Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Is It Time To Abandon A Friendship?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My question is about dealing with the aftermath of confessing romantic feelings to a close friend and dealing with his rejection while not losing that friend and going the nuclear option.

Long story short, I’m a late bloomer in her early 30s with limited experience (had a first kiss and sexual experience when I was 30, only one relationship, and had sex only 3 times in my life). So, the last summer I have developed a crush on a very close friend who I knew for 2 years by that time. The problem was that he was about to leave the city to move across the ocean in 4 months. Despite of this, I still wanted to pursue a short-term relationship with him, I felt like having even a short-term intimate experience with him outweighed the fact that it’s going to be a relationship with an expiration date.

So, being a firm believer in direct communication, I asked him if he would be interested in us dating each other and I let him know that I realize that most likely it’s going to be a relationship with an expiration date and if he doesn’t feel that he is into that he shouldn’t be afraid of saying ‘no’, I can take it. He answered that he was also thinking about us dating each other but he was afraid he doesn’t have time to date someone in the next 4 months (he was supposed to travel quite a bit for work reasons before leaving the city). Anyway, he said that he will think about it. Three days later we got together for drinks with another woman who is very closest friend of mine. I couldn’t stay long and left, the next morning I got a news from her that things escalated after I left and they decided to play a variation of truth or dare game by stripping off their clothes and telling each other crazy sex things they have done (but they didn’t touch each other) and that I should have stayed that night to join them. Honestly, I felt horrible upon hearing that news, even though there wasn’t any reason. Several hours later he messaged me saying that he doesn’t have any secrets from me and I’m free to ask about his crazy sex experiences that he confessed to a friend of mine while naked, but he needs to be in the right mood, so I shouldn’t push him to tell about them.

A month later the three of us were hanging out (he still didn’t tell me those stories) and I was being playful with him put his hand on my back to have back massage. The next day he wrote me that he was actually considering having an intimate relationship with me despite the limited time we have, but because of this ‘hand thingy’ (that I didn’t ask him for his consent), he decided that he is going to change his mind. This came out of the blue (I hadn’t brought us being together since the last time I asked him) and I was devastated, had to take a sick day off work. I slowly recovered after that, but the fact that he was keeping secrets (the things he told the other friend) was slowly eating me. Several weeks before he left the city I told him how I felt about him having those secrets from me. He revealed those secrets, via a text message, not even face to face, and it felt like it wasn’t genuine.

Those secrets turned were the facts that he practiced some BDSM activities several years ago and that he was embarrassed of them. Now, here is the thing, I’m also into BDSM (never practiced but I know I want to do it), so I told him that those things he shouldn’t be ashamed of and I find them amazing and that I’m also into them. During the last week we were talking a lot about them, and several day after he left the city he said that he might be up for trying some of them with me, 1.5 months later when we were supposed to share a hotel room for a week during a music festival in another country. However, when we actually met, he felt a bit distant and irritated (I don’t know what caused it, but he was stressed looking for a job in another continent), at some point at this event he said that he prefers going for dinners with other people and not me (before that we were having dinners together and planned on celebrating New Year’s eve together at the festival). He also said that I should change my plans of visiting him across the ocean (fortunately I didn’t book my flights yet). The rest of the event was quite depressing for me.

After all of this I feel still have hard time processing what have happened (that naked night with a friend of mine after he told me that he doesn’t have time for casual sex, the fact that he was hiding his interest in BDSM while telling me that he trusts me and doesn’t have secrets from me, or his weirdly distant behavior at the festival). I feel depressed and have a hard time sleeping when I think about all of this things that happened between us the last year and I think about them almost every day. Am I overreacting and just need to get mental help? The thing is that I really value his friendship and I still keep contact with him. But sometimes I think if I should go full nuclear option? But I’m afraid of losing a close friendship with him and that doing the nuclear option and losing contact with him would do more mental damage rather than keeping a contact with him.

Thanks a lot for any feedback!

Nukes and Friends

DEAR NUKES AND FRIENDS: This is a little complicated, NaF, because I think there’re a few issues colliding here.

