Please don't ask me on a date.
May 23, 2010 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I know a guy in person that I've been chatting with online. In person, I'm not attracted to him at all. But I am intellectually turned on by the conversations we have. (Anon because I talk to this guy on the internet.) I don't want this to go any farther.

My fear is that I may be leading him on. How do I make this stop without hurting any feelings? (He hasn't asked me on a date, but he's made some...comments. Not improper by any means, but kind of hinty.)

I'm just as concerned about my feelings as his. Maybe he's not interested in me in that way, so I don't want to be too up front about the whole rejection thing.

This is complicated slightly by the fact that I would like to be dating somebody, but not anybody in particular. Part of my attraction to the conversations may be that he's paying attention to me in a way that other guys aren't right now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you've saved any of your old transcripts, read back over them with your concerns in mind. If you think you're doing anything to actively encourage him in a flirtatious way, or if you suspect you're using him a little unfairly to flatter your own ego, do what you can not to continue in the future. If he hasn't done anything more than make small, vaguely hinty comments, just let them lie -- no point in embarrassing him if it isn't explicitly clear that he's flirting with you.

Unless he begins to actively flirt with you or make comments that even the most oblivious person couldn't miss, it would probably be more pleasant for both of you if you just let things run their course and let your lack of flirty comments speak for themselves. If he presses the issue, of course you'll have to turn him down flat-out, but hopefully he'll take a hint before that.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:08 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you are jumping the gun here. Until he asks you out, there's really nothing you should do.
posted by TheBones at 9:16 AM on May 23, 2010

Yep. Wait and see, if/when he makes any kind of approach, explain to him clearly where he stands. End of story.
posted by fire&wings at 9:17 AM on May 23, 2010

He hasn't asked me on a date, but he's made some...comments. Not improper by any means, but kind of hinty.

Respond to the comments in a way that signals you're not interested.

You may not be able to avoid hurting his feelings, as you're clearly attracted to the conversations with him, without being attracted to him. It would be perfectly natural for him to be somewhat hurt that you like some parts of him, but not all of him.

That said, his feelings aren't your responsibility. Signal that you enjoy talking to him, but that you're not interested in dating him. If he asks you out, be firm and quick and steadfast in saying no. If he can't handle that, stop talking to him, otherwise, enjoy the friendship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:25 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Spend as much as possible of the time you'd spend online-chatting with this guy going on dates with other guys, and find someone you are attracted to both physically and intellectually. There are a range of technologies and social practices developed over centuries to help single people find other single people they are attracted to. Take advantage of them.

If, down the road, the guy is like "hey uh you could date me," you can tell him the truth and say that you're not attracted to him that way, sorry, and the onus is at that point on him to be grown up enough to accept that being a dude who has pleasant conversations with a person-of-desired-gender doesn't mean that the person-of-desired gender is thus automatically required to have or to want to have sexy fun times with him.

Basically, and I know this is easier said than done, but go after what you want and don't angst too much. On the bright side, the act of looking for what you want is so complex/stressful/but also pleasantly complex and stressful that if you're doing it in earnest you actually won't have time / mental space to angst, right?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:27 AM on May 23, 2010

Unfortunately I think I need to play the When-Harry-Met-Sally-card and say that in some cases, men and women cannot truly be friends. If you want him to just be your friend and he's clearly hinting he wants more, it's actually kind of cruel to string him along if he thinks he's making any kind of progress. Rejecting him over anything less than a direct overture on his part would be wrong, but you should seriously consider dialing this back significantly on your interactions with him so that he never gets to that point where he asks you out/makes a move.

The ideal outcome is that moves on to direct his attention and affections toward someone who wants to reciprocate, and you can make similar efforts to find someone who you find attractive and who turns you on intellectually, right?
posted by lamprey at 9:40 AM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Definitely agree that preemptive strike is called for here since he's almost certainly interested.

Rather than tell him how repulsive he is I would recommend the useful old cliche: drop the f-bomb on him several times. "man I'm stressed out about Xx, it's good to have friends like you." "god you're funny--that's like the number 1 thing I look for in a friend!" "Hi friendo how you doing buddy" etc.

I know this may sound clumsy but it's a trigger word for most guys while courting women--the whole friend zone concept lurks large in our brains--but it won't even register if he's not actually interested.

I definitely think you should try in some way to intimate your strong interest in friendship only before he asks you out--it could save you both an awkward moment.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:23 AM on May 23, 2010

Do nothing. Since you spend time with him IRL, he knows you're not likely interested. He might still make a play for you because, hey, you never know, but there's a good chance he won't. On the other hand, preemptive actions is nearly certain to end badly.
posted by MattD at 10:30 AM on May 23, 2010

"Hi friendo how you doing buddy"... LOL. Don't do that.

Not enough details for an anonymous question IMHO, and you sound pretty confused. You're sure you "don't want this to go any further," yet aren't sure that he is interested in you in that way. You're "not attracted to him at all" but just as concerned about your own feelings as his. Eh?

