#875: “How do I get my friends to stop meddling and pushing me toward relationships?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I couldn’t find anything like this in your archives, so I hope you don’t mind me asking for advice.

I’m a 23 year old woman and I’ve never been in a relationship. It just doesn’t particularly interest me, and I identify as an aro-ace and I feel satisfied by all my platonic relationships. I have dated in the past, which has clued me in to things I like and don’t like, and I’ve also come to realise that dating people I don’t know makes me really uncomfortable with the thought that they will want things I don’t.

During school, my friends told me that a guy at a party had been hardcore flirting with me and I hadn’t noticed. I’ve been messaging him on and off since and we’ve gone on two dates, and I don’t know him well enough to want to go on more – I want to know him as a friend before we try more dates. The problem is, one of my friends is meddling to try and push me into a relationship with him, and I just want to run the other way. Despite not hanging out in five years of school, she’s asked me twice in two weeks to hang out and if I decline to save money, changes plans conveniently so that I don’t have to pay anything. I know she’s meddling, and another friend has admitted as such. All she’s doing is making me want to duck my head and hide – the more she pushes, the less I want to know this guy at all.

I don’t know how to tell this guy that I want to know him as a friend before we progress without hurting his feelings, and I really need to tell my friend to stop meddling because it makes me really anxious and uncomfortable, but I have no idea how. Do you have any advice or scripts that might help?

Thanks,
Happily Single and Being Pressured

Dear Happily Single:

Be blunt and let them know where you stand. It’s actually the respectful, friendly thing to do. You can do it!

“Friend, stop meddling. I will work things out with this guy in my own way and at my own pace. You’re driving me bonkers right now and making me feel pressured and annoyed. Knock it off!”

“Guy, I like hanging out with you and I’d like to maybe be friends. I don’t think I want to go on any more DATE-dates for the time being, though I will let you know if that changes. Is that cool?”Β 

“I’m happy being single.” (Repeat as necessary, to the point where the conversations become very boring because you default to saying this every time the topic comes up). “But won’t you give him a chance?” “I’m happy being single.” “But he was flirting with you!” “Cool. I’m happy being single.” “I just want you to be happy.” “Good! I’m happy being single.” “But I thought you liiiiiked me.” “I do like you as a friend. I’m happy being single.” “I just want to help you.” “But I don’t want help. I’m happy being single.”

You already know what I’m gonna say: I’m happy being single.

Guy and Friend(s) will feel whatever they feel. Maybe Guy won’t be interested in hanging out just as friends. Maybe Friend(s) will deny their meddling or be offended that you don’t want them to do more of it and be miffed for a while. Maybe they will get it and apologize and stop pressuring you. You can’t magically prevent people from doing stuff that annoys you, but you can have a conversation where you let them know how you feel about it. Stop silently accepting their annoying behavior.Β You are not “being mean” or “causing trouble” by stating your needs and boundaries.Β 

You got this!

 

 

124 comments
  1. B. said:

    Hi, LW! No wonder you’re feeling pressured! If a friend of mine were acting like that, I’d be really annoyed with them. Your friend is out of line, and I want to tell you explicitly that any hurt feelings that stem from your friend’s meddling are her responsibility WAY MORE than they would ever be yours. As in, all the way to the other end of the galaxy more.
    As for scripts: if you don’t feel like having this conversation face-to-face, you can totally do this via text, e-mail, voice-mail, morse code or smoke signals. That doesn’t make you weak or cowardly, it makes you clear. Your chosen channel of communication does not negate the validity of your message.
    I’m gonna suggest a couple possible scripts below in case you find them useful:
    – To your friend (because in my experience, meddlers actually think they’re helping with their well-intended manipulation): “Friend, your meddling is not helping. In fact, it’s doing the exact opposite of helping. Stop it” or “I’m perfectly capable of developping relationships with men in my own way. That you seem to assume I can’t is very upsetting/insulting”.
    To the guy (whose possibly hurt feelings are totally valid but so very much *not your fault*): “Guy, I’m sorry you were brought here under false pretenses. I don’t know what Friend has told you, but I just want to be friends. Now that you are aware of that, do you want to keep hanging out?”
    I’m sorry your friend put you in this awkward position, LW. Hope everything goes well!

    • B. said:

      ETA: Since you mention another friend doing this, maybe this script could be useful to circle through your friend group?
      “Friends, it has recently come to my attention that some people in this group have tried or are trying to hook me up with people. This behaviour is unasked for and unwanted, please do not engage in it/I don’t appreciate this at all, please do not do it./This is very upsetting to me, do not do it again. If I ever need help with that, I will ask you myself”.

      I guess it depends on how your group dynamics work in this case? There are friends groups in which I’d totally use this (LGBT+ one, big on consent and voicing microagressions) and some in which I wouldn’t (roleplaying one, conflict-avoidant/deal with your problems one-on-one, please). So trust your judgement and choose/adapt the script that’d work best for what you need, you’re the one who knows best πŸ™‚

  2. SaeniaKite said:

    As a fellow aro-ace I am relieved that most of my friends have accepted me in a ‘well I don’t understand you but I’m not going to try and change you’ kind of way. But I have had people like the girl in your letter. People who are not so close who feel bad for me, and think I’m missing out and if I just ‘tried’ I would be much happier. I really hope you are successful in setting your boundaries and they eventually back off, I’ve had to cut a few people out of my life completely for similar issues. Wishing you the best.
    Side note: my favourite response to someone finding out my (lack of) sexuality? ‘So, are you going to become a nun?’ I had to walk away from that one

    • While I’m not precisely aro-ace now, when I was in college that would have been my definition of myself if it had been an option! And when I did try to explain to friends and roommates that no I did not want to date anyone I got the same response! .

    • Nanani said:

      I would totally be a nun if it weren’t for all the god stuff tbh
      (grey-ace here)

  3. Yes, yes, yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

    A friend of mine has recently started identifying as ace (we’re in our early 30s) and that friend just gets questions ALL THE TIME about not just dating but marriage and babies and the whole shebang. The most amazing and inspiring thing has been watching friend respond to these inquiries/pushings in a calm, strong, clear way, over and over and over again. Friend is a total role model for self-advocacy. And honestly, friend has yet to hurt anyone’s feelings, although I think if it did happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world because it would happen based on someone being honest and clear about their needs.

    You can do it!

    • I only turned 30 a few months ago, so I’m sure there will be plenty of time for me to be force-fed my words, but it seems like my family and those who are one step removed from my inner circle have given up on me. Nobody asks if I’m dating, nobody’s panicking about my biological clock (from which I’ve already removed the batteries in any event)–hell, even my grandma has talked with me about my childfreedom in such a way that I have the impression she wished such a stance was regarded as socially appropriate when she was younger (note that I don’t think she regrets having had children, but I get the feeling she wishes she could’ve had them later, or been able to raise them with a partner who was less constrained by gender roles of the time, etc.). I’m hopeful that with enough time and insistence, LW, your friend, and everyone else on the ace-aro spectrum can reach the stage where, if friends and family don’t quite get it, they’ll at least keep their lack of understanding to themselves.

  4. tinimaus said:

    If all else fails, make her read ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen so she realizes that matchmaking is not a clever activity that can really backfire on you…

    • Clarry said:

      There’s also the movie Lobster on the dangers of living in a world where it’s assumed that everyone must be paired up.

      • Oh my god. I saw that film really recently and it seriously weirded me out.

  5. yumekuzu said:

    Egh.

