-{I tried to write a post putting my thoughts together on something Bob wrote a few months ago, but I couldn’t find a way to say anything that I hadn’t already said in the comments. So this post consists primarily of slightly modified nuggets of Trumwisdom from that thread}-

In my experience, guys that befriend a girl and are afraid to ask the girl out are usually justified in their fear of rejection. They’re just prolonging the feeling of not being sure that it’s not going to happen compared to the next most likely alternative (which, needless to say, is not “it happening”).

Guys should be honest with themselves about whether or not they are befriending them for the sole pupose of getting together. The best way to do this (in my experience) is to ask him or herself “Would I still want to be this close if she met the man of her dreams and were married to tomorrow?”.

On at least a couple of occasions I “befriended” someone with the sole intention of getting together romantically with them. I wasn’t exactly sneaky about it, though, as they knew how I felt and knew that simply being friends wasn’t an option to me.

The issue arose when she wanted to put me on the “friend” shelf for future consideration. That can sound like a good deal, though in my experience it isn’t (for the interested, anyway). Once you get put there and it’s determined that you’re fine there (at least for the time being) and that you’re interested, you get put in permanent reserve status for when there’s no one else available to them. Then, when that moment comes, you are seen as this dreadful comprimose candidate and she will do anything to avoid having to “settle” for you.

Some women insist that the “Friend Zone” doesn’t exist, but it does at least in the above incarnation. Sometimes people think that they’re in the FZ when they’re really in the Wasnevergonnahappen Zone, but sometimes not. It’s difficult to tell the difference sometimes.

Being just friends with a girl you’re interested in is more problematic. Your interest in your friend becomes apparent to girls that you meet through them. The facts that they don’t want to be a second choice and the fact that one of the earliest things they know about you is that you’ve been rejected are not fertile ground for a relationship.

The second thing, which happened to me but only when I was younger so I would probably do better with it now if I were dating, is that you can become quite resentful of their efforts to shuffle you off to someone else. You view the recommended friend of the friend as a second choice and can find flaws that you wouldn’t be looking for in other circumstances.

Some of this depends on how interested in them you are. If it’s a mild interest, it’s great to just be friends. I was interested in a girl once and was rejected, but I asked her out early enough in the process that I was able to let it go pretty swiftly and became involved in her social group (without being known as “The Guy Who Digs X”, which is important).

I don’t see any problem with wanting to be with someone romantically and not wanting to be friends with them and don’t necessarily see that as indicative of a problem. Or at least it’s much less a problem to insist to yourself that you should be friends around someone that it hurts to be around. To be friends with someone that you are attracted to romantically can make it extremely difficult to be comfortable around them. Comfort is a key ingredient to friendship.

Noteworthy in that two of the three above instances that come to mind, they did become romantically interested in me… but only after I extricated myself from these lives and after it had been long enough that I lost my position in her life as a hanger-on. So it’s sort of a catch-22. You only get it after you’ve accepted that you can’t have it and moved on. Another way of looking at it is that you only get a shot after you can take some time to reload or the old saying that she can only miss you if you’re always there.

It seems to me that in general, one of the bigger problems here is the carrying of a torch as it becomes larger and larger without confronting it before it becomes a forest fire.

That’s one of the problems with the LJBF thing when combined with the possibility that things could change or that things could have been different (if they could have been different, they could have changed in the future)… it means that a guy can’t entirely put the flame out and it’s hard to keep such things minimized but alive.

It’s also the problem for guys that are interested in a woman but hover around too much waiting for the right time to make their move. Their feelings can sometimes grow way out of proportion and it complicates things and makes sure that the right time never comes (or at least greatly reduces the likelihood of it). It’s also why it’s dangerous to be attracted to someone that’s with someone else, even if you don’t think their current relationship is permanent. In fact, just about any situation where you give yourself too much time to build up your feelings and desires without being able (or willing) to act on them is a recipe for a meldown.

