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#703: Same Song, Different Day: “Someone told me they don’t want to be with me. How can I change their mind?”

Hello,

I am a 22 year old male and my crush is a 19 year old. We met by chance a few months back.
The first time we had a proper conversation she said that she didn’t want a boyfriend.
So, I eased on the flirting completely. After a couple of meet ups I started receiving signals from her. It may have been my wishful thinking.
I take her out for a movie, one thing led to another and we kissed.
When I dropped her home that night, she said she doesn’t feel the same way. So, I let it go.
The following day I receive a text saying that she didn’t want us to continue being friends anymore because she feels awkward and she can’t deal with it.
I have strong feelings for her. More than anything I don’t want to lose her.
Kindly Help!

Thank-you.

Hello Yourself!

I guess you are part of a recurring theme, writing in the day after this posted.

This woman doesn’t want to be with you, romantically, or as a friend. She told you this directly. She, not I, not the Internet, and definitely not you, is the sole authority on this question, and she has communicated her decision quite clearly. The only right decision here is to respect her words and leave her alone. If at some point she misses your friendship, she knows how to find you.

Sometimes people don’t make up their mind about you all at once. They need more information, so they do things like “go on a date with you and kiss you” to try out the notion of you. That’s what happened here – she gave your kind offer some more consideration – and then she made a decision. You can’t “lose” her because “having” isn’t a thing; there is only choosing, and being chosen in return, and not being chosen.

I have had people try to convince me that I was wrong to break up with them or to decline to deepen or continue a relationship. The trajectory of those interactions ranged from sad to annoying to terrifying. I have tried to convince people not to break up with me, to give me one more chance. I can only pray that they (plural ‘they’, unfortunately, not the groovy gender-neutral singular construction) have long since deleted the Emails of Desperation and Neediness I sent. You’ve all seen how wordy I can be here, now imagine that “talent” and energy applied to convincing you that you really, really should stay with me even though you don’t want to, complete with numbered lists of reasons and airtight logic cases for why it really, really should work out.

Picard, Whorf, and Riker with Facepalm

Hounding those people – people who genuinely liked and cared for me but who just didn’t want what I wanted – is one of my true regrets in life. I would give a lot to be able to take it all back, to disengage more gracefully from those past relationships, to save my dignity, their patience, and to be true to a principle of consent in all things. Fortunately, I did eventually learn that you cannot logic someone into loving you back. My life got so much better when I learned that lesson and I hope yours does, too.

I know it’s terrible to contemplate losing both your hoped-for romantic connection and a friend, and I sympathize greatly with what you must be feeling. Please, take the time away from her as the gift that it is. Delete her number from your phone, hide/unsubscribe/unfriend her social media feeds, lick your wounds, grieve for what might have been, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into other connections and interests. Read books by women. Let time do its healing work (It will, I promise). Be a person who takes “no” for an answer.

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182 comments
  1. Fishmongers' daughters said:

    Yeah, going out with you and kissing you does not make her beholden to you in any way. Maybe ask yourself why, if you like her so much, you’re so unwilling to take her “no” for what it is that you would ask for the advice of a stranger on how to exploit any wiggle room she might have left you. It sounds like your strong feelings are less about her than about what you want her to be to YOU. And that sounds very much more like your problem than hers.

    • Anne On said:

      LW, I understand completely your strong feelings for this person. Unfortunately, her “no” is also a part of her and there is no way for you or advice column writers or anybody else to get rid of that part. It sucks, I know. It’s painful to mourn the potential relationship you wanted.

      I would advise, after you heal a bit, to read through the archives on this site. The advice here has helped me enormously in times like this. Take care of yourself.

  2. A Different Aurora said:

    LW, your word choices show what appear to be some troubling attitudes toward this woman. To wit, that you see her as property or as a prize to be won — “My crush” and “don’t want to lose her” — rather than as a fully independent human being with the agency to make her own decisions. She is not an object. She is a person. She told you she does not want you in her life in no uncertain terms. Yes, it hurts right now. That will fade.

    No matter what, do not contact her. Leave her alone.

    • I wouldn’t go so far as to say the LW sees this woman as “property”. “My crush” is pretty much equivalent to “the person I have a crush on” and doesn’t have any additional connotations of “THIS PERSON BELONGS TO ME!!!”.

      The “don’t want to lose her” part on the other hand suggests to me that he might be deluding himself about the significance of this friendship. He hasn’t really known her that long and refers to her as “my crush” (I didn’t say the wording was *completely* without issue) and not “my friend” or “my friend who I have a crush on”. To me this says that most of what he believes himself to be “losing” in this case isn’t something that ever existed but that in his mind *might* exist if she were still around. Hope basically. Which is not something he needs at the moment.

      • A Different Aurora said:

        Given the content of the rest of the letter, I would argue that in this context “my crush” very much does have the connotation that the LW sees the woman on whom he has a crush as his property — he is possessive of her and not willing to take her very clear no for an answer. I agree that he is deluding himself about the significance of this acquaintanceship. He definitely needs to give up hope that she will change her mind.

        Having worked for many years with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and stalking, everything about this letter is setting off my inner alarms. Happily, he does not appear to have crossed the line over which lies police reports and restraining orders. Hopefully, he never will. A good way to be certain is for him to leave that lady alone.

        • *Everything* about the letter? Really? Like what specifically (minus what you covered)?

          This isn’t a “Prove your case to me!” question. I’m actually genuinely curious.

          • A Different Aurora said:

            What I specifically covered is the crux of the letter. She said no and he wants to do an end run around consent. He is also doing that common thing that stalkers and abusers do by repeatedly mentioning how he “let it go” and “eased up.” This stands out because it should go without mention that you listen when somebody tells you that they are not interested. As a result, this letter waves ALL the red flags.

          • Gotcha.

            The “See how much I’m letting go, everybody???” thing looks super fishy.

            Especially keeping gorilla-glue firmly in mind that this is only half the story and likely a plea for hope/permission to proceed, I definitely see what you mean now.

        • Paulina said:

          Sadly, a lot of this is due to phrasing that looks rather default, reflecting toxic concepts in the culture that many are soaking in. Wording like “I don’t want to lose her” and possessive pronouns are very common. But I love (in a non-possessive way 🙂 the Captain’s response: “You can’t “lose” her because “having” isn’t a thing; there is only choosing, and being chosen in return, and not being chosen.”

          Still, the main thread of the letter seems to be about what the LW did and should do as a strategy in order to get what he wants. And even allowing for default phrasing, that’s troubling.

  3. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what sorts of things separate friendships that survive unrequited crushes from the ones that don’t. From what I’ve gathered so far, this one seems pretty typical of the “don’t” category: A fairly new friendship where one party knowingly or unknowingly jumped in boner-first/beaner-first.

    To me the LW’s crush’s behavior throughout seemed to say “It’s not that I find you repulsive, but please let’s not make our every interaction all about your feelings for me.”

    I think that that’s usually the source of the awkwardness commonly experienced in these situations. Not to mention the other failed crush-first-friendship issue of fleeing from the trap of “Let’s stay friends so I can have infinite chances to get you to date me!”

    • Whoa! That’s brilliant, and you’re right.

      There’s no hope for a friendship with activities concentrated solely on analysis of the relationship. Thanks for this

    • I have had quite a few friendships with people I also had unrequited crushes on. Some of them were of the “new person I immediately declared interest in,” some were the “long time friend I developed feelings for.”

      What made the friendships work, on their end, was that, once rejected (or immediately, if they were never available in the first place), I believed it. I put them in the same category as “celebrities I have crushes on,” where it’s sure, a fantasy, but never going to happen. I never, ever, mentioned it again, directly or indirectly.

      What made it work, on my end, was my ability to enjoy the crush as a good thing that didn’t need to be fixed. Kinda like a muscle ache from working out, sort of uncomfortable, but kinda good, too? Like reminding me “I have this muscle there!” And it makes seeing them more special, like it brightens my day which is nice! So having a crush was a source of *good* things, so there was no resentment towards my friend for being the source of pain for me.

      • buttonsbuttons said:

        I rarely get crushes, but when I do, this is also my chosen method of dealing! With a side of pulling back on regularity of contact if the feelings get too big.

        • This is also how I handle crushes, with a side of trying to recognize, “Oh, [quality that person I’m crushing on is strong at] is something I want more of in my life. What are some other ways I might work on developing that thing?”

      • williamlongfellow said:

        Yes yes yes all of this! I often get crushes on friends—people with whom a good friendship with an unrequited crush would be a lovely endgame (and yeah, it can take some time to be at peace with this)—and eventually you learn to carry all of those feelings simultaneously.

        Time can do funny things to crushes, too. I once totally fell for a lovely person who didn’t reciprocate those feelings; a few years later we’re great friends but I’m not even a little romantically attracted to her anymore. Meanwhile, I still have a crush on another good friend. I just take the feelings as they come, enjoy the ride, and behave correctly regardless.

    • A_lopez said:

      I guess the situations where one person has not taken the other’s words at face value or generally not paid attention to reciprocity are those where the awkwardness becomes unbearable. Essentially, when one person is acting based on their fantasies about the other person and the relationship, rather than what is really happening with the other person. That becomes an all-consuming problem even though you may even like quite a lot of things about the person.

    • ZeldasCrown said:

      I agree. That, and, when the other person doesn’t take no for an answer, and decides to change the other person’s mind, or show them that they’re wrong about how they feel. Not respecting the other person’s wishes is a real friendship killer.

  4. Rose Fox said:

    I once knew a guy who was absolutely certain that if he could just get his ex alone in a room for half an hour and show her his PowerPoint presentation explaining why she should not have left him, she would see the light and get back together with him. Don’t be that guy, LW. Don’t be anything at all like that guy. Be as unlike that guy as you can manage to be. If you catch yourself thinking “maybe if I just text her exactly the right way” or “maybe if I time my commute so that I just happen to run into her at the train station” or anything else that amounts to “maybe if I ignore her stated desire for me to leave her alone”, repeat to yourself: PowerPoint Guy would do that thing. I don’t want to be him. I will not do that thing.

    Now is a great time to take up a hobby that your former friend would probably hate, to hang out with friends she would disdain, to distract yourself with movies she’d never want to watch. Enjoy your life and find other people to share that enjoyment with. Soon you’ll find more crushes popping up, and a few months from now you’ll be like “Oh her? I don’t even remember what she looks like”. It might feel pretty devastating right now, but focus on finding ways to move on and you’ll be fine before you know it.

    • FlyBy said:

      Please tell me the PowerPoint presentation is hyperbole and not literal.

      • Hahahaha. That was exactly my thought.

      • Tattie said:

        I kinda want it to be literal. With slide-in bullet points, and those “bean people” as clip art.

      • Rose Fox said:

        As far as I know it was literal, though I never saw it.

        • I can’t believe we live in this world.

        • puckmuse said:

          I’m trying to picture him, adjusting his fonts and adding special effects for slide transitions, thinking, “Yup, this is a perfectly normal way to handle a break up.”

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            “I would have gotten her back if only I’d used Neutraface!”

          • Rose Fox said:

            Oh no, I’m pretty sure it was “Psh, this is SO MUCH BETTER than the ways that ORDINARY people try to get back together with their exes”.

            That’s why I find him such a useful example–even people who are halfway down the slippery slope of becoming garden-variety harassers and stalkers can see that there’s something really not right about PowerPoint Guy, and once they’re willing to accept that he’s waving merrily from the bottom of the slope, it can encourage them to look for ways to climb back up. Quickly, in case he’s following them.

      • piny1 said:

        I think you mean, “Please tell me the PowerPoint presentation is literal and not hyperbole.”

