather "This situation scares me") -- these are all perfectly healthy emotions to experience over a relationship. The ones you want to look out for are contempt, scorn, disgust, coldness. These are emotions that spell long-term problems for relationships. Secondly, sounds like normally they work very smoothly together, and even have successfully navigated disputes in the past.

And anyway, I don't understand how you're supposed to grow without having relationships. It's not like after you reach a certain age or learn a discrete set of facts suddenly you have all this emotional maturity. The only way to be ready to be in a relationship is by having relationships (and then, when necessary, taking a break from them altogether).
posted by Deathalicious at 10:56 PM on November 23, 2009 [11 favorites]

I think the red flag that some folks are seeing is that he may have gone in one step from being a complete relationship neophyte to diving into the deep end of a cross-cultural, marriage-track courtship.

It's one thing to grow from relationship to relationship as you mature. It's another, I guess, to go from being a complete babe in the woods to an situation so potentially...fraught.

I wish them both luck, though. They'll both learn from the experience, as you say.
posted by darkstar at 11:39 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Deathalicious, Darkstar is partly right in his thought however I will complete it by adding that normally I wouldn't care if it fizzled and burned. You are right, relationships are part of the growth experience.

However in this particular instance I am very concerned for the girl involved. She is in a foreign culture and dependent on this guy for a LOT of things to get by in her life currently. That has the potential to make things very very messy for her should this crumble (which again it has a high likelihood of doing).

Could she come out of a breakup more independent after figuring out how to handle those things? Possibly. Still a super shitty situation to be in though and one I would recommend trying to avoid. That's all.
posted by Elminster24 at 12:04 AM on November 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh hi there, just popping my head here again to say HOORAY! I'm glad everything is not horribly messed up anymore.

And also, you should still work with her on establishing transportation independence, and making mutual friends. She should work with you on clear, truthful communication and understanding the ladies. Don't make the mistake of falling directly into a rut, and try to make sure you help each other improve as regular people.

I've had relationships reminiscent of this in the past - roommates with mutual romantic attraction leading to dramatic hookups and potential, dizzying happiness. And then two months later, WHAM, worst breakups, EVER. This girl is NOT me, though, she's totally different from what I can glean, and you are definitely not a guy from my past (thank god), so there's certainly hope, here.

But learn from my mistakes, and take it from me: try to make sure that each of you can function without the other person in a healthy way. Even if you stay together forever, there will always be times when you need to be apart.
posted by Mizu at 12:56 AM on November 24, 2009

But a lesson I learned was never to assume that the "friend zone," the "where's this relationship going" talk and other neurotic dating fictions that Westerners take for granted on Friends were universal to the world.

Agree, agree, agree.

I'm so happy for you, and my only relationship advice to you is that you should take all relationship advice (including mine) with a pinch of salt. (Case in point: The, like, 50 posters above who said you should move out of the house... just so you can date her...). And if you are happy, you are happy -- don't let any naysayers and jaded single folks tell you otherwise! Some people get it right the first time, some people never get it right, and while you don't know which category you fall in, you should always aim and hope for the best. Because, otherwise, it would be a disservice and an insult to your girlfriend and the relationship.

And congratulations!
posted by moiraine at 1:19 AM on November 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

Haha, this entire thread is gigantic fail. Though fail with a happy ending. :)

I live in China. I speak reasonably fluent Chinese. I know enough about Chinese culture to dodge the vast majority of the bullets mentioned in this thread.

And I still don't think I'd know enough to start a relationship with a Chinese girl (Not that I have any interest in doing so, in case my girlfriend stops by and reads this somewhere down the line :) ).

It's just. That. Different. (Unless she's one of the basically 'internationalized' exceptions, where she grew up jet-setting and thinks like unbearably rich people pretty much anywhere else.)

