Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Friends Without Benefits (Part 2): Let's Just Be Friends Edition

In a recent post, we talked about the difficulties of having feelings for someone who may not return them. Today, we'll focus on the specifics of what to do.

The best solution to the dilemma is not to get put into that position in the first place. You do this by making your interest in someone known as soon as you recognize it.

When you wait too long, it feels unexpected and weird. You also lose credibility points for hiding your intentions for so long. It's a subtle dishonesty, but it DOES--consciously or not--erode trust and comfort.

Don't make a big production out of your feelings--no flowers, showing up under their balcony, or professing undying love. Such gestures are counter-productive in this situation.

Avoid putting any pressure on the other person. Make it clear if they like you back, they like you back. If not...you aren't going to think any less of them.

Usually the other person will react in a number of ways. None of them are a big deal...not even the dreaded Let's Just Be Friends speech

If you get this, don't give the speech anymore weight than it deserves. All the person is doing is saying how they feel RIGHT NOW. If you overreact by getting upset, despondent, or arguing, they will a) feel less comfortable being honest with you in the future b) start to feel that they are responsible for your feelings.

Neither of these things is good.

Someone honestly telling you how they is a good thing even if it's feelings you don't like. It's an opportunity for you to show you're okay with ANY feeling they have.

If you allow them freedom to feel anything around you, you may quickly learn something else about feelings.

They change.

As we said in Part 1, most times they won’t. But it CAN happen.

In the meantime, you have a question to ask yourself.

Am I able to be this person’s friend, whether we are romantically involved or not?

A conditional friendship is not a friendship. If you are being this person’s friend because you‘re hoping to change their mind, you are not really friends. You are trying to get something from them and that’s going to lead to trouble.

Also, do not stay in the friendship for the sake of the other person. You may think they need you. They may even SAY they need you. But they don‘t, and even if they did, your first responsibility is to yourself.

When we have feelings for someone, it is normal to want to do things for them we might not normally do. But for your own peace of mind and self-respect, don‘t invest anything in them you aren‘t okay with losing.

If you’re going to stay in the friendship, stay because you LIKE them.


- Thou shalt not hide your attraction from yourself or the other person. It’s dishonest.

- Thou shalt refrain from attempting to convince, manipulate, win over, or in any way control the other person‘s response.

- Thou shalt not stay friends in the hopes of changing their mind. Be their friend because you want to be their friend, not because you’re trying to get something. Anything else is not a friendship.

- Thou shalt take care of yourself. If you need to take time away from this person do it. They do NOT need you, even if they say otherwise.

Throughout the day, experiment with saying you feel out loud--whether you‘re by yourself or around other people. Do it in the same matter-of-fact way you would talk about the weather, only instead of saying “it’s raining” you are saying “I’m hungry,” “I’m happy,” or “I’m frustrated.” You aren’t looking for any particular response. You don’t need to go into depth as to why you’re feeling a particular way or what needs to happen for those feelings to change. Just practice saying what you feel.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

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  1. Another excellent post, Dan. FWIW, I have seen women respond positively to men laying it on the line in a matter of fact way, because this communicates confidence. It sometimes gets them thinking.

  2. Being attracted to someone is no big deal. You do not need to feel badly or be ashamed for being in like, love, or lust. You don't always get to choose who you're attracted to, for one thing. Even if you did have a choice...that choice would be nobody's business but your own.

    What we want to avoid is the easy-to-fall-into-trap of thinking that liking/loving/lusting after someone entitles you to having them like/love/lust you back...or that they have any obligation to you whatsoever.

    It's not their job to like you back. It is also not their job to let you down easy. Nor are they responsible for 'not leading you on.' If you put that responsibility on them, you are putting them in an awkward, uncomfortable position. These are your feelings, not theirs.

    Sound advice.

    You do this by making your interest in someone known as soon as you recognize it.

    I am not so sure about this one. Another good strategy is to simply keep the feeling/attraction to yourself, in line with what you wrote in the first segment. And get over it after refelction using that sound line from segment one: 'These are YOUR feelings, not theirs." Sometimes "sharing" your feelings on a matter like this can actually RUIN a friendship, as the person becomes less free, less relaxed, less spontaneous around you, being unsure about your motives on various things.

    "Sharing" can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes its better to reflect, learn and keep your feelings to yourself. I once had a 17-year old girl with a crush on me, an older guy in his early 30s. She was always trying to get my attention in some way or another, and then one day wrote a "mystery" note blurting out how she felt. I let her down easy, but from that day forward I was more wary. The old relaxation we shared was gone, as were the old easy silly jokes. Up until that time we could talk freely. I learned some things she was into and advised her to focus on her education not her friends. But after she shared a certain coldness set in between us. I kept getting the feeling I could be set up at any time. from that day forward I kept her at arms length. She was hurt, but I felt it was for the best.

    In the same organization (a youth organization summer camp) there was another girl, who in her diary wrote-up all sorts of fantasies she had, starring another male counselor she had a crush on. She "shared" these with a friend, who "shared" with others. Her parents heard smatterings of the story and discovered the diary one day and - yep you guessed it- rushed to the conclusion that the guy was popping little Mary Beth. Her confused explanations only made matters worse. They rushed to "higher authorities" who "investigated". Her father actually threatened to go the counselor bodily harm. It got ugly.

    Although they could prove no wrongdoing, they spinelessly fired the guy, refusing to back him up, because they were afraid of the publicity and more parental heat. Feelings like these create all sorts of awkward, volatile situations,. Sometimes its best to keep them under wraps, and not "share" at all.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Two Tall.

    What jumped out to me about your counterexamples is both involve minors and a relationship where there is and a direct supervisor-supervisee relationship. I would consider them different situations than the ones I was thinking of when I wrote the article.

    So I would agree this might not be the best advice to apply to those specific situations.

  4. I was wondering: what would you say to the 'likee' in this situation? If someone is the object of someone else's obvious but unannounced affection? If they didn't want to lose the friend, but didn't want them to get the wrong idea, either?

  5. The likee is often in a tricky spot because there is only so much they can do, especially if the likee hasn't actually said anything but is just hinting around.

    It sucks because you feel like you're having to be responsible for someone else's feelings and second-guess how you express yourself in front of them for fear of leading them on.

    Poetry-of-Flesh wrote a really good post on the topic here (i'm really going to have to learn to hyperlink): http://poetry-of-flesh.blogspot.com/2010/04/texting-guy-from-yesterday-texted-me-to.html#comments