TL;DR: Bruce is pushing for me to enter a relationship with Mary, and I like Mary, but don't want any relationship right now, and I want him to back off.

The People

Me: I am not interested in a relationship currently, for reasons not pertaining to the question, not in a relationship

Bruce: An excellent long-term friend, very relationship oriented, in a relationship with Alice

Alice: A good friend, in a relationship with Bruce, excellent friends with Mary

Mary: A good friend, very alike me, excellent friends with Alice and Bruce, not in a relationship

The Problem

Recently, Bruce and I were sitting together, having a conversation about everyday affairs, when he mentioned that he and Alice had been talking and had agreed on something. This wasn't special - they are in a relationship - but he went on to say that they had agreed that Mary and I were perfect for each other, and that we should begin dating.

This is strange, as it had never come up before, and Bruce knows I'm not looking for a relationship. He outlined his reasoning, which mostly consisted of the fact Mary and I are similar, and waited for my reaction.

I calmly explained that I was not currently looking for a relationship, but he did not want to accept this. He is the type of person who believes that being in a relationship is always beneficial. He really believes Mary and I would be perfect for each other, and he left saying "this isn't over."

This isn't the first time things that "aren't over" are very over. But he came back to me day after day, refusing to let it drop. I would be reading a book, and he made a comment that Mary would love it. He asked me how I was doing in school (he knows full well I'm at the top of my class), and when I mention how well I'm doing, he responds 'oh that's great, did you know Mary is at the top of her class?'

Other friends make fun of me for not wanting a relationship, and interpreting every time I talk to a woman as flirting just to give me a hard time. This doesn't bother me, as they drop it - it was only an excuse to tease me about a facet of my life that is radically different from theirs.

But Bruce insisting I would be a good match for Mary is unsettling, as he doesn't understand when to stop. He also recently asked me multiple questions on how I would react if Mary attempted to 'ask me out'.

I don't run into Mary every day, so I'm afraid he will attempt to 'set us up' without my knowledge. He is in constant contact with her and Alice, but I am in limited contact.

I will be at the same event as Mary in a couple of weeks, so I suspect Alice is pushing Mary just as hard to get Mary to ask me to enter a relationship and might have met with more success than Bruce.

The Question

How do I get Bruce to stop pushing me to enter a relationship with Mary, while not destroying my friendship with Bruce?

Note: I'm not worried about my friendship with Mary, unless Mary does something rash, which would be addressed in a different question.

  • 14
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes.
    – Mithical
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 9:19
  • What is the approximate age of the protagonists ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 12:34
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    @Evargalo We’re all college age- 20-22.
    – Imperator
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 12:35
  • @Imperator Well, every action has a reason. Bruce's action is: Mentioning you and Mary would be a perfect pair. And maybe some more actions in this direction. Do you know his reasons for these actions?
    – yo'
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 23:52
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    @yo' He never explicitly told me, despite the fact that I explicitly asked. However, judging by his actions, and his general worldview, I believe it is a combination of him legitimately believing Mary and I would be a good match and Alice pushing him. This is speculation, but judging by Alice's mindset, she probably believes that Mary's life would improve in a relationship, and I am the most viable candidate in her eyes. The latter I discovered due to fairly recent developments, but Bruce is in no way Alice's puppet here.
    – Imperator
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 0:01

15 Answers 15


How do I get Bruce to stop pushing me to enter a relationship with Mary, while not destroying my friendship with Bruce?

I‘d suggest to tell him.

Hey Bruce, when you tell me to do X, I feel as if you expected me to start dating Mary.
In case that this is what you want, please stop it.
I don‘t want that, and I don‘t want you to do that. So please stop it.

Talk in private, talk calmly, look him in the eyes, and do not smile.
No accusation, no pleading in your tone. Support your words with rhythmically nodding where you want him to agree, and keep looking in his eyes when you stop (do not smile). This is a nonverbal signal for him to respond. see edit below

He might ask you about your reasons. Do not go into that, but tell him:

I simply do not want to, and I won‘t change my mind. So stop it.

People often ask for reasons and then proceed to question those reasons or suggest different ways to achieve these reasons, always with the outcome to change your decision. If you do not want to change your decision, do not go into this.

You want to get a response to your request. If it doesn‘t come by him, ask him...

