Ugh...friend, more than a friend, not a friend? So confused!
January 9, 2013 7:39 PM   Subscribe

My best friend and I keep having drama in our friendship because of feelings. I had feelings for him, but he says he just wanted to stay friends. I told him I needed space to get rid of my feelings so we can stay friends. But he won't let me. He keeps bringing me back into his life. Even when he said he was starting a relationship with someone else. What do I do?

Back in the summer, I told my friend I had feelings for him, but he made it clear that he just wanted to stay friends and was not ready for a commitment. The rest is kinda complicated, so bare with me as I give some context :)

So what I did was cut off contact with him for a month. It was hard to do, but I did it. Eventually after a month he kept calling me and telling me how much he missed me and wanted me back in his life. And I told him I still wasn't ready to be friends and I still had feelings for him. But he kept inserting himself in my life and eventually we started seeing one another frequently and hanging out like old times. It was going well, although the feelings never went away completely and were still lingering in the background.

However, a couple months ago we got into a dumb argument and stopped speaking for a little while. I apologized for my part in the argument, but he still didn't want to speak with me. He eventually reached out to me and wanted to be friends again a few weeks later. However, I told him that's it, I don't wanna be friends again. This is because I knew I still had feelings for him and it would keep causing drama.

I ended up seeing him at an event and he basically took me by the hand and to a corner and told me he loves me and and begged me to be his friend again. He apologized and said he needed me in his life. I tried to stand my ground but it was hard to say no to that face. He visited me after work one day and we had a talk about our argument and resolved things. We got really close, as in hugging, cuddling and he gave me a kiss (not on the lips), but he's a pretty conservative guy when it comes to showing affection and he was showing me a lot of it. I felt that he had feelings for me. I just felt it.

But two days later, he calls me and tells me he's getting involved in a relationship with another woman. I was very upset. He was very angry at me for being upset! He said I should at least try to pretend I was happy for him. I said I can't pretend to be happy when I still have feelings. I told him that I could no longer be friends with him and wished him the best. He was really angry, upset, and sent me really mean messages saying he'd never forgive me. He blocked me from Twitter, Facebook, and Gchat. So dramatic :/

I was really sad and frustrated, but I knew I had to move on. I focused on myself and my health (I've been having a bit of health issues). I focused on eating right, working out, hanging out with other friends and just focusing on other things. I still thought about him and memories of good times together every day, but I channeled my sadness into more positive things. I lost weight, looked better, was overall happy although I really missed him and cared for him.

He eventually contacted me about a project (we work in the same volunteer org) and asked me to help. He did apologize to me about not taking my feelings into consideration when he snapped at me after he told me he's gonna be in a relationship, but he informed me that he had no intention of being friends again but wanted to continue a professional relationship. I said that's fine as long as we keep personal distance. We did, until he started becoming overbearing. He'd text me about this or that question, and if I didn't respond immediately, he'd think I was ignoring him on purpose. He monitored my Twitter, even though he blocked me, and would ask me why I was tweeting but not responding to his emails. It was annoying to say the least and I informed him I'd no longer work with him if he continued that behavior because I felt like he was mixing his personal emotions and not being professional. He promised he'd stop and we finished out project. I thought that was that.

I saw him at yet another event a few weeks ago and he kept trying to talk to me. I kept it short. He later texted me trying to make small talk and I responded minimally. He eventually said he really missed me and wanted to be friends again. I told him maybe in the future, but I'm not ready right now. He unblocked me on chat, FB, Twitter and followed me/friend requested me. I decided I'd keep a friendly distance from him because I didn't want there to be animosity between us so I accepted his request and respond to his texts occasionally.

Well, yesterday, he asked me out for dinner. I told him that given our history and that he's in another relationship, I don't think we should go out alone together. He told me he's actually not in that relationship anymore and he'd really like it if we can go to dinner (for his birthday). I told him I wasn't aware of that and might be able to have dinner with him if that was the case.