    • Marie said:

      I’m grandma-age, so trust me, I’ve been on all sides of this (though, thank goodness, the last time serious persuasion was applied to persuade me to love someone back was pre-PowerPoint). I have gotten over deep love, two marriages, crushes, all variations. It is easier than you think it will be to get over someone you were never really involved with. It is the dream that holds you, the what-if, and taking the advice to find new hobbies, do lots of things, meet new people is truly the finest thing you can do. And you will recover far faster and be that much closer to real love.

      Don’t waste time on wishing for what won’t be.

    • piny1 said:

      And it would have won her back, too, except it was in comic sans.

      • thelittlepakeha said:

        Fun story: Our national radio station trolled their Twitter with comic sans.

      • He learned his lesson. Next time: Papyrus.

        • piny1 said:

          Ha!

    • Hahaha I wonder if I know (knew) that guy. 🙂

    • Cactus said:

      So basically he was the opposite of the girl in this song?

      (Note: definitely not trying to excuse this dude’s behavior. But when you said “Power Point,” this was immediately what came to mind, and I have actually had such sympathy for the girl in this song since the first time I heard it. Plus the dude in this song is all kinds of Not Good.)

      • jdrives said:

        I have the same feelings about this song!! Like “Dude, LET IT GO.”

      • Copcher said:

        I went through a breakup shortly after this album came out (or at least shortly after I discovered it). I remember at one point when we were still in breaking-up mode, my ex asked me if I had listened to this song at all since I said I wanted to end it, and I told him that I totally identified with the girl. He told me he identified with the guy, and seemed to see his behaviour as totally reasonable and okay. I hadn’t needed any more reasons to end that relationship, but he just kept giving them to me!

      • Neurite said:

        Oh man, that song! When I first listened to it, I was getting so mad… because the male singer is saying all these things that are creepy and disrespectful of his partner’s decision and frankly terrifying (“I will block the door like a goalie tending the net”?!), but fit all these love-song and romantic-comedy tropes that are supposed to be soo romantic. So I thought the song was just another “toxic ideas presented as the height of romantic devotion” BS.

        …and then the female singer starts in and tears it all down and it is glorious. And every time he starts up again, she shuts him right down. By the time she got to the “Don’t you feed me lines…” lyric, I was pumping my fist in the air and cheering for her. And she gets the last word! I choose to interpret this song as being 100% on the female singer’s side and a direct critique of the “refusing to let someone go is romantic” trope. (Please nobody tell me if the band has said anything to the contrary.)

    • Light said:

      I sincerely hope that at some point (before he actually managed to run the PP) he realized how daft this was and now looks back on it and cringes. For hours.

  5. Helen Damnation said:

    LW, the advice you’re getting may seem harsh. It sucks that this girl doesn’t like you back, and it sucks that the right answer is to leave her alone. But the right answer is to leave her alone.

    If the reactions here so seem harsh to you, it’s because you don’t understand how awful it feels to be logicked or niced into dating someone you don’t want to be with. I know that you care about her, and that you would never willingly hurt her, but you most likely don’t realise or understand that doing anything other than leaving her alone would hurt her. Trying to be friends with someone who has obvious and unrequited feelings for you can be a crushing weight. I’ve never been in your shoes, but I’ve been in hers, often, and they’re very uncomfortable. Trust me. Leave her alone.

    Important to note: you haven’t done anything wrong. Yet. But seriously though, leave her alone.

  6. Andrew Glasgow said:

    I don’t know if we should blame Romantic Comedies, or whether they just reflect an attitude of the culture that would exist to the same extent without them.

      • I like the way you think!

    • Romantic comedies are the culture – they both reflect and perpetuate its attitudes.

      • Marie said:

        It’s not just romantic comedies, though, it’s serious novels, intellectual theater plays and opera, too. New York, London, Paris and Vienna are as much to blame as Hollywood.
        (I mean, I agree with your point entirely, but I’m a bit miffed that people are always pointing at romantic comedies)

        • tinyorc said:

          So very true! We’d be in a much better place if this narrative was only confined to one genre of film. But “boy meets girl, girl rejects boy, boy wins girl’s heart through incredible feat of love” is one of the oldest stories in the world and it permeates pretty much every product of our culture.

          • wayofcats said:

            Yes, but I understand the issues; current rom-coms so rarely “do it right.”

            In the classics from the thirties, it is a misconception; she thinks he’s engaged, he sees her in a situation that gives the wrong impression. In older stories, it’s feuding families, or a curse one of them has to overcome. But too often, in modern stories, it’s something stupid. And it continues to be each party faking something to be the conflict, and that’s not good writing.

            My advice to the LW is to not be the stupid part of one’s own love story. Both parties have to have the feelings, and they are not something arrived at via logic. One person doesn’t get to decide. It’s supposed to be a partnership.

          • piny1 said:

            The Iliad, for example.

          • crooked bird said:

            @wayofcats: Robert McKee discusses this in his book on screenwriting, basically saying (iirc) that the stupid modern version was invented b/c there has to be an impediment but the old impediments have been demoted to inconveniences. Nowadays, if your parents forbid you to marry, if you’re already engaged/married to someone else, etc, it might cause some qualms, but not enough that a film audience won’t easily dismiss them when placed against True Love.

            I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is, which is one of the reasons I don’t write romances. In some plots, “will they both survive long enough to get together” is an option, I guess, but at that point it’s more suspense than romance. In my current novel, I’m actually thinking of doing a renunciation: “I’m in love with him but he must never know, because I know he won’t convert and I won’t either.” But it’s a historical novel. I wonder if you could get away with that in a contemporary one.

            Just had to run my mouth about some fiction thoughts, hope that’s OK!

  7. twomoogles said:

    I love the point about how people don’t make up their minds all at once. I am in that category–it almost always takes me awhile to decide how I feel about somebody, and having my “hmm” stage referred to as “mixed signals” is really frustrating. I feel like there’s this idea that people always know right away what they want, but that just isn’t true. It doesn’t, however, mean that once the mind has been made up that it should be debated. Sometimes there’s this tendency to try to “prove” that the other person is attracted (this also happens a lot in fiction) as though this will somehow obligate them to acknowledge this attraction and act on it. But, there are definitely people I’ve been attracted to and decided “nope” based on other reasons, too.

    I love how the Captain describes her previous emails of desperation and neediness! I did the same thing, with my first relationship, and remembering it makes me want to crawl under the table and hide my face from the world for awhile. (there was a definite thought of “if I can just phrase this the right way my ex will realize how much I care and want to come back…yeah, didn’t work) Trying to convince somebody to be with you/stay with you isn’t on its own an indicator of horribleness or of seeing her not as a person, and a lot of us have done something similar. But left unchecked it can get very toxic and lead bad places.

    • winter said:

      It is very true that (most) people need time to make up their minds. For the crusher everything seems very obvious: they really want to be with that person, now crushee only has to make the right decision!
      But if you’re feeling pressured even the slightest bit – and be it by social conventions – to stay in contact with someone who gives you an uneasy feeling, it can take a little time to completely make up your mind.

      LW, your (ex) friend has given you the gift of not staying around when she would be uncomfortable all the time. This is nice because 1) you know where you stand 2) you are not badgering a person who would very much like to be somewhere else 3) you can cut your losses and move on to new people who’ll possibly be as into you as you are into them.

      Neither of you did anything wrong (yet). Take care of yourself now and give yourself the gift of meeting people who are wholeheartedly interested in you.

    • “having my “hmm” stage referred to as “mixed signals” is really frustrating”

      This this this!

      For me, physical compatibility is incredibly important in a relationship, so it’s possible for me to be interested in someone right up until the point where we kiss, and if it’s not working for me… well, that’s usually a dealbreaker. And it’s unfortunate, because there’s a huge amount of social and cultural significance placed on The Kiss as the harbinger of true love/the definitive start of a long and blissful relationship, and “but we KIIIIIIIIIISSED” can be a powerful agent of wishful thinking.

    • Paulina said:

      Yes. There may have been “mixed signals” — but now the signal is clear and unequivocal.

      I know that it can be tempting to try to rewind things to the “mixed” stage and go after the other path, but that’s not an option. The state of “Schroedinger’s Girlfriend” (or Boyfriend) has been determined as NO.

      It can be extremely frustrating to have the exploring-the-situation behaviour cited as evidence that things should be different. It can be a damned-either-way situation for women: if we don’t give things a try then we’re berated for not giving the guy a chance, and if we do and conclude “no” then we’re berated for mixed signals. She seems to have given it a chance, however slim that chance may or may not have been, and she has now decided. Please respect her conclusion rather than make her sorry that she explored the possibility.

  8. Lina said:

    I feel that after the last two letters, this needs to be said because a lot of young men don’t seem to know it: There is no predictable exchange rate between friendship and romance. You can’t fill up your Friendship Punch Card and trade it in for a romantic relationship.

    Just because you have a great friendship with another person doesn’t mean they want anything romantic from you, or that you’d be great romantic partners. Likewise, you can have a great romantic relationship with someone who you don’t have years of inside jokes with/spend hours talking on the phone with/etc. Sure, plenty of people are friends before they date, but plenty of people aren’t. Those emotions aren’t equivalent, and friendship isn’t a test-run for love.

    • This kind of thing, honestly, is why, when I was dating, I so rarely even considered dating friends after my early dating experiences. I fell into the “well we’re friends, and he wants to date me, so I guess I should” too often as a teen and in my early twenties, and it’s super weird to be in a relationship and be like “…what exactly is going on here? Am I here because I want to be?” and realize you don’t know.

      • Big ditto here Novel. I feel like i’m the official long reign queen of the Friendzone and while i’ve managed to keep friends with the majority of the guy friends who’ve asked me out (and things settled into no longer making repeated attempts at asking out) its alwas a little exhausting in the background having to mentally check in and cross-interrogate cerain things they say in case they’re wriggling in to ask out again or they’re reading something you’re saying as flirty. Then you feel guilty for giving mixed signals etc and it’s just a big pile of blah. And if you DO date them then you always hit a baffled point where you dont actuallyknow if you’re ATTRACTED to them, or whether you’re just selfisly enjoying having a human there who can satisfy another human who’s just frustratingly horny and lonley from inexperience and is just enjoying the attention.And inevitaly you end up having that awkward reak up conversation where you try to end things without saying the ‘harsh’ reason of “you’re cool and lovely but i’m just not attracted to you. At all.” And just so much guilt. As if not being attracted to someone isn’t a good enough reason and makes you shallow. Blaah.
        Nowadays i actively look to try to date strangers for all the above reasons, whoch baffles my friends and doesnt fit in to what i feel comforable with for the usual socally awkard reasons and tat too is pretty exhausting lol

        LW if she doesn’t want contact for a while, for whatever rason, the best thing you can do is to accept it. I think girls are really socalised to second guess their own feelings and put up with things to give guys the benefit of the doubt. Or she cold have been a bit lonely and horny when she kissed you and liked the act but not the person behind it. Or she could genuinely have been giving it a go to see if a spark turned up. whatever the reason, it didnt work out, and she gets to decide whether your friendship is worth the guilt and awkwardness of still hanging around (and whether she trusts you to behave properly). For now, she decided it isn’t and you should respect that. She’ll com back when and if she’s ready. Your job is to do nothing and move on as best you can and be as awesome a dude as you can be for yourself.

        • My current husband was in a relationship for ten years and I was in a relationship for 12 years (married for 2 of them) where we both started going out with the other person after saying no first. Because there *IS* something complimentary about someone wanting you SO MUCH that they persevere. Until 10/12 years have gone by and you realize the “relationship” was probably over before it started because you just weren’t that into them. And you realize that for 10/12 years you’ve been feeling like you could do better. And then feeling bad about it because your partner is a Really Great Person! Except that you’re just not that into them.

          Let no stand. Sometimes turning the no to yes is significantly worse than just moving on.

