Hi Captain Awkward –
TL;DR: one of my partner’s friends became my Cool New Friend, right up until he abruptly pulled back and implied I had romantic feelings for him. I do not. He seems to want to keep hanging out (??!) and I don’t want to make it awkward but this really upset me and I have no idea how to feel or behave.
I (32, she/her) am in a very happy relationship with wonderful Partner (31M). Earlier this year I hit it off with Partner’s friend “Bob” (30??M). Bob is funny and interesting and well-read, and Partner suggested Bob and I could see movies together (Partner has a low tolerance for silent films). Over 6 months, Bob and I ended up hanging out every 2-3 weeks. Periodically one of us (usually Bob) would suggest we meet for a movie or a meal. We’d hang out for couple of hours and talk a lot. Bob seemed surprisingly comfortable being open early on (family, health, a recent breakup), and taking my cue from him, I found myself talking unreservedly to him like a close friend. (I cringe now to think of this.) Partly I think Bob needed to process the denouement of his romantic relationship, but we canvassed lots of other things, so I wasn’t just the Designated Woman Listener. And, well, I am in a conspicuously happy relationship with Partner, while Bob is dealing with feelings for someone else. No When Harry Met Sally problems here!
Then Bob abruptly cancelled a dinner he had suggested, before a movie he had suggested, via text message, because he was “uncomfortable” and felt like we had been “going on dates.” After some prodding, Bob divulged that he thought I had romantic feelings for him. Bob is a great guy and I would have no hesitation setting him up with a friend, but I do not have feelings for Bob. At all. (Bob did not help matters by subsequently demanding text confirmation of this for “reassurance”. What?)
Unfortunately, Bob stepped right into a bear trap of my anxieties. Making friends has always been hard for me. It makes me feel so pathetic in retrospect, but I’d been really excited about my awesome new friend. I also have a history of damaging friendships through thoughtlessness or terrible boundaries – behaviours I *thought* I’d grown out of. I was embarrassed, upset, and increasingly, angry. Bob basically cast aspersions on my commitment to Partner – who literally laughed out loud at the idea when I told him.
Captain, we’ve hung out twice since, and it was awful. I’m stilted and uncomfortable; Bob seems to want to pretend nothing happened. But I’m not comfortable behaving like before, because clearly that gave Bob the wrong idea! Being so wildly misread really sucks, and I’m torn between wanting to know how Bob got this idea, and never wanting to hear it because oh nooooo what did I doooooo.
Bob is still doggedly suggesting movies. I really don’t want to screw up Partner’s social circle and part of me wonders if any friendship is salvageable. But I don’t know how much of this is my fault and I don’t know how to behave around Bob anymore. Also, now I’m back down to zero people to watch weird old movies with. I have no idea how to address this situation. Help??
Other people don’t get to tell you what your feelings are, full stop.
Additionally, I consulted Occam’s Razor (I keep it next to Occam’s hand lotion, Occam’s minty morning mouthwash, and Occam’s Big Paisley Tie) and it indicated that Bob possibly became weird because HE was developing a big old crush on YOU. Your hangouts felt like dates…to him. And instead of either ruefully admitting it or dealing with it quietly (“I’ll just keep being her friend, it will pass“), he projected it all onto you.
A second possibility that still has nothing to do with anything you did wrong: The person Bob is actually pursuing romantically looks askance at the friendship between you, either because they are jealous of you, specifically, or because they are one of those people who are convinced that men and women can’t ever be friends (au contraire, mon frère) and unfortunately Bob is also sort of one of those people but was making an exception for his Silent Film Buddy. Maybe your hangouts looked like dates to that person, so that person made it weird for Bob, who in turn made it weird for you. The demand for text confirmation makes me imagine Bob saying to this person, “See? I asked her and she doesn’t feel that way. We just go to the movies sometimes.”
Third possibility: This is like one of those things where you get really upset at someone in a dream and you wake up and you’re angry at them in real life but only for stuff they did in the dream. Maybe Dream-You got horny for Dream-Bob one night, which, fine, except, Not Fine, because Awake-Bob crossed the dream streams and broke up your film club dream team.
Fourth possibility: Say you accidentally did or said something that made Bob feel uncomfortable, like a line was being crossed. You didn’t hit on him, but the intimacy of your conversations, for whatever reason, felt like Too Much for the level of movie buddies he wants to be. Or he felt like he was sharing too much private information with you and wanted to pull back from those kinds of conversations. In that scenario a friend might reasonably want to regroup a bit, like, “Note to self, these friend-dates are starting to feel like date-dates…to me…maybe I should change something up here” but that can be done without blaming you or asking for a notarized statement of your lack of pantsfeelings. Crushes happen, misunderstandings happen, but we don’t tell our friends they have feelings and then, like, punish them for their feelings that we made up in our heads and told them they had.
So what to do now? To truly clear the air, Bob would need to admit what he did and apologize to you. “I’m so sorry I insisted that you had feelings for me. What actually happened was I was feeling ________ about ________ and I projected all that on to you.”
You could attempt to clear the air. The next time he suggests a film, you could say, “Dude, I want to go to the movies but not until we talk about the very weird thing you did. I never had romantic feelings for you, and you made me INCREDIBLY uncomfortable when you insisted I did. If I did or said something specific that made you uncomfortable, please tell me what it was so I can apologize and not ever do it again. We can go back to acting like it never happened once you tell me, honestly, what the hell was that about?”
I realize asking him directly is nerve-wracking for you, both because of your history because you can’t necessarily trust him to be honest or self-aware enough to not double down and try even more projection. But please know, you’d be entirely within your rights to do it.
You could let Partner intervene on your behalf. I generally advise letting our partners handle their own friendships and not getting in the middle, which seems to be your strategy as well, but maybe next time the two men hang out solo your Partner can throw up a “Dude, [LW] doesn’t have feelings for you and you made her incredibly uncomfortable about that whole thing. What was UP with that?” and a “Well, you probably need to apologize before you try to plan any more movie nights.”
You could also take a break and hang with Bob only at bigger Partner-social-circle events. You’re not “screwing up” anybody’s social circle, you just don’t have time right now to go to the movies with your Partner’s friend who you thought was a cool friend but who is actually a super-presumptive and demanding friend who you didn’t enjoy seeing movies with the last two times you did that. Make a rule going forward: “For every 10 minutes I spending navigating The Bobness, I will spend 10 minutes finding (or founding!) a women-watching-old movies-together meet where I live.” Go to screenings alone sometimes. Wear an incredibly fancy and fetching hat. Say hello to the other regulars in the crowd (there are almost certainly regulars in the crowd). If your town has silent film screenings, plural, you and Bob are not the only people in that scene. Meet the other beautiful nerds.
You can also join Bob for an occasional film/joint exercise in pretending it didn’t happen, and see if it gets better with some time. Bob’s persistence in making plans is an indicator that he does like you and want to go to the movies still. But look, I’m bilingual in both English and acting like the elephant is not in the room, so I want to be clear: Bygones are a gift. If you never bring this up again, if you try to hang out with Bob like it never happened and give the friendship some time to recover, that is a favor you are doing for him. You are letting him save face after the weird thing he did, with a silent message of: “Friend, I’m trusting that was a one-time thing and you had your reasons, reasons which you will sheepishly acknowledge someday, maybe to me, maybe to your therapist, and I like you enough to give it another try. Don’t fuck it up.”
The most important thing, to me, is that you stop blaming yourself and get off the back foot. Climb out of your shame-hole. You’re in a weird situation not because something’s inherently wrong with you but because your friend Bob put you in the impossible position of denying a negative. Bob’s gonna Bob. It doesn’t mean you’ll never again pass a pleasant afternoon together watching a restored print of Nosferatu while a live orchestra plays the score, but it does mean that the closer friendship you thought was happening is not entirely possible within Bob’s limitations.
127 thoughts on “#1227: “Cool New Friend spooked by ~romantic feelings~ I don’t actually have””
My read is that Bob fancies the letter writer and is projecting. Either way, he’s the one who made it weird. (What is it with men who feel entitled to mansplain your own mind to you?) Any of the Captain’s methods of dealing with this are good. Back off, it’s not LW’s issue to fix, LW almost certainly did nothing wrong.
Bob fancies the letter writer and is projecting.
This is what I see. This letter gave me déjà vu. This letter gave me déjà vu.
LW, Bob has needlessly disturbed your peace (in a bizarre way) and you deserve its restoration. When you imagine not having solo outings with Bob and dialing back to where he is only Partner’s friend, do you feel instant relief? If so, go for it. You might also reflect on how he proposed most of the movies/meals and consider how much less often you might have met otherwise. Making lots of different friends could really carry you forward. Your eggs wouldn’t all be in one basket and you could let people spend shorter amounts of time in your life without that being a massive loss.
That was also my read – which is definitely a read biased by personal experience!
I wonder if there’s some Awkward Nerd Boy Syndrome here – where guys think of themselves as gross dweeby slime, and therefore any sign of attraction or friendliness is (1) a fluke which must be seized on before it vanishes, and/or (2) evidence that you’re SOULMATES because obviously only a soulmate could see past Nerd Boy’s dweeby exterior to his True Self.
