Dear Michele – Friends First

Dear Michele,
Although I am clear that I’m looking for fellowship and friendship first in developing a relationship, my dates are not understanding or accepting it. They start calling me romantic nick names, or try to kiss me in a romantic way on the first or second dates. I make a second attempt to make myself clear stating that I would like a friendship first and prefer to move very slowly and it doesn’t seem to register. Now I find myself wanting to disengage totally as my boundaries have not been respected. Sometimes I’m told I just need to relax as if I’ve got a problem. Not respecting my boundaries places me on the defensive. Starting any relationship based on a friendship is very important to me and I would like to have your opinion on how I can develop a friendship with a male without him wanting to turn the clock forward.
Signed,
Friends First?

Dear Friends First,
It does sound like you have a dilemma. Since we can’t talk to or work with every male out there that you might encounter, let’s start with what you can do on your side. I’m going to suggest that there is a possibility you are sending mixed messages. Your verbal communication make it clear that you are looking only for friendship, but it’s possibly that your behavior or the way you engage interpersonally is somehow sending a different message.

Let’s start with how you describe your “dates” not understanding or accepting it. A friend is not a date. If you see (and call) these males as dates, then you may be responding to them as a date. Friends go dutch. Dates pay for meals and entertainment. Friends go places in groups and involve others in their activities. Dates go out one-on-one. Friends sometimes meet each other out. Dates pick you up. Friends can “go casual,” but with dates you pick out a nice outfit and tend to dress up. Which one of these sounds like you?

If you truly want friendship first, then you have to act like a friend. Treat the men you meet the same way you treat a friend. If you show up at events looking like a couple, talk of intimacies that are normally shared only with potential romantic partners, or expect a man to call, make a date, and then pay, it’s hard to ask him to see you as just friends.

Get some feedback from others around you. And moving forward, make sure you do group activities, you meet him at the location rather than letting him pick you up, don’t let him pay for everything, and limit time in intimate settings. And ask yourself, are you looking for the feeling of companionship that only comes from a date, but then asking to define the relationship as only friends? After some self-exploration, it’s totally acceptable to want to be friends first and everyone desires to have their boundaries respected, you just have to go about it in a delicate and deliberate way.

Hope that helps,
Michele Fleming, Ph.D.

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