          • Thanks For All The Fish said:

            “Let no stand. Sometimes turning the no to yes is significantly worse than just moving on.”
            I want to highlight this because it is sooo true!

          • emdashing said:

            “Let no stand. Sometimes turning the no to yes is significantly worse than just moving on.”

            Would that I could go back in time and tell my younger self this. Oh the time I could save…

        • On the flip side, I’ve never started a relationship with someone I didn’t have a strong friendship with first (which often meant years of friendship), but… there had to be true mutual interest lining up. And if a friend was interested and I wasn’t, then they had to truly drop that and accept friendship for the friendship to survive. Also, I’ve never gotten involved with a friend who didn’t value my friendship. Friendship wasn’t a consolation prize; my friendship was something they were pleased with. And if more than that happened, then they’d be even more pleased, but if more than that didn’t happen, then that was okay too – truly okay. Which is also how I felt.

          But the letter writer doesn’t seem to have had a friendship like that. This was a fairly new person the letter writer got to know. There wasn’t time for a friendship to grow. Nor did the letter writer fully back away from everything romantic when she had wanted that. I’d take the kiss as a very bad sign. It was only a few months after she explicitly stated she didn’t want anything romantic. There’s a high chance she thought they were going to a movie as friends (that’s something I do with friends, certainly). That it ended up in a kiss brings the unwanted romance back into the picture, and it would have made me feel unsafe, personally. Certainly uncomfortable. It sounds a lot like she gave him a chance to be her friend, and then he chose to keep pushing for a relationship anyway. I, personally, would probably not give another chance after that either. Unless I had explicitly stated a change in my view, I wouldn’t view somebody as a good friend if they went back to romantic actions after I explicitly told them not to. Even if I were considering somebody (which we have no reason to think she was), I would certainly not feel comfortable saying yes to somebody who doesn’t fully accept my no. I’ve had things change over time, but part of why I felt safe and comfortable with that person was I knew I was fully valued as a friend and truly free to decide either way without my friend taking it out on me if they didn’t get their more preferred response. Especially since often my answer is going to be no, even if my friend is lovely and did nothing wrong, because I’m just not romantically interested in most people. If a friend can’t accept that, then they aren’t my friend.

          So, if you really, really want to keep a friendship, even if the other person isn’t interested in you romantically, I’d say make it about nothing but friendship after they state their lack of desire. And only do that if you truly can, because if you’re secretly still hoping it’ll change, then the other person can almost always tell, and it will make them uncomfortable, and you can’t form a healthy relationship or a healthy friendship from that. If true friendship isn’t your highest priority and you get rejected, then it’s probably best to just walk away immediately and look for what you actually do want in someone who wants it with you. It’s too late in this case, but in future situations, stop at the very first no and stay stopped until you have explicit conversation that changes that. If you’re not 100% sure, ask questions until you are. Better for your friend to have to come back in another conversation and, with no subtlety, clarify what was pretty obvious the first time round, because you didn’t catch on (as I have done once) until you do realize their feelings have changed than for you to think maybe things have changed when they haven’t and push pass someone’s no. If they really do gain interest and you really are friends, they’ll make sure you’re aware of that change if it ever happens. And if, at that point, you don’t feel the same way, if they’re a good friend, they’ll immediately back off from that direction too, once you’ve told them your feelings.

          So, friendship to dating can work, but for me, it’s always needed a strong friendship, mutual interest, and a complete willingness from both people to keep it at friendship without being too upset about that if the mutual willingness isn’t there. Unsurprisingly, friendship is also the primary thing I want and get from my relationships. They are, most importantly, really close friends… who have also been people I’ve been sexually involved with and planned a future together with and so forth, but the biggest part is we’re friends. And after a break-up, it’s been because we realized we weren’t compatible as romantic partners, so we went back to friends without the other aspects. It’s what works for me. Other models work for other people.

          • MorkaisChosen said:

            “It’s too late in this case, but in future situations, stop at the very first no and stay stopped until you have explicit conversation that changes that.”

            Yep.

            One specific thing on this from the inside of my head: when crushing on someone, I tend to overthink every possible nonexplicit indication of interest; sometimes that sort of thing’s what gets me to say something. It’s part of the whole “crush-which-may-or-may-not-be-reciprocated” experience.

            If I’ve had the “totally crushing on you” “sorry not a thing but still friends?” “yeah if that’s OK with you” conversation (and continued friendship is a privilege not a right, people are allowed to be uncomfortable and want to back off!) I do my best to totally shut down the “is that a hint that they like me?” thing in the continued friendship. Acting on anything like that when they’ve said no is unpleasant and intrusive; you’ll be much happier if you just go “newp, none of that unless I’m told unambiguously that there’s been a change of mind.”

    • Bunny said:

      FRIENDSHIP ISN’T A TEST RUN FOR LOVE.

      Sorry for shouting but this is perfect.

      LW, and the previous LW if you’re still around (and I hope you are, this is an excellent community to learn from – not just about how to treat others, but about how you should expect to be treated yourself). Remember that your interactions with your crushes are not attempts to achieve the Romance Story Line in-game. There was no secret conversation tree with your crushee that would have led to the outcome you wanted, because your crushee is not an NPC blank slate waiting to be built upon by your interactions with them. And there is no backed-up save game you can run to re-do things.

      Your crushee is a person, just like you, who came into the relationship and out of it with their own thoughts, feelings, desires and preferences. Relationships – friendships, family and romance – are not negotiations. It’s okay for you to feel sad, or hurt, or upset, or disappointed that the person you like doesn’t feel the same way. But the way to deal with those emotions is to be kind to yourself, find a Team You to help you think of other things, and move on.

      • +1 to both Lina and Bunny for excellent metaphors. Filing “Friendship Punch Card” and “Secret Conversation Tree” for later use.

      • slimlove said:

        I wonder sometimes if outside pressures push people into thinking that friendship *is* a test run for love. Not just cultural stuff like rom coms, but from the people around us. When I was in high school, I was friends with a lot of guys, and there was this sort of universal ‘so are you more than friends?’ and ‘she’s such a nice girl, why don’t you date her?’ from everyone. My family, their various families. There’s a certain idea that it is impossible for men and women to be friends without it turning sexual. And sometimes it got to me and I found myself thinking ‘well we’re really good as friends, why wouldn’t we be good at dating too?’ without really considering that we were not actually attracted to each other.

        • Cactus said:

          I certainly got that in high school. I spent a day on a school-sponsored trip uneasily-semi-flirting with this one friend-of-a-friend, then figured out in my brain that he was a little creepy, but because of my initial indecision I got so much prodding from one of my friends to date him. So eventually I did. He ended up being even worse than I feared.
          My parents didn’t really do this: in this specific case I think they (or at least my mom) suspected some of his no-goodness from the start (some of her comments, but also for Christmas, two weeks before I started dating this dude, she gave me a book in which the main character is raped by someone who has this same dude’s name).

          • Oh god. I sure hope he wasn’t really a rapist.

            I know people who just say no on principle, to avoid just this (initial indecision, cue prodding) situation.

        • Og said:

          Totally! This happens with same-sex and gender nonconforming friends too, if your orientations are compatible. “Why aren’t you dating, you’re so compatible!” Because we’re compatible domestically and platonically, not romantically, and we’re not remotely attracted to one another!

          • Big Pink Box said:

            If I had a £10 note for every time a straight friend or family member assumed that I would be instantly attracted to other gay girls… The amount of times I heard “But you’re both lesbians, what’s the problem?” is innumerable.

            I was introduced to some downright bizarre women with the expectation that we’d fall for each other. The footy obsessed postal worker who insisted that she would teach me how to play pool. The former heroin addict who believed that books were “pointless”, and insisted that she would teach me to play pool. Oh, and the woman with 28 cats but (she told me) no bed, who insisted she would teach me to play pool. She had also been ordering me quadruple vodka and cokes, groped me on a packed train platform, then pushed me onto the wrong train. Her train. I escaped, just catching the last train, and wept all the way back to the couch I was surfing on.

            Two of them declared crushes, and pursued me to the point that I had to change my phone number. I also stopped even trying to meet anyone, despite people trying to match me up with random women! Luckily for me I finally met pool-hating princess, and we merged our cosmetics and haircare armouries, and lived happily ever after.

    • Courtney said:

      THIS. This also ties into the,”Let’s stay friends” thing when a romantic relationship ends. I once told an ex while we were breaking up, “We were never friends.I don’t even know what friendship with you looks like.”

      • Jenny Islander said:

        OUCH. But so true.

      • True story: my first boyfriend was someone I said yes to just because he was the first ever person to seriously ask me out. He was so repellent my friends would get up and move whenever he was around, and that wasn’t a thing they generally did. When I broke up with him, he said, “So you’re saying we should just be friends?” and in the iciest, flattest tone possible, I said, “No.” He left and never spoke to me again and *I* lived happily ever after.

  9. Panda Bandit said:

    LW, it does suck when you like someone and they don’t like you back. The vast majority of my crushes were never reciprocated. What you must understand here is that there is no changing her mind. She told you no and you must listen to that and believe her.

  10. Muffin said:

    LW, I think the last part of the Captain’s advice is especially important: read books by women (or see movies made by women, or listen to music made by women, and so on). You say you don’t want to “lose” this girl, but she’s already gone. She said no THREE TIMES; all you can do is accept her no. So the best thing to do now is make yourself into a person who hears and accepts a No graciously. A great way to do that is to increase your empathy for women and to become a better feminist.

    Funnily enough, men who demonstrate a willingness to hear and respect an early No are much more likely to be trustworthy, and therefore tend to get dates. It should NOT be your goal to get dates, however; it should be your goal to be trustworthy. If your goal is the former, believe me, it will show, and it will fail.

    • Courtney said:

      “Funnily enough, men who demonstrate a willingness to hear and respect an early No are much more likely to be trustworthy, and therefore tend to get dates.”

      Yep. My current bf and I met in a series of evening community college courses. One night,we were passing each other between two tables, and he made the, “wanna dance?” joke. Normally, I would find it funny, but I was exhausted and had had a shitty day, so I said no. He said ok and left me alone. Months later, another class threw us together, and we hit it off. I didn’t even remember that he was the guy from the “wanna dance?” thing until he told me on a date. If he had been weird or pushy about my no earlier, his face would have been seared on my brain in the,”possibly dangerous” section, and I would have avoided any interaction with him in the future.

    • “Funnily enough, men who demonstrate a willingness to hear and respect an early No are much more likely to be trustworthy, and therefore tend to get dates.”

      A male friend of mine recently told a story about witnessing a guy asking a woman out on public transportation, and she turned him down, and he was clearly disappointed but said OK and backed off and went and sat quietly away from her.

      And on her way off the bus, she stopped and told him that he seemed nice, and handed him her phone number.

      My friend was all “…what just happened” and I was like, look, a man proving that he can take no for an answer INSTANTLY gets him reconsidered. INSTANTLY. A lot of women will re-eval that dude’s dateability SO FAST; he can go from “weird bus skeezo” to “surprisingly pleasant dude on the bus that I might be willing to meet at Starbucks” literally just by taking no for an answer.

      • Hannah said:

        Also, just to clarify for the LW and any others reading this for advice, you should not do this to get a date with that specific woman. That might happen (and it certainly WILL NOT if you don’t take the no nicely). You should do it because it’s the decent way to treat that person. And most decent people will take notice when you do a decent thing. A decent person will probably also notice you being decent in other ways (being a good friend, being nice to your server, not driving like a jerk, etc).
        The particular non-decent thing of taking no badly has the added danger element to it, so it’s a deal-breaker for a lot more women (and maybe people too but I can’t speak to that as well) than other non-decent things, but that also means that taking no well can have a very positive effect on the way a lot of women view you. That includes all the women you tell this story too, and all the women she tells this story too, and all the women who hear it through the grapevine…
        So basically, from a non-selfish standpoint be decent because it’s decent. From a selfish standpoint, be decent because most decent people like other decent people.