Can I count on you to stop X?

You want a yes here, either verbally or nonverbally, or both.

He doesn‘t have to share, understand or accept your choice, but respect it.

If you get that approval and he wants to know your reasons and motives, and you feel like discussing those with him, you might.

... while not destroying my friendship with Bruce

If you tell a friend that you do not like his behavior X and ask him to stop doing X in a calm way, as suggested above, and by doing so the friendship is "destroyed", I‘d argue that there was no friendship to begin with.


Specifying my advice on nonverbal behavior when talking to Bruce: Mismatching verbal and nonverbal messages might weaken the overall impact of your communication. You as a speaker may seem "not really meaning what you say".

not smiling while setting boundaries
Involuntarily smiling in conflict is often automated behavior to placate the other person. Smiling in an interpersonal situation with the intention to set boundaries is one of the single most counterproductive non-verbals.

eye contact, rhythmic movement
is another signal to convey the importance of a message, specially when combined with rhythm in speech and head movement. Of course, don't exaggerate, but don't be too subtle as well.

The goal here is to assert your position. This is very different from acting aggressively, because you don't go against the other person, but rather express your request that your boundaries be respected. Acting aggressively would most probably reduce the respect for your boundaries.

I come from a background of social skills training, but do not know any material specific to the US (though there should be lots of solid material, as US research in social psychology is famous in the field). A quick google search brought up Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction by Mark L. Knapp et al. which contains most probably basic and contemporary theories and research on nonverbal communication.

If you know specific literature, please feel free to comment.

  • 11
    Gotta be joking here. "Support your words with rhythmically nodding where you want him to agree, and keep looking in his eyes when you stop (do not smile)"?!?! So the advice is to make your acquaintances think you're a psychopath?
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 10:12
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    IMO this is incredibly impersonal, and doesn't allow for any other scenario. If Mary is the one asking Alice (through Bruce) to help her, you've just put them into the situation of having to say any variation of "He's not interested, he doesn't like you, etc." or lead to alienating your friends. Taking a gentler approach would work much better; this seems overly unemotional for an emotional issue. Who the hell cares what some study says when talking about emotions anyway?
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 17:04
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    @mtraceur this case is different, because OP wants to STOP Bruce „peeing on the spot where OP is standing“ to stay with your example. „Stop peeing at me because I don’t like that“ is reason enough, don’t you think? Moreover, OP says he already talked to Bruce and he didn‘t stop. Now, instead „peeing back“, I suggest a clear and assertive stand.
    – michi
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 7:14
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    @michi I agree, "I don't like that" is the surface of a reason. I would encourage providing more depth to that, for example "it seems like you're pressuring me based on what you'd want if you were me, and I feel like what I have stated I want is being ignored here". You're absolutely right that Bruce is causing a similarly negative experience for OP, and that the priority is getting Bruce to stop, and not letting it turn into a debate is good advice. But reasons can help understanding which can help compliance, which is why I think it's more of a calibrate-to-your-Bruce sort of guideline.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 18:16
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    I guess specifically, your advice is good, just more absolute than I'm inclined to give: OP knows their Bruce best, and exactly which reasons for it he's already explained vs. not, so I would advise OP to consider if Bruce is the kind of person who would be more likely to comply if they genuinely understand the reasons, and if they're likely to actually do the mental work to really "get it", and if he feels confident Bruce and he can keep it from turning it into a debate? If so, then OP might be more benefited by giving the reasons than not.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 18:25

You could side-step Bruce be talking to Mary directly. Explain the situation to her, and say that you would be delighted to remain friends with her, but you do not want a romantic relationship.

Whether Mary is interested in you, or whether she is being pressured by Alice, you both have a problem that only the two of you can resolve. By telling her directly that you have no romantic interest in her, you will either let her off the hook, or she will be able to tell Alice that you have talked and agreed to remain just friends.

