Is it possible to still be friends after rejecting someone?

I’ve been dating someone for over a year now in the purest sense of the word…he asks me out, I go, and he is a perfect gentleman. And that is exactly how far it has gone. While I have currently 23 working theories on why we have not advanced to the physical intimacy stage, or even the hand-holding stage, I have not as yet pressed the issue. Every time I think about posing the question, I ask myself if I would rather have his company just as he offers it to me now, or not at all. Since he is by far the most wonderful guy I know, I am not ready to do anything that might make him bolt.

And so I sit, frustrated and scared, wishing I had one of those little gizmos from “Men In Black” so that I could ask him if he thinks he could ever be interested in kissing me, or screwing my brains out, or giving me a hug. Then, if he said “Ewww, yuck, get away from me, I never, ever want to see you again” I could flash that little thing in his face and we could go back to our companionable companionship with him totally unaffected by my question.

So what are your thoughts? Can you go back to being buds after someone lets you know they want to advance to the next level? Will simply asking the question make someone too uncomfortable to be around me in the future? We’re talking about a guy who really does not want to hurt anybody ever again, and really does not want to get hurt ever again, who may get really uncomfortable sitting next to me in a darkened theater knowing that I really would rather be making smiles than small talk.

If it’s been over a year, I’d say all he is, and is ever going to be, is a pal. If, after a year, he is still not comfortable enough with you (or himself) to get over his fear of being hurt, then it will never be anything more than friendship.

Are you sure he looks at this as a romantic relationship?

He may be wonderful, but if after this length of time he is still keeping you at arm’s length, and you want more, it is time to move on.

IMHO been there, done that opinion.

But if it were me, and I enjoyed you purely on a friendly basis, and one day you told me that you wanted something more, I wouldn’t be offended or weirded out.

Provided that was the only thing you said about it, and if I said that I wasn’t interested, and then you said that was okay, changed the subject, and went right back to treating me exactly the same as before, I doubt I would think about it more than once or twice ever again.

Now admittedly I’ve never had this happen to me, but that’s my gut feeling.
That said, I suspect that lorinada is right about how he feels about you. You seem like you can handle that, and if he’s like me then it won’t hurt to ask, so if you really do want to know, my opinion is to go for it but don’t be surprised at the answer you hear.
-Ben

One of my best friends (we’ve been close for over a decade), out of the blue (to me, at least) asked me if I would ever consider him as a romantic partner. It damn near killed me to say no to him, but I did.

We are still friends.

Now, I was a wee bit peeved at him for asking, since after a decade, you’d think he’d know better, but I got over it. So I say, ask him. Be prepared to accept whatever reaction he has with as much grace and aplomb as you can muster, and blithely forge on, is my advice.

Good luck, and here’s to hoping he jumps your bones.

Forgive me for being blunt, but are you reasonably attractive? If a likely possible reason for rejecting you would be “you’re too fat” or “you’re too ugly” and he has to scramble to think of a tactful response, it’s going to make him uncomfortable and you embarrassed and things probably aren’t going to go well.

Or maybe he’s wrestling with the very same question you are asking us. Who knows?

I’ve been friends with a woman for more than thirty years. Almost thirty years ago I hinted rather broadly that I though marriage between us would be a good idea. She told me much less broadly that I was a bad risk. At the time I drank too much, was a heavy smoker, and was overweight. She said quite frankly that she wanted to be married a long time, and it appeared I might not have ten good years left in me the way I was going. She didn’t say that she would marry me if those risk factors went away. Two of them did (I no longer smoke or drink at all), but I’m more porky than before.

The point is that after thirty years we are still friends. I went to her wedding, now more than twenty years ago, wished her and her husband the best, and meant it. He’s a good man, and she appeares to have gotten what she wanted, and deserves.

I was not the least put off or insulted by what she said. She was right. If I’d had any sense I would have shed the weight and stopped drinking and smoking then, and asked her flat out to marry me. That I didn’t is one of the great regrets of my life. I love her very much, and for that reason I’m truly glad that she has a stable and happy marriage. We are and always will be friends.

are you and he mature people? be objective, now!

i’ve had this happen to me thrice, and the only instance the friendship has continued normally after i rejected the ‘proposing’ party was the one case where he was a sensible, mature, objective man. the other two friendships skidded along for a while with the men trying to do the friend thing, but eventually they fizzled out. one quite badly, i might add.

quite frankly, though, i would risk it. the one time i stuck my neck out, he said yes. we’re still together! :smiley:

good luck!

