I am having a hard time finding my words, or finding words that will get through. Here’s the situation:
I am a thirty-something female who has, after several years of struggle, come to terms with her complete lack of sexuality. I have dated men, and I have dated a woman, and all in all the response that makes me happiest is “please keep your pants feelings to yourself, I want none of that nonsense”. I am also in a position where even if I did have pants feelings, this is the Wrong Time to be looking for a Special Person. Long story short, I’m currently considered disabled due to the sheer amount of terrible-horrible things going on inside my head and Team Me is all about therapy and learning to be able to take care of ordinary tasks like “paying the rent” and “not loathing myself”.
Team Me is great! It includes wicked-awesome roommates, a handful of bio-familiy, some choice-family, and a helping of friends as well. They’ve got the right blend of accepting that I have Serious Problems, helping out with things beyond me right now, and administering ass-kickings when I get into self-pity.
The word problem I am having is this One Guy. This One Guy, in his words, “really, really likes” me. He has pants feelings and he wants to date me. I have told him no, I am not in a dating place and I am not in any way interested in sex; I have no pants feelings for anyone and actually find the whole sex thing to be painful, awkward, gross, and oh yes painful.
OG (now I’m hearing Phantom of the Opera) is a very very good friend of one of my roommates. He is a very good friend of my other roommate. He is also a Rescuer. OG wants to save me, or at the very least once to be a rock upon which I am saved even if he is not the saver. He is doing this with lots and lots of “You Are So Awesome” and all the buzzwords. The problem is that he does not listen to the part where I have real, honest, crippling problems that are going to take lots of therapy to someday deal with and in the meantime I need other people to help me.
If I try to have an honest discussion like “I understand that you think I am awesome, however the truth is that I cannot right now be trusted with money and you have to talk to (roommate) about that because (roommate) handles the bills” what I get back is “No, you are super awesome and you can do it!” It leaves me feeling frantic, like a little baby bird that’s battering it’s head against a window trying to get free. I know that OG desperately wants to be on Team Me, but I can’t find the words to get through to him that his idea of what being on Team Me entails and my actual needs are on opposite ends of the bridge.
I want Team Me to give me lots and lots of space until I say “Here is a thing where I need help”, and he keeps trying to hold my hands until I get to something I legitimately can’t do and then give a push. He is also trying to jump into the core of Team Me, when I do not know him well at all…I do not get close to people quickly. It takes me lots of time to decide if I can trust someone due to some gloriously terrible judgement calls in the past. OG keeps trying to zip through “acquaintance” into “member of Team Me” without giving me time to get to know him.
I feel like he wants me to be Fixed because if I am Fixed then I will maybe Date Him (because, I guess, asexuality doesn’t exist?) so lets get on with things Right Now. He invites me to things alone (I am a shut-in and do not like leaving the house, am barely able to without my roommates), he messages me just to chat on IM (he found it through a game I run, I did not give it to him), and he blows sunshine up my ass like all I need is a smile on my face for everything to Be Okay.
I need some scripts, Awkward Army! I need ways to say “What you are trying to do is not what I need” that will hopefully not make OG get pissed (OG says he has a temper problem, although I haven’t seen it. The possibility of making people angry makes me want to throw up) and make him take it out on me/my roommates/the cats. I have minimized the amount of time that I spend around him as much as I can, and I do not go anywhere with him alone, but he has been pinging me online more often and it’s making me really, really tired and really, really nervous at the same time.
Planning On Saving Myself, For Myself
You seem to have acquired a Helpful Stalker! With a scary “temper problem.”
Uh, he *told* you he had a “temper problem?” Because that is chilling, my friend. People who warn you about their “temper problems” are making threats. “Do what I say and comply with my needs and you won’t ever have to meet the Hulk-version of me.”
Listen to those feelings of tiredness and nervousness and FEAR where this guy is concerned, ok? His helpfulness is a form of loan-sharking. His idea, whether conscious or unconscious, is that he will “help” you, and then you will get “better”, and then you will reward him with gratitude and access to your sexyparts or at least give him a doomed love affair to distract him from the mundane realities of his life, or else there might be a temper problem.
It’s not your fault that you acquired him, but there is one way that you could handle expressing your lack of interest in sex and romance to him more clearly. It sounds like you tried to reject him using asexuality and disability and logic about why you can’t be with him but left out the part where you don’t want to. Which he heard as “there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza….so fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.”
