One sided friendship, or poor social skills?
March 10, 2012 11:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time trying to figure out if a new friendship is one sided and should be tossed, or if I'm just not presenting myself well.

Recently made an effort to become friends with a girl I had classes with at uni years ago. She works at a super mart now and we would stop and chat whenever we ran into each other. She seemed like a cool nerdy sort of person and lit up whenever she saw me, so not long ago, I got her to add me on Facebook. I FB messaged her and asked her to an event with some friends shortly afterwards. She said she probably couldn't go, so I left my number incase she changed her mind and made it out. Not long after that, I ran into her when I was meeting a friend on campus. We talked about job openings at her store (I'd mentioned I was looking for work) and when I went to meet my friend I found she had texted me with more info. I hadn't asked for her number, and she didn't really have much to say in the text. So, I took it as an invitation to talk. We texted back and forth for a while, sometimes for hours on end. Just BS. At first, the back and forth was pretty much mutual, both sides were invested. She talked quite a bit about herself, but it wasn't entirely one sided. She would text me goofy pictures, and ask occasional questions. I assumed she just liked to gab.

Recently though, whenever we talk it's entirely one sided. She always says hi when I see her in her store, and if I post a comment on something she wrote on FB, or see her in the store when she can't talk, she'll text me. Everything she has to say is nearly entirely about her though; Tests she has, her upcoming girls night out, etc. Last time I tried asking her something mutual (if she heard of a musical group), during a conversation she just ignored it until I texted again.

A few things of note: I'm a 23 year old boy, and she has a boyfriend. Initially I thought she might be flirting with me, but I'm not looking for a relationship right now and tried to keep things on a "friends" level. Not long after we started texting for hours on end, she sent me a bizzarre text about her being in love with her BF, and planning to have his babies some day. She wanted to make sure this was "bearable". I replied honestly, saying that I had thought she was flirting with me, but that she wasn't my type, and I hoped we were on the same page, and that was about that.

From the start I tried to make it clear I wasn't hitting on her. I said she should FB me and she did. I gave her my number, but didn't ask for hers. She gave it to me anyway when she texted me.

At this point I don't know if she's actively trying to be uninterested so she doesn't appear to be unfaithful, if her BF is pressuring her not to talk to me, if she's just self involved, or if she doesn't have any interest in me as a person.

I missed out on a lot of social skills growing up homeschooled in a cabin in the woods. So, I'm not really sure what's normal. She claims to be a socially awkward penguin, but seems pretty decent with people. This friendship is for me an experiment in having a close platonic female friend, the fact that she seems willing to talk (albeit about herself) seems like a good opportunity to try different things.

I'm not sure how to proceed. For the moment, I've been friendly but ignoring texts that have no obvious question or invitation to chat more. Am I supposed to insert myself into conversation and talk about what's going on in my life, or is this a lost cause? I understand people need a certain amount of give and take to be friends, but I don't want to keep asking her about herself and talking about what's going on in her life if she doesn't have any interest in reciprocating. I'm 95% sure if I text her right now she'll text me back within the hour, if not immediately. Though it will likely be entirely about her.

TL;DR: She's not asking questions or showing interest in me as a friend. I don't know if this is her being self involved, trying to not send the wrong signals, or if I just suck at putting myself out there (I'm a quiet guy) Should I insert myself into the conversation and try to share more without being asked, or move on?
posted by Zapak to Human Relations (20 answers total)
Be honest: If she started asking you about yourself, it would be really hard to distinguish that from flirting, right? If she initiates hanging out with you one on one, it would be really hard for you or her boyfriend to distinguish that from her coming onto you, right? Because that's what this seems like it's about to me. Also, in general, couples are hard to befriend as a single person because you have to see them both at the same time, making you a third wheel, or you have to do a lot of the work to detach them from their partner. This applies even when the friendship is with people of the same gender. It tends to be kind of one-sided anyway.

Can you see her in groups, or meet her boyfriend? Or have a frank discussion with her about this?
posted by quincunx at 11:49 PM on March 10, 2012

A few things of note: I'm a 23 year old boy, and she has a boyfriend.

I'm 95% sure if I text her right now she'll text me back within the hour, if not immediately. Though it will likely be entirely about her.

She's not asking questions or showing interest in me as a friend.

Yes she is showing interest in you as a friend and I would bet that with all of her other friends she only talks about herself too.

You are looking for a more mutual friendship and as a 23 year old boy you're probably not going to find it with a 23 year old self-absorbed girl.

Move on.
posted by three blind mice at 11:52 PM on March 10, 2012

Yeah, I think it's just how she communicates - if it's not working for you, move on.
posted by mleigh at 12:03 AM on March 11, 2012

Response by poster: Good questions Quincunx. I realize the situation is delicate, I would be pretty offput if my girlfriend wanted to hang out with another guy one on one, so I've tried to make group invitations with some of my friends. I met her BF at one point and wasn't particularly impressed. Also feel like I don't know her well enough to sit down and talk about where we stand. Her "I'm going to have my BF's babies" text made things awkward for a while.

