How do you tell someone that you can't be with them "right now?"
March 10, 2010 7:27 PM   Subscribe

I like him. He likes me. We have been best friends for years, but I just got out of a serious relationship and realized I strongly care about him...but I know I am not ready to be a girlfriend again. I don't want him to wait for me, but I would like a shot at us when I am ready to date again. How can I tell him I care and am interested, but need to not date him right now?

I recently got out of a long term relationship, I mean 6 years long term. It has been a few weeks since the breakup and I am completely done and over with my ex, however, I am still reeling from the emotional and mental exhaustion of losing trust in the opposite sex and an ended relationship that was in the route to marriage. I am not cynical or bitter, or even jaded. I am, however, enjoying putting myself first and getting to know myself and what I no longer want from the opposite sex.

The issue is that, a few weeks after the breakup, I came to the realization that I have had feelings for my best guy friend...for months. I think I was scared to admit such feelings because I was engaged to someone else, but now that I am single, I am able to enjoy his company more. I do not want him to be the rebound guy. I do not want to date him because I know I am not emotionally ready to be in a relationship that could potentially be serious. I do, however, would like to pursue a relationship with him once I have my "head on straight" with my current issues and baggage. I know he is interested. All of our friends agree that we should get together. He is a great guy and we are very, very compatible.

QUESTION: How do I tell him that I am not ready to be with him right now without making it seem like I am asking him to wait? We have always talked to one another about our significant others and jealousy is not an issue, but at the same time, I would like a chance with him once I am ok.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
"I really care about you the way you care about me, but after my breakup, I just don't think I'm ready to date again yet. I promise to let you know when I am ready."
posted by Pants! at 7:32 PM on March 10, 2010

If you're best friends then there's nothing wrong with you stating it like you stated in your question here. Simply explain you're not ready to be involved yet.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:39 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't indicate that he has actually made any kind of move towards a dating relationship with you. Therefore, I wouldn't do anything for now. He may realize you need time; he may not want to be a rebound guy; he may not be ready himself, for whatever reason. It kinda sounds like you're creating a problem that doesn't actually exist yet. Just let things happen - or not happen - naturally.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:41 PM on March 10, 2010

How do I tell him that I am not ready to be with him right now without making it seem like I am asking him to wait?

Unless he's indicated that he wants to be with you right now, the only reason to have this talk is because you *are* asking him to wait.

If you really don't want him to be encumbered by the possibility of a future relationship with you then say nothing.

If you decide that you're okay with asking him to wait, show him this question.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:47 PM on March 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

Unless he's indicated that he wants to be with you right now, the only reason to have this talk is because you *are* asking him to wait.

Exactly right.

I'd slow this car down. Take things slow and make no big speeches or calls yet. How long has it been since you were with someone.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:02 PM on March 10, 2010

Don't tell him.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:04 PM on March 10, 2010

I agree with several above posters--rather than asking him to do it, maybe it's better if you're the one that waits.
posted by box at 8:11 PM on March 10, 2010

If you truly think yourself unready for another relationship, than I hazard to speculate that you are similarly unready for any pronouncements/prognostications/determinations about your emotional future, at all.

So for now, keep your mouth shut and your focus upon the healing your wounds. If part of that healing means indulging in a rebound relationship, then the best you can do with regards to your friendship is to keep him far, far out of that picture.

Good for you for recognizing this as a potentially complicated situation. Now is not the time to risk two hurts when it sounds like you've got your hand full dealing with one.

Take care.
posted by DavidandConquer at 8:12 PM on March 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

I wouldn't say anything and let it go. If, when you're ready, he's available, then take your shot. Otherwise, don't.
posted by anniecat at 8:15 PM on March 10, 2010

Don't say anything. If he's interested, he might stay hung up on you irrespective of how you phrase it, and then it will just be awkward when you fall for someone else in a few months.
posted by planet at 8:21 PM on March 10, 2010

I cannot be emphatic enough in agreeing with DavidandConquer.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:48 PM on March 10, 2010

I think I was this rebound guy recently. At the very least, I feel like I was. Some days I almost wish that nothing had ever happened between us. Some days I think that I wouldn't trade the small time we had together for the world. But I'm an unusually sensitive, insecure guy about this kind of stuff and I have a history of long healing times, so your mileage may vary.

