DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m reaching out in hopes that you can provide clarity for a situation I suddenly find myself in.
I have a friend that I’ve been talking to really consistently for several months now. Initially, things were very flirty. But we eventually had a conversation where he wanted to know if I was interested in him or not because he was confused based off my actions. I told him that I wasn’t really interested in him at that time. I also said that I enjoy the connection we have and I was okay with whatever form that took. We both said we weren’t ready for a relationship but would be open to something romantic if it ever progressed to that. Both of us had just gotten out of long term relationships. We both agreed that we were friends. He also stated he wasn’t really emotionally available and was trying to work through his own issues, which I respected. I told him he was partially responsible for his own confusion because he does initiate very flirtatious conversations and I just follow his lead. He told me that he would try to tamp that down.
Recently, I realized that I do have feelings for him and it has been driving me nuts. I’ve tried to make it stop because I truly do value his friendship above anything else. To make matters worse, we really do have a connection. We can talk about nothing, have really deep conversations, or just give each other a hard time. He’s never been the type to truly open up and I also understood where he was coming from. But the lines can still get blurred between us. He still sends me videos or memes that are sexual in nature and inevitably, we start talking about things of a sexual nature. We still seem to flirt sometimes or talk about sexual preferences. He’s always been a little hot and cold but has always seemed interested in me romantically to a degree. He’s been more than eager to try and help support me emotionally through some of the things that have been happening in my life recently as well.
Yesterday, I finally told him that I am not completely his friend. And that there’s probably a part of me that will always hope things will progress eventually. I told him that it’s not fair of me to be his friend when I feel more than friendly feelings towards him. I also told him that I understood if I messed things up between us. When he responded, he told me that he gets it and he understands how I feel. He told me that I didn’t ruin anything and he is more than okay being “good friends.” He didn’t seem to mind that I have feelings for him. I’m confused as to if that response was his way of attempting let me down easy, or if he’s just not ready to explore those feelings. I clarified that I can stop communicating him with because I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. He told me that there is no reason not to talk to him. And that he still wants to be there for me and to stop apologizing for what I told him.
I would love to still be his friend, and I feel better that I got that off my chest. But, I am still a little upset that he didn’t really respond in an in depth manner. I don’t know if it is in my best interest to keep being his friend, or if I should just attempt to move on and cut off the friendship. We do work together, so I still have to interact with him. But we work opposite shifts, so it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult. We usually communicate through social media, so after we talked, I logged out of all of my social media in order to try and give myself some space. I’m just not really sure where I stand with him despite him saying that we are okay. And I don’t get why he couldn’t respond in a little more detail and just tell me he didn’t feel the same way in a clearer fashion. Unless, not responding in that way was his way of letting me down gently.
I’d be more than happy to hear what your advice is on this situation.
DEAR LOVE DISCONNECTION: LD, I’m going to be honest here: this seems to be a “you” problem more than a “him” problem and – based on the letter – I think the confusion and lack of clarity is coming from your end of things.
This all started with him having to ask you what was going on, because he felt confused by the way you were behaving. After the two of you had a conversation where you hashed things out, agreed that neither of you were romantically interested and, in fact, that you weren’t in a place to have a relationship, you basically said “ok, so I’m just following your lead here,” and he agreed to dial back the flirting. Which would be fair, except I’m wondering if he thought he was being flirty at all in the first place. Which would make things confusing in general, but hey, he agreed to try to dial it back. Which is, y’know, hard to do when you’re not sure how what you’re doing is coming off as flirty, but he seemed to be willing to make the effort. He also – and I feel this is important – said that he’s not emotionally available.
Well, time goes on and, you eventually caught feelings for him. You told him how you feel, that you’re worried that you messed things up between the two of you and he said – essentially – “Don’t worry, we’re cool”.
You’re going to have to help me out a bit here because honestly, I’m not seeing the problem. Like… at all. You both agreed that a relationship between the two of you wouldn’t work and while you both would be open if things moved in that direction, neither of you are there and you want to remain friends. And then… he’s continued to be your friend.
