Am I to blame for hoping?
November 14, 2011 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Am I to blame for how hurt I feel right now? Details within.

So there's a guy who I count as one of my oldest friends. I asked him out several years ago and got a gentle let down, but shrugged and moved on, and we've had a lot of fun times since. Our friendship is pretty affectionate, but just lately I'd thought it had taken on a romantic tenor. He had mused out loud that perhaps we should date, since we seemed so well suited. I agreed that it was an attractive idea, but it's not like we agreed to anything. He noticed I'd left my chat application logged in while we were out together one night, and I asked him to send me a message so I'd get it when I got home: "you're a total babe", he'd sent. I soon thereafter proposed we go see a film together, and he responded with, oh, a date night, and I was like yes, of course! We hold hands and hug a lot that night, and it was a really sweet - no kiss, though. A couple of days later he changes his status to 'in a relationship' with someone who I now strongly suspect (for various reasons) he must have been already seeing for a little while. I had no inkling of any of this, and feel incredibly hurt and ashamed at having let myself hope. How do I move forward? I still care for him a lot in a Platonic sense, but I feel like such a fool. Am I naive for thinking that anything could have been happening between us? I sent him a couple of messages asking if he'd be at a bar some friends were thinking of heading out to, no response. Otherwise I've not spoken to him since.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh this guy is a total dick. I don't believe you are to blame as I would have read his signals the same way. I'm sorry. He sounds like he was kind of unsure about making the other woman official and decided to use you as some kind of trial. It's up to you whether you want to still remain friends after this but I'd wager he is not responding to you because he is being sheepish not because you misread signals.
posted by boobjob at 6:05 AM on November 14, 2011 [31 favorites]

You weren't naive. He handled this poorly. Be disappointed in him, and don't feel ashamed.
I think he owes you an explanation at the least.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:06 AM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Good heavens, it's not your fault! He wanted to be with you and have fun and then decided he wanted that with someone else.

At some point, you will have to tell him that it really hurt you. I felt really hurt just reading your post and I don't even know you.

No more affectionate interaction with this person. If you let him do this to you again, it WILL be your fault.
posted by Yellow at 6:12 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

He had mused out loud that perhaps we should date, since we seemed so well suited. I agreed that it was an attractive idea, but it's not like we agreed to anything.

Why not? He'd changed his message from "gentle let down" to flirty, and you have every right to seek clarity. "Ok then, let's go on a date this Friday" or "Well then ask me out on a date!" are responses that keep you in control of your own love life. By letting him string you along, and hoping he will allow you to move out of the friend-zone, you are allowing someone else to be in charge of your life.
posted by headnsouth at 6:15 AM on November 14, 2011

What a coward. I'd drop him like a dirty napkin. You deserve much better from someone you call a friend. I think YOU deserve being able to give him a piece of your mind but given his lack of communication, it sounds like he already knows it.
posted by like_neon at 6:20 AM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you'd only just met him online and started dating, not really knowing each other, then dating multiple people and without warning becoming exclusive with one is pretty much par for the course. So in that context, I wouldn't think less of the guy.

But you two had a friendship, and if he's going to entertain the idea of dating a friend, different standards apply so as to avoid inadvertently or unnecessarily hurting a friend. He really failed at that. Whether his failing was the result of selfishness, or social ineptness, or a situation more complex than you're aware, we don't know, so I'd prefer not to hang him in absentia, but yeah, this is on him.

No more affectionate interaction with this person. If you let him do this to you again, it WILL be your fault.

If he had a fair reason, and seriously tries to make it up or make things better (through sustained actions, not just words), then I think you'd be clear to give it another go and not be asking for the same, but the ball is in his court to patch things up, and there is probably a good chance he'll be too embarrassed/entitled/selfish/sheepish/whatever to step up to that plate. :(
posted by -harlequin- at 6:25 AM on November 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Am I naive for thinking that anything could have been happening between us?

You're not naive for thinking that a friend of yours, who showed no indication of being a lying dickweed before this, turned out to be a lying dickweed.

Sounds to me like you handled this exactly right, and you were taken advantage of. I'm sorry it happened to you, but don't for one second longer think that it's your fault.
posted by xingcat at 6:26 AM on November 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Look, this is Not Your Fault. It sounds like he was being a little commitment-phobic with another woman and used you to clarify his feelings for her. He really did wrong by you.