I think this is the case.

I say push the envelope!

You didn’t ask for an estimate of the situation, but may I suggest that maybe you pal is feeling the same uncertainty as you do. As a man, I’ve had several occasions where I was with a girl and wasn’t really sure whether she would be open for some more romantic developments. So you sit there in the movie or the theatre and are both wondering whether you should touch hands or not. Only afterwards I found out that she was misreading my signals in the same way I was.

Okay, I may be particularly dim-witted in this respect, but it may wel be your wonderful friend doesn’t have much of an intuition in this respect, either. With some girls it seems harder to cross the line from pals to possible romantic interests. It has to do with body language; if you are the type of girl who isn’t in the habit of friendly touching people or standing or leaning close, but instead sit upright and keep physical distance, you may send an unconscious signal: stay off. Particularly if the guy values your friendship (and I get the impression that he really does), he feels in the same bind as you do.

Now for your question: what to do? Apparently you are not afraid for a negative reaction (given your hypothetical MIB example), which is good. You are only afraid to lose the friendship. I would be very surprised if a man would react in the manner you fear. In the past I’ve had some signals of female friends who at the time were interested while I wasn’t. One even asked, during a conversation about my previous girlfriend, whether it would be possible for me to fall in love with her, to which I replied that I didn’t see that at the moment (she was good-looking, but a really different type of girl than the one still on my mind). In all cases I still continued to see them without any strange feelings.

For men it is mostly flattering if a woman is interested. Only the ‘jock’-type of men would be harsh or cruel about it, and I don’t think your guy is like that at all. The other way around it is more difficult, as I’ve found out to my regret. Women may feel a bit threatened if a man (subtly) expresses an interest for more than friendship. I can’t blame them, but I’m still sorry of having in this way lost touch with some people. This may explain the reluctance of your friend. (Rereading your OP makes me notice that your friend is much more sensitive than most, so that makes it clear why you are afraid to go too far too quickly)

Now for what you can do about it. You may try bringing up the subject more subtly: what does he look for in a woman (or have you already had that conversation?). You may try to touch him: there should be opportunities for a quick gentle touch when he offers you your drink or so. You may try to sit closer to him, or even lean your head on his shoulder, to show you are comfortable with his physical presence. Of course these are still subtle messages, but they may help him to gather courage if he needs it. They also make it possible for you to estimate his reaction. If you both feel comfortable sitting next to each other, you leaning against him, it is quite natural to put your arm around his waist or even for you to grab his arm and put it around yours. If he really isn’t interested, at some point he will show reluctance. Then you may have your answer, without having the awkwardness of a conscious and open refusal. But do not be too quick to assume that there is reluctance! Some of it may just be involuntary reaction because you aren’t yet so close. If it is however a case of slowly but consciously withdrawing his hand, I guess he is not interested.

Does all this make any sense to you? Since I’m no Casanova either, you may want to listen to others (including the earlier posters) too, who may have better (and possible contradictory) advice.

Alternatively you can introduce him to the wonders of SDMB and let him ‘accidently’ find this thread. Then see whether he chimes in with an ‘I know exactly what you are talking about. There is this girl I’m dating for a year…’

:eek: Say, you don’t live over here, do you? There is this girl I’m seeing for a while now… (just kidding, I’ve gone in the handholding stage already)

My advice would be to start with some non-sexual physical contact, such as a hug to see what his reaction is. If he seems to like hugging you, you can look up appealingly and if he’s interested at all, he’ll kiss you.

It can happen. I went on a date with a friend (two actually) but she realized I wasn’t her type. I will leave any discussion as to what that entails to other disintersted parties.

We still talk on a regular basis and I consider us to be friends. As for the being threatened aspect on the woman’s side, I hope not. While I still find her to be one of the most attractive women I know as well as easily the among the smartest, I’d rather stay friends than try to risk what there is by pursuing a romatic involvement that I’m pretty sure won’t materialize.

Plus I have a gf so there is that added complication!

I have asked about a half-dozen of my friends if they were interested in romantic/sexual relationships and been turned down. Of that group, I have lost only one as a friend, and that was largely because I handled it really badly. (Another one moved away shortly afterwards, and I haven’t been in contact with them since, but that’s a different issue - we were both part of a religious group that fragmented, and we were on opposite sides of the schism.) In at least one case, it opened up parts of the friendship that we hadn’t known we could have, so it was a very positive experience (even though I didn’t get any sex out of it).

