How Do I Tell Someone I Don’t Want To Be Friends?

How Do I Tell Someone I Don't Want To Be Friends?

Hi Doc-

This isn’t concerning dating, but I think you could offer some perspective. I (a man) have an acquaintance who is pushing pretty hard to become more than that, let’s call him Jerry, who I know because we attend the same religious service. Our relationship there hasn’t been deep – say hi, what’s new, mostly brief, polite small talk – not really a relationship outside of that particular setting. To me that’s fine. Jerry, though, seems determined that we need to be best buds. He often wants to meet up and chat for extended periods of time (up to hours), will call me, and then without fail text me and message me on social media for extra measure if I don’t pick up.

From my point of view, we are acquaintances and don’t have a lot in common. I’ve known him for a few years, and I honestly figure that if we were going to “click,” it would have happened by now. I have no negativity toward him, but also don’t see a basis for a deeper connection. So what happens is that every few months, he wears me down and we have a phone chat or meet for lunch, but it’s always very forced and awkward, and I’m frankly almost glad when it’s over. When we do talk/meet, he insists that we talk about personal things (for example, he likes to share about his porn viewing habits and presses me to do the same, or asks about the sexual aspects of my relationship with my significant other). Honestly though, I’d still feel the same way if we were discussing more normal things.

Jerry says that his interest in our relationship is from a “mentoring” perspective, and to hear him tell it, he “mentors many other young men.” For one thing though, we aren’t very different in age (me in my mid thirties and him in his forties). And also, if he supposedly has these other relationships, why the insistence when it comes to me? Although, I sometimes wonder if he’s being completely accurate when he talks about this other “mentoring,” as well as about other things. I don’t think he’s outright making up lies, but I get the sense that he may be trying to present a particular picture of himself, if that makes sense. There are just other weird things as well, like he won’t text me an address to meet at in advance, he insists I wait until I’m on the way and then call him on the phone to get the info on where to go verbally.

I have been giving him every hint- I don’t answer when he calls, don’t rush to call or message him back, give reasons I can’t meet, and as said before, things are awkward when we do meet – some of which is due to me being a pretty heavy introvert, but also because of the factors I’ve already stated.

For what it’s worth, I do acknowledge that Jerry could be somewhat of a lonely person… He has a physical disability, lives alone, and has struggled to find work. Emphasis on “could be”  –  see the comment on him trying to give off a particular impression, so who knows.

So here’s the dilemma – I’m going to continue to see Jerry at the religious service, because it is the only one in my city for my particular belief. So do I suffer through a forced meetup every couple of months to maintain a peaceful relationship, or do I tell him that I’m just not that into him? And how best to do so? What I fear may happen is that he would look at the personal things I shared with him and feel like I was taking advantage of his openness in some way- but the reality is that I only shared personal things because he pressed me to, so they were for his benefit and not for mine.

I truly have no ill will toward him, but I just don’t feel closeness with him and think we work best as acquaintances. I have been on the receiving end of the “let’s keep our relationship in X group or context” conversation before, so I’ve experienced that it stinks when someone doesn’t want to be as close of friends as you do, but I’ve also experienced that you have to view those things objectively rather than as an absolute negative, and not dwell on it or try to force it.

A true thank you for any advice.
Give It A Rest

This is a tough one, GIAR, because I’m a little sympathetic to Jerry. He sounds lonely and awkward and he’s trying to reach out and make a connection with someone. I think most of us, if we were in Jerry’s position, would want folks to extend us a little grace and understanding. As such, there’s an understandable impulse to want to extend that same grace and understanding to him. Especially when the issue is that while they’re a little weird and awkward, they’re not actively repulsive or causing problems. They’re not a bad person, they’re just not great at connecting with people.

At the same time, however, extending someone grace and understanding isn’t the same as being obligated to be besties with them. This isn’t The Defiant Ones or Wedlock or something; you’re not forced to interact with them any more than you absolutely want to or else. The fact that someone’s a little off the mainstream and lonely is a damn shame. But that doesn’t mean that you need to give them more of your time than you want, especially in the name of being a good person.

