DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I met one of my best friends in elementary school– he used to be my worst enemy, actually, in that I-will-hate-you-forever kind of way. However, during middle school, we started becoming more friends than enemies, and now we’re both in high school and we have a solid friendship. (We initially bonded over arguments about everything in the nerd spectrum, actually… and still kind of do.)
The problem is that he has a BIG HONKING UNREQUITED CRUSH. On me.
And I don’t want to date him.
The problem is that, ever since we were really little, the entirety of the universe has proclaimed that We Would Make A Cute Couple. Both sets of parents. Pretty much all of our friends, even some of the ones that I have explicitly told “NO I DO NOT WANT TO DATE HIM.” When we were little, both of us said it about the other repeatedly (said crush of his had not, presumably, been in effect by then). I’ve said it in front of him numerous times. When he was little, he said it in front of me numerous times. I continue to say it whenever some of our friends corner us. I say that no, he’s my friend and a nice guy, but I’m not looking for a date right now. Clearly, seriously, politely, and using those exact words.
He, on the other hand, mostly changes the subject.
I’m trying to be nice, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m hitting this guy over the head with it and he’s still doing a lot of things that I don’t want him to do. For example, he’s gotten into the habit of trying to drape himself all over me, like an octopus or a stage curtain. I let it slide the first time because I wasn’t really aware of his BIG HONKING UNREQUITED CRUSH, but then he thought it was OK all the time. Later on I started to shy away from his Yawn-And-Stretch Maneuver arms, as well as pointing it out whenever he tried to do it again (“Dude, you are acting like a possessive octopus.” “Please realize that this should be completely platonic.”) and I thought he finally got the point after it tapered off a little.
Until recently, when he asked if I would like to hold hands with him. I told him no.
(whiny) “Aww, why don’t you just give in?”
This, in particular, set off a Giant Red Flag for me. I told him no, seriously, twice and he then tried to somehow persuade me into holding hands with him??? (For the record: he is not a touchy-feely person with his other friends and I haven’t ever seen him hold hands with any of his other friends.) Please stop it, Friend with Crush.
How do I get this guy to get the point that no I do not want to date him? I have basically hit him over the head with it, but he won’t stop trying.
— Gamer Girl Needs a Break!
DEAR GAMER GIRL NEEDS A BREAK: You know, there are times I really regret talking about how to escape the Friend Zone.
(Standard disclaimer: There is no “friend zone”. There are just people who don’t want to date you.)
A critical part of trying to make the jump from friend to lover is understanding that sometimes it’s just not going to happen no matter how badly you may want it, and the only thing to do is let it go like a goddamn adult. Unfortunately, there are people who insist on pushing and pushing and pushing and then complain to me when they’ve ended up alienating their friend entirely.
Case in point: your buddy, GGNaB. This is a guy who doesn’t get it and you need to crack a clue-by-four over his head. Repeatedly if necessary.
You can start by establishing some boundaries. From the sounds of things and the examples you’ve given me, you’ve been trying to be as polite about telling him to back off with out actually saying the words “Back the hell off” and making them stick. You need to draw a very clear line in the sand, not just with the Octopus, but with his cheer squad as well and be ready to enforce it.
Here’s what you say:
“I don’t want to date you. I am not attracted to you, I have not ever been attracted to you, I’m not going to be attracted to you and I need you to stop trying. I don’t appreciate it when you start trying to get physical with me, I REALLY don’t appreciate it when you don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and to be perfectly honest, you are making it hard for me to want to stay friends with you. Either you build yourself a bridge and get over me, or we’re not going to be friends any more because it’s not fair to me that you keep making ‘why won’t I date you’ a condition of our being friends.”
That is the end of the discussion. Don’t let him whine, debate, derail or otherwise try to get you to soften your position because there’s nothing else that needs to be said. Repeat “I’m not interested in discussing this any further” and walk the hell away if he insists on continuing.
You’re already seeing someone with some serious boundary issues – continually doing the “oh I’m just going to drape my arm around you because we’re friends (please accept my boner)” or asking you to “give in” (ugh) and if you don’t shut him down hard, then things are only going to get worse. The more you let him get away with without comment or pushback, the more he will be seeing this as tacit permission to continue.
This means that you need to be willing to act on your ultimatum. If you tell him that you’ll cut him off and don’t follow through, it’s only going to tell him that you’re not serious and that he’s got another chance to wear you down.
If he can’t get past his crush enough to act like a grown-ass man, then he’s proving that he’s not really your friend. If he doesn’t care enough about your comfort or your wishes, then you need to be willing to cut ties. It’s not fair that your friendship has to come with a side of aggravation and clingy, needy BS.
The same goes with all of your friends. You need to be willing to stand up for Team You and tell everybody else that either they can get with the program or they can back the hell off.
Hopefully this will be the wake-up call that your friend needs to straighten the hell up and move on. Otherwise, it’s time to dump him.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m delving a bit in my past here, not because it still hurts me (not anymore its been awhile) but because I want to figure out what kind of situation it was and how it potentially happened.
I’ve been watching your videos on YouTube about “Nice Guys” and although it’s different, I think I may have acted a bit like a Nice Guy… even though I either tell the girls I like them, or just don’t go through with it and get over it.
But me and the this one particular girl, we were just friends, and it was like best mates (I’m from the UK). There was a two year difference but it wasn’t a problem, plus she had a boyfriend who I am still friendly with. But one day their relationship started to sour and eventually they split up, but I didn’t take advantage of it because I’m a bit weary of younger girls anyway and I didn’t fancy her.
The last I saw her properly was a few years ago I think, and for some reason not only did she split away from him but also drifted away from me for no apparent reason. I did get a bit worried because she did have other problems (I only talked to her about it, I didn’t want to get involved in any of it though). It didn’t help that she only communicated through a mutual friend and was using words like “back off” and “give me space”, which in my limited knowledge is something your partner says, and we were just best mates, borderline platonic.
Now I do admit at some point I thought I had a crush on her, but I didn’t and I’m glad I realized it was platonic because I had never had that relationship before so i didn’t now what it was.
Anyway after that she just cut off all communication, I did ring her a few times but no answer. I never knew what made her end our friendship considering the great times we had, I was kinda depressed about it for quite a while for some reason, it was kinda like losing a partner but worse because this is a girl who is the sister I always wanted in a way! So I thought of what she might have done to me, like maybe she was being depressed too, or bitchy or I don’t know. Maybe I was being full on? I don’t know. I just want to know what kinda situation this is, cos it has only really happened once and its puzzled me for ages! Literally I have never heard anything from her since.
Confused Ex Friend
DEAR CONFUSED EX-FRIEND: So you’re a good example of what the previous letter was talking about, which means in this case that you’re going to be something of a warning to others. You had a friend who was trying hard to establish some boundaries and - when you didn’t listen - cut you off entirely.
Here’s a hint: when someone says “back off” or “give me space”, you back off and give them space. Doesn’t matter that you weren’t dating; not having sloppy-makeout privileges doesn’t grant you immunity from respecting someone’s boundaries. This is especially true if she’s gone so far as to have somebody else doing all of the communication. She made made it very clear what she needed from you. You chose to ignore that and, well, you can see what happened.
Why did she drift away from you after her break up? Who knows. Maybe they divvied up the social circle and he got you while she got someone else. Maybe she associated you with bad memories of that relationship. Maybe she just really needed some time to hermit up and heal on her own terms. You’re not going to know, and the best thing you can do is make peace with the fact that sometimes there are no easy, clean-cut answers.
It sucks that things ended like that and you lost a friend, but now at least you know to do better the next time.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)