Losing relationship chances due to others' interference - help?
May 3, 2013 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I was recently in the situation where I met a possible new love interest but, due to interference by a mutual social group, the relationship never had a chance to begin. How common is this and how can I protect myself? Snowflakes inside.

I am a quiet, introverted person and someone who doesn't get the chance to meet many new men. Recently I met a new group of people, whom I hoped to be friends with, but whom I didn't really know very well. I was new in town and this was a more established group, but people who had themselves been new not long earlier.

The group included two men, A, who was taken, and B who became single within a few months of me meeting him. I liked B, and I think he liked me. A, acting as go-between asked me private questions about my relationship history on behalf of B, and, before and after, began to warn me away from B, (subtly of course, talking about "a friend" rather than naming names) as B and I would not be suited to one another, and B needed "a different type of girl" or something of that sort, and if the relationship were to proceed it would be unhappy for both B and I eventually. I heard little directly from B at this stage.

Other than this A and I seemed to get along well. A got married, and I was not invited to the wedding, and it was suggested this was so B could bring someone else as a date.

Finally B met someone else and is now in a relationship with her, so I missed the chance, if there ever was one, with B. I feel like I was never given the chance to show what I had to offer.

I want to know how I can protect myself from this happening again. How common is it to use a friend to suss out a new love interest anyhow? Wouldn't that look a bit weak or is this normal in Guess Culture?
How do I know if the intermediary (in this case: A) is trustworthy? What if I don't want them knowing my private business (e.g. relationship history)?
What did I do wrong here that I should not do again next time?

Please remember with your responses I'm still really sensitive about this - be gentle!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Was A acting as the official go-between - as in, "B has asked me to inquire about your suitability as a mate" - or was he just being sort of nosy? Because if it's not a "this is how we do things in our culture" formal arrangement, you are totally welcome and in fact advised to tell people to mind their own business when they start asking prying questions, and have those conversations with the person you're interested on your own.

Because in all the friend-circles I have been involved with, this would be a prime case of A being a nosy, interfering busybody *or* B not actually liking you That Way or most likely both. It's not your fault, and you probably didn't do anything wrong, but there's no need to put up with that sort of behavior from either of them.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:45 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

Why in the world would B have needed to know anything about your relationship history before you started dating, through A or otherwise? That is really inappropriate.

The way you deal with this is by actually speaking to the person you want to speak to. Yes, that puts your heart way out there and leaves you a chance to get hurt, but the "passing notes" style of "i like him does he like me" is very junior high and high school. You don't know if A is trustworthy, it sounds like he wasn't. If you don't want them to know your private business, don't tell them.

If you want something, you have to ask for it. Stuff doesn't just magically happen, someone has to do something, and sometimes that someone has to be you.
posted by brainmouse at 1:48 PM on May 3, 2013 [20 favorites]

Having someone act as a go-between is weird, but basically the deal is that if Mister B wanted to go out with you, he probably would have.

What did I do wrong here that I should not do again next time?

Did Mister A clearly state that he was acting as a go-between before he started doing all this stuff? If so - the next time something like this happens, just tell the person, "Hey, it sounds like your heart's in the right place but this whole business of talking through an intermediary is kind of a weird interaction dynamic - if your friend wants to know anything about me, he can ask me. I don't bite." Then leave it at that.

Mostly it sounds like Mr. B had some misgivings about you, maybe he wasn't as into you as you thought he was, and he had a friend run interference. It's relatively normal to do this if you're a known quantity and the other person wants to know about you from people who are familiar with you, but to ask someone who's equally unfamiliar to do fact-finding means he's chickenshit or insane or some fun combination of both (seriously, does he think he's a fucking mob boss or something?). You dodged a bullet here.

If you are unfortunate enough for there to be a next time for a bullshit thing like this to happen, just walk away.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:50 PM on May 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

So, what were your direct, one-on-one interactions with B? Were there any?

It sounds like A was being nosy and trying to warn you off of B. Later, you were not invited to A's wedding. This might've been so B could have another date. It seems more likely that you were just not invited to A's wedding because of A.

Next time? Avoid the A's. It's hard to be direct, but at least open the line of communication with the intended object of your affection.
posted by RainyJay at 1:51 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

A is short for Asshole. Avoid giving A's Ammo. Don't allow people to act as a go-between when it comes to your love life. Don't give people private information until and unless they prove themselves trustworthy.
posted by windykites at 2:02 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

I want to know how I can protect myself from this happening again.

