Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m in my late twenties, married, and very happy with my relationship. Both my spouse and I have a best friend we’ll call Keith. Keith has been our BFF for over 10 years, and I love him so very much. He’s befriended my spouse and I right after we started dating – so I’ve never been single around him, and he’s witnessed the whole gamut of my spouse’s and my relationship: falling in love, having arguments, making up, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, etc. He’s a big part of our life: he hangs out with us almost every day, we go on vacations and trips together occasionally, we’ve leaned on each other for emotional support though job losses and family deaths, etc. Point is, he’s a REALLY important friend to both my spouse and I.
The “problem” is… I’m pretty sure Keith is in love with me. Like, for real in love. He’s basically admitted it, in a long round-about way. He doesn’t date, he hasn’t had a significant relationship (more than 2 weeks or so) in the 10+ years I’ve known him. He’s open about how attractive he finds me, and that I’m the “kind of” woman he wants. And while he is just as kind and close to my spouse, he has told me privately many times that he thinks I’m just the bees knees.
Now, let me be clear that my spouse and I have no problem with poly relationships and we’ve even discussed the fact that both of us would be OPEN to it if the right person came along (we’re both bisexual, if it matters). But neither of us are attracted, sexually, to Keith at all.
I don’t know if there’s a “problem” here – Keith isn’t pressuring me to leave my spouse nor has he explicitly asked to be romantic with him (with or without my spouse’s approval). But I’m beginning to worry he’s hung up on me and won’t move on to someone else. Every time he tries to date, it never seems to work out. A lot of times it seems like the other girl’s fault, but I’m only hearing one side of the story. From my perspective it doesn’t seem like he spends much time on grooming or pursuing them because he’s far more interested in hanging out with us. He compares all other women in his life to me, I’m afraid.
(which I just have to point out, I have no idea why. I’m not trying to sound conceited)
I know he’s not asexual. I know he wants a girlfriend or boyfriend. I know he’s lonely (he talks about!) I KNOW he would want a partner if the right one came along. But I know firsthand how hard it is to move on when you’re REALLY hung up on someone else.
I don’t want to feel like I’m keeping him “on the hook” – I’ve never tried to give him any signals that we’ll ever be more than friends. But I’m just worried sick he’ll never be happy with someone else if he’s pining over me.
Part of me thinks I should try to distance myself from him, you know, “be cruel to be kind” and all that, but I love him (platonically) so much!!! He’s my best friend, and I know I’m his. Should I just… let him deal with it and stay out of it?
Putting the ‘Friend’ in Friendzone
I picked your letter PTFFZ because, for all the times we hear about dudes complaining about being Friend Zone’d (which, as I like to point out, doesn’t exist), we don’t often hear from the perspective of someone who’s been “girlfriend-zoned”.
So you’re providing a much-needed look into what it’s like to be on the other side of somebody’s inconvenient crush – you genuinely like the guy, but you don’t like-like1 him. You’re legitimately worried that you’re somehow encouraging him to keep on hoping, knowing full well that it’s just never going to happen.
For those of my readers who’ve been friend-zoned… this is what your crush’s been going through. This isn’t a malicious “ha ha, dance on my string, puppet” issue or some bullshit “ladder theory”, it’s a friend worried about another friend’s well-being.
With that out of the way, PTFFZ, let’s get to your situation.
It says a lot about you and your connection with Keith that you’re this concerned about him and the possibility that he’s holding out hope that maybe you’re going to come around on him. It’s very sweet of you to be concerned… but ultimately it’s also not your responsibility.
The thing is, Keith’s a grown-ass man. He’s making his own choices. If he does have a nasty case of Oneitis for you, there’s really not anything you can do. I can tell you from bitter personal experience: Oneitis is not rational. It’s not logical. It’s not that they can’t let go, it’s that they won’t. Somebody with Oneitis will take anything as reason to believe that if they just hold out long enough, the universe will reward their heroic devotion. They will pass up on other relationships because it would be a “betrayal” of their love.
It could be that he’s hung up on you. It could also be that he’s hung up on you and your husband. Some people get crushes of a sort on couples and see their relationship as a sort of surrogate for the one they want. And with all the time he spends with the two of you… well, it’s like he’s an unofficial third, no?
Are you keeping him on the hook? Well… probably not. It can be worth interrogating your behavior with Keith – are you physical with him in ways that you might not otherwise be with other male friends?. But really, unless you’re flirting with him or saying things like “you know, in another life, we’d probably be a scorching couple”, then odds are that he’s keeping himself on the hook.
9 times out of 10, the issue is that the guy in question is taking perfectly ordinary behavior – even friendly physical affection – and treating it as a sign of potential interest. And while it’s true that a lot of guys can be touch-starved or aren’t used to physically affectionate friendships, it’s ultimately on them to manage their expectations or emotions. He’s not your child. He’s an adult with agency and responsibilities and it’s not on you to do his emotional labor for him.
