Our friendship never recovered - what can I learn?
April 2, 2014 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I told my friend I'd developed feelings for her. She didn't reciprocate - but we said we'd still be friends. Within three weeks we're at each other's throats and now it's all over. What the heck happened?

This is linked to a question I asked before. I met a girl on a postgraduate course I'm attending and at first I viewed her platonically. But after we hung about alone a few times my feelings changed. She picked up on it and started avoiding me.

Anyway, as soon as I decided, clearly, that I was interested in her I decided to get it off my chest. I'm still wondering if this was a selfish decision; I felt it pretty likely she wouldn't reciprocate, but I didn't want to 'suffer in silence' or for things to be awkward. I figured if I got it off my chest the best outcome was she'd feel the same way, the worst? Things'd be awkward but things would normalise again.

Anyway, she said she was flattered but didn't feel the same way... I reacted by unloading on her emotionally a tad - I said I asked because I didn't want to suffer, that I was glad I asked because 'what's left unsaid is what comes back to trouble us' and that I hoped we'd be friends. She agreed.

Back at the school I tried to give her some distance whilst remaining warm. But she was as distant as ever.

I should add here that I've a problem with anxiety - I've seen therapists in the past though I've never stuck through with treatment, as bad a reflection on my character as that is.

Anyway, the thought got into my head that I was letting the friendship slip - she might be looking to me to be proactive in maintaining it. So I asked her if she wanted to meet up - she said she wasn't available that day... so I tried an alternative date and she said 'I think you should go by yourself'. I asked if things were just too awkward for her and her response was 'No, but you've just made it awkward.'

I then let slip that I was worried the friendship was slipping. She told me not to be paranoid and that we were fine.

The next two weeks after that things were erratic - she'd be cold and genuinely ignore I was around one moment and then, usually when we were alone and not in a group, she'd be like her old self again. In group situations when she did acknowledge me she kept making condescending jokes, etc.

Anyway, things really came to a head when we were at a group study session. I was running late and then, when I arrived, I wasn't keeping pace with the rest of the group: Someone commented on that and I said 'Agh, sorry - I just have some important e-mails to answer' the main girl of our story then said 'Well you should have gotten up at 6am and answered them then.' So I said 'Bitch it's the weekend!'

She replied that if I called her a bitch again she'd rip my 'fucking balls off'.

People laughed awkwardly assuming it was just our usual banter... about ten minutes later when most of the others had left the table I leaned over and said I was sorry if my use of profanity had offended her. She said 'Don't talk to me. Really. Just don't talk to me.'

That made me angry. Here was someone who had once told me I was their best friend in London, who'd been blanking me, ignoring me and, when she wasn't, was often just straight rude. Here she was taking what was obviously a joke and acting horribly in front of my classmates.

I didn't vent the anger. I sat there stewing for ten minutes trying to collect my thoughts before I stood up, addressed everyone else and said 'I'm sorry guys, my head's somewhere else at the moment' and left.

Two days later I messaged the girl on Facebook to tell her that we'd only two weeks left on our course and I would appreciate it if we could be civil. I apologised again for calling her a bitch and said I meant no offence.

She told me that she thought it best we not speak again. 'Agreed' I replied.

But then she added 'Oh and by the way, no apology is better than a half-arsed one.' And again, I got mad. I told her she had been nothing but rude to me, that she had made me feel unpleasant and like I'd done something wrong. She told me the conversation wasn't worth having and that I wasn't worth anything. She said that wouldn't own up to everything I'd done - that I'd done everything within my power to push her away as a friend. I told her she was using the bitch incident to explain away unpleasantness that was taking place before then. I then promptly unfriended her and stopped the conversation.

The next day I thought things through and texted her saying that I had been angry... and that I indeed wasn't aware of what I had done to make her feel bad - that, as much as I'd like to be, I'm not psychic and don't know how she's feeling. I told her that I'd respect my distance and leave her alone, but that she could feel free, should she want to, to tell me what I'd done wrong - I said I'd be happy to own up to anything that I'd been too self-absorbed to see.

Anyway, that was a few days ago. In class we're out and out ignoring each other. It's better in a way - there's no more condescending unpleasantness, but I still feel bad. After everything that's happened, I don't hate her. I don't think she approaches problems constructively - if I had my way, we'd sit down and just discuss how we both feel and what actions the other has taken to make us feel that way: Try to reach an understanding. The friendship might not be salvageable but closure would be. It seems to me that she was just determined to perceive herself as the victim - when I really don't understand what I've done to earn anything more than resentment (my imposing all that emotional baggage on her was not the most selfless of things to do).

Anyway. I hope we might speak, but I don't think it will happen.

I'm subscribed to her creative writing blog. I had an e-mail through listing her latest entry:

When will men ever understand
That I don't owe them anything.
No boys.
If i don't want to date you.
You still have to respect me.
You can handle
A woman."

Call me paranoid, but I can't help but think it might relate to this episode.

So yeah - a long story I know, thanks if you stuck with me... What I'd like to know is what people think I should take away from this? I'm inclined to think that we were both guilty of wrongs: I was selfish in imposing emotionally on someone I didn't think was going to reciprocate. I then burdened her further with my anxieties after the event. But in my defence, I was both emotional and *honestly* trying to return to a platonic friendship. I had no ulterior motives. I really did value what we had; though, on reflection, I think that a friendship can have its limits. In some of our relationships, imposing heavy stuff - like our real innermost neurotic workings, can burden things so far they snap.

I put a lot of pressure both on this girl and our relationship.

But on the flip side - did she respond appropriately to me? Even if I was a self-centred anxious wreck... was it right to just blank me? Should she have just told me honestly that I was burdening her or acting inappropriately? She could even have asked me to just stay away. I feel like I've been dealt with very dispassionately and mistreated.

How does it look to you external observers? Of course you only have my side of things - she's never sat me down and told me how things looked from her side. It is something I'd like to hear.

A mutual friend of ours has told me that my friendly overtures afterwards were misinterpreted as disingenuous and patronising. And the girl thought I was still pushing for a relationship. I can only say that's not the truth.

Alas - for me this just seems like a case of not understanding each other. I can't help but think that it might have been resolved if we'd just been able to communicate :(
posted by Henners91 to Human Relations (102 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You fucked up royally by casually calling her a bitch after you told her you had feelings for her. Seems she has every right to be done with you. You're gonna have to just accept that you fucked up and let it go.
posted by spicynuts at 1:50 PM on April 2, 2014 [74 favorites]

How does it look to you external observers?

Oh my god please leave her alone.
posted by phunniemee at 1:50 PM on April 2, 2014 [191 favorites]

Back off. She does not want to be your friend, for reasons almost entirely of your own making. Continuing to nag and harass her can only make things worse.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:53 PM on April 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

Sounds like you should just relax for a while and not worry about her. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just leave something alone. :)
posted by zscore at 1:53 PM on April 2, 2014

What I'd like to know is what people think I should take away from this?

Don't call someone a bitch if they don't want to date you. Or ever. Pretty basic stuff really.
posted by Jairus at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2014 [41 favorites]

Let it fucking go!

Women aren't a secret language, we'll tell you what we want. She told you very plainly and then you went and pushed and pushed and pushed, and then it got ugly.

No one owes you anything, not an explanation, not closure, not understanding, not a long conversation.

Ignore her for the next two weeks, unsubscribe from her blog, and learn from this that friends can be a whole host of things, one of which is being mildly pleasant to that guy in the study group, it doesn't mean, we go out together and hang out and spend time with each other. We call those things dates.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:57 PM on April 2, 2014 [42 favorites]

"Anyway, the thought got into my head that I was letting the friendship slip - she might be looking to me to be proactive in maintaining it. So I asked her if she wanted to meet up - she said she wasn't available that day... so I tried an alternative date and she said 'I think you should go by yourself'. I asked if things were just too awkward for her and her response was 'No, but you've just made it awkward.'"

This is the point in the story where you should have backed off and let her take the lead in any further interactions. And calling a woman a bitch even if it is somehow usually OK in your specific relationship (is it? it sounds like maybe it wasn't ever really OK with her) is not backing off, it's relying on some specific personal connection you two have (had) to moderate something that's otherwise considered kind of cutting and rude.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:57 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Don't treat your friends like your dating pool. There's your lesson. Date people you want to date, be friends with people you want to be friends with. Do not assume that you are entitled to upgrade whenever you feel like it.

And don't call people 'bitch'.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:58 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

This is the kind of not understanding each other that you can't fix by explaining.

Okay, you weren't still pushing for a relationship. But she felt as if you were. That has nothing to do with what you said and all to do with how she felt. Trying to "improve communications" isn't going to change the fact that the thing she was attempting to communicate was "I don't want to spend any more time with you than necessary".

The time to back off and decide that she doesn't genuinely want to be friends with you even though she's politely saying it's nothing personal, was when she told you the second time that she didn't want to meet up ("you should just go by yourself" means "It has nothing to do with the schedule or location and everything to do with you") You were friendly and well-meaning; but belaboring the point isn't going to make her feel any differently.
posted by aimedwander at 2:01 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: After the "No, but you've just made it awkward" conversation I stopped approaching her directly. The only time we saw each other after that was in class and at group outings. I actually thought things were getting better.

Regarding the "bitch" thing - it probably wasn't tactful, no. I've other female friends that the "bitch, please" routine does fly with but likely was stupid to try it on for size with someone I was straining with.

I'm quite paranoid that I may well have just said it rashly motivated by anger. Though my memory of the event has me saying it in a jokey fashion - who knows if it didn't subconsciously come out in a harsher tone?
posted by Henners91 at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2014

If she had told you that you were acting inappropriately, what would you have done? Would you have promptly apologized and said that you'd keep your distance? I doubt it. I think you would have demanded an explanation or examples, or you would have started outlining how her actions were wrong, or you would have interrogated her (because it sounds like you have tended to do that in your interactions with her.)

She doesn't owe you anything. You've repeatedly shown that you either don't recognize or don't respect her boundaries. Just stay away from her and keep your head down. You don't need to have the last word, and you don't get to explain to her how her feelings and actions have been wrong. Just walk away.
posted by punchtothehead at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2014 [30 favorites]

So, you told her you had feelings for her, she wasn't interested, then you called her a bitch, and she responded by saying she didn't like it, to which you got offended when she spoke up, and you're confused about what went down?

This is a thing - this is what happens to women all the time when they say no to men - and worse!

Back off - maybe you're not "that guy" but you're sure as hell acting like it.
posted by heyjude at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

She doesn't want to talk to you any more and has said as much. There is nothing you can do to make her like you more, and plenty you can do to make her like you less.

It would really be best if you left her alone, starting immediately and ending never.
posted by johnofjack at 2:08 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: @RuthlessBunny - to clarify: We had gone out before, just the two of us, multiple times. I wasn't pushing for anything new. They certainly weren't 'dates' but they were occassions I enjoyed. Mostly because our rapport, which in groups primarily consisted of 'ribbing' went away and we actually talked about ourselves.

Regarding what others have said, namely near the top. Yeah, it may well be my own making. When I read my original post back to myself, that's certainly the feeling I get.

The problem with habitual anxiety is that I feel like I can't even trust my own perceptions of events or otherwise. It's difficult to explain but I can go from feelings of logical resolve (AKA: Everything will be fine. Give it some space) to downright emotional compulsion and impulse because I'm convinced that I've done something, or my inaction might lead to things going catastrophically wrong.

But when I've repressed those feelings things have gone pretty bad as well: A seven month relationship of mine ended when I literally lost it in what's probably the closest I've ever been to a breakdown in my life. On a bridge with my then girlfriend, who kept trying to ask me what was wrong, I just turned into an anxious wreck. She left me shortly thereafter.

So it's hard - I often want to tell people from the get go how I am, but it's such an emotional imposition on people; one I think many would rather not have.

I'll also add that I don't proactively look for relationships because I know you shouldn't 'market damaged goods', so to speak. But sometimes things spur themselves.
posted by Henners91 at 2:09 PM on April 2, 2014

It was beyond not tactful. Things were already tense and weird, by your own admission. And the fact that you got angry when she asked you to leave her alone? What's that about -- what did you think she owed you? Don't answer that here, just think about it.

I have to agree with the other commenters; whether or not you're That Guy, you look an awful lot like him from the outside.
posted by KathrynT at 2:10 PM on April 2, 2014 [24 favorites]

I feel like I've been dealt with very dispassionately and mistreated.

You need to let this go. You aren't entitled to her friendship, emotional intimacy, or romantic interest. You complain about her acting "distant," but you aren't entitled to her intimacy. Moreover, given that you seem to have a tendancy to get clingy and demanding, acting distant seems to me like it was a smart move on her part.