I’m not sure if that’s the situation from the letter, but given dude’s apparent loneliness, nerdy interests, and sudden massive overreaction… It’s sure reminding me of past experience!
I’ve met a really uncomfortable number of these dudes in the past – and importantly, this reaction is about their own insecurity, not anything LW actually did. If Bob starts hallucinating that LW is a walking steak, it’s because he’s a starving cartoon character, not because LW is actually a delicious dinner.
(Thankfully, I have much better social circles now. 😛 It put me off D&D for yeaaaars, though.)
Alternatively (I’ve seen both, alas) it’s Overconfident Adonis Syndrome: he thinks that he’s god’s gift to women, and therefore all the ladies he’s interested it are just waiting for a chance to hop in his bed. (Or they’re too repressed by the sex-negative patriarchy to admit their true feelings and need to be *barf* CONVINVED, or something like that.)
Ooooh, I did that with D&D too… first college DM dated one of my friends, second one apparently both had a crush on me and thought that “asexual” meant “change my mind” so that brought weekend cartoons to a screeching halt.
He still has one of my books though and I’m still mad about that.
I’m holding a moment of silence for your book! That would make me so mad too.
“… thought that ‘asexual’ meant ‘change my mind…” ARG. Not to derail, but derail just to say ARG. Perfect description of a very real problem and thank you for that.
This kind of shit makes me thankful my current D&D campaign is run by a married couple who shut this behavior down HARD.
That was definitely my read too, especially given how he skipped past asking LW and decided to assume instead. Really discomforting, and would definitely have chilled any feelings toward Bob in LW’s shoes, platonic or no.
My read as well, also driven by personal experience. Part of it is that Bob doesn’t want to admit pantsfeelings to himself, simply because it’s so clear that LW is in a good and happy relationship herself. Another part is that many people have a hard time separating philos and eros.
Anyrate, LW, don’t beat yourself up over it, this is something that friends struggle with all the time. Bob’s the one who screwed up with assumptions / demands rather than asking, or just dealing with it himself.
That’s my read too. If Bob projected any harder he could take over running the silent movies.
This made me laugh out loud!!
I think what the captain says is great.
My read here is more of a bottom line: Bob is High Drama.
Given any ONE of those circumstances, Bob reacted in the most dramatic way possible. OP just has to decide if she wants to keep friends with someone with this characteristic or not.
Yeah, I think that’s something that OP is glossing over. I read the title and immediately thought “‘cool new friend’ is neither cool nor a friend.”
This was my feeling as well. Bob seems to be projecting his own feelings on you, OP. With a side order of mansplaining “your” emotions to you.
Bob may have been fun to spend time with over the short term, but long term he seems like a lot of work. Why spend hours and hours doing emotional labor for Bob when you could be seeking out new friends? Friends with a more enjoyable labor/fun ratio? OP, you sound like a really fun and interesting person. I think there are other silent film viewing cool people out there for you to meet. New friend making is a little scary (for me at least), but thankless emotional labor and accusations of sketchy/crushy feelings are deeply unpleasant, even harmful. Thank goodness your partner did not believe Bob’s idiocy!
I had several guy friends pull this crap with me. It was always a way of testing the waters to see if I was interested. It always ended with them crossing the line. Sexual harassment, interference in my relationship, spreading rumors, all of it.
OP, you seem to be handling this way better than I ever did. You shut Bob right down, and the Captain has given stellar advice (of course). You got this. You are awesome.
Ugh. I’m also seeing a healthy side of slut-shaming on Bob’s part.
Yes, I agree. Bob kinda sucks. A lot.
Yeppers. 100%. I’ve had something similar. I think it may be easier to think “she’s into me” than “I feel like I’m into her”. I’ve had it happen. It’s insulting that since a person considers me desirable I clearly must desire them. Can’t possibly be enjoying myself and minding my business.
LW, do whatever you enjoy the most. FFS don’t feel obliged to spend time with this or any person if it makes you wish you had spent the time cleaning the oven.
One circumstance that the captain failed to cover is that even if there are no romantic or pants feelings on either side… Bob could be projecting what he thinks other people will think of your friendship.
In my experience, more male/female friendships are ruined by the “when Harry met Sally” principle than any other. (The idea that men and women can’t be ‘just friends.’) Even when no romance or pantsfeelings have come up, people get hypervigilant about what it ‘looks like’ that you’re hanging out one on one. There’s also the fact that most people are objectively bad at determining if their feelings are romantic, because our society doesn’t value platonic closeness the same way.
The good news is that Bob already has a non-awkward role in your life – as a friend to your wonderful partner – so you can see less of him for a bit without, you know, not ever seeing him.
But I second the captain’s advice that you need to spend time making friends, or at least aquaintances, with other women over your shared interests. Not because there’s anything inherent that means you’ve got to stick to your own gender in regards to friendship, but because our culture has sadly never been good about encouraging any kind of emotional closeness between men and women outside a romantic context. And other women are more likely to have also experienced that… and also more likely to be available for the kind of emotional closeness you seem to want in a friend without projecting ‘what if people think I have a crush on my friend’s wife?’ into it.
The last “But What Will People THINK About Us?” letter we had around here was a doozy and also full of projection.
I just re-read that letter and is was so gross I need another shower. It’s boggling that men can think this way, but some of them do.
I had the same reaction. Where’s that bleach shower!
That letter is perhaps the grossest letter in the entire CA archive. There are scarier letters and more frightening letters, but I can’t think of one that is more YLEECH!
100% agree. I hope the Captain’s reply sunk into his noggin. He really needed a deep change in world-view.
Oh, you know he didn’t learn a thing. He didn’t want advice at all. It was pure humble-brag.
And there’s nothing weird or dirty about using the verb ‘to screw’ to refer to rotating a screw with a screwdriver! I bet this guy makes a ton of ‘that’s what she said’ jokes and has no idea when they go over badly.
I have a friend in my hometown who happens to be a man and when I visit Hometown, he and I generally hang out some. My mother is constantly demanding, “Who IS this guy?!” Repeated statements of, “He’s a friend of mine from university” do not deter her. It is aggravating.
Then give her a different answer so as to get out of the loop. You might try:
Her: Who IS this guy?
You: Do you remember what I told you last time? Is there something wrong with your memory? Should I help you make an appointment with a doctor who can help you with that?
But more than that, stop the loop before it gets started. When you go to hang out with your friend from university, don’t give the information about who you’re hanging out with. Become vague. Say you’re going out. Give no more detail than that. Don’t say where you’re going in this instance. Don’t say where you’re going in instances where she’d approve. She’s shown that she can’t be trusted with information so don’t give it.
It’s not LW’s fault she and Bob are not both women and Bob is being a big weirdo. It’s not on her to care either. Bob bought the weirdness to the party here, not ‘our culture’ or ‘society’.
Yeah, Bob brought the weird, but culture has enabled Bob to grow all that weird.
That said, LW, if you’ve stuck around: I did not mean to imply that there was anything wrong with wanting to make friends who aren’t of your own gender, just that sometimes it can be lower stakes as an adult the way it might not have been when you were a lot younger.
I agree with the interpretation that Bob is projecting his feelings on her. As to what LW can do about it, I am at a loss but I am also pretty good at ignoring the elephant in the room so maybe go with that? Or if LW is feeling up to it, maybe call him on it.
Also want to chime in here to say that I LOVE Occam’s Big Paisley Tie. Never heard of that before and it’s brilliant.
I’m also in awe of Occam’s Big Paisley Tie.
I feel like I pull the Big Paisley Tie on myself and exhaust myself second guessing my own feelings a lot. “But are you SURE the explanation isn’t XYZABCDEFG?” Sometimes an a**hole is just an a**hole.
It’s sad, but I had known men who have close female friends, and they talk about all sorts of private stuff with them, bc they can’t really make themselves talk like this to other men, and in the end those guys don’t really see these girls as friend, more like… girlfriends stand-ins.. And that’s bc to them ‘being intimate’ like this is inherently connected to romance and sex. Dr NerdLove had a question about that not so long ago – a dude with a female friend though she was ‘treating him like a boyfriend’ even tho she really wasn’t. She was treating him like a FRIEND.
But to some men, being treated like a friend when you are emotionally vulnerable and open about private stuff, automatically means a Girlfriend. Bc that’s what girlfriends do, the end of the story. So I’m guessing this might have happened and he, like the guy from the dr NerdLove letter, though you are ‘treating him like a bfriend’ simply bc you were open and close to him and listened to him the way guy friends don’t.
Or he has a crush and is projecting. Also probable.
But nevermind which, that’s NOT YOUR FAULT. I’m guessing, 90%, you did nothing wrong. And the way he reacted was not cool. Like, to me personally, someone telling me that I feel this and that, casting themselves as an expert on my feelings, is incredibly disrespectful. To the point that I think you are within your rights to be seriously offended and demand an apology.
Pretending nothing happened is an option, but as the Captain says- it’s a gift. Bc he did something disrespectful and weird and did not apologize. It’s not your job to pretend nothing happened.
You pretending it never happened is seriously a generous gift that, I hope, he is able to appreciate.
You don’t have to give him this gift tho. TBH, I don’t think I would, if that makes you feel any better.
