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I met someone at a party last weekend through our mutual friends. We got along pretty well and realized we had some common interests. We discussed a lot until I was called by a friend to help with the barbecue and when I came back, they'd left (they were not feeling well because of a combination of tiredness and too much drinking).

I really liked talking to them and they told me the feeling was mutual. I'd like to see whether we could become friends. The thing is, I don't know how to tell them I'd like to either chat online or meet - in order to see if we could become friends - without letting them think I'm romantically interested in them. They know I'm married but I didn't have the chance to see whether they were bothered by it because I told them shortly before I left to help my friend. We talked about meeting again for coffee but that was before they knew about my spouse so I don't know whether that was supposed to be a date.

I'd like to befriend them but I don't want them to think something romantic could happen between us. I don't have their number but we're friends on social media. They haven't talked to me online since the party, except when I asked them whether they were feeling okay after leaving because of illness.

How could I tell them that I'd like to keep talking to them and see if we can become friends without letting them think I'm romantically interested in them?

Additional info:

  • I've had trouble in the past where I tried to befriend someone who then thought I wanted to date them. I'm autistic and my way of expressing interest in getting to know someone is sometimes likely to be confused with romantic interest.
  • If it's not possible to convey my interest in a friendship without seeming romantically interested, then I'd rather not contact them again.
  • They told me they're single when we were discussing.
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    This seems rather similar to interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/19511/… – DaveG Jul 8 at 17:17
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    @DaveG it is related indeed. However, this coworker I used to see every day (I left my job but we've become friends before I quit). In this case the only way to talk is via social media. – avazula Jul 8 at 18:41
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    I met someone at a party and I'd like to keep talking to them is one or multiple people? because if are multiple I guess the non romantic subtext is implicit. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jul 10 at 22:25
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    @JuanCarlosOropeza "they" refer to the "someone" in question. I used singular they to refer to this person. Essentially, it's used when you don't know the person's gender/preferred pronouns or do not wish to disclose this information about them. – avazula Jul 11 at 8:47
100

If you want to meet with someone but don't want them to think you are considering romance, invite them and their partner (if any) to get together with you and your partner / spouse. That makes it clear that nothing is "under the table" or hidden, you are interested in a social encounter rather than a romantic encounter.

This advice is based on personal experience. For example, when I invited a female classmate that I knew casually out to grab some food, she invited her partner along with us. Made everything clear and aboveboard in a friendly and natural manner.

30

Be explicit

I've had this problem a few times, and my choice was always to make it completely explicit. By this I mean stating "I have a partner and nothing romantic is on the table". Of course, don't say this in an accusatory tone, just as matter-of-factly as you can.

It is possible that this may make certain people lose interest in trying to befriend you. I believe as long as you don't make a big deal out of this, the only people who would feel alienated are those that would just pursue a friendship as a means to reach a romantic relationship, which is something that you wouldn't want anyways in this situation. A phrasing I've employed in the past (on which I got no negative feedback) would translate as:

Hey, X, I've really enjoyed talking with you, and would like to treat you to coffee and get to know each other better. Just to avoid misunderstandings, I have a partner and no interest in other romantic relationships.

While some people I've said this to have seemed surprised at the abruptness, none seem to have felt alienated, and no misunderstandings have appeared down the line. Just avoid repeating it unless necessary, since after the first time insistence could be interpreted as aggressive or self-affirming.

  • +1. I would change the "romantic" word in your phrasing though. Casual sex isn't romantic at all – Blueriver Jul 10 at 20:23
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    @Blueriver I agree it's not a perfect fit, but I struggle to find a better word. Non-frendly? Intimate? All I can think about have their own set of problems – LordHieros Jul 10 at 20:51
  • I don't really know. It's clear, and maybe the best way to avoid misunderstandings if that is the dominant goal, but it also feels very heavy-handed. Dave and Blueriver's suggestions appear a lot more natural to me. – xLeitix Jul 11 at 9:39
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    @Blueriver wouldn't that be going even further in the "too harsh" direction? – LordHieros Jul 11 at 16:22
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    @Reubens4Dinner As I understand it, "platonic" means "nothing physical (certainly no sex)", but it can still means "romantic" (exclusive, quite emotional). I would not speak about a normal friendship as "a platonic relationship". – Suma Jul 12 at 13:33
3

I really like Dave's and Blueriver's answer, but I would like to add one specific additional facet:

Emphasize what you want to do / experience with them, de-emphasize the hanging out and connecting on a personal level aspect.