What I can say is this: It's the wishy washyness that kills. If/when you have a change of mind and give this relationship a shot: Give it your full heart. There are mindfulness practices that help people with things like anxiety disorders separate out and ignore irrational doubts, so there are tools to do more than just fake it until you make it.Maybe even some new exonerating evidence comes along and you have a second shot to open the door, but that's an external change and not mixed messages.

If you figure out that it was too soon or that you're not a good fit. That's okay too. Happens in non-reboundy relationships all the time. But for crying out loud, when you open a door, open it fully. When you close a door, close it fully. You may want to decide ahead of time if it's worth risking your friendship over, because it may be a cliche and it may not happen all the time, but it is a real risk. (I think love is worth risking stuff over, but I'm also weird that way.)

In other words, this is similar to the advice not to make a decision of any kind until you're in a well state of mind. If you're wishy washy on the inside, don't take an action until you've had a chance to rationally lay out the pros and cons and/or to make a true attempt to practice other decision making mindfulness processes. The truth is that even during the hardest, most emotionally difficult times, healthy minds are plastic and capable of making clear decisions, but it's a lot of work and may require the help of friends and experts. (Not as advice givers, but as therapists, gurus and listeners.)

Also, I think there's some taboo in our culture about deciding to wait. But if it's a decision between two consenting people who know the risks and know that one of the risks might be that you're waiting for nothing, then why not? Adults make hard decisions and trade-offs all the time. (Note: This paragraph in particular might just be bad, lovesick advice, so a grain of salt is worthwhile.)

On the other hand, I know a fuckton of people who fell in love with their best friend right after a messy breakup, who threw themselves into their new love wholeheartedly and mindful of the risks involved in any and all relationships and who have every intention of spending their lives together.
posted by Skwirl at 9:44 PM on March 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

"Maybe even some new exonerating evidence comes along and you have a second shot to open the door, but that's an external change and not mixed messages." ... (This sentence was a touchpad, accidental bump paste. Basically I was saying in another paragraph that if you get together and break up, hey you might even have new evidence to get back together again, but you should treat each action at the time as absolute and final. I deleted it because I thought I mighta just been rambling.)
posted by Skwirl at 9:49 PM on March 10, 2010

Say something. Maybe he will see you saying nothing as you not being into him, and then wander off with a decent but not-as-cool-as-you lady. You will then not say anything to spare his new relationship. And both of you--making decisions without all the information--passing each other by for no good reason but misguided attempts to protect each other. Protect each other from what? From love?

He can decide if he wants to wait or not. Maybe he does. Waiting is not all that bad. Not dating someone, he can live with that for a little while. We all live with that for a little while, right? And if his needs change and he needs to date you or move on, well, he can tell you and then you can make a decision based on him being open and telling you what he needs.

I can't tell you how much life is better--rebounding is better--everything is better--when you're open and honest with your best friend(s). It just makes life so much more awesome. Every time you see him you will be thinking of it! Why create distance at a time when you need closeness, need a friend the most?

In summary, life is short, love is good, friends are good, trust him to make the best decision for him, and it'll all work out somehow.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:06 PM on March 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't tell you how much life is better--rebounding is better--everything is better--when you're open and honest with your best friend(s). It just makes life so much more awesome.