Do not contact this woman again. Leave her alone.
posted by Area Man at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2014 [64 favorites]

Dude, you need to back off and leave this entire situation alone. Stop analysing what exact tone of voice you said "bitch" in, stop assigning who's guilty of which "wrongs", stop wondering what would happen of you could only "communicate better".

This is a person who has made it clear they want nothing to do with you. You do not try and salvage that or understand exactly why. Learn the lesson that sometimes people do things you don't fully understand, but you should respect the clear boundaries they're setting even if you think it's wrong or confusing. And move on with your life.
posted by mymbleth at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2014 [16 favorites]

The friendship might not be salvageable but closure would be.

Closure's not always a practical thing, not least because closure for you may not look like closure for her. You need to let go of the idea that you can find a way to discuss this into a state of okayness; sometimes shit just goes sideways and not-okay is how it ends up being between you.

Accepting that can be hard but it's an adult move to make, to embrace the reality that something just did indeed end bad and it feels bad and that's life.

Whether she was a rude to your or passive-aggressive or whatever else is unfixable; whether you said shit you shouldn't have or came off as pushy likewise. That stuff happened, you guys are not in a friendly place, she's clearly wanting you two not to have an ongoing relationship. That's the situation to make your peace with, yourself, and move on from. You're not going to be able to extract personal justice from this and you're only going to treat yourself and her poorly in trying.
posted by cortex at 2:13 PM on April 2, 2014 [19 favorites]

You sound like a guy I know (and avoid). You've known this girl less than 4 months and you seem to be way more invested in the friendship than she is, to the point where it makes her uncomfortable. She doesn't owe you a long emotional conversation - she's made it clear she doesn't want to date you, and she doesn't want to hang out with you. I know anxiety is difficult to deal with, but you need to learn to listen to what people are telling you and less to your own convoluted hypotheses.

As far as whether or not she was right to 'blank' you, and thinking she should have just told you that you were burdening her/acting inappropriately/asked you to just stay away? She did, you just didn't listen. And that's where the 'blanking' comes in - pretty much every woman (and many men, I'm sure) knows that 'do not engage' is the only method that's going to work at this point.
posted by ghost dance beat at 2:13 PM on April 2, 2014 [33 favorites]

Really, please, stop trying to defend yourself because that's only going to make it worse. It didn't end well, okay?

What should you take away from this? It didn't work out, and you need to learn to let it go. She said no, and it escalated from there. At this point, all you can really do is mourn the loss and move on. Privately. Anything else just makes it harder.
posted by PearlRose at 2:14 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your anxiety is rearing its head. You need to take about a million steps back.

She is uncomfortable and you can't do anything about that other than giving her space.

Stop reading her blog, stop commenting on any kind of social media platform, be civil, move on.
posted by barnone at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

You are very clearly intelligent and self-aware enough to understand that giving in to anxious emotional compulsions is placing an unnecessary burden on people. So it is your responsibility to not do so. If you feel like you absolutely have to do something, then it is your responsibility to fix that, not to give in. If you give in, you are doing the wrong thing and then you have to deal with the consequences and you have to be responsible about dealing with the consequences. There's no get-out-of-jail-free card for poor behavior stemming from having emotional issues. Either you fix them, or you compensate for them, or you continue to do irresponsible things and have your relationships collapse around you.
posted by griphus at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2014 [73 favorites]

I should add here that I've a problem with anxiety - I've seen therapists in the past though I've never stuck through with treatment, as bad a reflection on my character as that is.

Step up to the grownup plate and do something about this. It is profoundly unfair, and very juvenile, to stick other people with problems you know you have but choose to not address. Don't do that. Go and get back into some kind of treatment for it.

And leave her alone. Nobody ever gets the closure they want, and it sucks but there it is.
posted by rtha at 2:16 PM on April 2, 2014 [35 favorites]

You're going to have to become comfortable with uncertainty. That's just how life is; that's just part of living as an individual human being. Do whatever you can to get used to it and function in a world where you are never going to be sure of other people and past events. Therapy, meditation, religion, self confidence, medication, whatever works for you. But what you have to keep in mind is that you can't use other people as coping mechanisms and that's what you seem to be trying to do with this woman. She owes you nothing, not even her time, let alone her friendship. Sitting down to have a talk or find closure or something? That's your problem, not hers, and you shouldn't make it hers. It's not just unfair to her, it's unfair to yourself.
posted by Mizu at 2:17 PM on April 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

"Closure" doesn't always mean both parties cooperate to bring about a perfectly resolved ending.

It often means the work one does on one's own to resolve a difficult situation after an unsatisfying ending.

Meaning, as many others have said, it's time to leave her alone and work on yourself, to get to a place where you can accept what happened with this girl, learn from it, and become stronger and smarter, for your own benefit and the benefit of the next girl you care for.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:19 PM on April 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Honestly I'm not trying to defend myself, not consciously at least. The points I've not addressed I've left alone mostly because I agree with them.

I won't pretend that I wasn't hopeful that responses on here would be along the lines of 'what's her problem?' but I did want honesty.

I've my own support network - my friends who hear me out and put up with my frankly needy behaviour. But they've unanimously come down against this girl. One told me 'Don't spare her a thought - she's a bitch.' But I've had my own reservations. I know and own up to that my own behaviour has contributed to this.

So, to your credit MetaFilter, you're giving me honest feedback and that is what I want.

You can take my word for it or not, but I do strive to learn from my mistakes and improve myself. Maybe this is some sense of self-pity talking but I'll freely concede that I'm neurotic and anxious. But by God, I'm ten times better than I was a few years ago and I'm sure that with experiences like this behind me I may well near-resemble a normal human being by the time I'm 30.

I do genuinely feel bad if I hurt people along the way. It may take me some time to realise that, but I know that my own irrationalities are going to affect people, as they have in the past. And that's something I live with.
posted by Henners91 at 2:19 PM on April 2, 2014

Also, if someone has to tell you not to speak to them twice, you've fucked up beyond the pale and whatever instincts you were following should be immediately made suspect. There's no action you can take that involves the person saying that to amend that, regardless of what your anxiety makes of the situation.
posted by griphus at 2:20 PM on April 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

You repeatedly chose to violate her explicit boundaries, and then you called her by a gendered slur. You demonstrated that you felt entitled to her attention and would react angrily and disrespectfully if you didn't receive it. You repeatedly displayed behavior that made it explicitly clear that she should not feel safe around you or trust you. She owes you absolutely nothing here, no matter how much you want closure, which is an adolescent way of saying you want the last word. Get closure by examining your own patterns of disrespectful and boundary-violating behavior in therapy.
posted by amelioration at 2:20 PM on April 2, 2014 [66 favorites]

I would feel like "so you had an awkward series of interactions which caused her to write a passive-agressive poem on her blog knowing - apparently - that you will read it....wow, you dodged a bullet there, buddy."

Look, it's not the greatest behavior to not-back-off-enough when you've asked someone out and they didn't reciprocate your feelings, but you weren't stalking her or harassing her - you were just negotiating all this friend/date nonsense rather badly. I think there's this rhetoric now where we're all "anything that isn't completely cutting contact after you've been turned down for a date is ipso facto terrible, misogynist, pushy behavior", when very often it's just awkward. If it was easy to ask people out and then return to being friends, everyone would ask people out more!

Assuming your account is broadly accurate:

1. You didn't act too great, but you weren't trying to be a jerk
2. She doesn't sound like the world's greatest prize herself, honestly
3. You're focusing on this way too much, which is part of what's making it awkward - you don't intend your conversations to come across all freighted, but they do, probably mostly because you're anxious.

If I were you? Seek out girls (and friends) who don't make you so anxious. So much of this looks to me (as an anxious person myself) like something that is driven by your own discomfort - it's difficult to be blithe and carefree and debonair about romance when you're really anxious.
posted by Frowner at 2:21 PM on April 2, 2014 [26 favorites]

Back off.

Right now, externally, it looks to me like you are being a perfect representation of the stereotypical "nice guy" who gets pissed off about being "friend zoned" and calls the former object of his obsession a "bitch" for not reciprocating those feelings. I find this kind of amazing, because I honestly didn't think that the "asshole nice guy" was actually a person that exists, and yet here you are.

Now, I'm willing to believe you when you say that you really did value her friendship (even without romantic ties), and you're not really the creep that you are acting like, but creepy is a creepy does.

So, you friendship is dead for now. It might be resurrectable, but that can only come from her (because she is the one who killed it). From your description of this girl, she doesn't exactly sound like the best person in the world either -- I wouldn't mourn this so hard. The good news is that you don't have too much time left before you can go no-contact with her, in the meantime, be polite, don't speak to her unless she speaks to you, and whatever you do, DO NOT discuss her with your mutual friends.

This is a friendship that went pear-shaped. It happens. What makes it creepy is when people can't/won't move on from that in an adult type of fashion.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:23 PM on April 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Should she have just told me honestly that I was burdening her or acting inappropriately? She could even have asked me to just stay away.

Um, she did all of those things. Multiple times. You chose to ignore it.

started avoiding me
she was as distant as ever
she said 'I think you should go by yourself'
She said 'Don't talk to me. Really. Just don't talk to me.'
She told me that she thought it best we not speak again.

Yet you kept talking to her, messaging her, texting her. How much clearer could she be?

To me, it looks like you have completely ignored and disrespected her wishes at every turn and somehow think she owes you "closure." She doesn't. Let it go.
posted by erst at 2:23 PM on April 2, 2014 [45 favorites]

Mod note: Heya, Henners91, one thing about Ask Metafilter is it's not really intended as an ongoing-conversation sort of thing. You need to go ahead and lay off a bit on the running responses in here; it's fine to post one or to significant clarifications over the course of a thread, but mostly this needs to be 1. you ask the question and then 2. folks answer, not a constant dialogue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2014

Response by poster: To clarify: After she told me I'd made things awkward I didn't text her again. Nor did I approach her in class. Our only interactions were on two outings with the rest of the group; the latter of which ended with the 'bitch' incident.


I find your interrogation point fair. Christ, I hadn't considered the prospect that I may well just expect to sit her down, 'listen' to her side and then invariably find it's full of what I view as fallacies and correct her perceptions to match my own.

Hell I've envisaged apologising for burdening her, explaining that I put her on a pedestal and projected myself onto her.

I should explain that last point: In the time we spent together she confided a few things in me, about her past relationships, some troubled elements of her family background. And that's when I warmed to her I think. I saw that vulnerability and projected myself onto it - assumed she was similarly afflicted like myself.

It matches a pattern, really, my longest relationship was with a bi-polar sufferer and that appealed because it led to a state of absolute mutual dependence. It was very unhealthy, though at the time I perceived myself as some kind of White Knight.

Edit: Sorry Cortex. I'll refrain from responding. But I'll keep reading.
posted by Henners91 at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I should add here that I've a problem with anxiety - I've seen therapists in the past though I've never stuck through with treatment, as bad a reflection on my character as that is.

Why don't you stick with treatment? What could be different so that you would stick with treatment?

When I was younger, unhappy and awkward (and, I think, sometimes made people uncomfortable although my friends were really pretty good about it) I actually took, basically, a Total Holiday From Friendships for a few months. I was working abroad, so it was easier, but I pretty much focused on getting really comfortable spending time by myself - I did a lot of biking, went a lot of places myself, got into some hobbies....It changed me enormously for the better, because I came to see that if I was anxious about a social situation, I could just leave and my life wouldn't be a crashing tragedy. Just knowing that allowed me to feel more secure in social situations, and when I felt more secure, I wasn't such a stressfest to be around.

Also, what is driving your anxiety? Think about whatever that is, and see if you can work on it outside of therapy.

Also, I found really long, medium-speed bike rides enormous mood-boosters. Meditative exercise is really, really good for anxiety.
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I get the sense that things started to slip once she figured out that you had romantic feelings for her. She was probably uncomfortable with the friendship starting back then. Awkwardness led to tension, tension led to frustration, frustration led to aggression. You may want to look back over the timeline of events and try to pinpoint times you could have done something different to de-escalate this process. But the damage is done, and it can't be fixed. Don't contact her again and don't expect closure. Closure doesn't really exist in the real world anyway.

Developing feelings for a friend is always risky. If both of you are on the same page and it lasts, it's awesome. If it's one-sided, there's a huge chance that's the beginning of the end. The only thing you can do is increase the distance. You can't go back to being platonic friends unless your feelings are honestly, entirely platonic.