I knew a guy like this back in the early days of living in Chicago. He was incredibly friendly and “helpful” and soooooooper lonely. If he said “Want to hang out this weekend?” and you said “Yeah, not this weekend, I need to do a lot of stuff around the house,” he’d show up at your house with his tools on Saturday morning and start handymanning up a storm. Then I’d end up sitting awkwardly in some lunch joint having lunch I didn’t want to be having because “having a lot of stuff to do around the house” was a code for “I’D RATHER BE READING, ALONE, THANK YOU.” But after all, he had done me a favor by installing my medicine cabinet or taking out the air conditioners for the winter and I didn’t want to appear ungrateful, right? It was in some ways so sweet and well-intended and in some ways so sad – he just wanted to be needed and prove that he had something to offer – but pushing too hard and forcing me into that “you should be grateful” position soured the friendship and made it impossible to stay close when there were the inevitable “Yeah, sorry, I didn’t think to invite you (because I invited only people I really wanted to see)”/”How can you say that after all I’ve done for you?” fights.
I wish to god I had said “Your offer is nice, but you’re overstepping by just showing up here, and I’d rather not. Also, there is no amount of Ikea bookshelf assembly that will make me touch your neener.” much sooner. YEARS sooner. But sometimes we don’t learn we have boundaries until they’re stepped on.
We’ve covered this here before but it always bears repeating:
“I don’t want to date (right now)/(because reason)” really means “I don’t want to date YOU.”
We think we’re letting people down gently when we use the “not now” or “there’s a good reason that has nothing to do with you” rejection, but people in the throes of a crush can have a high degree of wishful thinking going on, and they parse every statement you make looking for the hopeful bit. “She said…not right NOW, so…maybe soon?” I’ve been guilty of this, many people have been guilty of this, and as reject-ees we will make our lives a lot easier and better if we learn to hear the soft rejection for what it is and be cool about it. As the rejectOR we need to get a little courage and say “That is so kind and flattering, but I’m not interested in you that way,” and weather the awkward moment or two that comes afterward.
So be armed. His pantsfeelings will come up again eventually, and you can say “I’m sorry, I thought I explained this before, but I’m not interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with you.” And he will ask “whyyyyyyyyyyyy?” and you will say “That’s not something I can probably ever really explain to your satisfaction. I really need you to accept that as a final decision, and I will feel so much less awkward if we can change the subject now/give it a few days or weeks to become less awkward.”
I know “not actually remotely capable of having x” is a most excellent reason for your decision, but it’s not one he’s really hearing. Time to make it more O.G.-specific.
I know he’s close to your roommates and I sense that you’re afraid that an outright rejection or conflict might sour the relationships (or have Temper Problem Consequences) with people who you enthusiastically need and want on Team You, but I think there are a few steps you can take right now to make this better for yourself.
1) Block him on IM. Don’t tell him you’re doing it. He won’t know. He’ll NOTICE, but he won’t know.
Just do it today. You can be totally free of IMs from him!
If he asks you what’s up, some scripts are:
“I haven’t felt like chatting online lately. I’ll let you know if that changes.”
“IM can be really distracting and intrusive when I’m trying to concentrate on other stuff, so I shut it down for a while.”
“I was feeling overwhelmed so I decided to take a break from chatting online.”
“A while” or “a break” for him means FOREVER, but he doesn’t have to know that this second. Shut it down.
Now, if he is a weasel and a coward, he will not come to you about things, he will go to your roommates and to mutual people you know and “mention” that he hasn’t seen you online much and one of them will be like “really, she’s on right now?” and he’ll “confront you” about “your lies.” Oh goody.
“I was feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable with how often you were IMing me so I decided to take a break.”
My prediction is that he will claim that if you’d just asked him NICELY he would have backed off and this totally hurts his feelings, etc. etc. This is a lie. It would get weird/angry/awkward no matter what you did. Your answer:
“Dude, your reaction right now is not making me more comfortable. I don’t have to IM you when I don’t feel like it just because I IM’d with you before. Let’s drop this subject permanently.”
2) Address this with the help of your roommates, and have a script ready for the roommates. “He was IMing me way more than I felt comfortable with, so I decided to take a break and be less available. His weird reaction is telling me I made the right decision. I know he’s your friend, but please back me up on this one.”
