Dear Dr. Nerdlove,
I (35F) recently got up the nerve to ask out a guy (40M) who I’ve been good friends with for almost a year. We ended up Skyping a ton during quarantine because we both lived alone and enjoyed talking to each other. I caught feels pretty quickly after we started having hours-long conversations, gaming together, watching movies together over the Internet, texting all the time, etc. There were a lot of signals on both sides that more might be on the menu.
Finally, one night, I’d had a bit to drink during our Skype session and it was enough to give me the courage to ask him out. He said he was flattered, but he didn’t want to ruin our friendship because “women tend to stop liking him once they start sleeping with him.” Obviously, this could very well be a polite no that I’m reading too much into. If so, I’m perfectly happy to be just friends — this guy is awesome and I love spending time with him, and I’m not so far in the feels that I can’t respect platonic barriers.
The thing is, though — before COVID, before I started having feelings for him, I was house-sitting for him while he was out of town and I came across some of his porn collection. I really wasn’t snooping, I swear! I was sitting at his desk and I spilled my drink, and while I was frantically trying to move all of the papers out of the way before they got ruined, I uncovered a stack of printouts of erotic stories that indicate that he has a very specific kink that is generally frowned upon. Nothing illegal or dangerous, but I can definitely understand why a lot of women wouldn’t be super excited about it. I, however, am interested in giving it a try — it was something I’ve already considered trying myself but haven’t pursued. Since at the time his sex life wasn’t something I thought much about, I put the stories back where I found them and never mentioned them.
But now I’m wondering if that’s what he means by people not liking him after sleeping with him. So I guess my question is, is there any way to let him know that while I’m happy to just be friends, if he said no because women have dumped him over this kink and he thinks I would too, that’s not going to be an issue? Is there any way to say this without admitting that I found his porn, which I’m sure he would be super embarrassed by? (He’s never mentioned the kink in conversation, so there’s no way I could have known about it without stumbling across it in his house.) Or should I just accept the no on face value and move on with my life? I don’t want to push if he’s just not interested, but I also don’t want to miss out on something that could be great because he thinks I wouldn’t be into it.
Any advice would be appreciated!
More Adventurous Than He Thinks
One of the most frustrating things about getting a soft “no” — someone turning you down without actually saying “no” — is that it’s really tempting to think that maybe that “no” isn’t final. We see this all the time from guys who get soft no’s like “I’m not interested for a relationship right now”. Guys have a tendency to focus on the “right now”, rather than the silent “I’m not interested in a relationship… with you” that’s implied. As a result: they hang around hoping that they can wait out the clock and be there when she is ready to start dating. Similarly, when folks give a vague reason like “I’m not in the right place” or “dating just isn’t my priority right now”, many times the people on the receiving end miss that this is a refusal and instead think that the reason why that person can’t/won’t/isn’t ready to date them is a problem that can be solved. Since they aren’t ready to accept that they were rejected, they focus on trying to handle the supposed obstacle between them and romance.
That moment is the dating equivalent of Stacker Pentacost yelling “Reset the clock!”, because the countdown has started to the inevitable moment that the rejected person is going to discover that the object of their affection has started dating someone else. This almost always leads to frustration, confusion, hurt feelings and — frequently — tortured DMs demanding to know why they “lied”.
So let’s look at your circumstances MATHT. You’re into this guy. You were incredibly brave — seriously, that takes courage — and made your move. He was very polite, kind and gentle in turning you down, with a not entirely unreasonable objection. While I’m a firm believer that no, sex and romance are not antithetical to one another, if he worries that sex would disrupt your friendship, that’s a legitimate concern. If we assume that this is exactly as he said, then he’s someone with strong sense of self-awareness. He knows that something (we don’t know what) about how he conducts his affairs tends to wreck his relationships with women. Maybe this is a pattern in his relationships that he wants to break before he tries to pursue anything that has the potential to be serious. Maybe he knows he’s kind of an asshole when it comes to sex and sexual relationships. Hell, maybe he just knows that women he sleeps with end up not liking him and he doesn’t know why. Or maybe you’re right and it’s just that his kink drives away the majority of women he dates.
But that’s a mighty big “if”, and it requires a whole lot of facts that just aren’t in evidence. That’s one reason why at times like this, it’s important to ask yourself: do you honestly think that it’s just a case of his being ashamed of his kink? Or do you just want this to be true, because you don’t want to let go of the idea that you and he might get together?
When it comes to kink, it’s worth keeping in mind that lots of folks have kinks and fantasies that they don’t entertain outside of the privacy of their own minds. Sometimes that’s because the kink is literally impossible — vore, giantesses, random mythological creatures, etc. Other times it’s because… well, they may like it when it comes to fantasy, but they’d never want to actually do it in real life. Some things are just masturbation fodder, not something they’re aspiring to try. Hell, some folks are squicked out by their own kinks; they’re into it when they’re horny, but as soon as post-orgasm lassitude kicks in, the shame rolls in as the horniness rolls out.