Now part of the issue is that it seems to me, based on the way you’ve phrased things, that you did the thing that I keep telling people not to do: you went to your crush and said “hey, I have feelings for you”, rather than “hey, I’m interested in you and I’d like to take you on a date” or something similar. The problem with the straight-confession approach is that there’s really not anywhere to go after that. If all you’re doing is saying “hey, I’ve got feelings for you that are beyond friendship” and then waiting, then what you’ve ultimately said is “here, do something with these.” That’s going to leave a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering what you expect from them; are you asking for a date, or to leap straight into a relationship or what?
This can get doubly confusing when you’ve already had a conversation about how you don’t have feelings and aren’t ready to date anyone. And, again, he mentioned that he wasn’t emotionally available. That doesn’t seem to have changed.
But to add to it: from the way you’ve described the conversation, this wasn’t just “I have feelings” it was “I have feelings and I feel bad about it”, which, honestly, doesn’t give a lot of room to maneuver. That sounds a like a love confession that’s putting all the emphasis on the “confession” part – as in the “forgive me Father, for I have sinned” sense. That’s not really something that inspires guys to say “cool, let’s grab drinks and go on a romantic walk along the boardwalk”.
If you’re telling him that you’re feeling like you’re being a bad friend because you have a crush and you understand if that makes him uncomfortable, that’s not exactly the sort of thing that that’s going to inspire someone to say “wow, I feel the same way too”, so much as “…I’m sorry?”.
So the first part of the issue you’re having is that you basically told the guy “I like you and that’s not good.”
But if I’m being real here, it sounds to me like you think he has feelings for you that he’s just not willing to act on or explore and you find that frustrating and confusing. Which, I could understand if that were the case, but from my end of things, it seems fairly clear cut: he doesn’t. You know how I keep emphasizing the part where he said he wasn’t emotionally available? Well… it doesn’t sound like that’s changed. There’s certainly nothing that you’ve written to suggest that things were different for him. Considering how he was confused by you in the beginning and continues to seem to not be interested in dating, it sounds like you’re the one who rounded things up to “romance”, when to him, the two of you were platonic friends.
Is it possible that you were reading more into your friendship with him than was actually there? Hell, is it possible that he just wasn’t flirting with you or, at the very least, not flirting with intent? I know there’re all the usual stereotypes about men not being able to separate attraction and friendship, letting sex get in the way and so on but honestly, it seems like maybe this was more one-sided than you thought. People in general can have flirty friendships or friendships where they talk about sex and sexual topics – even with someone of their preferred gender – without it being a sign that there’s attraction in the mix. And as we’ve seen: people in general are bad at picking up on whether someone is flirting or not. So, is it possible the reason why he was confused is that you saw flirting where he saw friendship?
This is why I’m still not seeing the issue. There really doesn’t seem to be a reason to have some long, in-depth discussion about how he’s feeling or not feeling, as the case may be. After you made your confession, it seems to me like he told you that he didn’t feel the same way pretty clearly and he’s doing his best to continue being your friend. He, from what you’ve written, told you, straight up, “hey, don’t stress yourself out, we’re still cool, this doesn’t upset me.” It seems pretty reasonable that, to his mind, this would be the end of it.
It doesn’t sound like he’s in a place where he’s interested in dating and he may never have been in the first place, and it seems like you’re holding out hope that he’s going to intuit what you want, when what you said (both times) was literally the opposite of that. If what you were hoping for was a date, then quit dancing around the topic and say “I WANT TO GO ON A DATE WITH YOU” with your whole chest. But I think you’re just going to get a replay of the conversation you already had.
If that’s going to make things too hard for you, then yeah, you can wind up this friendship. Much like romantic relationships, friendships and platonic relationships are double opt-in. This means that you can unilaterally end a friendship for any reason. They may not be good reasons in the eyes of many, but they’re your reasons, which is the important part. But in the spirit of honesty, that sounds a lot more like wounded pride than anything else.
If you want clarity from him, you’re going to need to start with giving clarity. Because I think it’s safe to say that he’s the one who thinks everything’s pretty settled and understood. If you feel like it isn’t, then you’re going to have to be the one to re-initiate that conversation and say “ok, I just want to make sure we both understand each other…” and then not immediately go into how you’re being a bad friend to him because you caught feelings.
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