        • Hannah said:

          Wow, that should say “…maybe people *in general* too…” because the way I wrote it implies that women aren’t people. Not what I meant. Ladies is people, folks.

        • So true! My current partner and I were friendly-ish for months and one day he invited me to a cider chugging contest. I made a lot of Not Safe choices that night: alone with a dude I barely know? check. In a place where I have no quick and easy escape route? check. Getting drunk? check. Still I didn’t *feel* unsafe. Even though we had a amazing chemistry and I liked him a lot I was fresh off a break-up with a crapmonster and not ready for anything emotional. He sent me one text the next day (along the lines of asking me out for coffee) and I didn’t respond which meant we didn’t talk for almost 3 months until *I* asked him out.

          Agreed with commenters above that if he had a) hounded me b) told our mutual friends/complained to them c) been mean to me for rejecting him, not only would there be no Partner but I would have told that story to any person contemplating sexytimes with him.

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            “not only would there be no Partner but I would have told that story to any person contemplating sexytimes with him.”

            I think this last point is particularly salient with the “be a decent person” advice. Because you don’t necessarily SEE an instant positive return to being a decent person. But… women talk. Just because you don’t see it, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a conversation where someone was trying to decide whether or not to give you a chance (not even necessarily for romance – also for friendship, working relationships, etc) and women you’ve interacted with in the past give them their opinion. It’s a sort of more holistic view of society where every interaction isn’t just an interaction in itself, it all weaves together. You can’t just look at the immediate benefits and think that’s all there is.

    • TO_Ont said:

      SO TRUE. It feels so obvious to me that it’s surprising how many people don’t seem to get it. It’s such a basic thing with ANY risk-taking behaviour; if you know you have a really solid out any time you want, you are massively massively more willing to try things. The minute you have doubts if you could escape a situation, your brain switches hard into ‘being careful’ mode. This works with animals as well as humans…

    • “Funnily enough, men who demonstrate a willingness to hear and respect an early No are much more likely to be trustworthy, and therefore tend to get dates.”

      I know a person who exists because of this.

      • Rose Fox said:

        I was at a party where a dozen guys treated me like fresh meat; the host joked about me “holding court” and “there were men three deep around you” because several of them had literally backed me up against a wall with the force of their so-called friendliness.

        One guy was genuinely sweet and kind and hands-off. Reader, I married him.

        • JenniferP said:

          Gonna marry the one OKCupid dude who said “Cool, let me know if you feel better soon and get less busy!” and then he WENT AWAY. ❤

          The ones who made sad smileys at me and constantly pinged me with messages when I wouldn’t go out with them because I had bronchitis = not gonna marry.

          • Rose Fox said:

            That one dude sounds eminently marryable. 🙂

            (WP keeps telling me people have “liked” my comments but I can’t figure out how that works or happens, so imagine me putting a little gold star sticker on yours.)

  11. Anna Sthetic said:

    ‘You can’t “lose” her because “having” isn’t a thing; there is only choosing, and being chosen in return, and not being chosen.’

    This is the crux of what my mum yells at every heartbreaky country song ever, but much more concisely.

    LW, not being wanted by somebody that you want sucks. But believe me, it doesn’t suck nearly so much as being pressured to want somebody you don’t want, just because they want you. Don’t be the person who does that to someone, just because you want them.

  12. Normally, I think the Captain’s advice is gentle, kind and generous. Today I think it is a bit blunter. But there are good reasons why it may need to be. Firstly, this topic comes up often, but LW you are asking anyway, and secondly your crush has given you her reply, and the only responsible and respectable thing to do is to listen to that. Perhaps it needed making clear.

    LW, I am truly sorry. I – like many people – have been in unrequited love situations. It hurts, I know. But the thing is to listen and learn. You can’t make her love you.

    Our good Captain has a lot of great advice and good scripts, but she cannot cast love potions, and at the end of the day she is right; if this girl is telling you she doesn’t want a relationship – be that romantic or just as friends – the only thing you can do is to respect that. Please do. The sooner you do this, the sooner your heart will mend and will start looking elsewhere. I hope your next love works out.

  13. Anisoptera said:

    I am sad to say, LW, you have lost this girl (well, lost any relationship with her, you can’t really have someone in order to lose them). She has rejected romance with you, and rejected friendship with you, and there’s no way to fix that short of her deciding independently to come back to you (don’t hold your breath). At this point trying super hard to get her back can only make things worse. And oh my god how that sucks. I have had many unrequited romantic feelings in my time and they suck and hurt and make your brain run around in loops and seem like they’ll suck forever.

    Go forth and lick your wounds and be kind to yourself and the hurt and pain and humiliation of rejection will fade. Basically the ball is in her court, and there’s nothing you can do anymore to fix this. There are lots of things you can do to make it worse from the merely embarrassing through to annoying and up to downright terrifying – don’t get sucked into thinking any of those things can help. Aside from not wanting to scare and harass people, being super cool about this and handling rejection gracefully will help you build a reputation as a cool and safe person to date, for future romantic endeavours.

    Also, I’m so sorry she didn’t reciprocate. I know how that hurts. 😦

    • Jenny Islander said:

      Oh yes. Being the rejectee sucks.

      But, LW, the only non-asshole thing to do is to stay away from the rejector, don’t talk smack about her, and just go on with your life. Because she is just as much of a person as you are and has just as much right to choose how she will live her life. Even if that isn’t with you.

  14. Kittentastic said:

    LW, I’ve been that young woman in a relationship with someone I wasn’t really into. He asked me out and it caught me by surprise. I didn’t have the courage to say No, even though that’s what I wanted to say. He had suck a hopeful expression taht I felt like like saying no would be like kicking a puppy in the teeth.
    So I said OK and we dated for about 9 frustrating months. He obviously put his all into it and made lots of big romantic guest urges. I tried, I really did, but I just wasn’t in love with him. He would get upset because I wasn’t head over heals in love with him. I was making my plans to move away to go to uni that didn’t involve him and he would get upset and argue because my plans didn’t involve him.
    He was a nice and funny guy to spend time with, but mostly I just felt anxious and guilty because he obviously was far more into me than I was with him. Spending more time together and having sex didn’t deepen my feelings for him. I just went onto autopilot and did the things a girlfriend does.
    When I did finally dump him (actually first I slept with someone else, told him about it – hoping he would dump me, but he forgave me instead, so I had to actually have the “it’s over” conversation)he was so hurt and called me every name under the sun for being a user and a slut.
    You’ve been spared a big horrible mess of a relationship. Take your time to lick your wounds, go and do other things, tags you wouldn’t normally do. It will pass.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      LW, this is important: In much of the English-speaking world, women have been trained to be “nice” to men. Don’t ever upset boys or men, the culture teaches us; don’t harsh the groove of their lives. Give them what they want; you wouldn’t want to be a “bitch,” would you? Real women are “nice;” saying “Hey, wait a minute, why am I giving you this?” is so unfeminine!

      This training is so subtle and so strong that women can find themselves bending over backwards in an attempt to be “nice” to somebody who gives them the screaming heebie-jeebies. Why do you think feminists are described as “shrill” or “strident” or “pushy” or “selfish?” Because they demand mutual respect–which generally boils down to being listened to as if their words actually meant things–and refuse to be “nice” to people who want to use them as NPCs in the game of their lives.

      Some men are aware of the “niceness” imperative and capitalize on it; others are unaware and don’t realize that they are pressing the “nice” button. Don’t be either kind of man. Be a mensch instead! Start by believing that just like men, women almost always mean exactly what they say.

      • wayofcats said:

        So true!

        It really is better for everyone to not live a false life.

  15. wildeabandon said:

    I think it would be okay to response ONCE, and say something along the lines of “I understand. If in time you feel less awkward I would very much like to be friends again”, before backing off, as long as you would be content with friendship and not start pushing for more again.

    • I think it would be better to not reply.

      • MorkaisChosen said:

        I think I’d reply once, if nothing else to acknowledge receipt of the message and say I’m accepting it. Not been on the other end of this, though, so I’m flying blind to an extent.

        I have a feeling nonresponse opens the door to an anxious “how’s he taking this?” feeling, which is why I’d want to send something (short and containing as much “OK, I’ll back off” as I could muster), but there are probably commenters with a better idea of how that’d come across and whether it’s better than the alternative.

        • If I say to you “sorry not feeling it” I mean “don’t call us, we’ll call you”.

          Getting an immediate response of “ok” wouldn’t upset me, but getting a response hours, days later? When I’d relaxed into the joy of not being around whoever? That would frighten me.

          • I think this is a good point. After a bit of time has passed, it crosses over to creepy. Probably because it changes from reading like the person accepts it to reading like the person had to spend a while thinking over whether or not to accept it, and the latter message is kinda scary.

          • MorkaisChosen said:

            Oof, yeah, that’s an important thing I hadn’t thought of. I was thinking “on receiving it (plus enough time to go from ‘well fuck’ to able to phrase it without awful subtext),” and assuming the bracketed bit was pretty short. Thanks for pointin’ that one out.

          • Ah then we’re thinking the same thing.

      • I agree. When I have said “I don’t want to see you again”, what I DON’T want is a response. I just said I didn’t want to see you or be friends! How is this hard?!

        • It’s not.

          And this particular woman has said no three times already. She doesn’t need acknowledgement, she needs silence

          • It’s a weird form of control. People who insist that you should respond to be polite are exploiting the social contract to attempt to maintain contact, with, I can only assume, the end goal of continuing to exploit the social contract.

            I recently had a discussion with one of my minions at work about this. She was indignant that men were not sending a nice note of acknowledgement with statement of disinterest on her dating app when she asked them out “because it’s rude”, but it was pretty obvious that her hope was that she would be able to counter their reason for not going out with her and manoeuvre them into feeling obligated to go on a date. Which is A) exactly what most dudes intend when they want a woman to explicitly reject them and B) SO INTRUSIVE.

            It’s better if we just all pretend it never happened if it’s not reciprocated. It’s better if we all just pretend it never happened THE FIRST TIME. 🙂

          • How unusual! It’s so often men who pull this.

            You’re right it’s control and manipulation.

            And so much YES. Walk away. At the first refusal.

          • I know! I was really surprised to see it coming from a woman! I attempted to explain to her that MOST people (she was gendering the behaviour involved, and I was like NOOOOO this is not gendered, this is peopled behaviour) are going to do this because it’s the path of least resistance to indicate lack of interest. In women’s case it’s the option that offers the least toehold for a truly creepy or dangerous guy to get hold of and use as fuel for stalkery or violent retaliations, and in men’s it’s often the option that exposes them the least to that most horrible spectre, FEMALE ANGER. *grin*

            I don’t think she believed me but I’m hoping that phrasing it as “this is what MOST people do and it is not wrong or right, it’s just COMMON” will stop her from her repeated texting and messaging and emailing of these dudes to try and get them to respond and explicitly reject her, which is what she had been doing. (The guy she was complaining to me about, she’d met up with him, they chatted, parted, and she never heard from him again so she texted him, totally unanswered, multiple times over the course of 18 hours. Of course this is not going to be a winning strategy!)

          • To Novel deVice: yeah no, 18 messages won’t attract.

            And actually I’m glad to hear of men who also do No Answer == No

    • Yes yes to the “reply ONCE.” I have sent texts/emails like she did, and then I spend all my time feeling anxious, I am braced for dealing with fallout. Getting a reply that has no drama, no BUT WHYYYYY, no doing anything to indicate that this isn’t over, would let me relax a lot and feel better sooner. Given that the LW *is* trying to find a way to change her mind, she has very good reason to be worried about this possibility, so it could be good to ease her mind about it.

