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I've met a girl in my department at university, and although I wasn't initially interested in her, she would often laugh at my dumbest jokes and flash me unwarranted smiles, so I thought perhaps she might be interested in me. We traveled to a conference together and thus had quite a lot of time to chat and get to know each other. She even agreed to go out to dinner with me one night, and we enjoyed ourselves and discovered that we both like many of the same things, from food to art to music and more. (Several weeks later, we returned to a subject of conversation from that night, and to my surprise, she was able to quote verbatim some of the things I told her over dinner!) I ended up paying for the cab+dinner, and despite my protests, she promised to pay me back.

It took her a long time and a lot of effort to find the cash to pay me back, because she's an international student and the closest branch of her bank is far from our small university town. As a token of gratitude and to express my affection, I decided to do something special for her: I purchased some high-quality looseleaf tea, stitched my own teabags, and gave it to her as a little handmade gift. To my horror, she seemed very disgruntled by the gift. I didn't get a chance to explain why I gave the gift: she took it, smiled, said "thanks I'll try it" and practically ran away. Ever since, she has been extremely awkward around me, averting her gaze, avoiding me every chance she can get, not responding to emails, refusing to initiate conversations with me, and abruptly ending conversations that I try to start with her. She has not mentioned what she thought of the tea or if she even tried it. However, she seems to be on very good terms with the other students in the department.

I'm very concerned that I have somehow offended this girl or made her uncomfortable, and I don't know how to proceed. I feel like I should forget about her, but I'm confused and depressed about how her apparent interest in me has evaporated so quickly. At this point, I'm having trouble deciding whether I should:

  1. Leave her alone and never speak to her again. This is highly undesirable, but maybe she'd be happiest if I vanished from her life.

  2. Apologize. This seems like it would make the situation even more awkward.

  3. Pretend it never happened, and after giving her time and space, continue to interact with her as before, with the intention of one day telling her how I feel about her. I guess this is the ideal scenario for me.

How can I once again be on friendly, talking terms with her, and if possible, have her regain her interest in me?

Background information: I'm Asian American, and she's Eastern European. We're both beginning graduate students.

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The 3 options you propose are not good at all and only contribute to the awkwardness.

How can you again be on friendly terms?

If you really want that, have an honest talk with her, that is what friends do. Explain how you felt and what you thought, and ask her how she saw these events from her perspective. Just be honest, you are adults, you were not stalking her or creeping her out. From your story, it seems she indeed liked you. It sounds like you two could've been great friends, and then you became romantically interested, and she got scared by that, and now she avoids you so she doesn't have to deal with the awkwardness. Maybe she has a boyfriend in eastern europe, or she's just not interested right now. It will stop being awkward if the two of you can have an honest conversation about it. Then you can probably be friends again. Be honest about your feelings. If you were romantically interested, don't try to hide that, just aknowledge the truth of what happened.

It might be intimidating to think about it and to try to plan it, but after you have an eye to eye talk with her you will feel much better. You need to break the ice.

If you were only interested romantically and don't want to be "just friends", then you can just move on without further actions. When I first read your title I thought "It's clear she's not interested, leave her alone", because I thought you didn't have a prior relationship with her. After reading the description, I understood you two were becoming very good friends, so that is probably salvageable.

"Hey Barbara, I would really like to talk to you, I feel there is a cold between us since the other day when I gave you that tea. Our friendship is valuable for me. I felt that we have a lot in common and I have to admit I became interested in you romantically, and I wanted to show you some affection with the gift. However I understand if you are not looking for that and you can just tell it to me like it is. Like this or like that I still want to continue being your friend, you're very fun to talk to, and my dog already loves you too much. How did you feel about all of this ? Did I offend you or made you sad ?"

This is an example. With a text like this you show that you are "above" just wanting sex with her. Brush off that rejection like it's nothing, show that for you, the friendship is still intact and that is what matters. Treat it like if you offered her an ice cream and she said no: no big deal, that's just more ice cream for you. It will be a lot less awkward for her.

After this you should invite her to non-threatening activities, like events with other friends, not just one-on-one, or lunch between two classes instead of dinner. Don't pay for her things anymore, unless she is in a pickle, like a friend would do. Once things are smooth and everyone is happy and non-threatened again, you can do activities together again like hiking or skating, etc. Maybe one day she will feel love for you, maybe not. Maybe one day she will want you and you will not want her anymore. You should give it up for now, If her answer is no, don't insist on pursuing her. It will always be a touchy subject between opposite-sex friends, the key is honesty, transparency and understanding.

