Help me be brave
July 5, 2016 10:19 PM   Subscribe

I've got a friend that I do almost everything with. I have realized I'm very attracted to him. Help me be brave and ask him out.

I'm a few years into my thirties; he's a few years into his twenties. We're in an academic program together, on the same career path. We've known each other about a year. Over the past 6 months, since I ended my previous long-term relationship, this friend and I have gotten closer and closer; when school is in session, we're attached at the hip, and when it's not, we're texting constantly (like, I can't think of a single day in the past two months when we haven't), and seeing each other every couple days, and spending lots of time just the two of us (and also going together to parties and get togethers). A month or two ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I really like this guy. As more than just a friend.

I've tried indicating my attraction in less overt ways, to test the waters, as it were: lots of eye contact, friendly touching on arms/shoulders, texting "I miss you!" when I'm out of town. The eye contact and "I miss you" texts are reciprocated; the touching, not so much (though it doesn't seem unwelcome). I don't think he's likely to make a first move, even if he is into me. For a couple weeks now, I've been thinking "Just tell him you like him!" every time I'm going to see him, but then I'm with him and I'm afraid of fucking it all up, and chicken out.

Help me Mefi: how can I get the courage to admit my true feelings to the person who's the primary witness to my life right now? I'm so terrified that I'll tell him, he won't feel the same way, and I'll lose this relationship that has become so important to my life. But fear is a stupid motivation for this kind of thing; how can I move beyond my fear?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I was on the other side of this situation, the guy sent me flowers at my job, with a note telling me he liked me. That seems like a less scary way to do it, and it's the kind of thing where you can order the flowers and that part isn't so scary, so it's easy to do. And then it's done and you can't stop it from happening. Of course, the waiting, as Tom Petty once said, is the hardest part.

And from what you've told us here, it sounds like he's probably into you, too.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:34 PM on July 5, 2016

hmmmm, could you tell us a little more about who we're dealing with, especially in regards to this statement: "I don't think he's likely to make a first move, even if he is into me"... why is this so?
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 10:36 PM on July 5, 2016

Text him: "OMG, I've just realised I like, like you. Wow. I'm a bit slow with this. Want to go on a date?"
posted by taff at 10:37 PM on July 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think the best way to move past fear is to just do it, and try not to build it up in your head so much (easier said than done, I know). It sounds like you two are close, and very comfortable with each other, so just talk like you'd talk about anything. Keep it simple and direct: "Hey, I'm starting to like you as more than a friend. Do you want to go on a date?" If he says yes: YAY!!! If he says no: argh, that's too bad, but you'll likely go on as friends. Don't think of it as needing to make a big declaration, you're just having a talk with your friend. The more you build it up, the more intimidating (and potentially disappointing) it will be.
posted by adastra at 10:49 PM on July 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you're a woman, and that man is straight, he's not interested in you that way or he'd have made a move already.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:05 PM on July 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Kwadeng has spoken aloud what I had thought, but not concluded. Who is this guy?
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 11:20 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do please don't send flowers to his work. That seems intrusive and too public.
posted by emd3737 at 11:38 PM on July 5, 2016 [27 favorites]

I would say though, some men can be really clueless about these things, or just not used to asking women out. Especially academics! But it is concerning that he does not reciprocate the touching and physical affection. To me, it seems like a sign that while he likes you, he doesn't like like you enough that he wants to date you.
posted by moiraine at 11:39 PM on July 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

On preview. Yes. Please do not send flowers. Too much, too fast, and way too public.
posted by moiraine at 11:41 PM on July 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think people saying that if he hasn't made a move yet he is not interested are missing the age factor- he's nearly 10 years younger. Therefore I think it's quite possible that he's at least attracted to her, but too intimidated to make a move (or maybe attracted, but not interested in dating because of the age difference).

Flowers at work is too much in this scenario. You could suggest a date, I guess, or up the physical touch a smidge and see if he reciprocates. Again, I think the age difference could get in the way of reciprocation for the reasons stated above. THis has been my experience.
posted by bearette at 11:47 PM on July 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

My advice assumed you are female; sorry about that if it's not the case.
posted by bearette at 11:53 PM on July 5, 2016

If you're a woman, and that man is straight, he's not interested in you that way or he'd have made a move already.

Absolute rubbish. I've been that man.
posted by deadwax at 11:59 PM on July 5, 2016 [115 favorites]

He may be shy, he may be clueless, he may be not a touchy-feely person, he may not have thought about you 'that way', he may feel weird about the age difference, he may think you wouldn't be interested because of the age difference and yes, there's also a possibility he is not interested. The thing is, you'll never know if you don't ask!