We still haven't finalized any plans or anything, but I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I don't wanna go through all the heartache again, but to be honest I still have feelings for him that are really strong. Despite all the drama, he's a very caring, funny, good-hearted guy and we have this undeniably strong connection. I would love to work things out and be with him. Part of me wants to use this dinner date as a way to talk about our feelings again, haha. But I'm afraid that he still wants me in the friend zone and it's just gonna break my heart again. I know in my heart of hearts he has feelings for me, but I know he's either confused or doesn't want to do anything about it. I'm not sure what to do. Any advice on this? I'm just so confused.
posted by impactsmoothie to Human Relations (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you like drama, keep playing this game. If you want to move on with your life and make room for someone who can fully commit to you, you have to take responsibility and manage your own life by cutting him off. He is not bringing himself into your life, you are letting him in. Stop doing that if you want to be free from the back-and-forth. Good luck.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:47 PM on January 9, 2013 [22 favorites]

He's a jerk. He's fucking with you. Leading you on. Stringing you along. Manipulating you. Or just being indecisive. Or all of the above. Sounds like an awful friend, much less a romantic partner. From this narrative, you seem happiest when he blocked you on social media. Seems to an impartial observer that this time you should cut contact -- no exceptions except when you're forced to work together -- and show him you won't always be there when he feels like not being a d-bag.
posted by supercres at 7:48 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Uhh.. first of all, how old are you guys?

And is it just me, or is he CLEARLY inviting you back into his life when he misses you and dropping you when he doesn't, only to claw you back in when he misses you and drop you when he's in a relationship, only to invite you again.. ehh, you know what I'm saying.

I'd say for now, keep your distance from him until you no longer have feelings. Once you reach that point, MAYBE try to be friends again.
posted by 6spd at 7:48 PM on January 9, 2013

And this:

I know in my heart of hearts he has feelings for me, but I know he's either confused or doesn't want to do anything about it

Is wishful thinking. He might, but he has no idea how to be a good boyfriend.
posted by supercres at 7:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've learned that when a guy says he doesn't have feelings, he means it. He can still like you platonically, he can still like to cuddle -- hell, he can want FWB -- without liking you like that. This guy has treated you poorly and doesn't like you like that. Don't get involved when you know it'll just be more drama. Move on.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

He really seems to like having you as an audience to his life drama. Is that the relationship you want? If you start to realise that's all you are to him, does it make stepping away easier?
posted by kellyblah at 7:50 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your heart of hearts is a gullible child. You need to use your brain here. He's a jerk, and you're better off not being friends with him, not working with him, and absolutely not jumping like a damn puppy dog when he hints you might possibly have a chance with him.
posted by jacalata at 7:53 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

You won't let yourself take the space you need. You can choose not to return his calls. You can choose not to see him. So the question to ask yourself is why you don't do that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fuck him. Seriously. He's unstable and content to use you. Whatever he has in his heart of hearts doesn't matter because of the way he treats you---actions are the key here. I repeat: Fuck him, because he's only going to fuck you over again. And again.
posted by Issithe at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 6spd, he's 22 and I'm 25. I thought age didn't matter at first, but he's definitely shown that he's more immature than I am.
posted by impactsmoothie at 7:59 PM on January 9, 2013

This is not a boyfriend. This is not a friend. This is someone who continually dismisses your requests for space in order to satisfy his need for adoration. Do not let this relationship continue in any way. You deserve better.
posted by blurker at 8:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. These responses are helping me realize how much of an idiot I've been :/
posted by impactsmoothie at 8:07 PM on January 9, 2013

Best answer: He's not a nice person. He sets you up, and knocks you down because he ENJOYS hurting your feelings. He gets high from having control over you. He's a sociopath. He does NOT have feelings the way that you do. He is an inter-species predator (this is a real thing, look it up!)

Honey, that last time he lured you back? He KNEW he was dating someone else and that it would absolutely kill you when he told you. He KNEW. That's why he did it. It's like, it wasn't worth being in that other relationship unless he had an audience (you) and it came at the expense of someone else (you paid.) Do you know what I mean?

And he didn't love the other person, either! So there's nothing wrong with you. He didn't choose anyone over you. He's not confused about his feelings. He knows exactly what he is doing. He calculates it down to the minute.

Frankly, I'd be very afraid over what he has planned for his "birthday." Certainly he will trick you and lead you on again. The only question if you go is how stunning and hurtful the next trick he plays on you will be.

Please please don't go to this dinner. Please.

Block this guy in every way. Deeply understand and come to terms with the fact that this person is not at all who you think he is on the inside. He's cruel. He's not who you thought, he's not like you at all. I swear to you this is true.

I'm sure this thread will lean heavily towards convincing you to protect yourself by getting rid of this cad. You're not the first one to go through this, that's how we all know where it is heading. Put the brakes on while you still can.

Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 8:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [23 favorites]

Best answer: "I don't wanna go through all the heartache again..."

So don't.