This x 1000. Some straight men can’t fathom have close emotional relationships with a person who isn’t a romantic partner. So they immediately think close friendship = pantsfeelings.
yeah, this is what I meant with the ‘hard time distinguishing philos and eros’. Yay toxic masculinity.
Yes. I know captain talks a lot about those people who don’t think males and females can be friends. And this is true in a healthy culture. But where I live, it is literally not like this. I know SO MANY people in these weird toxic “friendships” like this. But where I live also has a case of raging toxic masculinity (hah ask me how it is to work here). It is literally EVERYWHERE. Here, it is beware the dudes with the female “friends”
Side note: here is also beware the dudes raised here as well, so yeah I date and make friends outside this area.
“And this is true in a healthy culture. But where I live, it is literally not like this. I know SO MANY people in these weird toxic “friendships” like this.”
I think than in places where toxic masculinity runs rampant, being friends with guys is really tricky bc they internalize from a very early age that being open and vulnerable is not-manly, and therefore never okay in front of other men, and only okay in front of a romantic partner. Then all women who are not romantic partners, but give the opportunity to be vulnerable, confuse those duds and in the end they just toss them into ‘romantic partner’ box bc well they have to resolve this conundrum somehow!
It’s this or realizing their whole view on masculinity is false and re-building their worldview on something very important to them from the base. They’re not gonna do that. They’re just gonna decide you ‘treat them like a bf’ and probably want sex or are leading them on. It’s way easier.
And if Bon is one of them, well then… I’m sorry LW, but I don’t think he can be your friends. As in, he is not able to, until he resolves this for himself.
That Dr. Nerdlove letter is right where my mind went, too. Bob only knows how to Do Intimacy with a girlfriend, therefore only if he is Doing Intimacy, it must follow that he is doing it with a Girlfriend. It’s terrible logic and it’s all in his head.
OMG this so much. I was this girl for years: The girl that men would talk to about all their sensitive stuff (including their perceptions that they “couldn’t find any nice girls they could just talk to”, because apparently I wasn’t attractive enough to count despite being exactly that).
I’d talk to him about it, but how he responds will tell the LW if this is a friendship worth trying to salvage or not. I’m older than these people and have weeded these dudes out of my life.
I’m going to go platonically hug some male friends now.
Long ago, in my mid 20’s, I had a woman friend somehow backhandedly ask me if I was romantically interested in her, and at the same time making it clear that if I was, that interest was not reciprocated.
I considered her an intelligent, charming, warm and funny person to be around, we shared a few hobbies and interests and we also shared much of the same humor. But I just saw myself as lucky to be able to count her as a good friend, and I never sensed that kind of chemistry between us.
Similar situations have also occured a couple more times later in life with other women friends.
I guess the flip side of being “The girl that men would talk to about all their sensitive stuff” is being “The man who would listen to women talk about their sensitive stuff” without being her boyfriend or even having the desire to be?
I’m guessing that Bob thinks female friends listen to him without ever sharing their own problems, feelings, etc.
I think I know the Doctor Nerdlove letter you are talking about. The Doctor was on the money when he pointed out to the LW that talking about emotional stuff with a woman does not automatically mean that she is acting like a girlfriend.
However, there was a more recent letter to DNL by a woman who (going by the details she herself submitted) was, in effect treating a male friend as a kind of “instant boyfriend”, even though the guy had a girlfriend already.
I guess that shows that both sexes can play this game. I have experienced this myself – one or two guys of my acquaintance looking to me for an “instant girlfriend experience” – all the benefits of attention from me, and being able to crush on me to their heart’s content, but without them having to do anything for me in return. Mucho annoying.
I remember seeing a Twitter? convo a while back talking about this, saying basically guys are discouraged from getting emotional support from friends, so they misunderstand when female friends have the types of intimate conversations with them that they rarely have with other guys. And once again patriarchy hurts men and women.
That’s where my thoughts went too. There is this very limiting pattern for social relations, where women are supposed to have close friendships with deep talks, and men are supposed to have light-hearted friendships with mostly smalltalk, and when a man and a woman become friends and talk about serious life stuff the man thinks “Sweet, we’re dating”, and the woman thinks “Sweet, a new friend”. And if your friend is following this philosophy in life, it’ll be very difficult for the two of you to stay friends. That’s sad, but it’s his problem really, and he shouldn’t have tried to make it your problem.
Also possible: Bob WANTED a Designated Woman Listener, and doesn’t know what to do with the fact that you’re assuming a reciprocal relationship. He probably usually only listens to a woman when he’s dating her, so the fact that you are talking to him like he should care, in his mind, means you want to date him.
Way more than the Harry Met Sally Principle, it’s the Women Are Free Therapists Principle that has fucked up most of my cross-gender friendships.
Bang on, I’d say!
Strongly Agree with the Captain and Belle Starr. LW, I seriously doubt you did anything wrong, and even if you accidentally did, it is on Bob to bring that to your attention in a kind, clear way. This situation you’re describing sounds like some (typical cishet male) bullshit to me, FWIW.
+ 1 million
I had an incredibly close guy friend who was not my type and who was not my boyfriend or a substitute for a boyfriend. However, we did a lot of activities together, given compatible schedules and interests, and he was safe to be affectionate with, because I knew he was not interested in me, either. I don’t fault anyone looking in from the outside for thinking my affection was mixed up in pantsfeelings (that were actually not there), because I tend to be otherwise very reserved, shy, and aloof, and yet I’d throw my arm around my dude friend like it was no big deal, because IT WAS NO BIG DEAL. But it took literally multiple years of vetting this person (part of his “safeness” for me was positive feedback from two mutual friends, who HAD once dated him AND were still friends with him) for me to get comfortable with being huggy with him.
He also had a huge ego, and pulled “a Bob” at least once. It put me in an awkward situation, just like LW. Yes, I like you AS A FRIEND, no, there’s nothing wrong with you that would prevent anyone from being your boyfriend except my GIANT LACK OF INTEREST IN THAT, no, there’s nothing wrong WITH ME that I don’t find you irresistible, if you don’t want hugs any more you can say so (but, oh I see, you DO want hugs, so what is the problem?), and it really does put you on the back foot.
I ended up doing more activities with other friends, there were no hard feelings, my work stuff got crazy and his work stuff got crazy, I stopped collaborating on art projects as often or as extensively with him, we spent less time together because we got busy with life stuff, he got a serious girlfriend, I got a serious boyfriend, neither the girlfriend or boyfriend expressed any concern or comments about feeling threatened by our friendship, more time passed as we got even more busy doing other things, he moved away (or did I move away first? I forget) and the whole “people think we’re dating and sometimes you make stupid comments when your ego flares up but, ew, yuck, NO, we’re not dating” problem resolved itself.
This sort of thing has extra loaded subtext for me because I’m demisexual and you’d THINK that spending time vetting someone and liking them as a friend for ages and ages would factor in, and maybe it would if he was my physical type (and my type is rather rare and quirky, and not found wandering about freely in nature very often) and if my buddy didn’t have some negative personality quirks I really didn’t like, and which I’d be perhaps slightly more obliged to put up with if we were dating, and if he, like, used deodorant nd washed his favorite outfits more often when it was hot outside (I am just saying). I’m already sensitive about my slow burn attraction issues (life would be certainly different, and maybe not easier but difficult in different ways if I felt attraction more decisively and more quickly, like ‘normal’ people seem to do, but I don’t, and I’ve tried to force it and failed). The quickest way for me to lose all interest in someone sexually OR romantically is to try to tell me I have interest in someone. It turns out I don’t ever have THAT much interest until I finally work it out fully for myself, and I can definitely do without the peanut gallery opinions and assumptions.
I think CA nailed what is going on here. Lots of psychological projection from Bob, perhaps aided by an insecure partner or some confused crossed signals on Bob’s end. Even if you were affectionate / huggy with Bob, that is not out of bounds for a platonic friendship, and I don’t get the feeling you even were that touchy-feely, LW.
I’d be so tempted to just cut and paste the ““Dude, I want to go to the movies but not until we talk about the very weird thing you did” script into a text message the next time Bob pops up and wants to go see Metropolis on the big screen.
I like your idea, Britpoptarts.
“He also had a huge ego, and pulled “a Bob” at least once. It put me in an awkward situation, just like LW. Yes, I like you AS A FRIEND, no, there’s nothing wrong with you that would prevent anyone from being your boyfriend except my GIANT LACK OF INTEREST IN THAT, no, there’s nothing wrong WITH ME that I don’t find you irresistible, if you don’t want hugs any more you can say so (but, oh I see, you DO want hugs, so what is the problem?), and it really does put you on the back foot.”
OMG, wow, yes yesyesyesyes. This accurately explains so many of my men-friend interactions. I feel not alone now! (*not sarcastic!!) Thank you for this.
*demisexual fistbump of solidarity*
Oh man, I felt this so hard it echoed back through all the earlier versions of me to ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.
*aro ace first bump of solidarity*
It is so disappointing when people (who have ZERO attraction to us otherwise) try to tell us we have feelings. Apparently they’re just trying to help because we clearly know nothing.
Er… how about letting the fellow adults adult in peace and stop stirring up drama? The Bobs of the world just want attention.
When I figure out I have feelings of any kind, I’ll get around to eventually letting the person I have feelings about know. Maybe. 🙂 I probably don’t have any serious feelings beyond, “you: friend; you, I like; we’re good.”
