Should I maintain this burgeoning friendship? If not, how should I end it nicely?
September 28, 2012 10:46 PM   Subscribe

He's nice in some ways, but really annoying in others. Should I continue trying to build a friendship with him?

I met a guy online. Out of all the people who replied to my personals ad, he seemed like the most promising as a match: he wrote long, substantial messages that contained correct spelling and grammar, he seemed to have a good sense of humor--or at least he did at first, and when we texted we had a nice joking rapport. Plus he was pretty cute.

Then I met him in person, and his demeanor was very different than I expected; that online person vs. real world person difference came into play. I left our meetup feeling like he definitely wasn't someone I'd date, given what he told me about himself, but I thought that maybe we could be friends (although I was unsure of even that). Nonetheless, since it was just our first meeting I figured I'd give at least being friends a try. I told him that I saw us only being friends, and we've hung out twice since then.

Based on our time hanging out and our text/e-mail exchanges, I've been wondering whether I want to continue meeting up with him. But I also acknowledge I might just be too nitpicky. These are the reasons making me question whether we could be friends:

a) His sense of humor--I enjoyed it at first, and sometimes the things he says still make me laugh, but overall it kind of grates on me. He'll say joking things like, "You should do X or Y for me," or he'll say things like "I'm offended" if I reveal some point of difference between us (like stuff I haven't done or tried that he has) and I find it irritating. Maybe irrationally so, but it really bothers me. It drives me to say slightly-kidding (but only slightly) mean things back in hopes that it will discourage him from saying stuff like that in the future, which I feel bad about as soon as I say them. He usually just takes it as banter though, so it doesn't offend him (or discourage him, either, I guess).

b) His interests/maturity level--he gets a lot of pleasure of stupid things (bad movies, people doing idiotic stuff, the crazy things people say on Yahoo! answers, etc.). I don't. We went to the movies to see a recently released action-adventure flick last week, and I really enjoyed it. He thought it was just okay. He's four years older than I, but in some ways he seems like a big kid.

c) His (as of now unrequited) attraction to me--Another thing that complicates this is the fact that he's attracted to me. I've seen a lot of questions where the askers with an unrequited crush on a friend are told they should not hang out with that friend, but what about when you're on the receiving end of unrequited attraction? Part of me wonders whether, even though I told him I wasn't interested in him in that way, he continues to interact with me because he hopes that I could grow to like him in that way. Before you deem me a bit presumptuous, I only suspect this because I've been guilty of the same thing with my unrequited crushes. Plus when I told him I got just-friend-y vibes from our first meeting, he was initially a little evasive in acknowledging my lack of interest, saying "We'll see what happens." I gently insisted that my mind was made up, and he said he still wanted to be friends.

That said, we do have certain things in common: we're both foodies and neither of us drink or smoke. For the sake of mutual convenience, for our first meeting we met in an area where there wasn't a lot to do and he was perfectly happy to walk around and just peruse different stores for two hours, which is actually what I end up doing with my friends a lot of the time, so that scored him points in my book. He texts or e-mails me quite often, and for a recent college grad who just moved back to her hometown having that sense of connection is nice.

What's made me call the value of this friendship into question is the last time we hung out. It was just boring. I didn't have a lot to say, and I wasn't super-interested in what he had to say, either. But the former circumstance could have been because we had texted so much that he pretty much knew everything that had gone on with me recently so I didn't have much to share, and also I was driving around in an area I wasn't familiar with so I was concentrating more on that than being a good conversationalist. This was the third time we hung out, and I guess the aforementioned circumstances really magnified the things about him that bother me, whereas the second time we hung out I noticed them but let them slide since I had a reasonably good time. That said, if someone built a time machine and I had to pick between our disappointing last hang-out and just staying in at home, I still would probably pick hanging out with him.

There have been cases where I've sensed when a person and I wouldn't become very good friends, and I'm definitely getting that sense with this guy. But I don't know if I'm in a position to really be so picky, so should I stick it out and see if I can build a friendship with him, or should I try and extricate myself from any future interactions? If it's the latter, what's the best way to do it?
posted by dean_deen to Human Relations (23 answers total)
So... why are you trying to be friends with this guy? Are you in a situation where you don't have local friends? There are a lot of ways to meet someone that way that don't start off as a date.

I ask because I get this vibe from you like you think you're obligated to be friends with him unless you can come up with an appropriately strong and defensible reason not to. Sometimes people just don't get along all that well - if you don't click, it's OK to accept that and stop trying to become a friend.

