Q. Earlier this year I met a guy on a dating app. We decided to just be friends first. I quickly introduced him to my friends in a group hangout. However, the way we interacted was not just as friends, and he confessed he was worried he was friend-zoned, and I said he wasn’t. I didn’t want to date him, though, and something always felt off, so I was explicit about it being non-serious, non-monogamous, and casual. The thing is, he had never dated anyone before despite being 30, and some emotional maturity was missing.
After a few arguments stemming from me reiterating not wanting to be in a relationship with him and him getting upset that I’m “always ruining nice moments with my insecurities,” I ghosted him one night. I tried to reach out the next day and he avoided my call and so I took it as him also not wanting to talk after our final argument. Last night he found where I was and belittled me for about an hour (I’m a graduate student and he spends a lot of time on this college campus despite graduating years ago — yes, I know, red flag). He wants to talk next week when I am done with finals, but I don’t want to. Ever since he’s been out of my life things have gotten better. I’m not constantly stressed from our arguments.
If we talk, do I sit there and let him belittle and reprimand me more for the closure he desperately wants? Do I talk to him and use this as a teaching moment so he doesn’t treat other women the way he has treated me?
He keeps trying to hang out with my friends, and though I am a graduate student, my friends are 22 and I find it inappropriate he wants to befriend people so young — people he met through me. I want to tell him to leave us alone. The prospect of the emotional labor this conversation will cost me is daunting, but I know if I told him to buzz off, he probably would. Despite being rude as heck, he’s not a bad person.
Meredith, this is all to say, at what point do we owe someone a conversation? When is it OK to put our emotional well-being first and avoid conversations with people that will only critique us?
A. I’m not thinking about what you owe him (which is nothing, at this point). I’m framing this as a question about what you can do to help yourself. Clarity might make him go away. If another conversation would get him to buzz off, it might be worth it.
That doesn’t mean you have to take any abuse. It doesn’t mean you have to meet in person. There are so many ways to communicate these days. Sometimes emotions — and boundaries — are better expressed in writing.
You can e-mail him your final words about this. Say it’s clear you’re not good as a couple — or even as a casual non-couple. That means it’s time to move on. Tell him you do not want him to find you, pursue more conversations, or show up to tell you how he feels. That would cross a line at this point.
Then tell the people in your life — friends, family, anyone close to you — that you’ve done this. You want to make sure your community is looking out for you, as opposed to telling him where you are. The 22-year-olds should know your relationship with this man is over, and that you do not want to see him.
To answer your bigger question, yes, we all owe each other some humanity, I think. There are no rules when it comes to closure; you can walk away whenever. But of course it’s nicer, in most situations, to let someone know when things have changed. I think you’ve done that at this point, probably during that conversation where you were belittled.
One more message — to clarify your boundaries now — seems like more than enough.
You played a pretty big role in the conflict between you two so I don’t think it’s fair to pin it all on him. Why find someone on a dating app and then ... not date the person? Mixed messaging is an understatement. I think when you realized you weren’t into him romantically, you should have cut off the “friendship” or whatever weird thing this was, instead of continuing to try and be “friends” with him. Seems to me you need to learn from this “teaching moment” yourself.
I can understand how this man was confused. #1: Met on dating app but don’t want to date. #2: Prematurely introduce him (a stranger) to your friend group. #3: Relationship becomes physical despite your disinterest and rules of engagement. Pesky Pete needs a clear, concise, mature, and kind e-mail or text — and then end all contact.
They decided to be friends. That’s not her friend-zoning him, that’s him agreeing to be her friend.
If he acts stalkerish or makes threats, go to the campus or city police. Never again get this involved with someone who seems “off.”
A person who was never really dating someone in the first place wouldn’t be wasting all this time and energy. You meet on an app, but you want to be friends only, but he’s not friend-zoned ... which is it? You both sound immature. My advice is to make a clean break by telling him simply and directly that this isn’t working out for you, wish him well, and then Let. Him. Be. No lectures from you, no further drama.
“Last night he found where I was and belittled me for about an hour.” You owe him nothing.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.