    LW, I was actually sort of in your friends’ position once and I didn’t even realize it. A very good friend of mine (we’ve since drifted, though not related to any of this) was very much asexual and aromantic. This wasn’t something she’d confide in much of anyone, so I was quite honored when she did confide in me. She told me I could ask her anything I wanted to know about being ace/aro.

    I…*wince* did. I meant well, and I think she knew this – but even the most patient and saintly person gets fed up with being asked all kinds of pushy questions about “but WHY don’t you feel sexual urges? but WHY don’t you feel like you can be in relationships? but WHY?”

    (I was an arse. I fully admit it. I want to go back in time and viciously bludgeon 19-year-old me sometimes.)

    She finally confronted me, told me I was being extremely hurtful and why, and informed me in no uncertain terms that I WAS going to knock it off. And that’s exactly what I did.

    She, being the patient and saintly person she was, forgave me, and if anything we were better friends for it.

    I bring this up because: maybe your friends are in the mindset I was. I was woefully uninformed, I thought I was learning quickly and well, and I didn’t stop to think that in the process maybe I was greatly hurting her. I didn’t know until she finally got fed up and Used Her Words with me. And that’s what you should do, LW – Use Your Words with them. There’s a possibility they’re just arsebites who will take Great And Mighty Offense to this, but there’s also a possibility that they are – like I (like to think I) was – pretty decent people who didn’t bloody realize why their actions are bad.

    Best of luck to you.

    • Part-time Jedi said:

      That’s kind of what I’m thinking is happening here; friend just cannot even comprehend the idea of being happy without being romantic/sexual.

      The thing is, LW, she doesn’t need to understand. All she needs to do is trust that you are the boss of your own underpants, and can resolve this situation to your own satisfaction.

      • “You are the boss of your own underpants.” Perfect. πŸ™‚

      • Modern Culture said:

        Love “boss of your own underpants”–brilliant!

      • Kai Lowell said:

        “Boss of your own underpants”. I love it!

        (WordPress, I meant to use this name in the first place. Boo on you for defaulting to crap username.)

        • Part-time Jedi said:

          I had never seen that post before, actually. But I like it!

    • LW said:

      I’m glad you two were able to work it out!

      I’m not out as aro-ace to my friends, though they know I’m not big on the whole touchy-feely-relationship stuff (Which we talked about when a guy I had briefly dated last fall came home for military leave and wowie was he into face-touching, eye staring, nose kisses. No sir no thanks.). This friend in particular is really close friends with the guy she’s pushing me towards, though the initial talking was only kind of a result of her meddling: she and another friend told me that he had been flirting with me months after the flirting happened, and since he sounded cool, I started chatting with him again with their encouragement. That was fine, and not meddly enough to bother me. I think she wants us to date because she thinks it’ll make us happy or at the very least, she wants him to be happy and in a relationship and thinks we’d be compatible.

      So I think her meddling is well intentioned, it’s just the application that bothers me. If I, who can and generally is very oblivious, can tell that you’re meddling…. it isn’t subtle. I will tell her to stop and that her pushing is making me want to not give the guy any sort of chance, because that will make it the clearest, fastest, that it needs to stop. “You’re hurting me” should be sufficient, but unfortunately it won’t be enough, because she is that sort. My hope is that it’ll go as well as it did for you. πŸ™‚

      • Kai Lowell said:

        Problematic, that!

        If you need to be blunt with her, then that’s what you should do. Perhaps “(Friend), I know you mean well, but the more you push for this, the less I want to actually do it. Stop. You’re being extremely counterproductive.” or if you think she might react well/better to something like this, “(Friend), how would you like it if I was trying to push you into a relationship you weren’t ready for? That’s exactly what you’re doing to me. Stop.”

        I hope you get this straightened out easily!

      • I feel for you. I don’t think I’m necessarily aro-ace, but as I’ve mentioned before, I only got diagnosed as Asperger’s/ASD at age 37. I’ll be 41 in a few weeks, and to the best of my recall, haven’t been on a date since before age 30. The topic of sexual orientation came up in a discussion with some friends recently, and I was asked about it, as I never date, visit dating sites online, etc. My response was basically that for the grand majority of my teenage & adult life, I’ve been so overwhelmed handling day-to-day life to even think about it.

        So I kinda know the feeling. I too, have had to deal with the friend who just won’t take a hint. While this is not the typical usage of this saying, remember that “No” is a complete sentence. When your friend starts in, with “don’t you want to date X?”

        NO.

        “But he’s really [insert appealing adjective]!”

        NO.

        But you should get out more/ He’d be perfect for you/ You need to get a guy…”

        What part of “NO” do you not understand?

        She’s already proven she doesn’t understand, doesn’t care what you think, or both, so just be direct and keep it simple. And if she just won’t leave it alone, I see nothing wrong with the classic method of 1 clear warning and then cutting her off. “I have told you multiple times I am not interested, so drop it. Now. If you keep harping on this, this conversation is over.” The follow through.

        I’m also fond of telling someone like this, “Well, I might have been interested, but you’ve bugged me to death about it and pretty much killed any interest I might of had.” If nothing else, tell her that any relationship between you and Guy involves 2 people, not 3.

        You’ve tried being nice. You’ve tried being subtle. You’ve tried being diplomatic. And none of those worked. Time to just be completely clear and direct; This is none of her business, and while she’s a nice person, said nice person is currently annoying the living crap out of you, and you’re done with her BS.

    • People can be pretty strange about it. I’m gray ace, and I used to get so many questions about it. I was never really bothered because I liked to educate people. Now that I’m in a relationship I don’t really worry about the label, but now I get people telling me I was just ace when it was convenient for me to do so. I literally am only sexually interested in my boyfriend; if I were to break up with him for whatever reason, well, there’s no one else I am close enough to really be attracted to. So I’d be fine identifying as ace again because for all intents and purposes, I am.

      I don’t even really feel sexual attraction to even my boyfriend beyond an extremely weak feeling anyways. I wish I was capable of more, but that’s how it is. I wish people were capable of understanding this, but because I don’t fit neatly into either the “ace” or “allo” boxes they don’t, or can’t, or won’t understand.

  6. solecism said:

    LW, you are amazing! You have a strong sense of who you are and what you want and don’t want. That self-knowledge is really powerful. I sure as hell didn’t have it at 23 and pushed MYSELF into activities and relationships I wasn’t really comfortable with or want because I thought I SHOULD want to do/be/experience these “milestones.” That wrong-thinking attitude led me into multiple traumatic experiences, sometimes abetted by well-meaning friends. So keep speaking up for yourself and going at your own pace and moving to your own rhythm.

    Additional potential scripts for friends:

    -I appreciate that you want me to not miss out on things that are important to you, but we are different people, and I am not interested in the same things. That’s okay. Trust me to know what I want and ask for help if I need it.

    -Please don’t try to stage manage my life. I am not interested in dating right now. If that changes, I’ll let you know. I am really enjoying my friendships.

    -The more you try to make things happen for me, the more I want to run away. Please trust me to make things happen at my own pace when I am ready for them.

    -Please don’t worry that I am sad or lonely or unhappy. I am really enjoying being single and focusing on friendships with terrifyingly awesome people.

