In today’s column, we have two letters for the price of one. Read on:
I’m 32 and I have a guy friend who has feelings for me that I don’t have for him. We dated for a brief period, I broke it off, and we have continued being friends for about two years. However, while we both are acutely aware that I am not interested in an intimate relationship with him and want to remain on a friends’ level, he has made it extremely clear through his words and behavior that he is in love with me, almost to the point of an obsession. I feel like he does not respect my personal space, like I am an object of his affection. We argue a lot, especially if he ends up crashing at my house after a night at the pub. Even when I firmly tell him that he can only sleep on my couch, if he comes over he will weasel his way into my bed.
I feel that I am enabling him in his clingy behavior because I am his friend, I don’t want to hurt his feelings, and I usually say yes when he asks me to do something. I want to be able to establish what my personal boundaries are and to be able to act assertively with him, as well as others in my life. I feel that I am a very passive person, but I would like to develop my assertiveness, especially when it comes to men. Please give me advice on how to identify and develop my core beliefs, values, and boundaries. — Needs Help Setting Boundaries
I can’t help you identify and develop your core beliefs, values, and boundaries; if you haven’t figured out your core beliefs and values by 32, you should go see a therapist to help you with that. What I can tell you is that you can’t change your guy friend’s behavior; you are only in control of your own behavior. And if your behavior is enabling this guy to continue treating you like an object, it’s time to change how you respond to him. If it were I, I would not be friends with him at all. Maybe you don’t know what your core beliefs and values are, but I hope you value yourself and look for friends who also value you as a person.
This guy regularly invades your personal space, takes advantage of you, and weasels his way into bed with you against your wishes. That’s not a friend. Furthermore, you aren’t really a friend to him if you continue trying to be pals knowing he’s in love with you and seemingly unable to resist pursuing a romantic/sexual connection with you. Neither one of you is getting what you want from this relationship, and so both of you are, essentially, using the other to satisfy needs/desires the other isn’t interested in giving. MOA and find another friend to fill whatever void you’ve been using this guy to fill.
It makes me uncomfortable, and it often makes me cringe just being near his intense energy. I love that he’s having fun, but I can’t help but notice when I see the discomfort and shock on the faces of everyone around us too. Some people physically get up and move away from him because he’s being so boisterous. I’ve tried gently expressing how it makes me feel, usually after the party. But he either gets his feelings hurt and mopes around for a while, or defensively says “Who cares? I don’t!” and goes straight back to yelling. I don’t want to stop him from expressing himself, and I don’t want him to feel like I’m ashamed of him. But I admit, I do get embarrassed, and I don’t want people to think badly of him.
How can I gently, lovingly tell him that this behavior makes me uncomfortable? How can I get him to tone it down a little bit without his taking it too personally? We’re having a party soon, so I want to talk to him about it before hand. — Embarrassed By His Intense Energy
Why are you asking how you can gently tell your boyfriend that his behavior makes you uncomfortable when you’ve already tried the gentle approach and his response was a defensive “Who cares? I don’t!” Fuck that. Quit being gentle and tell your boyfriend in no uncertain terms that his behavior is completely obnoxious and that not only do YOU care — you know, his girlfriend, whom he supposedly loves and whose feelings he should really take into consideration — but that your friends and the general public seem to care as well, as indicated by their behavior every time he starts acting like an out-of-control frat boy at his first kegger.
Tell him exactly what you said in your letter — that you love that he has fun, but he is louder than he realizes and his behavior embarrasses you. Suggest that you have a code word you can utter when he’s getting a little out-of-control to alert him to rein it in. And if he’s still telling you he doesn’t care what you think, maybe you should pay attention to what he’s saying. Because do you really want to be with a guy who truly doesn’t care what you think and feel? That’s worse than boisterous behavior after a few drinks.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.