Can I tell him I'm crushing?
March 20, 2011 6:56 PM   Subscribe

How can I let someone I'm interested in know that, if he becomes available, I'd like to go out with him? First (friendly) dinner coming up this week.

I have been single for several years and very much would like to be in a relationship. I meet a fair amount of guys in regular life activities, but very few are single/available. There have been 3 times in the past several years that I’ve met someone (though a friend, work, or relative) that I’ve really connected with. I find this doesn’t happen very often, so I pay attention when it does. But these 3 were all with someone else at the time we met. [Before you make assumptions, this is not a pattern with me (becoming attracted to unavailable men), and happens rarely. It’s not a situation where I don’t really want to be with someone, and this is how I sabotage.] Because these guys were taken, I did and said nothing. I believe very much in fidelity and propriety. In two of these cases, the guys ended up eventually breaking up with who they were with, and getting together with someone else before I knew or had a chance to ask them out (these are not people I’m in touch with all the time). In the third, I did ask the guy out (though not specifically as a date), and he showed up with his new girlfriend, who is now his wife…so that was that. I am reserved, so it’s most likely they had no idea I was ever interested. But I am not young, and I have a good amount of relationship experience.

I am now in that situation again, where I’m interested in someone who has a girlfriend. I am fairly sure he is somewhat interested in me. There’s just a vibe there I don’t experience very often. And I think he’s great. We’ve never yet done anything outside of a group, so I asked him to dinner, which is coming up in a few days. He readily accepted. I don’t know what his status is with his girlfriend. If I do what I normally do, we’ll just continue to have a nice, friendly rapport, and if history holds, I’ll soon hear that he’s broken up with the girlfriend and is with someone else. Is there any way to let him that, should he become available, I’m interested, without sounding creepy and ruining the friendship? If so, I’d like to do that thing. I missed out because of my silence before, but I also want to be appropriate.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, you don't. If you "believe very much in fidelity and propriety", then you shouldn't try and tempt someone to leave their SO. And it would be a form of temptation, no matter how you might try and spin it in your mind. Meet some other people!
posted by thewumpusisdead at 7:00 PM on March 20, 2011 [27 favorites]

There's no way on Earth this could possibly turn out right. Put simply, you don't want to date someone who, while currently seeing someone else, is storing any information about potential new partners.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:02 PM on March 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yeah that's not a good idea. Don't.

And besides which, there's a decent chance he can pick up on the fact that you have a crush on him without you overtly telling him. And if he is interested in you, and if he does break up with his girlfriend, he might well seek you out. But telling him in this manner is just tacky and tactless as hell.
posted by mingo_clambake at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2011

Is there any way to let him that, should he become available, I’m interested, without sounding creepy and ruining the friendship?

posted by modernnomad at 7:09 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's no way to tell him, but there is a way to break your cycle of them finding somebody else before you can get your mojo on: Stay friends with him. Keep him involved in your social life, make sure to give him a compliment every once in a while, but be careful to not overdo it.* You'll get to know him better and have a stronger sense of whether you two can actually work out, and you'll be in a position to know if he ever becomes single. If he stays with his SO, then good for them, they're happy, and you'll have to evaluate whether this person is worth keeping as a non-ulterior-motive friend, as presumably he's someone you wanted in your life in some capacity.

*this is really the tricky part. My old pattern (similar to yours) was that I even though I thought a person was awesome, I didn't want to be around them until they were single and I could be making a pass. Thus, I was never a part of this person's life and not somebody they perceived as a potential partner.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:54 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

No, there really isn't a way to do this. It either conveys "I want to break up your relationship now" or "I am only friends with you because I hope someday your relationship ends"--even if you mean neither.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:59 PM on March 20, 2011

There's really no good way to play this. Seconding Thewumpusisdead, but also, assuming he is interested, you'd have no way of knowing if you were responsible for ending his relationship., and do you really want to date the kind of guy always on the lookout for a better deal? Because that would almost certainly one day be you. No good can come of it.
posted by OompaLoompa at 8:03 PM on March 20, 2011

This question is kind of breaking my heart.