Approach the person you're interested in directly. Don't rely on intermediaries. Whether or not the person you're interested in is also interested in you, approaching them directly gives you the greatest opportunity for clear communication.
posted by rtha at 2:03 PM on May 3, 2013 [13 favorites]

A actually told you he didn't invite you to his wedding so that B could have different date? That's seriously messed up.

If you were otherwise good enough friends and it wasn't some kind of financial decision (like B's date would be C who's a super old friend they would have invited anyway or some such number saving position.) that's really really kind of awful. B's (presumably) a grown man if he wanted to date you he should have just done it.

This situation is really weird I don't think its going to repeat but if it does just ask the B equivalent out. Or tell the A equivalent that you're looking forward to getting to know B one on one.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 2:09 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know this one acquaintance who's kinda scummy (but he's entrenched in my social circle, so unfortunately I have to play nice around him). He always has a girlfriend, but he cheats on her constantly. Whenever we meet a new cute woman in our social circle, he pretends to be her "friend" (using the girlfriend as evidence that he's not trying to hit on her) then uses A's method to distance her from any other guys, giving her "friendly well-intentioned advice." He usually ends up hooking up with that woman a couple of months later, dumping his current girlfriend (if the new lady is more attractive) or dumping the new lady, once he finds somebody more attractive. Similarly, I've had at least one woman claim she was trying to set me up with her friend whom I was attracted to, only to find out later that she was sabotaging me behind my back because she wanted to get with me.

To avoid situations like this, I suggest the following: don't ever trust information from "neutral third parties" unless you have a solid reason to do so. Almost everybody has an agenda, and that's why it's important to get your facts straight from the source.

Also, I would ask B if he knew you were interested, or if A was just making stuff up. It won't help you get with B, but it might at least help you calibrate your bullshit-radar for future such incidents.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:12 PM on May 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm the opposite of introverted so I'm having a problem wrapping my head around this.

But let me try to get this straight. A started asking if you were interested in B, but then told you not to date him. Meanwhile, B never said a word to you?

Then months later A gets married, but doesn't invite you so B could bring a date? That makes NO sense at all! You weren't dating B at any point, and even if you were interested, what's that got to do with anything? The reason you weren't invited was...anything but that.

It's possible that B saw that you liked him and asked A to waive you off, a sort of 'reverse-wingman'. But that's about the only thing that would have this make sense.

In the future, if you are interested in someone, either ask that person out yourself, or if an intermediary hands you a note that says, "Do you like me, check the Box Yes or No" that you politely tell the person, "Who I like is none of your business."

It's been my experience that even if both parties are shy, that if one is truly interested, he'll make a move.

You have NO indication that B was interested in you, and the fact that he managed to get another girlfriend on his own speaks to that.

Move on, both of these guys sound like tools.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Don't talk to a A about this stuff, you have no idea what sorts of conversations if any they are going to have with B about it. For all you know A was just messing with your head and B never expressed any interest in you to A.

How to protect yourself from this is that if someone says B (or C, or D) is interested in you, suggest they pass along your phone number or email.
posted by yohko at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

it's pretty simple: don't deal with intermediaries. certainly, don't divulge your relationship history to them. if someone wants to get to know you then send the message to them to ask you out. these guys sound kinda weird socially. you may have dodged a bullet.
posted by wildflower at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't believe anything A says, my guess would be you were not invited to the wedding because A does not care for you as a friend. You were given the explanation that you were because it amused A to do so.

If you see B sometime go up and say hello as if you had never heard any of this from A.
posted by yohko at 2:17 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think wolfdreams has the only possible explanation for this.

That, or A liked B himself and this is a Brokeback Mountain kinda deal, which somehow doesn't seem likely.

Nthing don't deal with intermediaries, don't answer intrusive questions and don't have friends who smack you around emotionally for months on the hope that one of them might date you.
posted by tel3path at 2:21 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

From what I can surmise, A is a cockblocker and B is an unknown quantity.
posted by rhizome at 2:57 PM on May 3, 2013 [7 favorites]

Good lord, A is either stuck in highschool, or machiavellian for mysterious purposes. If he is at all representative of this social group, I'd rethink my engagement with them altogether.