    • R Mc said:

      “The more you try to make things happen for me, the more I want to run away. Please trust me to make things happen at my own pace when I am ready for them.”
      I’d like to second that particular one. LW, I’m not aro but I am ace-spec, and your age, and something similar happened with me and my college friends, and this response sums up exactly how it felt for me. I wish i was able to say it so succinctly then (I said something more like ‘if you keep pushing me my instinct is to push BACK’) Thankfully, said friends only got pushy about it once, and I (internally) freaked out but was able to talk it over with the one I was most comfortable with, and I think she got everyone to not bring it up again. As everyone here has said, your friend may think she’s being helpful, whether because she doesn’t get how you could be truly happy or because friends get excited when things work out and so they try to /make/ things work out. And if either your friend or the dude react badly to some frankness about where you stand/what you feel, that is definitely Not On You. But you can do this! And you’re definitely not alone in having to deal with it.

      • Thirded. That sentence really speaks for me, and is a great sript to remind myself of no matter if I’m on the giving or receiving end of this sort of issue.

      • I’m also really fond of the sentence, “You *do* realize you are Not Helping, right?”

        Other favorites:

        “Enough.”

        “I’ve answered that already. Drop it.”

        And because I am both hopelessly sarcastic and blunt: “You’re a great friend and I really like you, but right now you’re annoying the living daylights out of me.”

  7. misspiggy said:

    Gah. I am very much not aro or ace, and I hate dating. I have only got together with people I have known as friends for a long time (well, except that one exception-that-proves-the-rule). It is not weird or wrong to dislike dating, and what is wrong with so-called friends who try to pressure people into anything?

  8. I feel like we as a society need another word than being single. Culturally, “single” is so often used to imply the desire and desirability to be “double” and the idea that it is a hopefully a transient state. Sadly, the only words I have found that imply permanence have other, major problems, although I have used both “spinster” and “old maid” to get my point across.

    As another aromantic asexual who wouldn’t recognize flirting without real-time subtitles, I hear you. Sadly the solutions for me have involved repetition and time. I’m not actually sure if it is the repetition of “no, I’m happy,” “no, I’m not looking,” “no, there isn’t someone for everyone because I don’t want a someone” over time, or simply that I have gotten older and others are less likely to try to pair me up.

    • My username is a lament to that particular linguistic gap! I like the idea of reclaiming “spinster” because the set of ladies to whom the term originally referred were making clothes and, subsequently, making bank. But I wish their were a less-loaded and more gender-neutral term for those of us who are single by choice – the ace/aro/generally uninterested spectrum isn’t limited to women. I myself am nonbinary.

      • *there

        Lack of spectacles and over-reliance on iPad’s autocorrect do not mix.

      • Yes, the genderedness is one of the huge problems with “spinster” and “bachelor” is not a parallel but has all sorts of gendered connotations of its own. Maybe we should combine them.. . spinchelor? Or maybe we should claim “single” and make everyone else find another term, like “half”

        • I like “spinchelor,” though I’m also fond of recasting “single.” I dunno about “half,” since that would make mathematically-inclined poly folk unhappy, plus I know it’s not uncommon for allosexuals to consider their lives abundant even when they’re unpartnered. Maybe those who are making an effort to find a partner could be considered “looking”? Or “unattached”?

          • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

            I grew up in a family where many of the women around me were single. Those who were single and interested in being part of a couple always referred to themselves as “single and looking” while the others were happy being single. As I grew up I used those same phrases. While in high school and the year just after I told people I was single and looking. After a horrible heartbreak I referred to myself as single and never made any move to be anything but for nearly a decade. It’s interesting that I never realized this until reading the above posts.
            Hmmm…could it be that my family had created a code that worked for them? Nobody ever pressured those that were “single” to be anything other than that. Interesting.

      • MadDissector said:

        “No, I’m not in a relationship: I am romantically self-sufficient”.

        • I’m glad the WordPress app allows me to Like this; I regret that it does not allow me to Like it multiple times nor Fall Ironically In Love with it.

        • LW said:

          I like to say that I’m happily married to myself in a committed, healthy, relationship πŸ˜‰ Took a while to get there, but my relationship with myself makes me happy and that was worth the struggle to get where I am now!

          • JMegan said:

            LW, you got to that “committed, healthy relationship” with yourself at 23 – that’s amazing! I didn’t get to a committed, healthy relationship with a partner until I was almost 40, and I’m still working on the relationship with myself, years later. πŸ™‚ I think it’s great that you’ve got it figured out so far, and that you seem so comfortable with it. Hopefully the Captain’s scripts will help your friends over as well, and let them enjoy you and your friendship as-is. Good luck!

          • Wahlee said:

            “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” — Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

      • I’ve probably been reading too many trashy romance novels, but I’ve become fond of “bluestocking”–typically, a woman chose education and learning over getting hitched. I guess I just like the archaic feel of it. πŸ˜›

    • Solo, maybe? To me, it has connotations of sufficiency, competence, and pride. (Singing a solo, making the first solo flight across the Atlantic, etc.)

      • I used to say I was “flying solo” back when I didn’t have a copilot πŸ™‚

      • hummingbear said:

        There’s the fairly well known in poly circles term, “solo poly,” which means someone open to secondary or less-involved relationships but not interested in a primary, long term romantic commitment. I like the idea of extending it to “solo mono,” happily monogamous with oneself.

        • Anon said:

          I love this! I’m aro but not ace, and have been looking for a way to communicate the type of relationship I’d like. “Solo poly” is exactly it; thank you for giving me this term!

      • Emmers said:

        I use the phrase “solo parenting” to describe what I do when my husband is out of town, because I don’t want to co-opt the term “single patenting” – that’s a million times harder, and not what I do.

        So yeah, strong +1 to the connotation of “solo” that you’re using here, I think.

    • bloodygranuaile said:

      We could always steal the less vs. free distinction from the people who came up with “childfree” for “childless by choice” and go with “partner-free” or “date-free” or something. I’d suggest “love-free” (as opposed to loveless) but a) I dislike language that implies that romantic love is the only kind of love and b) I’m afraid it’d get confused with “free love” which I am philosophically not opposed to but in practice seems to be the opposite of what I’d be attempting to communicate.

      • I have described my (lack of) relationship status as “drama-free” before…

        • I’ve been using “too much other crap to deal with”, personally….

  9. Fran Shamen said:

    ugh, LW, I was very much in your shoes, only replace “friends” with “family.” They would say things like “omg, you have to like him, he’s exactly like you!” HELLO, if I wanted to date someone exactly like myself, I would perform mitosis, thank you.
    Really, when someone prioritizes their own judgment over your autonomy, there’s a certain amount of hurt feelings you cannot avoid, because it is beyond your control. Someone pushing you to do something you have clearly shown you don’t want to do has, consciously or not, decided that they know better what’s good for you than you do. But they don’t. You know what’s good for you.
    Stay strong and firm in your convictions. Your friend may keep pushing because they’ll feel justified if you hook up with the guy(“see, I KNEW you were perfect together!”) and/or because they genuinely think this is the only way you’ll be happy. Both are craptacular cultural narratives and can disappear forever between the couch cushions of life as far as I’m concerned.

    • I feel like if I were with an exact duplicate of myself, it would be a disaster. The constant waffling, prolonged periods of brooding introspection, tendency toward spending entire afternoons lazing on the couch and scouring the interwebz in lieu of tackling a planned creative project, etc. are hard enough to live with as the owner and manager of these behaviors. I reckon I’d be fairly corked off if I had to witness them from a position where I could see all the gritty details but couldn’t step in as even interim GM to make things run more smoothly.

      • Kit said:

        I was thinking the same thing- good grief, the last thing I would want is another me around!

        • I definitely like me better when I don’t have to live with me! :p

      • “I feel like if I were with an exact duplicate of myself, it would be a disaster.”

        I was, pretty much. And yeah, it was.

        • Oof. This is one of those times when I wish my intuition hadn’t been so accurate.