As for the 'marriage proposal' thing sounding extreme... I just had my roommate here in Guilin (Very educated, broad-minded guy, doing his Master's at the best university in town) move out quickly and head back home tout de suite because his parents are basically forcing him to marry his girlfriend of roughly a year. The idea of doing the whole "You can't push me around any more, mom and dad!" thing was essentially 100% out of the question.

Guy who started this thread, I must say this to you: I wish I'd logged on 72 hours ago to make it clear to you that all the advice that essentially approached this as if you were with an American girl was total bullshit, so we could get past the idea that you'd been Friend Zoned and needed to move out and then approach her in a few months and all of that.

But let's be clear. From what I'm reading here from you, you are not the most socially apt person in the world. That's okay! Plenty of people aren't. But you really need to see the next bridge coming down the road.

You really, really need to think about whether or not you're willing to marry this girl.

It's not a crazy question considering the context here. You've already realized that the American way of doing things (which I HEAVILY PREFER, for what it's worth) simply does not apply here and will lead to tears and misunderstandings if you try to use it.

I'm not saying "Propose tomorrow". I'm saying "If you can't visualize you two eventually getting married some day and being happy with that outcome, then FIGURE THAT OUT NOW". Waiting until a year from now could make her life a living hell in ways she's not well culturally equipped to grapple with.

Also, accept that another likely event arising from her culture is that you'll find that as your relationship intensifies, over time she may become increasingly harsh with you. Perhaps even domineering a bit! You have to find this lovable, and view it as more or less inevitable. Because if you don't, it will be hell for you. But it should be doable.

Does this scare you?

Does it leave you hoping I'm exaggerating and except for this part it's really just a normal American-style relationship from here on out?


Because I'm only exaggerating a little bit. I hate to piss in your Cheerios, but these are things you really need to be thinking about. And not "I'll think about them later when the time comes", thinking about them NOW.

On the whole? I actually think you should marry her.

Let's take stock of you:

-You're smart

-You're comparatively socially inept

-Your heart is in the right place but you tend to view women as mystery puzzles to be solved.

-You are unlikely to fare well in an American dating environment.

Let's take stock of her:

-She's probably pretty smart.

-She's socially apt in China, most likely, but still feeling her way around things in America.

-You're very attracted to her.

-She's clearly a big fan of you.

-She takes the features about you that will make you do poorly in an American dating market well, because, well, they're not really considered to be negatives in the same way over there.

This is pretty much the single best opportunity, romantically, you're going to get in your life.

Go for it.

But what ever you do, do NOT:

-Turn into the asshole who thinks that China and Chinese women and this and that are some superior wonder-land just because you're valued highly there (in part due to your weak points being less important in that culture, in part due to white and/or American privilege).

-Pretend that your previous romantic woes were all the 'fault' of Feminism and/or Feminists.

In short, play this right (i.e. if she talks about marriage, don't act all shocked and drop the ball like when she tried to kiss you -- really, what the hell were you thinking there?) and don't be a dick, and your life might turn out significantly better than you thought it would have two weeks ago.

posted by Televangelist at 8:38 AM on November 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

This is pretty much the single best opportunity, romantically, you're going to get in your life.

OHH PUHHLEEEEEZE stop being so condescending!

Yes, cultures are different, and yes, dating cultures are different. Still, that doesn't mean that dating a Chinese girl = instant marriage request. If she's willing to move to a foreign country for graduate school and live alone with a single male roommate, I'd say that she's also openminded enough to be willing handle whatever cultural differences there are.

I know some pretty conservative East Asian girls (conservative, as in thinks dating always should lead to marriage, etc). There's no chance in hell that they'd room in a two-bedroom apartment with another guy, or dare to be the one to initiate a kiss, or so on. She's a person, not some automaton -- talk to her!

Remember, she's also the other person in this cross-cultural relationship, and trying to navigate this as well. Don't just assume that the OP is the only one who is concerned about these things.

