8

This is in some ways a follow up to Responding to people questioning my single status?

A little about me

I'm a guy in my late 20s and I don't like relationships. The whole process of dating, deciphering other peoples' intentions, taking part in silly dating rituals like taking N amount of time to reply to texts... it's all too draining for me. I have also had several short term relationships and was miserable.

I'm also doing quite well in life. I graduated a couple years ago and was hired as a software engineer at an aerospace software company with a half-billion dollar valuation. I have since been promoted to a senior level position at this company and am more or less 100% autonomous in my role. I would attribute at least a part of this success to focusing on perfecting my software craft over fighting for relationships like other guys. I did go through a phase of using hook up apps though.

Last, I live in a high COL area and decided to live in my mom's basement for a while such that I could save up enough money to put a significant down payment on a house. And it's working!

Now the problem...

I have a friend, we'll call him Alex. Alex was born and raised in Africa, is religious and recently married. Before getting married, Alex was a really great guy to hang out with. Alex works in an unrelated field.

Since getting married though, Alex has done a 180. Alex is almost "forcing" me to get into a relationship and shaming me for not pursuing romantic relationships. Some examples of what Alex has said (some in public):

  1. "Are you going to be celibate forever?"
  2. "You're white. You can get any girl you want. You have no excuse to not be committed. God expects that man and woman come together after a certain age."
  3. "You can't stay a sexless basement dweller forever. Life will set you straight."

The greatest irony is that I haven't really had a problem finding sex despite my seemingly unattractive lifestyle.

The question

I don't necessarily want to cut Alex out of my life. He does things that I like to do like BBQs and has a decent group of friends that I like to hang out with. How can I politely but firmly tell him to $#%& off?

Edit

I have already told him that this is a very personal matter to me and that he needs to stop heckling me over this. He has only gotten more persistent since.

  • How have you been responding to Alex's comments so far? Have you pushed back at all, and/or told him you're not interested in relationships? – Em C Jul 16 at 21:32
  • @EmC Please see the edit - I should have added that detail. My bad! – David Jul 16 at 21:49
  • Thanks, how does he respond when you tell him that? Does he stop and then bring it up again later? An example conversation would be great. All that background info about how successful you are at work for instance can set a stage, but it's not so helpful for understanding where your interpersonal skills might be improved :) – Em C Jul 17 at 0:23
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    Is it really relevant that he's religious? From your story it sounds like the catalyst was his own marriage. "Married friend making derogatory comments" – Euchris Jul 27 at 14:31
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    What does your friend think about catholic priests? – gnasher729 Jul 27 at 16:51
2

Let's break this into several parts, each of which acknowledges something different.

@JeninCode makes a great point - you are both at different places in life. There's nothing wrong with that but it does get annoying when others try to drag you into their place in life - and you don't want to be there. It sounds like he's newly-married, which generally means that the honeymoon period is still going on. He hasn't put in the hard work (yet) that it takes to stay married and probably hasn't seen that marriage, although wonderful, isn't always wonderful.

Another part if this is the belief that something in your life needs to change - which you don't see. You're happy with where you are. Don't be defensive about this! Accept it and be proud of it "Life will set you straight" - "It has; I'm in a good place". "you have no excuse not to be committed" - "who's talking about excuses? I enjoy my life how it is!" "Are you going to be celibate forever?" "Are you going to talk about your sex life with your wife? No? Then neither will I talk about mine." Notice that you don't defend anything; you merely state that this is how things are and you are happy with them.

@Yosef Baskin also has a good idea, which I often use with questions I don't want to answer. I use a response that doesn't answer the question but responds to it. "Are you going to be celibate forever?" - "Thanks for asking! Hey, there's Tony! I should go say hi" And use that same response every time. Eventually the asker realizes that the answer will NEVER change, and they give up asking. When they won't comply with a request to stop, that is a non-confrontational way to make the same question stop. I used to use it a lot when people asked "when are you going to have kids?" - "Kids, huh... I've heard of them..."

Now, as for telling him to bugger off with the questions: if he's your friend, then just tell him. "You've asked me this; I've responded. My answer isn't going to change so please stop asking." And then stick to that. The more he asks, the more you respond with the exact same answer. Then it becomes a matter of who gets tired first. and since he's the one taking the initiative in asking, he eventually will get tired first.