I can tell you that when the timing is wrong it can make things significantly less awesome.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:53 AM on March 11, 2010

Your friend may seem wonderfully awesome exactly because you are coming out of an emotional roller coaster. Don't say anything. Be happy for having an awesome friend. Go about your business for at least a few more months and then see if you have these same feelings for him. If so, great. If not, you saved yourself a heap of drama.
posted by qwip at 3:16 AM on March 11, 2010

Can't have your cake and eat it too. Either you like him and you start dating or you keep quiet. It would be unfair to him if he waited for you and then you find someone else or vice versa. I would not say anything unless you were willing to go the distance.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2010

Jaltcoh: "I can tell you that when the timing is wrong it can make things significantly less awesome."

The issue is that he is one of her best friends in a time when she really, really needs friends. She has known him for years, she isn't falling in love with someone who she'll dump a month from now because she realizes that she hates his laugh. She needs a moment to breathe and collect herself and then they can date or not, just like any two adults who decide whether or not to start any relationship.

Life is bumpy and it moves quickly; the fear of the "rebound" is more superstitious than anything. I'm sure everyone here knows a dozen people whose rebound relationships didn't work; I know a dozen people whose rebound relationships were healthy and good, if not necessarily permanent. So in the end I suggest that we err on the side of honesty and on the side of treating love as a renewable resource instead of something to be hoarded and carefully parceled out when the timing is exactly, 100% right.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, my answer and most people's answers were taking her post at face value that she isn't emotionally ready for any kind of relationship right now. Your advice to go for it ASAP might be good advice -- but only if she jettisons the premise that she's not ready yet. She should do that if and only if she thinks it has strong potential for actually working out, not based on some supposed rule that one should always be as open and honest and speedy as possible. You can't just assume that following that course of action is the best way to maximize fun and happiness (in the short or long term). If she's right that she's in an emotional state where she has to wait before taking any action on this, then following your advice could unnecessarily complicate or even preclude a potentially good relationship.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:10 AM on March 11, 2010

Perhaps I'm being unclear. I don't think that she is ready for a relationship, either. She does not want to keep her feelings from him, as she stated in her question. I think her impulse to be honest is a good one. I think that he can make his own decisions about waiting or not waiting. I have no idea how it would be unfair for her to be honest with her friend, as though he were unable to wait a while or decide to move on based on the information at hand.

My treatise on rebounds is, I admit, somewhat of a derail, although the fear of the rebound is strong in this thread.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:19 AM on March 11, 2010

I'm in the "don't say anything" camp.
What are you hoping to gain by saying anything?

I think it's unfair to tell him because you're planting seeds that you're not ready to tend to. Don't kill his chances with other people because you want to put him in the reserve bin for when you're "ready". And then when will you be ready? The poor guy just can't hold on indefinitely for you.

And really, you don't know if you'll be into him when you are ready to date. You might look back and say, "Wow, I guess I really wasn't in love with him, but he was a lot better than the relationship I got out of, I'm glad we stayed friends and I didn't say anything." Better to wait and see how things pan out than to jump the gun and feel obligated to him later.

Finally, if you do say something, then expect the friend dynamic to change in some way, because it probably will with this new information. Is it worth risking the friendship for something you think you might feel later on?

The only time you should say something is when you're ready to start a new relationship, whether that is tomorrow or next year, is only for you to decide.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:50 PM on March 11, 2010

having been in this situation before....i say wait until you are ready. if it was meant to be, it would happen. i have ruined a great friendship by jumping in too quickly from another relationship. it was fun for a while, but i should have waited and now, we are complete strangers from one another. do not tell him. if he feels the same way, he will either be frustrated that nothing can progress or feel obligated to wait for you. if he does not feel the same way, your friendship will be awkward and you will lose that close bond of communication.
posted by penguingrl at 2:40 AM on March 12, 2010

I agree with the many posts above that saying nothing for now is best. If a friend told me this, I think being patient would be difficult if I felt the same way toward her. I met my wife immediately after a breakup I was not over, but I did not have the option to wait as we were long distance and not friends, had just met. When we started seeing each other I told her I was still getting over this relationship, was very upfront about it with her, we are still doing great after 13 years.
posted by bernajs at 2:09 PM on March 14, 2010

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