    • TO_Ont said:

      If someone’s exactly like me, what’s the point of going out with them, then? I can already be around me as much as I want!

      • Light37 said:

        Exactly, I’m already in a committed relationship with myself, I don’t need to add an External Me- who would probably drive me to homicide in a week, anyway.

    • TootsNYC said:

      “someone prioritizes their own judgment over your autonomy, ”

      I kind of like this! Maybe our OP should start saying, “Please do not prioritize your judgment over my autonomy.”

    • hummingbear said:

      I once went on an OKC date I was very excited about because we had *so much* in common. “This is going to be great!” I thought. “This guy likes everything I do and has the same long-term plans and career goals!” I thought.

      We got to the date and basically we were just echoing each others’ stories back and forth across the table. We’d been to the same places, read the same books, had similar opinions and epiphanies… it was boring and a little disturbing. I left vaguely unsettled by the fact I had just been on a date with myself and it turned out I just wasn’t that into me.

      • ThtreLady said:

        Oh hummingbear, that just made me crack up at work. “just wasn’t that into me.” is simply brilliant. Thank you.

  10. How annoying! I’m 39 and have had to end a couple of friendships over this very thing. Both of whom I gave the benefit of the doubt and told them explicitly why I didn’t like/need their “help”. And they just kept it up. I was actually dating at the time, just not the ones they wanted me to.

    I’ve also noticed a pretty strong correlation of meddlesome people who seem to be in pretty toxic romantic relationships themselves and are trying to distract themselves from it by trying to push me onto guys they like.

    • nottakennotavailable said:

      I can throw several years’ of collected anecdatal evidence to support the Romantic “Misery Loves Company” Hypothesis. With the amount of tongue-biting I have had to engage in, I find it remarkable that I don’t have permanent indents among my taste buds.

      • Ha! Nice image. I’m surprised my eyes aren’t stuck in a permanent rolling loop. πŸ™‚

        • Right? For a while there, it was getting so bad that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if mine had gotten stuck facing my optic nerves!

          • I literally LOL’D at that. πŸ™‚

    • attica said:

      I’ve noticed myself that sometimes the friend has their own eye on the mate they’re shoving me towards. Because mate poaching is the next move in Toxic Friendship Roulette!

      • Exactly! A way of keeping their next Intended close while living vicariously through you. What a mess.

    • THIS.

      It’s like ‘if I could only hook you up with someone of my choosing then you wouldnt be a third wheel anymore and we could go on DOUBLE DATES where we can ignore my own toxic romance and there would be sparkles and unicorns and ice-cream.’ -_-

      • MadDissector said:

        Gosh, true to the whole thing without the double dates. My match maker didn’t seem to approve of Shared Hobby with her partner and I respected so I stopped inviting so that she wouldn’t feel excluded. I guess matching me up, in her head, was a better way to get rid of me than talking with her husband openly about it.

      • planegirl said:

        Or the frantic pushing you towards the man they have chosen can sometimes be a case of “Here, take this guy who has X personal or social problem and who is definitely not as good as my boyfriend, so at least you are attached to someone and you’re not floating around all single and free and independent and likely to SNATCH MY BOYFRIEND at any random moment…”

    • Yeah, isn’t that second thing quite weird? I’m somewhere on the ace spectrum too, and before I decided I wanted to date someone, friends kept trying to hook me up with people.

      As it happens, though, I probably fail pretty hard at picking partners I’m actually properly compatible with. Somehow I managed to pick someone who has a much higher sex drive than I do. Whoopsie… We’re in the stage of the relationship where we’ve just realized that, and are trying to figure that out. But hey, I made the decision to date him on my own; no one pushed me into that. Wherever this goes, at least I’m in charge of my own decisions here.

  11. A. said:

    Ugh ugh ugh. LW, you are not the only one who wishes there was a better solution to this problem. I’m 25, probably somewhere on the ace spectrum (I am very, very occasionally attracted to someone, but if that someone shows any interest in me I panic and nope out at warp speed, and have no interest in ever being in a relationship), and an extreme introvert (I can spend an entire week without any human interaction and be perfectly content). I have found that a disproportionate number of people get bizarrely, aggressively upset if I state any of my boundaries about relationships plainly, and the more I try to be blunt about rearticulating those boundaries (or the more I try to explain them reasonably, for that matter), the more they seem to feel compelled to push against them. I’m too young to know what the future will hold! Lots of people change their minds at my age! They changed their own minds, so I’ll change mine too! I just haven’t met the right person yet! I’m just scared and need to push through it! I should just give it a chance, or I’ll never know what I might be missing out on! etc. etc. ad nauseum. I can sometimes get them to cut it out by saying I’m already married to my work, but only if they think I’m joking. The one thing that consistently makes people stop and think (and usually knock it off afterwards) is if I tell them something to the effect of, “I have spent 25 years being me. You have spent X years being you, and 0 seconds being me. I know what is best for the experience I am having, which is different from the experience you are having. I appreciate that you want my experience to be a good one, but I am the one who is in the best position to know what will be good for me.” (I have found this especially effective against older relatives, who seem to think their age automatically makes them more knowledgeable than I am about my own experiences – but it also works pretty well with well-meaning but pushy people my own age, who don’t quite grasp how different my experience is from theirs in this area.)

    • Somewhere on the the ace spectrum here too. I went to a very liberal school in the 90s that was all about exploring sexuality, but there wasn’t a term then for ace and none of my friends could wrap their minds around it. I think sometimes TV and Hollywood are culprits in this thinking and certainly in the expectations. These days I’m married, but it isn’t because I ever got over something or am happier married than on my own so much as I met a singular person I was drawn to. (And I still find that strange enough!) The thing that always made me the most happy, was being myself and being true to that.

    • Nanani said:

      I’m 32 and actually did believe I was “just scared” and “should push” myself etc etc barf

      Relationships with both men and women (is there a word for bi + ace?) were fine until the sex :/

      I strongly advise you NOT to push yourself. Sex you don’t actually want, even when it’s your own self doing the pushing, is not enjoyable.
      You don’t seem to be in any need of advice, but if I could tell my 25 year old self not to bother, I totally would.

      Rock on you solo diamond

      • B. said:

        “Is there a word for bi + ace?”
        I believe the term is “biromantic asexual”? I have a friend who defines herself as “heteroromantic asexual”, and as far as I have been told, the diversity in romantic orientations is as great and varied as the one in sexual orientations πŸ™‚

        • Rebecca McElroy said:

          That depends. Bi+ace could manifest in a number of ways…..Biromantic asexual means that you are not sexually attracted to anyone at all, but romantically attracted to both members of the same sex as yourself and members of other sexes.Another possibility is bi-grey-asexual,where you are sexually attracted to some extent to both members of the same sex as yourself and members of other sexes but your experience of sexual attraction is different in some of a number of ways to a sexual person (weak, infrequent, only in specific circumstances, not wanting it to be reciprocated, and many more). Another possibility is bisexual but sex-repulsed.There are probably more possibilities as well!

          • Nanani said:

            I like bi-grey-asexual, because you can never have too many hyphens. Also, it feels accurate to me.
            Thank you awkwardland!

          • I’m hetero gray-ace, but let me tell you, that’s a fun time. Somehow I managed to choose a boyfriend with a much higher sex drive than me, which is something we’re trying to figure out now. What you describe – weak, infrequent, in specific circumstances – is pretty accurate, plus any sexual desire has to be like… induced, for lack of a better word. (For instance, making out does it for some people.) It’s kind of interesting, but I do wish I was more normal. I was happy being single until I met this guy but now I really like him, so I’m kind of wanting to figure out a solution there.

