So you have this friend… he’s a guy. And you get along so well. It’s always been easier to be friends with guys anyway. But you start getting this sneaking suspicion that he may like you a little more than a friend. But you don’t. Not ever. Strictly friends. Maybe even best friends. But nothing more than that. What do you do?
If you’ve ever been in a situation like that before, you know how awkward it is. All you wanted to do was be friends and enjoy yourself with this guy, and then his feelings have to come into it and ruin everything you’ve got. You can’t treat him the same way though, because he’s probably taking what you do and say the wrong way. But you hate being mean and pushing him away. It’s a tricky situation, and you can only do so much to try to keep his friendship while letting him down gently.
I’ve had some similar awkward friendships like this before. I know of one guy that I’m still good friends with, even though our relationship is very different now. But most of the other guys and I don’t talk anymore. And it’s sad, though understandable. Here’s some of my advice to help avoid some of the pain this can cause.
1. Be clear from the beginning.
Honestly, no matter how clear you are sometimes, the guy can still be completely oblivious. Guys are clueless like that sometimes. If you tell him you’re not ready for a relationship, he might think you’re not ready for a relationship yet. If you say you’re getting over someone else, he’ll think that he can help with that. You might even tell him that the two of you will never be a thing, and he could still think that there is some sliver of hope. I mean, how dense can you be? But even though there’s no guarantee that anything you say will dissuade him, it’s best to make it as clear as you can that there’s nothing between you nor will there be. You need to do this even before you think he has feelings for you, because once he does, it’ll be a lot harder to talk him out of it.
2. Set boundaries.
No, not like in a relationship. Friendship boundaries. Maybe you can’t hang out with him alone. Or you can’t talk to him about certain personal things. Or you can’t touch him (like hugs, leaning on him, hitting him playfully, etc.). These things might seem natural, and they are, but with other girls. Guys will take things the wrong way if they want to, so limiting the number of actions that might make it seem like you like him will make a big difference. If you need a heart-to-heart, go to a girl friend. If you need a hug, hug your mom. If you can’t find anyone else to hang out with the two of you, you might need to cancel. And don’t let him pay for you, especially if it’s just the two of you.
3. Don’t be a jerk.
Being a jerk doesn’t help. It’ll just make things more complicated for both of you. If you’ve noticed that he’s being way too attentive or protective of you, that’s not the time to start passive-aggressively ignoring him. Once again, be clear. You might have to have the awkward conversation about not liking him. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but is it really worse than pushing someone you care about away from yourself for a long time? I, for one, would rather hear the truth than get avoided for weeks and not understand why.
4. Don’t be too nice.
Just because he’s always buying you things doesn’t mean that you need to start buying him things. You don’t owe this guy anything. This might sound harsh, but he chose to get you something, and if he cares for you, he shouldn’t expect anything in return. Don’t feel pressured or obligated to do what he does for you. Make sure you thank him for his kindness, but don’t go overboard. You’re not trying to be impressed.
5. Take Friends Everywhere.
I already touched on this a little, but this is a big one. He can’t think you’re going on a date with him when you bring your other best friends along. He won’t be able to get deep with you if you’re surrounded by other people. Is this inconvenient? Maybe. But it’s probably the thing that will help the most. The less time you spend with this guy alone, the less he will think you could be a couple.
6. Be ready to move on.
Inevitably, if the guy doesn’t give up and he has feelings for you, he’s going to have a hard time when you reject him. Your friendship won’t stay the same. He’s going to have to get over you if you’re going to be friends again. And that takes time. It will be painful for both of you, of course—who wants to push her friend away? But you have to respect him and give him that time he needs to recover. And maybe after that, you can be friends again. But maybe not. It’s hard to look at someone you had feelings for as anything less than that, especially if the other person doesn’t feel the same way. So if he doesn’t want to be friends, respect that. You might have to let him go, as painful as that can be. “Breaking up” with a friend is almost as bad as a regular breakup. That’s another reason why it’s important to have other friends around you who can support you through it.
Yes, I know this is hard advice to swallow, but believe me, it won’t ever be easy. Guy-girl friendship is a dangerous sea to navigate, and it can often end in disaster if you aren’t intentional about keeping your heart and his safe. I know these tips can help, but I can’t guarantee they will. Everyone’s situation is different. I only encourage you to think of your friend and not just your own comfort, what feels good to you. Because friendship is selfless and often comes with sacrifice.
With that in mind, good luck! If you have any questions, let me know. I’ll do my best to help.