  16. randomcheeses said:

    Dude, I know rejection hurts and I’m sorry. But you went on one date with this woman and she let you know it wasn’t working for her. You’re not losing a relationship or a girlfriend, because you never had those in the first place. What you lost was a fantasy of a possible relationship. This is perfectly normal and all part of dating. Respect her wishes to be left alone and move on.

    Bottom line: your ‘strong feelings’ for her do not trump her desire for you to leave her alone.

    • Not only that, from her perspective it might not have been a date til he kissed her

      • blackcat said:

        +1

        I once ended up on a date that I did not know was a date until my former friend kissed me. I was thinking “Oh, cool, we’ll try out cool new restaurant together!” and I was also under the impression that it was going to be a group.

        It was awkward. Really, really awkward. Hence the dude being “a former friend.”

        • Yeah, I’ve been on dates that I only realized were dates at the very end–once when I said “Okay, this is where I turn, it was nice to hang out with you, I hope your course goes well!” and he said “So should I, uh, come home with you?” and I was like WHAT IS GOING ON HERE OH MY GOD.

  17. ctruex said:

    All the above advice is great, but I would also urge LW to think of himself, and his own mental health. She is not interested. There is no scenario where you can convince her otherwise. Trust me, I’ve been in this position before. The key now is to bail, completely, before you cause problems not only for her, but for yourself. Slamming your head into a brick wall will do nothing to help you move on. After all the effort, all the attempts to logic her back, she will still be gone, and you will still be sitting in the same place. So save yourself the time and pain, and help yourself move on. Seriously, I wish you luck. Neither of you has done anything wrong yet, please keep it that way.

  18. Dear LW

    I am going to jump on the bandwagon. Leave her alone.

    Let me add something: unlearn the idea that No means Maybe.

    That sounds harsh doesn’t it? But we live in a culture in which people think No stands as the beginning of a relationship. It doesn’t. No is the end.

    Please respect her No.

    • Laughing Giraffe said:

      The really weird thing about the pervasiveness of “no means maybe” is that is, if anything, backward. Women and female-bodied people in particular are so strongly socialized to avoid strong or direct rejection that the truth is very often closer to “maybe means no but I don’t want to hurt your feelings”. If someone’s reached the point of saying “I don’t feel that way about you”, it’s more like “no means HELL NO GO AWAY”.

      • Yeah, usually “I’m just not feeling it” means “I find you super repulsive and I want you to disappear from my life, and maybe the planet, forever”. But we’re being nice. 😀

      • So true.

        Which means that if we actually say No we really really really really mean it

    • slythwolf said:

      This comment makes me wish so hard for a “like” button.

      • Myrin said:

        There is a way to “like” comments, I just haven’t found out how to do that yet. I got an email only two days ago telling me someone on her has liked one of my comments, and it’s happened twice before that already. When I’m logged in and click the speech bubble-y field in the top right corner next to my icon to see someone’s reply to a comment of mine, then there’s a “like” star beneath it (meaning, I can like that comment), but I haven’t found out how to just like random comments you happen to like.

  19. H.Regalis said:

    LW, please do not keep pursuing this girl. Been there; done that. It won’t end well. I know it sucks, but letting it go is much less cringe-worthy to Future You.

  20. rydra_wong said:

    They need more information, so they do things like “go on a date with you and kiss you” to try out the notion of you. That’s what happened here – she gave your kind offer some more consideration – and then she made a decision.

    That’s assuming that the LW’s “one thing led to another and we kissed” doesn’t in fact mean “and then I kissed her”, of course.

    Obviously, that’s something only the LW (and the girl, but she’s unlikely to write in to tell us) can know. But it might be worth his considering, in case it does ring true.

    It’s entirely possible she was uncertain and trying to make up her mind or give things a try. It’s also possible that she hadn’t wavered in her lack of interest, and he’s got some wishful thinking and a tendency to read “signals” where there aren’t any. That’s human. But making a move on someone who — as far as they’re concerned — already stated their lack of interest can contribute to making them feel awkward and that a friendship’s not sustainable.

    If this is what happened, realizing it won’t change this situation now. But it could be a thing to bear in mind for the future.

    • slythwolf said:

      This is why I should read the entire thread before commenting.

  21. Great response. I remember during college feeling like the world comes crashing down after a breakup. Take it from me, a girl, the best thing you can do is respect her wishes otherwise it looks pitiful and down right irritating. I do believe everything is meant to be and your reader will find a gal even greater.

    – Emily

  22. kay said:

    I had a few.male friends who wouldn’t take no for answer

    Yes as a female we are expected to be nice, protect everyone’s egos and we are mean, shallow, and desire assholes if we don’t crave every friendly male that comes along

    I’m not here to get into the discussion of what it means to be nice or how an interested individual presents themselves to their crush because that’s not necessarily the situation here

    The point is, with these male friends, I really wanted friendship. My rejection should have been enough, but every interaction with them was really all about them trying to get a connection so I would want them eventually

    I had a female friend like this too. The entire school year she periodically ask out the same mutual friend and act crushed when he had not developed feelings (how he put up with her I’ll never know. He turned out to be gay ftr haha she had a terrible gaydar) so sometimes you just have to accept that life isn’t a Hollywood movie where everyone gets the prize in the end if they keep at it enough. None of us are so important like a movie hero that we are owed our prize.

    I actually dated one guy in high school for a day. I had a pattern for a short time where I would feel too guilty to outright reject (that female expectation rearing its ugly head) and I would try to MAKE myself like someone by saying them and just trying it out.

    Obviously that day he was just awkward and rude even though I knew it was from inexperience dating him only resulted in nauseous feelings of guilt and just not wanting to be there.

    After calling it off after a day of being questioned by everyone for why I would even go out with him, people started getting mad.at me for hurting him and he was acting like a depressed idiot who you’d think just got divorced.

    I dated him again out of guilt for another day and then remembered why I couldn’t stand it the first time. After calling it off he spread rumors that I performed sexual favors for him because the best revenge on a female that calls off a relationship while still desirable to the male is to take advantage of a culture that shames women for sexuality. Obviously they were lies but to a bunch of teenagers. Its more.fun to believe the rumor.

    Bottom line don’t pressure her. You might not get a real relationship even if she did agree, because if you pressure her she’s either gonna get sick of the harassment and anxiety that being around you is gonna turn into another guilt inducing rejection fest or she’s gonna agree and try to force something that isn’t there

  23. RodeoBob said:

    Letter Writer, I want you to try something with me.

    First, read yesterday’s letter. I know, I know, younger writer, different situation. But read the letter, and focus on what we’re told about the young woman yesterday’s LW is pursuing. She’s moving, which is a major source of stress around family, friends, school, leaving familiar places and routines… and in the middle of all that, yesterday’s LW tells her he loves her and wants to date her. Can you imagine a worse time to say that? Looking in from the outside, doesn’t that seem incredibly selfish of yesterday’s LW? Here she is, in the middle of a major life event, andhe’s only concerned about whether they can date.It’s like he’s not thinking about her at all, except in terms of what she does for him.

    It’s tough, reading that letter in that way, because yesterday’s LW doesn’t have that perspective. But from the outside, it’s pretty obvious, right? So now step 2.:using only what you put in this letter, let’s imagine if this young woman wrote to Captain Awkward.

    Dear Captain,

    A few months ago, I met a guy by chance. He’s 22, and I’m 19. He started flirting with me really heavily, but I didn’t want a boyfriend, so I told him that. He seemed to cool with that, and wanted to still hang out and be friends. Fast forward a few months: we go out to see a movie. and he kisses me. Once I was safely home and out of his car, I told him I wasn’t into him and didn’t want to date him. I wasn’t trying to flirt with him or lead himon, but I guess he chose to interpret our friendship as something else, so I texted him the next day saying I didn’t want to be friends because of how awkward things felt. How do I get him to get the message?

    P.S. I’ve told this guy “no” twice, but what if won’t listen? He knows my friends and where I live. Should I be worried?

    • LW: please read the above super carefully. Try considering this interaction from the young lady’s point of view. And then do better next time.

    • Aurora said:

      You’re assuming here that she didn’t want the kiss and never waffled here. What this looks like is that she wasn’t sure what she wanted from him as their friendship evolved, then decided not to be with him. People here seem to want to paint this dude as a harasser.

      • RodeoBob said:

        “You’re assuming here that she didn’t want the kiss and never waffled here.”

        I don’t have to assume anything.She said at the start she didn’t want a boyfriend. After he kissed her, that night, she said she wasn’t into him. That’s pretty rock solid evidence of “she didn’t want the LW to kiss her”.

        What this looks like is that she wasn’t sure what she wanted from him as their friendship evolved…

        No, what this looks like is that she told the LW “I don’t want to date you”, he kissed her anyway,and she told him again “I don’t want to date you”. There’s no uncertain here.

        The LW said “…I started receiving signals from her. It may have been my wishful thinking.” Since her response to being kissed was “I don’t feel that way about you”, that’s pretty rock solid evidence that it was wishful thinking, and that there were no “signals” being sent, no waffling, no uncertainty.

        People here want seem to want to paint this dude as a harasser,

        Now who’s making assumptions?

        I don’t think the LW is a “harasser”; I think he’s like this guy: misrepresenting his intentions and trying to use a facade of friendship as an excuse to get closer and score. I think whether or not that’s what the LW was actually doing, it’s how it came across to this young woman, who decided to cut off the “friendship” with this guy.

        What people here want is for the LW to try and view this young woman as a person, someone who has their own opinions, feelings, and preferences that are just as valid as the LW’s. If someone repeatedly disregards another person’s clearly stated preferences, feelings, and boundaries, there’s a term for that sort of behavior, and everyone in this thread is trying to prevent the LW from falling into that category.

      • A Different Aurora said:

        In case anybody wonders why sex crimes are so under-reported, folks, proof that the “she was asking for it” excuse is alive and well.

        But seriously. People are painting this dude as, if not yet a harasser then someone who is very much in danger of becoming one, because in his own letter, where presumably he is trying to show himself in a favourable light, he admits to disregarding a woman’s stated lack of interest in him.

  24. You deserve someone who wants to be with you, LW. Not someone who isn’t sure you’re not so bad. You’ll find that person, but not in this girl right now.

  25. In the context of the rest of the letter I’m thinking a lot about how “we kissed” is not “she kissed me” and may in fact be a euphemism for “I kissed her”. Because that would be a situation my 19-year-old self would have reacted to by going with the flow until the outing was over, then sending an email (we barely had texting in those days) about how uncomfortable I was with it, because confronting that person about it face-to-face would have been too scary.

    • How often are supposed “mixed signals” just an attempt on the part of the person giving them to get out of the situation unhurt? Going by my own experience, pretty darned often.

      • TheAngryGuppy said:

        This, this, so many times this.^^^^^^

      • A Different Aurora said:

        Right? It’s amazing how many dudes clearly understand the soft no when it is coming from another man, but the second a woman does anything short of shouting “NO!” while covering him with bear spray, it’s “mixed signals” and “how was he supposed to know.” Not to mention, LW admits that the lady in question told him no, clearly, using small words. He just didn’t want to hear it.

  26. Jen said:

    Hey LW, I’ve been in your shoes. It’s a strange place to be, but the only thing you can do is back off and don’t keep contacting her.

    Once upon a time I confessed to a good friend that I was attracted to him. Long story short, I got the “let’s just be friends” talk and was crushed. I mean, it really, really hurt. We still continued to hang out past that point, as well, and the line “fake it until you make it” comes into play. It also helps that my friend was gracious enough to ignore some embarrassingly needy emails, too.

    So life went on, I got over it, as one’s wont to do, and met my current SO (of 15 years). Best friend went on with life, and met his wife. We’re still good friends 15 years later.