A friend of mine, who was in a similar situation wrote a handwritten letter to her love interest. I thought it was really cute and thoughtful and it avoids direct confrontation (for both parties) and gives him time to think out a response.

And this is anecdotal, but I only realised I had been in love with my partner for months until we drunkenly kissed. I really had no clue. And in reverse, my partner would probably never have made a move because he was so anxious and he also felt our age difference might be a problem for me. This is just to say, there might be a plethora of reasons why he didn't ask you out (yet) and not all of them have to be because he's not interested. (Though I have to say, I don't recommend getting drunk as a strategy.)
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 12:03 AM on July 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

For what it's worth, remember that a reasonably large part of the "He doesn't feel the same way and then" probability space is filled by "and then I don't lose this incredibly important friendship." The very-worst-case-scenario is less likely than you think it is because you aren't taking the less-worse-case-scenario into account.

As an avoidant former grad student, I say just... find a way to ask. I apologize on behalf of all avoidant grad students. It will be awkward and it will hurt and make you feel weird, no matter what the outcome is, but so does not knowing, and having a secret, and that's where you are now.
posted by Polycarp at 1:40 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

It might help to be a bit more brutally honest: at this point the relationship as you have had it is kind of f*ed up anyway. If he doesn't like you, even if you don't say anything, you'll need to get some distance. You can't really sustain the endless crushing and it's silly to, surely. I've been in a similar situation and was ultimately rebuffed. The worst outcome! But it opened my eyes to some of his silliness, really, and it was a lot better than endlessly hoping and wondering. I have lived to tell the tale. Be bold!
posted by jojobobo at 2:16 AM on July 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Many years ago, there was this young woman I spent a lot of time around, who I was very attracted to. I never quite worked up the nerve to make a move on her.

Apparently, based on some previous answers, this means I am not straight, or I was not interested in her. That comes as a surprise to me and the woman, since she eventually made the first move, and we have now been married for nearly two decades.

As leopard-skin pill-box hat suggests, there are many other reasons why a guy might not respond to your hints. I personally was very good at picking up on a woman's interest as long as I wasn't interested in her. Somehow, my own feelings of attraction short-circuited my ability to read body language.

I would suggest you make a declaration of interest that is unambiguous but simple-- something like "I think you are a fantastic person and also really attractive. I'm happy being friends with you but if you'd be interested in a romantic relationship, I would really like that."

(I would probably not suggest sending him flowers or making any other public declaration -- if he is inherently a shy person when it comes to romantic interest, this will be embarrassing and awkward for him, whether or not he reciprocates your interest.)

If you can't work up the nerve to say it in person, say it in a text or email. That way, you only need one moment of bravery, when you click "Send."
posted by yankeefog at 2:57 AM on July 6, 2016 [23 favorites]

Don't forget the mutual friend option. A tactful 'hey the two of you have been spending quite a lot of time together' comment from a third party is a great way for both of you to save face.
posted by ropeladder at 3:12 AM on July 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

Right now your relationship is based on a lie. You are pretending friendship hoping for something more. This isn't fair to him. You need to tell him the truth. You need to respect him enough to allow him to decide for himself if he wants to continue an unbalanced friendship or take it to the next level. True friendship only happens with trust and honesty. Tell him that you have developed feelings for him and that you would like to stop texting for a weekend, to allow him time and space to see if he might have feelings for you.

It sounds like the two of you are spending a lot of time together, which does indicate some interest from him. Make the leap. It will either give you what you want, make the friendship stronger, or free you up to love someone who can love you back. There is no lose in this situation.
posted by myselfasme at 3:26 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Been here, done this. None of this is proof of anything but close friendship.

The only way to deal with it is to ask directly and have a plan for how to deal if he doesn't feel the same. If you're good friends, you owe it to the friendship to sit him down, be brave and just do it.

Flowers, a third party, text?? That might be okay for an acquaintance but since there might be ramifications for your friendship you really need to do the right thing and give him a chance to discuss it face to face. Just do it. It could be awkward. You might not get what you want, but you'll get over it. And maybe he feels the same anyway (yay!). Ask him for a coffee, warn him you want to talk about something and just get it off your chest.
posted by Stephanie_Says at 3:57 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

"I want to ask you out and it's hard for me to work up the courage so I'm doing it via text message [insert emoji as appropriate]" is a totally legit way to ask someone out.

