How to let down someone who has a crush on me?
September 19, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

She has a crush on me. I don't feel the same way about her. What should I do?

I've been acquainted with Annette for years, but it's only been lately that we've gotten to know one another. I like her just fine, but only as a friend. I don't believe I've ever said or done anything to suggest otherwise.

She's developed a crush on me. I've had some hints of this from her demeanor, which were confirmed recently when our mutual friend Anthony confided her feelings to me. (He was a little vague as to whether he did so with her knowledge or permission.) He urged me to ask Annette out; I, not quite knowing what to say, demurred without telling him conclusively that I can't return her feelings.

(Is the reason important? The main one is that I feel that our personalities don't match. I've dated girls of similar temperament before; the relationships ended badly each time, costing me a friendship or two.)

What should I do? Normally, I would keep things at a just-friends distance in my conversations with Annette and hope that her feelings would fade with time; but Anthony's intervention forces the issue. Even if she doesn't know that he told me about her feelings, I'm still going to have tell him directly that I'm not interested; if she does know, I'm going to have to tell both of them.

My friendships with Annette and Anthony are important to me. I want to let her down as kindly as possible. I have no experience with this kind of thing whatsoever - at least, not as the crushee.

If you've had to let someone down before, how did you do it? What did you say? Afterwards, did you have to change or even suspend your relationship?

Or, if you've been let down in a way that preserved your feelings and your friendship, how did it happen?

Thanks in advance.

(Oh, yeah - Annette, Anthony, and I are in our mid-twenties. I'm a straight guy, currently single.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think should leave the Anthony element out for now. Like you said, you don't know whether Anthony divulged that information to you with or without Annette's permission, and if she DIDN'T want him to tell you, your saying something could cause a problem for THEM.

Do what you would have done if you'd found out some other way. If that means waiting, that.

Oh, and you are totally justified in not being interested just "because". Sometimes it just don't click for you with another person, and that's that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Being kind but exceptionally firm is the way to go. In my experience feelings get hurt when things get dragged out or when the person gets the impression that they can "win" or "earn" or "fix" their way into a relationship.

I would say that if you feel comfortable doing so, you can go to Anthony and say "look, I've had relationships with people like her before and it never worked out and I lost friends over it. I'm not willing to take that risk with her, and I'm never going to be convinced. It's not going to happen. We would both be happier with someone else."
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:12 AM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

With 906 favorites and counting, this is the best advice I've ever seen.

But only use this if she starts coming on to you. Otherwise, leave this all alone. Anthony's intervention in no way forces the issue. Just wait and see what happens, be nice and polite, and treat Annette like the adult she is. Whether she gets over the let down of unrequited crushing is not your concern.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:15 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I once had a coworker tell me that another coworker had a crush on me in a similar manner to your situation: I had no idea if this was a "feel the waters for me" thing or a betraying-confidence thing. I knew exactly who she was talking about and just gave her an "I don't date coworkers" thing that I knew would be related back. I stopped being as openly flirty, but no less nice and friendly to her and a little while later she was happily dating some dude and that's that. No confrontation, no awkwardness, no loss of face.

Anthony's intervention does not force the issue and there is nobody to let down except Anthony. If the source was not Annette herself, don't jump the gun and confront her about it. Even though this may be one of those double-reverse backflip secrets-I-expect-you-not-to-keep deals, it might also have been actual confidence and can screw up Annette and Anthony's relationship, even though he was trying to do what he thought was the right thing (road to hell and all that.) Tell Anthony you are not interested. Tell Annette nothing unless she asks you out.

If she asks, say no and be very nice about it and let things go organically from there. You don't have to give a reason if you don't want to and definitely do not volunteer one. She might not want to know but morbid curiosity tends to win this fight. So don't inadvertantly drop a bunch of info that might be interpreted as a screed on why you find her undesirable.
posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Uh, there's a lot of pronoun mixup in my coworker story so to be clear: Amy told me about the crush that Mary had on me. I told Amy that I didn't date coworkers assuming she would tell Mary.
posted by griphus at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2011

Seconding what griphus said. Simply saying that you don't date coworkers puts up a nice barrier with the minimum of awkwardness for all. And it doesn't even need to be true -- it just needs to be true right now.