I don't mean to be glib, but this is your third question about this guy over the course of six months. You don't want to go through the heartache again and it is completely in your power not to do so. You were moving on, doing good stuff like focusing on your health and other friends and activities. Go back to doing that. Eventually, you'll realize that days and then weeks and then months will have passed without your giving him a passing thought. This guy is a shitty friend who treats your poorly. And, honestly, even if you two did end up in a relationship (and I don't mean to give you false hope by saying that since I think the probability of that is pretty much nil), he'd likely be a shitty boyfriend who'd treat you poorly. (Though, honestly, what he is doing is not the behavior of a friend, so he is just kind of a shitty person in your life.)

You've built up some imaginary scenario of what could be in your head when all evidence and past behavior points to the fact that whatever happens, it won't be what you want/have envisioned and certainly isn't good for you.

Move on. Meet other people. Get to know them for who they are rather than who you want them to be in your head. Stop letting this guy dominate your every waking thought and choices. Block him on social media, delete his number from your phone, filter the emails so you don't see them, think about finding other volunteer opportunities and move on with your life.

I had a whole feelings-for-a-friend thing and he wanted to keep me in his life because I was so important to him blah, blah, blah. He was way kinder and less manipulative than this guy, and I still ended up cutting him out of my life and I was and am much happier for it.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 8:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm not going to be as judgmental and harsh as some others here have chosen to be, but I do think his behavior at best is very strange. It's bizarre that he would show all the signs of wanting to be close to you and then right away talk about a new girl he's seeing. That's just not right. It's a red flag that he's at a minimum very inconsiderate, and at worst really messed up. As you mentioned, immaturity also seems to be a factor.
posted by Dansaman at 8:16 PM on January 9, 2013

He's too young for you. He sees you as an older, beneficial contact for the nurturing, emotional and work support/mentorship you provide. I'd bet money on it. Remember how little you knew just three short years ago? The age difference is also probably how he mentally justifies his neediness, and why he plays up the clueless ditsy lost boy act.
posted by quincunx at 8:18 PM on January 9, 2013

Regardless of whether he's confused, afraid, unsure, or inactive, he doesn't reciprocate the feelings you have for him. I think that you know this, but you haven't really accepted this. That's why you keep engaging with him.

All this yo-yo-ing back and forth with the "will we/won't we be friends" is a waste of your time. No good relationship of any kind has this much drama.
posted by sm1tten at 8:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Addendum: I made my first comment before reading your past posts. Clincher came when he said you were "too old." I knew it. The reason this guy is jerking you around is because to him 25 is an eternity away and you're a big scary adult lady who can handle some chain-jerking, at least in his imagination. He doesn't see you as a peer.
posted by quincunx at 8:27 PM on January 9, 2013

Everything jbenben said. I had a friend relationship very similar to this, and I don't even think age is that much of an issue here, this guy was/is almost exactly a year older than me so not much age difference. We had this weird friendship forever that was all cuddling and "timing's not right" etc but we kept being drawn to each other, and he always said he had all these issues about long term dating, then we went on a snowboarding trip together and he met another girl there and they are still together. All issues gone, out the window. I dropped him like a hot rock. I couldn't do the friendship, couldn't be happy for them. I would NEVER go through something like that again, and don't want you to, either. This guy is stringing you along for his own benefit, whether deliberately or not. Keep getting healthy, physically and mentally, and drop this guy like a hot rock, ignore his pleas about how much it hurts him.
posted by sweetkid at 8:43 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I once had a friend I was very close to. She had been with her boyfriend for ten years, but moved to Boston for work, while he stayed in New York. We started getting suppressed feelings for each other and there was lots of touching, snuggling, and falling asleep spooning on the couch while watching TV together. Then one day she told me that we couldn't deny that we had feelings for each other, and so she wanted to cut off contact with me entirely, because it was putting her ten-year relationship in jeopardy. And as much as it hurt me to lose her, I acknowledged that, and we never saw each other again. I made no effort to see her from that point on.

You know why? Because I'm not a douche.

This guy, however? Total douche. He's using you for ego gratification. Your brain knows it already - it's just taking a little extra time for the realization to travel to your heart.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:08 PM on January 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

Look, I doubt it's all bullshit: he probably genuinely does like you, and likes hanging out with you, and most certainly likes your attention and affection.

BUT, he is never ever ever going to like you the way that you like him. He just isn't. And from what you've said here, he has no idea how to be a good friend to you. He is going to keep jerking your chain, because he gets all the benefits from this lop-sided friendship.

He's an utter drama-llama. Move on.
posted by Salamander at 9:16 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

In your heart, you know he might... while rationally, you know he never will.

It's a great deal for him. He receives all of your emotional intimacies and never has to genuinely reciprocate.
He doesn't have to put out anything except a hint he may be available.

And all the while your feelings for him continue to grow - as does your level of frustration.