Is there a way to find out if it is an issue of his being into this kink and worrying that it freaks out potential partners? Well, yes… you can bank-shot that conversation, a little. If you have the kind of friendship where you could talk about such things — or you’re willing to be a little “tipsy” and “accidentally” let it slip — you could say that you were doing a little late night erotica browsing on An Archive of Our Own (or what-have-you) and you found a story involving X kink, and had he ever heard of this before? Sure it’s a little outre, but y’know, it doesn’t seem so bad and you might be into that…
And then you can wait and see what he says. Will he admit the truth and say that yes, he’s into it as well? In an infinite universe, it’s certainly possible. Or who knows, maybe he would break down and admit that the reason why he turned you down was because he never thought you’d be into it. Then the two of you can get together and go off into the sunset together having awesome sexual adventures together.
However, the odds are good that he’s not going to suddenly reveal that he’s into this. He’s far more likely to pretend that either he has never heard of this or that he thinks it’s weird; not because he doesn’t like it, but because he doesn’t want YOU to think he’s someone who’s into that. And if he has legitimate shame issues surrounding his kink… well, he’s definitely not going to want his friends thinking that he’s into that.
Of course, all of that is entirely predicated on the idea that the kink is the problem and not that he isn’t into you that way. Or, for that matter, it could be both: he could be worried about his kink turning people off and while he cares for you, he doesn’t like you that way.
But to be perfectly honest, MATHT, my advice is to take his soft no at face value. While the dynamics of a woman being a little more persistent in the face of a rejection from a man is different than it would be if the genders were reversed, it’s still not a great look. The idea that he’s been waiting for someone to make their Insight check and realize that he’s just ashamed of being kinky is a lovely fantasy… but it’s just a fantasy. And if it’s the case that he’s worried about people being turned off about his kink, then he needs to work on learning to accept himself as the kinkster he is before worrying about dating you, specifically.
I think you’re better off letting this one go. You’ve made it clear that you’re interested. If he changes his mind and decides he wants to ask you about his kink, he knows where to find you.
Recently I met a young lady through a dating app. We have a lot in common and after a bit of talking and flirting we met up to have a responsible social distance date. It went well and we had a couple more and have hung out a couple of times.
I like her (obviously), but after spending time with her in person I find myself not romantically attracted to her, while she is seems interested in me that way. We haven’t been physical, just good times enjoying each other’s company.
My question is this: how do I let her down easy without killing our friendship?
Trying Not to be Shawn Michaels
Serious question, TNTBSM: has she actually said or done anything to make you think that she’s interested in being more than friends? Has she, for example, talked about the possibility of you two getting physical, or floated the idea of ways that maybe you could have a slightly less distanced get-together? Or is this more of a (completely understandable) free-floating anxiety, a fear of hurting someone who you are coming to like as a friend?
I’m a big fan of not borrowing trouble from the future, especially if there’s no reason to believe that there will be trouble in the future. If the two of you are just having a good time hanging out and nobody has started making comments about being more than friends, then I think having a “So just so you know, I don’t want to date you” sort of conversation is going to feel like it came out of left field.
Now, if she has given indications that she wants more than friendship… well, that’s where things get tricky. As More Adventurous Than He Thinks above can tell you: there really isn’t a way to say “I like you, just not the way you want me to” that doesn’t sting. But at the same time, letting someone believe there’s a chance for more when there isn’t is unnecessarily cruel, even if it’s in the name of trying to avoid causing pain with an awkward conversation.
If you’re legitimately interested in hanging out as friends, I don’t know if there’s a need for a preemptive “let’s just be friends” speech. But if she does decide to call the question, then the answer is to be gentle and be honest. You really like her, you enjoy hanging out with her, you’re glad you two have met and become friends, but you simply don’t feel the same way. I would also suggest that you let her know: you sincerely want to stay friends, but if that doesn’t work for her, you understand. Giving someone permission (as it were) to take care of themselves can sound weird and presumptive, but telling her you want her to prioritize her own emotional well-being is a kindness. Sometimes people — guys, gals and non-binary pals — need to be reminded that it’s ok to take a little time to feel your feels when you’ve been turned down, instead of trying to immediately shift to a platonic friendship without pausing to acknowledge that it kinda sucks.
That is, of course, assuming that the issue ever comes up. It’s entirely possible that she’s on the same page as you and thinks that you are hoping for something more. And while I’m a big fan of using your words… a lot of times, if nobody actually makes a move to take things romantic, things tend to settle into the friendship it was always meant to be. And who knows; maybe down the line, you two will talk about how you all met and laugh about the fact that you were both convinced that the other had a huge crush.