  • 13
    The OP might get into a more awkward and uncomfortable position for no reason by telling Mary about this. What if Mary has decided to not let Alice pressure her either? We don't know how Mary has been handling Bruce or Alice. Also, the OP is asking how to make Bruce stop a behavior. Perhaps you could elaborate more about how skipping talking to Bruce is a better approach. Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 19:29
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    He could tell her that Bruce is trying to set them up and tells Mary that he doesn't plan on acting on this and if she is being harrassed by Alice. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 2:57
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    The OP should not bother Mary in this case because he does not know whether she is involved in this (no matter as a passive or active member). Just imagine your friend telling you "I'd like to remain friends", even if she does not intend to develop relationship. Till now this is only between the OP and Bruce Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 11:02
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    Also, OP can eventually become interested in Mary at some point in the future, so I'd stick with approaches where OP should talk to Alice/Bruce instead. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 13:43
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    Mary is not the problem here, Bruce is. Bruce making decisions that are not up to him is problem that needs to be solved.
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 12:08

They are going to hurt Mary if they continue.

Dating (or marrying) somebody like yourself is not necessarily a great thing. It can reinforce your own negative traits, if they share them.

Dating (or marrying) somebody with complementary traits can produce a greater whole; somebody with strengths where you are weak, or when you have strengths where they are weak. This doesn't mean because I am neat and she is not that I do all the neatening, it makes her aim to be neater also. Vice versa on spending, I can easily spend a thousand on an impulse, she would never. Her trait reduces mine, because I care about her feelings and don't want her to freak out, so I discuss such things first.

It makes it easier to divide household duties fairly; we can each take the least offensive duties, and there is less to split of things we both dislike.

It can create something more interesting to talk about: My wife and I had very different jobs, and honestly after work I did not want to talk about my work with somebody doing the same job as me; that's just more work! But talking about the social or political aspects of work, which she understood, was often more beneficial. Vice versa held as well.

We've been married 30 years, and what we have in common is we both like the same entertainments, at least an 80% overlap. We like the same kind of comedy, the same TV shows, we both like live plays and amateur theatre, similar music, mostly the same restaurants. My wife and daughter like some I don't, I like barbecue and they don't: But that's what friends are for, we don't have to be all things to each other. Neither of us drink or smoke (anything). We both love beaches.

My point:

My point is, you can tell your friend you are NOT looking to date or marry somebody just like you, and you aren't romantically attracted to Mary, and will not change your mind, and now you are worried they [Bruce and Alice] are actually misleading Mary into thinking otherwise, and you are not looking forward to the day you have to reject Mary to her face. Which is what is going to happen if they are putting the same pressure on Mary to date you. If they are, they are engineering an embarrassment, and probably the destruction of your platonic friendship with Mary, and you hope they will stop because it is unfair of them to rob you of that, and cause Mary that embarrassment.

  • 1
    Most of this answer seems to be about why he shouldn't date Mary, which seems fairly irrelevant considering he already doesn't want to date her. What OP wants is Bruce stopping to try to set him up with a relationship, not for Bruce to find a more suitable person to set them up with.
    – Cubic
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 12:11
  • @Cubic I am providing him material for argument, from real life, to convince his pushy friends why he is not looking to marry somebody just like himself, and why he will not change his mind, and therefore why they are actively misleading Mary and that has the potential to ruin his friendship with them, and Mary. Simply declaring he does not want to marry somebody like himself may not be enough if he cannot back that up with good reasons. His friends are pushy and on a campaign, they will probably not believe such a declaration without reasons to back it up.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 12:55
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    "But [I] don't want any relationship right now", you're answering a different question than what's being asked. The reason OP doesn't want to date Mary isn't any property of Mary's. OP is not interested in a relationship at this point in his life. Your answer makes OPs problem about Mary, which it isn't. If you're suggesting he should lie about the reasons why he doesn't want a relationship, then I'm not entirely sure why you think that's a good idea.
    – Cubic
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 13:33
  • @Cubic No I am not, and stop putting words in my mouth. Comments are not for debate, you made your point and I made a reasonable response to show you your error. He does not want a relationship with Mary and not a relationship for the reasons his friends think he should. Nothing in that says he doesn't want a relationship ever. If you do not like my response, spend two points and vote it down, I do not wish to debate it further.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 14:00

I'm sometimes like Bruce to my best friend and I'll tell you my motivation and what my friend uses to tell me no. The motivation is that they think that you are scared to be in a relationship and that being in a relationship would greatly benefit you, that you're having wrong impressions on what being in a relationship means.

How to tell him (us) to leave you alone:

It's really important that you're sure in your decision, try to avoid giving him room for him to convince you. Saying just 'no' probably won't suffice so I suggest dealing with the problem at it's source.