Depends on how disruptive it will be to my mostly-comfortable life. Turns out that I can do without a relationship if the other person is unsuitable in some way, I don’t go around trying to “make it work.”
Eek. Maybe he thinks he’s Cyrus Waltham, Jr and you’re Betty Lou Spence? However you look at it, Bob’s behaviour shifts all the power his way – now you’re the unsettled one, you’re the person who has been threatened with not just embarrassment but with something that has the power to seriously disrupt your relationship with your partner, you’re the one who will be constantly vigilant, looking over your shoulder, ruminating and wondering about how you are perceived, whether what you said was ok or could be misinterpreted. How exhausting! I find it inconceivably strange that Bob did not just ramp down your meet-ups or involve other people if he really thought it was you who was developing a romantic attachment – he had that choice, but he chose be an absolute drama-prince instead. There’s no real way of telling why he did what he did, or even how consciously aware he is of his own motivations, but it is clear that the result is that the balance of power between you has ramped up in amplitude and he’s taken it all. We all have different tolerances for who holds power in relationships, but I know my skin would be prickling and trying to crawl off my body so hard at the very thought of Bob that I would never want to see him again if he’d tried that stunt on me. I think if you let things go on, he will always hold the threat of unleashing unexpected and very threatening bombshells. I agree with the Captain that clear, square words need to be said that address his accusation and behaviour directly before you can go on, and also that not every friendship is a nourishing one. Its so awfully disappointing when a friendship that is so right in so many ways is so wrong in one way that you might decide to end it, but far from failure, weeding out or diluting poisonous relationships is a normal and necessary part of life. You’re the better person, Betty Lou – don’t let Cyrus Waltham, Jr throw you into the sea.
“We all have different tolerances for who holds power in relationships” Whoaaaaa I need to take this sentence and go process for a bit because *fascinating*
I feel like a lot of the comments here have the following ideas:
1) Anyone would have this same extremely negative reaction to Bob’s comment
2) Therefore it was probably a power play or at a minimum shows that he doesn’t care at all about your feelings
3) Therefore you can expect similar things in the future
4) And therefore you should skip the part where you try to be friends and just dump him forever
I don’t think that 1 is true. I’m not saying at all that the LW shouldn’t be having this reaction or that her reaction is invalid. It’s totally valid to be upset. And I think Bob’s comment definitely was rude and weird. But I think many people would be just mildly insulted or even just amused by someone implying that they are attracted to them. Which means that Bob very possibly had no idea about the reaction his comment would inspire, and it wasn’t a power play at all. I think it’s very possible that Bob just got the wrong idea (that she was attracted to him) due to projecting, significant other saying this, societal expectations, whatever, and then handled it poorly. In which case it very possibly may never happen again.
Not to say that the LW has to let it go. I’m just saying that I think it’s very possible that this could’ve been a one time thing and they could have a great friendship from here on out.
I guess the other thing that comes to mind is that Bob’s reaction was weird for 2 reasons. 1. She didn’t give him a real reason to think he was attracted to him. 2. He framed his feelings by saying that he thought she was attracted to him, rather than by saying that he felt like they were dates.
But imagine that you were hanging out a lot with someone and you got the sense that they were attracted to you. You’re friends with their partner so you back off. They ask you why you’ve backed off – they’re really hurt and don’t understand. Is it really an unreasonable answer to say “I started to get the sense that maybe you were attracted to me.” I mean sure maybe it would be better to say what the captain said, but I don’t think this answer is terrible. The real thing that is offensive is that someone would say that if there isn’t a real reason and wouldn’t try to make it right when you realize that you’re wrong. But I don’t think those two things mean that Bob is a super toxic terrible person even though the whole thing obviously negatively affected the LW.
If you read through Capt. Awkward’s comments, you will see that she covered your concern here completely in several ways. As to the reactions; the problem this LW has does not lie in failing to give Bob the benefit of the doubt, but in failing to cut herself that same slack, which is why so many responders are encouraging her to look out for herself and not worry about Bob or give him any more time. Nobody is saying he should be hung from the yard arm, they’re just saying he doesn’t have to be her problem, she does not HAVE to give him another chance. Further, there can be no reason to consider a theoretical case where Bob MIGHT have given a “not so terrible” aka more reasonable response. He didn’t, and LW doesn’t need to be sidelined by investigating how she should react to what didn’t happen. Nor does Bob need to fit anyone’s definition of “super terrible toxic person” for his actions and words to have been hard enough on the LW for that to be THE important thing here. LW wrote for help. Bob can put the same amount of time and effort into examining the situation and his feelings about it on his own.
Auntie Mam, I think I love you.
Sorry for not being very clear in my first comment. I sort of wrote it stream of consciousness at work and by the time I got it all down I had already spent too much time on it so I didn’t go back to edit.
I”m not saying that she *has* to give him another chance. I 1000% agree that if the LW doesn’t want to continue this friendship, she is entitled to end it without feeling any guilt in doing so.
I was responding to comments that say things like this: “However you look at it, Bob’s behaviour shifts all the power his way… I think if you let things go on, he will always hold the threat of unleashing unexpected and very threatening bombshells.”
I think a lot of commenters are saying that Bob is intentionally making a move designed to seriously upset the LW. If so, then a strong recommendation to stop hanging out with him is warranted. I’m just saying that, personally, I don’t see the evidence that that’s what happened here. As you say, the Captain’s answer did incorporate other, less damning, reasons for his behavior, and I agree with her. I also agree with her that it was presumptive of him to assume she was into him and rude to not apologize afterward. The one thing I disagree with in her answer is that it is always an outrageous breach to say that you think someone is attracted to you (“Other people don’t get to tell you what your feelings are, full stop.”). I would agree if he told her “I know you *think* you’re not attracted to me, but you really are” or some crap like that, but I think in this case he just was trying to explain why he pulled back when she asked. I agree that there’s a better way to get this across, by saying what the Captain said, ie “I think this is feeling a little too date-like.” But I don’t think his way was a terribly offensive formulation. That’s what I was trying to get at with my “alternative scenario” thing. Not that the LW should look at the alternative scenario instead of what Bob did, but rather to say, look, in that scenario, would you say that it is a HUGE violation to say “I thought you were into me”? I don’t, in that scenario, and therefore I don’t fully understand why it’s so horrible in Bob’s case.
Again, I do think it was offensive that he assumed there was a romantic attraction based on apparently nothing and that he didn’t apologize. And if the LW wants to end it based on that she should do so and never think of him again. But, I just don’t think that we have the evidence to say that if she doesn’t end it she’s likely to experience problem after problem from Bob, or that he is “telling her what she feels” (which would imply that he’s a mansplainer. Because even though he did foolishly think she was into him, he actually dropped it (without apologizing, which was wrong) when she told him she wasn’t into him.
Bob doesn’t have to be evil and LW doesn’t have to have an iron clad dissertation ready to back up a decision not to see him again. People drift apart for various reasons. But just as Bob is allowed to handle a situation imperfectly, so is the LW. She doesn’t have to be gracious about any of it if she feels icked out.
Why, Dan, Why?
It doesn’t need to be intentional to be exhausting.
And Bob told OP that they had feelings for him, then didn’t believe it when OP said they didn’t.
Bob wanted written confirmation of OP’s lack of romantic feelings.
Bob sounds like a huge pain in the ass, and I think he will continue being a huge pain in the ass. Maybe he isn’t intentionally trying to make OP upset or damage OP’s relationship. Maybe. But his possible lack of overtly bad intent would not make this an ok situation. If someone is swinging a baseball bat around for fun and accidentally whacks me in the head, they still need to apologize and stop swinging that freaking bat around. Telling me it was an accident and therefore I should be ok with it is only going to piss me off more. Bob’s shittiness could be intentional or accidental. Either way, he is showing very little care for the actual feelings of his actual friend, and he is being weird and exhausting.
Bob doesn’t have to be a “super toxic terrible person” to have done something crummy enough to end a close friendship.
There are ways to have an awkward conversation about possible unspoken feelings. Demanding the other person deny those feelings in writing is… not one of the ways that shows it’s a healthy friendship.
Is this a Small Paisley Tie? Very logical, and reasonable, and “objective” – that is, erasing the female experience.
The thing is, Bob doesn’t have to be Toxic with a capital T, or horrible, or abusive, or anything like that for the OP to simply not want to do his emotional labor. OP does not feel that way about him, and said so. Then he *demanded written confirmation via text* as proof that OP is not crushing on him? Because he somehow knows better than OP about what OP’s feelings are? Oh, hell no. Bob may or may not be Capital T Toxic, but he is definitely irritating and exhausting to deal with.
Why should OP have to second guess everything they say and do in the light of Bob’s opinions? Why should OP be obligated to waste time doing Bob’s emotional heavy lifting when there are so many other more fun and productive things to do with that time and effort? Like find new friends, maybe? Friends with a more enjoyable labor/fun ratio? Bob doesn’t have to reach a certain, generally agreed upon level of toxicity in order for it to be ok to African Violet him. Ending a friendship can be a unilateral decision.
I 100% think Bob has a crush on you, or at least WANTS you to have a crush on him. He thinks you should (that’s the way women are, after all), and is behaving accordingly. And now he wants to pretend it never happened to show what a cool guy he is.