Moving on is probably good advice. She's still a cool person that I'd like to be friends with, I guess I'm trying to figure how to make that happen, if it's possible, where we both walk away happy.
posted by Zapak at 12:07 AM on March 11, 2012

Hey, I just noticed that you labeled this post "When Harry Met Sally" and you mention how you aren't impressed by her boyfriend. That and what I read as your sensitivity to being rejected by her makes me think that perhaps you're harboring a bit more of a crush than you'd like to admit to yourself. If that's the case, take care of yourself and drop the friendship. Trust me, it's not worth feeling bad about it, and continually riding that roller coaster.
posted by quincunx at 12:19 AM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

why don't people tell their friends what bothers them anymore? (ok that's not a constructive comment so much but...)

why don't you tell her that she talks a lot! and that she should take a break for a minute cause you really want to tell her about the amazing breakfast you had in the morning or how frustrating your job search is or whatever. say it lightheartedly. repeat in the future if needed.

it's ok if sometimes people do all the talking- some people like only listening so unless you clue them into this, it won't clear up.

you raised a bunch of other issues, i'm leaving those to other people to answer.
posted by saraindc at 12:21 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think it's probably all three- she's probably incredibly self-involved, there probably is a bit of 'is it actually platonic or not' tension and your social skills may be rusty if you weren't using them so much prior.

So fine, no problem, you are friends with her, she talks about herself all the time and has a bf you aren't crazy about. So time to get a new friend or two to add to the mix. Work on your social skills, have some fun with some new people. You are young, sounds like you are capable of making friends so there you go.

At the end of the day she sounds a bit boring talking about herself all the time. Definitely seek out some new people!
posted by bquarters at 12:46 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I met her BF at one point and wasn't particularly impressed. Also feel like I don't know her well enough to sit down and talk about where we stand.

You sound way more invested in this superficial friendship than you should be. Almost as if you skipped a step. Your instincts are right about "sitting down and talking about where [you] stand" with her. But I'm puzzled about why you mention that. Your relation with her, so far, seems primarily based in texting and inconsequential chit-chat; normal folks don't really have a sit down to talk about where they stand under those circumstances.

It took me a while to learn that not every friendship/connection is important or momentous. Some are trivial and not worth investing a lot of thought in. Especially when the person is already romantically involved. You should consider her someone you occasionally chat with and may invite out to group events, but don't over think it.
posted by jayder at 1:21 AM on March 11, 2012 [14 favorites]

Not sure how to proceed? There is proceeding? Just say hi and leave it at that - unless you're into her a bit and that's what you mean by proceeding
posted by mattoxic at 5:12 AM on March 11, 2012

This friendship is for me an experiment in having a close platonic female friend

She may be picking up on this. It sounds forced and a little self-serving (although you may not mean it that way!)
posted by thinkpiece at 5:25 AM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

This friendship is for me an experiment in having a close platonic female friend

I fed myself that line once (or twice). Don't feel bad; it's extremely difficult to process or rationalize an attraction if one or both of you is committed to someone else and you're a person who respects relationships.

Ask yourself if you'd be writing 3-4 longish paragraphs about a girl you had some classes with and have since run into a few times and exchanged a few texts with if there wasn't some attraction. Would it really even matter what kind of person she was?

Also, people don't sit other people down to have "relationship talks" with casual friends to find out "where they stand."

I'd say from the things she's said and done that she's a fairly normal person who hasn't minded having some interaction with you but you've come on a bit strong and now she's trying to put on the brakes.

There is such a thing as close platonic friends of the opposite sex, but the thing is you don't work at figuring out such relationships. They just happen, and they often date back to school or happen at work where there has been some opportunity to be around someone for a length of time without that person having to wonder why you're around. And they aren't really all that exciting. That's why they're platonic.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:52 AM on March 11, 2012 [10 favorites]

Not sure what outcome you're wanting here. Randomkeystrike is right that you don't sit down and talk out relationship stuff with casual friends.

I don't think you need to do anything other than to let this go on autopilot and stop worrying. Maintain contact but without trying to steer things in any particular direction. If she's sensing that you want something different to happen that could explain some of the tension, and if you're pinning all your hopes for a specific type of friendship on this one girl you're likely to be frustrated.

In my experience the kind of platonic opposite-sex relationship you want seems to be most likely to occur in the workplace. There you see people every day, work side by side, get to know each other over time, and friendships can emerge slowly over time - because you don't have to arrange to see each other.

You could also join a group that interests you that has a mix of men and women, and be friendly towards the whole group. Put yourself in contact with lots of different people and see what emerges.
posted by bunderful at 6:25 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dude, it seems like this girl is self-absorbed or just lacks conversational skills when it comes to talking about anything besides herself.