    None of this would’ve been possible, had I continued to pursue him after the fact. If I hadn’t been willing to take the plunge with him and put my heart on my sleeve, as it were, I don’t know if I would’ve been brave enough to do the same with my SO 6 months later. It’s strange how life works sometimes. It definitely wouldn’t have happened, had I not gotten over my friend, either. (It should be noted that I wasn’t looking for a relationship, either, when my SO and I connected.)

  27. VG said:

    I’m always a little puzzled about why someone would want to date a person who’s not really into them. If I had cajoled my way into a relationship with somebody who was obviously lukewarm about it, I wouldn’t feel like I’d won a prize, I’d feel as if something was missing (you know, like their feelings for me). I’d probably also be insecure 24/7 about when they were going to dump me for someone they were actually attracted to. That’s no way to live, so LW, by taking no for an answer, you’ll not only be doing the right and respectful thing for your former friend, you’ll also be sparing yourself more unhappiness down the line.

    • Jenny Islander said:

      I think that for a lot of people, even quite likeable people, it boils down to “I feel this really, really strongly, therefore it must be.”

    • Because they don’t recognize the agency, or the humanity, of the other person.

      No, really. They don’t understand that if you don’t desire them as a partner dating (and sex and romance) will be insincere. They think “you went to the movie you must love me” – without perceiving that they coerced you

    • The other answer is: “Not having known anything different.” If you always had to work and perform to get your parents’ attention, hustle for acceptance into your friends-group, and lived believing other people mostly only tolerated you for the services you performed, you might be a bit willing to put up with grudging romantic attention. Some people really did have childhoods that crappy, and only learn as adults (if they ever do) what genuinely being liked and freely being loved looks like.

      • rydra_wong said:

        There’s also the underlying attitude which I think of as “Groucho Marxism” (wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member, etc.): if someone actually likes you and is enthusiastic about getting to know you initially, they must have something wrong with them, because who in their right minds would like someone like you? If you don’t have to struggle to “earn” someone’s attention and affection, it can’t be worth having (and it doesn’t confirm you as “worthy,” since you got it for free, just for being you).

        There are some people for whom the story in their head is “I will find someone who is amazing, so of course they won’t love me, but this time I will somehow WIN THEIR LOVE, and that will finally prove that I am worthy and deserving.”

        • Jenny Islander said:

          And if they do manage to WIN THEIR LOVE, their underlying insecurity will bust out in jealousy or some other way. Because giving in to the demands of one’s mental issues isn’t actually a cure.

    • Light said:

      I keep thinking of Neville Aysgarth from Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series- always “chasing the prizes” and then realizing that he’s not got a prize but a person with human flaws.

  28. Paulina said:

    Despite what I said above (presumably posted once it gets out of the spam trap) about the catch-22 that women have when giving things a try, on further reflection and rereading the letter I don’t think that’s what went on here. This woman was unequivocal from the start: she said she didn’t want a relationship. It should have been respected then, and it definitely needs to be respected now.

    My guess is that when the LW “eased on the flirting”, she interpreted this as him respecting her no, and that interaction between them was within that acknowledged context. She relaxed, believing that her rejection was being respected and that they were just friends. Which is not mixed signals from her, it’s wishful thinking and out-of-context misinterpretation by the LW. (Which to his credit he acknowledges is a possibility.) And then however the kiss happened, it was a wake-up call to her that the LW was trying to get her into a romantic relationship after all. Having found that what she thought was friendship and respect wasn’t, and still not wanting a relationship with him, she decided that she couldn’t trust the LW and ended their interactions entirely.

    Under this interpretation, the LW never had a chance for a romantic relationship, and lost the friendship when trying to get around that. At this point she’s drawing a hard line under her No, and not respecting it could make the LW appear desperate and scary. Which is a dreadful way to come across, and a waste of his time and energy, so — it’s best for both of them that he leaves her alone like she wants.

  29. Toestands said:

    I’m going to take the optimist approach and assume that the LW is a decent person who, for a while, let his Feelings get in the way of common sense.

    LW, speaking as someone who successfully got over first an unrequited crush on someone I didn’t know very well, and then an unrequited love for one of my best friends: yeah, you’re going to hurt for a bit. That’s okay. You don’t have to be happy that this girl turned you down. Still, there is a bright side – her expressly stated desire and your best course of action happen to coincide. Which is to say: in order to get over her (or rather, the future you imagined with her) what you need to do now is to never contact her again. No, really. As the Captain said, if there is ever going to be anything between the two of you again, the initiative will have to come from her. Nothing you say to her now, no explaining or convincing will make her want to date you; in fact it will only hurt your chances of ever interacting with her again. Seriously. From now on, whenever you find yourself thinking “But what if I…?” just tell yourself very firmly, “Not gonna happen.” It might hurt in the beginning, but it will help you move on faster.

    That unrequited crush I mentioned? It happened when I was very young and clueless. I have since learned better*, but in retrospect a lot of the ways I tried to catch and keep the attention of my crush were really creepy. In fact, now that I have been reminded of that crush, I will probably lay awake tonight facepalming and going “Why. Why did I do that. What on earth was I thinking. Ohmygoood why WHY.”

    LW, don’t be me. Spare yourself a lot of embarrassment down the road, and just stay away from this girl. Trust me, future you will thank you.

    *Which is why the second time around went a lot better even though the feelings involved were stronger. My friend and I are still close friends, and it’s honestly much better than if we had gotten together.

  30. puckmuse said:

    Speaking as someone who was the object of a friend’s unrequited crush, I can tell you that the best thing you can do in this situation is

    1. Accept that the one date/kiss was her testing the waters and finding that she is not attracted to you. That doesn’t entitle you to another chance or more consideration or anything else. She wasn’t leading you on or giving you false hope or playing with your emotions. It was a date. It didn’t do anything for her. She didn’t do it to hurt you.

    2. Accept her word that she doesn’t feel the same way for you.

    3. Accept that she will not change her mind.

    4. Accept that your feelings do not trump hers. Yes, in your head, you might be the perfect potential couple. And your love may burn with the intensity of a thousand suns. But that’s not her problem. The intensity or sincerity of your feelings do not make them more important than her feelings that she doesn’t want to date you.

    5. Accept that if you continue to push your feelings on her, continue to try to convince her that you should be together, the further you will drive her away.

    Trust me. I had a friend who confessed his love in a very awkward, upsetting way in college. He knew I was engaged, but told me I was settling for the first guy who proposed. (Um, insulting much?) And I should be brave enough to explore all of the depths of my soul. (Because clearly, only he understood me well enough to guide me in this exploration.) I said No. NOOOOOO. NOPE. I Noped the hell out of that situation as quickly as possible.

    And though he said he accepted my decision, this guy spent the next year sending me upsetting, over-wrought love notes through friends because he knew I wouldn’t accept them directly from him. He cast an upsetting pall over every special occasion that year, splashing his unwanted feelings all over me – Christmas? Here’s an unwanted love note. My birthday? Here’s an unwanted love note. Valentine’s Day? Holy Lord. Graduation? Haha, I left this love note in your graduation cap while you were looking!

    Did this make me realize how foolish I’d been not to accept his epic love? NO. Did it crush any guilty feelings I had about rejecting him and strangle any feelings of friendship I felt toward him? Yes. I resented him. I dreaded seeing him. I felt that the gestures I perceived as gestures of friendship from him preceding his admission were a manipulation, meant to show me what a good boyfriend he could be to me. His love notes and refusal to accept my “no” showed me how little he actually cared for my feelings, how much contempt he had for my intelligence and free will. He didn’t respect me. He didn’t respect my ability to choose my own romantic partner. HE KNEW BETTER.

    So what do you do now? You move on. You find someone else.

  31. Littlelionwoman said:

    It’s so incredible when you’re with someone whom you’re EXCITED to be with and who is EXCITED to be with you. Imagine all your feelings for this girl right now (I know, it feels so much!) and multiply that by a million. Hold out for that, and don’t try to get you or her to settle for less. I’m so sorry if you’re hurting right now. I hope it feels better soon!

  32. The Awe Ritual said:

    I have a personal theory that many crushes are just your intuition saying, “I would like to improve myself. I’m built to take on the qualities of those with whom I spend a lot of time. So the most organic way to ‘level up’ is it to find a person who exhibits these qualities, then spend a lot of time with this person. But how to motivate… I know! I’ve got some libido over here! I’ll throw that into the mix!” I’m not saying this is necessarily the case with the LW, but I’ve found a lot of drama can be avoided if one 1. figures out whether the crush is on a person themselves or the potential badass new you; 2. feel sad for the appropriate loss and take the best steps to assuage it. If you’re mourning the chance to spend time with Suzie, there are certain steps you can take to heal that, but if you really secretly want to be moire determined and empathetic to the point where you, like Suzie, are an internationally-renowned krav maga instructor, maybe you’re better off pricing out lessons at the studio she doesn’t work at than hitting refresh on her Facebook profile…

  33. ANRiley said:

    There’s a discussion in this thread or the last about stalkerish rom-com tropes, but I think it’s wider than that. The whole “follow your dream” “follow your passion” “follow your bliss” “do what you love and the money will follow” dealie that you run across in everything from kids’ cartoons to motivational speakers for business people doesn’t take reality into account — the reality that other people have their own agendas, that not everyone makes the team, that not every plan comes to completion, that not everyone loves you back, etc., etc., etc. It’s pernicious. It doesn’t offer the tools people need to handle disappointment, which comes to *everyone.*
    .

    • Cosima Niehaus said:

      This is a wise observation.

    • Aurora said:

      I totally agree here. When I hit college and realized that people move away and decide other things in their life are more important than your heart’s desire to be Friends Forever ™ and live in the same neighborhood with them and hang out into your golden years and all be this infamous group of best friends…I realized that no, people don’t get what they want. If it involves other human beings at all, likely as not, nothing will go as you planned.

      My one dream in life is what I stated above, really. Not going to happen.

  34. multicoastal said:

    Slightly different approach here – I find it to be somewhat crazy-making to try to convince myself of something that I feel in my heart (rightly or wrongly) isn’t true. So if I feel like someone is attracted to me and he tells me he doesn’t want to date me, it’s not going to help me to tell myself that I imagined the attraction. I find it more useful to tell myself, yeah, he probably was attracted to me, but he gets to decide if he’s going to act on this attraction or not and he decided not to. This is my situation with one of my closest friends, he’s very flirty and affectionate towards me but not interested in dating. I really do believe that he genuinely cares for me and is attracted to me, but I also 100% believe that he is never going to be my boyfriend.

    • I honestly find this kind of…um, I would be really disturbed if someone came on to me and I rejected them and I knew that this was what they were thinking. It seems really intrusive and disrespectful of your friend to mentally assign your desired mental state to him.

      Isn’t it better in the long run for everyone involved, not just him, if you actually *believe* what he’s told you, if he says he doesn’t want to date? It seems to me like believing what someone tells you is the absolute basics of respecting them as a person.

      • “Believing what someone tells you” with reasonable caveats, of course–I suppose what I mean here is “believing what someone tells you about how they feel about you”. Second-guessing them about something like their own personal feelings about you seems like poor strategy in general.

      • Jane said:

        Hrm, hrm. I am going to very cautiously agree with multicoastal about this being my personal stance. And now for a very awkward shot at explaining it:

        There are many, many reasons to reject someone, and not all of them boil down to “not attracted to you.” I can’t really say for sure why I’ve been rejected in the past except for one case where the guy did tell me — and, if we are believing what people say to us, it was actually about me reminding him painfully of an important ex in his life, not a lack of attraction.