The first is that this guy seems to have issues with actually saying what he thinks or feels. I mean, it’s pretty clear to me from his actions that he’s just not interested in you and – for whatever reason – can’t seem to bring himself to say it directly. Maybe he’s worried about hurting you. Maybe he’s just really passive aggressive. It could be that you weren’t as clear about the nature of the relationship you wanted with him and he thinks you want something more committed than he is up for. Maybe he likes dangling the idea of the two of you getting together over your head like he’s dangling string over a kitten. Who knows. But what’s clear is that the issue isn’t that he doesn’t have time for casual sexy games… it’s that he doesn’t have time for casual sexy games with you.

And hey, that sucks. It can be incredibly painful when it feels like someone is telling you that you’re just not good enough to bang. I don’t think that’s what he’s actually saying, but you’d be forgiven for taking it that way because he’s acting really goddamn weird about it.

Take the whole “give me a massage” fracas. Now it’s fair that some folks don’t necessarily like being grabbed or feeling like they’re being made to touch someone they’d rather not touch. I think we can all think of times when we’ve been forced to give someone a hug or kiss when we didn’t want to – even when it’s just Aunt Matilda. Everyone has the rights to their boundaries and it’s certainly not impossible that you crossed one of his. But for him to tell you the next day “hey, I was totally going to hook up with you but you tried to make me give you a massage, so nevermind,” is… questionable. It comes across as a weird and needlessly cruel way of punishing you for a transgression you had no idea you had made. If that was genuine, then I really question the need to bring up the idea of dating, as opposed to simply saying “hey, I wasn’t cool with your grabbing my hand like that.” That’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder about his emotional intelligence or social calibration.

And if it wasn’t genuine and just a way for him to get out of having to turn you down (for a question that you asked a month ago) then he’s being a games playing dick.

Same with his weirdness about travelling with you for the music festival and deciding that he’d rather eat his meals with other folks. Again: if that came out of the clear blue sky, then this is a guy who’s become the emotional equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and you’re better off not dating him.

All that having been said however: I think you’re also making a bigger deal out of a lot of this than is actually warranted by the circumstances or the relationship. It sounds to me like you were far more invested in this guy than you should have been, all things considered. It sucks that he was more willing to fool around with your friend – even if nothing happened – than you. But feeling betrayed that he had interests and a history that he hadn’t shared with you? That’s a little much. Friendships, even close ones, aren’t depositions; people aren’t required to share every single detail of their lives and histories, especially details that they may be embarrassed by or ashamed of. That’s not “keeping secrets” from you, that’s just him having a right to privacy and not needing to disclose every little thing he’s ever done.

Now I get that you feel left out by the fact that he told your friend about this during wacky naked time… but honestly, that’s his call to make. It’s understandable that you’d feel hurt that he didn’t trust you with this information, but again: that’s his absolute right. If he wants to tell someone he’s flirting with about his sexual history but not you, that’s up to him.

And to be honest: with as put out as you sound about it, I think part of the conflict here is that you were so put out about all of this that it became a bone of contention between the two of you. And if you were bringing it up on the regular with him as a problem with your relationship… well, I can see how he’d start getting annoyed by it.

I don’t think you need mental help, NaF, I think you’re inexperienced and overinvested in someone you liked. It’s the sort of thing that we all do when we’re first trying to navigate sexual and romantic interest beyond puppy-love when we’re kids. A lot of us go through this in middle school and high-school. Some of us do so later in life. It sucks, but it’s part of the learning experience and unfortunately, some learning experiences involve falling on our faces and collecting some bruises. But as much as it may sting, that’s how you build up your hit points in the long run.

So I think for now, I think it may be better for you to let this guy go for a while. Whether this dude is less emotionally intelligent than one would hope, you let a crush overwhelm your common sense or both, I think you need some distance and perspective. Unfollowing his Instagram and Snapchat, muting him on Twitter and Facebook… these are all ways that you give yourself space to heal and get over somebody. It’s difficult to let things go when you’re constantly tempted by the opportunity to check his Instagram or see if his relationship status has changed, after all.

Give yourself a break from this guy, go and collect new experiences, fall in love again and again. Let your heart heal. If the two of you are as close as you say, that friendship will be waiting for you down the line when all of this is just a somewhat embarrassing footnote in your history.

Good luck.

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