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    "Then it becomes a matter of who gets tired first. and since he's the one taking the initiative in asking, he eventually will get tired first." -> never underestimate the evil power of darkness and ignorance (obscurantism?). I've faced such persons in the past, and they never quit until, well, you know... I had to "lose my temper", to remain politically correct :/ – OldPadawan Jul 21 at 21:14
  • @OldPadawan Glad I'm not the only one... – David Jul 22 at 0:14
  • All the solutions are great but I like this solution the most because it is the most "to the point" without being overly defensive (particularly the second paragraph). – David Jul 22 at 0:18
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Have you tried replying with a little formula, and only with that formula?

Say you decided on one of these:

Oh, there's a question. (Big smile)

Why, thanks for asking! (Poker face)

That's a bit of prying! (Eyebrows raised)

Then every time you need it, you trot out the very same canned phrase...again and again. Gets old fast, right? It means You ask X—and that is exactly what you're asking—and you will always get Y.

It's not exactly rude. You never need to tailor your reply to the exact snoopiness introduced. And it makes its point.

This is actually similar to a parenting technique I learned called 1-2-3 Magic, where all misbehavior gets the very same Time Out, tailored to the age but not the infraction. Using the formula removes most of the emotion. Like gravity, it's a fact of life and not an angry punishment.

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4

It sounds like you and your friend are in different "places" in life. While this may be something you can overcome, in my experience it is a lot more difficult to maintain as close a friendship if what you're describing with Alex has been happening. There are a couple of unspoken possible factors here to consider:

  1. He's getting guilt from his spouse for hanging out with a single person. I know people who are like that and it's happened to me when I was single and had married friends. He may feel that if you get married you'll be in the same "place" and the spouse will be less worried that if you're together you're not both out "on the hunt".
  2. He really is super religious - and this one you cannot argue with. I find that people who are very adamant that religion needs to dictate behavior have a very difficult time being accepting of lifestyles that go against their beliefs. It is hard for them to not try and "save" you, and while it is well intentioned, it is also exhausting, as you've mentioned.
  3. He's super happy in his marriage and wants you to have that happiness, too. It's hard for him to remember a life before wedded bliss, and you must really want to experience it!

One option you can try is just sitting down with him, privately over coffee or a drink or something and getting serious. Start with something like:

I'm so glad you're happy in your relationship! Your life seems to be working out just the way you want it to. I gotta tell you, though, that path is just not right for me. Please stop making comments that make it seem like you want me to change. I like hanging out with you and want to continue to do so, but I'm going to live my life doing what makes me happy, and continue to support you in your own journey as well!

You can also try asking him why he's giving you such a hard time, but it sounds like he's listed all the reasons. I think the "Please knock it off" approach will eliminate a lot of wasted back and forth.

Ultimately you want Alex to get off your back about it, and go back to how it was. That may not be possible for him. However, just laying out your thoughts with him is the best and most clear way to get across what you're feeling. If this does not work, and he continues, he's going to end up in the "wayside" category (where a lot of my friends have ended up because we couldn't find common ground anymore) and that is fine. You shouldn't be shamed every time you see him.

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3

Intro

I am asexual and aromantic (aka ace/aro), which means I'm not really attracted to other people, and definitely don't have any interest in dating. Despite that, and despite having literally never dated anyone, I've consistently had my family heckle me about dating the way your friend does, as well as had friends and acquaintances interpret my close friendships as romantic. Oftentimes, this continues even after I've come out to them.

This is a phenomenon called compulsive heterosexuality (aka comphet) - it's the way straight people try to push other people into conforming to heteronormativity, to force them to have particular kinds of relationships consistently. And it's really damaging, and demeaning to deal with, especially as an adult. Importantly, you can be subject to comphet no matter what you identify as, no matter what your orientation is. It is not just about parents pretending their queer children are straight, but about straight people being pushed into relationships they're not interested in, or babies being thought of as "flirts" when they look at people of a different gender and smile.

I'm going to talk about a few of the strategies I've tried to deal with comphet, and how they've succeeded or failed. Unfortunately, I'm not going to have an answer with a nice bow that definitely lets you keep the friendship and stops your friend making you uncomfortable, but maybe this can give you some tools.

I also just want to say, upfront, that there's absolutely nothing wrong with not dating, nor with you, and that your friend is being rude here. I think you know that, based on your post, but I also know what compulsive heterosexuality feels like, and I think it's good to have that reaffirmed by others when you're facing it. It sounds like you're living a life you're really happy with, David, and that's the most important thing :)

Casually Rebuffing

The first thing to try is just casually rebuffing any statements you're uncomfortable with. If he asks you to check out a girl, deflect with a joke. If he asks if you're dating, just say you're not really interested in the dating scene. If the conversation moves onto your love life, just steer it to a different topic that you're actually interested in discussing.