It's good for you to say that you still care for him "platonically." Investigate whether or not you'd keep a real platonic friendship with someone who treated you this badly. He frankly does not deserve your friendship!
posted by motsque at 6:27 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am not big on assigning blame, but you did nothing wrong. I am also not big on using Facebook status as a communication device. This guy is at the least a good friend at most a possible romantic interest. Call him. Tell him you saw his Facebook status change and you were wondering about the date. Let him clear the air, or not.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:36 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like others, I am indignant and infuriated by this guy on your behalf! I've been in a similar situation, but when I was still college age, and bounced back quickly. If that happened to me now, I'd be MUCH more thrown by it. I'd also start questioning whether I come across as some kind of pushover, to have this happen to me.

Well, don't do that. I'll bet he's right, you ARE a Total Babe. And your time is valuable, so downgrade this guy immediately so he gets Lowest Priority claim on it, until he gives you adequate reason to be escalated to a slightly higher level of privileges. By which I mean, an apology and a damn good reason for acting like such an ass.
posted by greenish at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

He's not that into you, but enjoys you being into him. Find someone more deserving of you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's extremely rotten of him to romantically-dump and friend-dump you, in one hit, by vaguebooking about it. Doesn't he think you have any feelings?

I think you need to ask him point-blank what's going on, as per JohnnyGunn's script. Bear in mind that he will have to come up with an extremely good answer for treating you so extremely badly. He had a right to date you, break up with you, and take up with someone else, but the way he's doing it he's practically been dating you behind your back, never mind the person he's supposedly "in a relationship" with. So, seriously, any answer he comes up with it better be good.

You may be feeling to emotionally disoriented to judge whether the answer is good enough, so I suggest whatever he says, you reply "I see. I'd like some time apart to re-evaluate our friendship in the light of this, so you won't be hearing from me at all for at least a month, and if you try to contact me, I won't reply." and then go no contact for a month to six weeks. I'm talking hide him on Vaguebook, don't take his calls, ignore his emails (ideally don't even read them), and definitely don't send him any Christmas cards or gifts. If you see him in public, he gets minimal acknowledgement and you are free to leave the event, since the emotional pressure on you will be great, and you haven't decided whether to shun him forever yet or what.

Whatever you do, don't visibly lose your cool (yet), take a deep breath, avoid communicating when upset. The tantrum, should you choose to deploy it, will be just as throwable in a few weeks' time as it is now.
posted by tel3path at 8:10 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's too bad an old friend pulled this nonsense.

Personally, I'd drop out of contact with him for a few months - knock him off your facebook and twitter feeds, route his email to the spam folder. I betting that you'll fill your time with friends who aren't inclined to be users.
posted by 26.2 at 8:44 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Horrible behavior on his part.
posted by ead at 8:54 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not your fault, he's a jerk. Drop him like he's hot, don't have any contact with him until he offers a sincere (and unprompted) apology that shows he realizes how cruel and inappropriate he was, and move on. Don't try to figure out what's behind his shabby treatment of you or let him draw you into a discussion of why you're cutting him off, that's giving him more mental energy than he's worth, and since he's clearly capable of manipulating you and stringing you along, that will just give him another opportunity. Cut him off, and don't have any worries that this is all just a misunderstanding and he'll be confused about what's going on. Trust me, he'll know.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would write this guy off despite your long friendship. It's really awful to lose a friend and the way he treated you was abysmal. I used to stick by "friends" no matter what, forgive anything. I learned the hard way, that it's better to write them off when they treat you cruelly. It doesn't sound like this guy has much empathy for others. He knew you had feelings for him and then he just suddenly decided to start a relationship with someone else without the decency of telling you?

You're definitely not to blame for hoping. I think most people would hope if they had been in your place.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Until I got to the holding hands part, I was ready to read him as being jokey-affectionate with you. It seemed like he might be (wrongly) thinking that you two had the kind of relationship where you could joke about date nights and laugh together about how you really "should" date but never could. Some of the things he's done (esp the "you're a total babe" comment) could easily fit within that framework and be funny and silly and affectionate. BUT holding hands does not fit into that kind of friendship, and makes the other things seem really odd-- not entirely jokey but also not entirely not jokey. Sounds like he doesn't really know what he wants, and isn't willing to take others' feelings into account while he tries to figure it out.