And, please, work on your self-esteem. You fucked this one up, but that doesn't make you a fuck-up. You're not doomed to repeat this pattern as long as you learn from it. Get back into therapy and stick with it this time. Examine the good things you have to offer other people, how you relate to people and how your actions may make them feel, what a healthy relationship looks like to you, etc.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:27 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

She doesn't owe you closure. Whatever you've been pursuing doesn't matter because WHO you've been pursuing hasn't changed and it all vaguely looks the same to her. Leave her alone.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:29 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Please stop calling women bitches, and disengage with any friends who do so.

It's profoundly disrespectful and will not lead to productive friendships or relationships with women. It's indicative of a larger problem of assuming that women do not have the right to feel whatever they're feeling, or that you know better than them. You do not.

Go back into therapy to deal with your anxiety, self-respect and how you relate to others. This is about more than this particular woman.
posted by barnone at 2:31 PM on April 2, 2014 [23 favorites]

Leave her alone.

She doesn't owe you closure, explanations, a post-mortem analysis of your failed friendship, or anything, really. You were casual friends for a short period, you indicated that you wanted more and she didn't. For whatever reason, she elected to pull back and you continued to feel entitled to her attention and time even after she asked you to leave her alone. That's hardly respectful or decent of you and your behavior certainly doesn't reach the threshold of being a friend.

And, if you told all of your friends something similar to what you wrote here and they unanimously called her a bitch and put the blame on her, you should consider cultivating some new friends who can give you better advice. Your behavior went over the line over and over and a good friend with some emotional maturity could have helped you see that.

Channel the frustration you're feeling into therapy and self-examination.
posted by quince at 2:33 PM on April 2, 2014 [13 favorites]

It sounds like you wanted her to help manage your anxiety and discomfort, and my guess is that this is really what made her want to pull away. Even when your anxiety is caused by an interaction with a specific person, involving that person in your process of resolving the anxiety can be inappropriate and toxic. Honestly addressing issues is great, but at some point, that can shade into you forcing someone into a role that doesn't fit their relationship with you. It's not anyone else's job to reassure you or help you manage your feelings or satisfy your need for closure. When you're having trouble dealing with your feelings and worries, you need to find a better way to cope, such as therapy or talking to friends who aren't the focus of those feelings.

It seems like you're still trying to work through this so that you can reframe it in a way that resolves the anxiety you feel. That's a signal to me that the right therapist can be helpful to you.
posted by prefpara at 2:41 PM on April 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

Q: when is it okay to call someone 'bitch'?
A: Never.

Q: What about if I'm talking with friends and they aren't there?
A: Refer to original answer - still not okay.

Q: Well what about the rest?
A: Crosses the border into invasive behavior.

Q: How's my lens on things?
A: You look for relationships more than you realize. If you start to feel something for someone and it doesn't go somewhere - you looked for that relationship. It might actually make it easier on you if you actively look for someone to date rather than pursue someone in this manner. You might benefit with being upfront with yourself.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:42 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Anyway, as soon as I decided, clearly, that I was interested in her I decided to get it off my chest. I'm still wondering if this was a selfish decision"

Yes, it was. The next time you are tempted to get something off your chest in a situation like this, please restrain yourself. It is very presumptuous to unburden yourself of such sentiments at the expense of anyone not your therapist. I think you were either misreading or ignoring the cues this girl was giving.

Even if you were not aware of it, judging by your behavior, you actually did attempt to make your feelings her problem. She quite rightly reacted by rejecting that maneuver and sensibly chose to distance herself from you. Your behavior was probably perceived as immature, demanding and, insofar as the name calling, abusive--even if you didn't mean it to be. You can't unsay 'bitch'. The real trouble comes from the fact that you seem to have given a whole lot more weight to what you wanted than to any of the cues you got about what she wanted. That is the very definition of self centered and it doesn't make for good relationships.

Consider there might be a good bit of wisdom for you in simply not expressing yourself so freely. This is very hard to learn because we are taught that we have to be in touch with our feelings and let other people know where we are coming from, etc., but on the other hand, we have to select the right person and the right time for these deep conversations; we can't just jump in unilaterally and command someone's attention--if we don't learn this, we wind up in pain and alone a great deal of the time, not knowing what went wrong. I think you are young and I am being very blunt because I know you can do better and be happier and I want you to have people in your life with whom you have developed loving relationships.

In future, when you have this question about whether to say something, you might write it down and give it to your therapist to discuss--or just trash the file--either would be better than dumping on and trashing your budding friendships. Forgive yourself, learn from this and move on. We all have a few lessons we have to learn along the way. You can do better next time.
posted by Anitanola at 2:45 PM on April 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think you're both wrong.

Not to be a giant, terrible, rule-sy cliche, but this is basically why most of my friends are straight women and gay men.

Anyway, you're bad for each other. Just move on and don't think about it. Stay busy.
posted by quincunx at 2:47 PM on April 2, 2014

Stop pouring gas on this fire OP. You are not entitled to anyone's time or affections.

Call me paranoid, but I can't help but think it might relate to this episode.

You're not being paranoid. That blog entry is definitely about you and you should pay close attention to what is written.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:53 PM on April 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

I think the whole problem is that you are very eager to make friendships and I think you guys were just never as close of friends as you seem to think you were. You placed far more importance on the friendship than she did and invested (emotionally) more heavily as well. So to you, you guys were friends, but to her, you were simply a class acquaintance.

Ergo, she reacted dispassionately to you and your gestures because you simply weren't close enough of friends for her to forgive them. Her behavior towards you strikes me as the kind of reaction a stranger at a bar would get - not a friend. This is more apparent when you referred to her with a slur - were you friends, she would've probably laughed it off (or called you one right back as my friends tend to do to one another) - but you weren't friends, so it came across as rude and inappropriate.

I think, were you indeed friends, she would've responded with more kindness and an effort to keep the relationship alive. But you've gave no indication at all that she was ever trying to participate in this one-sided friendship. So I think you're correct in that the poem was because of you and meant for you to see. And the message I see in that poem is her telling you that she doesn't owe you (or any other man) a friendship just because you fancied her.

She's made it abundantly clear she just isn't into you - friendship or otherwise - never really was. However, I don't think you're entirely to blame here. Her actions reek of passive aggressiveness. Based on your previous question about her, you should've listened to your gut - immature and self-centered seem pretty spot on.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:59 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think when you called her a bitch, you were accurate. Granted, you could be leaving things out, but from what you said, she sounds like a generally unpleasant person. She is clearly extremely self-centered and does expect people to read her mind. She also is passive aggressive and doesn't sound like she deals effectively with her own emotions. I'm sure you could have handled things better, but I think this is pretty much all on her. You didn't do anything wrong, she reacted badly and unfairly, and seems to be projecting on you. I think you're better off without someone like this as your "friend."
posted by catatethebird at 3:03 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

And.... remove the word "bitch" completely from your vocabulary!
posted by drhydro at 3:04 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I met a girl on a postgraduate course I'm attending and at first I viewed her platonically. But after we hung about alone a few times my feelings changed. She picked up on it and started avoiding me.

Anyway, as soon as I decided, clearly, that I was interested in her I decided to get it off my chest.

She started avoiding you and somehow you still thought it would be a good idea for you to confess your feelings?

That makes me think the bitch comment wasn't nearly do innocent as you say. Objectification isn't just ogling boobs, it is also treating someone as if their feelings are less important than your own.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2014 [53 favorites]

Also, I think some people here have been too harsh. Yes, you should leave her alone - now that she has made it clear she doesn't want to be friends. But she initially explicitly said she did want to be, so you did nothing wrong by continuing to approach her. She was condescending and rude, which was clearly a signal that she wasn't into it, but it is also contrary to what she actually said, and very immature behavior.
posted by catatethebird at 3:10 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

The friendship is so, irrecoverably, over.



For good.

No rewind. No start again. No more apologies.

This bridge is burnt. Then napalmed. Then nuked. Then nuked again from high orbit. By both of you, in opposing satellites.

Stop monitoring your email, communications, her blog, her social media, and counting the days or hours since last contact. Leave her alone. Do other things - meet other people - to have other people to think about.

At some point, read the responses in this thread. Don't gloss over them. Learn from this so you don't repeat the mistakes. Learn to let go. Learn to move on. Learn to not say "Bitch" again.

There are people out there you are more compatible with, and don't have a sour and irreversible history with. Spend time on them. Not the smoking, pointless, remnants of this bridge.
posted by Wordshore at 3:12 PM on April 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Look, Henners91. I'm going to back up from the specific situation that you're in the throes of, and make a more general comment on the type of situation it is more broadly. Obviously calling her a bitch wasn't good, and there are various other ways that you acted (and that she acted) that helped contribute to the mess that you now find yourself in. But even had you not made these mistakes - there is no guarantee that your friendship could have survived you asking her out, and in my view, it's likely that it wouldn't. I have been involved in similar situations perhaps 10 times - where I have been in a straight male -- straight female friendship and one person has developed romantic/sexual feelings and has asked the other out. In every single case, the friendship has dramatically changed once those sentiments were verbalized. In every single case, there has been at least some awkwardness for a while, although I always felt that I did my best to be warm but maintain distinct boundaries in such cases. In some cases, the friendships recovered, but it took time for us to find secure and comfortable footing again (almost like becoming friends with an ex, although obviously without the prior dating). In other cases, the friendships died - either through immediate awkwardness or through a gradual fade or through sudden weirdness months down the line when the friend whom I had romantically rejected got a girlfriend and there was a sudden flare-up of awkwardness and smug hostility after we had been in a good place for months.

Others above are commenting about your specific behavior, and I think that meditating on what exactly you could do better next time is helpful and important. That said, you need to be aware that this genre of situation is fairly fraught in general, and there is no guarantee that your friendship with someone will endure after one or the other of you develops a romantic attachment, even if you do everything right. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, someone either doesn't like you, doesn't like the dynamic that you two have, or doesn't like the feelings that you conjure up in them. Sometimes people don't deal well with awkwardness, or they have trouble shifting gears in a friendship, or they can't move past feelings of hurt, jealousy, desire, or whatever. You can't control other people's reactions towards you or their feelings about you. It's okay if someone doesn't like you. Life moves forward. Sometimes you just need to be able to acknowledge to yourself someone's dislike of you or preferred distance in your relationship, to realize that you don't have ownership over their feelings and that their feelings are not your problem to solve, and then to move on.
posted by ClaireBear at 3:17 PM on April 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

What to learn from this? Less is more.
posted by janey47 at 3:17 PM on April 2, 2014

Here is where I think things went really wrong:

I met a girl on a postgraduate course I'm attending and at first I viewed her platonically. But after we hung about alone a few times my feelings changed. She picked up on it and started avoiding me.

Anyway, as soon as I decided, clearly, that I was interested in her I decided to get it off my chest.

I don't know what underlies that but it sounds like you already knew that she already knew that you had feelings and she was rejecting you -- subtly, circumspectly, without drama. The phrasing "get it off your chest" suggests to me that you fully expected to be rejected -- you were venting, not feeling out if this could go somewhere.

The negotiation for turning a platonic relationship into a romantic one tends to be subtle. You have to read those subtle indicators and take them into account. Yes, you do have to take a chance at some point but I think you fully knew that she did not feel the same way, would not reciprocate, etc. So I don't think you really expected to divulge your feelings and find that she was open to pursuing a romance.

The rest of your remarks return again and again to how angry things make you and how much you apparently feel entitled to vent that anger at others and take it out on them and basically blame them. I have no idea why you think this woman has some obligation to meet your needs romantically but you seem to think she does.

I don't think you are really as clueless as you paint yourself. I think there is something else going on here. Given how much you talk about being angry in your description, I think therapy might be the answer. Why are you so very angry (at women, presumably)? What makes you think women have some obligation to meet your needs?

Getting your needs met might reduce how angry you are but the way you engage in self sabotage, it is unlikely to get resolved that way. Attacking women in some sense because you don't know how to get your needs met is not healthy and can lead to really bad things if you continue on down that road.

In my youth, I carried huge amounts of anger from bad experiences in childhood, so I am not trying to crap on you here. I am trying to say it sounds like you have some deep wound that is behind these fairly irrational choices in how you frame the issue. I think you need to deal with that before it becomes more septic. It's wonderful when someone else is good to you emotionally, romantically, whatever, but no one owes you that. You need to find a way to get your needs met without trying to bash the door down, so to speak. That's not the way to make this work.
posted by Michele in California at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2014 [20 favorites]

I dislike being flip, but this is a perfect demonstration of the axiom that "Good judgment comes from experience; experience come from bad judgment." Half the men reading this have been you; three-quarters of the women reading this have been her. At your age (I see from your previous AskMe that you are in your early twenties), I absolutely was. The good news: at a year older than you, I met an amazing woman and despite a dizzying early crush on her (which I knew she did not reciprocate), I got past that and she has been my best friend in the world for most of my life now.