Everybody else has solid advice re. how to deal with future similar situations: don't allow anyone to run interference unless they have already shown their friendship mettle and you really trust them and their judgement (and this doesn't refer to romantic situations alone), don't accept information from third parties on sensitive issues unless you have no choice or you can corroborate it independently, be as brave as you can (and we all can be braver then we suspect of ourselves), and keep your distance once you have discovered that someone doesn't have your best interest at heart (even if you can not discern the reason).
posted by miorita at 3:02 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

It doesn't help to paint A in a bad light — why is he to blame for you and B not getting together? Was it his responsibility to see you both happy?

Nor does it help to convince yourself that B was not worth it after it didn't work out with him like "the fox and grapes". You wanted him and you didn't get him. That is bad by definition, regardless of what you learn about him after.

You already know the answer to your question. You said it yourself: "I am a quiet, introverted person who doesn't get the chance to meet many new men". Everyone is quiet and introverted until failed interactions force us to raise our voices, to take up space in social situations.

Neither you or B stepped up. Maybe you could have asked B if he was going to A's wedding, or asked him out for a coffee or flirted with him a little more or a little harder. I'm sure you have a hundred ideas of the person you could have been, and it's those ideas that will make you into the person you needed to be so that next time you won't say, as if resigned to these failures, "I am a quiet, introverted person…"
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:29 PM on May 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

How common is it to use a friend to suss out a new love interest anyhow?

I have never, ever heard of anyone I know doing this beyond the age of 15 or so. Even at 15 people would have thought it was weirdly childish. I am a fairly mainstream American, what culture are you and all these people?

I think FAMOUS MONSTER nailed the right thing to say/do if you find yourself in this situation again:

"Hey, it sounds like your heart's in the right place but this whole business of talking through an intermediary is kind of a weird interaction dynamic - if your friend wants to know anything about me, he can ask me. I don't bite." Then leave it at that.
posted by cairdeas at 3:29 PM on May 3, 2013 [5 favorites]

The only important thing is that the guy you liked is happy in a relationship with someone else. Obviously he wasn't that interested in you, and you didn't miss a chance. If he really was interested, he would not have been interested in someone else or with someone else now.

The drama is in your head. These people may not really be your friends anyway. Maybe it's time to expand your friends circle.
posted by discopolo at 3:33 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm wondering if you're within a different cultural group than most people commenting here are from . Can you clarify by getting the mods to update? That would likely really change advice you're getting.
posted by taff at 3:34 PM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, maybe B seems great but is an asshole to girlfriends/lovers etc and you are being spared the drama.
posted by discopolo at 3:35 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure it's really useful to theorize about ill-intent on A's part - as far as you know, he thought he was trying to help you guys out by sharing information (or gossip!) that he misunderstood/couldn't remember the details of/did a poor job of explaining.

Remember the telephone game? A similar thing. This is why it's a bad idea to use someone as a go-between.

I get the shyness, and I don't think you did anything "wrong," as it were. But I would suggest that, in the future, you rely on your friends to provide introductions, only. And then try to get to know the person you are interested in, yourself. That's the fun part, anyway!
posted by sock puppet of mystery! at 5:49 PM on May 3, 2013

I want to know how I can protect myself from this happening again.

Do not deal with intermediaries. And when you're interested in B, say "Hey, B, I wondered if you might be interested in a coffee date." If you're shy you can do it by text but the way you protect yourself from bullshit and games is by not engaging in bullshit and games.

Unfortunately, there is not a special set of rules for introverts and shy people with that :(

How common is it to use a friend to suss out a new love interest anyhow?

It's very common when you're 12. It's somewhat common in college. If you're older than that, it's just lame and no we do not do that.

How do I know if the intermediary (in this case: A) is trustworthy? What if I don't want them knowing my private business (e.g. relationship history)?

See above. Do not deal with intermediaries. When A asks you things like that, you look amused and say "That's information I would share with someone I was actually dating. If your anonymous friend wants to ask me out, please have him do so." In fact, "f your anonymous friend wants to ask me out, please have him do so" is the only answer, repeated as often as necessary.

Do not deal with intermediaries.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:10 PM on May 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

What wolfdreams01 said can be real, and i've seen situations like that play out.

However, i've been in a situation like this. It would be paragraphs and paragraphs of drama to explain the exact scenario, but the basic premise and setup is the same. I'm going to try and TL;DR it as much as possible.