Tell him why you don't want to be in a relationship with Mary (or in general), try to explain how being in a relationship won't be beneficial to you, as a bonus mentioning something that your friend and his girlfriend do that you feel uncomfortable doing (just to point to him out that you and him are different).

This might or might not work depending on your arguments (or your friends stubbornness) so to seal the deal tell him

I understand that you want to set me up with Mary but if you try I'll have to tell Mary directly that I don't want to be with her and you'll be just creating a awkward situation for Me and Mary.

So that he understands that trying to set you up with Mary might have consequences

If none of this works and you do get in the situation that you have to be alone with Mary for some time I personally find the best

I think Bruce and Alice are trying to set us up, I told Bruce that I don't want to be in a relationship but I guess he didn't trust me, however I don't mind if we hang as friends.

  • @Martin Bonner I don't mess with my friend when he's certain, I try not to meddle into other people life's; I might give them a nudge when they need it. I've edited my answer. Anyway if you're not involved at all in your friends life it could be as well as if you weren't friends at all.
    – kingW3
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 0:13
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    @MartinBonner I understand the frustration and anger, but is that sort of condemnation constructive here, except perhaps to signal to others your disapproval for this behavior you think is bad, for whatever sociological gains that gets us? This answer provides useful insights into the minds of people who do this sort of behavior: why they think what they're doing is good and how to communicate to them, in terms intuitive to them, to stop it. Understanding how such people work is part of how we turn otherwise good friendships marred by these kinds of issues into just plain good friendships.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 2:17
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    @kingW3 Your answer might be better received and more helpful if you start with the pragmatic aspects you currently have in the second half of your answer, and maybe elaborate more in-depth about what causes you to perceive certain disagreements as override-able and others as certain and definitive. I think the first half of the answer, where you explain how you're possibly similar to OP's friend, would be better placed after the practical advice. Putting the practical advice first really helps put the focus on the actual answer-to-the-question, and creates a very different first impression.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 2:23
  • @mtraceur : I think signalling my disapproval is useful. I agree the answer provides useful insights though. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 7:17
  • @kingW3 : The answer is now less objectionable; I suspect we still have very different ideas on personal autonomy. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 7:20

Be straight with him.

If you're not ready then you're not ready. If he's really a good friend he'll back off and respect your boundaries. If he's not able able to do that, it's his problem. You have to live to your life. Sometimes, that means letting go; even where friends are concerned. Painful? Yes. But that's life. You have to do whats right for you.


My answer is takes inspiration from and expands upon @kingW3's third block (which I think is most important):

I understand that you want to set me up with Mary but if you try I'll have to tell Mary directly that I don't want to be with her and you'll be just creating a awkward situation for Me and Mary.

and I'd add:

Every time you bring this up, you're souring the friendship I do have with Mary. Whenever we interact or I think of her, I'm negatively reminded of everything you keep saying, and I'm now on tenterhooks about the idea that you're going to try and force something which, if you do, will not only risk me losing a friendship with her, but I'll end up resentful of you for trying.

You've made your point. I'm not interested. If that changes, you'll be the first to know.

This, I think, hits to the crux of the matter. Unless you change your mind, there is no outcome here where you and Mary end up together. All that happens is that you and Mary of this 4 person group are left awkwardly interacting with each other, and potentially resentful of Bruce (and possibly Alice if she's involved) for putting them in this situation.

Bruce needs to understand that it's not just your and Mary's friendship at stake here, but yours and his. You are beginning to be conditioned to the idea of spending time with your friend with the negative feelings of being pushed into a relationship you don't want. Eventually you may just not want to spend time with Bruce.

By adding "if anything changes, you'll be the first to know", you allow Bruce to still have an important role in the "OP and Mary" relationship he wants to foster (since it seems like it'll be impossible to completely stop him from bringing it up until you or Mary are unavailable), but put yourself hopefully back in the driving seat. It also allows you to shut down conversations:

This again Bruce? I thought I told you that if I became interested in her, I'd tell you? I haven't told you anything, so obviously nothings changed.


TL;DR Handle it the same way as to handle bullying.

It looks like Bruce is not doing it by purpose but technically he started subconsciously bullying you about your imaginated relationship with Mary (I'm making such reasoning because you politely asked him to stop but he didn't).