He’s behaving like a douchebag. Please don’t blame yourself in any way for that! I know it’s hard–any time anything goes wrong, my first thought is, “What have I done wrong?” But this is all on Bob. He owes you an acknowledgment of that, and an apology. There’s nothing wrong with cutting him out of your life because of the way he has behaved. He’s not acting like a friend right now, and there are (rightly!) consequences to that.
TL/DR: you’ve done nothing wrong, and Bob is a douchcanoe.
I’m also getting a hint of performance here, like he’s inflating the relationship with LW to impress his new GF, perhaps over some weird notion that pretending LW is interested in him will spark some response from his new GF. Who was it above that said it felt like Bob was showing his texts to his GF, maybe to get her to become more invested in the relationship, perhaps via piquing some weird jealousy or competitiveness? I get that feeling, too.
“Now, now, girls, there’s enough of ol’ Bob to go around, no need to fight over lil’ ol’ me!”
This, too, is super gross. And manipulative. IF this is what is going on.
The Captain suggested that Bob might be showing the texts to a girlfriend as a potential cause of his behavior. However, I think the letter indicates he is not dating anyone: LW mentions the end of his recent relationship and that she’d be willing to set him up with one of her friends.
I knew a single guy in a local writers group who would do this, he’d have a favourite platonic female friend who he’d focus his non sexual special-writerly-mentor attention on whilst claiming the other women in the group were into him. He wouldn’t mention he was hooking up with these other women in secret, which meant the writing group was always full of awkward gossipy bad feeling and it made it hard for the women to make friends and share their writing skills amongst all the drama.
I could see myself going on the offensive in this situation. “Bob, when you accused me of having romantic feelings for you and going on “dates” with you, you were accusing me of cheating on Partner, and I do not appreciate that. I’m not comfortable hanging out with you if that’s how you perceived our friendship and me as a person.”
I’m baffled-not-baffled that Bob thought it was more likely that LW was going behind her partner’s back than he was wrong. I would find that a) insulting to me as a person and b) a sign that Bob has quite the ego. Plus, Bob doesn’t get to decide everything goes back to normal now that he’s had his answers. LW is entitled to answers, too. LW’s discomfort is as valid as Bob’s presumably was when he thought LW had a thing for him. This isn’t all about Bob.
I understand if LW doesn’t want to say what I said since it is a bit combative. However, it sets Bob up to apologize and perhaps think twice before he says something like this in the future.
“LW’s discomfort is as valid as Bob’s”
This is pure, unadulterated truth.
yeah I am a bit at a loss as to why LW wants to remain friends with Bob. The last two times they hung out were awful, so that’s a signal right there.
I really hope the LW can let go of feeling shamed by this dude – she doesn’t deserve it and I think the world will be much lighter without a giant cloud of “what did I do wrong, i am terrible at being friends!” hanging over her.
How about the idea of pulling way back from Bob, employing some of the scripts here (like the “I would love to go to the movies with you but not unless you explain this thing you did”)? How about letting Bob do the work of repairing / restarting this friendship?
Brilliant, Hi I’m New Here!
LW, you’re tying yourself up in knots about What You Did Wrong, but…what if you didn’t do anything wrong?
It kind of sounds like Bob had this moment of freaking out and then…tried to pretend it didn’t happen. This says to me that Bob’s “I can’t keep doing this because of your feelings!” was maybe an aberration on Bob’s part and most of the time he doesn’t think/feel that way, and if he’d just kept his thoughts to himself for a few hours everything would have been fine.
I had a friendship (woman/woman but yeah I had feelings for her) where one day my friend just freaked out and thought we were getting too close and pushed me away, and later she owned it and said she was just going through a rough time where she pushed away everyone. But I avoided her for months because I was sure *I’d* done something wrong.
Sometimes it’s really the other person doing something wrong, not *you* doing something wrong.
This! This is perfect. Yeah, my skin also crawls and I was able to decide it’s bc his behaviour was presumptuous and disrespectful, but you described it so much better!
He did take all the power and put her on never-ending defensive, having to play this weird game. And for no good reason – it’s not an effective way to deal with her crush, if he really believed she had one. So why would he do this… oh right, maybe he likes the power. And seeing her squirm, as he obviously still wants to keep seeing her, even tho he is sooo “unconfortable”.
It’s a good observation and I think in general, when somone accuses you of making them Very Unconfortable, but never specifies a behaviour, and then pushes for more meetings, that’s a power grab and a red gflag. It puts you in a position when you never know if you are doing something wrong, never can relax, and they always get to pull out that card again.
Aw damn, this was supposed to be an answer to Beljie 😦 sorry!
What jumped out to me was how almost automatically the LW began interrogating the situation for what she did wrong to cause it. In her letter she says she somehow “gave him the wrong idea” and she is now wondering “how much of it was her fault.”
Diddly-squat of it was your fault. Zippety-doo-dah of it was your fault. There you are, friending away, and he says “these feel like dates” when when he meant was “these feel like dates TO ME.” To which the answer is “What, precisely, feels like a date about this to you?” And once he identifies HIS problems, you can decide if you want to modify your behavior to accommodate his issue or whether the friendship is not worth that. For example, if he says, “Well, you like to hold my hand and honestly, to me hand-holding is more of a dating thing,” you might respond, Okay! No more holding of hands! But if he says,”Whenever a woman confides in me, like you do, I just know they are building intimacy because what they really want — what they all want — is to sleep with me,” then you can explain how fundamentally, extremely incorrect that is and that you can’t be friends with any guy who thinks honesty the end game for every cross-gender relationship is sex. And boom, no more friendship with a guy who it turns out was a bit of a creeper.
So I’m not saying there isn’t room to figure this out if you want to put in the effort, but I am saying that this is HIS PROBLEM. You didn’t cause it and it’s not yours to solve. All you need to decide is whether you still want to hang out with someone who has made you deeply uncomfortable. And if the answer is “yes,” great; but if the answer is “no,” that is also HIS FAULT. You did not make this weird. He did.
“All you need to decide is whether you still want to hang out with someone who has made you deeply uncomfortable. And if the answer is “yes,” great; but if the answer is “no,” that is also HIS FAULT. You did not make this weird. He did.”
In my experience, there are a lot of straight men who think that any women who are friendly also have pantsfeelings for them. These meneither haven’t had female friends in the past or they have such big egos that they really think all women are interested in them.
All this to say: this is a Bob problem.You treated him like a friend, and you didn’t do anything wrong to mislead him. I think he owes both you and Partner a HUGE apology for suggesting that you were going behind Partner’s back and for inserting himself in to your relationship in a very inappropriate way.
Occams’s big paisley tie!!!! Love that post and it’s still so relevant!
I had never heard it before but recently had a Paisley Tie moment. I was both shocked and relieved? that the post was 6 years old because A: not a new concept and B: still heckin relevant!
I used to get this problem… a lot. Twice a year, maybe. Then I came out as trans, started dressing masculine, and switched to a male name, and in five years no one has misconstrued my platonic intentions for something romantic. Funny, innit?
In terms of more concrete advice: I don’t think you did anything wrong, LW. The first few times this happened to me I spent a lot of time interrogating what I did wrong, whether I was too friendly and open, and then I took stock of the situation and realized it happen about as often with men I’d been neutral or even downright cold to (like the dude who decided we were destined to be together because we’re from the same country, who followed me around being all sorts of rude and at one point followed me home even though I told him “I do not want you walking me home” so I had to run away while wearing 3.5″ heels and a minidress). Bob is apparently one of those dudes who thinks platonic connection between a man and a woman is always a lead-up to his favorite type of fucking. I don’t think you can convince him otherwise, so please don’t beat yourself up over any of this!
Personally, I’ve experienced every possible outcome of this (dude stops talking to me because it’s awkward, I stop talking to dude because it’s awkward, dude goes on a prolonged campaign to win me over and I cut ties because it’s creepy and intrusive, dude blows up at me and we never talk again, dude starts a crusade to ruin my life for daring to be an independent person with my own heartfeelings/groinfeelings)… EXCEPT the “we go back to being chill friends” one. I have no idea how to get a more favorable outcome, but I do want to reassure you: if things get weird in the friend group? YOU DID NOT MAKE IT WEIRD. BOB MADE IT WEIRD.
Sounds like Bob is playing the stereotypical leading lady role in the standard rom-com; for what it’s worth, LW, I’d guess that you and Partner are probably minor characters in early scenes before Real Love Interest shows up. Pardon the analogy, but I’ve met too many men who acted that part in real life.
I won’t guess what Bob’s true feelings are, but he definitely projected a false scenario on you. I also think there is a combo of What It Looks Like To Everyone Else mixed with Men Can’t Be Friends With Women. Doesn’t necessarily mean Bob has a crush on you (although he could), but he is likely troubled in some way at appearing like he is dating you. An idea like that can go in weird directions of behavior…
Example: Dude, a coworker, and I got along great both in getting work done and as personalities. I’d never date him, we were incompatible in important ways, but he was fun to be around and talk with. I noticed that at off-hours work group socials, he’d spend very little time around me, despite having great convos on the job. I also noticed, over the time I worked with him, that he was a sucker for young pretty women and indifferent to women who were not young nor pretty; he was even a bit hostile, for no justifiable reason, to a prospective female employee who had facial scarring. Dude frequently made it known around the office that he was a player. He collected girls like Pokémon. Although he usually spoke well of his dates, it was obvious that he bought into the culture of Gotta Bed Them All… provided they were pretty. If they weren’t pretty or otherwise useful (money, gifts, help with something), they did not exist, because he also bought into the Men Can’t Be Friends With Women (Because Men Must Always Want Sex From Women They Spend Any Social Time With).
