Are we just friends?

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Are we just friends?

Unread postby roops » 24 October 2021, 19:24

I met a guy a few years ago online and had 5 or so good dates with him. I was working through some personal things at the time (which he didn't know about) that kept me from giving the relationship the energy it needed to progress any further. He was clearly interested and I think my behavior probably made me come off as politely not interested. He started dating someone else, and even though I was bummed, it was hard to blame him. We stayed in touch because we have a lot of similar interests and became friends.

After a year, he split up with the new boyfriend, and we reconnected in person right around the time the vaccines came out and social life started to come back, about six months ago. Since then we've grown to be super close friends. I've met his group of friends and he has met mine. We've also made new friends together and have gone on weekend trips with others. We live in a city with a vibrant gay scene and have become buddies in navigating it, including talking about our dates and encounters and all of that.

We are both gay men in our 30s, and I probably don't need to explain to anyone on this board how difficult it can be to make and keep gay friends. So while all of this has been wonderful for that reason, it also raises the stakes because it would be devastating to mess it up.

Somewhat suddenly in the past few weeks, I've noticed the vibe changing between us, mostly in casual, private moments (for example, we live close to each other and often walk home together from parties or being out with friends). Things like an arm around the shoulder, goodbye hugs lasting longer, etc. Nothing overtly sexual but also not strictly platonic. On different occasions, we've talked about how much we value our friendship, vented about our frustrations with dating, and said I love you. A few days ago, we were tipsy after a party and held hands for about 20 minutes on our way home.

All of this has allowed me to admit to myself that I always did want more than friendship, but I have been pushing those feelings down so I wouldn't drive away my new best friend. Even though I feel I was the one responsible for our initial dating period fizzling out, I also still feel a small sting of rejection from when he got together with his (ex)boyfriend, and it's embarrassing to think about forcing him to "reject" me again.

Even though the holding hands and other stuff seems pretty obvious, I'm worried that I'm deep in the friend zone and mistaking it for something more. He still talks freely about dates he goes on. And because I'm so afraid, I keep forcing myself out on dates and talk to him about them too, just to signal that everything is cool. If I say something and he doesn't reciprocate, I know it would be genuinely hard for him to hurt me, so I've been trying to preserve a sense of normalcy even as we've been starting to express more feelings.

The kicker is that we are going on a weeklong vacation next month, just the two of us. It's to a place I've wanted to go for a while and happens to be one of his favorites. He had initially proposed it to a group of three of us, but the third person couldn't go. I have a hard time thinking of many friends I would want to travel with in that way, and I'm terrified that he's only comfortable with it because he sees me as safe. Which is very reasonable because we are great friends.

While I would love to chicken out and continue bottling up my feelings indefinitely, I am becoming resigned to the fact that eventually, a conversation will happen. I don't see how I can get through this trip without bringing it up or doing something stupid. He is so special to me and I would absolutely rather have him as a friend than not at all. Rocking the boat feels incredibly risky.

Can anyone relate? Is there something obvious that I am missing? Have I deluded myself into thinking he might feel the same way I do? How am I going to survive this vacation? Thanks everyone.
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Re: Are we just friends?

Unread postby pozzie » 24 October 2021, 20:56

My question is why can't you be good friends and have a relationship? Or, if you're thinking about a relationship and either don't know his interest or know he's actively NOT interested in that then that should be your guide. Go on the trip and enjoy yourself and let the rest come as it may. If he gives you a kiss - you'll know more what he's thinking. If you want to kiss him but don't know how he'd react, ask him. "Would it be okay if we kissed?" Okay, that feels a bit like these consent requirements at some colleges, but the idea is be positive in your desire - don't say, "It would be weird if we kissed, wouldn't it" since that sets up a negative situation.

To me, talking about dating other people might make sense since you guys don't have any sort of commitment to each other and you're acting like friends. It doesn't preclude being able to have something more. Hell, this sounds like a great situation that could grow into a very good match. Once again, it seems like a perfect situation for a talk rather than making assumptions. "I really enjoy spending time with you and I'm wondering if you're open to something more happening." Of course defining something more is the important part.

Prepare yourself for the range of possible answers he might give but try to be open to them all. So, for example, if he said, "I really like our friendship, but I don't see you in that way." Then you can say, "That's okay. I was just checking in." and you can adjust your feelings and expectations accordingly. The key though is to not feel hurt if he doesn't reciprocate -- not being hurt takes work, confidence, and doesn't mean you're 'bad' or anything. There are a whole host of reasons he might not want a relationship right now and they might not have much to do with you. "I just want to date and get to know guys right now." makes a ton of sense, especially as people emerge after the pandemic.

If he responds favorably, then what's the worry? ;)
— formerly pozboro
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