It might be helpful to avoid seeing him for a while (and it sounds like he might be embarrassed and avoiding you), but it might also be helpful to talk this out. Do you two have the kind of friendship where you can bring this up and expect to have a frank conversation with him?
posted by dizziest at 9:15 AM on November 14, 2011

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

This guy has fooled you once. You deserve better. Remember that his nice guy act is just that - an act. I can't comprehend any possible way in which he did this unwittingly; I must conclude that he intended, at the very least, to play both sides so that he could choose between you and this other person.
posted by fearnothing at 9:21 AM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is a little dick-y. He wasn't sure if Plan A was going to work, so he lined up Plan B and then Plan A came together after all. It's not noble, but I'm also not sure it has anything to do with you as a person.

Le sigh, eat some ice cream, listen to The Smiths and move on
posted by GilloD at 9:28 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

With respect, GilloD, the guy is one of her oldest friends. I think it's a bigger betrayal than can be triaged with ice cream and The Smiths.

I say this not to nitpick, but because the OP's question is specifically about whether her hurt feelings are legitimate. IME feelings tend to hurt worse if you're under the impression they should be the emotional equivalent of a skinned knee and you should just be able to get over it. That might be so if she were talking about a vague acquaintance here or someone she hadn't known for very long. An old friend though? One she's had feelings for years? And he knew it? A substantially bigger deal, I'm afraid.

Also, the ouchie isn't simply a romantic loss in which a relationship was legitimately ended, it's a breach of trust in which he treated her with minimal respect and inadequate communication. The OP was left to figure out more or less for herself whether one of the more significant events of her life had even happened, let alone whether or not she had cause for complaint. That right there is a substantial betrayal in itself.
posted by tel3path at 9:39 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

And OP - be very careful how you talk about this to others, if at all. The ambiguity was probably his way of preparing to throw you under the bus if you complain: no, no, she read too much into it, it's not like I've ever even kissed her, etc.

Which would he rather look like: a rat that insulted one of his oldest friends, or the victim of a hysterical bunny-boiling harpy who just lost control over a mere Facebook status? Be extra-careful about keeping your dignity here.
posted by tel3path at 9:53 AM on November 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

You're not naive for thinking he liked you when he said as much. He was an asshole for not being straight up with you.

He should be made aware that he hurt you. Be honest with him. Maybe there's a misunderstanding you're not fully aware of. Maybe you're assumption is completely right. Best to know his side of the story before you decide what to do.
posted by inturnaround at 9:56 AM on November 14, 2011

tel3path makes an excellent point in the penultimate sentence.

The truth is that we can never truly know another person's inner motivations and reasoning, we can only make judgements based upon our observations of their actions and words. Applying this to the OP's circumstance, the question of whether he was an ass in the guise of a friend, or a friend who turned coat, is for you to decide. We can offer opinions and analysis, you might even ask the guy what he meant by it, but in the end you have to filter these things through YOUR thoughts and conclude what he is, or was, to you.

The one thing I don't think is in question is whether you are justified in feeling hurt. Either of these interpretations paints him in a very poor light. It is clear that at a certain point, he wanted to you feel that a relationship was possible, and did not want to inform you that it would not be exclusive. For a multitude of reasons, this is Not Okay.

You were wronged. Feeling hurt is appropriate, and nothing you've said makes me think that you were naive for initially taking his actions at face value.
posted by fearnothing at 9:57 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, the guy is showing his true character right now, like a flasher in a trenchcoat. LOOK AT ME BEING A DICK. He'd be a lousy boyfriend, despite your history together. He's being a callous and inconsiderate friend. You don't need this in your life. Thank your lucky stars you figured this out and put your efforts into finding someone who will think of your feelings and treat you better.
posted by griselda at 11:15 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

So, let's be charitable and give this guy as much benefit of the doubt as possible. Maybe he was dating GirlX before, and he's really madly crazy about her. But then she pulls back for whatever reason, and he's left feeling miserable and hurt and lonely.

He then opens his eyes and starts to see that his long-time friend (that's you!) is great to hang around with and a hottie to boot, and starts to wonder if there might be some romantic potential there after all. (Ok, being wounded and lonely is not the best way to start a relationship, but it's certainly not the *worst* crime.)