Thus, my conclusion to why he would not socialize with me outside of normal work hours: I simply was not pretty enough. After all, it would be a catastrophe for Dude if anyone should see him talking to me and start to think we were together… especially his next Pokégirl, lol! 😁 Dude was a bit more extreme in his behavior than most men I’ve met, fortunately. (I’m guessing he has a metric ton or more of insecurity.) Conversely, I’m aware of second-hand stories where a man does NOT socialize with a woman he IS romantically interested in, also because of what his social circles would think. So with respect to Bob: maybe he’s attracted, maybe he’s not… who knows? It’s not worth thinking about what he feels unless he explicitly states his feelings.
LW, I agree with the Captain that an apology from Bob for insinuating that you were less than loyal to Partner could be beneficial to restoring some comfort socially, although it is up to you if you ever want to resume the movie-watching friendship you had. No one but you gets to say how you feel and what you think is best for you going forward.
I almost hate to mention these two Worst Case Scenarios, but … there are two really unpleasant options to consider, which I recommend considering carefully in context with Bob’s behaviour from here on out, because I am absolutely thinking the worst of him here and I acknowledge this.
1) He’s straight-up negging you.
2) He is ensuring that you know that the bar is going to remain INCREDIBLY low on his end and that any expectations for reciprocal kindness, support, and assistance you may have need to be tossed out the window immediately lest they be used as more ‘evidence’ of your non-existent pantsfeels.
I hope it’s not that. There’s not enough information to support a definite assumption that it’s that. But it’s one to watch out for.
Yup. I just saw something like this go down where the guy half made a big deal about how he had a girlfriend so their platonic (but OMG datelike so datelike) meetings could NEVER go anywhere. Then he ghosted just as soon as the woman assured him that she was gay/paired up/completely uninterested in him romantically. Clearly meant to keep the bar extremely low for expectations, not an actual PSA of unavailability.
I agree 💯 w everyone who thinks possibility #1 that Bob is projecting is most likely, and by far. Also agree w the Captain that being cool after awkwardness is a gift, mostly a rare one, to be cherished.
I also agree the first possibility is the most likely. I have a platonic male friend… and our hang outs often feel like dates to me, because 1) they are activities would like to do with a romantic partner and 2) I wouldn’t mind him as a romantic partner! It’s not in the cards for us, but that intimacy is difficult to navigate when it’s one sided. Bob torpedoed you with his FeelingsBomb because it was easier than him dealing with it alone.
I think that also means it’s not on you to address or fix it! If you can forgive this behavior, you can go back to hanging out. If you can’t, then the answer is much less Bob time, or only Group Time.
I love all these suggestions, and–as someone who has been in this situation before–the only one I would recommend not doing is the “go back to your friendship as it was and pretend nothing happened.” That would be a kindness to Bob, but if you’re still noticeably uncomfortable around him, it might also serve as accidental confirmation of what he thinks is going on, a la, “I told her she liked me, she’s pretending like it never happened, but now she’s acting weird and embarrassed, so it must be true.” Obviously he’s really good at reading the exact wrong thing in situations like this, so it seems like being clear and upfront with him might be the better way to go.
Exactly what you said.
Without clearing the air, it would be impossible for me to completely trust him again, not knowing whether the weirdness would burst out again at any time.
It might be possible to clarify and restore the friendship, but if not, better to know sooner rather than later.
I feel the letter writer so hard- so here are a few questions I wish someone had asked me when I was in a similar situation:
“Bob is still doggedly suggesting movies.”
-What would happen if your were busy every time? What would happen if you said “no thanks” next time without any follow up? What if you decided to make no effort here?
“I really don’t want to screw up Partner’s social circle”
-Does partner care about screwing up your social circle with his friend’s bullshit?
-what would happen if you just let awkward bob be awkward and did not take on managing his feelings like he is expecting you to?
“and part of me wonders if any friendship is salvageable.”
-is this something you want to salvage? You don’t owe bob your time or energy. You don’t seem to like his company.
“But I don’t know how much of this is my fault”
-None of it. He made a choice- and maybe he and the people around him want this to be your fault because actually taking responsibility is not something he is going to do?
“and I don’t know how to behave around Bob anymore.”
– what would happen if you just avoided Bob?
– again, what would happen if you just let things be awkward? What if you just found a comfortable seat by the awkwardness bar and just watched? What would happen if you let bob do the work of managing his friendships and feelings?
“Also, now I’m back down to zero people to watch weird old movies with.”
-what if you went alone?
-what if you asked that older lady you like at work who misses her kids?
-What if you joined/created a meetup group for old movie lovers? What if you tried to make it to special movie events in your town where you can find “your people”?
Good luck and I hope you give bob the ole African violet.
LW, I don’t have anything new to add to the comments above, but I want to add to the chorus of: you did not do anything wrong. If things are weird, it’s Bob who made them weird.
You were simply being a lovely friend. It’s Bob who doesn’t understand how friendship works.
The most significant bit to me was the request/demand that you confirm Bob’s fantasy.
That is not what friends do.
Bob is not your friend.
LW, could you use Meetup or some other shared-activity app to find folks who also want to see weird old movies?
I come from a similar history of friendships that feature boundary crossings, misunderstandings and mistakes and so I feel you on the embarassmemt of finding put an uncomplicated platonic friendship sudenly is complicated. The thing is, you haven’t done anything to suddenly change the terns of this friendship – it sounds like thos is very much Bobs stuff.
It would be perfectly ok to draw a boundary that politely hands Bobs stuff back to him. You don’t have any obligation to resolve this by continuing to hang out with Bob and talking it through. I think of this kind of friendship as a hobby friendship (we love movies) and that level of friendship ought to be relaxed, it’s about something external to bond over. You wouldn’t be remiss to want to quit going to see movies with Bob.
Life is too short to deal with Bobs pantsfeelings.
I empathize with you a lot, because I had a very close male het friend pull something like this on me. We’d been close friends for years. He got me, I got him. I loved him like a brother, and he said he felt the same platonic feelings for me. I supported him through a really bad break-up, he supported me through depression. I took care of him when he was sick, he talked me through some really fucked up family stuff. But I was single throughout our friendship and, the moment I texted him to tell him I had started dating a wonderful man and that I was the happiest I’d ever been… he ghosted me. Stopped responding to my increasingly worried messages in all our frequent and frequently used channels of communication. For 8 fucking months.
First I was convinced I’d done something wrong, and then I straight up thought he had had a serious accident or had died, I was so worried about him. Then I called him (again… I’d been increasingly reducing my calls over the months as I lost hope) and managed to get a hold of his mother. Who greeted me normally as a good friend of his and told me he was at the movies and asked me if I wanted to leave a message.
I felt so angry, and so hurt, that all our years of friendship didn’t matter enough to him to let me know he was even alive for months. And I slowly realized, that it was nothing I had done wrong (because, if it was, he’d had the chance to explain, and had done so in the past), that it was not my fault he’d chosen to throw our friendship overboard the moment he realized I was in love with a man who wasn’t him. But even though I know it was not my fault, I felt betrayed, and it hurt a lot, and it still hurts.
The point of all this, LW, is that I understand how much it hurts to be hurt like that by someone you trust and love as a close friend. It sucks. But I absolutely do not think it was in any way your fault. Even if it had been, he had the choice to talk it out with you, and instead of doing that he chose to hurt you. So, please, try to forgive yourself. Give yourself time to grieve this friendship far away from Bob (it looks like his presence is pouring salt in the wound right now), look for other relationships that nurture you and make you feel happy and safe (your partner, your family, a pet, other friends, kind internet acquaintances…) and, when this wound heals over a bit, try your hand at meeting more people, look for the kind and fun ones among them, and slowly work towards building mutually satisfying friendships with them.
I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s not your fault, and I hope you can stop blaming yourself soon. I wish you peaceful times and kindness and many silent movies in good company (yourself counts as very good company).
That is just… awful. So awful. I’m so sorry you went through that!
Thank you, AndTheRest, that’s very kind of you! I’m still getting over it, and your validation helps a lot 🙂
Yikes ! Your former friend behaved really badly.
I once became good pals with a friend of my husband’s around an unusual interest that we shared, and he once suggested that I had a crush on him. I still don’t understand what his thoughts were. He had been pursuing me intensely to do things together without my husband and pouring out his troubles to me daily in multiple phone calls. I was stretched thin and asked him, as kindly as I could manage, to ratchet down the level of our interactions. This was when he sprung on me that I had a crush on him. But, he said, that was OK, friends could have crushes and deal with them, in fact, he’d been crushing on a mutual (married) friend of ours for decades. After that, he ratcheted UP the contact as if neither of us had said anything. ??