I think you need to sort out your own feelings about this. Regardless, since you aren't sure about his level or type of interest, you could tell him about someone else you fancy right now (there's always some one, even if it'll never happen, and your internet friend doesn't need to know that) - and see how that plays out. If he takes it in the spirit of a friend or even an interested party who accepts that you're not into him, you can continue enjoying the contact and attention. If he acts all j, you can gracefully make your disinterest clear and exit.

As for how to make it stop? That's easy: cease contact. He'll get the message. If you're trying to find some middle ground where you can continue talking without causing hurt or breaking off without pissing him off, or where he will continue to pay attention to you without expecting anything - I don't think it exists. I've never found it.

When you're certain about his interest and the utter lack of your own, and you want to do the right thing - end it. Clean break.
posted by mondaygreens at 10:42 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you like being friends with him, or are you leading him on in that regard? Assess whether or not you like him as a friend and then treat the situation accordingly. If you want to be his friend, treat him like a friend. Don't respond to his advances, even if they are hinty, and if he asks you out, tell him that you aren't interested in his romantically.

You say that you want to be dating. Spend some of the time that you're currently spending chatting online going out on dates - not with this person, with other people.
posted by k8lin at 10:49 AM on May 23, 2010

Coincidentally, I just found this book in the library, talking about unrequited love from the POV's of the rejectee AND the one who has to do the rejecting. I'm not too far in, but the book already has made the point that the rejecter is totally screwed no matter what. There's no script for this, there's no happy outcome, and you're really just going to be stuck being the villain who breaks someone's heart whether you string him along, or pretend to ignore the crush, or whatever. You cannot win.

He's a guy. Most of them are going to be attracted to you no matter what, especially if you talk to them on a regular basis. You already know, and are just hoping that maybe he doesn't...but this is not going to go away. It just depends on how long it takes him to get up the nerve to ask you out. You can't really pre-emptively reject him if he hasn't asked you out yet, though.

If I were you, I would concur with mondaygreens. I really do think that once someone has a crush on you, it's "leading them on" to keep on as you have been doing if you don't feel the same way. And the best way to head this shit off at the pass is for you to disappear. Hinting that you like someone else or "isn't it great that we're such great friends" can easily be ignored by some guys, but cutting off contact has been the one thing that ever worked for me on dissuading the online crushers.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:13 AM on May 23, 2010

First, there is excellent advice here about not doing anything preemptive, and acting quickly to make your feelings known if he does try to turn the nascent friendship to romance.

I should not say this, but have you talked about your chats with a friend? I have a friend (one of the people I was railing about in my answer to this question) who is always totally leading me on in her quest for male attention at all time - but doesn’t realize when she’s merely leading someone on because when she likes a fella in “that way” she basically just jumps ‘em.

You’re probably not that girl, especially since you have a concern that “Part of my attraction to the conversations may be that he's paying attention to me in a way that other guys aren't right now.” Still, if you have a friend who can help you assess the signals your sending, that might be helpful.

Having people you can talk to is a wonderful thing so I hope you can manage to make a friendship out of this.

FWIW, a couple of my closest friends are guys who asked me out way back when, but have since realized that they’re much happier in the friend zone. (One asked me to be his best man – so obviously he wasn’t really interested in me in that way, he was just interested in a guy way.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:47 AM on May 23, 2010

I have a friend who chats with a woman who treats him like an emotional dildo and then stops chatting with him when she has a relationship. Don't be that woman. Hopefully you aren't, but I'm just warning you of the possibility.

here's how things work for me, so ymmv...

Online, I've found it way too easy to reach a point of false intimacy, and I don't mean intimacy in a sexual way. I've adapted by trying to treat online conversations more like real life conversations. That involves pulling in my boundaries and disclosing myself much more slowly. Also, if I feel I'm chatting with someone who has a similar problem, I try to slow down disclosures on their end too.

Back off for a while. Settle down your emotions, then figure out how to relate to people in a different way online. I have intense conversations in real life, but not all of the time.
posted by bleary at 10:46 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the people telling you to use the 'friend' word... If you want to use that tactic, the 'brother' word is even more of a hint.
posted by bleary at 10:47 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Heh. I'm talking online with a woman who I know in the real world. She'll be out of town for much of the next couple of months, so our only real contact is by e-mail. We're friends, but I also like her and am going to ask her out.

If she was in your shoes, I'd want her to be up-front right now, immediately. Free me up to seek other women. It's not going to wreck our friendship. It'll hurt a little, for a little while, like pulling off a bandage.

Don't lead him on. If you have suspicions of his intentions, bring up the subject yourself. You would prefer that the subject never come up, but that's probably not going to happen. So the best way to protect your own feelings is to take ownership of the perceived problem and open a dialogue yourself.

So I disagree with many of the other commenters -- I think you should be pre-emptive. You can even lie. "So I'm going out tonight with this guy I met on OKCupid" is a slam-dunk.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 7:51 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

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