Just spend time with him when you want to - if you don't want to spend time with him, don't. If you do want to spend time with him, do.
posted by Lady Li at 10:56 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

(That last is to say - you don't need to send him some friend-break-up-email or whatever. Just, you know, don't stress about trying hard to Become Friends.)
posted by Lady Li at 10:57 PM on September 28, 2012

Why would you want to make friends with someone that you already don't like? I don't mean in the hateful sense, but if you're already finding him boring and kind of annoying...well, down that road lies "We've been friends for 3 years and he's still boring and annoying."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:01 PM on September 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

I really appreciated the way you have expressed yourself here. Were I not married and the wrong gender for you for romance... Let's just say you know yourself well, and you sound aces!

That out of the way...

I'll clue you in to the fact that you are allowed to be picky. You should be picky. It is never good to have inharmonious people in your milieu.

You are just not compatible with this guy on any basic/important level.

It's OK to move on!
posted by jbenben at 11:01 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oops. Missed the part about how do you end it.

You end it by doing the slow fade. Don't respond to every text, ignore the ones you find uncomfortable. Stop picking up the phone when he calls. I suggest never calling him back.

Just let the interaction wither and die. He'll get the message.
posted by jbenben at 11:04 PM on September 28, 2012

Do you feel like you can accept and deal with his annoying ways FOREVER? Or are they going to build into something that grates on you?
posted by mollymayhem at 11:11 PM on September 28, 2012

I feel like pursuing a friendship with someone who a.) you don't like that much , and b.) is unrequitedly attracted to you, is not a good option. If the issue is that you are looking to make more friends, I think you can always find some elsewhere.

Why aren't you in a position "to be that picky"? Honestly, if this guy likes you, he is going to interpret your continued attempts at friendship to mean that you want to date him (most likely).
posted by bearette at 11:51 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Are you in a situation where you don't have local friends?

Why aren't you in a position "to be that picky"?

I just moved back to my hometown from college, and I work random hours so it's not easy for me to attend the Meetups that interest me. This entire thing was a craigslist dating experiment gone wrong, in the sense that I went on a couple of dates that made me realize just how unnatural and non-organic online dating is (I'm an online dating n00b), and how uncomfortable I am with it in general. So lesson learned: online dating is not for me.

But now I guess my big question is this: if you were on the receiving end of a friend break-up, would you prefer the slow fade or a respectful e-mail explaining that the two of you don't seem compatible enough to be friends? I'm personally leaning toward the latter, because I know this guy tends to over-think things like I do and it might be hurtful if I switch from responding often to not as much/not at all. I know I often check my e-mail obsessively, and if this guy's the same (which, judging from his relatively prompt responses, he might be), maybe I could save him the time and energy of checking his e-mail for a reply from me by just letting him know that I don't think we connect enough to be friends?
posted by dean_deen at 12:07 AM on September 29, 2012

The most positive things you say about him are very unexceptional, almost on the level of: "We are both mammals. He likes to eat bread." He sounds very boring to me as well, and his little quirks sound very annoying. Just vanish. Don't respond, be busy. Bye-bye!
posted by thylacinthine at 12:07 AM on September 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't know if there *is* a polite way to tell someone you don't want to be friends, though. Knocking back a potential partner is much easier, because chemistry, you know. You feel it, or you don't. But friends is tricky, because what can you say? I think either way you have to end up lying (You are so busy! You are sick a lot!) because there's no polite way to tell someone you just don't really want to hang out AT ALL any more. In my experience, being "busy" and apologetic, is eventually understood to mean the friendship is kind of over.
posted by thylacinthine at 12:12 AM on September 29, 2012

Fade away. Don't bother with the e-mail. Sometimes people don't click. It doesn't matter if it's a date, a lover, or a friend. If you guys really clicked as friends, you wouldn't be posting this answer. It's okay to be picky.

After graduating college I started to grow and change a lot, but I still kept in contact with college friends that didn't. It happens, and unfortunately sometimes you have to fade friends out. I would try to fill the void with trying to find friends online to realize that you can't force a friendship, even a low key one.

My experience with sending "break up" e-mails with friends have never worked out well. I felt bad once when a friend I tried to fade away with that kept contacting me with "what did I do wrong?" "can you at least tell me?" in which I did send him a long, thoughtful e-mail. He immediately became defensive and wrote back that it wasn't fair of me to fade away like that. Which only let me know how it REALLY wouldn't have worked anyway.