          • I’d like to throw out a recommendation for Emily Nagoski’s book Come As You Are. She spends a lot of time talking about spontaneous vs. responsive desire, and how we’ve normalized the first while stigmatizing/delegitimizing the latter, mostly by convincing women (who, surprise! are often more on the responsive side of the spectrum) that they’re broken and need to be fixed. She makes a very compelling case, IMO, for why we need to learn to accept our own sexuality/ies, and focus on what feels good for us rather than what we think we “should” want.

        • That’s a good term for this particular set of circumstances. It can get multi syllabic in a hurry when you veer out of the cishet realm–the best description I have for my, uh, feelings is grey-andromantic asexual, since the precious few people I am attracted to are predominantly male, but I myself am non-binary. :p

      • I’m 30 and didn’t realize opting out was an option until a few years ago. Like Stephanie Whelan, I also got through the requisite years of schooling at a liberal school, but even in the mid-aughts, it seemed like you could be attracted to men, you could be attracted to women, or you could be attracted to both, but it never really occurred to anyone that there was a fourth option: none of the above. I also wish I could myself from five years ago (and ten, and fifteen) to borrow some of A. and LW’s self-awareness!

    • TheImplication said:

      “They changed their own minds, so I’ll change mine too!”

      What I always think is weird about this argument is that it sounds to me more like, “I finally caved and gave in to social pressure because it was easier to follow social norms than it was to do the thing that actually made me happy!” I realize that isn’t the case for every iteration of this story, but I honestly think it is for a lot of them. And I don’t mean to blame people who do this – it IS really hard to push back against social pressure every single day for years, and sometimes it might make you happier to give in and go with the flow, even though that is not what you want to do. But how is that a happy narrative? Surely a better story would be, “Well, I gave in to social norms because it was easier for me, but now I am trying to ensure that other people do not have to choose between a daily struggle against social pressure or what they really want.”

      • Nanani said:

        O.O

        Wow. Insight lightbulbs. They are popping.

      • I read an anecdote somewhere, I think probably on Captain Awkward, where a young woman was frustrated by a relative’s reaction to her coming out as a lesbian. “You’re not gay just because you’re grossed out by the thought of having sex with a man! That’s just normal.” Which to me sounds like Auntie Whatever might be a little not-straight herself but can’t admit it.

  12. Clarry said:

    Keep in mind that you don’t have to identify as a-romantic or a-sexual to be annoyed as hell at someone sticking their nose in your business, believing they know more about what’s good for you than you do, putting you in awkward positions, and lying to others behind your back. (If indeed, she has told the guy to flirt with you because you’d welcome it. It’s not clear to me in the letter that that’s what she did.) Even if you weren’t happy being single, solving your happiness problem or your dating problem is still something you get to decide for yourself, not something this friend gets to decide how to solve for you.

    I have higher hopes for the guy friend to be okay with your not wanting to date him than I do for your meddlesome friend being okay with your not wanting her in your (lack of) love life. Either way, getting people to dial back is hard because they tend to view any attention on the new dialed-back schedule as intermittent reinforcement. For example, if you tell your meddlesome friend to knock it off, and if she seems to accept that, and if a while you later you idly mention making too much food for dinner and wishing you had a better way to deal with the leftovers, your friend will likely interpret that as meaning that your dying of loneliness and needing someone to come share romantic meals with you.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      “you don’t have to identify as a-romantic or a-sexual to be annoyed as hell at someone sticking their nose in your business”

      I agree, but I think it’s valid to point out the aphobia of doing this to an asexual or aromantic person. It’s a microaggression.

      Like what if we subsitituted in another sexual orientation? Let’s say Jenny is a lesbian, and is out to her friends. A friend in particular keeps trying to hook her up with men despite her protests.

      We probably wouldn’t say that was just annoying. We’d say there was a homophobic element to that, unintentional or otherwise. And the same is true with the aphobia.

      • Clarry said:

        I definitely agree that aphobia is a big part of the meddlesome friend’s interference. Mine was a more general point. Whenever someone is being meddled with (or abused or nagged or teased or lied about) for being xyz (where xyz could be a sexual orientation or an ethnic group or a hairstyle or a taste in movies or pretty much anything), it’s easy for the target to think that everything would be okay if only I weren’t xyz. I wanted to reassure the LW that not only is it okay to be xyz, the meddlesome friend would still be engaging in the obnoxious behavior even if the LW weren’t xyz.

      • Vicki said:

        It is, but it’s also worth noting that an asexual or aromantic person shouldn’t have to be out to avoid being hassled that way. “I do not want to date right now” and variations like “I am not even considering getting involved with anyone while I’m working on my thesis” are valid statements regardless of the orientation/identification of the person who says them. And “stop trying to fix me up with anyone” is also valid if the speaker just prefers to look on their own, or is tired of this specific person introducing them to Darth Vaders.

        • BarlowGirl said:

          As someone who is greyromantic and greysexual, I’m not saying that we do need to be out to not be hassled.

          I’m saying that we shouldn’t erase that this is more than just annoying when you add in the aphobia, as it is a microaggression. It’s important to recognize that, otherwise you get real close to situations is similar to “that’s not sexism – everyone gets told to do this!” and the like.

          If this friend knows that the LW is ace/aro, then they are being aphobic on top of being a jerk, not just being a jerk, and that’s important to point out.

          • Vicki said:

            Agreed.

  13. tawg said:

    I also think that, when you have your talk with the guy, let him know that friend is meddling. Because if friend is in contact with guy, and he is not sensible enough to trust your words on what you want over those of your friend, his life is going to get confusing and you might get some unwelcome nudging from his corner, too. An explicit mention that if he wants to hang out with you then organising it through you (rather than accepting invites from your friend) might make everyone’s lives easier for a bit.

    • Aloot said:

      “let him know that friend is meddling.”

      I agree! Establishing that your friend is not a reliable source of information when it comes to you could save you – and him! – from trouble later on.

      • AMM said:

        So much this! Someone I am no longer friends with, for a variety of reasons, spent about a year telling an interested party ‘what I really meant’ when I’d pointed out that I was only interested in casual sex. I’d had the conversation and expected that I’d made myself clear by using my words with this interested party. He’d said he was OK with that so we had a brief encounter after which he just wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to cut him off entirely and was disappointed with how things had turned out. It was only much later that I found out that my ex-friend had been ‘reinterpreting’ what I was saying to him and spinning him a tale about how I really just wanted a committed relationship.

    • LW said:

      I’m pretty sure one of the main reasons that my friend is meddling is because the guy in question was talking to her and saying that I don’t seem interested. I’m not not interested, I’m just busy! And I’ve been honest about being busy! But he takes me saying “I’m sorry but I can’t do anything this day, what about something on that day?” as being uninterested, from what I’ve heard from the meddling friend. So I think she’s been doing it as a way to encourage me to do things with the guy. I can’t say I’m not busy and available to do things when I’m genuinely busy. So I’m pretty sure he has an idea of what’s been going on.

      • tawg said:

        Okay, so he has an idea that friend is meddling. That… I don’t know if that’s encouraging, that he hears a “no” to hanging out from you and is happy to let a mutual friend try to get a “yes” that he can tag along to. Maybe a direct conversation on that particular habit is worth having? Possibly with your friend – you’re trying to hang out with this guy, and if he can’t understand the direct message you’re sending when you say “I’m busy then, what about this alternate time?” then no amount of meddling is going to compensate for that.

