Everything I Need to Know: Dropping Hints

AdviceDear Smart Bitch Sarah:

I know this guy, and we’ve been friends for a long time. I’ve always been attracted to him, but he’s never really made it clear how he feels about me. Sometimes there will be a moment when he says something and is looking at me in a way that makes me wonder if he’s trying to communicate something more, or he’ll do something incredibly kind out of the blue, but never anything definite.

The problem is, I’ve got a terrible crush on him, and I don’t know what to do next. If I make a move, it could ruin the way things are now. If I don’t, I’ll always wonder. What would you – or a romance heroine – do?



Dear Confused:

A few choice words come to mind: this guy needs to shit or get off the pot. Fish or cut bait. Grow a pair and use them.

Really, there are two scenarios here. Either he’s too shy or afraid to make a move, or he’s dicking you around because he can. I’m voting for the latter. In my experience, the guys who know how to use subtlety to string a woman along know exactly the power of what they’re doing, and they have no intentions except to sustain your admiration. This isn’t the behavior of a hero. This is the behavior of a narcissist.

A romance hero would want to be with you. Plain and simple. Not make you wonder if he likes you, or make you question whether it’s your imagination that he’s maybe possibly into you. Any guy who takes the time to play games isn’t worth your time, and no hero worth his codpiece plays games with a woman’s heart. A real hero knows better.

So to answer your question, you can either ask him what’s up with the “maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t” crap, and see if you get a straight answer. He might be totally oblivious to what he’s doing, to the remote possibility that you might be attracted to him, or to the concept that he’s dropping hints that are twisting you up.

Or, and this is the scenario I’d bet my dollar on, ask him straight up what’s going on. And if he spins more hints and odd subtlety, look everywhere BUT at this guy for a relationship, because I don’t think he’s aware of anyone but himself. As far as the risk of “ruining the way things are now,” unless you like being unsure, better to move forward with him, or move on to something better for your happily ever after.


General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Bhetti says:

    It depends on his personality, doesn’t it? If he’s insecure, he’s not going to think you like him even if he likes you. If you’re sure you like him and don’t mind insecurities, ask him in some way.

    If he’s not that type of guy, then he’s probably not into you, but it’s worth it… ish to get that info out of him for your peace of mind, to save the wondering. I’m not a fan of the direct approach, because it starts off the dynamic with you in a vulnerable and exposed position. Of course, he’d have to try and get over that, if he was the insecure type so it might be hypocrticial of you not to do so.

    There’s also the (highschool but effective?) method of using mutual acquaintances to find out how he feels about you without him knowing about this inquiry (for the sake of keeping friendships and so on, or seeing how much work you’d have to do to change any misconceptions he has about you or his chances with you). This can backfire, and you need reliable and discreet acquaintances.

  2. 2
    Bhetti says:

    Also, remember to differentiate in your inquiries about whether he thinks you’re sexually attractive (a lot of guys not particularly fussy about this and they don’t even realise that they’re confusing lust for other emotions) or long-term relationship material. In a subtle way.

  3. 3
    Kwana says:

    I like your advice Sarah. It must be torture going on the way it is. I say ask him straight out or if you are bold enough and feel the mood is right and are not much of a talker go in for a kiss. It could be a great “How I Snagged Your Father” story later.

    But you must be strong and be able to handle the consequences either way. If it doesn’t work out, brush it off.  You weren’t happy with things the way they were now anyway.

  4. 4
    Teegstar says:

    depending on how old the writer and this guy are, the guy could be a lot more oblivious than Smart Bitch Sarah is giving him credit for. Maybe he’s into you but is just as worried about buggering things up between you. I’d throw it out there and see what happens—I have seen friendships survive unrequited “like”, so don’t give up on your friendship if you do discover he’s just not that into you. At least you’ll know!

  5. 5
    Leah says:

    I agree with Teegstar. It could be that the guy is just young, insecure and inexperienced.  He may not really be ready for a relationship, and that’s why his signals are mixed.  Or he could be unavailable—and while you can feel chemistry between you, he’s not going to act on it.  I have to say, though, that for your average guy in his mid-20’s or older—if a man is interested, he will let you know.  I had a male roommate who was the most passive, insecure, sensitive guy ever, and he had it in him to go after the woman he wanted until he got her, which took some doing.  And my own husband, who pretty much has his head buried in his physics books and graphic novels, when he isn’t working, and was never the big ladies’ man, still asked me out immediately, after the 1st e-mail.  You don’t want to spend your whole dating/married life playing mind games.  I think you should look elsewhere.

