Dear Em & Lo: Why Do Guy Friends Keep Falling for Me?

Dear Em & Lo,

How does one gracefully say “Thanks, but no thanks”? It seems to happen a lot to me: I treat the guy like a friend — meaning I don’t make innuendo (no puns please!) nor banter, etc., I just converse fercrissake! — and a few weeks (or months, or hours) later he’s dropping heavy hints and gazing at me with That Look. I then try to avoid any situations that may lead him on; i.e. refusing a drink together, though I wouldn’t mind having a friendly one. Also, I don’t want to lose friends who suddenly want to move it a notch further than I really want. Any ways to let them down gently?

— Unwilling Goddess

Dear U.G.,

This could be happening through no fault of your own — perhaps you’re simply too gorgeous for guys to take you seriously as a drinking buddy. Then again, perhaps you just don’t realize that you’re flirting (or don’t want to admit it to yourself or to us). After all, male friendship can be quite an ego boost. You get to crack him up, enjoy being his “buddy,” punch him playfully in the arm while pounding cans of Bud, feel good about yourself for being able to hang with the guys — and simultaneously know that he can’t help but notice your tight jeans.

Even if you’re not attracted to him, it’s always nice to be noticed…until it turns into That Look. Also, we have a sneaking suspicion that men are hardwired to misread, misinterpret, and overestimate women’s signals–perhaps it’s some weird evo-psych method of increasing the number of women they hit on, and thus the increasing the chances they have of mating.

So the most important thing is to be clear from the get-go that you’re not interested in him sexually. Do this by talking about your love/lust interests, mention past and current boyfriends, seek his advice about someone you’re pursuing, talk about the sex you just had last night (not in salacious detail, just that you had it and you really really really like this guy, blah blah blah). Ask him about his prospects and tell him who you think he should hit on, go out with, fuck — and then throw in the line, “It’s so great to have a guy friend I can talk to about these things without worrying about getting hit on. Thanks, man.”

Be warned, though: More than a handful of men will still manage to interpret this sentence as “It’s so great to have a guy friend I can talk to about these things. Now would be a really good time to hit on me.”

Another thing you can do is befriend more women. Maybe you’ve unknowingly slipped into the habit of encouraging feel-good male friendships at the expense of nurturing female friendships. Again, we get it: when that elusive hottie you’re supposedly seeing hasn’t called since you slept with him, a guy friend telling you “he’s a jerk for not calling” is way more comforting than a girlfriend saying the same thing.

Or maybe you think women are too gossipy or girly or bitchy or cliquey or whatever. If so, then we’d be inclined to suspect that you really are a glutton for attention from men. After all, not all gals are like that. And if you’re looking for a long-term friendship commitment, the ones who don’t think of the occasional roll in the hay as a possible perk of friendship are gonna be your best bet.

— Em & Lo


  1. Going to add this one to my collection of examples to support my hypothesis that women exist mostly for the purpose of driving men crazy.

  2. Yea, That would be really great advice from a lesbian’s point of view but total bullshit form a heterosexual male’s point if view. When a woman is pretty and their male friends are handsome and they really never want an occasional ‘roll in the hey’ as you say, they are really not looking for friendship, they are looking for power and feelings of being in control and longed after, provided everything works normally down there. A man’s thinking is,”if you don’t want to fuck, do waste my time!” or yours either for that matter.
    My best friend has a sister who is fat, ugly, nasty and to me, his sister. So for years we all hung out and partied and still do. I have watched her go through two husbands, raise three children and even become a grandmother when her oldest daughter got pregnant at thirteen. Sometimes during her first marriage neighbors would think I was her husband by mistake because we were both smaller thin guys with similar hair. After her divorces she would turn her attention to me and my response was just “NO”. But, we were not a fair match for each other as she was clearly not my sexual taste and she is my friend’s sister. So, we are still friends but more than once she has gotten angry at me when I refused to give her a ‘roll in the hey’ hehe,and I never will, so that is truly a friendship that works, but I really do not usually want to hangout with the girls. Sometimes her brother and I would go out with her friends and some of them I have liked me and we went to bed. It kills her, but she understands we are friends from many years past and keeps her hormones under control.
    For men or woman this sort of friendship won’t happen with some you met recently at the bar, at work, at church, at the outing or out with your friends. And certainly, don’t waste these people’s time with notions of friends only, just remain an acquaintance if you really don’t want more. Don’t waste their time’. It isn’t nice or polite. Zaijian

  3. I’m going to be a bit of a contrarian here.

    It sounds as if the correspondent would find it more convenient if men didn’t grow more romantically attracted to women as they get to know them better, spend more time around them, and just generally appreciate all their qualities, and not just be turned on by the superficialities of their faces, hair, or booties. In actuality, though, a lot of men have exactly those romantic qualities that are more often attributed to stereotypes of women.