That said, until Annette says something, you don't know anything, and there's nothing for you to have to act on.

This asking out by proxy stuff (if that's what happened) -- that's grade school stuff. Should Anthony bring it up again, that might be another out, asking him if he was going to write a note where you have to check a box YES or NO. But I'd go for the no-coworkers rule.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2011

(And perhaps just assume that Annette will manage her own feelings - I've had crushes I knew were unworkable, and I just waited them out. Sometimes I had a sense that the other person knew from accidental things in my behavior, sometimes not. There's a real possibility that Annette hasn't asked you out because she doesn't want you to know/deal with the whole thing.)
posted by Frowner at 10:55 AM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Unless Annette actually asks you out, I think you should just ignore it. I would be mortified if I were Annette and you somewhat randomly told me you weren't interested without my saying anything to you first. This sounds like junior high. Let Annette speak up for herself and then you can tell her you're not interested.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:31 AM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]

I would help Annette save face and not mention the conversation with Anthony, but drop subtle hints that you're not interested in her - the big one is the "I like you like a sister" one. That sends the message that you like her well enough, but the sisterly angle lets her know you're not romantically interested. Another tactic is to ask her advice on other girls or dating. That will let her know she's in the friend zone without any ickiness of her knowing what Anthony told you.

But please don't do anything that would encourage her crush, even if it's something nice you would do for another friend, think twice on how she might take it. Hopefully her feelings will pass.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:39 PM on September 19, 2011

Do nothing, other than refrain from any actions or words which could inadvertently encourage Annette.

Third parties don't always "disclose" these things for the right reasons, but I assume you trust Anthony. The fact remains that it's Annette's problem and she should not be using anyone else as her cat's paw.

Heck, for all you know Annette is using you as a jealousy plotline for Anthony and he is the one she really wants. Maybe not, but I'm just winging an example for what happens when you start to go down the road of passing notes in class.
posted by tel3path at 1:47 PM on September 19, 2011

Please don't drop subtle hints you're not interested. That is just a form of teasing.

If you're going to say anything, say "Anthony told me you have a crush on me and I don't know if that's accurate, but if it is I'm sorry to have to tell you I don't return your feelings."
posted by tel3path at 2:39 PM on September 19, 2011

I know you feel that Anthony's opinion of you is important, but seriously, you can't let a friend dictate who you ask out.

Please know, too, that if you take Anthony's advice and ask Annette out, she will assume that you are actively interested in her. Once you take that step, you then have to eventually get to a place where you announce to her whether you Like Her or not. An event that could be relatively embarrassing for her if you ask her out, let things percolate, actually go on the date, etc. and then try to "let her down gently". Don't get to the point where you have to do any such thing by simply not asking her out in the first place.

To be absolutely contrary/devil's advocate-ish, however, I'm confused about one thing. Are you attracted to her or not? You say you're not interested in her because she has a personality type that you've found through experience you don't enjoy in a relationship for the long haul. Which, OK, if you're arranging a marriage, that's probably something to think about. But you're not - it's just a date. If you're attracted to her, why not go out and see what happens? Maybe your personalities will clash in a relationship, or maybe they won't, or maybe she'll be turned off by your personality first and it won't matter.
posted by Sara C. at 3:05 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You certainly don't need to directly confront her about it unless she does something to make you uncomfortable or asks you point blank. I would stop any flirtatious behavior on your part and, without laying it on thick or being too obvious, mention other girls you are dating, thinking of asking out, etc. Most people will get the hint fast. Also, avoid anything that could be construed as a date with her. Make a point to make things group activities. If Anthony brings it up again a "Oh you know we aren't like that" should probably put the matter to rest.