It also seems like there were romantic feelings involved even if you say that you were just looking for a platonic female friend.

It's definitely possible to be friends with people that are girls, but I really think you should move on from the notion that you two are going to be friends (or even something more).

It seems like you might have anxiety about this relationship and defining this relationship which is understandable since it's tricky sometimes.

But, let things run their course instead and move on. In the future, See how things play out between yourself and people that you want to be friends with rather than putting so much pressure on figuring out a friendship.
posted by livinglearning at 7:07 AM on March 11, 2012

If she is just a friend and you really are just viewing this relationship as "an experiment in having a close platonic female friend," then yes, insert yourself into the conversation more without being asked. See what happens, what's to lose? You're already annoyed at the one-sidedness, but it's not going to get better unless you push back against it.

If you do push back and you find you aren't getting the two-sided friendship you want in return, feel free to start to fade away from her. It doesn't have to be a mean gesture -- you just want something different out of the relationship. Her mentioning her BF in the way she did strikes me as a distancing comment to set the boundaries between you two. So I don't think a fade away would exactly crush her, either, if that helps.

Another thing to try is just to be blunt. Here's an example: I treated one of my male friends the same way this girl treated you. I talked to him all the time about my life and the things that were going on in it, because in his own words he "wasn't much of a talker" and if I wasn't talking, he was sitting there playing video games and neither of us would be talking. He started saying "Do you mind if I talk about myself for a minute?" when he had something to say. My reaction was "Of course! I want you to talk about yourself!" I honestly didn't know that he wanted to contribute until he told me. It was really illuminating.

I'm not saying that's what's going on in your situation, but if you do something like what I did you'd likely get a reaction that is not being ignored from her. That will tell you what you need to know.
posted by houndsoflove at 7:07 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Er, "if you do something like what my friend did" rather...
posted by houndsoflove at 7:18 AM on March 11, 2012

This friendship is for me an experiment in having a close platonic female friend, the fact that she seems willing to talk (albeit about herself) seems like a good opportunity to try different things.

You may see this as an experiment, but what does she see this as? As far as I can see, the signs are that she sees this as an awkward friendship, and she doesn't quite know how to handle it.

Go find some new friends. Hang out with them. Before long you'll have a better idea about whether it's you not putting yourself across well, or it's the girl being one-sided. Either way, you'll have some extra friends, which is always a good thing.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 9:00 AM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Stay in casual contact. You are one of her boyfriend possibles for after her current bf, and she is one of your possible future girlfriends.

The text with her having his babies was to see what your reaction to the having babies thing is and not purely about her bf. She's keeping you informed about her life with the girls night out and etc. You're building up a history with her (or rather, she mostly is building it with you) even if you're not doing anything together. Yet.

The females can do this intuitively. You can't, but just go with it!

Times are not right for you or her right now, but she has not ruled you out and you have not ruled her out. It's a matter of time and time will sort it out. It may fade out or end - or it may go the opposite way, or you may stay casual contact friends forever. It's just life! Good stuff. Have fun.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:37 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Am I supposed to insert myself into conversation and talk about what's going on in my life, or is this a lost cause

A friendship is a cause? A good friendship doesn't have to go anywhere.

2nd'ing "get more/other friends."
posted by rhizome at 10:05 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If she's a "socially awkward penguin" as you say, then is it possible she's chattering about herself as a way to fill in the silence and keep the conversation going, hoping that you'll reciprocate and tell her something about yourself? Conversations aren't mutual interrogations. Don't wait for her to read your mind and ask you the right questions - just bring up the subject yourself and talk about what you want to talk about. Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it sounds to me like things are one-sided in the opposite direction.

In my own experience as a socially awkward penguin, if someone never volunteers any personal information unless specifically requested to do so, it very quickly begings to feel like they aren't talking about themselves because they actively don't want to say anything personal - in which case, continuing to ask personal questions feels intrusive and rude. So the personal questions start to peter out.

If you want to talk about a subject, just start talking!
posted by talitha_kumi at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, I appreciate the feedback. As a lot of people mentioned, I realized after trying to make friends and learning that she had a boyfriend that I might have feelings other than platonic for her. It's not something I have any plans to cultivate or act on.

Still figuring out this "making friends" thing after college, but I realize I'm definitely putting more into this friendship than it warrants. Making a wider range of friends is good advice. I'm getting there, slowly.

Amidst the questions, the big one for me was whether or not I should be putting myself out there more without request (just about every friendship advice blog or booklet tells you to listen 90% of the time) while trying to not make the conversation all about me, me, me. Til I make more friends it's hard to tell where I'm at on that, but I'll try some of the good advice here with the friends I do have, and see what reactions I get.

With the girl, I'll pull way back from where I'm at. Probably a poor idea that will end badly, but I Still want to be friends with her. I can't help it, she's cool and we share similar interests.

Having so many other perspectives, crazy helpful.
posted by Zapak at 3:08 PM on March 11, 2012

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