  6. 6
    MRM says:

    I feel like the response here is “if he hasn’t made a move he’s either a wuss or leading you on” and I’m sorry but I don’t buy that without more information.  Obviously, either case could be right, but…

    Some people really do want to “just” be close friends and not sexually/romantically involved.  I think a lot of straight men and women have a hard time with the idea that they *can* be friends and not romantically interested in each other (I’ve had several straight guys tell me that they can’t understand being nonsexual friends with women for very long).  Maybe this guy wants to be an awesome close friend but does things that may seem to indicate further interest because he’s not used to being in more platonic relationships with women.  In that case, him not making a move is no weirder than a best friend doing something nice for you or offering you casual touches like a hug or a hand on the arm when extra comfort or closeness is needed.  Not every friendship one has with their preferred gender is going to lead to sexual attraction. 

    Also, I’m getting the impression that you haven’t made it explicitly clear that you’re interested, and if he’s interested he might not know if you are and, like you, be afraid of messing up the relationship you already have.  If you can’t read his intentions clearly, he can’t be expected to read yours, right?  And in this hypothetical scenario, how is his reluctance to throw a wrench into the great friendship you have any worse than your own hesitation?  MIght that reflect well on the respect you both have for each other? 

    I honestly think the best thing to do is be direct, state your feelings, and see where it goes.  In any relationship, whether it’s a romantic one or not, clear, direct communication is pretty much always going to be the best way to get shit done, right?

  7. 7
    sugarless says:

    It depends a lot on his insecurities and how long you guys have been friends. There’s definitely a lot to be said for what SB Sarah said, but if you’ve been friends for a while, he might be testing the waters to see how his advances are received. The problem is if he’s insecure, however you respond still won’t be enough to have him make a move.

    Either way, I just wanted to throw that out there because I’m friends with a lot of nerdy-types and I’ve seen them at it. Don’t ignore the real possibility that he’s just yanking your chain, in which case you should probably take out his kneecaps.

  8. 8
    Lori says:

    I agree with MRM that the guy may not be deliberately pulling your chain, but that doesn’t mean that he’s your Hero.  I’ve had the same experience as Leah—unless the guy is really young if he has a romantic interest in you he’ll let you know.  When my ex & I met he had pretty much zero skill with the ladies. It took him a little while, but he managed to work up the nerve to ask me out because he really wanted to date me.

    The bottom line is that you’re in a situation where you want two things and can only have one of them.  Pretty much anything you do to find out for sure if he’s interested puts the friendship at risk.  That includes asking mutual friends, ‘cause people talk.  So you have to decide which of the two things you want more. No one, not even the wise Bitches, can answer that question for you. 

    The only thing that I would say is that if wondering about this guy is preventing you from considering other guys then I think you have find out the truth, even if it means losing him as a friend.  Limbo isn’t even a nice place to visit, so you sure don’t want to live there.

  9. 9

    Hmm. Not sure what the difference is between HER not telling him how she feels and HIM not telling her. Because she’s a girl?

    She’s afraid to tell him for fear of losing the friendship. Does that make her unworthy of his affections too? Wishy-washy and maybe a bit of a pussy? I’m not buying it. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    An awful lot of romance novels open with h/h having edged around each other for years, despite their attraction. Seems to me the important part is what happens next. AFTER one of them takes a chance. That’s when the hero is supposed to never let her go. Give the guy (and the equally culpable girl) a chance.

  10. 10
    Moley W says:

    Life should be like a romance novel,
    if the guy likes you he tells you and make a point about it… with the looks and the comments and in your face innuendos…. unless its one of those 70’s mills & boon where the guy keeps it secret for the first 3/4 of the book by dating his beautiful italian cousin who needs someone to protect her from her last relationship, and he can’t tell herogirl how he feels because it would affect his cousin…. oh the drama…

  11. 11
    Trix says:

    I totally agree with Victoria Dahl – the LW seems pretty certain of her feelings for this guy, so why isn’t she shitting or getting off the pot, or fishing or cutting bait, or whatever?

    So maybe he’s shy. It’s not 1954, and women are allowed to ask men out these days. Which means I end up agreeing with SB Sarah’s advice, but not quite the premises. :-)

    So yeah, say, “Would you like to go on a date? And I mean a date-date, not just a friendly outing.” That should kind of make it clear what you’re hoping for.

    And if he agrees, you have a nice time, and he still doesn’t make a move, jump him. However, accept nothing less than an enthusiastic response if you jump him. There’s shyness, and then there really is not being that interested.

  12. 12

    I agree with Victoria and Trix that there seems to be a double standard being applied in this advice.  Surely the female letter-writer, in this case, is being no clearer about her feelings than her male friend is about his. Why suggest so strongly there’s something wrong with him, while not suggesting there’s anything wrong with her?