We've all been there: invested a lot of time and emotional energy into a relationship that turns out one-sided.
It's hard to let go and write off that time and energy. But you must.
You've hitched your wagon to an empty pinata. You know this.

Cut this boy off. Once you're apart, I suspect your desire for his friendship will evaporate along with your romantic inclinations.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:24 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I fantasize about finding a way to beam the following message back to teenage skrozidile:
Your feelings do not have to dictate your behavior.

Your "heart" will tell you that it is romantic to care deeply about dramatic tragic immature broken people. So here is the deal: let your heart carry this dumbass torch for this dumbass kid, but then say the things that you need to say to keep this dumbass kid away from you. Feelings are stubborn and hard to change. Actions are no kidding super easy to implement.

You: No

Then you go feel the feelings and cry and be miserable or work out and get healthy or just whatever the hell you want to do on your own, and all he knows is that you've said no. Rinse. Repeat.
posted by skrozidile at 9:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

Think about this: all the hot-and-cold, stalking your twitter and yelling at you for not responding to his texts one day, and then ignoring you and chasing other women the next - if you were in a relationship, this is how he would act all the time. That would be your life. Is that what you want?
posted by lunasol at 9:59 PM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

you're his pseudo-girl friend. drop him and find someone who will treat you like an actual girl friend and consider your needs too. it's quite likely that once you are over your romantic feelings for him you probably won't even want to be friends with him. at the least, you will have lost a lot of respect for him for the shoddy way he is treating you. been there. done that. and burned the t shirt. ;)
posted by wildflower at 10:36 PM on January 9, 2013

he's 22 and I'm 25. I thought age didn't matter at first, but he's definitely shown that he's more immature than I am.

I don't think people were asking because anyone is curious if there's an age difference; I think people are asking because this sounded like (and is) very 20's drama.

Anyway, listen: this guy is behaving really selfishly. Despite several attempts, being friends isn't working out. Just stop trying and move on.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:17 AM on January 10, 2013

Ouch. This really isn't a good idea. I nth the suggestions above to cut him off entirely.

My experience - In my 30's I split up from my wife and spent 18 months in the company of a friend who was going through almost the same mental breakdown I was going through. We were heavily dependent on each other, and it was the weirdest friendship / pseudo relationship I had ever been in.

I finally cut it off after she got married to someone else! In retrospect, she was using me to build her confidence, and I knew it at some level, was always happier when I cut off contact, but dragged myself back in to her sphere continually. She wanted me just to feel loved when someone else wasn't around to do it.

Your friendship with this bloke is essentially an addiction, and he's enabling you. I don't mean to be harsh, but you know you feel better when you're away from him. Do yourself a favour and cut off contact, move on with your life, and look back on this time in five or six years as an experience that made you the person you will be. You'll be better for the experience, and able to recognise and deal with other people like him in the future with less impact on your mental wellbeing.

I wish you all the luck in the world!
posted by jjleonard at 2:37 AM on January 10, 2013

At this point, why do you have feelings for this guy?
posted by heyjude at 3:20 AM on January 10, 2013

Feelings take you in weird directions sometimes, and they make it really, really hard to think clearly about this kind of situation. Take the good advice in this thread and move on with your life, but you aren't an idiot and you don't have to feel like one.
posted by NoraReed at 4:53 AM on January 10, 2013

The rest is kinda complicated

No it isn't. This dude is an immature little shit. Cut him out of your life completely or keep getting sucked into drama.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:41 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a bad guy. He has shown that he absolutely does not respect your wants or needs and will trample all over your boundaries whenever he feels like it. That is not the kind of person you should be firends with and it's definitely not the kind of person you should date.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:43 AM on January 10, 2013

There are a lot of questions on this site that involve mixed messages. (As in: "he told me he doesn't have feelings for me, but he cuddles me and looks at me in *just that way* and I don't know what to think!")

Believe what he told you. He said he doesn't like you in that way. If it were me, I would tell him, "It's too tough for me to be just friends with you. I need some distance - please respect this and don't get in touch." And then unfriend him on Facebook, don't respond to any texts/e-mails/whatever. If he's a good guy, he will understand and respect your need for space. If he doesn't do that, it means he's letting his own selfish desires trump your needs.
posted by whitelily at 6:55 AM on January 10, 2013

Do any of these seem to describe this fellow?

- An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
- Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
- A lack of psychological awareness
- Problems distinguishing the self from others
- Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
- Haughty body language
- Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them
- Detesting those who do not admire them
- Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
- Pretending to be more important than they really are
- Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
- Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
- Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
- Denial of remorse and gratitude

I'm betting so -- this guy sounds like a classic codependent narcissist. (Checklist shamelessly pulled from Wikipedia.)