Please think of the woman this man is currently with. Have enough respect for her, and for the relationship the two of them are currently in, to just let things play out on their own. Your plan of indicating interest in dating him post-breakup assumes that such a breakup is imminent, which means you're either a) actively hoping for a happy relationship to end, or b) trying to nudge an unhappy relationship toward ending in your favor. The former seems cruel and selfish, and the latter seems like it would result in a situation you don't actually want to be in -- if someone leaves their girlfriend to be with you, who's to say they won't do the same to you eventually?

If this guy really is romantically interested in you, he'll find you on his own when and if he wants to. In the meantime, stop encouraging him to behave disrespectfully toward his current girlfriend, and direct your romantic goals elsewhere.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2011 [20 favorites]

Another voice saying no. It would be a crappy thing to do to his girlfriend.

I meet a fair amount of guys in regular life activities, but very few are single/available.

Meet guys online.
posted by desjardins at 8:19 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well I don't think there's anything wrong with going after someone you're attracted to and want to be with but A. you have to kiss him, not give him a speech, and B. make sure that you're not going to become someone with whom he can cheat. That's different than boyfriend poaching. One is fair game (in my humble opinion) and the other is underhanded and ultimately just bad for you. In the end, keep in mind that there are plenty of dudes who are attracted to you who don't have girlfriends (come on, there are) you just aren't interested in dating them, choosing instead to focus on these missed opportunities? Why is that? "Check yourself before you wreck yourself" Ice Cube 1992
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:23 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

No. There are two options: (1) Say nothing. (2) Try to break up the relationship.

There's no "I'm interested in getting involved with you if you break up with your current significant other, but I don't want to have an affair or break you up" middle ground.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:27 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is no way to respect someone's relationship and let them know you want them. I mean, our brains love cognitive dissonance, so it might make sense to you at some point, but objectively it doesn't.

The only way for something like this to work is to be on your game, friend them on facebook and wait for you to swoop in when they're no longer with their girlfriends. I fully support carpe diem at that point.
posted by inturnaround at 8:33 PM on March 20, 2011

Have you seen this thread yet? I would advise taking a look.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2011

So while there's some degree of truth about unfaithfulness to the future of your own relationship, it's sort of denying agency to both you and the girlfriend. All women are not the same (nor all men). Maybe you and this dude are a vastly better pair than this dude and his girlfriend. Maybe one (or both) of them is in the relationship for no other reason than it's preferable to being alone. Maybe not. We don't know.

Anyway that's why you have got to get to know him, because you better know what you're doing if you're gonna try and break them up.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2011

I would second trying to meet guys online -- at the very least, it can get you out of a long rut, even if you just go on a series of first dates.
posted by themaskedwonder at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2011

I agree with Potomac Avenue. We only live once. Don't be an asshole, but just because two people are together it doesn't mean they're some forbidden fortress that can never be approached.

I don't see why "there is no way to respect someone's relationship and let them know you want them." You can easily let someone know you want them without doing something creepy like sitting on their lap or something. And what if the guy was looking for an excuse to leave his current relationship but had no idea that the OP was interested? Missed opportunity.

Relationships are rarely "all or nothing" thinking.
posted by Melismata at 8:44 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

While the advice above is the Right Thing To Do, and anything less is not classy, sometimes you have to make the pitch.

It rarely goes well.

There have been those romantic "love at first sight, dumped our SOs and never left each other's side" scenarios, but they are literally a million to one.

One of the sweetest things someone (married) said to me (single) was a wistful "maybe in some other lifetime". That tiny moment of honesty made us better friends because we admitted that there WAS a vibe there, while also acknowledging that it would never happen. So these feelings can be shared, but they can't always be acted on.
posted by gjc at 9:04 PM on March 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

The thing is that the OP believes deeply in fidelity...and I've gotten to the point where I figure if someone is going to make plays like she is considering, they should be totally down with being on the receiving end of that behavior. And the OP doesn't sound like she is okay with that.

