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.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
Addie Pray March 10, 2015, 9:25 am
I’ve known women like LW1, and I’ve always suspected they secretly like the attention. Or maybe they really are confused about their feelings. Or maybe they really are just too passive to say “no.” LW1, If it’s too hard to say no when this guy is on the couch and weaseling his way into her bed, remember that, and say no at the pub before he comes home with you – or better yet, say no when he calls and asks you to meet him at the pub. That will be an even easier “no” that may only require you not to call him back.
muchachaenlaventana March 10, 2015, 10:47 am
I agree, honestly it just isn’t that hard to tell someone you aren’t interested. It is even easier to just stop hanging out with that person. I think a lot of people like this really thrive on the attention from that “friend” who is really not a friend at all. I would never treat a friend like this on either end-she is leading him on and continuing to hang out with him even knowing his feelings and her lack of interest and he is not respecting whatever boundaries should be in place at a minimum as a “friend” of someone.
Portia March 10, 2015, 11:57 am
I have a friend who keeps around these ex-things (well varying degrees of “history”), and we call them her “harem.”
Monica M March 11, 2015, 3:39 pm
I also think some women have trouble with the idea that they had sex with someone and then they are gone when they break up. They have an internalized guilt about being sexual and that guilt is lessened if they are still friends.
Raccoon eyes March 10, 2015, 9:45 am
LW1, you need to learn the power of “NOPE” and its usefulness. We women are generally socialized to accept stuff and acquiesce and let others (usually men) change our minds/opinions/what have you. But f*ck that noise. You are allowed to turn your “friend” down- for drinks, for staying over, for whatever: and you dont need a reason. Just “nope.” If you want, you can further engage- Im busy, I have to get up early, my mother is coming to town and I cant have man smell in my place, WHATEVER. But stop getting roped into doing anything with him. He is NOT your friend. He is some dude that refuses to respect your boundaries. So set boundaries and enforce them.
Fabelle March 10, 2015, 9:49 am
I had a different reaction to LW2…I think she’s being a bit hypersensitive & unnecessarily self-conscious on behalf of her boyfriend. His behavior isn’t the kind a significant other has any say in trying to correct, in my opinion…& his defensive reaction, while not ideal, is sort of an understandable response to his girlfriend basically saying, “I don’t like who you are when you’re having fun.”
Addie Pray March 10, 2015, 10:21 am
I had the same take as you. But I guess it depends on how bad it is. Is he objectively horrible to be around when he’s having a good time? The LW makes it seem so. But maybe this LW is overly sensitive to people drawing attention to themselves (and her by being with him). I have a friend like that – she gets so embarrassed by the littlest things by people in her party. If you’re with her and you do anything “weird” – like stop a stranger to ask for directions – she (my friend) turns bright red and is like “omg, omg, stop it, stop it” when no one else has a problem with it. It’s kind of annoying. But I digress. I wonder if LW2 is a bit like that. Like, just the fact that people are noticing him makes her feel uncomfortable, even if they’re not.
Portia March 10, 2015, 10:42 am
Yeah, I don’t know either, but I can certainly see it both ways. I have a cousin who has a tendency to be loud and it can be really embarrassing in a setting outside my family. But, he’s a cousin I don’t see very often, so it’s not a situation I have to think about that much. If it were all the time, idk… And I agree, the LW might be reading into people’s reactions things that aren’t there (she didn’t mention them saying anything to her, just looks and getting up). But either way, if that’s how he is, there’s not going to be much she or he can do about it.
Portia March 10, 2015, 10:52 am
Oh, actually, I do have an anecdote that made me see that cousin in a slightly different light. Something like 5 years ago, I went to a sketch comedy type thing he was involved in in high school. Seeing him in that, he not only seemed to fit in splendidly, but the guy looked like the life of the party for the first time and not to brag but was one of the best parts of the show! I think a big chunk of it was totally how everyone was reacting to him.