        • LW said:

          I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt on that. A year ago I was really struggling with depression and anxiety and had a lot of problems with cognitive distortions and similar problems with perception of things people said. If we sit down and talk about it I think the message would be received, and when my friend told me that he was feeling that was I made it clear that I was being honest when I wasn’t available and was trying to suggest alternatives, so even the meddler knows that those perceptions of his aren’t my fault.

      • ruinousillusion said:

        A person who can’t take “I am legit busy on that day, how about this other day instead?” as just that sounds like a major headache to date in general. I mean, if anything other than enthusiastically being up for exactly what he wants when he wants it is considered uninterested, his dating pool is basically just people who have nothing else going on in their lives and never get sick, and people willing to be complete doormats.

        Good luck!

      • Uhm, yeah, thirding the “she said one specific time was inconvenient and actively offered another specific time, she’s trying to shut me down” seeming like way too much work. Is he hoping to use the magic of girl!pressure to get you to happily go along on things that aren’t convenient for you?

        I mean… I get that you are trying to cut him slack! But the options here sound like his intent is either

        (1) “she is behaving like a person who is happy to do something social at a time convenient to her, I FEEL SO REJECTED AND AM FEELINGSDUMPING” which sounds like even if he means well, he is cutting himself out to be a puppy that will need reassurance on a really high-maintenance schedule and I will just note that you do not have to sign up for dealing with that; or

        (2) “she is behaving like a person who is happy to do something social at a time convenient to her, FRIEND PRESSURE HER FOR MY SAKE PLEASE why do I need to put up with things being convenient for HER UGH” which is just… pushy. Pushy and gross.

      • johann7 said:

        But he takes me saying β€œI’m sorry but I can’t do anything this day, what about something on that day?” as being uninterested, from what I’ve heard from the meddling friend.

        There is something very wrong here. As we frequently say here, suggesting an alternative day if you can’t make a given day is a direct sign of interest, not of disinterest. That interpretation is either coming only from Friend, not the guy, or the guy is interpreting behavior other than you changing your schedule to match his desires as a problem, which is a big red flag.

        Given what we know, I’m going to suggest that Friend is an utterly unreliable narrator, and both you and this guy should not listen to anything she has to say about either of you to the other. Both of you should stop discussing your relationship – whatever form it takes – with her; when she brings it up, shut it down right away.

      • Isn’t “suggesting an alternative time” the specific thing to look for that means “this isn’t a soft no, it’s a genuine scheduling issue”? Or do I just have the benefit of being an Awkwardeer on that one?

  14. MadDissector said:

    I was once in that situation, but I was stupid enough not to see that the guy was flirting with me and, indeed, he was being encouraged by a common friend until things exploded in my face. This happened when I was 30 and still hadn’t had a boyfriend yet, and, although I had felt bad in my early 20s for it, I had already accepted that I shouldn’t push myself for it or lose my sleep about it. I had to cut ties with that common friend after I found out. First, because the guy she put on my tail turned to be everything but okay, stalked me online and picked on my friends. Second, because, when confronted, she refused to see that she had done wrong, and pointed out that all the responsibility for the mishap laid on my shoulders, because I had to be stupid for not noticing that he was in love with me, I had “too high standards”, and at my age and with my personality I should be “grateful” that that someone showed interest. She was only trying to make me happy because, apparently, I didn’t realise that I was making myself unhappy by being myself, and I needed to be monitored. So, yes, her patronising behaviour of not listening to me plus her disregards towards my boundaries forced me to say goodbye. People trying to “correct you” for “humanitarian” reasons are the worst, and if they don’t get the message when you call them off, you can never trust them not to repeat the behaviour again.

    My only advice to you is to make this a public action. Do not address your friend and the interested guy alone, but the whole group of friends you share. I didn’t do this, largely because my friend asked me to (as if she intuitively knew that what she did could be considered blameable) and because there were two voices against mine their version (that I had been toying with his feelings and then suddenly cut contact, and that my friend had told me that I was a bad person because of it and I also cut contact with her for that) was the one that the group took in. I have lost many people I really liked because of this. I agree with commenters above that a message without concrete names being given (most people will know who you’re addressing nevertheless) calling off the behaviour would be the best. It’s not going to avoid the drama, but nothing will. Just remember that it’s not your fault: this is just because some people have been trying to manipulate a situation behind your back, and they will try to make you feel guilty about it, because you are not following their mental choreography.

  15. RSVP said:

    It doesn’t really matter whether you identify as aro-ace or are very definitely sexual – you want to proceed at your own pace and that’s all you need to tell your friends. This is a common thing that people do to/for young women and probably young men as well, for all I know. They see a single who seems attractive and just can’t understand this person being single, so they do what they think is a public service by trying to be matchmakers. Unfortunately, your friends probably won’t stop doing this no matter how many times you tell them – it just seems to be human nature to try to match up your friends.

    • B. said:

      Ummm… could we maybe stop telling the LW that her orientation doesn’t matter? As has been pointed above, there’s aphobia going on here, or at the very least aphobic behaviour. I don’t think it was your intention, but ignoring that facet of the problem is aphobic too. The LW’s orientation is a relevant factor. Sure her wishes should be respected were she gay, pan, straight or whatever, but there’s an additional layer of violence/oppression in trying to make an aromantic and/or asexual person engage in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. Said layer of violence is called aphobia, and the erasure of ace people’s experiences is a form of aphobia.

      • Aris Merquoni said:

        On a completely different, absolutely irrelevant note, where did the term “aphobia” for anti-asexual prejudice come from? Because my brain keeps wanting to translate that as “not a phobia”. Maybe… maybe acephobia?

        I’m sure you’re right we’re seeing pushback on her orientation and prejudice whether it’s sexual-centrism or actual malice. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be erasure.

        • TO_Ont said:

          LOL, yes, ‘a’ meaning without and ‘phobic’ meaning fear. So ‘aphobia’ sounds like a condition where a person is unable to feel fear.

          • TO_Ont said:

            Though it’s not like the other ‘phobias’ necessarily make total greek sense either.

        • mimi said:

          I think aphobia means both acephobia and arophobia (prejudice against asexual and aromantic people). Romantic orientations are rarely discussed or at least recognised as separate from sexual orientations. A lot of bullshit people say about asexuals is actually irrelevant for asexuality and is anti-aromantic and vice versa so aphobia is a usefull term both for things that are ment to hurt aro and ace people and for things that are ment against one group but hurt the other/both.

          LW, congrats on being happily single! I am, too. It took me a while (and some decisions I regret) to get to that point, but it’s a wonderful feeling πŸ™‚

        • acephobia is what I generally see from other asexuals.

        • BarlowGirl said:

          Acephobia is definitely a word, but aphobia can also encompass more than just asexuality, but aromantic and (sometimes) agender. An aromantic person doesn’t necessarily experience acephobia, or arophobia might be different in some aspects.

      • BarlowGirl said:

        I think honestly we do have the right to ask people to be a little extra careful when they’re talking about asexuality/aromanticism and they get close to that line. Because SO MUCH of acephobia is some form of erasal (it’s real hard to come out when no one actually knows that your sexual/romantic orientation even EXISTS, people say it doesn’t exist, people say we’re just trying to be “special”), I think it’s important to be aware that you may be, however accidentally, brushing up against something really painful for many of us.

        Honestly, the idea that we all must be paired up is aphobic. It’s also usually hetereonormative, but it is aphobic, and this bleeds into an aphobic society, even when people don’t know what we are! I mean, think about how often society ridicules the idea of a person who lives in their parents’ basement and doesn’t date?