        And, self-servingly, though importantly: Saying “this person is not attracted to me” shreds my limited self-esteem in ways that are hard for me to recover from. I already feel nauseatingly unattractive the majority of the time. Saying “this person said no for reasons I don’t know and will not inquire about [so I can let any personal hopes die an unspoken death]” is deeply unpleasant and probably a little self-delusional, but survivable.

        I made friends with a guy last year like the friend you describe, multicoastal — super cuddly and flirty and warm toward me, in a way that was . . . ambiguous, to my mind. It was in a time-limited situation, thank God, so I didn’t have to figure it out, I just had to not fuck it up and then I let my emotional convictions run rampant until they faded. I am sadly quite sure that it would have Not Been Good had we continued to interact in real life. Not all of us have the emotional wherewithal to run someone’s actions constantly through an Opposite Day filter. “R is acting like he really likes me. . . but. . . erm. . . in his world, that means he *doesn’t* like me! Yes.” I get that not all people communicate the same level of interest the same way, but, to be blunt, for me to maintain a friendship with someone who might normally be on my radar of attraction, we need to be speaking nearly identical languages of boundary and interest communication (for example, in my world, platonic friends means NO TOUCHING EVER.)

        This line of reasoning has mostly led to me cutting off friendships with people whose signals didn’t read correctly to me. If I was convinced, based on your behavior, you were into me ~romantically~ and turned out to be wrong, the likelihood of our personal styles of communication meshing in a non-emotionally-ravaging way in the future is stunningly low.

        • Hm. I mean, sure, there are a lot of reasons to not want to date someone, and I’m not saying everyone should take every rejection as “I’m too ugly to be dated!” because, well, that’s never going to be the case. I’ve been rejected a lot, and I am adorable as heck. But I’ve been rejected a lot because I’ve asked a lot of people out. 🙂 There’s a huge difference between “this person doesn’t want to date me” and “this person thinks I’m ugly”, and I’m not saying that your takeaway from rejection should be “this person thinks I’m ugly”, it should be “this person doesn’t want to date me” because, well, they don’t. And that’s okay! People are allowed to not want to date me! I am an acquired taste!

          What I was responding to initially was that when someone is clearly saying NO I DON’T WANT TO DATE YOU but you persist in imagining that they are “giving signals” despite their most important signals, their mouth-signals, all being NO DATEY, NO DATEY, NO!, it’s not good for anybody for you to walk away from yet another rejection saying “well, it’s not that I was misinterpreting the signals, it’s that there’s something wrong with her and she just doesn’t want to admit she was giving them”. Because that’s what I saw the initial comment to which I was responding as saying. Not taking it as a learning experience like “some people are just more touchy-feely than me/friendly to everybody/flirty by nature and I made a mistake there but I can take that forward and learn from it and be a good, not-creepy friend to people who express themselves differently than me” but taking it as “despite the mouth-signals, she really did like me, she just denied it for some reason, and I should go forth and do things exactly the same again the next time”.

          I’m not saying “you remind me of an ex” is secretly “I think you’re ugly”, I’m saying “you remind me of an ex” is explicitly “I don’t want to date you”, as is “I’m not attracted to you” and “It’s not the right time” and “I don’t want to be in a relationship” and “Shit is complicated right now”, and taking it as “I don’t want to date you” is probably the best thing you can do.

          As I said to the young person in the last letter, rejection isn’t personal. It feels personal, but it usually isn’t. The best skill I’ve learnt about dating is an attitude: rejection isn’t personal. It’s not a referendum on me as a person, it’s just a statement that someone doesn’t want to date me.

    • Panda Bandit said:

      Just because you feel something doesn’t mean they do.

  35. Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
    You know, I sympathize. You like someone, good stuff happens, you get your hopes up, and then suddenly it’s gone. That hurts. You’re allowed to be hurt.
    At the same time? Sometimes hurtful things happen, and all you can do is get on with your life. You’ll recover from that loss. You can learn from the experience.
    While I have occasionally responded to breakups in ways that I’m not entirely proud of, I can say with confidence that I have never tried to convince someone they were wrong to dump me.

  36. efmather2006 said:

    “You can’t “lose” her because “having” isn’t a thing; there is only choosing, and being chosen in return, and not being chosen.”

    It’s been emphasized many times above, but I think this is so important. I think we’re taught (certainly I was) that if you put enough effort in, a loving relationship, or the right job, or family is a guaranteed result. But it isn’t always. My mother, for example, is really disappointed in my not being married because she wanted grandchildren, and has told me that I’ve put “very little effort into a relationship with another human.” This is untrue – for obvious reasons, I just don’t share that part of my life with her.

    LW, there is a very, very small chance you may not find someone, or may not find someone soon in the future. I’m 39 and it hasn’t happened yet despite lots of attempts – it may happen years in my future, or not at all (Yeah, I’m still struggling with the idea that love only happens for teens, 20 and 30-somethings, and that 40 is some kind of cutoff. It’s bullshit, but it’s a struggle.)

    However. My being single, and occasionally unhappy about it, STILL doesn’t make me want to be in the wrong relationship, either with someone who’s not into me, or who I’m not into. Being liked by someone whose feelings you don’t return isn’t as flatttering as I was taught – it’s sad and difficult and lonely, because I’ve been in that position of trying to talk myself into reciprocity. True loneliness is being with someone you’re just not into while acting as though you are, or watching someone you like be constantly uncomfortable around you, giving you that “halfway out the door” feeling.

    You don’t want to be with people who make you wish you were alone, is all.

    • Rose Fox said:

      Yeah, I’m still struggling with the idea that love only happens for teens, 20 and 30-somethings, and that 40 is some kind of cutoff. It’s bullshit, but it’s a struggle.

      If it helps any, my (long-divorced) parents both found wonderful partners when they were in their 60s. Love can happen at any age.

    • I have a (female) cousin who married for the first time at 47.

      Definitely agree on it’s better to be alone than to be with people who make you feel alone.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      My uncle married for the first time relatively “late” as well – maybe ten years ago? Would put him probably in his late forties or early fifties at the time, I’m not actually sure how old he is – younger than my dad (who’s rounding 70!) by a bit.

  37. OwlWhispers said:

    LW, I have totally been the gal in this sort of a situation.

    When I was in high school, a guy I was starting to become friends with invited me to the movies with some other friends. When he showed up to pick me up, it was with roses. AWKWARD. I felt very awkward and put on the spot, but brushed it off as a friendly thing, because I was SO NOT INTO HIM IN THAT WAY but it felt rude to reject the roses? I was super, super awkward. Like, “Ahaha, what a nice friendship gesture my friend.”

    We went to dinner, and he insisted on paying. Red flags were going off. We went to the movies, and in the middle of the movie, he asks me out. It was very, very awkward. I panicked. It was right in the middle of the movie, he bought me dinner and roses, and the question was so abrupt and I was already so unsettled that I just automatically went, “Sure.” Because, yep, I felt trapped and awkward and panicked and just kinda reacted? Because huzzah for being conditioned by society!

    We didn’t kiss, though it was obvious he wanted to. And as soon as he dropped me off home, I was just like, “Uh, on second thought, I don’t want to date you bai!” And then fled into my house.

    So yeah. |: Pressure can make a gal agree to things she actually doesn’t want to do. This guy accepted the rejection sadly, but he ACCEPTED it and didn’t push the issue and it was awkward but we survived. We didn’t stay friends because I figured out I had literally nothing in common with him, but yeah. Sometimes, you get things sprung on you and react out of panic. And sometimes, you try things out to gather information (in my case, my friendship with him never evolved to a friendship really because I gathered info and made a decision that was to not be friends with him because nothing in common.) But there was no drama. It was a friendly slow fade. I was grateful he respected my no and didn’t make things weird after that, even though oh man did he make things weird before that. (Srsly don’t trap someone and spring stuff like that on them.)

    Also, the first dude I “dated” (before this instance) was a somewhat similar situation. He sprung the asking me out thing on me, and he was cute and I was curious so I agreed. After three days of dating him (three school days, lol high school), I had gathered information and decided, NOPE. Wasn’t ready to date, didn’t like him, didn’t like kissing him. So I dumped him.

    HE DID NOT ACCEPT MY NO GRACEFULLY. AT ALL.

    LW, this dude tried to “win me back”. He wrote me poetry and followed me around and showed up AT MY HOUSE and wrote me letters begging me back, letters that said things like, “We never had sex, but I imagine sex with you would be amazing” and about how he pictured me with his babies. (Me, who has NEVER IN ALL MY LIFE wanted children.) This went on for years. With him just trying to “get me back” even though he’d never had me, because I belong to no one. |: And certainly didn’t want to be with him. All this did was make me afraid of him and intensely resentful and pissed off, so that years later I tell the story of my horrible obsessive stalker that wrote me embarrassing and terrible letters and poems and left them on my door.

    Don’t be that person. Leave her alone.

    You don’t want to be the person that she remembers only as “that one obsessive stalker that wouldn’t leave me the fuck alone” and brings up to her friends as an example of glaring red flags and dangerous behavior.

    • I was once the designated buffer friend for someone who had been asked out ambiguously by a guy. He implied that it was a group thing, as in “a bunch of us are going to go see this movie, you should come!” She said yes and then started thinking “what if he says it’s a bunch of people and on the day it’s just him?” so she said “Hey Novel, so here’s the thing, and it might be a bunch of us but it could turn out to just be him, so, uh…” and I was like “oh, hm, okay, sure”.

      When he showed up, alone, and said “Oh ha ha I guess everyone else was busy” she said “Oh, not everyone, do you know my friend Novel?”

      She and I had a great time! On my part, a little bit because it was clearly just so bloody awkward for him. 😀 Serves him right! I thought.

      • LeighTX said:

        This was genius. Smart of your friend, and kind of you to go along!

  38. plaineng said:

    Let it go…. refocus on YOUR interests and pursuits in life. Let it go. Don’t isolate. Go out and be involved in whatever strikes your fancy: Music, Art, movies, sports, whatever. Live your life every day with a passion for whatever you like to do but don’t obsess about somebody who clearly says, No.

  39. Lisa said:

    LW, I was the person that followed someone around, and tried to win him over. 25 years later, it still makes me cringe a little. You’re not a bad person, and you haven’t done anything wrong but instead of trying to ‘win’ her over, do this instead.

    Work on your hobbies, learn something new, get out with your friends, try to meet some new ones. It will pass, and it would be better to think of her 25 years from now with a little sigh and a man she was hot, than oh god I made a huge embarrassing ass of myself. Believe me.

  40. Aurora said:

    While there is a special place in my heart for people who break up with friends for reasons like temporary awkwardness (this special place might resemble the ninth circle of hell: the one for traitors), it’s not like you get to change her decision at all. She has every right to decide who she wants to be friends with, and sadly, you’re not on the list. I personally give you full rights to be bitter and confused here, but keep that shit to yourself and try to focus on other areas of your life. Like others are saying here, check out hobbies, go for long awesome nature walks (the lilacs are blooming here now at least!), learn something new, hang with your other friends and build those relationships. You can’t spend your life scraping for someone that you don’t have and especially that doesn’t want you. The flame will die down soon enough; distract yourself until it does.

    Good luck, and try to end up better at dealing with friend breakups than I am. 😉

    • Big Pink Box said:

      there is a special place in my heart for people who break up with friends for reasons like temporary awkwardness (this special place might resemble the ninth circle of hell: the one for traitors

      Umm… I think you may be projecting a little bit. LW was not dropped due to “temporary awkwardness”, but to an apparent inability to comprehend the word ” No”, and the misguided (at best) belief that women are prizes than can be had by scoring enough points on ‘Crush Crush Evolution’.

      Also, if I’m reading it right, they weren’t friends. They’d apparently only met two or three times before he decided to make a move on her. It sounds like he was an acquaintance, nothing more.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        Aaand my formatting failed!

