Some male friends of mine in an anime group would bitch and moan about girls that they would ask out and would get the reply of “Let’s be friends.” Their main complain was that while they were ok with that concept it always turned out that the girl would then start avoiding them and not be a friend. The guys would bitch and moan about why the girl couldn’t just say what she meant, that she didn’t want to be around a guy anymore once she found out the guy was romantically interested in her.
So this came out as “Let’s be friends” is a lie and should never be said. I felt bad about this because I was a girl and friends with these guys and I would want to continue to be friends. I felt that due to their anger (which was justified) they were painting things with too broad a brush.
Then, years later, a friend told me he was interested in me. He is from out of the country and so I went out of my way when he would visit the area. He took this to mean I was possibly interested in him. I had no interest in him beyond being a friend. And so Let’s be friends was the solution. And I thought I was good with that. I had no problem being a friend. At that time.
And after he left and time went on, I thought about it. I looked back over the couple of years of our friendship and saw things in a different light. He would send me things from his home country and that was fine for a friend but they felt wrong if they were because he was interested in me. Things started feeling uncomfortable and when I thought of him I would get uncomfortable. I started being very careful about what I would say or do in regards to him.
I stopped wanting to be a friend because I was no longer comfortable. He really didn’t change or do anything different. It was all in how I perceived things.
I turned into one of those girls that said Let’s be friends and then wasn’t. I wanted to explain to the anime guys that the girls weren’t lying to them. When they said it they meant it. They weren’t saying a little white lie so as not to hurt the guy’s feelings. But over time, it turned into a lie. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to bring it up latter on that isn’t just a smack in the face.
“Oh by the way, you know how I said Let’s be friends? Well I have changed my mind. I am too uncomfortable around you and can’t be friends anymore.” This is not something anyone wants to start a conversation with or hear. There was a time for it and it passed when the feeling of friendship was still there.
I am sad to say, I ended up drifting away from this friend without a word. I honestly don’t know how I would handle it differently with him. He wasn’t a close friend, more like part of a circle of friends I saw at cons. I stopped going to those cons and had to drop a lot of those friends.
I have a theory to try. When an occasion comes up where I am aware that this might be a possibility, I mention it and say it is ok to have a change of heart on either side. I am thinking this leaves an opening for later discussion and a peaceful parting instead of just disappearing. Or maybe even letting the other person know that disappearing will be interpreted this way. Kind of an agreement on how to handle it if it comes up.
I have still to test this theory. I had one guy that admitted he was interested in me and said it was his problem because he knew I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. That made me feel safe and good and ok to do stuff with him. Two weeks later we were dating. Turns out I am a sucker for being cared about and this guy was on my list of possibilities. That wouldn’t happen with the guys that don’t make the list.
I have been on the other side where I was the interested party. When I would check in with him on if we could still be friends (because his friendship was very important to me), he would say he liked me and wanted me around and to know give up on him. Over the next two years since I haven’t heard from him outside of running into him at con when he is working, I think I have finally figured I have been Let’s be friends-ed and have started the process of letting go of wanting that friendship.
I did have another male friend that I was somewhat gaga over that wasn’t interested in me. I wasn’t his type, but he enjoyed my friendship. We would talk about it now and again but we were able to remain friends. That blew up for different reasons I believe since it was over 8 months later when things went down hill.
A lot of how my theory will work will have to do with how honest you can be both with others and with yourself.