        I don’t know if it’s because we’re not used to getting a lot of attention (but this is all for the attention, right?) but it’s kind of like… no, we’re allowed to ask people to not step on our feet? I mean, when you say “it doesn’t matter if you’re ace/aro”, are you taking into consideration that (TW) many ace/aro people are victims of corrective rape? Because that matters. (End TW.)

        *sigh* I’m having trouble getting where I’m trying to go with this comment, and I apologize. Maybe it’s just… asking for a little extra care when allo people discuss us.

  16. Zee said:

    LW, there are a lot of good ideas here for reacting to your friend in this specific situation, but I’d like to give you some more general advice and it’s this: deliberately diversify your social circles. I am a middle-aged woman who is not interested in having romantic relationships and therefore doesn’t date and while I am neither aro nor ace, my journey toward self-discovery includes a lot of elements which would be familiar to those who are, including dealing with tremendous amounts of social pressure to conform to the idea that EVERYONE wants to be partnered. The single most helpful thing I found was having people to talk with who could understand where I was coming from on a personal basis. If you don’t already have friends who are aro and/or ace, it could be helpful to find some and they’re not the only who can relate. If you can find people like me who aren’t opposed to romance but just don’t prioritize it at all, you’ll also get that personal level of support from someone who truly feels you when you need to work through the issues being dumped on you by people who just don’t get it. It really helps.

  17. iminthewrongstory said:

    I really wish these terms and conversations had been part of the zeitgeist when I was young. Being able to identify as a panromantic demisexual in college would have helped me be more comfortable in dealing with well-meaning friends and be happier in my own skin.

    • JMegan said:

      Agreed. I’m a cis hetero woman, so these terms don’t apply to me specifically, and I recognize the privilege I have there. But I also want to say thank you to those who are participating in this conversation, and doing the emotional labour of providing a bit of education to those of us who knew very little about this aspect of human (a)sexuality.

  18. LW said:

    LW here! I really appreciate all the comments, and I’m going to go through now and reply to a few of them. πŸ™‚ Before I do, I will mention a few things that have cropped up that weren’t specifically mentioned in my letter, just for clarity.

    I’m not out to my friends as being aro or ace – I don’t really think they know enough about alternate sexualities (or lack thereof) to comprehend it, and I just really hate talking about it. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I’m a private person about it. I know they don’t understand and might ask some really bad questions. In addition, because we were classmates and our particular field tends to be tightly-knit, I don’t want that to come up when I’m doing job-related things or interviews. They do know I’m not big on romantic things and they’ve seen me date two other guys, though at both times I couldn’t really articulate what made me so uncomfortable about dating them or the attention the guys were giving me. So although the specific “I don’t experience sexual or romantic attraction” talk hasn’t happened, they know I’m not big on it.

    I suppose, given that, that it isn’t so much an issue of aphobia in this case (since I’ve seen it mentioned in a few comments), but of wanting a.) to see me in a relationship and b.) this meddling friend being very close to this guy and wanting to see him happy. I will admit that she messaged me to tell me that he felt like I didn’t want to hang out: the problem being that the times he suggested we hang out I legitimately had other things going on (like graduating that day, for example), but I always made sure to suggest alternate times. According to her, this guy hasn’t had a relationship in a while and therefore perceived things I said differently than he otherwise would, but I didn’t take that excuse and pointed out that I’d never been in a relationship.

    Like I said in my letter, I would be open to trying a few dates with this guy in the future, but I get so uncomfortable dating people I don’t know. And for a long time I couldn’t figure out what made me so uncomfortable about going on dates, but then I realised: all the people I was dating were people I didn’t know. They were typically friends of friends, so the first time I had real conversations with them was when we were on a date, and those typically have a subtext of “you are hanging out with the idea that you may enter a romantic and/or sexual relationship.” The other person doesn’t know that I’m not interested in either, so that makes me uncomfortable thinking that they may want or expect something I can’t offer down the line. If I was friends with someone before we dated, they probably already know that I’m not big on romantic or sexual things, and a lot of discomfort would probably go away.

    I would be okay hanging out in a group setting with this guy, because that gives me a chance to get to know him, because I am open to giving dating a try – and, in fact, that happened just last night and it was okay. The problem is that my friend is meddling and trying to manoeuvre me into spending more time with him in a way that is both obvious and almost insulting with how obvious it is. I need her to stop pushing and let things happen naturally – let me know him before I figure out if I want to date him, if that makes sense.

    • B. said:

      Hi, LW, thanks for the update! πŸ™‚ So, if the source of the problem is just your friend’s behaviour (I’m sorry she wouldn’t stop at “you’re hurting me”, btw), here’re some possible scripts (deploy as soon after you perceive another meddling attempt as possible):
      – Friend, please stop trying to act as a matchmaker between Guy and I. Things are going well on that front, you needn’t worry about that.
      – Friend, I need you to stop pushing Guy and me to spend more time alone together. I like to take things slow. Your matchmaking is actually getting in the way.
      – Friend, things between Guy and I are not going to progress any faster than this. The matchmaking is not helping, please stop it.
      – Friend, I need you to back off and let me get to know Guy in my own time and at my own pace. We’re not at the dating stage yet.

      Hopefully, being direct and upfront with her about her behaviour will act as a wake-up call and she’ll stop. If she thinks she’s being subtle and you call her on her meddling, she may feel embarrassed enough to stop. If she listens to you say that you’ve got things under control, or offer her some reassurance that things are progressing well*, she may back off a bit.
      * “At the pace and in the setting that feel comfortable for you” counts as “well”.

      I don’t know whether this is relevant to your situation, but maybe Guy is expecting the eventual dates to happen way sooner than would feel comfortable to you. If you feel that may be the case, maybe a quiet word with Guy would be in order:
      – Guy, I only date people I’m already friends with, so I need to hang out with you around other people for a bit before any dates happen. Is that cool with you?
      And if he says no, best to leave it at that so he can date if and when he so wishes and you can get to know him as a friend at your own pace. It wouldn’t be fair to any of you to keep him waiting, because he’d feel frustrated and you’d feel pressured.

      • LW said:

        Those are great! I’ve never known my friend to be embarrassed or anything other than incredibly blunt and direct (she has less shame than certain candidates in the American presidential election, and I wish that was hyperbole), so I don’t think she’d be guilty for it, but I will need to make it really clear that her actions are hurting me and making it harder for me to give things a try. As firm as possible: “You need to stop. You’re hurting me and it makes me want to not give Guy a chance. Stop it.”

        Considering that I’ve always tried to say things as diplomatically as possible, the shock of the firmness might help cement the point. Or she’ll try to argue it, but I’m not going to accept that. I need her to stop, she is going to stop, and that’s that.

        And I like those scripts for talking to Guy! He texted me a few days ago to ask when I was free because he “would love to see me” and gosh that made me anxious. I think we definitely have different ideas in terms of relationship progression and I hope he would avoid being a jerk when I talk to him. And if he is, then that’s a sign that it wouldn’t work in the first place.

        • B. said:

          Glad to help! ^^ Good luck, it sounds to me like you have got this well in hand πŸ™‚
          Also, I can confirm that a firm tone from an usually diplomatic person would make me take their words more seriously.

    • onyx said:

      I’d still classify their refusal to accept you “no” regarding dating/your desire to date as aphobia. They’re erasing your feelings and wants, pushing their own on you, because they think you are repressed/shy/just need to meet the right person/other “well meaning” bullshit that is actually them trying to control your life and ignore your own desires. Ignorance of what asexuality is is a major factor behind aphobia, the same way so much transphobia is rooted in not understanding what being trans is (assuming they’re perverts or other awful stuff). Bottom line is “there is something wrong with you and I am taking it upon myself to FIX it/show you the error of your ways”.