I wonder if LW2 has been to parties with just his friends and of there’s a very different energy in those social situations, if this discomfort is just around her friends. It might do her well to try to change her reaction somehow and see if others follow…
cleopatra jones March 10, 2015, 10:44 am
Yeah, I was thought the same thing as well. Then I thought, these two probably don’t belong together because that’s always going to be a struggle in their relationship.
tbrucemom March 10, 2015, 12:24 pm
If she had said he gets loud and obnoxious with the things he SAYS, I’d agree with the LW, but she didn’t say anything like that so I’m assuming he’s just boisterous and this is a matter of different personalities. I think the idea of a “code” word isn’t a bad idea if he’s getting really carried away. I’m curious as to where they are hanging out because that can make a difference too. If it’s a sports bar or a crowded happy hour type place they’re usually really noisy anyway so I don’t think it would be that big of a deal and people tend to get loud anyway to hear each other.
RedroverRedrover March 10, 2015, 12:38 pm
I have some friends who have this dynamic – where he thinks she is too loud and she thinks she’s fine. They are constantly bickering about it. And it makes her feel bad about herself. I worry about their relationship sometimes; this kind of constant undermining is not good.
Basically, LW2, neither of you is “right” and neither of you is “wrong”. You can talk to him about it once or twice, calmly and at a tme when you’re not actually in the situation. But if that’s just how he is and he sees no reason to try to change, then you either deal with it or you move on.
cleopatra jones March 10, 2015, 1:34 pm
I have some friends who have this dynamic – where he thinks she is too loud and she thinks she’s fine. They are constantly bickering about it.
Ya know the older I get and the more I read this site, the more I realize it’s OK to not be with someone who isn’t a good fit for your personality. So many times on this site we read, ‘My boyfriend is perfect except for this thing that I hate about him…’ and that thing is always something that’s a part of his personality and not likely to change anytime soon.
I hope your friends either work it out or move on from each other.
RedroverRedrover March 10, 2015, 3:23 pm
I hope they work it out because they have a young kid, plus the wife has a disease which will require a lot of support if it gets worse. I think they will stay together. But I’d like them to be happier.
Totally agree that people have to know when personalities just don’t mesh. Love can’t overcome that. These two met and got married relatively young for our generation (23 and 26 years old), and I don’t think either had much experience with dating. In my opinion, if you get married young it’s a matter of luck whether or not it works out. Either you were lucky enough to find someone who you will mesh with when you’re older, or you’re not that lucky. Not to disparage people who get married young; for some it’s the right move. For others it totally is not though, and they don’t realize it.
FireStar March 10, 2015, 9:53 am
You tell him couch and he ends up in your bed. The type of guy who would so disregard a directive to stay out of your bed is one that at HIS core doesn’t respect you or your needs. He only cares about himself and getting what he wants. This is less about love and more about control. You can’t keep someone like this in your life. Extricate yourself. I’m not sure the better option – whether to ghost him completely or to send him an text that says I can’t continue being friends. Don’t contact me anymore. I think either way he is the type to constantly reach out and show up at your house. When he does that call the police. It will be your first lesson in being assertive. It’s called consequences. When someone ignores a boundary you have set, then make sure there are consequences. That is how some people ultimately come to respect boundaries – when they feel consequences of not respecting it in the first place. Because when you said couch and he chose bed…what was his consequence? None. Whereas if you had said ‘get the fuck out of my room in the next two seconds or you can sleep on the street tonight for all I care” and followed through then that would have been a consequence. Or after the first time not letting him back in your apartment at all. If he is drunk then he can take a cab home. There is no law that says you have to answer your phone or buzz him up or open your door. I am taking you at your word that you are actually this passive and that no part of you likes the attention but honestly I have a hard time believing you just can’t keep your door shut or your phone on silent. So do that.
I guess the advice is the same for the other letter writer too. If you have a boundary then you should have a corresponding consequence. Boyfriend acting the ass? Then you leave him at the bar. He doesn’t care? Then maybe you should find someone that does.
Laura Hope March 10, 2015, 9:56 am
Damn, I’m jealous. I spent years trying to get beyond the ego-self (core values and beliefs) to do serious spiritual work and you’re already there! Seriously, it sounds like the “core belief” you’re lacking is that it’s okay to stand up for yourself and say no. No one can really give you that; you have to give it to yourself.
Raccoon eyes March 10, 2015, 10:07 am
I was quite taken aback by LW1’s last sentence- the letter was all “eeek, I cant set ‘friend’ boundaries with my ‘friend’ ” and then she ends with “[p]lease give me advice on how to identify and develop my core beliefs, values and boundaries,” and I thought, WOW that is quite the request!!!