Although it is difficult to hear, you have to consider this one a write-off. There is a tiny chance that someday you and she will patch things up. Every bit of contact you make with her only nudges that chance toward zero; to be honest, it sounds like it is not far from that now. Absolutely the best thing you can do for everyone is to put it all behind you.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:22 PM on April 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

From your account , it does not seem that you are at each other's throats. It sounds like you are chasing her relentlessly and she wants to limit interaction to setting boundaries where you are polite during the interactions required by your shared program. For instance, not calling her names when you are late for a session and offer excuses instead of an apology.

Back off.

Next time, don't project so much. Next time,
listen. If you don't learn to listen, this will happen again.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:23 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think you're getting a hard time on your 'bitch' comment. If I understand you were trying to go with flippant usage in friendly banter (e.g. 'bitch please' or 'yeah bitch, SCIENCE') as you had before, only she now read that as being... legitimate curse.

Anyway, probably not smart. But it doesn't sound like you said "Shut up bitch." by any measure...

But to rewind back to the start, you can't be friends with a person you have emotional feelings for. Despite this, it's still good you told her, because it's even worse to have an unrequited love-friendship. What you needed to do was ask her out, get rejected, and accept your friendship would henceforth be at best pleasant, but not deep. And that was just how it had to be.

There is no coming back from this. I know you'd like to think if only you put the right words together... But it's just done. She obviously didn't make it easy, and for all we know she also has her own issues. Her blogpost was childish and hurtful.

Just move on. Learn that in life and love we often just need to move on, and when forced to look back be cordial and nice, but keep our heart to ourselves. Wearing your heart on your sleeve sounds romantic, but it's just childish. I've been there bro.

Anyway, sorry to read so many people are making you out to be a criminal. That's due in large part to the contemporary view on relationship dynamics and feminism which is depressingly out of touch with reality. You just were an over-eager young man, with mistakes of your own to learn from. She reacted harshly and probably her shyness and uncomfort simply manifested itself as anger or cruelty.

Next time move on way faster and don't keep her as a friend. There are many women out there.
posted by jjmoney at 3:26 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

You sound like the kind of person I'd be afraid of. Like, I'm not exaggerating, if you behaved like that toward me I would actually be afraid you were going to continue to escalate the situation until you were angry enough to physically attack me.

Whenever somebody turns you down and you call them a slur in response, even "jokingly" (let me call BS on this one, you meant what you said), you have just forfeited all the goodwill that had ever built up between you and the other person. In that moment you told her you were the kind of person who would get angry and possibly violent if she didn't do what you said.

Even after all this, you still sound like you think this woman owes you something and that is extremely disconcerting. You were a massive jerk and now she's avoiding you. I would too.

Leave this poor woman alone and get yourself back in therapy.
posted by zug at 3:42 PM on April 2, 2014 [47 favorites]

I don't think you're being honest with yourself here. Many of your explanations for your behaviors are convoluted and frankly weaksauce. You told her you liked her because you wanted her to like you, not to unburden yourself. You asked her to hang out not because you felt you needed to take better care of the friendship but because you're hung up on her and want to spend time with her. You told her you thought the friendship was slipping not because you were genuinely concerned with that but because you wanted to make her feel bad. You called her a bitch because you were angry she wouldn't spend time with you. You messaged her on facebook not because you wanted to apologize but because you wanted her to feel even worse for her behavior and her rejection of you.

Most importantly, you want "closure" not because you want to patch things up with her but because you want to force another confrontation. Perhaps you figure that negative attention is better than no attention, and this way you can maintain contact with someone you're obsessed with.

Maybe none of this is true--maybe I'm wrong in my interpretation of the events. But I almost guarantee, given her blog post (also: creepy, reposting it here) that this is how she sees it. She rejected someone and he pushed contact and pushed his feelings on her over and over again and tried to make her feel guilty and called her a bitch in front of her friends and then offered a lame-ass apology which was really just him chewing her out over "not being civil." But the way you're acting isn't civil. When someone isn't into you and they keep pushing and pushing, it can feel like an assault. It's not friendly and not sweet. The best thing you can do for her is to leave her alone.

And the best thing you can learn from the situation is that "closure" doesn't come from external sources, but from you, from accepting reality and learning from the experience and doing better, next time.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2014 [85 favorites]

given her blog post (also: creepy, reposting it here) that this is how she sees it.

I would have written almost word for word what PhoBWanKenobi wrote. it's possible though very unlikely that you accidentally slipped into a pattern of behavior that is very well-worn territory for women who have had to deal with men who want to get in their space when they don't want them there and unintentionally mimicked acting like a spurned admirer. Or maybe you were just a spurned admirer who has a hard time admitting to himself that you don't have as good a handle on this as you thought/hoped. I'm sorry about that, it's a bad feeling, but you're coming across as someone who has after-the-fact reasons for things you did that were maybe not-so-cool at best, and harassment at worst.

You may have had good intentions in your mind but your actions, even as described by you your own best supporter, make you sound like you were hassling this woman. Could she have responded better to that? Probably, sure. Is that her responsibility? Not really, no.
posted by jessamyn at 4:18 PM on April 2, 2014 [32 favorites]

I've my own support network - my friends who hear me out and put up with my frankly needy behaviour. But they've unanimously come down against this girl. One told me 'Don't spare her a thought - she's a bitch.' But I've had my own reservations.

Your friends are misogynists or enablers. It's important to hear that, because sometime, you're going to be in a situation with a woman again, and it's important to know that you cannot trust their judgment.

No woman owes you her time or her attention. The instant you sensed she was avoiding you, that should have been your cue to leave. No woman avoids guys they are romantically interested in. You knew she didn't like you, but you wanted to force her to listen to your romantic confession. This all reads like you knew what she wanted, but didn't care, because you thought your wants were more important.

This is not only not the stuff romance is made of, it actively makes you a selfish - and dangerous - person. That doesn't mean you're a bad person. Now that we've told you this, you have the power to change.

But if you go back to the echo chamber, you're deliberately turning away from that change, and turning into the Nice Guy we all hate.
posted by corb at 4:37 PM on April 2, 2014 [38 favorites]

Response by poster: Edit: Whilst I can - ^ You're right. I will admit that I wasn't all too sure about whether I could trust my perceptions (was she really avoiding me or was I just being paranoid like I have been in the past?) but ultimately my only consideration was unloading: Because I felt it'd rid me of this self-loathing and emasculation I felt over being a man who was failing to be assertive in moving for what he wants.

Well I read through all the responses, back to back, again. It's good to hear rational voices on this.

I think the most important revelation for me, because I'd never considered it before, is this clear sense of entitlement that I'm exhibiting. It sounds terrible but I actually just took it for granted that she owes me her time and explanations. There's really no basis for me to claim some implicit ownership over someone else's life.

Additionally it's looking clear that her own feelings were of little concern to me: I propagated this assumption that our disagreements were born of misunderstandings that could be quickly resolves; the implication being that if she heard my side, her concerns would quickly be subordinated to mine or just rendered altogether false. It certainly doesn't speak well of my character.

Regarding therapy: My last round was CBT, which I stopped because of disagreements I had with the therapist - our last one was over the matter of self-esteem. The therapist had drawn a diagram of blue and red dots, representing good and bad traits respectively; he told me that, every time I felt bad about myself I ought remember that for every bad trait I had a good one. I told him that was arbitrary thinking and a concept removed from reality; because it's fairly evident from observation that people are individuals and born with disparate and asymmetrical sets of traits... Yeah it was a pretty anal argument on my part but I hated the notion that I ought be 'treated' by simply committing myself to baseless platitudes. I wanted to address the CAUSE, not the symptoms.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd rather not 'rely on a crutch.' I want to be cured, not to just 'cope'. I also refused medication on a similar basis.

The best therapy I had was my first run, at University. I had six sessions wherein the counsellor actually asked me about my past, etc. She brought out so much anger but It felt like I was actually understanding why I was where I was at the time. Unfortunately I hit my max limit on sessions and wasn't allowed to see her anymore - so it felt like I'd been given this knowledge and no way to combat it!

My getting that therapy was prompted by my first relationship - which marks some similarities to this instance I suppose; we dated, went long-distance and then met back at Uni, she had a job and was often too tired to see me - I pined for her attention, got hissy, confronted her about it and we broke up. We got back together a few weeks later and fostered that unhealthy co-dependence I mentioned earlier...

My anxiety only comes out to crippling levels when I get to feeling intimate with people. In my day-to-day life I'm actually pretty normal, reasonably confident and my inhibitions stem more from introversion than any real problems. I'm probably an over-compensator too - I love attention and usually try to gain it through jokes, pranks and oddball comments.

But when my emotions flare and I get invested in somebody... Lord, my self-esteem disappears and I become a paranoid, self-hating wreck. Usually I'm pretty convinced I'm soon to be abandoned (and such is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy; people aren't too happy to be around a self-absorbed self-pitying sort after all!)

But my family don't believe I have a problem. And other people have argued the same to me. And I myself often doubt if it's a real issue - I have a horrid down period that lasts a few weeks, but then I get over it and life goes on as normal. I write it off as something I'll learn from and then wham it happens again. I'd say there've been about three or four instances where I've had these long pronounced 'downtimes.'

...Anyway, the unnecessary biography aside, I'll read this whole thread again when I'm in a 'normal' frame of mind. And maybe I should look to it when I want to convince myself once again I don't have a problem. Regardless of how correct the posts here are about my behaviour, they at least point to a clear problem. Hell I think you can tell that much from my own lips.

Thanks for the responses, guys. They're appreciated, really. I try my best to be introspective.

I'll leave her alone. I mean it. I will. I can handle a week and two days easy - then we'll be out one another's lives. I'll try seize on this as a learning experience.

For me, the jury's still out on whether or not she was necessarily a saint through all of this, but maybe it'll help me a bit better to cope with the 'loss' to assume that I may well have placed her on a pedestal.

But, and I say this with all sincerity, I really did enjoy the time we spent together platonically - it was only about a month, but I gave her the best tours around London (she was new to the city) I could and we had some nice laughs. She also introduced me to M&Ms.

Anyway - hopefully that's the last I have to say on this matter. I don't want to spam.
posted by Henners91 at 4:45 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

You seem to think if you can just explain yourself more clearly and honestly, just get her to understand your motivations, you will get the response from her that you desire -- a romantic relationship, a restored platonic friendship -- but that's not the problem here. She can understand you and still not want the same outcome.

Your question totally stressed me out because, even though I'm 12 years married, it viscerally threw me back to being in college and having guys -- perfectly nice guys, usually shy and awkward -- who I became friends with, who got a crush on me largely because I was being nice to them, who began using our time together as friends and in class to try to steer us towards being in a relationship. Some of them outright confessed, others didn't, but they all just KEPT COMING BACK after being tacitly or explicitly told I did not want to date them. They all took advantage of my unwillingness to be unpleasant to someone's face, especially in public (culturally, people where I'm from don't EVER say "No, I don't want to hang out with you" -- you're supposed to pick it up from context -- and you'd never humiliate someone socially in public), to keep spending time with me. They knew that I'd be forced to at least smile at their jokes and answer their pleasantries. And sometimes I dealt with that by getting kinda passive-aggressive and snippy because, guess what? I was also socially awkward and trying to figure out the world. It became this incredibly stressful game of cat-and-mouse where I never knew where they'd pop up and expect me to be polite. So what's her problem? THAT'S HER PROBLEM. Your behavior is a pattern that she has probably experienced before and it is seriously the worst kind of social stress. I'd rather shout at a creep in a bar not to grope me, because at least that's over in 30 seconds, than try to fend off a "nice guy" following me around campus for MONTHS AND MONTHS AND MONTHS. And I know that these guys were generally genuinely nice guys who were just trying to figure things out too, but that doesn't mean I resent them less for how absolutely awful and miserable they made me feel.

Also, you sound like a kind-of a drama queen. Just drop things! You don't have to keep going back and back and back for the big emotional denouement! I understand you suffer from anxiety, but you gotta learn -- maybe in therapy, maybe through life -- to be a little more low maintenance emotionally with people who are friends or new romantic partners. Save the heavy lifting for family and long-term partners.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:47 PM on April 2, 2014 [48 favorites]

Henners91: "It certainly doesn't speak well of my character.