I honestly don't believe the direct approach is the kindest here, unless he advances are numerous and strong. I can't think of anything more humiliating than a crush telling me hey so I've heard you like me, sorry but I don't feel the same way. Trust me she'll go from friend to awkward acquaintance real quick.

Also, I don't think Anthony is doing anything particularly nefarious here. Friends often nudge friends together. He probably thought there was a decent chance you felt the same way and was trying to give you a little push. You already basically knew so it clearly wasn't some huge secret. Many relationships have come about because of friends playing matchmaker. This time didn't work out, but I don't think that makes Anthony a bad guy.
posted by whoaali at 7:25 PM on September 19, 2011

I get crushes all the time. They're almost all innocent and of that "He's cute and likes that neat thing I like!" I'm in a long-term relationship and not at all interested in acting on these crushes. Mostly, my crushes tend to be "You're interesting and I want to hang around you!" more than anything else.

Possibly, Annette mentioned to Anthony that she thought you were cute and Anthony wanted to set you guys up for whatever reason. Or maybe she really is interested in you in that way. But since you're all adults, she's probably been through this before (and I'm sure you've had a crush on someone too). I see no reason to treat her differently than you have (but if you were doing any platonic flirting, back off on that). Please don't say "I think of you as a sister" or anything like that. Treat her like a friend.

Respect she's a woman who knows herself. If she makes a move (like asks you out on something that seems entirely too date-like), that's one thing, but maybe she's just having fun having a crush on you. I don't think this is a big deal at all.
posted by darksong at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2011

Even if she doesn't know that he told me about her feelings, I'm still going to have tell him directly that I'm not interested

No, you actually don't. Unless she actually talks to you, then totally ignore it.
posted by spaltavian at 10:10 PM on September 19, 2011

I don't think the direct approach is recommended, I just think it's less cruel than dropping hints, if you are determined to communicate disinterest.
posted by tel3path at 1:45 AM on September 20, 2011

I honestly don't believe the direct approach is the kindest here, unless he advances are numerous and strong. I can't think of anything more humiliating than a crush telling me hey so I've heard you like me, sorry but I don't feel the same way. Trust me she'll go from friend to awkward acquaintance real quick.

Seconded 1000000x times. Unless she's obvious, don't make it obvious yourself. This is why she told Anthony, right? Very likely she's just testing out waters in fear of rejection and friendship awkwardness.

Something like "don't date coworkers", not hanging out alone, talking about dating other girls, etc, shoudl cover it. All very good advice above.

It takes courage and skill to tell the truth in a kind way, it takes even more courage and skill to make someone realize the truth in a kind way without actually directly telling them.
posted by moiraine at 1:49 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I do think the reason is important actually, the reason you have given here sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I don't think you owe everyone an explanation but this is a friend right? Why not explain a little? You have nothing to hide. I don't think it's kinder to make up some 'polite' excuse which isn't true. Nothing sucks more than having no idea what's wrong in my opinion.

But I would wait until she actually says or does something herself, as you said - you don't really know whether she asked Anthony to speak for her or not, personally I don't think she did. If she hasn't actually said anything directly then you don't need to respond directly, maybe she doesn't want you to know? I have a crush right now but I don't intend to do anything about it and would prefer she did not know about it at all, I know it's not going anywhere and it wouldn't help our friendship if she knew. Have that conversation if/when she brings it up.

Whichever way it goes, put up with a little awkwardness for a while, that's not too much to ask is it? It sounds like you would rather continue to be friends than walk away.
posted by freshfish at 6:27 AM on September 20, 2011

Feelings that aren't directly conveyed to you by the person having them are feelings you can *ignore*. Unless she says something, just keep your distance and it will go away. Chances are, if she hasn't said anything and you haven't said anything and Anthony hasn't said anything, she's figured out it's a no-go and is letting it go.
posted by custard heart at 9:55 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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