As much as I feel for Jerry, I also feel for you. I’ve got… calling them a stalker would be a bit much, but I’ve got someone I cut out of my life a while ago who doesn’t get the hint. Our relationship hit a point where not only were they making demands of my time in ways I didn’t appreciate, but there were religious and political issues that I simply wasn’t willing to tolerate from people I keep in my life. While they were very clearly a lonely and lost person and thought they had a particular kind of relationship with me, the fact that they thought that didn’t obligate me to go along with it… especially after yet another fight about “modern morals” and “kids these days” and the like. So after yet another call out of the blue where they wanted to explain for hours about how my friends and family were going to hell,  I dropped ’em like fifth period French and didn’t look back. I don’t feel particularly bad about it because, frankly, I’m not interested in wasting my breath arguing with someone who thought that listening and understanding only went one way (and who had no problem assigning all kinds of heinous ideas to people I care about). Now I deal with the occasional  blocked number and calls that go straight to voice mail that I delete without listening to.

So,  I understand that feeling of seeing the name or number pop up and thinking “oh damn it, not again.”

The difference in your case, however, is that it seems like Jerry’s not a bad guy. Now that doesn’t mean some stuff isn’t uncomfortable as hell – his wanting to talk about porn and your sex life in excruciating detail is inappropriate under the best of circumstances – but the biggest thing is you don’t click with him. That’s completely legit, and in your defense: you’ve given it the ol’ college try. You’ve tried to be nice to Jerry and it’s just leading to more and more awkwardness and discomfort. I think, considering that you’ve actually put a good faith effort into your relationship with him, that you can consider your conscience to be clear. The key is what to do next.

This, I think, is where the grace and understanding comes back into play. You’ve extended him some in trying to see if you could be a friend to him; now it’s time to extend it to him in telling him that you don’t want to be friends. I’m a big believer that while we can’t avoid hurting people, we should try to avoid causing unnecessary pain. When breaking up with someone, for example, you want to treat it more like ripping off a bandage – do it as quickly and cleanly as possible, rather than drawing it out bit by bit or pouring salt in the metaphorical wound. In the case of Jerry, that would be telling him you don’t want to see him without telling him that it’s because he’s weird or offputting. I think the best option in your case would be to tell him you simply don’t have time for him and you’d rather keep your relationship in context of your religious services. Will that hurt? Yes; it always sucks to be told by someone that they don’t want to be friends. However, the quick, clean break heals fastest and causes the least pain overall. It’s the best of a series of painful choices, in this case.

Afterwards, if you don’t want him to feel completely alienated, you can mute him on social media or set his phone number to not ring and go straight to voicemail. It may leave a bit of false hope, but it’s also not quite as abrupt and jarring as just straight blocking him would be.

Now, if you want to try to cushion the landing for him a bit – which isn’t necessary, but it is a kind thing to do – you could point him towards a group or meetup that might be his speed. I wouldn’t palm him off on some other unsuspecting soul, but if there’s someone else in the community who he might vibe with, facilitating an introduction would be a kindness. But again: this isn’t something you’re required to do, especially if doing so would end up becoming as much of a time sink as avoiding him and seeing him would be.

The last thing I would suggest is that, when you see him at services, handle it the way you would handle seeing an ex that you’re cordial to but not friends with. Be polite, say hi if he comes up, but be a little distant. You can make polite smalltalk before giving the classic send off of “well, I won’t keep you longer” or “Hey, I’ll let you go,” and take your leave.

Good luck.

Dear Dr. NerdLove:

My friend (F22) and I (F29) and are having a close relationship and we share mental, emotional and some physical intimacy, but she doesn’t like me romantically.

I know it’s not right, because I can’t get over her and still do this. When we’re together we hug and cuddle and we feel so calm, I typically have a great night sleep after spending time with her and sometimes we stay over. I know she also doesn’t want to change this part and she likes our friendship just like it is now. We kissed once and made out a little, but she says she doesn’t want the sexual part, and doesn’t wanna date me. She does remarks about it would be easier and make sense to date me. If I could change it I would but she just doesn’t feel this way for me. And she has not figured out her sexual identity. I also feel bad because I wish I could just enjoy this friendship and the good sides without being sad that it’s not romantic. Honestly, I would need a friend like her in my life right now.