It's not about your character! It's about learning to be an adult in the world, one who doesn't suck. It's only about your character if you resolutely refuse to learn from your experiences.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd rather not 'rely on a crutch.' I want to be cured, not to just 'cope'. I also refused medication on a similar basis."

There is no "curing" anxiety, just coping with it. Happy, healthy people get anxious all the time; they have tools and strategies and thought patterns to cope with it. The coping IS the cure! It's crutches all the way down.

(On the bright side, sometimes those of us with abnormal levels of anxiety get REALLY GOOD at dealing with anxiety because we have to practice so much and confront it so explicitly and "name and tame" the emotion, while people who don't suffer from crippling anxiety fall completely apart when in a really stressful situation where their anxiety overwhelms. "OMG I'm so stressed with this project I might puke." "Yeah, me too, but I feel like this all the time, the only way out is through.")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:54 PM on April 2, 2014 [24 favorites]

Your analysis of this situation is so wrong, on so many levels. People have given you a really good description of why you're in the wrong, in general. But what strikes me in your writing is that you focus on the minutia of your own experience, rather than the big picture and/or others' experiences. So I'll break it down for you with just the first three incidents you mentioned. I want to lay out not just about what you did wrong, but what you should have done instead:

Step 1: After we hung about alone a few times my feelings changed. She picked up on it and started avoiding me.
What you should have done: You received the signals she was sending - awesome. Now you pull back on the flirty [creepy] signals you're putting out there towards her. Don't ask her to do things, wait for her to ask you. Don't touch her. Drop the "flirty" banter. Communicate politely and professionally in study groups.
What would probably have happened: She sees that you can pick up on and respect her social cues. She likely feels comfortable having a friendship with you. She might even become closer friends with you. Awesome.
What you did instead: As soon as I decided, clearly, that I was interested in her I decided to get it off my chest....I didn't want to 'suffer in silence.'
Why this was a mistake: You made this decision based on your own desires, interests and feelings, with seemingly no thought to her feelings or motivations. You already knew she wasn't into you, but you decided to unload on her anyway. This suggests that you wanted to pressure her into dating you. Maybe that wasn't your conscious motivation...but to act otherwise suggests that you either wanted to pressure her, or you just really like getting shot down?

Step 2: She said she was flattered but didn't feel the same way... I reacted by unloading on her emotionally a tad - I said I asked because I didn't want to suffer.
What you should have done: As soon as she said she didn't feel the same way "cool, I totally understand, I hope we can still be friends." That's it, nothing else, no over-explaining or unburdening. Beat a hasty retreat.
What would probably have happened: She'd likely be open to being friends with you, if you could show that you respected her decision, could treat her in a friendly [not creepy] way, gave her space and could generally behave like an adult.
What you did instead: Unloaded on her emotionally "a tad." Ugh. Why would you do that? What's to be gained for her or you? Really examine the motivation of your reasoning here. As others have suggested, I really think you (on some deep, dark level) have this sense of being owed something from her - that you deserve a hearing, reciprocation, commiseration, something. She is a random person you know from school. She owes you nothing. Anything you say to her is just evidence of why she shouldn't like you.

Step 3: the thought got into my head that I was letting the friendship slip - she might be looking to me to be proactive in maintaining it. So I asked her if she wanted to meet up - she said she wasn't available that day... so I tried an alternative date and she said 'I think you should go by yourself'. I asked if things were just too awkward for her and her response was 'No, but you've just made it awkward.'
What you should have done vs. what you did instead: You shouldn't have asked her to hang out with you individually. Asking someone you've already expressed romantic interest in to hang out individually will be perceived as asking her out again. After she told you no you asked her about a second date - again not respecting her answer. Even after her second response, you didn't respect her answer. You are badgering her, and your behavior at this point is well beyond creepy. If it were me, this is around the point I'd start telling all my friends that you are a creepy dude to be avoided at all costs.

I won't even discuss the incident in which you called her by a derogatory name in front of a group of people. I really hope you understand how royally you fucked up long before (and during) that incident.

A few final thoughts:
-Surround yourself with better friends. People who dismiss women as "bitches" are losers. They'll only reinforce the issues you already have.
-Please take a class that deals with gender/feminism/related issues. I think it would help you to gain some big-picture perspective.
-Read up on the myth of the "nice guy," and "friend zone" and start re-thinking your assumptions
-Do get that anxiety treated - it will help with this, and with life.
posted by leitmotif at 5:00 PM on April 2, 2014 [36 favorites]

A few quotes from your previous question about this woman:

This girl, for all her merits, struck me at first impressions as pretty immature and self-centered: She had a tendency to talk about men who'd flirted with her on the Tube that day, or dates people had asked her on... it felt like she was trying to prove herself (my poor self-esteem alarm was going off)...... But, despite a lot of touching on my part (and I mean the platonic friendly kind), namely taking her shoulder when I was making a point or something, we didn't do anything outside of what friends normally do.....she started telling me about a guy she liked back in America and asked for my advice, etc. (friend zone signs!) But over the time we spent together, I saw that she wasn't as immature as I thought - she's actually pretty deep, confident and intelligent.

Anyway - I keep trying to make plans with her but she's suddenly no longer available. I'd hoped just to get her alone again and say something along the lines of 'You know, I'd like to take you on a proper date.'

You read her as being immature and self-centered because she was talking about other guys. You were platonically touching her. She was asking for your advice about another guy. She was suddenly not available when you "kept trying" to make plans with you. Not only was this friendship doomed before you asked her out, she was trying to tell you without embarrassing you that she was not interested in you romantically, and then, towards the end -of your previous question, no less - that she didn't really want to be friends anymore, either.

Here's the thing: it's a big cultural drive that women should be some variation of nice: demure, sweet, in your words...civil. When women are direct and upfront, we get accused of all kinds of things (some variation of a gendered insult is most common) or as someone else said in this thread, out of touch with reality; when women try to be nice, we get accused of being passive-aggressive or leading guys on or friend-zoning them. There's no good win there. This woman doesn't sound passive-aggressive or immature, she sounds like someone who has been taught to be nice and yet that method isn't working, so she's trying other methods out. Her reaction to you calling her a bitch sounds like someone actually physically worried about her own safety. She may have be friendly toward you because that's what you want, but found it didn't work; she may condescend to you to remind you that she is her own person who doesn't owe you anything. After you called her a bitch, she posted a blog post that intentionally said back off. That's not passive aggressive, that's someone who doesn't want to get into a direct confrontation with you, but isn't directly naming you on it...because she's still trying to be nice!

I call bullshit on this idea that you are trying to learn from this experience. She's sent you a thousand signals she wasn't interested, and you read them loud and clear (and not only read them, but pronounced them as immature) and still kept on pushing. Could she have been more direct? Sure, but maybe it's her first time dealing with a situation like this. Maybe she's having a hard time overcomingthat ingrained "being nice" act. It was fine to ask her for a date, but you yourself said she probably had lost interest in you, so you should have been prepared for a negative answer, and you should have been prepared to lose her friendship.

It sounds like what you are really after here is for people to say that she's the fool for not going out with you, that it's her loss, her fault...because why not go out with you? And you're looking for the right argument from a bunch of smart internet strangers to give to her. This statement of yours was really telling: Christ, I hadn't considered the prospect that I may well just expect to sit her down, 'listen' to her side and then invariably find it's full of what I view as fallacies and correct her perceptions to match my own.

Obviously, you're not getting that argument here; people are telling you to back off, for good reason. I agree completely with Zug here: if I were in this woman's shoes, I would be afraid to be alone with you. That's her perception of you at this point. You're not going to change it. Life isn't a romantic movie where persistence pays off and you win the girl in the end. The reality is that continually being pushy, even for friendship, comes off creepy and scary.

There's some people in this thread commenting that some of the reactions here are a little harsh. No. Those are the reactions of people who've had to deal with some guy who just coming back no matter what that person did to the point where they feared for their safety. Where they're caught in a cross-fire of not-wanting-to-hurt-the-guy's-feelings with why-am-I-concerned-with-his-feelings-when-clearly-he-isn't-that-concerned-with-my-own. That's reality. It isn't sweet, it isn't persistent, and it isn't romantic. It can be quite scary, and it doesn't matter how innocent the guy is, his behavior created that situation. And sometimes....a lot of times, even....those guys used some kind of excuse to rationalize their behavior, like anxiety. Are you? Only you know, but you need to consider that.

You yourself said "I don't think that should deter me from making a move (I'd rather end a budding new friendship than suffer from not speaking my feelings." You want a lesson? In the future, if you care about someone, let them feel what they feel. You have no control over other people's actions. You are not entitled to anything, whether it be love or friendship. When you tell a woman how you feel, and she doesn't reciprocate, don't expect to change her mind. Be more aware of your behavior and listen to what she may be directly or indirectly telling you. And be prepared to lose friendships if that's the situation you're in.

On preview: Or what Eyebrows McGee & Leitmotif said, only better. So I'll just slide this out there to support their comments.
posted by barchan at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2014 [98 favorites]

@barchan completely and absolutely nailed it.
posted by leitmotif at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd rather not 'rely on a crutch.' I want to be cured, not to just 'cope'. I also refused medication on a similar basis."

This is like going to the hairdresser and saying you want your black hair to be blonde, and then storming out in a rage when they only offer hair dye or wigs, demanding that is grow in blonde.

You have anxiety. You need to learn how to cope with it. There is no "cure" in the sense that one day you will wake up without anxiety. Refusing to learn how to cope with it strikes me as another symptom, honestly. The anxiety that you will live the rest of your life "coping" makes you run off instead of learning those skills.
posted by Dynex at 5:18 PM on April 2, 2014 [22 favorites]

Even here - while this may be a little meta - above, cortex, the mod, told you very clearly: "You need to go ahead and lay off a bit on the running responses in here". You responded with "Sorry Cortex. I'll refrain from responding" - and then, tellingly, you responded again. And you responded again with "Whilst I can" - suggesting that you know your behavior is inappropriate, but you're doing it anyway, because your desire to get just a few more statements out overrides the stated rules of the community.

I think you would be happier overall if you went back to therapy and worked on this. It appears to be an ongoing problem not confined to your romantic life.
posted by corb at 5:19 PM on April 2, 2014 [85 favorites]

So initially you said "But in my defence, I was both emotional and *honestly* trying to return to a platonic friendship." Then someone called you out on it upthread ("Really, please, stop trying to defend yourself because that's only going to make it worse. It didn't end well, okay?"), and you replied, "Honestly I'm not trying to defend myself, not consciously at least."

Now come on—this isn't even a matter of interpretation. I'm sorry to sound accusatory, but you're saying one thing and later claiming it means another thing. And that seems to be the case with a lot of what happened here. Like right above this, you said you were going to stop commenting in this thread, and you did for two hours—but then you came back with an even longer comment. It seems like you're capable of controlling yourself, but you refuse to, and you're right, that's not reflecting well on you.

Anyway, as soon as I decided, clearly, that I was interested in her I decided to get it off my chest. I'm still wondering if this was a selfish decision

Yes. This was all about your feelings and what you wanted—right down to the fact that you use the word "I" or otherwise refer to yourself no less than five times in those two sentences. You need to rethink what it means to you to to be in a friendship or relationship with someone—it's not about finding someone who "fills the hole in your soul" or just fits your needs. What did you even offer her besides your company? You weren't even really listening to her or what she wanted. This advice is given so often that it may sound like a cliché, but it's true: You need to get to a place where you can confidently stand on your own, without needing to be with someone to feel OK about yourself, and can approach others with thoughts of what you can offer them, not the other way around. That's when you'll really start being attractive to people with whom you can have a healthy relationship.

It certainly doesn't speak well of my character.

You keep talking about this notion of your character being bad, as if it's something innate, beyond your control and unchangeable. Get rid of that. Yes, people have inborn tendencies, but we are all far more than the sum of our inborn tendencies. You have the capability to learn to be better than this, and to do otherwise is to duck some of your responsibility as a human being. Now, there are lots of damn fool irresponsible people out there in this world, but hell if I'd want to hang out with them, much less be in a relationship with them. Fix yourself before trying to dissect and fix someone else.

I wanted to address the CAUSE, not the symptoms... I want to be cured, not to just 'cope'. I also refused medication on a similar basis.

Psychiatrists and therapists don't always know the cause of certain symptoms and behaviors, especially when you won't work with them long enough to help them understand you. We're not yet at the point where they can just slide you into an MRI machine and find out everything that's wrong with your brain and way of thinking. And part of that is because "wrong" is a value judgment—maybe I'm incorrect in assuming this, but I don't think you're going to come across a lot of therapists who are willing to immediately start judging you and labeling you without working with you for a while.