So it isn’t invaraibly a bad idea. But you do have to be very careful, and very tactful. YMMV.

Depends on each individual. I have a very close female friend who turned me down when we first starting hanging out. Of course, I was hurt. But I reasoned that, if I liked her well enough to want to date her, why would I not like her enough to be friends? And we are now very close and I’m glad for her friendship.

I’d say the thing to do is find out how he feels. If he’s not interested romantically, there’s no problem, now is there?.
But if he is, getting it out of the way and not stringing him along for a greater amount of time is a good idea, since the longer that sort of thing goes on, the more trouble it leads to when dispelled.

It’s certainly possible to be friends after turning someone down (reject isn’t a good thing to do, being nice about it is good idea numero uno). My best friend turned me down when I asked her out almost seven years ago, and I dated another close friend of mine.
It’s definitely worth noting, however, that bringing the subject up isn’t necessarily consequence free, and can lead to awkwardness even if he’s not interested in you. I’d venture that if the guy hasn’t even tried to hold your hand after a year, you’re probably safe. Assuming may not be a good idea, though.

I’d say it is definitely possible, depending on how someone is turned down.

I was quite interested in someone last year, and we got very close. He knew I was attracted to him, and he seemed to feel the same way towards me.

Apparently he changed his mind about that, takes me aside one day and tells me. It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but what he said was so insulting that we didn’t speak to each other for awhile. We’re friends again, but even now, 8 months later, things are still a little distanced. We talk, but not nearly as much and we have tense moments that make things strained and uncomfortable for both of us.

“I’d say it is definitely possible, depending on how someone is turned down.”

Yes, always be gentle.

No guts no glory. I’d definitely ask him but you might want to phrase it in such a way that he knows you value his friendship above all else but have grown so fond of him that you’ve wondered what the possibilities might be of taking it a step further. If he rejects you then let him know you repect his feelings. It might be awkward for a while but iof you are really close you can work through it.

My story. Met a guy I was totally infatuated with. HE rejected me, he was interested in someone else and I nearly died. I was sooo hurt. But I plowed through it mostly out of a determination to not seem pathetic and I refused to let him see how much I liked him. We remained friends and actually grew quite close. Eventually I told him how much I cared but by that time we lived about 1,000 miles from each other and only saw each other occaisionally. We’ve continued our friendship for more than 5 years. Recently he told me he is moving to my town (I highly suspect because of me though he son’t admit that) and I had to tell him I wasn’t interested anymore in anything beyond friendship. OUCH, that hurt more than him rejecting me. Right now he isn’t speaking to me but I know when he gets over his initial pain, we will continue to be friends and maybe be closer than we have been.

Such great advice from everyone. We are both mature, sensible people, both divorced for over five years and mostly over the divorce trauma. We met through a personals ad, so I had every expectation of this relationship progressing. We are both shy, and relatively inexperienced: he married the only girl he ever dated, and while I dated someone briefly after my divorce, I’m no party girl.

I have been as affectionate as he will allow. While I haven’t tried to hug him, I’ve kissed him on the cheek several times as thank-you’s for gifts or special help, and he never pulls away when our arms or legs touch. He just never reaches for me. He is extremely respectful…always gets out of the car to open the door for me, holds my coat…and we share our popcorn and candy and he even lets me steal sips from his beer. He listens to what I say, remembers details and laughs at my jokes. He’s a bit insecure about his looks, his body…but so am I. He calls me as much as I call him. He’s practically perfect, and I want him in my life forever, as friend or lover…bur preferably both.

Thanks for all the advice…I’ll let you know if I ever get brave enough to push this envelope. Or if I find one of those M.I.B. gizmos on ebay.

I was once the person that offered romantic advances to a friend. I went into it with no other expectations but with the hopes that whatever the outcome we could remain friends. Although his response wasn’t what I hoped for at the time we have remained friends and with a little distance, I see it was lucky that nothing happened between us. It did take a bit of effort not to be embarassed when I saw him next, but we both refused to let it come between us.

When I told him about my feelings, I did so by e. Although that may seem gutless, it also gives the other person the opportunity to make a measured response, not blurt out a “hell, no!” without thought. In other words, because I knew my feelings, I was able to think of all the possible permutations in advance. Springing it on someone else takes away that opportunity for them. It seems sort of like ambushing them.

Best of luck to you,

StG