#307: Chemistry!

Dear Captain Awkward;

I have liked this girl for a while now, or at least we seem to have strong chemistry. Sometimes we hang out and there are these tense moments of “Are we gonna kiss?” that I think are on both sides. The caveat is that she is already dating someone (who sounds kind of sucky, at least in the dating capacity) and I don’t want to be romantic with her because of the aforementioned detail and also ’cause we’re functioning fine as friends.

So how can I reliably deal with attraction when I don’t want it? My current strategy is to think about how creepy it is if I think we have a spark and she doesn’t, but that doesn’t appease my annoyance with the situation for long. Also, I should probably never mention this whole thing to her, right? 

-Some Dude

Dear Some Dude:

Hang out with her less and explore other dating/romantic/crush opportunities for yourself and let the attraction subside naturally.

If she asks you why (and you do actually want to start something up with her), say “I’m pretty sure if we kept hanging out so much we were going to end up making out, and I don’t kiss girls who have boyfriends.

If you don’t want to start anything up with her, having chemistry with someone doesn’t mean you have to act on it. Chill out and enjoy the friendship (in smaller doses). Find someone else who welcomes your attention.

Thanks for giving me the excuse to post this video:

22 thoughts on “#307: Chemistry!

  1. I think going out and exploring other crush/ dating/ women as friends opps is awesome advice. This woman has chosen someone else, at least for now.

    Also this: The caveat is that she is already dating someone (who sounds kind of sucky, at least in the dating capacity

    Even if her bf is “kind of sucky” (and maybe he is! or maybe you wish he was, because then you can Save Her From Him?), it’s not up to you to decide who this woman dates, she can totally decide that herself.

    1. Breaking up isn’t easy. So it’s common for a person in a bad relationship to make friends with someone they have chemistry with. Then they can enjoy the thrill they get from one-on-one interactions with this person, which makes it easier to deal with being miserable with their partner.

      She probably does have chemistry with you, and since she knows you won’t cross the line, she likely feels safe pressing against the boundary a bit, and gets a charge from it. And since you enjoy it too, and she isn’t technically cheating, she doesn’t have to feel guilty about it.

      But if you continue to play your part in this (which is so, so tempting), you’re going to end up like Tantalus, and she’s going to continue to tolerate dating her current boyfriend or girlfriend. It will probably also interfere with you finding someone else to date.

      I’d suggest not hanging out with her for a while. It will probably be hard, and if your relationship has a pattern of you initiating most of the contact, she will probably start contacting you, which will stir up confusion and yearning. Ignore those feelings. A complete break will give you some breathing room and perspective.

      Good luck. I hope you’re able to untangle yourself from this situation.

      1. It’s ok! I think you’re right on, which is why I scripted the answer “I don’t kiss girls who have boyfriends.” It preserves the boundary, but also acts like a dare for her to make her attraction explicit and do something about it.

        If she says “Whoa, hold up, I don’t feel that way” the LW can say “Sorry if I misinterpreted, it’s possible it was just me, but things seemed to be getting pretty flirty so I backed way off” and if their friendship is a good one it will survive momentary awkwardness.

        It’s a win either way – something implicit becomes explicit and can be dealt with.

  2. I was in a similar situation recently — strongly attracted to someone who was already in a relationship. I’ve mostly gotten rid of my crush by spending a couple of weeks away from the object of it, but every once in a while it comes back. And I ccan’t just keep my distance because I work with this person. I don’t particularly want to be in a relationship, or be having pantsfeelings for anyone.

    I don’t want to hijack the LW’s thread but does more attraction have to be the only way of getting rid ofattraction?

    1. You’re gonna feel what you feel until you don’t feel it anymore. Redirecting it to someone else is one strategy. Spending less time together is another strategy. Feeling it but not saying anything about it is yet another strategy.

      Attraction does not have to be expressed. It can die a silent death. It just takes time.

    2. Not at all. The advice I’ve heard for that situation is “don’t feed a crush”. Don’t make excuses to walk by their desk at work. Go do something else when you catch yourself daydreaming about them. Stop writing your first name with their last name in your notebook. It passes, eventually.

      In hindsight, some of my inappropriate crushes were driven more by hero worship than actual romantic interest. They were admirable people who did admirable things and I aspire to be more like them. It’s not a bad thing, just awkward and uncomfortable for a while to deal with pantsfeelings that do not at all line up with headthoughts. Rest assured, it does eventually go away.

    3. Carolyn Hax always suggests that if you want to get over a crush, you picture that person doing boring or slightly rude things — think about them picking their nose, or leaving dirty dishes out instead of putting them in the dishwasher, etc.