The line of reasoning here is basically 'I'm lonely, so that makes this violation of trust and pushing the boundaries of other people's relationships okay, right?'

No. Feeling lonely or alone is not something that entitles us to take actions that would be deeply hurtful to us if we were on the receiving end. You can't play the 'loneliness' card like that--as if you get to put a bid out just in case on this man, because his girlfriend's been in a relationship with him and stuff, so she's had all those benefits already, but really you believe in propriety and's just that you're lonely right now. And you're not young. And you've been single for several years. And you don't meet many men. And and and. All of these justifications for why it's okay for you to act like this just this once, really, because you deserve the opportunity to take the chance. Look at everything you've missed out on!

That's not how it works. How is their relationship about everything in your past?

Look, if it fits into your moral system for all's fair in love and war and you don't know the GF, etc, then it fits in. I don't necessarily agree, but I do have respect for people who have that as the party line and stick to it across the board, including their own home lives. But if you would be upset and feel betrayed or it would run counter to your personal views on fidelity that someone might someday pull the same thing on you when you're in a relationship, then....maybe rethink this.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:05 PM on March 20, 2011 [12 favorites]

Step 1: Use this app
Step 2: Forget about him
Step 3: If the app notifies you, get re-interested
posted by Gucky at 9:28 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some harsh answers here. OP said she is trying to carry this off with integrity. OP: you mentioned a "group" w/r/t the guy you are having dinner with. There has to be a way to subtly communicate to someone in the group, someone with discretion and who is plugged in socially, that you would like to date a guy like X. If X becomes available, the hope would be that person would let X know you are interested.
posted by mlis at 9:37 PM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was going to chime in to say that these responses were harsh, but then I thought about it this way: How would I feel if I found out that someone was going out for a "friendly" dinner with my current girlfriend, only to secretly be trying to tell her that he is interested in her if she happen to get rid of me in the near future. I would be furious. Leave this alone. I would second the advice for online dating. Everyone is looking for the same thing that you are.
posted by Nightman at 10:53 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think integrity might already be out the window based on the fact that (a) OP thinks there is a vibe with Taken Guy, and (B) Taken Guy is meeting her for dinner.

OP. That's icky. Like, he's "taken" but still "playing the field" icky.

Pass on this one. Only trouble lies down this road, and you sound as if you have more self respect than this situation offers for either you or Taken Guy.


I kinda gotta agree with other answers that despite your protests, you do seem a little too focused on the ones that got away. Pro Tip: if it was meant to be, it would have happened with those fellas.

Make a firm rule for yourself to only allow yourself to be interested in men that are available. See? Problem Solved.
posted by jbenben at 11:25 PM on March 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I missed out because of my silence before

Are you sure that's why you missed out? I'm really not trying to sound snarky, but maybe they were just not interested in you, or were interested in someone else more. Maybe there's nothing you could have done about that.

As for letting him know you are interested, I don't think that's necessarily horrible of you, BUT I think you should probably drop very subtle hints, and leave it at that. Just by maintaining a friendly but distant rapport and complimenting him once in awhile. I don't think it'd be right to come out and say something direct in this situation.
posted by bearette at 11:57 PM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

No. Keep schtum. There's no polite way to tell someone you want them on your reserve list. Using proxy recruitment to do it is not a way around this.

Just lunging for him would be bad, but it would have a kind of integrity that "hey, if you ever break up with Schmoopie here" doesn't have. If you don't believe that, just imagine turning around and seeing Schmoopie standing there open-mouthed, holding the corkscrew that someone sent her into the kitchen to get.

You clearly don't want to be friends with him any more than you were friends with the other unavailable guys, and I see no indication that you have any history with him beyond crushing on him, and now you're asking how to plant a flag in him when you meet him in an observably datelike situation. So, never mind what his intentions are here. Your intentions are not good.

And another thing: you're not really his friend. Let's overlook the seemingly suspicious circumstances of the meeting and assume good faith on his part (naive as it sounds, to us because we know your side of the story, he could be thinking "she knows I'm taken, so there's nothing suspicious about this"). What often gets overlooked is that it's just as much leading someone on to make them think you're their friend when you really aren't.