The best way to handle such a situation is to make some distance away from it in your mind. Just start joking and laughing about it, turn it into absurd etc...

For instance, tell Bruce that both of you are already engaged but are still arguing which religious education teacher -from yous or her class will handle your wedding or that you and Mary have plans to set up a family and raise heard of 3897 cats. But most importantly, you should know better your friend's sense of humor so he must be certain that you are definitively making fun of it and that "you and Mary" is not something that you take seriously.

There is still an issue. As somebody pointed out in comments already, Mary may have had crush on you, and you would probably intend not to hurt her feelings. Unfortunately there is no rescue here and she will be hurt anyway. Probably she will experience real bullying from her classmates when they learn it out. It is not your blame but rather your environment you live in. Please keep it in mind!


First, I just want to say that some of these answers are extreme, saying that your friend isn't a friend at all if he doesn't understand your point of view. This insistence in meddling with your love life doesn't seem to be coming from a desire to irritate you or change who you are, but to improve your life in a way that has improved both Bruce and Alice's life. It's certainly misguided, and your feelings are absolutely valid, but as it stands this problem isn't a reason to break off what sounds like a well-founded friendship.

This sounds like a couple working together to set up two friends. I've been set up by well-meaning friends before too (always in a relationship themselves). They almost always seem to split the work, each targeting one person. It's like a weird bonding activity, or a competition to see who can convince their friend to start a relationship first. I agree that Alice is probably playing a supporting role in this matchmaking, either by pestering Mary or urging Bruce to keep trying.

There's actually a Psychological Science article talking about how couples want to make more couples and vice versa. Here's a link if you're interested: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797612475095

My advice would be to talk about this with both Bruce and Alice at the same time. They're probably pushing each other to keep trying to talk you both into a relationship. Talking to both of them at once may force them to take your feelings more seriously.

I would recommend you agree with them that you and Mary are alike to start the conversation on a positive, agreeable note. Starting a conversation with something both parties agree on will make them more receptive toward what you have to say. Go on to say that you just aren't interested in a relationship. You shouldn't offer any reasons why you don't want to be in a relationship. They'll just see them as excuses and try to dismiss them, which will only hurt you and make them feel more justified in trying to set you up.

If they insist you tell them why, you can say that your reasons are personal, and ask them to respect your decision. You can try explaining that while they may see it as a fun challenge to hook up two mutual friends, you see it as invasive. Try to get a promise that they will drop it.

They may disagree and try to persuade you, but don't smile, look them in the eye, and don't give in. Try to keep your body language strong: don't slouch or shrug, and meet their eyes even when they try to insist they're right. If you can show you're confident in your decision, it will back up your words.

I would also urge you to talk to Mary. Ask Mary if Alice has been trying to talk her into to ask you out, or if she is interested in you. If Mary is interested in you, tell her that you're not looking for a relationship right now (again, without citing any reasons other than it's your choice to make). She will probably be more understanding about it than Alice and Bruce, if only because it's an awkward conversation.

If she's just being pressured by Alice and is also not interested in pursuing a relationship, you'll know it's just a happy couple trying to breed more happy couples. I would try to talk to Mary first. You can either bring up her feelings on the matter during your conversation with Bruce and Alice, or ask her to come with you as backup. Try to talk to everyone before the event too if you can manage it; this will prevent any shenanigans Bruce and Alice may have planned.

I think the most important thing is to keep in mind that this isn't an attack on who you are. Your friends want what's best for you, but think they know what that is better than you do. They're wrong, obviously, but they're not trying to hurt you. Remember this, and it should be easier to talk to them without getting upset or unintentionally saying something hurtful.


Talk to Mary first and find out what she thinks about the situation

Talk to both Bruce an Alice, with or without Mary in attendance

Stay firm in your own opinion, it's your life after all, but don't interpret this as an attack on your lifestyle

  • Most useful and, more importantly, realistic, advice I’ve seen on this stack in a minute! Good work, @Katie!
    – A.fm.
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 2:20

I think it's less about whether you are so perfect for Mary that you two should be together. This sounds like they decided they want another couple to hang with, and the combination of you two as that couple for their social purposes sounds especially appealing.

