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Ask Dr. NerdLove: I'm His Best Friend, But He's Not Mine

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Hello all you ordinary humans of the sexcrime twitternet, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column to help you go from loving games to having game.

This week, we’re navigating the tricky world of friends and romance. What do you do when you’re the only friend of a lonely, obnoxious geek? Is it fair to end a friendship when you’re HIS best friend but he’s not yours? How do you avoid giving the “friend” vibe when you’re looking for potential partners, and at what point do you stop having crushes on folks?


It’s time to gird your loins and insert coins. Let’s do this.

Dr. NerdLove,

This isn’t necessarily a question about a significant other, but I may as well have a boyfriend with the way my friend acts around me. So I’ve come to you not only to get this off my chest, but to seek advice. I apologize if this sounds like a lot of whining, but I am a super nice guy who also is massively introverted and hates confrontation, so I’m trying to muster the strength to handle this situation.

Right. Anyway. Long story short, after bad breakups on both our ends around the same time in 2012, and him just returning home from the Marines to our small rural town, my friend and I both started hanging out a lot. Now, one of our most common interests is in marijuana; 2-3 times a week we get together, hang out, and smoke. We unwind, we joke, we watch TV/movies, listen to music, and play video games. Basic friend stuff.

However, this guy... for years I’ve been feeling like he fakes interest in things I like, for no reason other than to try to agree with me. My lifelong best friend, him and I strongly disagree politically, call each other names etc. but we love each other to death and there’s a bond there that isn’t presence with this guy, who I’ll call John. John is a great guy, super thoughtful and nice, but just too overbearing and needy.

He has no other friends to talk to or hang out with, and he’s told me that. He considers me his ‘brother’ because he has none, and I don’t feel the same way towards him, and it’s uncomfortable when he tells me that, as I’ve never told him the same thing back. He has a 5 month old baby girl and yet this whole time he has always been trying to hang out with me every night after work. At the same time, he complains about not seeing our other mutual friends, but whenever they’re over at my place and I tell him to come over, he magically always has an excuse to not come over. But any weeknight after we’ve worked 8+ hours, he can find the time to come over to my place until 11 PM when I finally come up with an excuse to get him to leave. 4-5 days of the week he will text me asking how my day went. My own mother and past girlfriends have never done that.

Worse yet, if I have something playing when he comes over, he always talks over it. Every second. I have put on two movies back to back before and he has talked over almost every minute of both. As an introvert this is incredibly taxing mentally and I cannot handle it anymore. Even worse, while the TV is making plenty of sounds, he will many times set his phone down *right in front of me* playing trailers and songs and I have to fucking stare at it and go, “Wow / damn / that’s crazy” until I give it back to him or it ends. I never do this to anyone. Having someone plop their phone down in front of you to watch something is a big pet peeve of mine.

The final thing, and the catalyst for this email, is that he pretends to like things I like, despite having 1) no interest or knowledge in them, and 2) being unaware I’m onto him. He comes over and often looks at bands I’ve been listening to on my Spotify or my physical collection and pretends to know them (his taste is 100% different than mine). The other day he caught a couple bands in my collection and said, “Oh yeah, I love their first albums” - these were groups a friend of mine had in high school on the other side of the country in the mid-2000s and only ever put out a couple EPs with three songs. Bullshit radar was going hog wild. And when he starts praising something, if I give even the slightest impression I’m not interested or it’s something I dislike, he 100% changes his tune and starts bashing it just to agree with me. It is very fucking irritating.

However, the rest of the time, he’s a nice guy. He’s thoughtful. He’s picked up some random gifts throughout the years for me, and vice versa. But I can’t understand why on Earth he’s trying so hard and faking so much to be my friend. He is simultaneously genuine and fake, and after years of being there for him I have no idea how to address this and bring it up with him. I truly think he really only cares to hang out with me to burn a blunt or three and that’s it, because if I’m not smoking or drinking or if I’m hanging out with other people, he won’t even respond to texts. Should I just stop responding to him and subtly sever ties?

Sorry for the wall of text,

Frustrated With Needy, Sketchy Friend

It sounds like your friend is trying incredibly hard to make a connection with you, FWNSF. One of the ways that we form relationships is in bonding over commonalties, whether it’s shared interests, backgrounds, histories or experiences. Call it part of our tribal past, suspicion of “out-group” people or just plain old-fashioned loving to geek out about the same things; the more we have in common with somebody, the more likely it is that we’re going to want to spend time with them.


It’s one of the reasons why people in the military have intense friendships with the folks who’ve served in their units or why people join clubs or fraternities. There’s a sense of connection and shared experiences that you aren’t going to have with folks who weren’t part of it.

So when your buddy is faking an interest in bands you like — or changing his mind and hating the things you dislike — it’s because he’s trying to bond with you. He may not be very good at it, but he’s trying.

It sounds like your friend is a little shy and desperately lonely, like a lot of people are these days, and you may be one of his few contacts with anyone outside of his immediate family, especially if he has a new infant. He may well be feeling incredibly isolated and you’re one of the few people he feels that he has a connection to… even if you don’t feel that same connection to him.

(Now I’m gonna side-eye the fuck out of the fact that he’s apparently ditching his partner to go hang with you until all hours and abdicating his responsibilities as a father… but that’s a different letter entirely.)


It also sounds like there’s a clash of personalities in play, mixing with some under-developed social skills. Some people love to talk during movies — either as part of how they engage with the film, or using the movie as a sort of social background noise. You clearly don’t. He wants to share things that he finds interesting or funny, regardless of what else is going on. You’d rather focus on one thing at a time. These differing styles of socialization clash and drive you crazy, which is working against his desire to be a closer friend. The fact that he doesn’t recognize that you two are clashing is a mark against his emotional and social intelligence.