    I’m finding SB Sarah’s advice particularly strange given that we’ve just had a Friday video where the guy is shy and pretty clueless about making his interest felt, or at least, about taking any action about how he feels, and that was described as “This is a long one – 12 minutes. But so worth it. Oh, my God so worth it.” Yes, he eventually asks to meet the girl, but only after she’s made the first move and made it really, really obvious how interested she is. And even then, he’s still hesitant. So why does the fictional man (in the sense that this is fiction, being acted out by an actor) in the video clip get the benefit of the doubt and the real man doesn’t?

    However, I wouldn’t go with Trix’s advice of “jumping” someone who’s not showing very clear interest, because if, as women, we wouldn’t want to be “jumped” at the end of a so-so date, shouldn’t we avoid doing the same thing to men? Maybe it depends how you define “jump” and maybe I’m thinking it means something a little more aggressive than Trix meant (I know we sometimes run into differences of meaning given that number of variations of English, including Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, UK, US etc that different posters have).

  13. 13

    I’d invite him over, share a couple of bottles of wine, and see what happens. :) If he doesn’t make a move then, he’s definitely not interested.

  14. 14
    Sharron McClellan says:

    WORD to Victoria and the others. Perhaps it’s the girl who should “grow a pair”.  If there are only occasional moments then it’s my guess she is reading more into the situation than there is since she is wanting/hoping there is the possibility for more. More than likely he’s clueless to her crush—not his fault nor does it make him insecure, shy, young, etc. It just makes him a guy.But she either needs to talk to him or let it go.

    I like the wine idea.  :)

  15. 15
    SB Sarah says:

    Surely the female letter-writer, in this case, is being no clearer about her feelings than her male friend is about his. Why suggest so strongly there’s something wrong with him, while not suggesting there’s anything wrong with her?

    Good point, that. Agreed, with a few hours’ sleep, that I was way jaded on the dude.

    And while I didn’t state it explicitly, I do think she needs to grow her own pair and take action,  hence my advice to address him directly instead of wondering.

    ETA: Hubby totally gave me a hard time about my advice, too: “I think you are not giving this guy NEARLY enough credit for being oblivious and clueless. As Captain of the Oblivious Guy Squad, I object.”

  16. 16
    Tami says:

    (totally unrelated to the post)

    I subscribe to your feed via google feed reader, and many many times it doesn’t tell me that there’s more to the article than the short bit that shows up in my reader.

    I’m not sure why this is – usually I’ll get a “click here to read more”.

    Not sure if it matters or not but I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention it. I know to click through to read the rest, but sometimes it stops on a bizarrely almost appropriate place in the article.

  17. 17
    DS says:

    Is the guy totally into women?  If he is mainly into men but has some interest in women or at least one woman, then I can see some confusion.

  18. 18
    Katie says:

    I think a drunken snog is in order. If things don’t work out you can blame it on the booze or even pretend you do not remember. Many great romances start at last call.

  19. 19
    earthgirl says:

    Ooh, ooh! I’ve been there! Twice, in fact. Once it was the dicking me around because he can option, and the other he didn’t really know what he was doing, but was completely uninterested. (He’s just oblivious to his power over women, it seems, and unwilling to be in a relationship, in case you were wondering.) In both cases I didn’t ask the guy myself, but found out through other people in the know, because I have no balls. Both cases, I was so relieved once I finally knew where things stood, because I could finally move on. And I’m not friends with either anymore, because I realized they were both kind of self-absorbed assholes.

    [edit: I should be kinder to the second guy. He wasn’t really an asshole—I just couldn’t deal with the unintentional chain-yanking anymore.]

  20. 20
    Marianne McA says:

    LOLLing cos this happened in my house just last night. They – after months and months and months of: ‘I don’t know if he Likes Me, likes me; and I don’t want to ruin the friendship’ finally had The (MSN) conversation last night, and Facebook profiles were mutually changed. She was glowing when she went to school this morning.
    They are so young, and it’s not easy.

  21. 21
    Anon76 says:

    And you know, many times when we are infatuated with someone, we read in things that aren’t really there.

    “Oh, he did this, this and this. What did he mean by that?”

    Or, “Man, he did this, this and this. Surely he wouldn’t do that unless he secretly cares for me more than he is letting on.”

    And this can work both ways. No one gender corners the market on it. LOL

  22. 22
    Julianna says:

    There is only one way to know, and it’s the frightening way – ask him.  It can be done by email, over the phone, or in person. My vote is on the “oblivious” side too, by the way. 

