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They just want to be friends

What am I doing wrong?

Love Letters

Love Letters

Q. I’m a male (30s) who’s never been in a relationship and has tried, unsuccessfully, to online date for almost seven years. Most of my dates end with a genuine “let’s hang out again as friends.” I’ve made several incredibly close friends this way.

But as I get older, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing something that makes people think, “I’d love to be friends with this person but not date them.” Complicating things is the fact that I’m shy and suffer from social anxiety, so it’s when I’m friends with someone and comfortable around them that I shine — something that doesn’t feel conducive to online dating.


Against the advice of my female friends, I’ve also tried mentioning that I’d rather be friends first and go from there (also with no luck). Any suggestions or am I out of luck?


A. Yeah, I’m not sure most dating apps are designed for patience and slow-burn courtships. I can’t imagine that many people on Bumble want to hear, “Let’s be friends first and see where it goes.” I suppose that’s a more thoughtful message than “u up?” but ... at least that one gets to a point. There are specific apps for friendship. Also, that’s not really what you want. You’re looking for romance.

Stay on the apps but put them on the back burner — only 15 minutes of swiping at a time. Instead, do activities. We say this a lot, but it’s a thing. Do the hobbies, the volunteer work, the stuff that might cause some social anxiety but also bring you happiness because you like the project you’ve chosen. Over time, you might meet someone you like. You also might meet a person who knows someone you might like. Maybe you won’t meet anyone at all, but you’ll feel more confident about interacting with new people. I recommend a podcast episode we recorded (called “Benchwarming”) about a woman who joins a zillion activities to meet a guy. She winds up gaining new skills — and that leads her to a partner in an unexpected way. She makes a great case for all of the busy work.


I would also ask the women in your life for help because they have a lot of information. They might even offer some language for showing interest.

Remember, you can show interest. You can say to a date, “I really want to take you out again.” Sometimes it’s as simple as admitting, “I might seem shy, but please know I think you are [fill in description here].” (Save the big, sexy, confident proclamations for the people you’re really into.)

Something tells me I might get some emails from people asking where you live, and if they can be set up. Letting a lot of people know you’re introverted, nice, and looking for love — that actually works too.



Your female friends are right. Never ever lead with “let’s be friends first.” It’s such a turnoff. And before I get slammed w/ commenters assuring me that their current blissful marriage started as a friendship, yes! It can absolutely happen! But it has to happen organically.


^Agreed. I remember seeing a dating profile that said in the headline, “I already have enough friends.”



Don’t be afraid to politely (and confidently) ask a woman to go out with you sometime. Some may say yes, or at least start thinking about it. Even women you meet at a store, library, or doctor’s office or something. Or another department at your job. You won’t be labeled a “creep” if you just ask once.


You seem to have a network of closer female friends. Ask them to set you up or help you meet someone. One of your female friends could have a gathering and invite a potential match.


I suggest that you have a heart to heart with a couple of these women to ask why they friendzoned you. If more than two of them point to the same thing, well, there’s what you need to work on.


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