He's drawn to you because he needs admirers, and because he sees you're someone he can control. This makes him feel powerful and important.

You're drawn to him because you're kind-hearted and, it sounds like, someone who is a good friend; but I'd be willing to bet that this guy also triggers a major dopamine rush in your brain. Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical, but that rush can also be addictive. Even though he hurts you in the long term, you're getting a short-term burst of pleasure from seeing him.

This guy is no good. Start thinking of him like the drug he is (addictive & toxic) and cut him outta' your life. You deserve friends and partners who will treat you like the great person you are, and who will respect your feelings/boundaries.
posted by muirne81 at 7:02 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re-read my previous answers. You seem sweet, conscientious, forgiving, and generous. Aim those qualities towards people who respect your boundaries.

The twitter thing, him getting angry when you don't respond--borderline abusive behavior. Unfortunately, relationships with this controlling and inappropriate dynamic are HARDER to end than normal relationships.

You're not stupid. You are unlucky, but that's okay. Bolstering your self-esteem is a must, because this cycle feeds on you (incorrectly) feeling that you're bad, stupid, wrong... people act incredulous that you "let" him behave this way and it feels awful. I'm sorry for that.

Let me be clear: you are responsible for taking care of yourself. However, the ONLY person who deserves to feel stupid and ashamed is this guy, for behaving so abysmally towards someone who cared for him.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:13 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh and it's easy to say you should not have trusted him, but as someone who has lost good friendships because I am very's a two-edged sword.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:17 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to say that this guy is a jerk. Maybe he genuinely likes your friendship and misses you when you're gone. But he's never going to like you in a more serious way. And, as much as it sucks, you will be much happier and healthier if you just see that for what it is and move on. You *will* lose the friendship. I am sorry to say that but it's true. You deserve a better friendship than this anyway.

There is no need to argue with him about it or talk about why you're not seeing him anymore. Just say "sorry, I'm busy" and/or ignore his calls and chats and eventually he will get the idea.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:26 AM on January 10, 2013

Oh HELL no!

Abso-freaking-lutely not. This guy is playing you like lotto.

Okay, got that out of my system. If this person was a female, and bounced back and forth into your life like this, you'd steer clear of the bitch, right?

This guy is not your friend. No friend would hurt you like this repeatedly. If he 'liked liked" you, he'd say so. He hasn't.

Cut him loose, don't have dinner with him. I'd go so far as saying volunteer elsewhere so that you're not in any kind of contact with him at all.

RUN girl! RUN!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:29 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that he's either using you, or, at best, he's confused. Consider accepted the dinner date, then standing him up!? or... going on the date and dumping his plate his lap?!? Then don't see him for six months, and only then see how the relationship looks... on your terms.
posted by at at 8:16 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please don't beat up on yourself about this. Yes, this guy appears from the outside to be playing you and generally behaving like a jerk. But the reason we recognize this is we've all been there!

Hell, I'm 36 (old enough to know better) and got myself into a similar situation a few months ago. He was less blatantly jerky and more just confused/immature, but still there are similarities. My therapist helped me see that the drama and uncertainty and mixed messages, whether purposeful or not, are truly addicting. Think of it like a gambling addiction - it's that intermittent reward like you get from a slot machine that makes it harder to quit than if it was consistently rewarding every time. Without getting too much into personal details, lets just say that extricating myself from that situation allowed me to be mentally and emotionally available when a much better person for me found his way into my life.

Don't feel bad about yourself, because you aren't the one behaving poorly and hurting others. Just do what you know is best for you and delete this guy from your life and move on. I really wish the best for you.
posted by misskaz at 8:33 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you follow my posting history, you'll get a look at your future with this dude. He will still be playing this game with someone when he is 38...hopefully he won't be playing it with *you*.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:44 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I disagree with the alarmism here. Sociopath! Run away! A bit of the good old Internet drama, I think.

Having been on both sides of this situation, it's pretty straight-forward really. It has nothing to do with him. He is completely irrelevant in this situation.

From my point of view, what is relevant is that you are not accepting the world as it is, rather you are waiting for it to be different. Emotional attraction is rooted very deeply and is often biological. When you're around someone you are attracted to, chemicals are released and your mood and state changes. If that person does not reciprocate, that does not mean you can choose not to be attracted to that person.

Your instincts were right at some point – cut it off and go do something else with yourself.

