You know that one guy friend of yours who’s always been something of a question in the back of your mind? The one who finishes your sentences and is there for you whenever you need him, but whom you’ve never actually gotten naked with? You know the one – he’s the prime candidate for your “If we’re not married by the time we’re 45” pact.
I have one of those guys in my life, and recently, after evaluating what it was that I’m really looking for in a relationship and thinking it might be him, I decided to take the leap. I vowed to be brave and bold and all mature-like and actually address aloud what had been unsaid for all this time.
So, I did exactly that. And basically, this happened. To my complete and utter surprise, he explained that I’d totally misread his signals; that, in fact, he hadn’t thought of me in that way for a very long time.
Where, in my interpretation of things, had I gone so utterly wrong? When I argued my side of things to my former would-be boyfriend, who’d just stomped out those daydreams as quickly as you put out a cigarette, he was adamant about how wrong I’d been in drumming up sexual tension where there was none. You see, he really cared for me as a person, but not at all as someone he’d forge a relationship with. Here’s what he says I mis-translated. (Note: Can we get a Rosetta Stone language-learning pack for flirting going? I’d totally purchase this.)
False Flirting #1: He had stated that his former girlfriend had felt threatened by me, and said she probably was right to feel threatened. I translated this as his way of saying that he wanted to do bad things to me, when really he was referring to her feeling threatened by our close friendship, knowing that he tells me personal things about himself and his relationships.
False Flirting #2: Lots of touching. He’s a hugger and an arm-arounder and the consistency of these touches led me to believe he’d also like to hug me while in bed. He says he’s just very comfortable with me and affectionate with his friends, which is why he touches me like that.
False Flirting #3: There were constant knowing glances being exchanged between the two of us. If one of our friends referenced something about his past, he’d look at me and smile, etc. There were a lot of these “I know you so well” looks being exchanged in public. It set the two of us apart from the group, and over time it started to feel like we had something special. The reality of it is that we do know each other well; we’ve known each other for effing years!
False Flirting #4: Intense goodbyes. I’m not sure how to describe these, exactly, except to say that when we part ways, it never feels super casual, the way it does with my other guy friends. I always saw this as us acknowledging that there was something else we wanted to say. I think the truth is that he just really likes being around me (as a friend) and was never sure when he’d see me next, since our schedules don’t often match.
In my own defense, one aspect of our friendship that definitively led to some of my confusion is that we do have a romantic history. Granted, it’s an ancient history, but a history nonetheless. Those memories indeed added to my (poor) assessment of our (non) situation.
The best advice about reading signals I’ve received is from one of my guy friends who explained to me that when it comes to men, what they want is expressed only though actions—not through words. Words can help reinforce the meanings behind actions, but words alone can’t be counted on. I’d have to say that this actions-over-words rule can be applied to both sexes. While women do rely on subtleties more often than men, when it comes down to it, we know what we want and most of us try to make it happen.
Really, maybe the reason things were left “unsaid” for so long between my guy and me is partially because I wasn’t feeling so sold on the idea of us as a couple either. And then, once I finally decided it could work, it was just too late.
Recently, I’ve been out with an exceedingly upfront guy who lives by this actions-over-words mantra. On our first date, he explained that if I was going to wait four days to see him again, then I could count myself out because if I wasn’t seeing him for a half a week, then clearly I wasn’t that interested in seeing him at all. If I’d have stumbled upon this guy a few weeks ago, I’d have likely questioned his demanding nature and defended my set weekly schedule, but given my current perspective, I was grateful for his willingness to create a situation where we didn’t have to read between the lines. And yes – we did go out again – a day later, so that neither of us had to wonder whether or not we really wanted to.