As for the guys that got away... well, if they'd been that interested, they would've sought you out. Sorry.
posted by tel3path at 12:28 AM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lots of 'umptions being made.

Stuff we don't know and the OP claims to not know:
If the girlfriend is someone the guy is casually dating.

If you, the OP, don't really know how serious the relationship is then I think it's OK to make a feather light play. However, the better thing to do would be to find out the relationship status during the dinner.

::night over, saying goodbyes before parting ways::
"I had fun with you tonight. You're really the type of guy I'd like to date. Thanks for coming out, see you later, bye!"

Say middle that sentence as casually as the bookends and I think you've respectfully let him know that you're interested when\if he's available.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:29 AM on March 21, 2011

When it comes down to it, relationships are all about timing. That's really the bottom line. You have attraction, shared interests, fun times, and gooey vibes with a million people in your life. They don't all end up in dates or relationships or marriage because of where people are in their lives.

I don't think telling him will ever work out well for you. Worst case scenario - he's offended or completely non-interested (and tells you so). Best case scenario - you guys do end up together, but the current gf will be hurt, you'll always wonder if you unduly influenced their end, and you won't be able to trust him going out to dinner with single ladies.

Just go out with him, be charming, not too flirty. Stay in his life, get to know him better as a friend. Have no other intentions with him. Just live your life! There are a zillion other fish in the sea. There are no fish that got away. And I am done talking about fish.
posted by Kronur at 2:34 AM on March 21, 2011

I have been single for several years and very much would like to be in a relationship.
I find this doesn’t happen very often
To a man with a hammer, all things are nails.
I am fairly sure he is somewhat interested in me.
I don’t know what his status is with his girlfriend.
If we want answers, we seek them. If we do not want answers, we do not seek them.
I believe very much in fidelity and propriety.
If someone leaves someone for you, who are they going to leave you for?

Not to be unduly harsh here, but I would very much like to reflect two additional points.
this is not a pattern with me (becoming attracted to unavailable men), and happens rarely.
I am now in that situation again, where I’m interested in someone who has a girlfriend.
That is the first point.

The second point is that you appear terrified of rejection by men you are interested in. The pattern of going after men with girlfriends indicates that you want a safety net. If the man is not interested in you, you can always attribute that to the external cause of the girlfriend or the breakup or some other facet of that context.

Further, you have absolutely no conviction about this situation! "fairly sure", "somewhat interested" "I don't know". And a low-level of self-awareness. "this is not a pattern with me" "I am now in that situation again".

If I had to hazard a wild guess, I would say the situation you find repeating in your life is a symptom of perhaps a different problem. Call it low self-esteem, low self-worth, avoidance disorder or whatever clinical term would fit in an office. But the reality is that you seem terrified of two things.

The first is having an opinion and the second is making that opinion known.

As a man, I try to avoid the 'woman in waiting' situation. We all know it well. Girl comes along. Acts like a friend. Buddy buddy. And then occasionally drops a few hints about attraction. Only to laugh them off if they are not returned. Slowly, she becomes invested in a relationship she is building in her own head that you are expected to participate in. You invest in this relationship as any other friendship. Only to one day find out that it was a facade and you don't have a friend.

(This goes for men as well as women).

I mean really, people in relationships fall in love with other people all the time and run off with them in tremendously destructive affairs (personally destructive and socially destructive), so there's no magic sauce there. In your case, you may have the desire to run off with these men but not the desire to accept the labels that come along with it. That's probably a positive thing really.

Overall, may I ask that you approach the entire situation from a different perspective?

What is the outcome you want? A significant relationship with a partner.

Has your strategy for achieving that been successful? Does not look thus.

How can you change your strategy to achieve the outcome you want?

To the last question, I will leave it with you as you have the answer. But you are going to have to ask the question and that can be scary. It can be scary to admit that our behaviours and patterns whilst comfortable are not producing the outcomes that we want. It is much easier to attribute the results to situations outside ourselves.

