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Parallax - Advice            October 23, 2000



  Question: How do you destroy a friendship?

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Recently, I had drinks with a man I've grown to admire over the course of four to five years, and we ended up locking lips. We talked about spending time together and doing fun things, but when I saw him the following day, I felt things were way out of perspective, so I asked if we could take a little time to think things through. He agreed, and I saw him a few times after that. It seemed we still had a mutual interest in spending time together - but only in person. When I phoned him at home to make plans, he seemed very distant: when we were physically together, he seemed okay. This in-and-out behavior went on for a week until I finally lost control and ripped into him. Now we don't speak at all.

After knowing him for so long, I never expected to be treated this way. I also feel that after the initial kiss he simply wanted to have sex. We didn't, but it seems that every time he thought we might have sex, he was more than willing to spend time together. I'm extremely hurt over the fact that our friendship is ruined, and I've lost a great deal of respect for him and myself. I don't think this type of relationship is worth salvaging, but I can't seem to stay away from him. Why?

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Her view:

Dear Friendless,

This is the classic conundrum - friend gone kiss and kiss gone sex (or potential sex) and now the friendship no longer feels right. Returning to a friendship from sex (or potential sex) is one of the most difficult challenges, although we all face it at some point. It will take time - probably a lot, and possibly a cooling-off period with little or no contact. The dice were rolled with that first kiss. There's no way around it now - the deed is done. The proverbial cat is out of the bag and feelings are hurt, probably on both sides. Unless you're both desperately in love, someone in this equation gets hurt, and it sounds like this time, it's you.

You should definitely hold off on the sex here for two reasons:

1) It looks like he doesn't really want a relationship (and I don't think from your account that your interest is to use him for sex.)

2) If you are going to shoot for regaining the friendship, sex is a friendship eliminator. So steer clear, even though this is what seems to pique his interest right now.

And you know what? If he's treating you badly now, the friendship may be finished and it may be time to write it off as a sunk cost. Perhaps a new buddy would be good for you. You need to decide how much bad treatment you're willing to accept and what your threshold is. If he exceeds that limit, then walk out and don't turn back. You do, however, need to make sure you have been clear with him on your feelings. He may also be writing to an advice columnist somewhere, wondering what went wrong and why he was so badly treated. So be careful that all lines of communication are clear before you stomp out.

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His view:

Dear Friendless,

Looking back, it is easy to see this relationship was never going to work. Even as you were growing to admire him, our superficial friend only considered you in the most abstract terms. He probably decided at some point that you would be a good one for a quick shack-up, should the opportunity ever present itself.

When it turned sour, his opinion of you reached new lows, but his opinion of himself - barring the humiliation from your tantrum - most likely remained intact. At this moment, he's not sitting somewhere wondering what went wrong. If anything, he has simply added this episode to his mental file on 'Incentives to Stay Far Away From Women.'

The reason you are still obsessed with him, is that he survives the whole thing unconcerned, while you wallow in the affront to your respectability and the blow to your self-esteem. I think you can't stop thinking about the man because you are so angry with him, not because you 'can't stay away from him.'

I'd chalk it up to a case of mismatched expectations and let him go. Oh, and keep an eye out for those very clear signals that a guy is interested only in sex. They're universal.

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