SpaceySteph March 10, 2015, 10:46 am
I think it was just poorly worded. I get the impression that she either doesn’t think her boundaries are right (like maybe its totally cool that this guy keeps weaseling his way into her bed?) or that she’s getting feedback from other people in her life that she’s leading him on or being a tease by keeping being friends with him.
I think she does already have core beliefs and boundaries, but the indication she’s getting is that they’re wrong. They aren’t. This guy is just a sleazeball.
SpaceySteph March 10, 2015, 10:41 am
LW1, this guy is sexually assaulting you. He has repeatedly ignored you when you say “no” regarding a reasonable* physical boundary you have set. When you think about it that way, doesn’t it just make your skin crawl?
*Yes, this boundary is reasonable. You are allowed to not have someone sleep in your bed at any time for any reason. Also while you may feel like you deserve it somehow for still being his friend, it is not your fault. That said.. I don’t think you should be friends with him. Why would you want to be friends with anyone who shows such complete lack of consideration for your boundaries?
tbrucemom March 10, 2015, 12:27 pm
She LETS him weasel his way into her bed and continues to see him socially after he did it the FIRST time. I have a hard time saying he’s sexually assaulting her when it sounds like she just doesn’t have the backbone to tell him to get the hell out of my bed and not instigate any further get togethers.
RedroverRedrover March 10, 2015, 12:31 pm
I don’t know if it’s as far as sexual assault, but it’s certainly right on the road to it. LW, what would you do if you said no he can’t touch your breasts, and he did it anyway? Or no you can’t be naked next to me and he did it anyway? Or even worse? He’s trying to see how far he can push you, in hopes that eventually he’ll get to have sex with you. Just cut him off. He’s a total sleazebag.
SpaceySteph March 10, 2015, 10:44 am
LW 2, am I reading correctly that you only talk to your boyfriend about his drunken habits after his is already drunk and already being rowdy? And you think that’s going to work?
I agree with Wendy, tell him exactly what you said here. But do it when he’s sober. And if your boyfriend continues to say “who cares, I don’t!” when you express your concerns to him… maybe you need a new boyfriend. Idk about you, but I want my significant other to care about what I say and take my concerns seriously. (You know, those people do exist…)
MsMisery March 10, 2015, 11:44 am
That’s what I thought. Just like, don’t talk about fight stuff when you’re fighting or sex stuff when you’re sexing, don’t talk about his drunk behavior when he’s drunk! He may not even remember his actions or these conversations the next day. (Which is a whole other topic…)
K March 10, 2015, 11:20 am
He weasels his way into her bed? It seems like she must not kick him out if he keeps doing it. The first time he did that, the response should’ve been “You’re sleeping on my couch. If you try crawling into my bed again, our friendship is over.”
MsMisery March 10, 2015, 11:47 am
LW1, this guy isn’t a friend. At best he’s a former friend. Now he’s a guy you know. Would you really accept this behavior from a real friend? Why are you letting some guy you know sleep in your bed w/o permission? Why are you letting him disrespect your personal space and treat you like an object? Either establish new rules for BOTH OF YOU (no more leading him on, hanging out alone, etc) or cut off contact entirely. Prolly the latter is best.
court March 10, 2015, 12:31 pm
Hi , I lurk sometimes. Anyways for lw1 my husband has a similar problem, he has trouble regulating his voice and it naturally carries. I wouldn’t care but he is very politically opinionated and somewhat profane, so when he gets too loud I put my hand on his knee and tap my fingers, that way he gets it without me embarrassing him. If he does it excessively I’ll say something but quietly, unless we are alone in the car, then I just tell him not to yell.
Essie March 10, 2015, 5:55 pm
LW2, I get it. I had a boyfriend who naturally was very ‘up’ and outgoing, and had a rather loud voice, and after a beer or two, it just got out of control. He wouldn’t act really drunk, but he’d be much more animated, much louder, very emphatic. I saw the looks from others, too. There’s a fine line between ‘life of the party’ and ‘obnoxious’, and a couple of drinks was just enough to nudge him over it.
We split up for other reasons, but I ended up avoiding events where I knew he’d be drinking. It wasn’t hard, neither of us drank much.