There are three more-or-less universal rules for asking out a friend. First, you have to be completely clear that you are asking them out on a date. Second, you have to accept "no" gracefully, as well as any effects it has on your friendship. Third, you basically have to do it. Once you develop romantic feelings for a friend, the platonic friendship as you know it is certain to end. You can make your feelings known and get to whatever the next step is, or you can do nothing and let your feelings continue to grow over the friendship and slowly crowd it out. The longer you go, the more likely things will end in a weird drama-filled irreparable way.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:57 AM on July 6, 2016 [27 favorites]

Keep it short and simple. Ask him out on a date, tell him you've got a crush on him, or that you've realized you like like him. Don't make any big declarations. Don't send him a hand-written note (then you get stuck for a few days in an awful limbo space: did he get it yet? Is he not answering because he doesn't know how to let me down? Did he write me back and it got stuck in the mail? etc). Don't worry about finding the perfect way to do this, just do it. If he likes you that way, the exact words you use won't turn him off. If he doesn't like you that way, constructing the perfect sentence won't change his mind. If you keep it short and simple, it's a lot less embarrassing if he tells you he doesn't feel the same way and easier to get on with the friendship I think. Iff he does feel the same way, stories about how you slowly started developing a crush on him will be a lot cuter after you've been dating for 6 months or a year.
posted by colfax at 5:40 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

We're in an academic program together

This may or may not have even crossed his mind, but some people are careful to not date within their programs for the same reason some people are careful to not data in their workplace. Mostly people don't worry about this, but just be aware that it is one more reason why he might be choosing to not make a move.

That aside, I'm in favor of a low-key "I think I'm starting to like you, would you like to go on a date?" kind of sentence. Nothing big and elaborate and flowery, just a clear question that he can hopefully give a clear answer to. Him saying no might ruin the friendship, but so does continuing a friendship under false pretenses, so really you have nothing to lose.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 AM on July 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

How much longer will you both be in your academic program? I (straight woman) held off on making an overt move on my now-partner until the last day of classes (things escalated pretty quickly from there). But it was a really short program, so I only had to wait a few weeks. Also, I shared your, "don't want to ruin the friendship!" concerns but I felt like we would both be cool if things didn't work out that way.
posted by mskyle at 6:00 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can do it! Having been on the receiving end of a similar situation (both in the same grad program, increasingly attached at the hip during the semester, lots of texting/IMing during breaks, etc), I can tell you that my then-friend finally just called me up and told me she liked me - and it was the best damn thing in the world! I had liked her, too, but a) was 10 years older and felt weird about that, b) did not trust my ability to read signals (and was fairly oblivious to boot), and c) was pretty reticent about asking other people out ... so while I like to think that I eventually would have asked her out, honestly I can't say if that's the case - and given that it's now six years later and we've been married for the last 2 years, the thought of missing out is something I don't even want to picture.

For what it's worth, neither of us are really phone people but doing it over the phone worked well. I liked being in my own space but still being able to actually hear the voice of this person I'd grown so close to. She's since told me that she'd written down a little script before she called - maybe that would help?

Regardless of how you do it, I do hope you do it (and update through a mod here afterwards, if you're up for it). Best of luck - I'm rooting for you guys!
posted by DingoMutt at 6:12 AM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

(Answering with the possibly wrong notion that you are a straight woman, he's a straight man in mind)

Just... I've found what Kwadeng said to be mostly true. The times I've been the one to put the energy into initiating ended up with imbalanced feels the whole way through, and ultimately heartache (when it did lead to something that wasn't rejection from the outset). In your situation, probably, I would be wanting more nonverbal affirmation before going ahead. (IME even young, shy guys usually at least go for the under-table hand reach or knee press at some point, if they're interested.)

But say I did feel like going ahead - I don't think I've ever actually asked a good friend out on a formal date? Or been asked on a date-date by a friend? It'd be too jarring, I think... If anything more than friendly happened, it usually evolved naturally, after a good time and too much beer. I guess I am actually suggesting resorting to and acting on liquid courage in the event an evening or moment with potential arises. (Probably, in that case - touch him; if he responds in kind, touch more/lean in/kiss.) I might be way off base, sorry, just speaking from my experience.

I think waiting until the semester ends and being prepared for things to not work out are good ideas.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:03 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If he hasn't responded to touch, I don't think you can make this happen by, say, getting drunk and holding hands and making out. You also run the risk of that happening, but being a drunk mistake on his part, and either wrongly getting your hopes up or harming the friendship.