The reason I say you are not dealing with the world as it is. Because you went back – and are now again considering going back. There is a hope there that timing was off, or something was wrong before. That when something changes, your attraction will be met mutually.

It probably will not. If you emotions and energy were going to be reciprocated, they would have been by now. Your view is that he tried to keep you close, but not too close. There's probably a litany of reasons and rationalisations for that. Bad timing. He wants friends. He wants a professional relationship. He's in a relationship. It's his birthday. The reality is that he was a high priority in your life, you asked him for you to be a high priority in his life. He refused. It's not there.

Rather than accept that, your rationalising it because you don't want to admit the simple fact that there is nothing here for you. You want there to be so bad. You're willing to wait. You're willing to entertain a bunch of drama. You're probably passing up other opportunities with great people. You're making the best out of every interaction. You're trying to take care of yourself, AND have this man in your life.

And then it almost works. Wait, it might be working. Oh, it's not. You have to push him away. You need space. He's gone. Only he's not. You shouldn't entertain him, you know you shouldn't entertain him. But the attraction. The chemicals. They're present. They're flowing. Maybe we can just be professional colleagues. Maybe I can just be his friend like he can be my friend.

Oh no. I can't. He has to go again. He's gone again.

And now he's back. It's his birthday. No, I can't do it. I don't want to do it. But he's single now! Oh, so maybe it's the right time! But the history has been so bad. But maybe it's different now...

For a moment, imagine if you were your mother or father, watching this. If you remove the chemicals, what is the real world view of your relationship with this man? Has he acted like a good friend to you? Has he supported you? Been considerate of your feelings? Supported you? Cared enough to get out of your life when he realised the friendship was hurting you?

If you were someone else looking at you, what advice would you have?

I have said he is irrelevant and he is. The only thing I will say about him is he's probably not a psychopath. He's probably a person like the rest of us, bumbling about his life, doing the best he can. The limitation is probably that he has low self-esteem when it comes to women. In fact, you have much more power than you think. You validate his attractiveness to women because you're always there. When he falls out of a relationship, rather than be alone, he can measure it. Well impactsmoothie still thinks I'm great, so I must be. Without you, he also has to deal with life on its own terms. And that's probably why he keeps coming back. He's afraid of the dark.

You probably owe it to yourself to stop being his flashlight. It has nothing to do with him. It's all to do with you. If you want a positive outcome, you sound like a wonderfully supportive woman, who will blossom with the right partner. Imagine all of your energy and positive emotions reflected back at you. All of that attraction and love that you feel for him – and give to him – coming back amplified. You deserve it.

In terms of how to go about it? Just stop answering him. Let him go. If he tries to get in touch, there's no law of man or nature that says you have to answer. You are not required to be friends with anyone – this guy or anyone else. If you never speak to him again, your life will go on, and it will be great. And so will his.

Free yourself impactsmoothie. Free yourself from this hamster wheel, and create the space to find what you deserve – to become available for a man who when you say, "I love you," says to you "I love you too." Doesn't that sound nice? It sounds nice to me.

Good luck. Kick ass.
posted by nickrussell at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2013 [14 favorites]

You are this guy's Back-up Plan for when his "real relationships" don't pan out. That's not friendship; that's using somebody. You deserve better, and he should learn to stand on his own legs without you as an ego crutch. Cut off all contact.
posted by acm at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are too old not to see this for what it is. This is high school shit. Cut him out, and take a while to think about why you let this douchenozzle jerk you around like this for so long.
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:08 AM on January 10, 2013

"When deeds speak, words are nothing."

I had to print that out and hang it on my mirror, and I'm almost 30. I bet everyone in this thread has been through this. It's hard to go through and get out of it, but it is NOT impossible.

Surround yourself with the people who make you happy 99% of the time. Hang in there and good luck.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:17 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I took a glance at this post and wondered if I had accidentally posted it in my sleep. I've been dealing with a similar situation for over 7 years with a fellow I have been friends with for nearly 11. In my case, the feelings weren't even completely UNREQUITED (we had a bit of a dalliance one spring) but I was never "dumped" and boundaries were never clearly set afterwards so I could not enforce them as you have been (way to go there at least). But it is the same old nonsense: Friend showed initial reciprocation of feelings, friend wouldn't seriously date me after a fling, friend never gave a reason as to why but never stated he DID NOT feel the same way, friend claimed that he appreciates me more than anyone else in his life but would occasionally disappear and reappear when there was a lull in his work or personal/romantic life or when he needed nurturing, friend would give off signs of romantic intent and then never follow through, and then we had several falling outs initiated on my end when I couldn't handle that things weren't going in the direction I wanted and he was HORRIBLY offended and hurt by EVERY TIME, but at the end of the day it was difficult to end the friendship outright because of THE BOND and THE HISTORY, and etc. etc.. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. It's unfortunately common and I've attempted to analyze the dynamic despite the fact that I have been caught up in it myself in the past.