I've been in the situation where we had a "best couple" that we hung out with all the time. It was great. They eventually moved to a suburb quite a bit further away and we lost that just because we couldn't get together easily. It sucked to lose that. Just shared that so you understand that this is an actual thing - single friends, while great, have different experiences and have different interests and habits than established couples will.


Bruce, I get that you guys really like us both, so the idea of all of us hanging out together and sharing "couple" experiences as best-couple-friends is appealing to you, but I'm not going to choose a partner based on how much you guys like us as a couple, I'm going to choose a partner based on how much I like them. And that doesn't say anything one way or another about whether or how much I like Mary, but it's gotta be my choice and my interest. I hope you can respect that. It's making me uncomfortable, and I'd hate to unconsciously spend less time with you guys because I'm uncomfortable. If it happens with Mary and I, it happens, on its own. Please stop.


I have this exact issue once in a while too except with a married female co-worker. I have never had a problem finding a sexual encounter or a relationship however I have simply never been interested in relationships. I have learned four programming languages, LaTeX, circuit design, and robotics on top of completing a BSc and MSc in chemistry and I'd say it's simply because I have devoted 100% of my time to myself.

Recently a female co-worker has been borderline harassing me about my life choices, claiming they are not 'right'. She even videotaped me most recently and sent it to people over social media.

What happened next:

She asked me if I ever worried my time would 'run out'. I very clearly explained to her that I am not worried about that (men don't really have that strong a biological clock) and politely but sternly told her that her views on what's 'normal' are not representative of everyone's views on what's 'normal'. She has never bothered me since.

The message doesn't apply to you. However the approach does. You need to very sternly tell Bruce that you have made a choice that you're not interested in Mary and that's not going to change. Yes, he is your friend. And no, he won't break a friendship over this. Oftentimes people nag because they feel like there's some 'negotiating room' with you (think telemarketers, peddlers). Your job is to cut off any negotiating room.


How do I get Bruce to stop pushing me to enter a relationship with Mary, while not destroying my friendship with Bruce?

Well, situations are where we get to know people better. I would bet on mutual understanding. You fear for your friendship with Bruce. That seems to me that a relationship is a very serious topic, indeed. Being it important you will need to understand your friend and for that, you'll need to ask Bruce why he wants you to be in a relationship. Then explain your views on having a relationship and that you are not into getting to it in this time of your life.

Ask him how did he feel before he was with Alice and how did being with her changed him. This can lead to understanding what is it that he thinks he is offering with his proposition. Maybe you can pinpoint that you don't feel the same as he was before he had a relationship and that he shouldn't fear that you're unhappy with your current situation while also expressing how happy you are that his life changed this way.

Another variable is that Mary is the one pushing this (mentioned in comments).

I would go the same way separately with each other and then ask the three why did they join in this conspiracy and explain that you are happy with your current status. And that if Mary is just shy she should overcome that and try to get you on her own means. (Even if I wanted a relationship I wouldn't go along because she appears to be on a pursuit of making life go her way and life presented her a different picture of romance where a girl has to act, in that case). And another important thing is telling Mary that she could've affected your friendship with Bruce with all this.

If for some time you're not understood and not respected then you don't have a real friend. You will better off without people that want to take charge of your life. Or, you have a friend but is being foolish with a romantic idea. Don't tell him that he is being foolish (at least at first hand), instead, try to help him realize by clarifying your happy status.

You need to draw a clear a line between taking charge of someone's life and caring for another. If they care they should accept your explanations on why you are fine the way you are.


You need to do some investigation.

If Bruce said "We were talking," what he means is that he was tasked to get you to agree. He might understand and sympathize with you, but because he won't let this drop, it sounds like he is under pressure, too. From your descriptions of Alice and Mary, you don't think either are to blame, and perhaps they aren't. In any case, Bruce won't let up until the source of the relationship idea is satisfied.

Fun speculations include Alice noticing Mary's interest in a Bad Boy or perhaps someone who is older, wiser, wealthier, better looking, and the driver of a sports car. Perhaps an aunt has promised a ski trip as long as Bruce and Alice don't go alone. Maybe Mary wants to do couple stuff with Bruce-Alice, and Alice doesn't want you to be squeezed out of their circle. Or maybe Mary has decided You Are The One.