Just say you're busy and move on.
posted by xtine at 12:25 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Well, I'll put in a vote for just telling him and getting it over with. I find the "stop answering as any calls and eventually he'll get the message" approach to be cowardly and disrespectful.
posted by parrot_person at 1:29 AM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Slow fade is fine. Trust your gut on this. It's definitely a situation to follow instinct and people sense. It took me forever to realize it's OK (and usually a smart move) to trust instincts about people. It's not like you promised to be friends forever or shared dark secrets with this guy. Cut him loose!
posted by peacrow at 3:47 AM on September 29, 2012

Best answer: I think I found the wedge you need to "break-up" with your new friend.

"Guy, I know we talked about doing the friends thing, but it's just not working for me. I think it would be better if we just went our separate ways."

Shit, I'd do the cowardly thing and just email him this message. Once you've sent it, don't respond, block his number, etc.

If you're pressed, and he shows up on your doorstep, just say, "I still get a vibe that you're hoping that our friendship will turn into something more and I'm uncomfortable when we go out."

Hopefully, it won't come to that.

You don't have to be friends with people if you later find out that it's a chore.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:53 AM on September 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also don't use Craigslist for dating. Use OKCupid or pay for If you want friends, you can make same sex friends online on something like GirlfriendsSocial too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is not all about you. I think you may be doing him a disservice by being friends with him. There are undoubtedly people who might value his company far more than you do, and you're removing those opportunities from him by taking up his time and making him think that you enjoy his company. In short, you're being selfish.

Speaking for myself, I don't expect to be Super Hug Friends with everybody I invite to stuff, but I do expect that they hang out with me because it gives them some sense of enjoyment. If I found out that they were spending time with me out of a misguided sense of charity, I would be furious.

Just tell him "Look, this friendship things isn't working out. You seem like a nice person, but we have dissimilar personalities and interests." Then stop replying to texts or returning calls.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:29 AM on September 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

These things usually fade on their own. Like previous comments say, stop replying so often, and he'll turn his attentions elsewhere.

I'd also like to reiterate that posting a personal ad on Craigslist is NOT online dating. OKcupid is a much more comfortable, controllable experience that takes more time and effort, but if you use the width and breadth of the site, you have more chances to examine a potential date, even before replying to (or sending) a message.

Also, you don't need a regular schedule to go to meetu
posted by itesser at 9:00 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

(whoops, fat thumbs) don't need a regular schedule to go to meetups. Choose several active groups of varying types to join, and you can pick which activities to drop in on week by week. Start conversations, ask to add people on facebook, and once you've seen them a couple times, you're acquaintances, on the right road to becoming friends.

Good luck-- I've been through these kinds of things (moving to my hometown, having no social network there, and bad dates that lead to uncomfortable "friend"ships). Sometimes I get angry at how slow progress is, but things get better.
posted by itesser at 9:08 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

He annoys you, he's into things you find childish, and he wants to be more than friends but you don't? Goodness, why are you wasting your time with this?
posted by davejay at 9:58 AM on September 29, 2012

Best answer: You don't like him as a friend, so no, trying to force-create a friendship is not a good idea.

This is especially true if you are correct that he has a crush on you and is settling for whatever scraps you offer. And for that reason, yeah, telling him you're not clicking as friends but you wish him well is probably kinder than a slow fade -- although really, if he is well adjusted either should be fine.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:07 AM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

So: he irritates you, you don't have much in common, and he obviously has a crush on you that you wish he didn't. It doesn't sound like you're friends in the first place. There's nothing to end except long stretches of boredom, and wouldn't you prefer that ended?
posted by dekathelon at 10:51 AM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've met guys online and just wanted to be friends when they wanted more (or vice versa). Honestly it's better to let this go. Eventually you realize that you are just playing at being friendly with them because you are lonely, not because you like them, and you feel like a heel. Or eventually one of you confesses to the crush and oh man does that go down ugly. The "let's be friends" thing works best when you actually do have genuine points of connection beyond one of you having a crush.

The way you've described your feelings towards him, I don't see the two of you having a good friendship. Trying to stick it out is not going to end well for either of you.

Slow fade might work - it sounds like you are honestly busy and have a crazy schedule. If you don't feel ok about slow fade, I like RuthlessBunny's draft.

Nthing that craigslist is not representative of all online dating. OKC is better. And you've just had an experience that we all have w online dating - the recognition that you don't even start to know anything about someone until you meet them in person. I had a couple of experiences like that too, and later went on to meet lovely men I had a genuine connection with through online dating.
posted by bunderful at 12:46 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your help everybody. I sent him an e-mail; thankfully his response wasn't defensive or filled with barb, so that ends that. I thought I'd use craigslist to see what I could find because OKC hasn't really resulted in anything for me, but maybe I'll give it another shot.

I appreciate all your advice.
posted by dean_deen at 1:53 PM on September 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

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