        ” there is a special place in my heart for people who break up with friends for reasons like temporary awkwardness (this special place might resemble the ninth circle of hell: the one for traitors”

        Umm… I think you may be projecting a little bit. LW was not dropped due to “temporary awkwardness”, but to an apparent inability to comprehend the word ” No”, and the misguided (at best) belief that women are prizes than can be had by scoring enough points on ‘Crush Crush Evolution’.

        • Aurora said:

          I guess read my reply to Novel deVice below, because I think people here are very eager to paint this guy as having gone farther down the That Dude tree than he has. Calm yo tits, guys, he’s not an asshole until he demonstrates assholery. Right now he’s just a 22 year old flailing around and trying to deal with an unrequited crush. Now is when we tell him not to be (as the Captain did), not already assume he’s a dick.

    • She didn’t break up with a friend, she distanced herself for her safety from a dude who pretended to be her friend so he could get into her pants.

      • Aurora said:

        O.o I am not getting that at all from the LW. “So, I let it go.” (Then he thought he saw signals.) “So, I eased on the flirting completely.”

        This sounds like someone who was trying to accommodate the situation and thought he saw something he didn’t. This letter is super vague, and I think people have a tendency to attribute to malice what can be attributed to mistakes or ignorance. There is no assumption here that enough friend points will get you a relationship. This is “shit, I’m hung up on a person who has said they don’t want to be around me, how do I deal?” Not “how do I magic the conversation tree so she suddenly has a crush on me?”.

        How I interpreted this letter was, he met her a few months ago. (There is no evidence they only had a few conversations, or that they had a lot. His letter doesn’t say.) She says she doesn’t want a boyfriend. He steps back and just does friendship-related things, and just sort of keeps on. He sees signals; they get vaguely involved for a whirlwind moment and kiss. She then says she doesn’t want to be with him. (Sure. Her right. Whatever works for her.) Then she says, and I quote the letter: “she didn’t want us to continue being friends anymore because she feels awkward and she can’t deal with it.”

        Captain was totally right here. This guy needs to *not* become the kind of person you are thinking he already is. He’s not that *yet.* He is standing here deciding whether to be That Guy or not to be That Guy.

        But the fact that she broke up with him because she felt stuff was too awkward seems kinda immature. Then I read that she’s 19…wait, everyone’s immature at 19, redact everything I just said. 😄

        Anywho.

        Carry on.

        • Eureka said:

          Aurora, here’s where I’m at with it.

          If someone tells you something that conflicts with your desire, and you actually accept it and “let it go”…then you’re not constantly looking for “signals”. Which means that the only “signal” you accept, if you have truly accepted this person’s stated desire, is a clear and unambiguous 180. Where “I don’t want to date you” becomes “I changed my mind and I’d like to try dating you now.” Or “I can’t stand cats” becomes “lets adopt a kitten” or “I am a vegetarian” becomes “I would like a slice of pot roast, please.”

          You don’t pester the cat hater to get a kitten, you don’t trick the vegetarian into eating meat, and you don’t guilt/pressure/manipulate people who don’t want to date you into dating you. Unless you are an asshole. Assholes do these things.

          So it’s really hard to see the LW as anything other than an asshole.

          And it’s not “immature” to break up because things are awkward. Awkwardness, or really anything else that makes a person unhappy in a relationship, is a PERFECTLY VALID REASON to break up. With anyone. No matter how old or young you are. And saying otherwise only adds to the already considerable pressure to stay in relationships that are unhappy until a “valid reason” presents itself. Which is just more toxic BS that needs to stop.

        • A Different Aurora said:

          If he really had let it go, he
          1. Wouldn’t have kept pushing the issue by definition, and
          2. He wouldn’t be writing to an advice columnist seeking the go-ahead to not “lose her” (ugh).

          By his own admission he has on several occasions decided that her clearly stated lack of interest was less important than his pantsfeelings. He is in fact already That Guy. He can, however, make choices such that he stops bothering her, does not repeat his behaviour with anybody else, and in general stops being That Guy.

        • I guess my thing is that if someone doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore, I don’t get to decide how valid their reason is; their reason was valid for them, and I have to accept it, because friendship is a two-way street.

          The second you start assigning really loaded and hyperbolic terms like “traitor” to someone who doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore, I think you are probably just doing the work of proving they were right to end the friendship without any effort on their part.

          As to interpretations…I can only go by similar situations I’ve been in where I was the girl in the car being kissed, and I didn’t like it and didn’t want to go on being friends, and I’d say whatever it took to get me out of that car and away from the situation I really didn’t want to be in. Hard for me to see “traitor” in that, but hey, that’s me.

          LW, sorry if I’m ascribing motives to you you didn’t have in the interaction. Maybe you really thought you saw “signals” or whatever, but in future, maybe wait for a person who’s already rejected you to SAY “I want to date you” before kissing them. The signal you want is someone using their words, not your hopeful brain interpreting their actions in the way that best supports the outcome you’re hoping for.

          • randomcheeses said:

            The second you start assigning really loaded and hyperbolic terms like “traitor” to someone who doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore, I think you are probably just doing the work of proving they were right to end the friendship without any effort on their part.

            This. This a thousand times. ‘Traitor’ is a word for someone who feigns friendship and then talks shit about you behind your back. Being honest and telling someone you can’t be friends because it just isn’t working for you (due to their creepy behaviour) is not traitorous. It’s the sensible morally correct thing to do and saves a lot more hurt feelings and awkward situations in the long run.

        • OwlWhispers said:

          She decided she doesn’t want him in her life, after knowing him for a few months. That’s not immature. Sometimes, it takes a few months to make up your mind about a person and figure out you don’t actually want to be friends with them. It takes a while to really get to know someone, and apparently after getting to know him, she just found it awkward to be friends with him. That’s not immature. She was very mature to clearly state her boundaries, actually.

          And yeah, I’d feel pretty weird and confused being around a dude like the one described here. If a guy confessed and I told him I wasn’t interested, and he “backed off” for a while, and then…suddenly was right back at it, that could get really frustrating and confusing, especially when you’re just being yourself, being friendly, but the guy has his shipping glasses on and interprets your friendliness as flirting–and then you wind up in a weird place where you’re like, “Was I ‘leading him on’?” Which can get awkward and confusing and upsetting. Throw in that kiss and society’s expectation that women owe men and it must have been her fault for leading him on and you’ve got the perfect storm.

          Maybe that’s a projection–but it’s a situation I’ve been in before, and I know lots of other women have, too. It’s not an isolated experience.

          That would be enough for me to be like, “Woooow, yeah, this isn’t working for me” and peace on out of knowing that person because yeah–things are too weird and too uncomfortable. I wouldn’t really be interested in being friends with someone I’d told I wasn’t interested in, but who kept reading my actions as “signals” even after I’d clearly told them I wasn’t interested. I mean, it’s not like this gal would have just forgotten he’d told her he wanted to date her. If her feelings had changed, I’m sure she would have just told him, rather than hope he noticed the “signals”.

          My TRUE friendships have survived awkward. I’ve dated two friends and those friendships survived the breakups, because we respected each other and loved each other ENOUGH to respect our needs and BELIEVE the words we were saying, the “I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship with you” words–and then we didn’t flirt or pine or filter every interaction through the glasses of wishful thinking BECAUSE we believed and respected those words. The LW didn’t truly back off or let it go, though, and he made it weird as a result. And now this woman is no longer his friend. That’s just kind of what happens when you don’t listen to, or respect, someone’s “NO” the first time and understand that that “NO” will not change until they expressly communicate that it has changed, without being pressured or badgered into changing their answer.

          • SHIPPING GLASSES omg totally the right term for that mindset! You’re a genius.

    • Vicki said:

      There’s also a very large difference between breaking off a long-standing close friendship and ending the sort of brief and fairly casual acquaintanceship described by the letter writer:

      We met by chance a few months back.
      The first time we had a proper conversation she said that she didn’t want a boyfriend.
      So, I eased on the flirting completely. After a couple of meet ups I started receiving signals from her. It may have been my wishful thinking.
      I take her out for a movie, one thing led to another and we kissed.
      When I dropped her home that night, she said she doesn’t feel the same way. So, I let it go.
      The following day I receive a text saying that she didn’t want us to continue being friends anymore because she feels awkward and she can’t deal with it.

      If a person deciding she doesn’t want to see someone after the amount of interaction described there counts as treason, Lucifer can close down the rest of hell, because the only people who won’t land in the Ninth Circle are the unbaptized infants in Limbo.

      • A Different Aurora said:

        For real. And even in cases of long-standing friendship, anybody can end it for any reason. There is not some kind of evidentiary burden one must meet in order to break it off.

        • Yup. There’s a thing where people think that ending an association has to be mutual or it’s not valid, and I find it strange.

          • A_Lopez said:

            Starting from the quite correct assumption that everyone simply has the right to be in a friendship etc. or not, it is strange. The reasons why people don’t see that have been touched on in this thread. One is that some are from families where the love and attention of parents/caregivers was conditional and had to be earned. In some dysfunctional families that does work — if the child does behave and be as their parents want, they do then get approval and what is love as far as they know because they haven’t experienced anything different. It is confusing to find out that that isn’t how it works in adulthood and this may provoke anger. Also, as has been said, being rejected hurts a lot and people have strategies to deflect the hurt, which could include trying to impose some sort of logic on the situation, however misguidedly.
            Failing to respect the agency and choices of the other person is narcissistic. Narcissists are toxic yet the reasons they become narcissists are sad.

          • I grew up in a household where love and attention was ostensibly conditional but actually arbitrary, so I learnt young that even if you lived up to the conditions, you wouldn’t get the promised reward unless the person in control of the reward felt like giving it to you, which they almost never did, so I suppose I figured out pretty quickly that the system I was being raised under was dysfunctional and I wanted no part of it.

            I had never really thought of it that way–I mainly associate this attitude with the groups I’ve seen it in as an adult, but I think you may have hit on at least part of it. I think a lot of it is also entitlement–people who feel entitled to the attention of others get angry if they’ve done the minimum to obligate you and you refuse to feel obligated. Of course, that entitlement can also come from dysfunctional family patterns–if your parents routinely do the minimum for you but demand that you feel obligated, why shouldn’t you turn around and apply that logic to everyone?

            But no matter how much I might sympathize with the dysfunctional background etc etc, I don’t think anyone is required to allow someone else’s dysfunctions to make them unhappy. 🙂

  41. ZeldasCrown said:

    I said something similar in the previous letter, but I feel it bears repeating here. While people’s feelings do fluctuate with time with regards to specific situations, you cannot force someone to change their feelings. There is nothing you can do to change this 19 year old’s mind. Only she can make her own decisions and interpret her own feelings.

    There are things, however, you can do to guarantee that she’ll never want to talk to you again, let alone be friends with you. That is to ignore her wishes and continue to pester her, and try to “win her back” (which is ridiculous, since, as we’ve said, she’s not an object to be won, and you’ve never been more than friends, so there’s no romantic relationship to rekindle). The best thing (for everyone) you can do is to give her space. She knows how to contact you should that be something she is interested in in the future, and she’s made it abundantly clear that she does not want you to contact her. Doing anything other than not contacting her is a good way to get yourself on the creepy dudes list of people she tells all her friends to avoid, or to be the guy-who-wouldn’t-stop-stalking-me-so-I-had-to-get-a-restraining-order.

    It’s not wrong to tell people how you feel, but you have to respect their right to answer freely. If you truly care about someone, do you really want to make them feel unsafe and threatened by you? That’s exactly what pushing past someone’s no does. Do you really want to be with a person who said yes out of coerced fear that you’ll hurt them if they say no? You deserve to be with somebody who wants to be with you, not someone you “wore down” by pestering them for months despite their clear statements to the contrary.

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