He starts getting affectionate with you, and goes on a date with warm fuzzy handholding. Then! The next day GirlX calls him up, apologizes for being distant, and wants to give their relationship a serious shot. Your friend is torn: he enjoyed his time with you and values your friendship, but really really wants to give GirlX a second try. He decides, after much soul searching, to go with GirlX.

In this situation, what does our hero do? He meets his long time friend for a tea, or at least gives her a call, and gently explains that he really values her friendship and thinks she's wonderful, but he's decided to date someone else, right? He tells her that he really enjoyed their time together, and that he understands if she might feel a bit deceived and hurt, but truly, it wasn't his intention and he's sorry he's involved her in such a sticky situation. Right?

Oh. Wait. No, he announces his new relationship to the entire world first, and then proceeds to ignore his friend. Huh.

Your "friend" is being selfish and immature at best. At worst, he's ... well, I think the posters aboved have it pretty well covered. Any reasonable person would feel as hurt and angry(?) as you do. This is NOT on you. Heed the very good advice given above, and try to move on. I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would've called you naive if you didn't think something might be happening between you two.

Whether you call him up and demand answers or simply drop him like a hot rock, I hope you make some move. When I was in a situation like yours, I shrugged and dealt with my feelings quietly on my own. (I believe ice cream and the Smiths may have been involved.) I thought this restraint of mine was going to salvage our friendship, but I see now that in the end it wound up supporting a dynamic that pretty well torpedoed our friendship.

I'm sure he knew he'd been a brass-plated jerk to me, and when I didn't call him on it, that seemed to make a big impression on him. He started acting like I wasn't good enough for him to respect. For the next several years, he consistently acted like he expected me to be a pushover, no matter how often he failed to actually push me over. So now we're not friends. To keep that friendship, I would have been much better off if I'd said to him, "That was not okay and I don't want to be around you right now."
posted by sculpin at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ugh. Well, at least you know now what kind of guy he can be. It's up to you whether you want to remain friends with him (although, for me, I wouldn't speak to him again).
posted by mleigh at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to take a different tack, and suggest that perhaps he was about to commit to this other person, but he had unresolved issues regarding you and a potential relationship, and felt it would be worthwhile to see if there was anything that could happen between the two of you before he committed to the other relationship.

Which isn't great behavior, obviously, and well deserving of a sincere and thoughtful response to you asking him "so, what the hell was that?" before you agree to be his friend going forward.
posted by davejay at 4:16 PM on November 14, 2011

There is a man that I behave the way you and your friend behaved on that movie night. We hold hands, snuggle, hug, share our innermost thoughts and feelings, bicker like an old married couple... but there's one gigantic difference between my friend and yours. Mine happens to be gay. I know he's gay, he knows he's gay, there's absolutely no "what if" on my side, there's no "what if" on his side, so we can flirt and toss false signals at one another without worrying about what it's going to do to our friendship.

Your guy behaved badly. And his radio silence is making me think that either one of two things happened... either A) he's too wrapped up in his relationship to be polite and respond to a text, or B) he feels (rightfully) guilty about how he behaved towards you, and is hoping you go away so he doesn't have to face the results of his own bad behavior. You were not naive, you are not to blame. You took a gamble, and you bet on someone that's kind of a turkey.

If you don't want to go No Contact on him, I suggest going No Effort. That means, if you really feel like seeing him, see him, but I wouldn't put yourself out in order to see him.
posted by mornie_alantie at 6:45 PM on November 14, 2011

There are people who like to make conquests, will flirt and encourage, but will drop you once you sleep with them or otherwise become no longer a challenge. These people are really fun at 1st, but it never works out the way you hope.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oof, I'm sorry. Something very similar happened to me many years ago (except I'm a guy, she's a girl). Not once, but twice, with the same very close friend.

I can't say I ever got closure... she never really explained herself, and I was too conflict-avoidant to confront her point-blank. The hard part was that I was convinced (and still am) that she didn't quite do it on purpose. I mean, she had to know it was a lead on (as does your guy), but I think she never really stopped to think how it might feel for me.

If you decide not to keep his friendship, I certainly wouldn't blame you. I suspect that deep down, neither could he.
posted by Talisman at 8:47 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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