If You Don’t Want to be My Boyfriend, Maybe You Shouldn’t Act Like You Are

A few weekends ago I was joking with a friend about writing a book with this title. But…it’s not exactly the first book I’d want published under my name. Still, I couldn’t resist using it for a blog post.

You know that I’m trying to swear off pseudo-relationships but this really is a hard thing for me especially since I want to date. Normal dating…well, it doesn’t really happen much anymore unless you join an online dating site. It seems like most couples start out in a pseudo-relationship or as friends-with-benefits before transitioning into actually dating. This really makes it a challenge to tell the guys who actually want you from the guys who just sorta want you. So I was also joking about making up a guide book/rules of engagement to give to guys who enter my life and seem serious about making a place for themselves in it. That title would be perfect for that booklet too.

Of course, that would be going overboard. It would be a terrible idea to start handing out little booklets to men who seem interested in me (though I do find the idea highly entertaining). Still I can’t resist posting a little guide for men who don’t want to cruelly lead on their female friends/emotionally take advantage of them (you know, we feel that being taken advantage of emotionally is almost as bad as being taken advantage of physically-just saying).

Instead of giving you a bullet pointed list, I’d rather give you a narrative illustration. When it comes to this, I feel that my friend Ben in NYC is a good example for others to model themselves after.

He and I started hanging out the summer he broke up with his girlfriend and when I was on a break from my emotional ball and chain. On the very first day we hung out he made it clear that we would only be just friends. No complications. That’s exactly what I wanted so I agreed to those terms. Throughout our friendship we’ve both made sure to stay within that boundary.

During that summer and first semester of our friendship, he was sort of like my play-boyfriend (not that I would have said that then). We went on non-date dates (he almost always paid and he even went with me as a platonic date to a friend’s going away party and did an excellent job of being a charming companion). I did his mending and stayed the night at his apartment sometimes (always on the couch). Every once in a while he’d call me just to chat. Most enjoyably, I got to play his personal shopper.

Despite the couple-ish things we could do, our relationship was never more than a good friendship. Sure, sometimes I’d toy around with the idea of us actually dating (crushing is one of my favorite past times). But all I’ve ever had to do is spend five minutes talking to him or with him to snap out of it. Jokingly I sometimes say it’s because, though he’s cute to most people, he has as much sex appeal for me as a doorknob. In truth, that isn’t the reason.

When we first met, we both had some emotional baggage separating us. As we got to know each other better, that diminished, still it became obvious that we are as incompatible as we are compatible. The last time he saw me he even said, “So, not that we would date, but I have this image of the two of us if we did. I’m sitting on the couch trying to watch tv and you’re trying to have a conversation with me. And I’m not having it.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I want more out of life and out of him than he wants to have or give. So we’d frustrate each other to no end.

Just because there have always been lots of reasons why we shouldn’t date, this by no means determines that we couldn’t. Much less compatible people are even married to each other. This is why we’ve always maintained a safe distance. Five minutes with him reminds me that one thing I cherish about us is that I know exactly where I stand with him and exactly what I want out of our relationship: a platonic friendship.

I’ve never felt that he’s led me on in the least. First and foremost because he’s always respected my space. I’m not someone who talks to even a best friend everyday unless we live together. So unless you want to date me, you have no business texting or calling me every day. (Really, don’t most men know that communicating with a girl daily means, at least to her, that you’re probably romantically interested in her?) So he never tried to communicate with me daily and vice versa. We didn’t text dialogue and we never talked on the phone for more than an hour. For the most part, if we wanted to talk to each other, we hung out and never too many times in one week.

He also slipped in a lot of unsolicited rejections/neutralizing statements/relationship clarifications. Okay, sometimes it was annoying when he did it. Like the time he said he couldn’t comment on whether my hair was frizzy or not because he’s not attracted to me (we were looking at hair gel by the way and he’d asked my opinion on a product in his hair, which was a ridiculous question, whereas I was hunting for an excuse to buy a new product). It was a little grating, and I certainly got him back for it, but I did appreciate it. It was his way of making sure I knew we were still just friends, no matter how couple-y. I made my fair share of comments that got the same point across which I’m sure annoyed him a little.

Amused as I was by how he eventually started making up excuses to pay for a meal or made it awkward when he’d suggested we split the cost of something, I appreciated these gestures. He never confused me by competing with other men in my life for my affection and attention nor gave me all of his. These visible things, petty as they are, were indicators that, no matter how much he adored me, he wasn’t in love with me.

If you’re thinking that, no matter what I say, how much we felt a need to clarify our relationship means we’re attracted to each other, you aren’t wrong. I might not think he’s the hottest man in the world but he’s one of my absolute favorite people. He speaks my language better than almost anyone. I’m definitely attracted to him. Considering how much he obviously adores me, though I’m not the hottest woman in the world to him, I think it’s safe to say he’s attracted to me too. The basis of close friendship usually is attraction, that’s why it can transition easily into a romantic relationship. But just because you’re attracted to someone doesn’t mean you should date them. It means that if you want to be just friends you have to make sure that’s all you act like and are to each other.

Even though I used to tell him I wasn’t capable of falling in love with a man like him, capacity wasn’t really the issue. We’re not compatible enough for it to be a good idea, so I disallowed it and so did he. We never let like have the chance to turn into love (at least not romantic love).

If you don’t want to lead on a friend, you should try to be like Ben: clarify your relationship often, maintain space and don’t let it look like you’re in love with her.

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