I did not get the purpose of saying this. If I did have a crush, it seems kind and wise to take the opportunity I was offering to dial things down, without embarrassing me. And if I didn’t have a crush, it seems obvious that such a statement could be received as presumptuous and insulting. I can’t see under what circumstances you want to tell someone else that they probably have a crush on you! Especially when your purpose is to remain high intensity friends without romance. ??
I did feel mortified, confused, and insulted. I chalked it up to awkward honesty and a tender conscience, and applied the bygones method. We had good times after that, but there were difficulties forever around this “Does this make me look like I like you too much?” fear that eventually made the friendship too wearing and unsatisfying. One for instance: He would warmly hug and kiss other married women in greeting, but pointedly not touch me at all. I don’t know what that was supposed to accomplish, but I felt like chopped liver and these secret undercurrents annoyed me. Good luck, LW.
also: ‘Over 6 months, Bob and I ended up hanging out every 2-3 weeks. Periodically one of us (usually Bob) would suggest we meet for a movie or a meal. We’d hang out for couple of hours and talk a lot.
So Bob set the tone of this friendship, that it would include movies or meals, which are suddenly now too date-like? I don’t think you should blame yourself for thinking that a mutually agreed activity was this hot and heavy inappropriate activity that Bob has politely endured. He chose it.
‘Bob seemed surprisingly comfortable being open early on (family, health, a recent breakup), and taking my cue from him, I found myself talking unreservedly to him like a close friend. (I cringe now to think of this.) ‘
Meeting him fairly recently and going on a few evenings out together; perhaps movies, make this a new friendship. Again, Bob chose to spend your time together talking about his personal problems vs books, films, more neutral stuff that drew you into a friendship in the first place. People tend to respond to personal sharing with sharing of their own, so I don’t think you can take responsibility for this. You didn’t seek Bob out to be your confidante. In fact, you mention being surprised at how open Bob was.
Some people use sharing personal details as a way to accelerate intimacy and bypass putting in the work to create genuine friendships over time. For some, this is a cynical strategy to exploit others, for other people, they find small talk and having boundaries difficult, preferring to overshare. Either way, Bob has his foot on the accelerator here, not you.
This is a generalization, but it seems like men are more likely to misinterpret enthusiastic platonic affection for romantic affection, and women are more likely to mistake romantic affection for enthusiastic romantic affection.
The discrepancy is probably because women expect to care for their friends without banging them, and not all men do. And most women grow up empathizing with men as human beings, outside of seeing them as objects of desire.
If it was me, I would send something like: “Most women genuinely care for their friends without wanting to bang them. Most women expect friends to genuinely care for them without any expectations of banging. I would never want to bang you, and if we’re going to be friends, I need to be able to be your friend without worrying that you’ll interpret it the wrong way. If I actually cross a specific boundary that you think is inappropriate, let me know. But, otherwise, are we good to have a friendship without you taking it the wrong way?”
OP I just wanna reassure you that awkward moments and issues in friendships dont *always* have to be discussed by you if you dont feel like it, but it is also okay if you do and the weirdness doesnt have to be rooted in your history of boundaries and such. As a very chatty and open person who also struggled with this, I somehow convinced myself that if I did enough self work and wasnt awkward in general, that there would never be awkward moments a la “the problem is always me so if I solve the problem then no problems will happen again!”. But it turns out that even the most socially coordinated folks can have awko taco moments and make things weird, and that nowadays I read situations quite well but I still cant prevent foot in mouth from everyone. The better friends will be willing to address this stuff in a way that feels ok to you and move on from it. Try not to be too hard on yourself!
@B – wow, that’s terrible. I’m so sorry. On a lower-stakes scale, I (she/her) have had this sort of hting happen to me a lot, and I call it the Unfriend Zone. Where I start to feel like a friendship is developing with a cishet man, and then he finds out I’m not available sexually (to him), and he vanishes.
Best advice I ever got in life: “Sometimes, it’s not anything you did or said. Sometimes, it’s really just them.” (And you aren’t gonna be able to change that.)
LW, you didn’t do anything other than be kind (and be a lady). The fact that Bob was so familiar out of the gate* makes me suspect he is the one with boundary issues and in a vulnerable place, considering his recent bad breakup. I think the choice you have to make revolves around this: is this salvageable? You shouldn’t and DON’T have to keep hanging out with Bob after he’s made some pretty unsettling accusations about you that have made you uncomfortable while he gets to just act like nothing happened. My less forgiving mind thinks it was a ploy to see if you did like him after several enjoyable hangouts, not that he suspected you actually did, and this was how he was testing the waters. When he figured out this wouldn’t evolve into a pantsfeelings-level relationship (and he made you put it in writing, too, just to be sure!), he settled for “female-friend-I-am-using-as-proxy-girlfriend.” This is speculation but even in the black-and-white words you have written, Bob is not a good friend to you and especially to your Partner, who I presume knows him better than you.
*Disclaimer: I have absolutely no problems with that in theory but you have to all be on the same page about how you deal with that sort of thing – for some people, over-familiarity is like “woah, too much too quick dude!” and for others it’s “ohh, I thought you were XYZ but that really helps me understand you on a deeper level” and for an awful subgroup, it’s “*Randall from ‘Recces’ rubbing his hands together*”
I’ll take “Bob is projecting a crush” for $100, Alex.
All the other possibilities are, well, possible, but my own experience with this kind of thing has never been anything other than “Well clearly you’re interested because I am seeing signs that I want to” and boy do they not like it when you deny it. This post reminds me strongly of two guys who decided I was interested them, and it ended in two different ways, both badly.
I worked with a grade A creep who INSISTED that I was, if not overtly interested in him, then hardcore in denial and that he knew I liked him because he caught me checking him out constantly. Um, no. No, he did not. We were coworkers, and not only was I not interested, but I actively disliked him by the time we quit working together. Not uncoincidentally, us not working together anymore coincided directly with me going off on him with a top-volume rant about how DARE he act that way and he needed to leave me the fuck alone and so on. I predict something very similar to this will happen with OP and Bob.
There was another time where a guy was blatantly hitting on me–buying me drinks, hugging me, glaring at other dudes who tried to talk to me, etc.–who then proceeded to tell me that *I* was being too friendly and that he had a girlfriend. WTF.
So both dudes decided I was interested in them, and it ended badly either way, but neither one would ever accept that I really wasn’t into them. I hope Bob here doesn’t act the same way, but I suspect he will.
I think you are right about this. Yuck.
I have had guys do this to me. It is bad enough when they decide you like them because they like you. That is super annoying. But when they decide you like them because they want an ego boost? So exhausting. How are you supposed to prove that you don’t like them? You can’t!
IT’S A TRAP!
The next time he invited me out, I’d probably be pretty direct – Bob, I’m not sure that’s gonna work. Honestly the last couple times we hung out were really uncomfortable for me, because I spent the whole time worrying about whether the completely normal friend stuff I’ve been doing the entire time is going to be used against me later to accuse me of having feelings for you and apparently trying to date you behind partners back. The more I thought about it, the more I’ve realized that your accusations actually hurt my feelings pretty badly and made me really paranoid about policing behaviors that are absolutely normal, platonic ways of acting. Your accusations undermined my trust and comfort in our friendship, and I’m not sure our friendship is gonna survive without some kind of reassurance on your part that you understand and believe me when I say that there has never been and never will be any romantic interest here on my part.
If he gets defensive or weird or shitty, then yeah the friendship is over and that is very unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as having a friend who will enjoy your attention now and then use it against you later in a weird, projecting, ego boosty way.
I like this script. I think this might be the way I would deal with this if I were dealing with it now. I did have to have a bit of this sort of talk with one man, a now former friend. I shut him down hard, and I was not nice. Polite, but not nice or sugarcoating things. We are still able to be cordial and somewhat friendly, but I will never consider him a close friend. He was of the “I like you, so I will say you like me” variety rather than the oh so obnoxious “I want to feel important at your expense” type, and was embarrassed by his behavior a bit rather than being a belligerent asshole about it.
Years ago, when I had a lot more of this crap to deal with, I just chose to let it go, ignore it, and make nice. I felt anxious about making friends, like I wasn’t good enough, so I was willing to put up with a lot more crap from people than I am today in my much more surly late 40s. Being all nicey-nice and understanding never worked for me in the long term, and always made me feel shitty.
I have a feeling that Bob misconstrued exactly nothing. I think it’s more likely that Bob would be very interested in messing around with the LW, but wanted to check out her feelings in a way that protected him from blow-back from Partner. If she said no, then it was all a silly misunderstanding, and Bob was the one who was worried about and protective of LW and Partner’s relationship. If admitted she had feelings, Bob would right now be oh-so-reluctantly maneuvering his way into an affair and, really, she was the one who practically threw herself at him, right?
I also think that Bob wants to pick up the meetings again because he’s hoping that with a little more exposure, LW will eventually fall for his charms. (I’m running away! Chase me! Uh, wait, why aren’t you chasing me?)
I’m not sure that Bob has anything to apologize for. It doesn’t sound like he “insisted” he was right about her feelings, but rather like he only mentioned his perception of the LW’s feelings after some prodding on her part. If their dynamic was making him uncomfortable, he was right to say something so that changes could be made. “Our outings feel like dates to me” can be incredibly awkward feedback to get, but it’s ultimately good to know that something in the dynamic isn’t working for 1/2 of this team.