Or: “Roommates, your friend O.G. has been trying really hard to ‘help’ and ‘spend time with’ me, and it’s making me uncomfortable. I don’t want to make things awkward for you, but I also don’t consider him a close friend or want a closer relationship with him, and I’ve been backing way off on contact in the hopes that he’ll get the message. Could you guys do me a favor and hang out with him Not Here for a month or so while it sinks in?”
Or, more seriously:
“Roommates, your friend O.G. has said and done some things that are really not cool, and he made me feel afraid and uncomfortable. I know he means to be ‘helpful’, but his kind of help is patronizing and really unwanted by me. I don’t want to tell you to stop being friends with him if you don’t want to, but I need you to have my back – He really crossed some lines with me. Please don’t invite him here, please don’t discuss me with him.”
Remember the Geek Social Fallacies. You don’t have to like everyone your friends like.
3) Another immediate strategy you can take is “No, but thanks.” Become terse and perfunctory in your interactions with him. WHATEVER he offers. “No, but thanks!” You can say it breezily and calmly, you can say it emphatically, but say it.
“Let me help you with that!” “No, but thanks.” “Can I come over later and hang out?” “No, but thanks.” “Want to play a game?” “No, but thanks.”
There is power in brevity and in acting like you 100% expect your “no” to be taken seriously without any justifying on your part. If he’s the friend to you that he wants to be and considers himself to be, he shouldn’t need an explanation from you, and you are within your rights to point that out. “I said ‘no thanks.’ Are you really going to make me explain and justify that? (LONG AWKWARD PAUSE) + (PHYSICALLY EXIT THE CONVERSATION).
We’ve also talked about this before:
There is a value and power in being direct and in acting as if the other person will respect your directness that accumulates over time. And there is value and power in being able to receive dislike and unpleasant emotions from other people without internalizing them. It’s naive to think that a woman’s “Hey, no thanks” will always we respected – we have tons of sad, terrible evidence that it won’t always be – but it can help you to set your own boundary and your own expectation for how you need to be treated to act as if it will be respected.
It’s not a magical talisman …but (guys/people), potential predators included, really need to be taught what a clear, direct “no” looks like and that the world will not end if a random woman doesn’t rain constant smiles and approval down on the parched and rocky soil of their hearts.
Because, whatever troubles you are going through right now, whatever genuine needs you have for help? Those do NOT mean you have to accept whatever is offered – from unwanted, intrusive help to tedious and exhausting cheerleading. He’s not your trainer or your sensei or your guru or your therapist. It’s not his job to help you find “normal” again or infect you with his particular strain of Can-Do-Itus. Good grief.
Okay, most of the strategies above assume that O.G. is going to be around on the peripheries of your life because of the relationship he has with your roommates, and they are designed to get you what you want while being as frictionless as possible. But I want to leave you with the idea that it’s okay to hate his fucking guts if you want to. If he touches you? Make a scene. If that temper comes out? Make a scene. If he won’t take no for an answer? Make a scene. I’m talking a dialing 911, screaming bloody murder, “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME, I SAID NO” kind of scene. Talk about this with your therapist. Rehearse it when you’re at therapy so that you’re less nervous and less likely to freeze.
Because you deserve not to have to live your life around making up strategies for dealing with this guy like he’s a missing stair. We should put that in the Red Flag Hall of Fame, in fact, because it applies to so many situations. “If dealing with a person involves a lot of pre-strategizing and post-analyzing and the whole prospect makes you feel tense and annoyed, maybe you don’t need them in your life?”
I hope things get better for you really soon. It sounds like you’re great at assembling the team and resources that you need. It sounds like you were great at trying to have gentle, honest talks with this guy about what you need and how he’s overstepping. It sounds like you’re great at understanding your own boundaries. Gentle isn’t working, and it’s okay to be really annoyed and show it. “I said I didn’t need help. Back OFF.” You don’t need to be rescued, you just need time to heal at your own pace and a safe, supportive space to do it. Sounds like you’ve got 99% of that. Time to turn off that horrible Coldplay song* that this guy is boomboxing under your window and get some peace.
*THE WORST. Sexuals, be warned. If you listen to the song at that link, you will not be able to have sex for a week.