I think an active investigation is beyond your desires at the moment. So the next time you meet up with them, watch for signals between Alice and Mary -- who is the instigator? Keep yourself friendly, but a bit distant, especially physically, and see who tries to bring you and Mary closer. If you try to talk about something Bruce is interested in, who intervenes?

This isn't definitive, but it might give you a direction to follow up on. I think what you need to find out is what are the consequences of saying no. I think you should emphasize that you really want to know what is at stake before making what to you is a life-altering decision.

Meanwhile, you are going to have to cut Bruce some slack. I doubt he is enjoying this and he might also be worried about losing you as a friend. If you guys are into tacit conversation, you might make it into a daily routine where he pretends to present his case and you pretend to decline in a quick exchange of gestures. Then change the topic to something more pleasant. If he gets sufficiently beaten down, you might be able to find out what he knows.


Tell him that:

  • Relationships are an intensely personal decision - and this is your decision, not his.
  • His trying to force you to do what he wants is violating a boundary.
  • Tell him to just stop.
  • "Let's talk about something else."

If he persists, tell him calmly:

  • Once again, he is violating a boundary.
  • Ask what's going on?
  • Ask what he needs to have happen in order for him to respect your boundary? If his answer is unreasonable, tell him that you will discuss it again when everyone is calm and you've both had time to think about it.

No one? Since pushing Bruce so far got you nowhere, but you are good friend with Alice - ask her, if she can talk to Bruce to stop pushing you into relationship with Mary.

If she answers: "Why not?"
keep repeating "I don't want to."
A: "blahblahblah, u would be perfect couple"
(wrinkle forehead, eyebrows together) "But I really don't want to."

This way you can't loose anything.
And it should work, because:
if Alice is "source of idea about relationship with Mary" - she will stop pushing Bruce into it.
if Bruce is "source of idea about relationship with Mary" - Alice could tell him to stop.

They are pushing you into it, because "couples want couples", but they surely want your happiness/friendship more, so if it is idea of both (or Alice's) - you will have to convince Alice and not only Bruce. Also Alice should be more emphatic (and less dominant).

  • Hi Jan! Answers here need to support themselves with explanations for why they will work. Saying "worth a try" doesn't give us any confidence that you know what you're saying will work. Have you used this solution in a similar situation? Tell us about it. If it's just a guess, it's probably not a good fit here.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 14:37

You mention that

He [Bruce] never explicitly told me [why he is pushing me into the relationship], despite the fact that I explicitly asked.

This is a sort-of yellow flag for a relationship between friends. It is IMHO okay to try to push someone somewhere unless you are hurting them, but it is not okay to be dishonest about it.

If you want this to stop, you either have to make a firm request in this direction (some other answers discuss this) and rely on him respecting your reqeust.

Or, you have to find out as much as possible from the background, because once you know why he is doing all this, you can tackle the source or it. For this, I would suggest speaking with Alice and asking her for her opinion on the thing. Do not forget to mention that you tried to stop it and that it is uncomfortable. Something like:

Hey, Alice, can I ask you please. It seems that Bruce is forcing me into a relationship with Mary. I have to say that it is really uncomfortable. Have you got an idea why is he doing it? I would really like to stop it but he seems not to listen to my requests.

  • Interesting answer, but I believe you misinterpreted how I responded to you. Bruce isn't being intentionally deceptive, he's just being evasive. He's doing his best to avoid giving me a reason to not enter the relationship, so he dances around anything that implies he has an ulterior motive.
    – Imperator
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 0:15
  • @Imperator I understand this. And exactly this shows that there is a reason behind that he is not willing to share. And now (just speculation) the reason could be that Mary is feeling shy and asked Alice and Bruce to help her get into a relationship with you, leaving A+B in a situation when the don't want to breech Mary's trust. The problem is that you (IMO) can't do anything with so much limited information.
    – yo'
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 0:18
  • I believe that he does have another reason or driving factor, and it is possible that factor is Mary, but it could also be many others. However, as to 'talk to Alice', it has become very evident to me that she is one of the major driving factors behind this, so I know her opinion on it. But I could try the 'uncomfortable' angle,that could have some merit. I also have reason to believe Alice is doing the same thing to Mary as Bruce is doing to me, so it should be interesting to watch the weekend play out.
    – Imperator
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 0:28

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