It’s good that you care for him and that you worry, but you can’t make him not want you and you can’t force him to be interested in other people. That’s all on him. You can gently nudge him in the right direction. Hell, you can get him copies of some of my books in hopes that it’d help him develop the skills he needs. But you can’t make him do anything.
Honestly, the only thing you could do is dial back the level of emotional and physical intimacy you have with him in hopes that things will taper off. If he’s using you – or your husband, or both of you – to be his surrogate relationship, then this will pull back his emotional safety blanket.
In practice however, I suspect that this will be more likely to trigger a confrontation and conversation about his feelings for you.
Maybe that needs to happen… if you’re right and he’s hung up on you. But at the end of the day: any progress he makes is going to have to be his choice. You can’t live his life for him.
Wish I could give you a more clear-cut “this is what you need to do,” but like I said: dude’s a grown-ass man. The only person who can make him move on is him.
I’ve read some of your articles and wanted to first off say thanks! So here’s some details about myself:
– I’m a 30 yr old male with a successful career. I’ve never had a hard time attracting attractive women but I’m very sexually inexperienced due to failed sexual encounters, lack of confidence and anxiety, which I believe has led to 0 serious relationships.
– I got into porn at a very young age (13 maybe) and masturbate to it regularly with the initial emphasis being to get it over as soon as possible. I always lie on my back in bed while doing so and have never deviated. I also started with a squeezing motion at a young age as opposed to an up and down motion so I’m guessing I’m the victim of the dreaded “death-grip”. Only in the past few years have I adopted the stroking motion but still apply heavy pressure, especially near climaxing.
– Upon my first sexual intercourse encounter (age 25) and numerous encounters thereafter, upon penetration, I go from erect to completely soft almost instantly. During foreplay I’m very aroused, and seldom never “lose it”. In addition, I’ve experienced situations where I get only like 70% erections where I can’t even penetrate. Upon failure, I go to 0% and that’s pretty much game over.
– I get great morning wood (100% erection) and can get these when masturbating alone, typically after smoking marijuana. Otherwise, I get about 70% when sober.
– No female has ever been able to get me to cum via oral.
Now that I’ve set the table a bit, what can I do to get better in the bedroom and get/keep 100% erections? I find myself fearful of evening trying anymore due to the embarrassment that follows after failed performances. I just want to be able to make love like a normal person! I’ve already started working out and trying to eat healthier but any tips or advice at all to try would be immensely appreciated!!!
Thanks in advance!
Dick In Defiance
You have two issue here, DiD.
First is that you’re right: you’ve basically carved a groove into your erotic brain. You’ve set yourself up with a very specific pattern for when you masturbate and since you never deviate from it, it’s become more or less what you need to get off. That’s going to be a problem because people are almost never going to fuck the way you jerk off. So you need to retrain yourself when it comes to your dick. And the way you do that is to simply cut yourself off.
From now until… let’s say, October, it’s hands off. Your penis is strictly for pissing and other people; you don’t touch it yourself. You do not masturbate. You’re just going to let that frustration build and build until you can’t take it any more. And when you reach the point where you think your prostate is about to explode from all that backed-up jizz… you’re not going to use your usual masturbation habits. You’re going to switch things up. You’re going to use your other hand. You’re going to use a feather-light touch. You’re going to get yourself a Fleshlight or a Tenga Flip and some lube. You’re going to do anything other than using your squeeze-play… which, I note, you’ve been falling back to even when you’ve been trying to switch things up. From now on, your squeeze-technique? It’s off-limits, because no human body can replicate that level of pressure.
The other problem you’re having is one of confidence. Erections are like faeries in Peter Pan: they only work as long as somebody believes in them. As soon as you’re unsure about them, they melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. Your worries about being unable to come or to please a woman have become a self-fulfilling prophecy – you’re expecting to lose your erection and so you do.
The solution here corresponds with the solution to your breaking your death-grip cycle: take penetration off the table. Your fingers never go soft. Neither does your tongue. Neither do sex toys. So bring all of those into play. Finger your partners like you’re back in high-school. Go down on for so long that you’ll have to learn how to breathe through your ears. Use a vibrator on them. And when it’s time for them to reciprocate… they can give you hand-jobs or oral, but no penetration until you’re starting to get past the whole “I can only orgasm in this one, incredibly idiosyncratic way.”
It’s a matter of practice, endurance and some willingness to clap your metaphorical hands if you believe… but you’ll get there.
I’m thrilled to announce the debut of my newest book: “It’s Dangerous To Go Alone – A Relationship Survival Guide”, available in print and on Kindle via Amazon. And if you’re in Baltimore, come see me at table A337 at the Baltimore Comic-Con, from Sept 2 – 4 and get your copy autographed!