    It is totally and entirely worth it.  I was rejected a couple of times this way, but it’s so much better to know.  If you want that man, go after him, lady!

  23. 23
    aninsomniac says:

    This might be just me (and as an aside, I am sorry that I am not contributing anything like advice to the seeker) but would it be possible to get a WHAT HAPPENED AFTER story with all of these advice columns?! I mean, the suspense is KILLING me even though I know I’ll never find out what happens next. I still remember that other letter about a friend being an emotional vampire and that other one about the guy with the girlfriend who stopped hanging out with his buds. What happened afterwards with those people?!! I want to know desperately! Is there any way SB Sarah and the others could establish a follow up thing? Like ask people to also mail in the consequence of them taking action or not?

    -anin, the Insatiably Curious

  24. 24
    Victoria Dahl says:

    Plus, he could be hesitating because he is her guardian, and making a move would be inappropriate. So he keeps his feelings closely guarded while he searches for the perfect husband for her.

    No wait. I’ve got it. If he loves her, perhaps he doesn’t want to expose her to his shameful needs. Perhaps he needs another man there every time when he has sex. Not that he’s gay. It’s just that he needs someone to blame if she gets pregnant, ‘cause he only likes the ass love because his first lover killed herself after he knocked her up! He’s ashamed of his three-way ass love, so he keeps her at a distance to save her life!

    God, you guys are so dense. Can’t BELIEVE you didn’t figure this out.

    Yes, Sarah, I would be happy to answer the advice questions in the future.

  25. 25
    Anon76 says:

    Well, color me dense then, sigh.

  26. 26
    Carin says:

    OK, Victoria Dahl’s book just moved to the top of my TBR pile.

    I think confused just needs to sit him down and ask him.  I think asking him out on a date-date is a fine way to start.  I’d stay away from the drunken sex, though.  IMO, that plays out much better in books than it ever does in real life.

    And I am also requesting a follow up “where are they now post” please!

  27. 27
    Harlequin says:

    I am *always* finding myself in these kind of situations – he’s friendly but is he just friendly because XYZ or does he really like me blah blah blah.  In fact, despite the wonderful advice in He’s Just Not That Into You, I’m in this situation right now! It’s different because it’s not a close friend but still. And while I have come right out there and asked sometimes, it’s not how I prefer a relationship to start. I’d like to be the one who’s chased once in a while.


    But then these cute geeky boys I fall for often don’t have much in the way of player skills so sometimes it really is just that they don’t know what to do about a girl they like. Maybe I should go for Alpha Males instead.

    Oh, and Victoria Dahl? You are AWESOME.

    My word is straight29. I have been straight for 29 years. Maybe I should try something new???

  28. 28
    Suze says:

    Or he could really love her with a love so deep and fierce its like has ne’er been seen before, but he’s a bad, bad man.  Or maybe he’s the result of centuries of genetic experimentation, and he was not born, he was made.  And he’s done evil things, and doesn’t know how to love, and has no heart, and even the gods fear him, and she’ll only be hurt if she sticks by him.  So, for her own protection, he must keep her at arm’s length, and leave her suffering in confusion and unrequited love, lest he feel a moment of pure happiness, breaking the gypsy curse, and she comes to harm from his dangerous self.

  29. 29
    Radish says:

    William Blake said is best:
    “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.”

    What are you waiting for?  Permission?

  30. 30
    CD says:

    Or he could really love her with a love so deep and fierce its like has ne’er been seen before, but he’s a bad, bad man.  Or maybe he’s the result of centuries of genetic experimentation, and he was not born, he was made.  And he’s done evil things, and doesn’t know how to love, and has no heart, and even the gods fear him, and she’ll only be hurt if she sticks by him.  So, for her own protection, he must keep her at arm’s length, and leave her suffering in confusion and unrequited love, lest he feel a moment of pure happiness, breaking the gypsy curse, and she comes to harm from his dangerous self.

    I’d go for all of those reasons combined…

    Seriously, I agree with most people here: ask him directly but do it casually.  Most importantly, give him time to think.  I would do it face to face at the end of an evening and tell him to think things over and let you know either way.  If he’s a good enough friend, it won’t ruin the friendship even if he’s not interested – it’ll just mean some closure for you.  If he’s jerking you around, then he basically had to put up or shut up.

    I’ve never thought any less of a guy friend for asking me out even if I’m not interested.  My best guy friend did that a few years ago, I declined, and we’re still good friends.  The one time I did it myself (he said no), it was nerve-wracking and things were a slightly awkward at first but soon settled back to normal.

    Go for it!

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