      I’m (heteroromantic) ace myself. I went on a few dates before i really came out, and it was agony dancing around various sexual advances that I REALLY was not into, but terrifying about telling them what my “deal” was. The best thing I ever did was finally just put it right there on my OKCupid profile: “I am asexual. I’m not against the idea of sex, but I am not particularly interested so don’t expect anything. If this bothers you or you see it as a challenge, do us both a favor and don’t bother.”

      Even if you aren’t up front with your friends, I would at least give this dude the courtesy of an explanation. You don’t even need to explicitly say you’re ace, just tell him “I’m not interested in sex, and I wanted to make that clear so we can go forward without any weird subtext, because I think you are cool but you’re not someone I want to date.” If he doesn’t respect that, he is not a good friend OR boyfriend, so that’s that! If you’re aromantic, and you genuinely don’t want a romantic relationship at all… this is okay! Be forward about it, to everyone, especially any guys other people try to set you up with. Your needs come first. Don’t go on dates out of obligation to be “normal” or appease your friends’ idea of what your life should be.

      And sit your friends down too. Again, you don’t need to come out. But they are being pretty shitty friends right now. I am sure in their heads they’re just trying to push you out of your shell, help you, whatever. But they are completely disrespecting you as a person and it is NOT. COOL. Throw down the gauntlet. “Friend, I know you want the best for me, but this is about what *you* want for me instead of what I want for myself. You need to back off and stop meddling in my romantic life. I know what I want and I will proceed at my own pace. All I am asking is that you respect my decisions and my own life.” And honestly, cut her off/limit contact with her as needed. If she brings up stuff over and over, give her one or two redirects then say” I said I wasn’t okay with you doing this. Stop.” and leave the room/hang up/move somewhere else.

      And as for the sudden dates or hang outs she keeps wrangling you into, don’t make excuses about “Oh, I’m saving money!”. If you don’t want to go, you don’t want to go. So don’t give her a reason that can be “reasoned” with. Just say “Nah, I’m not up for it today” or “Sorry, I’m busy.” No further explanation required.

  19. Elizabeth said:

    This might not be relevant to this specific situation, but I think it’s important to remember that you don’t owe anyone any personal details about you. I’m also aro-ace and I feel no compunction in not explaining this to pushy relatives or friends I’m not that close to. Whenever people ask me if I have a boyfriend yet I use a lot of noncommittal answers like “well, I don’t have a crush on anyone right now” and “I haven’t found anyone I want to date yet” and for the most part people leave me alone, when I know that if I told them I was ace I’d get a fight. It might not work on this particular pushy friend but maybe it’s something to try against pushy people in the future?

    Some possible scripts:

    “Haha, no, still single.” *shrugs* “Oh well, it’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.”
    “No, I’m all alone and lonely. But at least me and my future twelve cats will be very happy someday.” (in a clearly joking tone)
    *shrugs* “Nah, and I don’t know anyone I’d want to date.”

    I’m only 22 though so who knows if this will still work ten years down the line. :/ Good luck!

  20. Grace said:

    Hey letter-writer, chiming in for the first time to commiserate. I am also 23 and never been in a relationship – not even a few dates. I’m probably somewhere on the ace spectrum too – not really sure where. I largely don’t talk about it unless someone brings it up, but the few times someone has tried to set me up or asked about my dating life, I tend to get immediately frosty, which helps somewhat. I think most people in my family and very select friend group have generally accepted that it’s a no-go subject with me (thank you Midwest reserve), but occasionally I get someone asking about it. Depending on the relationship with the person asking, I either make a joke about how happily single I am or immediately put on the “none of your beeswax” tone. (I do a really good imperious bitch when needed.) A lot of how I handle it is just repetition – “I’m happily single”, “Haven’t found anyone I’m interested in”, “Concentrating on grad school and my career”, or to my doctor about possible pregnancy, “Not unless the Immaculate Conception is back in style.” I’m pretty young yet, so I worry about whether these’ll work as I get older and the questions get more pointed.

    Good luck!

  21. My favorite phrase for these kinds of situations is to say that I’ve been actively anti-looking since 1993 (the year I got divorced and realized how much happier I was on my own). Generally, people take a little time to parse it. Their reaction once they do pretty much determines whether I want to spend any further time with them.

  22. Lemur said:

    In a weird way, I was lucky that a lot of my depression issues subsided in highschool for a while. Back then I’d have to fight back against people insisting I should wear makeup and dress up when I was struggling with gender identity issues, and I’d also have to have awkward conversations with friends explaining just why they really shouldn’t have given some person at a party my number. Obviously they shouldn’t have done that even if I wasn’t ace or aro, but that added an extra layer they were able to easily understand once they finally realized I was serious.

    I think if friends saw me being sad and depressed and not feeling worthwhile back then, they would have tried harder to hook me up with people. If they’d thought “but this would make you happy!” (when relationships just Don’t Work That Way) it would’ve been impossible to permanently put a stop to it. And I would have made bad choices trying to force myself to do things I wasn’t comfortable with just because I felt sad or guilty about it.

    I am 31 and single and that’s okay. There’s still depression, but that isn’t what I’m depressed about. And people do eventually get used to it and stop thinking that it’s “just a phase.”

  23. Dear LW

    I have two things to say:

    1. The Captain’s script “I’m happy being single” is perfect

    2. Say it to people in person. In person, when you’re blunt it comes across (correctly) as honesty. In email or text, not so much

    You’ve got this!

  24. LW said:

    Hi all, LW again. πŸ™‚ I have an update on the whole situation, and while I haven’t spoken to Friend yet, I did talk to Guy today.

    We were at the park and I said “You are a really awesome guy. But I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure from people…. Friend… for us to move faster than I’m comfortable with. For now, I really want us to work on being friends, before we can even consider anything else.”

    And he was really great about it! Soon as I mentioned being pressured he was nodding his head, because Friend was also pressuring him, though I think in far different ways than me. We bonded over the fact that Friend is really, really not even slightly subtle, even though she thinks she is. For now, we’re going to work on being friends. Down the line, maybe it could be something more, but at the very least, I think being friends is great.

    I haven’t told Friend to knock it off yet, purely because she hasn’t meddled since I wrote my letter to Captain Awkward. Since things between myself and Guy are now on the level, I’m going to wait until Friend next tries to meddle to tell her to knock it off. Knowing her, it’s what’ll work the best, and then I can say “You’re doing it right now. Stop it.”

    I know people keep talking about being aro and ace and aphobia, and I want to reiterate that, as the person actually involved in the situation, I don’t feel like this is aphobia. I can understand people perceiving it that way, and that’s cool, but please respect my perception of the situation and my knowing the people involved. In some cases stuff like this can totally be related to aphobia, but I think this is more a case of the societal pressure for young adult women to be in a relationship. And I’m of the mind (as an aro ace) that it’s perfectly possible for someone who is aro or ace or both to be in and have a satisfying relationship, without sex or romance being involved. I’m glad everyone here is sticking up for me as an aro ace – really, I’m blown away by the kindness everyone has shown – but in this instance, I don’t think it’s a factor.

    Once again, I’m really glad I wrote to Captain Awkward, and I’m so grateful to all the commentors who have weighed in. πŸ™‚

    • silence said:

      I’m so glad that guy is cool with putting the breaks on. Good luck with your friend.

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