On occasion, I’ll get a request for advice on a situation that’s more layered and complex than a typical Ask Dr. NerdLove question. These questions typically need a deeper dive into just what went wrong – a dating Post-Mortem if you will.
So come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. It’s time to snap on the gloves, fire up the bonesaw and cut this cadaver open to see how it all came apart.
Let’s do this.
Hello Dr NerdLove,
I somehow got myself into a sort of reverse friend zone.
… wouldn’t a reverse friend-zone be dating?
I didn’t know anything about how to handle friend zones until I stumbled into your magnificent site.
I met this guy back in September, let’s call him R. (I’m a guy too if that makes any difference and we’re both gay) a couple months back doing an activity that we both had in common. The attraction was apparent, and we both exchanged numbers right away.
We both exchanged messages a couple times that weekend, asking what each others’ plans were. We decided that we would both meet up, with friends in tow and hang out in a bar. It turned out to be fun and we agreed to do it again a couple of days later. I also was straight forward with my interest through texting after we both got home that night but I found out that he was seeing someone else. I said that it was fine and said sorry for getting the wrong signals. He didn’t really help matters by not mentioning the bf all night long.
So, thus far, everything is has been on the up and up. You’ve been doing what I tell readers to do all the time. You’re making plans, you’re making it clear that you’re interested in R and taking the news of his boyfriend with good grace.
Now the fact that R hadn’t mentioned having a boyfriend, even in passing, sets up the first of several red flags for me. While being in a relationship doesn’t mean that you’re always together like The Defiant Ones or that you’re obligated to bring them up, most of the time, the existence of a significant other tends to come up in casual conversation.
Now, it’s not impossible that you all were talking about topics where there was no organic way or reason for R to mention that he has a boyfriend. But this sounds far more like he was avoiding bringing him up in the first place, for reasons we’ll get to shortly.
We met up again a couple of nights later, still with friends in tow. I also found out that night that he isn’t happy with his current relationship.
My dude, this is one of the oldest and hoariest relationship cliches out there. The only way that this could get more cliche is if your boy told you his boyfriend didn’t understand him, not like you do and also they haven’t had sex in so very, very long.
We somehow ended up at my place after hanging out at the bars. Still with friends in tow. After everyone left, he texted me asking me if I wanted some company and if I wanted him to come back. I said yes, because I wasn’t really thinking right at the time and selfishly saw my chance.
He ended up initiating the kiss and we slept together that night. He even asked me what I’m gonna do, knowing that he has a big crush in me but he has a bf. I said it’s fine, we can just stay as friends.
We obviously felt bad the day after that and we would text each other saying how much we miss each other, etc, but that he has a bf, etc.
Ok my dude, I’m gonna start calling you Sega because you’re getting played. This is classic cat-string theory. R is dangling his attraction for you juuuust out of reach. Every time you swipe at it, he yanks it away by reminding you that he has a boyfriend.
Let’s be clear here: he’s getting his thrills knowing that he has you on the hook. If he were that interested in you, his boyfriend wouldn’t be an issue. If he were that concerned about the sanctity of his relationship, he wouldn’t be continuing to flirt with you. One way or. another, this particular triangle would be solved. Either he’d leave his boyfriend – which he isn’t going to do until life forces his hand – or he’d end things with you.
But what R has now is a cute guy who’s begging for his attention. Someone who’s going to be dancing in attendance at his every word and doing whatever he thinks it’s going to take to keep R around. But while R may want the occasional illicit blowjob, he’s never going to actually make a move to make this a legitimate relationship. That’d take all the fun out of it because he doesn’t want you. He wants what you give him.
Here’s what’s going to happen, my dude. R’s relationship is going to fall apart and suddenly you’re not going to be on his radar any more.
Fast forward to a weekend after and he invited me to a bar he was working at. I asked him where his bf was and he said that his bf doesn’t really like going there to visit him while working. I mentioned that if my bf was working a big night that I’d be there 100%. We ended up at my place again, with some of his friends in tow.