I was in such a situation before where I was pursuing a woman that was a very good friend to me but didn't want more. She was showing a big interest in preserving the friendship, while I didn't feel comfortable pretending that I was just her friend. We had many awkward times during this, but every little bit of honest discussion that we had helped to alleviate the pressure. Everything that was hidden or held back contributed to the awkwardness, while everything that was made clear could then be discussed in a light-hearted way.

13

It is hard to guess what happened without being on your shoes, but it may be you scared her away. She clearly found you nice, you share many hobbies, have similar sense of humor so she liked spending time with you and having some laughs. Then, one day, you propose going out to dinner, and you end paying for both dinner and transport... despite her protests. That's a key in every relationship: pay attention to the signs your partner is giving. It could have been just a formal politeness, but it could have been that, by paying, you were making a dinner with a friend into something like a date, and maybe she didn't want to date you. In my (admittedly scarce) experience in dating (western) women, sharing the bill is a way of keeping all options open without signaling interest.

Then, a few days after that, you give her a present which yells out "SPECIAL" in a way nobody could mistake for a casual thing you would do for everyone else. It looks like she thinks you have a romantic interest in her (is she right?) and more likely than not, she doesn't reciprocate, so she has cut ties with you to prevent having to break your heart.

Now, I don't know if any of this is true, and neither do you, but with this possibility in mind I'd refrain to attempt direct contacts with her. Give her time and space, and maybe try to investigate more about the subject. If you are friends with some of the other students she's going with you may ask them to make some subtle investigations - you can invite some of them to partake in some activity, and telling her to join just to see what's her reaction, or if you have a friend who's close enough to both of you, asking what does she thinks about you.

  • She paid me back more than a month after the dinner, but thanks for the helpful response! – Kristoll Apr 16 at 8:27
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    @Kristoll Which is the clue that, to me, pointed more strongly than anything the lengths she went to make sure she wasn't dating you. – Rekesoft Apr 16 at 8:47
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I've found myself in a slightly similar situation before when trying online dating, where the other person I was talking to would disappear from the conversation for a length of time. I will try to answer my thoughts for the three options you were considering.

Sometimes the person would disappear after I tried some extra flirty line or asked about something personal. In these cases I would generally wait a day or so and if they haven't replied send a loose apology as you considered for your 2nd option, something like:

Hey sorry if that was moving too fast, (insert a change of topic back to a previous safer topic)

I like this method as it takes notice of their change in behavior and attempts to mend any damage.

If there was no discomfort for them and the change in behavior was unrelated to you, now you've determined that it's safe to move into the 3rd option, pretend like nothing happened and interact as before.

If there was some discomfort you should back off immediately to where they feel comfortable again. This may be difficult to keep at their comfortable distance after you tried to get closer, its very important that you reflect on yourself at this point, if you're not comfortable keeping that distance it may be best to go with your 1st option, apologize and let them know you need time to gather yourself and to let your feelings for them fade. This reflection is important as you can quickly burn bridges permanently in skipping this.

Of course keep in mind, my experience here is largely from online dating sites where expectations from people here will be different from people you meet going about your day.

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Ever since, she has been extremely awkward around me, averting her gaze, avoiding me every chance she can get, not responding to emails, refusing to initiate conversations with me, and abruptly ending conversations that I try to start with her.

So, she is avoiding you. I believe I would too, if someone from my class/work, who was not my romantic interest and not a close friend would give me handmade stitched teabags. I am female from eastern Europe, and when we want to thank someone, we simply say thanks, and maybe buy a small chocolate (not too expensive). Even with bought chocolate it might have been seen as excessive gesture, after you tried to pay for her and she insisted you don't.

Best respectful way to act is to leave her alone. She clearly does not want to talk, and the more you push (even with apologies), the more you will push her away. Maybe after some time she will change her mind, maybe not, but you really should respect her wishes.

Don't talk to her unless you absolutely must, and even then, do not engage in personal conversation unless she starts it herself. Keep it about work/assignment. Talk to other people, joke with other people. Let her feel safe.

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    Hi user11599! I love your first paragraph, as you explain who you are, where you're from, and what you usually do to thank people. Can you do the same for the next two, and add some extra information on your suggested approaches? Have you used similar approaches before when dealing with someone avoiding you/being uncomfortable? That would bring them more in line with our citation expectations and great answer guidelines. – Tinkeringbell Apr 17 at 16:53

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