    And looking at the question from yet another angle, surely the correspondent isn’t suggesting that women base their attractions to partners on initial hormonal response such that as they got to know them better over time they might become more attracted to them? If so then that would suggest that women have qualities that are more often attributed to stereotypes of men.

    My intuition has always been that the following lyrics could be sung as easily by women as by the men (Rogers and Hammerstien) who wrote them for the Anna character in The King and I:

    Getting to know you,
    Getting to feel free and easy
    When I am with you,
    Getting to know what to say

    Haven’t you noticed
    Suddenly I’m bright and breezy?
    Because of all the beautiful and new
    Things I’m learning about you
    Day by day.

    Actually my intuition says that’s still true. Chime in if I’m wrong, though.


  4. I really don’t see why women should restrict themselves to female friendships – frankly, I can only take so much of the intensity and angst that often besets women friends, and as I mostly work with women I just want some nice laid back male company in my down time.

    But sometimes there is just nothing that can be done to make a man really believe that you are only interested in friendship with them. If the woman has made it totally clear that there is no hope of anything else, it’s up to the man to decide if he wants to stay friends. Stalkers aside, I think women should let men take that decision. Instead, some women withdraw themselves from the friendship, as if the man isn’t adult enough to decide for himself whether it’s good for him to stay.

    Some women also seem to be offended by a male friend falling for them, instead of seeing it as a huge compliment. Accept those compliments with grace, sympathy and honesty – as you get older they’ll come a lot less often.

  5. PK has the right idea. All of the women I became attracted to were “buddies” that I hung around with. Of course, once I began to express that higher level of attraction, I found out what kind of “buddies” they really were. Once they discovered my interest, I rarely ever saw them again. And when I did, they were with some thug they claimed to detest. I guess I was only the barrier to separate them from their cavemen interests until they decided to allow that connection.

  6. I think both Em&Lo and philipp may be on to something with their sneaking suspicions about biology.
    My response to this question was first to think that she’s probably very attractive with a good personality; 1+1 equals, like 3 in this case. Second, she mentions “gracefully” and “gently” dashing hopes at the beginning and end of her question, and in between, the one indication of her current technique is to “avoid…situations”. I honestly believe the best way to dash these hopes is to be abundantly clear. Not insultingly, just that you consider him a friend, and you don’t see anything more developing. I’ve heards girls say, “Well, I don’t want to hurt his feelings”. I understand this, but it’s gonna hurt anyway, and nothing can be done about it. Hopefully he’ll be big enough to stay friends with you, but if he doesn’t, understand that it can be too much of a head trip for some guys to stay in the situation.

  7. the third way. As someone who’s been on both sides of this, I think guys often become attracted to women that they feel comfortable around. Regardless of what the initial attraction is. I know that both genders do this. I say this only half jokingly, we all date our psychoses. Meaning that if something keeps happening and the common denominator is you. You might want to take a look at yourself. Over 30 of my friends over the years have married people that they either weren’t initially attracted to or really tested their ideas of what they were searching for in a relationship. The common denominator, was that they all ended up with people who called them on their BS and didn’t play games. That’s a backwards way of saying that they ended up with people with whom they felt comfortable or were forced to be open with. So, from my personal experience and those of my friends, it’s very possible for platonic feelings to change, and it’s not always easy to predict if that will happen. There’s nothing wrong with not reciprocating, but if there’s a pattern, take a look at it from all angles and don’t automatically absolve yourself or condemn them.

  8. If I may throw in a dude’s perspective…

    A male friend is often a suitor with no balls. He doesn’t know how to turn rapport into attraction, or attraction into seduction. So he stays in the rapport phase, leading the woman naturally and logically places him in the practically-inescabable friend zone.

    But he’s still got unfinished business. He has made the mistake of WAITING for the perfect opportunity to bust a move, rather than CREATING the opportunity.

    As time goes by the dude can’t stand what he imagines, incorrectly at this point, to be sexual tension. So he does something dumb like profess his love, or dive in for a super-weird kiss, or even make a sleazy sexual proposition.

    Needless to say this almost never works, and the friendship winds up shot anyway.

    Normally the only women I am truly friends with are sister-like women who I was raised with since childhood, or women I am not attracted to, or women who are out-of-the-question unavailable for some reason, like marriage. Now that I’M out-of-the-question unavailable (serious relationship) I find myself becoming platonic friends with hotties at work and stuff. But in those friendships, I’m one of two people SETTING the “friendship” boundary – not one person trying to bash it down.

  9. Speaking as passive observer of this phenomenon (which, apparently, half of my female friends experience) I would presume that you are, in fact, flirting with what you suppose are platonic male friends. If Em&Lo have the sneaking suspicion that men are notoriously overinterpreting small signals, I have the suspicion that women notoriously flirt much more than what they think they do.


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