The issue is: I mean just the overall not dating me. I don’t really mind not having sex with her, but I can’t handle that she dates a guy. She doesn’t make a secret of him and I just don’t wanna hear her stories about guys and sex. And she is quite private about this to start with, but I also think she says even less to not hurt me.

Yesterday, we decided to have a talk because I was starting to feel distant and told her. We discussed the situation and I told her that I feel that things need to change. Once we finished talking we were like so what do we do? And it felt sad and We didn’t know and we arrived at no conclusion, we just started to hug and cuddle and watched TV instead. I wanted to kiss her so bad last night.

Hopefully you understand this is a new and intricate situation for both of us.

– Sappho

I hate to tell you this Sappho but… well, I think this friendship isn’t going to work.

You and she want very different things. You want sex and romance and she just doesn’t. She appreciates the physical intimacy of a close friendship, but she doesn’t have sexual or romantic feelings for you. When someone tells you “it would be easier to date you” or “I wish I could meet someone like you”, what they’re saying is that they want a relationship like the one they have with you… just with someone they’re attracted to. Yes, it would be easier for her to date you if she felt that way, but she doesn’t and, in all likelihood, that’s not going to change. Certainly not in any length of time you might find reasonable, but even that would be a long shot.

The problem here is two-fold. The first is that you want things that she can’t offer and the things she does offer aren’t enough for you. That part sucks because it feels like it’s equal parts rejection and selfishness on your part and that’s not the case. Just because she doesn’t love you the way that you want doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love you in the best ways she can. Similarly, it’s not selfish if what someone does offer isn’t something you can accept; you aren’t obligated to stay with someone who offers you a relationship other than the one you’d want, especially when that relationship would be like sandpaper to your soul.

The second is… well, she’s having to make herself smaller for you. She’s having to hold a pretty significant and important part of herself back because it’s going to hurt you through no fault of her own. She’s not dating a guy at you, after all. However, it is a barrier between the two of you, and the fact that this guy exists at all is the problem. Even if she doesn’t tell you, you know he’s there and it’s like being stabbed in the heart by tiny knives.

That’s a serious hindrance to a close friendship. Having to pretend that this aspect of her life doesn’t exist around you is difficult in general, but knowing that this causes you pain? If she cares about you – and it certainly sounds like she does – then that’s going to bother her, too. How would you feel if some basic, but important part of your life were a constant source of pain to a friend of yours?

However, your situation isn’t fair to her either, especially if being your friend is going to mean that your feelings for her are going to be an ongoing problem. You and she discussed the situation and that you wanted things to change. Unfortunately the change that you want is something she can’t do for you. So now you’re at an impasse, and your options are, frankly, pretty cut and dry. Either you accept this friendship exactly as it is, with the full understanding that it’s not going to change – meaning that you need to drop the subject and not bring your feelings up again – or you end the friendship. There really isn’t an in-between here, because this isn’t exactly something that can be compromised on. Any (non-sexual) physical intimacy between the two of you is going to be a stab to your heart (and give you false hope) and you can’t ask her to just fake wanting you or fool around when she doesn’t want it.

As much as this sucks, I think the kindest thing to do here is to realize that this is an untenable situation and end things now. That’s going to be painful, and there’s really no way around that. Ending a friendship is always painful, especially when the friendship isn’t the problem. But ending things now means accepting the lesser pain over the much greater down the line, where things will be much worse. While ending things now will hurt, a clean break means that you’re ending things while you still have respect and affection for one another. Waiting just means postponing the inevitable, in a way that increases the odds that this pain and frustration will curdle your friendship. That, to my mind, would make the loss of the relationship a tragedy; it wouldn’t just be an ending, so much as a destruction of what you had. Ending things now, on the other hand, keeps the door open for you and she to be friends, even good friends down the line.

Please notice very carefully that I said  “be friends down the line,” not “kindle a romantic relationship”. If you have hopes of being friends later, then you need to let this attraction fade and focus on finding someone who does want to date you, not sitting around hoping for a future that won’t come to pass.

It’s a shitty situation to be in, and I’m sorry you’re having to experience it. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where there aren’t any good or happy answers, just a choice between which option sucks the least. And I think the one that’s going to suck the least for the both of you is to go your separate ways as you let your feelings fade and find someone who does want the same thing you do.

Good luck.