In my experience, if you ask somebody who you just met and who is of the appropriate gender to, basically, "hang out", it's easy to interpret this as a date. This in particular includes "let's have dinner together" and "let's go to the cinema together" (both cliche first date kind of activities). However, if you rather ask for a specific activity (the one that you talked about previously), it communicates that you care about finding somebody with a shared interest and not a romantic partner:

  • "Hey, I have been looking for a tennis partner since ages. Would you mind playing with me on Sunday?"
  • "I really liked talking to you about this board game yesterday. Should we get together and play some time?"
  • "There is a language cafe on Thursday evening at X. My partner isn't really interested in learning languages, so I was wondering if you would join me?"

None of these requests would at all sound like a date to me. If you can combine it with the suggestions of Dave and Blueriver (make it a group activity, and/or including your partner), it's all the clearer. Note that friendships often form around common interests. In my experience it's rare for people to start a friendship by just meeting over coffee and talking about whatever. This is what friends do, but usually at a time when the friendship has matured. Initially, people attend the same class, play in the same soccer team, or listen to the same concert. Trying to jump this phase by immediately moving on into the "just hanging out" phase is what can give the other side the wrong idea.

Warning: this suggestion works less well if the shared activity happens to be one traditionally associated with dates (e.g., restaurant, cinema, going to a concert, or, $deity forbid, watching Netflix). In this case I would strongly suggest involving more people. That's of course not to say that you can never go to the cinema alone with a friend of the appropriate gender - but I would, again, delay this until the friendship has grown into a phase where it's obvious that everybody is on the same page.


That is all to say that you can never really prevent that the other person may develop feelings for you anyway (or have them right from the start). However, at least you are minimizing the chance that you are leading them on this way.

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If you have a Significant Other (SO), @DaveG's answer is my preferred method, however it isn't always possible.

Sometimes your SO might not have the same shared interests, or maybe is not easily available due to their work schedule. Or maybe your potential friend is a co-worker & most of your socializing will take place at work, without your SO.

In this case, a technique I've employed in similar situations is, during your beginning interactions with your new potential friend, frequently mention your SO in a positive light.

"Oh yeah, my SO loves that too!"

"Oh, that reminds me of when my SO did this"

"Yeah, my SO & I tried that restaurant a few months ago and it was great!".

Of course, doing this constantly can get really annoying; but once you get across that (a) You are in a relationship, and (b) you are happy in that relationship, then you can lay off.

There's the risk that this can give a bad first impression to your potential new friend ("Gee, they really can't shut up about their SO!"), but I think most people are socially aware enough to get the point you are trying to make, and, as long as you don't go overboard with talk about your SO, I think such impressions shall pass.

There is also the possibility that they won't get the hint, and will continue to try to "hit" on you, or push a more intimate relationship. In this case, if you still consider this person a potential friend, you can be more explicit as @LordHieros's answer suggests.

0

Is meeting them in a group something that you'd be interested in?

Meeting someone as part of a group with a common interest is a way to focus on those shared interests, and not meeting them alone would help reduce any tension or expectations (though not eliminate them completely).

Meetings not explicitly focused on a common interest but with people from a common background could be fine as well. For example, if you're meeting with some colleagues and this person works in the same industry, they already have something to talk about with the rest of the group, and a way to integrate with them.

Ultimately this doesn't eliminate all thoughts about a romantic interest, but it could be a way to start building a relationship with this person until you feel comfortable enough to deal with this subject directly. Also, once you've told them you only want them as a friend, this (or emphasis on this) can help reaffirm that notion without becoming insistent (I agree with LordHieros that insistence could be negatively interpreted)

I have done this on a couple of occasions, albeit only once when there was "risk" of a romantic interest. Mostly it was with acquaintances from work whom I wanted to befriend, but I felt it would be kind of weird to just invite them to grab a beer just the two of us (I don't think it would have been romantic, since it happened with heterosexual colleagues of my same sex and who know I'm heterosexual, just a bit weird), so in those cases I invited other colleagues whom I was already friends with, and we all meshed together quite nicely. It helps that I work in IT, and we IT people literally can't sit together without talking about IT (like the inverse of the fight club rule).

Specifically on the occasion when some romantic or sexual interest on my part could have been inferred, I already had a friend in common with this person, so I asked my friend over and told them to bring their friend, since I found that person very interesting. I also invited a couple of friends of mine who weren't friends with neither the person I was interested in nor my other friend, but I figured we could find many things in common. The person I was interested in didn't feel more out of place than the others, because they weren't sitting in a group of strangers who all knew each other, but rather everyone at the table had at least two people who they didn't know. In the end I didn't need to clarify anything to the person in question, and one of my other friends went for them and they ended up dating for a couple of months (my friend did ask if I was cool with it before asking the other person out, but saying "I'm not romantically interested in that other person" is hardly the same as saying "I'm not romantically interested in you").

If you can't have someone else bring this person you're interested in, you can still invite them yourself, but I think it's important that they know someone there other than you and that not all people know each other except that person.

protected by NVZ Jul 12 at 6:07

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