What you need to do is start establishing some stronger boundaries with him. Boundaries aren’t just for romantic relationships, they’re for platonic and familial ones too. You can tell him that you don’t necessarily want to text all the time. You can tell him that you’d rather watch the movie rather than talk over it, and that you don’t want to interrupt things for whatever weirdness he’s found on YouTube. And you can set limits to how long he can stay over, without having to make excuses. The only “excuse” you need is that it’s been great seeing him but it’s time for him to go.


I realize this may veer closer to a confrontation than you’d be comfortable with, but not saying anything isn’t getting you anywhere. All that’s happening is that you’re getting more and more frustrated and your buddy isn’t getting the hint.

And trust me, your trying to ghost him isn’t going to work as well as you’d hope either. In all likelihood, he’ll just get clingier, more insistent and more likely to be blowing up your phone as he feels you pulling away. At which point, you’re going to end up having that confrontation anyway.


The question becomes whether he’s someone you’d be ok with keeping as a friend if he could dial shit back a little, or if you’re ready to cut ties and move on. Either way, it’s going to require your being willing to tell him — not hint at, not give excuses about, tell him — what you need him to do and not do in the future. As uncomfortable it may be, especially for someone who’s not great with confrontation, it’ll be far better for you in the long run to speak up now instead of hoping to run out the clock until he catches a clue. The more you start working on boundaries now, the easier it will be to establish them with other people in the future.

And because I know someone in the comments will bring it up: yes, it’s possible that he may have a crush on you, and that’s why he only wants to spend time with you when it’s just the two of you. Even if that’s the case, the answer is the same: you need to develop and establish those boundaries.


Good luck.

Hey Doc,

Before I jump into my specific issue, a little background on me and my dating history. I’m a straight guy, fairly extroverted, very open with a lot of women friends. My dating history is pretty sparse with only a few serious relationships that lasted a couple of months (one former partner is now a trans man with another former partner in a serious relationship with a woman). That all being said, I’m having difficulty being successful in even casual dating. I use dating apps and I’ve gone on several first and some second dates. But more and more the eventual text I get generally goes “I had a great time but after some thought, I’m getting friend vibes from you.” I’ve even had a friend cite fears of losing our friendship for not acting on our mutual crush. I want to be clear I DO NOT subscribe to the bullshit Friend Zone mentality and I truly do value my friendships with women, I’ve even gained some from my failed dating escapades.

I’m glad people feel comfortable around me and can be honest about what they’re feeling but I feel kind of demoralized being viewed as a friend so quickly, so often. I’ve tried thinking about things I need to work on, talking to my gal friends, reading columns like yours, etc. I just don’t really know what to do in order to move from being everyone’s friend to somebody’s romantic partner. I have enough friends to fill a cruise ship but I want someone to share a rowboat with.

Thanks for reading and the advice you give.

-Out Of Ideas

There are two things that you need for a romantic or sexual relationship, OOI: emotional chemistry and physical chemistry. And you need the two of them in relative balance with one another.


If you have a great deal of physical chemistry but not much emotional chemistry, then you’re going to end up with relationships that start strong and fizzle out quickly. There won’t be any connection to keep things going outside of the bedroom.

On the other hand, if you have a lot of emotional chemistry, but not much physical chemistry, then you’re going to end up with a lot of folks who think you’re great, but just don’t feel that spark.


It sounds to me like you’ve got a lot of that emotional chemistry, but you’re not developing much in the way of sexual attraction or tension. Now, without following you around on your dates, I can’t tell you what you’re doing wrong, but based on my experiences and what I’ve seen with many, many other folks… I suspect you’re playing it a little too safe.

A lot of people — understandably — are concerned with being too forward, too handsy or just plain ol’ creepy. They don’t want to make an unwanted move and end up making someone uncomfortable, or they’re afraid of misreading a sign and getting shot down. But while that is admirable, this tends to lead to dudes giving the impression that they’re just not interested in the person they’re on a date with.


When you’re interested in someone, you need to let them know that you’re interested in them as a romantic or sexual partner, not just another friend. That means you need to be willing to flirt, to tease and even to touch — with someone who’s comfortable, of course — and indicate that yes, you find them desirable.

There is no one way to flirt; finding your flirting style that works with your personality is going to be key. But once you start learning the ways of flirting that works for you, you’ll have far more dates and far fewer nights of giving off the “let’s be friends” vibe instead.


Good luck.

Dear Dr. NerdLove,

Fairly simple question. I’m a 30 year old man. In the past year I’ve told two separate women that I have a crush on them hoping for some kind of reciprocation. I was shot down both times, albeit gently. I’ve begun to wonder, am I too old to use the word crush? Has it become creepy for someone my age to tell someone else that I have a crush on them?

Thanks for your advice,

Aging Romantic

While admittedly using the word “crush” can be awkward when you’re telling someone how you feel about them, your bigger problem is that you’re just telling them that you have a crush on them. This is the conversational equivalent of a cat dropping a dead mouse into your lap. You’ve just given them this information and now you’re waiting for them to do something with it. In and of itself, that’s unfair; you’re putting them in the position of having to manage your feelings and expectations, even if they have feelings for you in return. If they don’t, it’s even more awkward.


What you should be doing instead is being more proactive and asking them on a date. Not “get together some time,” not “hang out,” but an actual, unmistakable date. This makes things much easier; you’re not asking them to sort out their feelings and manage yours, you’re inviting them to come do something with you, have fun with you and maybe see if they’re interested in pursuing a relationship with you.

The “I like you, I hope you like me” comes built into the date.

Good luck.

Did you deal with an awkward friend? Did you have problems with creating that spark on dates? Share your story in the comments below and we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.


Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.

Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove YouTube channel. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.


He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.