OP, just keep up constant communication. Talk to her about things, about US dating culture, about marriage. Be honest and sincere but not rude. Talk about talking, or not being able to talk. If you can do that, you'll be fine.
posted by suedehead at 9:39 AM on November 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

Don't beat yourself up about fumbling things up earlier, everyone does it. The important thing is you learn from it. I imagine you are feeling pretty terrified right now: this will be a major change for you. But know that with each day you will regain your confidence, and one day you'll look back on how you used to be and laugh. She'll remind you how much a dope you were, and since it's been immortalised on the internet, you can't avoid that. But don't feel bad about it - that was the old you, and from now on you're a different person.

Good luck to you both.
posted by Acey at 2:52 PM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Any chance we can drag the OP in here for an update on how things are going?
posted by crapmatic at 3:38 PM on November 24, 2009

Any chance we can drag the OP in here for an update on how things are going?

Yeah, like holy crap! It's almost their 1-day anniversary already!
posted by KokuRyu at 3:54 PM on November 24, 2009 [11 favorites]

Yeah, after the constant updates earlier, this has been like an eternity away. And where did she go when she ran off anyway? I'm certainly hoping for a happy ending, but I think we're only a couple chapters in. And if she's that prone to melodramatics, I'd be a bit worried when their next tiff occurs. And as most relationships go, it's inevitable. And given the cultural divide, it's whatever's above inevitable.

This is one of those AskMeFi threads that could be compiled into a book or something. Or be adapted into a web miniseries.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:33 PM on November 24, 2009

Yeah, after the constant updates earlier, this has been like an eternity away.

Let's just hope that they're busy.

Give him a few days, he will post eventually.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:43 AM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

And if she's that prone to melodramatics....

Harsh. Consider: she was dating and almost engaged to a guy for a long time. They were very happy together, and got along great all the time, even though he was very very shy. They were making plans to visit her mother, who really liked him. Then the guy suddenly, out of the blue, said that he was moving out and leaving her alone because she was "stifling his growth."

So she took some personal time to go for a walk and process. That's pretty far from "melodramatic", I think, and pretty damn understandable.
posted by rokusan at 5:12 PM on November 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I thought the word could come off as a bit harsh, but it was the only thing I could think of. Walking out and not responding to his attempts to reach her, leaving him in a panic all day? At the very least just let him know she's safe even if she doesn't want to talk.

And I can't just assume that she saw everything the same way most traditional Chinese might. Who knows if she was at least familiar enough with Western culture to tell her mom that courtship is different here (assuming even her mom is that traditional). Her family may be more open-minded than we give them credit for. She did move to the US after all, and has been here over a year now.

Obviously she still had the right to be upset, but it could've been just a reaction like "I like my roommate a ton and now he's saying he'll leave me and I'll be alone here." I'd think if she actually saw themselves as practically engaged, she would've said so, just to drive the point home of what he did to her.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:25 PM on November 25, 2009

No need to discuss your attraction with her, just try to kiss her sometime.

DO NOT DO THIS. Creepy. Weird. Borderline psychotic.

Really? Psychotic? I just now took the time to read most of this thread, and I must say I feel sort of vindicated. If the OP had just listened to me a lot of unnecessary drama might have been avoided.

Also, a highly educated late 20's female who moves to a foreign country and immediately finds a male roommate who helps her get around and deal with life's small obstacles is somehow considered naive? Why, because she's from China?
posted by wigner3j at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

Um, so anyway, I wonder if she's still reading this thread. Because if she is, things are really fucked now.

Marriage? No marriage?
posted by awfurby at 8:00 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

So what happened eventually?
posted by grouse at 8:54 AM on August 14, 2010

AskMe needs to hire an investigative reporter to follow up on these things months later.
posted by rokusan at 9:38 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

seconded. we're all invited to the possible wedding in the future, right? right? cuz I bought a dress. No pressure.
posted by dabitch at 11:39 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I cried a little bit.
posted by Tarumba at 11:50 AM on October 6, 2010

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