    1. Don’t have sex with that lady
      Find somebody else to shag
      Just stay far away from her
      Till you stop thinking of her
      And she no longer makes you sad

      Don’t have sex with that lady
      Just hang out as friends instead
      You can sublimate your crushing
      And about someone else be gushing
      But quietly ’cause you’re well-bred

      1. Fucking excellent! I knew what song you meant even before I saw the video.

        Don’t have sex with that lady
        It would be such a bad idea
        Don’t kiss or serenade her
        She’ll end up like Darth Vader
        Stay home and read The Gift Of Fear

        Don’t have sex with that lady,
        If she should ask or beg or nag,
        Suppress the urge to woo her
        Just say no thank you to her
        Find someone waving a green flag

  3. The “she’s dating someone kind of sucky” thing makes me nervous. I’m not suggesting that you’re this guy, but you want to be careful not to become him. Sometimes our friends’ significant others sound suckier to us than they actually are, because what we hear is the venting about [thing X did that drives friend bonkers], and not the day-to-day kindness and support, much the way the Captain and the Awkward Army often have much worse opinions of an LW’s partner than the LW does, because the LW is writing in about a specific problem and not including the “and he always asks me how my day went and takes the time to really truly listen and empathize” stuff.

    1. It’s true that when you only hear about the problems, you see the person in the worst light, and it’s an advice column cliche to describe your partner as “wonderful” and then list all the bullshit..and yet? Go easy on the LW. It’s okay if he doesn’t like the girl’s boyfriend based on what he’s heard, or if he decides “She’d be better off with me” privately inside his head. He’s not actively scheming about this, and his question was “how do I cool this off and not do anything skeevy?”

      Feelings happen. Opinions happen. Actions matter.

      1. Sorry — clearly I phrased that really badly. I didn’t mean that I thought the LW was plotting or had ill intent, more that it’s actually really easy to de facto become “that guy”, albeit unintentionally and without the long-term deliberate planning, and it can lead to unhappiness.

  4. LW, I think your question is great because of how self-aware it is — and as someone who has been in your situation, Cap’n’s advice will work well.

    If I can ask a follow up question (that the LW alludes to): Isn’t chemistry usually mutual? Also, how can you tell the difference between friend and romantic chemistry? I thought I could tell but I think the lines have blurred with a couple

    1. I don’t think there is a rubric for telling the difference. Making a new friend is a lot like falling in love – there is a spark of mutual interest, excitement, looking forward to seeing them, being around them makes you feel happy & great. It IS attraction of a sorts, just not necessarily the kind with BONERZ. Sometimes it takes time to figure out the difference. A lot of it depends on how the other person feels – sometimes it is sexual attraction that fades & changes into something else because it’s not reciprocated, sometimes that was never a part of it. There’s a lot of shades of “My life is more fun with you in it.”

      People who have BONERZ for each other are pretty good about figuring that out eventually.

      1. “Making a new friend is a lot like falling in love”
        This is very true for me. When first I met my (then future) husband, I had no clue that I liked him as more than a friend. I tend to get platonic crushes on friends, usually new friends, but not always. I once spent a season sending copious letters to a platonic friend who’d gotten an out of town summer job. Just because I was sending 3 letters a week to future Mr. delbelcoure wasn’t actually proof that I had pants feelings for him. He was a horrible return letter writer and his lack of written response also wasn’t proof that he didn’t have feelings (friend and/or pants) for me.

    2. Yeah. I agree with the Captain, it can be hard.

      I’ve had those BONERZ feelings for many a people who either didn’t feel them back, or they just didn’t want to act on them. It makes it hard. (It just doesn’t always make HIM hard.)

      You just have to go with it. Sometimes you can get through it and turn it into an awesome friendship. Sometimes it’s just too awkward. If you’re feeling the sexual chemistry, you can always just ask if it’s mutual if you really can’t tell. 🙂

  5. LW, I can only second the entire reduce contact strategy. A guy I liked started dating someone else so my rule became ‘stay friendly, but stay a little distant’ because hanging with him was so much fun! And he was cute! But you need the distance because people that you like will make you feel amazing when you’re with them and you get hooked on that. Included in my rule was never being alone with him, and to always hang out around other friends, which let me see my friend but helped to starve my crush a little. And it worked. I didn’t do anything to make me feel like I was expressing interest (at least, I don’t think I did, but a lot of people claim I’m flirting with people when I joke around and chat to them, which is not me trying to flirt. Me trying to flirt is impressively awkward). I happened to like his girlfriend as well, but to my mind, it wouldn’t have mattered if I thought she was horrible. He liked who he liked, and that meant a strict off limits, since none of us are polyamorous. This isn’t to say I didn’t feel a little sad, because as I’m sure you know, not being around people you like isn’t the happiest thing in the world.

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