Beyond that, cognitive-behavioral therapy is all about changing your thought patterns and behaviors, not necessarily modifying the underlying structure of your brain (inasmuch as the brain and learning are, on a microscopic level, physical). I understand completely not wanting to be medicated—and medication wouldn't necessarily be a "cure" anyway. But that's because in psychiatry and psychology, you're not often going to see people speaking of "cures," either. If you have a mental illness, you can work to modify your thought patterns and behavior, you can take drugs, or you can even in some extreme cases get surgery—but there aren't really cures that involve no drugs, no therapy, and no surgery. (And not that I'm saying you need brain surgery, by the way—that just happens to be one of the tools available to those seeking to modify the brain.)

If you don't want to be medicated, you probably need to find a therapist you can work with. And part of doing that, as in building any relationship, is being willing to accept influence and not just spar and argue with the person who's trying to help you think about things in a different way. You need someone who's going to talk you through the thought process and help you correct maladaptive patterns of thinking—and yeah, some of that will of necessity involve you being willing to suspend disbelief for a while regarding the "arbitrary" nature of the exercise or framework they're using.

You read her as being immature and self-centered because she was talking about other guys. You were platonically touching her. She was asking for your advice about another guy. She was suddenly not available when you "kept trying" to make plans with you. Not only was this friendship doomed before you asked her out, she was trying to tell you without embarrassing you that she was not interested in you romantically, and then, towards the end -of your previous question, no less - that she didn't really want to be friends anymore, either.

On reading this comment, I noticed something else, too. Throughout this entire interaction with her, it seems you were in your own head, thinking "Is she good enough for me?" It sounds as if she spent the entire interaction talking about other guys in an attempt to put you off of that sort of idea entirely. It wasn't necessarily about her being superficial and other-focused—it was about her being savvy enough to pick up on what was going on with you and try to head that off in any way possible. It seems like you even picked up on that on some level...but you were so involved in the decision-making process in your own head that you ignored the signals she was almost certainly trying to send you.

Anyway, long story short: I know a guy like you, only he's in his late forties, not his early twenties. He has apparently spent a lifetime blaming his parents, his life circumstances, and his would-be partners for his own shortcomings, has gone in and out of therapy repeatedly, and still behaves the way you are, refusing to take responsibility for the ways he makes people uncomfortable and/or sabotages and all relationships he's in, including professional ones. I tell you this not to discourage you or to say your fate is sealed, but rather to warn you: Do not let yourself become that guy. You're young, and there is hope for you—if you will step up and take responsibility for your actions. The way to do that is not through grand, dramatic gestures toward other people. The way to do that is to get your shit straight. That might involve therapy, it might involve reading self-help books, it might involve meditation—or it might even involve doing something other-focused that takes you out of your own head for a while and gives you some perspective, something you can't game a way to feel good about, like volunteering at an animal shelter or visiting the elderly.

You're human—and that means you almost certainly have the capability to better yourself and improve the way you relate to others.
posted by limeonaire at 5:34 PM on April 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

Impulse control - have you talked to a therapist about that? I think it seems like your anxiety makes you want to do something, to react in some way, to reduce the anxiety, but it is like a bandaid, because it just complicates things in the long run. I really recommend looking into more about impulse control.
posted by heyjude at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

You haven't demonstrated respect for this woman, from your first description of her on. You wanted and want to get into her pants. There was never anything platonic about this 'friendship'.

You didn't respect your therapist, which is one thing. I'd also be annoyed with that exercise, and yes there is variability in providers' quality. But you were disingenuous and passive-aggressive about that too, here in your description ("as bad a reflection on my character as that is") and probably, as others have picked up, in your sessions.

You are not being honest with yourself about these or any of the rationalizations people have identified. Time passing, more experiences like this, will not help you grow unless you agree to being completely truthful with yourself.

And I mean just being honest. Flagellating yourself (whether for an audience of just you or others) amounts to yet more rationalization. It is possible to understand yourself and the reasons for things, while at the same time taking ownership of how you have participated in them. To do this is to create space for the possibility of change.

(Here, by the way, you didn't just 'contribute'. Your lust and anger almost entirely drove events. She told you in as many ways as a typically socialized young woman can to go away, from the beginning.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

My practical advice for you:

1) Leave this girl alone, for real. No one last thing, no closure, no second/third/fourth chance, no nothing, just move on. It is the polite thing to do, and it is also the best thing for you.

2) Recognize that you are pushy and insensitive. Cortex posted telling you to stop threadsitting and the very next post was you doing more of it! I appreciated the comedy--it should be on MeFi gold or something--but this communicated a lot about you.

(The rest of your story matches up with your demonstrated behavior here, btw.)

I don't know how you fix this, but admitting it has to be a place to start. I think all your relationships will suffer if you consistently step on toes whenever it suits you. You will benefit if you learn to stop doing this.

Good luck, I mean this sincerely.
posted by mattu at 7:28 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

You need to immediately stop with all the excuses. You need to shut up and listen. Seriously. Not another word. LISTEN.

You need to realize that you're about one step away from being a stalker.

You are obsessed with her. You are unwilling to listen to either her or us.

You ignored all her attempts to gently let you down. You are ignoring everything we tell you so you can justify your behavior.


This isn't about closure. This is about forcing her to do what you want her to do like she's a living doll and not a human being with her own thoughts and directives.

What you need to do right now:

1. Cut off all contact with her. Leave her alone. Do not contact her again for any reason. Even if you have to be in the same place, do not engage or speak to her.

2. Get back into therapy immediately. Also, stop using sexist slurs. Read The Gift of Fear. If you don't get help, you sound like you're well on your way to becoming one of the men in that book.
posted by i feel possessed at 7:41 PM on April 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

In case it needs to be spelled out, cut off all contact means not stalking her on social media or the internet in addition to real life.

Stop reading her Facebook, her writing blog, anything that has anything to do with her in any way. Delete her phone numbers and email addresses, any bookmarks that relate to her in any way.
posted by i feel possessed at 8:05 PM on April 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I first read this question I thought people were being a little harsh with you, but your actions here have convinced me otherwise - now I think I was being a little naive. You're doing a pretty thorough job of showing us the kind of behavior you also describe using with this woman, especially in your repeated need to get in the last word even after you were asked to stop and even after you said you would.

I'm sure that you have reasons for behaving this way - everyone generally has reasons that make sense to them - but I think it's important that you remind yourself that other people don't owe it to you to listen to or understand those reasons. Outside your own head, why you did something matters far less than the simple fact that you did it. This is one of those things that's kind of a bummer at times, but you need to figure out how to come to terms with the fact that people's boundaries are more important than your need to get them to see things your way.

Work on learning to let things go, even when things don't go the way you'd hoped. Recognize that you can't control how other people act or think, and that trying to do so is only going to make things worse. Focusing your energies on this is going to be a lot more fruitful than trying to badger or force people into seeing things your way. Good luck to you.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:06 PM on April 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

You're not even going to learn to cope with your anxiety, let alone address the causes, if you don't get back into therapy of some sort. Stop making excuses for why it's not your job to deal with it right now/in this way/for [reasons].
posted by rtha at 8:14 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't speak to what having anxiety is like, but I can speak about depression.

Your idea that you don't want to take medication because you want "a cure, not a crutch" is extremely unhelpful to you. Maybe you'll go on medication and take it while you learn to develop other ways of dealing with your anxiety and eventually (with your doctor monitoring the process) discontinue the meds. Maybe you'll go on medication and realize you need to be on it for the rest of your life. Both of these outcomes are perfectly reasonable.

What's not reasonable is to continue trying to tough your way through the anxiety while doing things that cause problems for you and make the people around you uncomfortable, just because you don't want a "crutch".
posted by Lexica at 8:22 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

My guess is she's very, very uncomfortable and feels you have pushed her boundaries far beyond what is tolerable for her. She's not interested in an apology or in understanding your point of view. My other guess is that all of the drama you've enacted here is an attempt to avoid the pain of accepting that she's not that into you and romance is not in the cards.

Unsubscribe from her blog, delete her contact info, join a different study group, sit on the other side of the classroom. If you go to an event and she's there, leave. For your own sake. And for hers.

Cutting off contact with your object of obsession is like detoxing from a drug. Your brain is going to tell you that it's very important you tell her one thing or another or apologize or explain or whatever. Your brain is lying to you. Your brain just wants another hit. Don't give in.

Keep your head down, study, go to therapy. When you catch yourself thinking about her, think about something else. Ask your therapist for help if you have trouble with this.

In future: when you notice that your interactions with someone tend to lead to your feeling paranoid or upset or feeling the need to explain yourself, it may be a good idea to just stop interacting with that person.

Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 8:24 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I like your question and I think you sound thoughtful and well-meaning. You can't know you're doing something wrong until after you found out, and this won't stick with you forever. From your narrative, I think you both made mistakes and didn't behave in the best way you could have. Lessons to learn:

1) Try harder to imagine things from someone else's perspective. For you, it was a relief to tell her your feelings. For her, a budding friendship was transformed and suddenly every interaction was loaded with her power over your emotions.

2) Take responsibility for your own emotions. I think it's possible your insecurity made her feel contempt and resentment towards you. Which made you push harder because you needed her validation even more. Which made her pull back more, etc. She should have cut you off clearly instead of trying to drive you away with cutting little remarks. But she wouldn't have needed to do either if you hadn't been seeking validation from her.

3) Don't make possibly offensive jokes. Very few people are socially deft enough to pull these off and it's just way easier to avoid it all together than risk accidentally offending people.

I wish she had been kinder to you and given you the benefit of the doubt a little more, but I wouldn't be surprised if she's cynical from similar bad experiences in the past. Failing that, I wish she had clearly told you "Sorry but knowing you have feelings for me, I'm no longer comfortable with being friends." Let's wish for her that she learns and grows from this too and emerges a kinder person on the other side.
posted by Gravel at 8:31 PM on April 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was in the same situation she is in, with a guy very much like you, even down to him calling people "bitch" as a joke. The guy, like you, had severe anxiety which led him to act obsessive. I ended up doing everything I could to get rid of him, including changing my phone number. He would not leave me alone. In fact, I attempted to become the most boring person he knew in order to get him off my back.

I have nothing against him, it's just that dealing with him was wearying, and yes, scary. I'm glad you are seeking help here and open to the answers you are getting. Regardless of whether the woman is immature or whatever, you need to deal with your anxiety. This endless, obsessive perseveration and rumination is caused by it. I also recommend that you read the book Attached. It seems like you have a very anxious attachment style, since you say your anxiety is all due to relationship issues. You also should Google "relationship OCD."

Please stay single until you have acquired some self-control over your desire to soothe your anxiety by seeking reassurance from other people. Because that's what you're doing--you were seeking reassurance from her that you guys were still friends, and then from us, with the back-and-forth, detailed ruminating even after cortex moderated your comments. Let it go, man.

And next time, just back off of someone if they decline dates without suggesting an alternate time. If they're interested, they'll let you know. You can continue to be kind, gracious, and friendly to someone after they turn you down, without being overbearing. The best way of maintaining a friendship that has suffered from one-sided feelings is for the people in the friendship to give each other a bit of space for a while but continue to maintain good will toward one another. A bit of space is usually more than just a few days. You can keep seeing such a person at events and be warm and cordial to them. You can invite them to group outings and be social. But don't purposefully hang out one-on-one and don't flirt or act suggestive. Keep texting and Facebook chat to a minimum.

Your friend may not have handled it well in the beginning, which triggered your anxiety. But it's your anxiety, and you must deal with it on your own (preferably with a therapist you can commit to working with). Not only will it get easier each time, dealing with your anxiety and not projecting it onto other people will save you from seeming clingy or crazy. It's totally worth it. By the way, everyone gets anxious over such situations. It's just a matter of degree. And we all mishandle interpersonal situations from time to time, even with the best of intentions. Chill, don't beat yourself up, and curb the urge to overstep boundaries. A good therapist can help, and you need to find one. Like people upthread have said, you don't want to be "That Guy."
posted by xenophile at 9:07 PM on April 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Most people posting here are looking at things from the girl's point of view, and I agree with almost all of it. I think that you've accepted that you've handled this completely wrong.
I want to address how you can deal with your feelings and ideas that got you in this situation.

I have some things in common with you, though they manifest in a different way because I am female.
I've noticed when I like someone and they don't like me back, it's very hard to accept that their feelings are not returned. I feel like I *should* tell them my feelings to get it off my chest, and that if I act in a certain way or if I'm more assertive I can influence how they feel about me. Pop culture tells us over and over again that pursing someone is romantic, and that you *have* to share your feelings even if they are not returned. The geeky girl gets contacts and a new hairdo, and suddenly the handsome guy falls in love. The nerdy guy repeatedly shows his devotion to (and even obsession with!) the popular girl and wins her heart in the end.