The difference is that long before i had "missed my chance" i realized something stunk, and contacted B directly. A had made a point of not giving me B's contact information and i only knew their first name, nothing else.

Eventually i got B's contact information and we started chatting directly. It turns out that A had been poisoning me to them really casually, while simultaneously feeding me similar stuff to what A fed you. It actually reached a point where i had to go "wait, that never happened, i never said that. what?".

Eventually i found out that A in fact didn't like me for some reason i never got a good explanation on, and was just trying to keep me from getting any real foothold in the friend group because B was her friend, dammit. And simultaneously poison me to everyone else and slowly, smoothly eject me from it. In the end i realized that nearly everyone in the group actively liked me besides A, and this was just the tip of the iceberg of their actually quite adept, manipulative plot to shut me out.

I have, however, not encountered something like this since then. And uh, i was sixteen and seventeen when this all went down, and all parties involved went to different schools. This entire thing reads like serious high school bullshit besides the marriage being mentioned. I'm trying to be as nice as possible, but i seriously thought i had stepped out of a time machine and was replying to a private message on myspace in 2006.

I mean I've seen similar stuff play out since then, but it still completely amazes me that people keep acting this way. I would suspect that person actively not liking you for some reason before i'd suspect them being some kind of master player or their being any direct sexual motive.

And i'm a massive cynic, but it just occurred to me... What if right when this person started middle-manning this, B met the other girl? Maybe A was just trying to ease you out of the thing as gracefully as possible without hurting your feelings. This is still weird middleman bullshit in and of itself, and a bit paternalistic in the whole "oh, i know better than you about what you should be allowed to know" way, but maybe they thought the type of person who would even use a middleman was probably pretty shy and didn't want to crush you and make you withdraw even further?

Like, it could have been a weird, manipulative, and slightly shitty thing to do but with good intentions, rather than something completely malicious.

Either way though, yea, no middle men ever again.
posted by emptythought at 2:22 AM on May 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had a strange time in my life after college where I was approached by a number of these sort of intermediaries - purportedly sussing me out for their particular friend. It really freaked me out, so I told each one, "If Jaime/Bob/whoever wants to ask me out, tell him to call me" and refused to discuss it any more.

Some called and some didn't, but my goal was to cut through the high school bullshit as quickly as possible.

Refuse to play this game.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:26 AM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

How common is it to use a friend to suss out a new love interest anyhow?
I actually think it's not that uncommon to use a go-between to find out if the person is single and/or interested, but that's not what happened here - this went way farther than I think is at all typical for a friend trying to set up another friend. I don't know if it's manipulative or just bad-timing, but the "asked me private questions about my relationship history on behalf of B, and, before and after, began to warn me away from B"part makes me suspect the former -- especially the "before and after."

The other thing is that it sounds like you don't know A well enough to know his intentions (or at least, post-situation you have doubts), and that's the last type of person that you should be sharing any kind of personal info with.

I feel like I was never given the chance to show what I had to offer.
This may or may not make you feel better, but it doesn't really sound like B was looking. At least, not seriously.

If this scenario weirded you out as much as it did me reading it, don't repeat it.
posted by sm1tten at 3:01 PM on May 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

How common is it to use a friend to suss out a new love interest anyhow?

I know a "person A" type who takes it upon themselves to suss out people for others, and try to set people up on dates. It leads to really weird situations, she gets upset if her friends or acquaintances don't want to go on a "date" with the person she picked. Meanwhile the prospective romantic interest thinks she's the person who's interested, and feels uncomfortable to show up at a group outing and find her with her boyfriend.

It's very immature to do things like that, but being the "B" on that a few times, I wouldn't assume that person B actually requested the sussing or even expressed any romantic interest at all.

Avoid giving the "person A" any personal information at all. No good will come of it. They have only their own interests in mind.

It is common to ask a friend who already knows your potential new interest some general questions about them, but asking them to go inquire for you is way beyond the pale. An exception would be asking a friend to pass along your phone number to someone they introduced you to if circumstances kept you from getting a chance to do so at the time, the more modern form of this is asking your friend to mention that you really liked meeting them and to let them know you have a strange facebook pseudonym that doesn't have your portrait attached.
posted by yohko at 5:39 PM on May 4, 2013

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