I, like, many others, like the idea of saying something simple along the lines of, hey, do you want to go on a date? The key is to use the word date. I actually think it would be fine to text him this.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:15 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If he hasn't responded to touch, I don't think you can make this happen by, say, getting drunk and holding hands and making out. You also run the risk of that happening, but being a drunk mistake on his part, and either wrongly getting your hopes up or harming the friendship.

Good point. Yeah, it can't be forced if it's not already there. Advice retracted, defer to others.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:17 AM on July 6, 2016

First decide - are you able to be Just Friends with this guy if he isn't interested in dating you, and do you want to be? Truly, honestly just friends? If not, that is completely fine, but you need to decide first.

If not, I think you should make the honest declaration of interest, because you have nothing to lose (you don't want to maintain the friendship if you can't date him, so swing for the fences).

If so, I would do this verrrrry cautiously: next time you go out together, after a glass or two of wine, test the waters - "Jill and I were hanging out the other day and she was teasing me about how much time we spend together and how come we don't just date each other already!" Let that linger and see how he reacts. If he doesn't express displeasure or like "LOLOLOL," then go "Maybe we should? Do you think we could try going on a date just to see how it goes, and if it's bad we'll just pretend it never happened? I'm kind of intrigued by it...what do you think?"

Whatever you do, do not just get tipsy and hook up without determining whether it's casual or serious or what the feelings are, etc. Because that's the kind of trainwreck that will ruin a friendship. (Ask me how I know, sigh...)
posted by sallybrown at 7:23 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a guy. When I was in high school, I was petrified to say anything about attraction to a girl I was attracted to, even if we spent a lot of time together and it was obvious (or should have been obvious) that she was attracted to me, too. Didn't matter how many hints she dropped; I just wasn't ready to ask out loud. I had ask-o-phobia. (I also had return-touch-o-phobia.)

I ended up going out with a girl who asked me, even though I wasn't quite as attracted to her. Just because she asked. She was clear and direct. She did set up lots of time for us to be together, first - she got me to tutor her in math - so it wasn't completely out of the blue, and there was a comfort level established before she asked, which you already have.

There are times to roll the dice in life. This is one of them.

And even if it doesn't work out, you'll do something important for yourself: You'll stop being controlled by your own ask-o-phobia.
posted by clawsoon at 7:34 AM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

In defense of the tipsy hookup (which is a time-honoured way of getting together; people do often wind up marrying or in LTRs as a result), there is risk of rejection, hurt feelings, and a lost friendship any way you look at it, you can't control how people respond to the suggestion a friendship changes fundamentally. (Bad things happen with the hookup, ime, when people are a bit more than tipsy :/ Worst case, ime, it's a blip, "the thing we don't talk about", and friendship can resume after a cooling off period. Anyway, yes it is a bad idea to actually try to plan this, agreed.)

That aside, sallybrown's suggested approach is pretty good, imo. Go light and gentle, for sure - the one thing I know does not work and is embarrassing (for everyone) is a big, dramatic verbal confession of love.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:44 AM on July 6, 2016

If you're in an academic program together, he may have the kinds of things swirling around in his head that I got as answers when I asked about academic dating:

"If you are male, do not approach her. Do not assume that a smile or 'friendly' behavior is an expression of romantic interest. Assume she is there to do her job. Period."

"Don't do this."

"It can go south in so many ways it's ridiculous."

"Are you willing to risk your career on it? Because that's what you're doing."

If he's the cautious type, these kinds of warnings may be totally dominating his thoughts. Unless you are totally, verbally, explicitly clear that you want a romantic relationship, he may assume that any return of expressed interest or touch would constitute sexual harassment and end his career.
posted by clawsoon at 7:52 AM on July 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you're a woman, and that man is straight, he's not interested in you that way or he'd have made a move already.

This is nonsense. Knowing that in many situations, or for many people, it is true that a man will always express interest if he is in fact interested, does not tell you anything about this specific man, his temperament and how he might feel. People form unions with each other in every way imaginable. It's one of the joys of living in the modern world that our lives are no longer dictated by traditional gender roles that men must do the pursuing. (One also wonders how this theory applies to non-hetero relationships. How do lesbians even hook-up without a man around to get things going for them?!?!)

Just ask. Keep it straightforward and light: "I really like you! Would you be interested in going on an actual date?" If he says no: "bummer, I hope we can still be friends." Then take a bit of time away from the friendship and redirect your romantic energy elsewhere.
posted by scantee at 8:15 AM on July 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

Say, "Should we try dating?" and make it clear that no is an OK answer-- and that even if a date or two doesn't work, you can still be friends. The idea being that either or both of you may find that it's not a fit.
posted by BibiRose at 8:17 AM on July 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

First you need to figure out how you'd feel and react if he's not interested. Can you still stand being joined at the hip, texting all the time? Probably not and that's fine, just prepare yourself for it.