I also have a tendency toward impulsive actions when I'm anxious, which has caused me to contact people when I knew they probably wanted to be alone. Negative attention is still attention, the opposite of love is indifference, etc. Reading this AskMe comment when I feel that way helps.

Recently I've decided that this is an issue I want to work on. I've started to read a book called "How to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything"- silly title, but useful because it teaches you how to use logic to calm anxious or depressed emotions. It talks about how thoughts of *must*, *should*, *ought* etc cause anxiety when reality doesn't match with them. I've found it helpful so far. When I feel upset that things didn't go a certain way, I think to myself now that it didn't *have* to go that way, it would have been nice but it's not the be-all-end-all of my life.

Another key point is accepting that we cannot control things outside of us- including other people. If they say No we should accept it. Sometimes people won't say No directly- as the girl in your story did at first, they may give hints and clues in the way they act. Developing your ability to pick up on these signals will help you. Finding other outlets for your time and attention is critical. The funniest thing is that by remaining calm and by respecting boundaries, you'll have a better chance of a relationship with that person in the long term. "If you love someone let them go. If they come back they're yours." If not oh well, who wants to be with someone who had to be coerced to love them.

For more information on what is inappropriate behavior and what being on the receiving end of this behavior feels like for women, I recommend to read "The Gift of Fear". It explains how (in general) pop culture has given men a sense of entitlement over women's reactions to them, and why it is dangerous.

Good luck!
posted by koakuma at 9:24 PM on April 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Sounds like you're in your early 20s? Something I wish I had figured out in my early 20s is ... if you feel a strong need to explain yourself in fine detail (your inner thoughts, your feelings, your background trials and tribulations that led you to say/do something a particular way), you should probably shut your mouth, take your lumps and quit while you're ahead. The hard truth is that your fine inner motivations are orders of magnitude more interesting and important to you than they are to anyone else. Everybody else is too absorbed with their own internal juggling act to care much. People just want you to acknowledge that there was a problem and move on. They don't care about the "why" that led to the problem. They don't want to sit down and hash it out for the "aha!" moment. I used to think that people were interested in understanding, so I would try to share, but now I see that over-explaining just comes across as defensive, pushy and boring. I can see from your question and further multiple clarifications that you are a fellow explainer. :-)

Cutting down on "explaining" probably would have solved a lot of trouble between you and her from the beginning.

- You recognized she was trying to avoid you but you wanted to "explain" your feelings. "I reacted by unloading on her emotionally a tad"
- The friendship cooled and you wanted to "explain" that you felt the friendship was slipping.
- You were behind in the study group and you "explained" by saying you had to answer emails, and then when she suggested you should have done them a different time you further explained by saying "Bitch, it's the weekend!" Instead of defending why you were behind in the group, maybe you just should have either 1) put aside the emails for later or 2) said "sorry all, gotta do this really quick, let me step out".
- Then you needed to explain the bitch comment. She rejected your explanation and that made you angry.
- You felt the need to contact her for more explaining of the comment. She suggested no contact. You agreed. She also said your apology was bad (because you were trying to explain yourself too much. "Explaining" apologies are poor quality apologies.).
- You got angry and explained to her why you were angry. She shut down your explaining. You cut contact.
- Then you texted her with more explaining.

And you comment: "I don't think she approaches problems constructively - if I had my way, we'd sit down and just discuss how we both feel and what actions the other has taken to make us feel that way: Try to reach an understanding. " Basically, you want to explain more. You feel the explaining is unfinished. You feel owed a chance for more explaining.

Look, she just doesn't give a shit about the whys on your end. She doesn't want to hear you explaining your actions. She wants to move on. It's very simple on her end. A guy liked her and she didn't like him back. That's it. This should have been a minor blip in both your lives.

There are three things you should probably take away from this incident:

1. If you feel the urge to explain yourself, stop and consider if it really needs to be said. Will it change the raw outcome? If not, maybe you're better off swallowing the explanation and humbling yourself a little. Just cut to the chase. "I'm sorry." "I understand." Keep it simple.

2. People are who they are. Sometimes they do not treat you how you think they should. They break agreements. They change their minds. They give slights. Not everyone will subscribe to the same standards of courteous behavior that you follow. Your chances of arguing a jerk into treating you fairly are approximately zero. When someone shows you they are a jerk, just accept it and save your energy for better people and things. You will not convert them. You will not get satisfaction. It does not matter if they think YOU are the jerk. Who cares what they think, anyway? Move along.

3. Do not throw around the term "bitch" anymore.

Don't let yourself dwell too much on your missteps here. This is a minor social bobble - and lots of people have done the same thing. You have a chance to learn good lessons from it, become a better adult, and move on. Better to make this mistake early and get it over with! You will do better in the future. (Leave this girl completely alone.)
posted by griselda at 12:12 AM on April 3, 2014 [30 favorites]

Here's what you should do now:

Stay away. Don't contact her in any way; just leave her alone.

Don't tell her you are leaving her alone. It's not leaving someone alone if you contact her to tell her so. Show her, by doing it.

You will not receive any rewards for this, at least not from her. No cookie is forthcoming.
You should do it anyway, knowing that this is the best thing you can do and any other action would make things worse. This should be your cookie.

You will not get what you see as closure. There is nothing to close. Everything is as clear as it will get: there is nothing left to explain.

It doesn't matter whether or not she was a 'saint'. No one is a saint. No one is a demon from hell, either. We are all something in between.
That she was not a saint doesn't absolve you from responsibility over your own behaviour; it's not an excuse.
Stop looking for excuses. Move on. Get back into therapy.

Good luck!
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:34 AM on April 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

I reacted by unloading on her emotionally a tad

This remark of yours has been bugging me for a while and I just figured out why: once you reach the point that you're doing something you would describe as "unloading," you can't do it "a tad" any more than you could be a tad pregnant, or start your car a tad, or win the Super Bowl a tad.

From the point of view of your target, unloading emotionally is one of those things that either happened or didn't, and if it did it doesn't really matter if it was just five minutes of unloading or two hours of it (well, it does matter, but not in a way that makes five minutes' worth somehow more forgivable). This is a pretty serious line to cross, ESPECIALLY in response to someone turning you down. Trying to mitigate it in your own head by telling yourself you only did it a little is doing you no favors since it kept you from recognizing that you were so out of line that you needed to leave that person alone immediately and completely.

What's done is done and you'd be wasting your energies beating yourself up over this now, but in the future, perhaps being more aware of these bright lines that should not be crossed will help you rein yourself in when you want to keep pushing ahead.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:28 AM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

For me, the jury's still out on whether or not she was necessarily a saint through all of this

I just wanted to address this real quick. Maybe it'll help.

Something to bear in mind when dealing with other people is that they, like you, are human beings. They are flawed. They are fallible. When put on the spot, they don't (as much as we might wish otherwise) always sit and spend a while with their thoughts and weight everything from every possible perspective and then act. They just sort of react, most of the time. In other words, they do pretty much what you did here.

A failure to see it this way does not mean you're a bad person or that you're broken. It means that you're a person - that you're susceptible to attribution bias, just like the rest of us. It means that you can clearly see all of your reasons for what you did here, but maybe it's harder to reason through her approach. Again, she's human. She's fallible.

She added that bit about a half-arsed apology as a parting shot, because sometimes people want the last word. She wrote that crappy passive-aggressive blog entry because sometimes people, being imperfect, are passive-aggressive. It's not a point against her. It's just something people do.

I say this because I think it'd be helpful to spend a little more time in the future trying to view other people as driven by emotion and desires, the same way you are, even if they might handle theirs differently. Ask yourself why your own behaviors are so easy for you to understand and why the behaviors of others seem like puzzles you need to solve.

You asked what you can learn from this. What you can learn is that other people don't have to send you their boundaries on an engraved placard - you have to be able to infer them. This is something that is very very hard to do on your own, if it's not a skill you currently have, so I would echo everyone else in saying that you should definitely go back into therapy. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:58 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was all set to write up a detailed analysis, but leitmotif completely nailed everything I wanted to say. Re-read her comment carefully.
posted by tdismukes at 7:07 AM on April 3, 2014

It's too late now with this girl, but for what it's worth, "do nothing until emotions cool" is a valid strategy for dealing with awkward relationship situations.

When I was younger I used to feel like I needed to have big dramatic conversations with people I was having trouble with. I didn't. Realizing that I didn't made life so much more peaceful, and I've lost fewer friends.
posted by shattersock at 7:16 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

It just occurred to me that all of your detail-oriented rumination could be poured into a journal instead of dumped on other people. Keeping a journal can really help you sort out your feelings, and reading it over later can be very clarifying.
posted by xenophile at 7:16 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have some sympathy for the "Bitch, it's the weekend" thing, having offended someone before with that exact expression (I am female, FWIW). That's when I learned that if you call someone "bitch", even jokingly, it should be someone you know very well. (I apologized briefly but sincerely and let someone else change the subject.) If in doubt, here are the three classes of people who can usually get away with variants on "bitch, please!"

*Gay men
*Aaron Paul on Breaking Bad

If none of these are you, best to steer clear.

I did end up being friends with a dude who I disappointed romantically, and the reason we became friends again was that he was cool about it. He took no for an answer, didn't email or call, didn't bad-mouth me to our mutual friends. Also, while he and I definitely ended up on good enough terms to go to the same party or casual dinner in a group, we never became close friends or went out one-on-one; if would have been too weird, I think.
You screwed this one up; try to take it as a learning experience and not do the same thing next time. Leave this girl alone, seriously. Right now you're acting like your desire to apologize/explain trumps her desire to be un-bothered. And it really, really doesn't. And it won't help--it'll only piss her off, I promise. It's a really pernicious myth in our culture that all the "leave me alone" social cues and body language (which this girl was giving you in spades) somehow don't count until some kind of perfect "NO" is verbalized. It's clear from your question that you perceived these cues, but chose to ignore them. Next time, pay attention.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:22 AM on April 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

Sympathetically, I think there are a few things you could take from this.

1. In general, your actions are what really matter, not your good intentions. People take for granted (until proven otherwise) that you have good intentions, and in general, they don't care. If your behavior has a negative impact on them, all they want is a simple apology and for you to figure out why it happened so it won't happen again. Focus on your behavior and actions.

What I hear in some of your responses, and what I sometimes experience in my own more anxious moments, is this sense that something is all about you and who you are. Your comments and question above seem to primarily be saying "I am a good person, I swear!" ("I had no ulterior motives. I really did value what we had." "Honestly I'm not trying to defend myself, not consciously at least." "I do strive to learn from my mistakes and improve myself.") I think the closure you seek is for her to understand that, but you need to let that go.

It's not about your intentions, or who you are as a person, or our evaluation of whether you are good or not. The question is how you act and what you do, and the impacts those have on other people. Everyone already assumes that you are a fine person. You are not inherently flawed.* There is, however, a need to control your behavior, because other people only have a certain tolerance (different for everyone) for behaviors that bother them.

(* And lest you believe that your fear that you're deeply flawed is its own deep and unique flaw, I'll just mention that this is common enough that a few of my friends will jokingly say things like "no, you're still going to hell" when we sense that the subtext of someone's comment was "but I'm a good person, I swear!")

A little of that explaining-your-intentions is okay, but it seems over the top for you, which is natural. Anxiety and depression make people more self-centered and narcissistic, unfortunately. Other people try to explain themselves, but the listener refracts that through their own struggles. That's what's going on here, it seems. Things became about who you are and the narrative in your head instead of about the world around you.

2. You need to look past the psychological struggle going on in your head to the real world and let that drive your decisions (easier said than done). From your last question: (and I'll quote a long excerpt because something about the juxtaposition and order of sentences feels significant)
Anyway - I keep trying to make plans with her but she's suddenly no longer available. I'd hoped just to get her alone again and say something along the lines of 'You know, I'd like to take you on a proper date.'

I'm really bad at expressing myself emotionally, even to those I'm close to - I'm quite bottled up. So I think anything along the lines of 'When we met I didn't know where I was emotionally, but now I'm cleared up and I've come to appreciate you more and more as a person' wouldn't quite get delivered as I'd like it.

But does anybody have some advice? I fear she sees me as a friend... I don't think that should deter me from making a move
"I keep trying to make plans with her but she's suddenly no longer available." That's an important fact. But then you immediately talk about what you wanted to say, that you fear you don't say things clearly, and that you don't think you should let fear stop you from speaking. You had the ability to see the truth, but that was eclipsed by your insecurity and your refusal to give in to your insecurity.