The primary thing is to realize that you will never date this person, even if you're convinced that he has feelings based on his (frankly selfish) behavior, and even if popular culture hints that he will mature and begin to feel the same and everything will turn out the way you want it to. It was difficult for me to get out of the vicious cycle simply because I was never told "I have no romantic feelings for you" which I am sure made it easier to string me (and my rather intense adoration) along but eventually one gets the picture after a clear pattern emerges. You have been told that the feelings are not mutual, so take that assertion at face value, for your sanity, even if I know it is difficult to ignore those HINTS. If he wanted to date you he would have already and he would have put the effort into making you his romantic priority. He'll be much easier to ignore once you find yourself in a relationship that ACTUALLY REFLECTS the one you envision with him.

Also I refuse to quote War Games in any context but you see where this is going.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:42 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am not going to conclude that he's a sociopath who enjoys hurting your feelings, though I admit I think that's quite probable.

I am going to conclude that this guy doesn't have what it takes to be your friend, nor a professional associate, and definitely not your boyfriend or FWD or whatever you crazy kids are calling it these days. He could be doing all this with the purest and most innocent of hearts, but he is still doing it wrong and that's not going to change.

He's not acting professional, so you should distance yourself there. Thankfully it's only volunteering, but still - this is urgent. You don't need this kind of person linked to you professionally.

He sure as shit isn't treating you like a friend. Acting in ways he knows are hurtful, then stamping his foot and yelling when you don't go back for more? That is an UNfriend. Would you believe, enemy? Like I said, I admit I think that's how this guy gets his lulz, but it doesn't matter. If this is how he treats his friends, you should not be his friend.

Mean people should also not be allowed access to your pants zone, either, but I'm kinda labouring the point here.

Also, it is not your fault this guy treats you the way he does. I get why people say "you shouldn't LET him treat you like this" and I also get how this makes you feel like the way he treats you is your fault, just like he tells you that the way he treats you is your fault.

I especially get the urge to go back and do it right this time. Pro tip: EVERYONE HAS THAT URGE. If anyone sounds vehement or blamey, it's not because they are actually mad at you. To the extent they're mad at anyone, it's their younger selves. We all feel like, if we yell loud enough, it will reach back across the decades and 1990s!tel3path will not do that awful dumb thing with that awful dumb guy, and her whole life will unfold completely differently. ...Oh .... okay, so it is just me, then.

But anyway, I'm right.

It's really hard, but everything that everyone is saying about changing volunteer organizations, blocking him on everything, banning his emails, renaming his phone contact info to "BIOHAZARD", is true. He must be Dead To You from now on.
posted by tel3path at 12:49 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: I sent him an email saying I'm too busy to go to dinner and to help him with this new project he asked me to help with. I was expecting an angry email back from him. He sent me an email that wasn't super angry, but he was accusing me of being somewhat manipulative and disrespectful to him. He says he's went above and beyond to try to maintain our friendship and he feels like I'm not giving him the same respect he gives me. He said he's willing to talk honestly and openly to keep our friendship from going through yet more drama.

He's got things so twisted. He's the one who hasn't been respecting my wishes, etc. I actually feel like going to dinner with him and telling him off in person once and for all and saying goodbye, not responding to his twisted points in the email. Any thoughts about that?
posted by impactsmoothie at 12:50 PM on January 10, 2013


Say "I'm sorry you feel that way. Please do not contact me again. If you do I am going to treat it as harassment."

However - this is very important - only do this if you are going to follow through. If you say this and go back on it, it will be the worst move you ever made.


So if you're not going to do the above - do nothing. Say nothing.

Whatever you want to say, don't.

It doesn't matter what you say, he just wants you to say it so he can treat you this way some more.

The way to respond with impact to this, is with silence.
posted by tel3path at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Update: I sent him an email

this was a mistake

saying I'm too busy to go to dinner and to help him with this new project he asked me to help with. I was expecting an angry email back from him. He sent me an email that wasn't super angry, but he was accusing me of being somewhat manipulative and disrespectful to him. He says he's went above and beyond to try to maintain our friendship and he feels like I'm not giving him the same respect he gives me. He said he's willing to talk honestly and openly to keep our friendship from going through yet more drama.