But I hear you really wanting to move forward with your life and find someone with which to grow and share. And I imagine that you have a lot to offer. Thus, perhaps it is time to start asking the hard questions.

Why are you afraid of rejection?

Whilst you have a past of being attracted to unavailable men, you also have a past of successful relationships. Thus, which past are you choosing to define your identity?

What are strategies you can use to make rejection less scary? Perhaps to get to the point where you even enjoy rejection?

I wish the best for you and think that indeed you have a molehill here not a mountain. The current guy may be great but if you think about the reality, that he goes home every night to snuggle with his partner whilst you plot and plan, perhaps it is time for different choices.
posted by nickrussell at 6:44 AM on March 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd say it's okay to ask about the girlfriend in a "getting to know you better" kind of way. The same kinds of things you'd want to know about any friend's partner - since in general I consider my friend's partner to be a potential friend, talking about them in conversation is a very normal part of not-a-date situations. You can then use that information to judge for yourself whether it's worth holding your breath.
" Oh, so you go to a climbing gym? Cool, is that something Sarah does with you? It's Sarah, right? Oh, Sara. Oh, she really loves it, but you're not as super-into-it as she is? Yeah, we all make adjustments in a relationship - have you been together long? A year? That's great!" (Even if it's not great news that they are the happiest couple on the planet, you tell him that it's fantastic. That's what polite people do.)

It's perfectly fine to ask about her, and to give him the opportunity to tell you they've only been together just 2 months, or they've been together almost 2 years but he's not sure he wants to get an apartment together, or it's only been 8 months but in fact she's not just the girlfriend she's the fiancee, or whatever information about his relationship status he feels like sharing. However, there are all sorts of prying smarmy questions you should not ask, prying into the health/seriousness/future of the relationship, anything that implies that you want her to vanish so you can be next in line, etc. While he's free to volunteer casual information, it would also be pretty smarmy of him to tell you that the relationship is on the rocks and he's totally unsure of what he wants to do and otherwise be signaling that he needs to see if he's got you on the line before he's willing to cut her loose. (in that case, consider if that's really the type of guy you want to deal with.)

Unfortunately, if you want to make any sort of progress here, you have to be at least slightly informative, and that kind of information veers towards the smarmy. So be careful. Try to stay classy. Things that are somewhat okay are implying that you find him attractive while suggesting alternate things that are totally not dating him.
"Dinner was fantastic, I had such a good time! Sara's a lucky woman, let me know if you've got a twin brother someplace you can fix me up with."
"Dinner was fantastic, I had such a good time! I'd say we should do it again, I wish we could, but meeting for dinner is so date-like I really wouldn't feel right meeting up like this without Sara. Or maybe we could do something a little less intense like going to [group activity]."
posted by aimedwander at 7:54 AM on March 21, 2011

Seems like people are being hard on the OP. This is a painful situation for her. While she has taken the high road several times already, there is no reward to show for her integrity (yet). Here she is, attracted to someone, and she already knows what happens if she chooses to back off. She gets nothing. Everybody gets worn down by the grind of life now and then, and I think that's where the OP is speaking from.

That said, I think the general consensus is right and going after an attached person is a bad idea. I'd say going after a person fresh from a breakup is a bad idea, too. While the idea of having a queue for dates is mildly flattering on the surface, the full implications are creepy. A person isn't an amusement ride. There's a bit of objectification and selfishness in the motivations of the person waiting for their turn. What they're really saying is, I want X and person A is a means to get X, so I will act without regard to A's current life in the hopes of assuring that I get X in the future. Nobody likes being a tool.

OP, your best option is to be a genuine friend to this guy, and that means respecting his current relationship and safeguarding his happiness. Maybe it's possible to build a platonic friendship with him, or maybe the attraction will make it too painful for you and you are better off fading from his life. Regardless, look at this as a sign of hope. The longer things go on, the more people you are finding with some sort of connection. This guy is just another indicator that they're out there for you. Stop thinking of your connections as rare and realize that there are plenty of potentials in the world, and it only takes one.
posted by griselda at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are no rewards for integrity. That's part of having integrity.
posted by pineappleheart at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2011

There are no rewards for integrity. That's part of having integrity.