Once that's figured out, text him something like this:
"Hey, recently realized I've grown to really like you and would be interested in going on date (dates?) to see if we could become a couple. How's that sound to you?"

Include wording to indicate that it's ok if he's not interested. But be sure to make it explicitly sure that you want see about becoming a couple. Use concrete words, 'cause some people really are oblivious.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I mean, you're kind of already doing what people do on dates. It's not the *dating* that you want, it's the smushing your faces (etc.) together part , I think. So I don't think a "date" invitation is so much what you want to do as a "hey, do you feel you like you would ever be interested in making out with me?" kind of thing.

I did do a fair amount of under-table knee-touching with my guy, but I got good touch feedback early on.
posted by mskyle at 8:54 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it bad advice to say "get drunk and smooch"? Because.... that's effective
And it's easy to shut down / move past later if it doesn't feel right.
Caveat: if you are in any position of authority over the person, this is a terrible idea.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:14 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're never going to know unless you straight up ask. I dated a lot in grad school and the easiest situations were the ones where one of us was just straightforward about wanting to date the other. Note that this doesn't mean you'll get a positive response! But I'm still proudest of the time I straight up told a guy I liked him, we had a date, and then he said he wasn't looking for anything serious, because I was able to say "oh, ok. I am, so that doesn't really work for me." We spent less time together for a while, but ten years later we still see each other at professional conferences and stuff and can totally hang out as friends. Just say what you want and be prepared to take no for an answer.
posted by MsMolly at 10:27 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

We've known each other about a year. Over the past 6 months, since I ended my previous long-term relationship...

I think this could also be a factor. Especially if that prior long-term relationship was really serious, new crush could be hesitant about moving in too soon / being a rebound / etc. Nth-ing the advice to unambiguously say what you want.
posted by bassooner at 10:59 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

The good thing about using text or email to communicate your feelings is that it will give him time to react privately and think about how to respond. I think this is a courtesy in situations where you're not sure what the outcome will be.

I would send him a text saying, "Hey, I think you're awesome, and if you ever want to hang out as more than friends, let me know."

Good luck!
posted by delight at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2016

You asked for help mustering up the courage, so let me put it to you plainly: do you like the way you feel now? What is the worst thing that can happen? Would the sun still rise if that worst thing did happen?

Here is some specific advice: hedge your bets. Tell him that you are a little slow on the uptake, that you really like spending time with him, and sometimes you wonder if he is trying to indicate interest that he wants to take the friendship further. There. You haven't put yourself out there, and you will have your answer.

You don't need courage. You don't need luck. All you need is the willingness to ask for what you want. You've got that already.
posted by Mr. Fig at 11:10 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like the "I'm starting to like you as more than a friend. Would you be interested in going on a date?" script. It's direct but casual and easy for him to field, and if it should turn out he's not interested it'll be easy for you to retreat from it with a shrug and a "Oh, too bad, but okay. I'm fine with our just being friends." I'd do it in person because the awkwardness will be over with in a minute and if you keep the tone casual there'll be less chance of him reading too much into the situation and overreacting.
posted by orange swan at 2:11 PM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

You don't need courage. That's too strong a word. You need to function while afraid.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

I've been on both ends of this situation. I think it's probably best for your friendship to say something. If you tell him and he doesn't feel the same way, then you can create some distance and decide if you're comfortable with this level of closeness and so forth. I think good friendships survive these kind of things, so long you avoid the massive declarations of love, but that doesn't sound like you based on your post. If you also have at least a year to go in your program, you can patch things up if they do get awkward and you leave school with a great friend. I think if you wait till the end of the semester and blurt it out, that complicates both any potential relationship or friendship and you leave not knowing where things are.

I've always been a text person but that hasn't always suited me well, because I'll obsess over the first interaction after we text and it feels to weighty (for me and the person on the other end). So I started telling people in person.

With my current SO, we met on tinder and talked for weeks online, and I thought it was clear he liked me (especially because we met on tinder of all things) but he just wouldn't ask me out. This is obvs different from your situation because university is not tinder, but he was shy about flirting and I had to say "Hey are we going to go out or what?" to get things going. Now that we are dating he is extremely affectionate -- but he's the kind of guy that doesn't know where to place affection unless the terms of the relationship are clear. Not knowing where things stood made him hold back altogether.
posted by mmmleaf at 8:22 AM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

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