Any interaction, at all, ever, will be yet more drama. The two of you do not have the ability to interact in a non-dramatic way. There is no reason to think it will ever be possible. This is not an indictment of you as individuals but there is something in the air between you that just does not function.

Listen, the two of you will go around this mulberry bush again and again and you'll keep having Revelations and Epiphanies and you'll suddenly understand how to make things functional, you are certain of it, until the next shitsplosion. Later, rinse, repeat. The only way - the only way - to stop it is to walk away entirely.

He's got things so twisted. He's the one who hasn't been respecting my wishes, etc. I actually feel like going to dinner with him and telling him off in person once and for all and saying goodbye, not responding to his twisted points in the email. Any thoughts about that?

My thoughts are that it is a terrible, terrible idea, and it will only continue the cycle. I have seen this happen a million times; you want to get in that last big speech, that cutting remark, you want to give him a piece of your mind and walk away with his jaw on the floor and a smile on your face, and you're convinced, you're totally convinced that you will just say that thing and then your mind will be at peace. Once and for all.

Except that won't happen, because it is impossible to play a game and exit it at the same time. You'll go to dinner with him and he will say whatever you want to hear and you'll be back on the carousel.

In October you were saying "I don't have feelings for him in that way anymore." Well, here we are.

Look, if you want this to end, walk away. Tell him once - ONCE - that you need to stay out of contact with him and then ask that he respect that. Tell him this in an asychronous medium like email, not in person or over the phone. And then actually do that. He will write, he will call, he will try to see you in person. Don't engage. Don't tell him no. Don't argue. Don't respond at all, no matter how tempting it is, no matter how much you just can't resist dropping that perfect bon mot that lets him know that you're right and he's wrong. If you run into him in public, do not engage him in conversation and don't let him drag you into a conversation.

Walk away. This will never end if you don't.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

1) He said he's willing to talk honestly and openly to keep our friendship from going through yet more drama.

This is part of the hamster wheel. You have it right. He has conviced you that you have done something wrong. It's one of the 48 laws of power – "keep others in a suspended state of terror". Just because he says something is wrong does not mean anything is actually wrong.

2) I actually feel like going to dinner with him and telling him off in person once and for all and saying goodbye

Negative attention is still attention. Also, for all the power you feel at the moment, when you are alone together in person, you may find yourself weakened. There is no closure here. Closure is an illusion. The only person you need permission from to close this relationship is yourself.

3) How to use gmail filters to automatically delete unwanted email

Be strong. If losing him hurts, let it hurt. He has no answers for you. The only answers you need are your own. When you finally put this behind you, you will wake up with a bit of a bittersweet feeling. And in a few months time, you'll wonder why you waited so long to hang up the phone.

I'll leave further response to the rest of the crowd; there's not much more for me to say here.
posted by nickrussell at 1:29 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Do not see him in person. Don't. Just don't.

I think it would be a good idea to e-mail him back and basically tell him that you have no interest in continuing a friendship with him and to please not contact you in the future. Then, ignore, ignore, ignore, block him on all social media, e-mail, phone, texting, IMing, and ignore.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:43 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

He does have it twisted. Block him on everything and have dinner with someone who has recently been kind to you or made you feel good. Your time is valuable. Choose to give it to someone who is positive for you. Want to prove him wrong? Go be a good friend to someone who is willing and able to be a good friend to you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:18 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Walk away from the drama. You will be glad you did.
posted by blurker at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always used to have relationships that in one way or another looked like this (whether the person was just friends, a boss, whatever kind of relationship). High conflict, a nonconsensual dom-sub situation.

I always wanted not to be in relationships like this.

At first, I wasn't allowed to answer back. This made me think that answering back was the key to not being in relationships like this.

Later on I was in relationships where I was allowed to answer back. I thought I could negotiate my way to a respectful relationship, or at least be on an equal footing through my own assertiveness.

Turns out that not only are these people not for turning, the more I answered back the more I wanted to answer back.

Then one day, I had accumulated a few friends who actually were relating to me as equals since it just wouldn't occur to them to do otherwise. This was good.

A guy tried to treat me like your guy treated you. He asked to meet me, appeared serious, urged me to get back to him ASAP. When I did, he pointedly flirted with another woman in front of me and then gave me the silent treatment.

This time, I didn't answer back. Maybe he genuinely didn't want me to, but I took the silent treatment at face value.

I didn't answer back for a year.

He came back after a year, said hi like we were still good old chums who just happened to have lost touch. I didn't answer.

I still didn't answer.

He went away.

The End.

(Except for the time he tried to pass on a message through his dumb friend. I didn't answer.)
posted by tel3path at 3:18 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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