Sure, there are. Patience, stronger character, wisdom, self knowledge. The greatest rewards, because they lead to true things. How we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. By acting with integrity toward her interest, the OP is also treating herself with integrity. It won't get her a boyfriend now, it's true, and nobody's going to hand her a shiny trophy, but it's a fantastic opportunity for deep personal growth. Maybe all the responses here will put the OP on that track. That's a reward, if a person chooses to see it that way.
posted by griselda at 11:55 AM on March 21, 2011

Just let them know clearly that you're interested at dinner and see what they say. Sure, it's not respectful of their relationship or appropriate, but you sound like you're at the end of your rope. Why not try it once and see how it works out? Since this is a recurring problem for you, this might help settle the question of whether or not your idea of appropriate behavior includes poaching someone's SO.

Life experience type stuff: Someone with fewer scruples than you made it clear that they were interested in my SO and helped dismantle my last relationship. It didn't end well for this person--after my ex was out of the relationship with me, they realized that they weren't very interested in the tempter and chose not to start a new relationship with them.

I've also been on the other side--I've felt a vibe with a friend who is currently in a relationship. I'm lonely--hungry even-- for the company of people that really "get" me. But even though this friend's relationship has its ups and downs, I support them in their choices. That means not tempting them into drama and hurt. It's not about what's appropriate. It's about being a good friend and helping them get what they want out of life. These rules about propriety and fidelity exist to keep people from hurting each other. Maybe you need to examine the reasons fidelity is important to you before taking this step. At the moment, it seems like you don't really understand why it is important.
posted by millions of peaches at 12:49 PM on March 21, 2011

MLIS kind of said what I was thinking. I agree people are being a little harsh too. It's not like the OP is saying she is definitely going to tell him anything. (Although I agree she should not.) She just wanted advice on the right way to approach the situation. Anyway, I don't think there's anything wrong with casually mentioning to a mutual friend that you're interested but please don't tell him, due to the SO. I also just recently met a guy (through a mutual friend) who I thought was completely awesome. But he has a girlfriend too, so I just kept it cool and acted friendly and that was that. No inappropriate flirting, hinting, etc. I haven't done so yet, but I am sure at some point I'll tell my friend, 'hey, I thought your friend was really cool and cute and nice. i know he's taken and i am in no way interested in messing with that. but if he does become single at some point, i'd be interested to know about that.' i'm not going to go out of my way to be in a situation where i hang out with him, nor would i invite him to hang out with me one on one. if i see him again in social circles i'll continue to be myself and be friendly. i'm not going to dwell on it, i'm gonna keep trying to meet other people. but i don't think there's any harm in asking my friend to update me if his situation changes. anyway, that's my plan. it's the best one i could think of, so maybe it would work for you as well?
posted by GastrocNemesis at 1:46 PM on March 21, 2011

Answers may be harsh but is that not what anonymous feedback is for? So that each person can contribute their objective thoughts?

Theses are words on a website. Little more than strings of symbols provoking thoughts. If feedback does not provoke a response, than bollocks to that. If it does, however, it's probably worth investigating.

As said, I think the OP is on a great course by investigating these thoughts and feelings and getting feedback -- it's not an easy thing to do -- and at the same time, we're not doing anyone any favours if we sugarcoat that feedback.
posted by nickrussell at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2011

What an acquaintance (A) did in similar circumstances is that she gave her phone number to a mutual friend/acquaintance (B) of the guy (C) and said (to this friend(B)): If he (C) and his gf (D) break up, pls give him my phone number. The guy (C) eventually broke up with the girlfriend (D), the mutual friend (A) gave him (C) her (A) phone number and now, years later, they are married.
posted by zia at 3:54 PM on March 21, 2011

Still classy yet effective.
posted by zia at 3:54 PM on March 21, 2011

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