Pros

I find this works well for acquaintances, or other very casual relationships. Ones where everyone is just making polite conversation, and it doesn't really matter the topic of conversation. This keeps you personable and the doesn't kill the conversation, but also means you don't have to have an uncomfortable conversation about your (lack of) dating life.

Cons

This has basically never worked for me with longer term relationships. It doesn't matter how many times you casually redirect the conversation, how many times you say "Oh I don't really date", the only people who have ever gotten the hint have also been on the asexual or aromantic spectrum, and they don't tend to talk relationships anyway. So, I don't imagine this will work for your friend.

It's also just kind of hard to do naturally? Like, it's a skill you have to develop, and I have always found it hard. If you're more charismatic than I, this might be less of a problem for you, though.

Setting a Boundary

If you end up consistently in these discussions with someone, it can be helpful to just explicitly state "I don't want to discuss my dating life. I don't date, and I don't want to. However, if you want to talk about your dating life, then I'm happy to listen!"

Then, you enforce that boundary every time they bring up your dating life. "As I told you before, I don't want to discuss my dating life." Then change the topic.

If you do this around other people, too, it can put social pressure on the other person to not bring up your dating life, as it's a lot more visible to others in the group how your friend is being rude and making you uncomfortable.

Pros

This is really explicit, and makes it clear that you are uncomfortable, in a way a more casual rebuff doesn't. If your friend doesn't know they're being rude before this, now they do.

This can also be an opportunity to explain how & why this is rude. For me, this process usually comes alongside coming out to the other person as ace/aro and explaining comphet to them, and maybe some other terms like heteronormativity & amatonormativity depending on how receptive they are. And that can have a knock-on effect where the other person can start to recognize compulsory heterosexuality coming from other people, and give them the tools to prevent it or support the person it's directed at.

Cons

For some people, this just doesn't work. My parents will still occasionally try to push me to meet someone, despite my being out to them for years and having had this conversation multiple times. I used to have a friend who was also ace/aro, and we had a mutual friend who was constantly asking if we liked each other or if we were secretly dating, despite the fact that we were both openly ace/aro, and didn't date anyone, and she knew that.

With some of the comments you list your friend as making, it seems like he might be in around the same place.

Physically leaving conversations about romance

In a couple cases, I opted to just start walking away whenever a conversation turned to romance. It didn't matter if it was about me or not, I just didn't want to be involved, and would leave the conversation to signal that.

This is really just a single strategy for enforcing the boundary above, but it feels bigger, so I figure it's worth mentioning explicitly.

Pros

Can't be asked about your dating life if you aren't around for it. Hard for anyone to cross your boundary, at that point.

Cons

This can easily read as rude to bystanders, especially if they don't know that you set that boundary already. (Or, if like me, you never explicitly set that boundary and just started walking away one day)

This can also easily lead to losing the relationship entirely, if your friend gets really offended by this sort of action.

Letting go of the friendship

In some cases, I found that the only way I could get the comments to stop was to just stop talking to the other person, or letting the relationship naturally die. In none of my cases was the comphet the only issue in the relationship, but if someone is willing to step past your explicit boundaries that you continually set, that is a pretty big red flag, and they probably have other issues.

Pros

This is the most effective strategy to stop having compulsory heterosexuality in your life.

Cons

It's obviously sad, and it hurts, and it's often hard to convince yourself that a relationship is at this point.

Just live with it

And, the other really sad strategy is just put up with it. Rant to understanding friends who are removed from the situation afterwards, but while you're around your friend, just deal.

Pros

If the relationship is really important, this doesn't put it in jeopardy.

Cons

It weighs on you a lot over time, and can really hurt. This was the strategy I tried with my dad for a long time, and it really didn't help me feel close to him. I can't tell you how often I thought, "I wish I could just come out to him," for the years before I did so.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, this is a very hard situation. I don't blame you for feeling hurt, because what your friend is doing is really hurtful. But compulsory heterosexuality is baked into our society, and it can be really hard to get people to see the problems in it, especially when they're as invested as your friend seems to be.

For a bit more of a happy story, I once had a friend who told me "You have to get married some day!" right as I was figuring out that I was ace/aro. At the time, I didn't have the courage to come out, and I sat in that hurt for a long time. But, eventually, I did come out, and nowadays, she's one of my closest friends, and she absolutely understands that no, I won't be getting married, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. She's one of my biggest supporters, and I really appreciate her for that. So, people can turn around, they can surprise you.

I hope your friend is one of those people.

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