There could be a lot of things going on under the surface here, but it could also just be that people misread other people sometimes. Maybe Bob is just bad, in general, in distinguishing between friendliness and romantic interest. Maybe he’s usually good at it and this is a fluke for no reason in particular. Maybe Bob has some reasons that the LW can take into account when interacting with him in the future.
The LW may feel better about this if she can frame it as a miscommunication that has since been cleared up. Bob was uncomfortable because he thought X was happening. Now that she’s explained that Y is happening, they can be back to being on the same page.
Bob demanded written confirmation of OP’s lack of feelings via text for reassurance. After the OP told him that they were not interested. That is odd and uncomfortable. Bob does have something to apologize for. Bob sucks.
Yes, but that was also after “some prodding” on OP’s part after Bob wanted to cancel an outing. I don’t think a single text asking for a solid answer makes Bob suck.
You are mis-remembering: That he thought OP had romantic feelings for him is what Bob said in response to prodding.
When OP said she did not, Bob made his demand. “I do not have feelings for Bob. At all. (Bob did not help matters by subsequently demanding text confirmation of this for “reassurance”. What?)”
Bob might not suck with the suck of a thousand vacuums, but he sucks a non-zero amount.
Eh, I don’t even see evidence that he sucks a non-zero amount. What does ‘demanding text confirmation’ mean? I see a world of difference between something like “I demand you tell me if you have a crush on me otherwise I’ll tell your partner….I’m waiting!” (in which case I wouldn’t bother hand wringing over if I wanted to keep a friendship with someone like that) vs “So just to be clear you don’t actually have a crush on me?” (in which case I’d answer ‘lol 100% no way dude. What movie are we seeing?’).
I don’t like all the responses here focused on how Bob might be a jerk when another answer might also be that LW should cope with her anxiety around relationships. Regardless of if Bob’s a jerk, it’s unhealthy to be so anxious about how you MIGHT have come across to someone. “(I cringe now to think of this.)” Mistakes happen!
IMO Cap’s advice was spot on with ‘it’s ok to avoid Bob for your own sake, or test yourself with small doses and see if it gets better over time.’
I’m not really sure what “demanded text confirmation” even means in this context. It sounds like they were already texting, so it doesn’t seem like he explicitly wanted something in writing. I’m not even sure what the confirmation was about? Was it about her not having romantic feelings, or about her still thinking that he’s a good guy? It’s unclear. I’m having a hard time imagining what was actually said here.
I agree that Bob didn’t handle this in the best way, but these types of conversations are usually awkward and uncomfortable. I don’t see anything that he did that was rude or disrespectful to her as a person, even though I’m sure the conversation didn’t make her feel great.
I think that most people (and certainly all of my female friends) have been in uncomfortable situations where they get romantic vibes from someone they’re friends with. And there’s no great way to handle that because if you say something you sound presumptuous, but if you say nothing then it’s uncomfortable and you run the risk of leading someone on. I think that it reflects well on Bob that he chose the difficult route of trying to talk about this so that they could maybe remain friends, rather than just ghosting her or making assumptions about her feelings.
Have a tie.
I’m gonna start using this as a mental response when interactions like this get to me 🙂
If the outings felt like dates to Bob, then Bob needs to adjust that by suggesting other things to do (“cancelled a dinner he had suggested, before a movie he had suggested” makes it sound like this is all Bob’s problem). If Bob cannot distinguish between friendliness and romantic interest, then Bob needs to work on that (note: even if LW was secretly madly in love with Bob, what was Bob going to do? Exactly what in the world was Bob’s purpose in asking this question?) If Bob has reasons, those are Bob’s problems, not LW’s. The biggest issue here is that Bob assuming LW is romantically interested in him and going on pseudo-dates is highly disrespectful. It’s saying a lot about what Bob thinks of LW, who is happily partnered, and that most likely stems from some pretty messed up views on women.
There was no miscommunication here – I understand the compulsion to give him the benefit of the doubt but he handled this in the most clumsy way possible with no regards for his friend’s feelings and zero tact. If he really didn’t want to “lead her on” then the convo should have been as simple as Bob saying: “when you do XYZ, I am seeing it as ABC, is this just me reading too much into it?” LW says “Yes, you are 100% misinterpreting” and Bob says, “Good! Sorry for the awkwardness but I wanted to make sure we were on the same page – I have trouble with these things and in the past XYZ has usually meant ABC” and that’s the scene. Except that’s not what happened and then he demands written confirmation that she is not interested…which is bizarre.
Late to the party, but the use of ‘prodding’ was the only thing that took me aback as well. Same rule of thumb as not asking for reasons when someone breaks up with you romantically: nothing that Bob could have said at that point was going to make LW feel better.
I agree with most commenters here that she shouldn’t take this incident as a cautionary tale about being too emotionally open with friends in the future, but if someone says they need to step back from you, it’s generally best for both parties if you let that happen with as little friction as possible.
(She’s entirely within her rights to take her own break from all things Bob now, though, especially with the subsequent demand-for-text weirdness.)
Exactly. He was free to be upfront with her about his discomfort, and she’s free to be upfront with him about hers if she wants to. Maybe they’ll be able to find a dynamic that makes them both happy, maybe this friendship will end up fading out.
LW, as so many others have said, you did nothing wrong. You treated a friend as a friend and he got weird about it. Whatever was going on in his head, the correct thing to do if someone says, “Nope, you’re mistaken, I don’t feel that way about you” is to take them at their word and deal with your own feelings about it however you need to without making it their problem. Pressuring you for confirmation is not okay. Your feelings about all this are totally valid and reasonable – I’d be feeling the same.
Captain, thank you SO much for the Occam’s Big Paisley Tie link. I’ve been experiencing a LOT lately the “But I, a man who doesn’t personally experience misogyny and is not at all informed about the issue, think it is very important to be OBJECTIVE AND LOGICAL and point out all the ways you might be wrong about your own experience.” Just knowing this is a common pattern that other people experience and that I am not being narrow minded by thinking it is bullshit is so helpful, and it’s SUPER helpful to be able to put a name to it so I can just label it and move on with my life rather than doubting and questioning my own reality.
LW, you mentioned not wanting to affect your SO’s friend group – is that something that even matters to your SO in this context? If one of my friends did this to my partner, I would most likely want to reduce contact with the friend myself. What a jackass.
I miss Shakesville so much.
My read on this is that Bob a dude who doesn’t know to have any kind of intimate platonic relationship (there are a concerning number of dudes that seem like they never talk about anything more intimate than sports statistics with anyone other than their SO???), and therefore is assuming that a woman being generally friendly and emotionally open at him must be flirting. Bob was thrown by this because he knows OP is already with Partner, so he tried to feel out the situation (maybe hopefully, maybe nervously, whatever), and did it really clumsily because he doesn’t actually know how to navigate feelings talk. He does, however, have enough emotional intelligence to know that it didn’t go over super well–so now he’s trying to smooth it over by pretending the whole thing never happened.
LW, I really doubt you did anything to ’cause’ this. Bob got weird on you. Men as a group are known to do this sometimes, get weird on a woman when she did absolutely nothing to cause or encourage their nonsense. It’s up to you to decide if you want to 1) join him in pretending it didn’t happen, 2) go back to friendship if he acknowledges it and apologizes for thinking he knew your feelings better than you do, or 3) not deal with him one-on-one anymore and only see him occasionally in group settings. Any of those are valid choices. If you do decide you want to go with option 1, I think you can just act like you used to act (or however you feel like acting in the moment) and assume that the message has been conveyed that it’s not romantic. You’ve already been very clear about your intentions here, so I don’t think there’s much room for him to misunderstand.
I am still thinking about what Salymander said above: “It doesn’t need to be intentional to be exhausting.”
That sums up so many of my feelings about negative things. I used to tie myself in knots giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, trying to see things from their perspective, and being forgiving and patient, and there is something to be said for having this kind of gentle attitude toward life, but MAN does it draw toxic personalities like WHOA.
Now, though I backslide occasionally, my default position is that people do not have to intentionally have it out for me, or intentionally be huge assholes, or intentionally rude, or whatever, for me to have the absolute right to be sick to the teeth of whatever shit they just pulled, and to be exhausted thereby, and thus I do not need to take it upon myself to compound the unintentional [negative comment or event or act] by further exhausting myself and trying to educate the [witting or unwitting] offender as to why their behavior SUCKED.
I’m getting older, and I really feel that “get orf mah lorn” energy a lot these days. Just…get off my lawn. Don’t waste my time telling me all the reasons or excuses why you’re on it. I have stuff to do that isn’t giving you my limited spoonfuls of energy right now. My lawn, you are still on it. No, I really don’t want to spend my time helping you feel better about what you did wrong, or going through an elaborate exchange of apologies and forgivenesses. Get off my lawn, so I can go take a nap with a book over my face.
I feel fairly neutral to positive about most human beings, so don’t take it personally if I cut the interpersonal exchanges short these days. I don’t hate you, I’m just BONE TIRED, yo. You wouldn’t believe how long my “Stuff I Need To Do But Am Not Actually Doing Right Now” lists are!
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