hi jeff’s dad,
i have a guy friend who i’ve gotten really close with this past year. we talk all the time and we share a lot of things that i’d only share with someone i really care about. at school we’re busy but we study together a lot and it seems like he’s flirting with me, but we don’t hang out besides that and when i told him how i felt he said he wasn’t looking for a relationship. however he keeps flirting with me and it’s very confusing. i think that he likes me still and i like him a lot so it’s hard for me to move on when he says he doesn’t want something with me but his actions say otherwise. what should i do to move on? or does his behavior suggest that he feels differently than he has told me and should i go for it?
i think it is a common thing for people to maintain flirty or sexually tense relationships with people that they have no interest in dating. these behaviors can occur either consciously and unconsciously depending on how self aware a person is. while i’m sure there are settings in which this is a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parities, i think that more often than not it’s a one-sided affair and not such a cool thing to do to a person. the benefits that the flirter receives can include a self-esteem boost or a feeling of security knowing that they have a “backup”—or even sometimes a perverse thrill that comes specifically from rejecting someone.
whether or not that’s what’s going on here, this guy has continued to perform the behaviors that he knows have led to these feelings developing within you and your belief that the feelings are mutual. you told him how you felt and he responded with the response that he doesn’t want a relationship right now. which is a cliché that i think you should probably take to mean he isn’t interested. and if he hasn’t changed these behaviors after your telling him how you feel then these behaviors (the flirting) will more than likely continue indefinitely.
so now what should you do? well, i think in most but not all cases, a crush is like a nicotine craving. it’ll pass on its own provided you don’t focus too much on it. but what that passing looks like is going to depend on you and your specific feelings for this person. can you recategorize this person in your brain as a friend? and do it in an honest way that doesn’t amount to suppressing feelings. for example, can you see it getting to the point where this person can describe a date or a sexual encounter to you without you feeling jealous or uncomfortable or sad? can you put them in a place where you can be on their side without the bias that comes with wanting a romantic commitment or interaction with them? if so, perfect, you’re left with a good friend who you clearly feel very comfortable talking with; and that’s an extremely valuable thing to keep around.
if not, though, i think you really need to cut this person loose. not for their sake but for yours. having someone that feeds off of your adoration is draining and the situations i mentioned—them having dates with others, them wanting to talk about those dates and such—will eventually come up if your friendship continues to evolve. the unpleasant feelings that will come from that will outweigh the benefits of this friendship but it will become increasingly difficult to see that as you invest further. so i think you have to be very cautious about these stakes when you make this decision for yourself.
you also mention that you only ever really see this person in one setting. in the future, i would challenge you to spend time with the people you think might be developing feelings for in other settings to get a better idea of who they are and how they present themselves in the world—and to give them the same of you. having an open space, free of the requirements and tasks that a school or work setting provides, can provide you a better opportunity to learn things from people and can allow for feelings of friendship or romance to develop more organically.
when my girlfriend gets really drunk, she bites me way too hard and it really hurts. what should i do?
get a spray bottle. just kidding. probably.
alcohol can help people feel more comfortable expressing themselves sexually. if your girlfriend doesn’t bite at all when you aren’t drinking, it might be something to discuss—actually you should discuss it anyway, since it isn’t pleasant for you. it’s possible that it’s something she wants that she’s too nervous to ask about sober. by discussing it, you may be able to agree upon a way to incorporate this (or something like it) into your dynamic in a way that is pleasant for both of you—or at least tolerable for you.
if biting is already commonplace in your relationship then this is more likely a matter of your girlfriend losing sensitivity when she drinks. you should either drop this kind of play when you’re drinking or make her aware of this and give her feedback as soon as it becomes uncomfortable for you. but you definitely shouldn’t just be gritting your teeth (sorry, couldn’t help myself) through it.
i met a guy in the summer and things got very serious very quickly, even though i was apprehensive at the beginning and he pursued me very adamantly. now he's pulling back, saying he wants to backtrack and build a friendship first. i know he's right in some ways, but i can't help but feel sad and duped. if it was his persistence that moved things along so quickly, why do i feel like i’m now getting dumped? i don't quite know how to go about framing my thinking around this flop.
i know less about this boy than you do so i’m not sure how valuable my musings on his motivations might be. but regardless of whether he pulled this relationship back for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, i think that you should be viewing this as a blessing. i recognize that that might be challenging at the moment but the further we expand upon this, i think the more apparent that will become. i also think you should view this as the end of the relationship—and not a break from it.
it’s possible there was something fairly innocuous that you did or said that signaled to this boy that you weren’t a good longterm match for him. a stray opinion on kids, marriage, money or any of the other big things that two people need to be on the same page about. it’s equally possible that something going on in the background of his life may have triggered this. an out of state job offer or some other type of significant lifestyle change. unresolved feelings about someone else. a terminally ill family member. at 2 months these aren’t the kinds of things you bring a new partner into. all of that is if we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt. he might also just be an emotionally stunted, romantically reckless boy that needs a therapist more than he needs a girlfriend.
that’s the first half of reframing your thinking. here’s the second half: someone pushing you to build a serious emotional commitment early on is a red flag. this is something that is very common in abusive relationships. by creating within you strong feelings toward them early on, they’re attempting to establish the kind of connection that will enable them to get away with extreme behavior. abusers want to add the phrase “but i’ve never felt this way about anyone else” onto every doubt you might have about the relationship or their behaviors. i’m not saying that was the case here. i’m not saying that’s always the case when someone pushes in this way. but it happens. and it can happen to anyone.
so to put that all together: you made a connection with someone—i’m sure there were pleasurable moments with that. now that connection is ending (and again, i do think you should view it that way) and in a short time, you will be ready to make a new connection. more important than all of that, you’ve learned something about dating and yourself and hopefully you’ll enter into new connections with a better understanding of your boundaries and the reasons for those boundaries.
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