Apparently there were already tensions building with him and his bf up from that week, and it kinda blew up that night on the phone while him and his friends were at my place. I found out later that they broke up the next day.
Wait for it…
Seeing my chance, I texted him telling him that he could do so much better than how his bf treated him the past year.
His bf was apparently been belittling him and his accomplishments for the past year so the writing was in the wall on that one.
Wait for it…
At this point, I was actually developing some feelings for him and I made the mistake of telling him this. I made my intentions clear that I’d like to date him. He politely told me that he would prefer us staying as friends for now since he just broke up with his bf and that he really does see a connection between us.
Ok my dude. Even if we leave his whole “dangling the possibility of a relationship” thing aside, what you just did is… not cool. Rolling up on someone immediately after they’ve broken up with somebody, even if they’re finally getting out of a failed relationship is a dick move. It says that you’re ultimately only thinking of yourself, not what they’ve just gone through. Most people aren’t going to appreciate it if, after telling you that they’ve just broken up with someone, you respond with “FINALLY, MY WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY IS OPEN.”
Even breaking up with a shitty partner is rough and most people are going to need a little time to process and recover. You want to be an actual partner to them? Then give them time. It’s pretty clear what you want. If there’s actually a connection, they’ll come to you when they’re ready. Bugging them about it, on the other hand, is a great way to make them decide they’d rather look elsewhere.
And if they decide to look elsewhere anyway? Then it has nothing to do with “well I missed my chance” and everything to do with “they wanted someone else.”
I do see a connection between us as well. We have a lot in common, more so than many of my previous relationships. But we cant be anything more than friends at this point.
After I told him about my feelings, I basically become the stereotypical ‘friend zone guy’. I would drop everything I was doing whenever he texted me asking me what I was doing etc. I made myself too available and asking him to hang out every other day. We were also intimate and had sex a couple times as well. He spent some nights at my place and we would cuddle all night long. But I could tell that he was making less efforts to see me, especially with him starting a new full time job. Texts were also becoming less frequent.
This is because he’s not that into you, man. It certainly isn’t helping that you’ve started getting clingier than a lovesick barnacle, but most of what he wanted wasn’t you but your attention. Once dealing with your attention started having more of a cost than he was willing to pay, he started to pull a fade on you.
Halloween week, I thought was taking our ‘relationship’ to the next level as we hung out a lot and had close and intimate physical contact a few times that week, more so than in the previous week.
But some things changed in the last month of Nov. I didn’t see him for almost the first two weeks, and I went out of town for a week. We would still text each other and talk on the phone but the physical contact wasn’t there anymore. We finally met up the week before Thanksgiving and we had a great time. We reiterated our friendship but I was also hoping for a kiss or a hug or something more intimate but nothing happened.
Dude is giving you the minimum to keep you around.
During this time, my feelings for him have been getting stronger instead of easing.
I’m not surprised. You’ve got the tantalizing prospect of a relationship just out of reach and you aren’t willing to accept that this isn’t going to happen. You’re continually focused on making him finally accept you as his boyfriend but you keep ignoring that he isn’t showing any interest in actually dating you.
He still tells me misses me, calls me boo, I call him babe sometimes and it makes me happy when he responds but it makes me incredibly frustrated when he doesn’t. I ask him out but he tells me he is busy sometimes and I feel like he needs to make time for me, etc. But I do not know how to verbalize it for fear of pushing him away even more.
Ok, man here’s the thing: he doesn’t “need” to make time for you because this entire relationship – such as it is – is on his terms. You’re the one waiting with sandwiches by Facebook Messenger. You’re the one who comes running as soon as he calls. You’re the one putting in all the energy and effort into this relationship. He’s the one who’s just crooking his finger and getting all the attention and validation he could possibly want.
So when he’s getting 100% of what he wants with no real effort on his part, what motivation is there for him to give you more than the bare minimum?
My biggest fear now is that he completely pushes me away then we don’t see each other anymore and and it just fizzles out, and I’m left with my feelings for him stronger as ever.