An ideal pattern would be: (a) observe reality, (b) react accordingly. A pattern I notice at times in your story is: (a) observe reality, (b) experience great anxiety, (c) refuse to give in to that anxiety, (d) take action.

This pattern, and particularly (c), the refusal to refusal to give in to anxiety, has probably been very useful at times in your life. "If I sharpen my pencil, everyone will laugh at me... Well, I have to sharpen my pencil anyway, so here goes!" You've probably had to get really good at saying "but I'm going to do it anyway!" However, in this story, taking action (d) regardless of what reality (a) was has led to you acting in not-great ways a few times.

You know that quote "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you?" It's similar: just because you're super-anxious doesn't mean that there's nothing to fear. It doesn't mean that your proposed action is advisable. The fear isn't an unreasonable anxiety this time; it's your awareness of reality.

Again: "I fear she sees me as a friend... I don't think that should deter me from making a move." A million times in your life, you must've had to say "I fear X but I don't think I should let that stop me." However, here, this isn't some irrational fear, but an accurate perception of reality.

And it gets tricky, because when anxiety is really high, it's harder to think straight and identify where the fear is coming from. But that's what you probably need to do, so that you can discern when it is random fear and when you're nervous because you're about to do something that you actually know you probably should not do.

3. Work to build your tolerance of how uncomfortable your anxiety makes you feel.

Although in the long run, there's a good chance you can largely overcome your anxiety, in the short term it is a reality for you. A key strategy in coping with it is accepting it as a reality and facing the feelings directly. Resigning yourself to the discomfort of anxiety may make both #1 and #2 above easier. For example, if you can get comfortable with feeling it, you'll be better able to stay present and logically examine what's really under it. Is it a baseless nervousness asking women out? Or is it a justified hesitation to ask out someone who has sent you clear signals that she isn't interested?

It can keep you from taking action to soothe the anxiety in ways that compound the situation. For example, what if you had just accepted that you felt nervous about the direction of your friendship and lived with it? What if you had just accepted that you felt nervous, defensive, or even ashamed about how all this went down, rather than reaching out to her or us for closure or to explain yourself? At a certain point, you (we all) have to take a breath, pause, and live with whatever we're feeling. Yes, it was a sucky series of interactions and you made some mistakes, but you are an okay person, and you're eventually going to figure all this stuff out. But for now, you feel awful, so just ... feel it.

Perversely, I find that accepting the awful feelings makes experiences less painful overall. Once you sit there in that stew of feelings, you realize that you can withstand them. You see that the world doesn't fall apart even without your anxious mending. Anyway, try reading some books on Buddhism, like Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, try to meditate, do practices that increase your ability to breathe through pain (like yoga), and when things feel sucky, slow down and focus more on feeling it and less on rushing to solve it.

4. You should get professional help rather than help from your friends and the internet.

We all should probably get professional help at some point in our life, at least to check whether things we've always experienced as normal mental noise are actually near-crippling levels of anxiety or depression. I think therapy, once you find someone you like, could really help you. Everything I just said may be wrong, and if anything I said made you feel worse, just keep in mind I'm a schlub on the internet, as are we all. We only know you via what you wrote here. A professional who has experience with these issues and for whom your well-being is their primary goal would be a better person to talk to. You can bring this thread to your therapist and work it through there.

You say you want a cure but not coping, but look, you're coping now, just ... not all that well (sorry). Coping well would be a step up. You'll learn a lot about the underlying "disease" (for lack of a better word) in trying to cope with it, and in the process, maybe you'll get cured, who knows. Even in the meantime, you might try reading some books about anxiety. (I've found good stuff via AskMe threads.)

Last, let this situation go as soon as possible. Ultimately, you're both going to graduate, and go on to live (we hope) long lives apart from one another. The closure here is not in coming to peace with her; it is in using this as a spur to address your anxiety so that it doesn't continue to impact your future.
posted by salvia at 8:52 AM on April 3, 2014 [10 favorites]

"I don't think she approaches problems constructively - if I had my way, we'd sit down and just discuss how we both feel and what actions the other has taken to make us feel that way: Try to reach an understanding."

It seems to me like she did approach the problem constructively. You just disagreed about what the problem was. You thought it was a problem of her understanding you while she thought you were a problem. And when someone has a problem with someone else about the most constructive way to approach that is to avoid them and cut them out of their life.

I really feel for you. I know how hard it can be when you want something so bad and you're kind of aware that your brain is screwing with you. Your brain comes up with "yeah, buts" and "no, yets" for her behavior that make you believe there's a path to getting what you want.

Let me tell you, if you don't nip that line of thinking in the bud, you'll eventually find yourself in a situation where you'll cross a line you didn't think you'd ever cross. Right now you're teetering on the line of outright stalking/harassing her. For some other woman you get to know, that line might be you getting drunk and groping her because you thought a back massage meant something more than she did.
posted by Green With You at 9:07 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is where you screwed up.

Anyway, she said she was flattered but didn't feel the same way... I reacted by unloading on her emotionally a tad... blahblahblah stuff after that was basically irrelevant. You demonstrated a lack of respect for her choice not to accept you. That action of yours showed her you wanted to convince her to give you a chance.

What you should take away is that at the moment a woman (or a man, I guess) rejects you for the first time, that is the only chance you get to repair the friendship. That means that immediately after rejection, you immediately give no excuses or reasons, retract your confession, drop the subject and agree to pretend it never happened from that moment on. You don't make any pointed comments or sit closer to her or start to wonder if she changed her feelings at some future point or whatever. You are forever platonic from that point. If you had basically recanted your feelings at the moment of rejection (ie, "I'm not going to act on my feelings.") maybe your friendship stood a chance.

Sorry. It happens. We live and learn.
posted by rozaine at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The accusations you are getting here -- about your overly detailed replies that no one wants to hear -- combined with how angry you got in therapy that ended too soon reminds me of me in my twenties in therapy. I was a super angry young woman and I had very good reason to be angry because I had been horribly abused. My therapist once said something like "I know when we are hitting a nerve because you start going into all these minute details about how it was 2pm on a rainy Tuesday 10 years ago."

I will suggest that you not only keep a journal but keep a dream journal. Keep a notebook and pen on your nightstand and try to jot down your dreams when you first wake up, before getting out of bed. Do some reading on dream analysis and try to start parsing what you talk to yourself about in dream form.

I was sexually abused as a kid. I used to have routine nightmares about being pursued by dogs, wolves and werewolves. "Dogs" and "wolves" are both expressions for men who are being jerks to women. Werewolves are men who turn into wolves under the right condition. Dreams are a symbolic language. If you learn to interpret them, you can learn a lot about what you say to yourself when no one else can hear it.

I suggest you try to dig down to why you carry so much anger. There has to be a reason for it. Mostly likely, something bad happened. Or you have a terrible relationship to your mother in some very important ways. That plus general societal BS is leading you to do some really not cool things in how you interact with women. It is possible that you were traumatized badly enough that you do not consciously remember. I buried some of my memories until I was living on another continent and felt safe enough to remember what awful things had happened. It can take time to dig down to the root of the problem and even discover what it is. There is likely no quick fix here. Your first need to find out why you are so mad and then find a way to heal.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 12:54 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Damn y'all, SO many good comments!

I have to echo others and say that it is so important to remember that you can not argue somebody into liking you.

Even if she does not find you scary, she surely thinks you have created a total hassle that is a black hole for time, energy, and pleasure.

Any further attempts to engage her would only lead to less respect for you from both of you, and that makes you less attractive and less ok with yourself and that circle keeps spinning.

Your wish to keep up the platonic friendship is a lie, even if you don't know it. You would spend the time waiting for her to see the magic, feel the spark. If it never happened, you would just increase the passive-aggressive behavior and you would be a bad friend.

Do not try to put yourself in her place, because you are unable to avoid seeing YOU as injured. Instead, imagine a girl whom you find uninteresting and straight-up ugly treating you the way you have treated this person. I know, that sounds like what a pig would say, but whatever, fuck it, imagine an actual pig.
posted by still lampin' at 1:13 PM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've been on both sides of this sort of situation.

No one owes you their time or attention, especially after they have already rejected you.

You can't make other people play to the script you want.
posted by RainyJay at 3:06 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I reacted by unloading on her emotionally a tad - I said I asked because I didn't want to suffer

Don't unload emotionally on someone who just told you they don't want to date you.

Don't imply to a friend that you will "suffer" if they don't want to date you. Actually, don't imply that to someone who isn't a friend either.

Generally people aren't going to be upset that you did NOT call them a bitch, so if you simply avoid calling anyone a bitch you won't have to worry about who is and who isn't OK with that sort of thing.
posted by yohko at 4:53 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here she was taking what was obviously a joke and acting horribly in front of my classmates

Don't make inappropriate jokes in professional or scholastic environments.
posted by yohko at 4:55 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

I do want to defend you a tad (heh). I don't think it's the worst thing in the world to babble an explanation about why you asked someone out after getting rejected by someone, if that's what you mean by "unloading on her." "Oh sorry for asking, I just thought, you know, you regret the questions you don't ask more than the ones you ask, and I didn't want to just, you know, suffer in silence about my interest to go out with you without putting it out there, so anyway, I hope we can still stay friends."

Yeah, that might be 30 super awkward seconds for everyone concerned, but it sounds like she was fine with things (just taking some space from you) until you approached her asking her to hang out more, and when she declined asking if it was just too awkward for her. I think that made it awkward because your question about her mental state could seem like kind of trying to "get in her head" at a time when she was trying to keep you at a distance.
posted by salvia at 5:15 PM on April 3, 2014

To add to this well-deserved pile-on of people telling you that your thinking is flawed and seemingly dangerous to yourself and to others:

"she had made me feel unpleasant"

This is not possible. We feel things in reaction to the thoughts we have, not because of what other people do or say. Taking responsibility for our own feelings is how we become adults.

Speaking of which there is a difference between girls and women. Please don't treat them (and refer to them) as one and the same.
posted by macinchik at 11:45 PM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

Sounds like you may have some abandonment issues related to your past / family of origin . This book might help.
posted by Gray Skies at 1:22 PM on April 4, 2014

A few points - hopefully you're still reading.

1) You're probably extremely intelligent and have gotten very far using your intelligence. Please understand that people cannot be "solved" with intellect, and interpersonal problems can't be solved with intellect alone. This isn't a court, where you present your side and she presents her side, and if your side is more rational, suddenly she has to be your girlfriend. If I had a dollar for every guy who tried the, "but if you'd just look at this rationally, you'd see we'd work really well together!" line, I'd have a decent pile of cash. "If you'd just look at this rationally!" has become, in my mind, a shorthand for "Why aren't you fucking me yet?"

2) So, some people have recommended the Gift of Fear so you can understand this whole drama from a woman's perspective. That's good. Here's a quote from the author, Gavin de Becker, that you should think about:

"Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death."

But, you're not going to hurt her, right? You just want her to know how you feel. You just want her to understand you.

3) Here's the thing. Remember the anger you talked about, above?

The best therapy I had was my first run, at University. I had six sessions wherein the counsellor actually asked me about my past, etc. She brought out so much anger.

A lot of people can sense that anger, even if you aren't actively showing it. A lot of people have learned the hard way to look for that anger, because it's dangerous. I know. You'd never hurt anyone. Not on purpose. I dated a guy like that once. He really was a generally decent guy, but sometimes that deep anger - I mean, a REALLY deep anger - would get hold of him, and I never knew why, or how to undo it. I should have left, but I loved him, and everything was fine right up until that anger got hold of him, and I was scared, so I said no to sex that night. After he'd forced himself on me, he realized what he'd done, and as I was shaking in the corner asking what the hell had just happened, he went and threw up. And then checked himself into a mental hospital, because it was that or kill himself because he wasn't that guy - right up until he was. I have no idea what happened to him, but I genuinely feel bad for him now - he really wasn't a sociopath or a creep, just a guy who let his anger take over for one critical moment when he shouldn't have. So get help now, while you can still work on it, ok?
posted by RogueTech at 1:37 PM on April 8, 2014 [13 favorites]

A lot of people have learned the hard way to look for that anger, because it's dangerous.

Thisthisthisthisthis. We see it. We can't not see it.
posted by corb at 1:42 PM on April 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

When you are single and on the prowl, people will as needed, with very minimal prompting, identify themselves as "willing to date you" or "not willing to date you." If you respond to decisions of the latter sort with anything less than grace, kindness, and a polite but total retreat where your advances are concerned, you're going to come off as a creep and almost certainly lose a friend.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:41 PM on April 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

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