Hi, I’m here from the future to tell you that this is exactly what’s going to happen.
I haven’t told him yet that my feelings for him has gotten stronger as I was tempering myself for fear of him pushing me away if he knew.
Seriously dude, there’s no profit in making even more of a fuss about how you feel. The fact of the matter is, the strength of your feelings mean precisely dick to him. It’s not as though he’s holding back because he thinks you don’t really like him that much. Nor, for that matter, can you love somebody hard enough to make them change their mind.
If somebody doesn’t like you that way, there’s really nothing you can do to force them to change their minds.
He does know that I like him, and I know that he likes me.
I do see value in being friends with him because he gets me and we a lot in common,
Man, I have been there. I have done that. I have written the “I’m glad we’re still friends even if we can’t date”. And I can tell you from experience: you are lying. You are lying to yourself here. Your relationship with this dude is predicated on your belief that if you hang in there long enough, you’ll win eventually.
And it’s not just superficial similarities. My crush – someone I had dated, actually – knew damn good and well I was lying. She kept me around because, frankly, she appreciated the attention, even if she never intended to return it.
I want you to be honest and ask yourself this: if you knew, with 100% certainty, that there was no chance that you would ever be with him, that God has proclaimed in fiery letters in the sky that this will never, ever happen no matter what you do or how long you wait, would you still be hanging around?
Would you still be putting up with the bullshit way he’s treating you?
Like I said: I have been there and I told everyone that my crush and I were just friends and I was totally over her and it was great to have her in my life as a friend. And you know what? I was fucking lying. And when things finally fell apart and I realized it was never going to happen? I lost my goddamn monkey mind.
but I have problems dealing with my strong emotions for him and him being out of my life.
I’m almost ready to tell him that I need to disappear for a while to deal with it but my other fear is that I ‘miss out’ if he ever decides he wants a new bf again.
Trust me: you’re going to miss out no matter what. We don’t pick our partners by who happens to be closest when we decide we’re ready to date, we pick them by who we’re attracted to, who we’re compatible with and – critically – who we want to date.
And – once again – he doesn’t want to date you. He has had every opportunity to take your relationship seriously. He hasn’t. By your own words, he is putting in absolutely no effort into your relationship. He is all take and no give. And he shows no signs of changing or caring about what this does to you.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Waiting In The Wings
Here’s what you need to do, WitW: you need to peace the fuck out of this relationship.
As I’ve said: I have been where you are and I’ve done what you’ve done. Repeatedly, in fact. And every time, it’s ended with me being heartbroken, just as it will for you.
I am here to tell you: the best thing you can do is walk away from this.
Do you want the pain to stop? Then you need to walk away.
Do you want your feelings for this guy to fade? Then you need to walk away.
If you want to see if you and your crush can actually be friends? Then you need to walk away.
For real: I reconnected with the woman I mentioned earlier – the one who kept me around for entertainment value – years down the line. With time and perspective and years of actual growth, we were both able to talk about how things went down. I was able to own my part in things and she apologized to me for how she treated me. And now we’re actually friends, without the “but what about us” question hanging over us.
And if there’s any hope of your getting there1 then you need to let go of this dude and walk the hell away.
This is literally the only move you have if you want the pain to stop and you don’t want to miss the opportunities to find a partner who’ll actually want you and what you have to offer. The longer you’re hung up on the relationship you can’t have, the more you are missing out.
You need to heal and grow and improve. That’s only going to happen if you let go of this guy and get away from him. It’ll suck at first; letting go of a fantasy always does. But the hurt will fade and you’ll realize how much better you’re doing when your entire life doesn’t revolve around someone who simply isn’t going to want you the way you want him.
You’re better than this. You deserve better than this. You deserve a boyfriend and partner who respects you, who treats you well and who gives as much s you do. That ain’t this guy, and it never will be.
Let him go and walk away. You will be better for it.
You’ll be ok, man. All will be well.
- But I don’t think there is… [↩]