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11 Responses to Better Stung By An Ember

  1. Peter says:

    I am convinced that a big reason behind the anger some men have for women – see most any comment thread at Roissy’s for examples – is the female practice of LJBF’ing men rather than just dumping them outright. A dumping is more painful for the man when it first occurs, but in the long run is much kinder and much better for all concerned. LJBF’ing exists because some women are under the mistaken belief that it’s the better option. Others simply lack the courage to dump men.

  2. Barry says:

    I was friends with a number of women in college, and by friends I meant we all hung out together in the same group of friends. At various times, I had a band group, a Computer Science group, a theatre group, a campus church group and a chorus group. Many times these groups overlapped in time and members – one of my chorus friends was also one of my campus church group friends.

    I found out, over several years of fruitless experience, that getting to be good friends with a girl that also has a number of other guy friends in that circle and her own other circles was pointless – if she didn’t like me enough to want to date, then she didn’t like me. As a romantic interest, that is – we were all good platonic friends. And if one guy from the group caught her eye, then that’s who she’d pursue. And if another guy caught her eye and interest, then she’d go there. And if she didn’t want a guy at that point in time she wouldn’t.

    In other words, I never got the idea I was placed on the Reserve Shelf status, waiting until she had nobody else she was interested in. I was either starting for the offense, or on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform list. There was no 2nd or 3rd string hope for me…

  3. trumwill says:

    I don’t think that LBJFing is used to dump men as often as reject them. I also don’t think that LJBFing is the issue as much as vague implications that something in the future is possible even when it isn’t or that something had been possible in the past (giving the guy hope that it could be possible again). I’ve said in the past that that worst answer to a proposal for romance is not “No” but rather “Maybe, possibly, could be…”

    I think that some women do it because they think that it may assuage the guy’s feelings. A sort of consolation prize, though that’s usually a bad misreading of the situation.

    Sometimes it’s more nefarious. There are certain advantages to having men interested in you. It’s an ego boost. He’ll do things for you. An outright rejection would threaten that.

    I have also heard from enough places, though, that it’s often an attempt to diffuse the guy. To make sure that he doesn’t seek retribution or go crazy on her. It’s analogous to the ways that some men and women look for strategic ways out of an existing relationship without just being straight-up about it. Sometimes that’s honestly the better way to go.

    I think that generally speaking, though, complaints about LJBF or hedged rejections are cop-outs. It’s a way for the guy to complain about being rejected without being open to the counterpoint that if given a chance there are women that they’d reject, too. To avoid that charge, we try to make the case that it’s not that we were rejected but how we were rejected when there really isn’t a way that we would be rejected that would be to our liking. The same goes for dumping and there it more frequently works both ways. I’ve frequently heard women (and men) complain that it’s the “how” rather than the “that” which bothers them when I am doubtful.

    I think that the biggest reason for male bitterness is that they are rejected by the women whose affections that they seek. Sometimes they are repeatedly rejected because they’re interested in the wrong people (which, contrary to speculation, is not something that only women do). Sometimes it’s because they have a personal defect that they don’t address because they can’t, they don’t know to, and/or it’s simply easier to blame all women than the core component of all your failed attempts at relationships (which would be “you”).

  4. trumwill says:


    You can’t really be put on Reserve Status unless she knows you’re interested. Sometimes because you tell her and sometimes because you make it obvious in clumsy attempts at subtlety. Merely being a male friend is not being put in Reserve Status.

  5. Barry says:

    Good point. At that time, though, I thought if I got close enough to them (as a friend) I would be able to see signs that they were interested in me. And as I never would, and saw them continually falling into the arms of another guy, I never pressed my case. Because “NO” was the worst thing they could’ve said to me (well, I suppose “HELL, NO” would actually be worse) and not knowing left open that little spark of possibility that someday, maybe, someday, they might notice me standing there.

    I would think something as simple as a “Well, maybe, kinda” would’ve done wonders for my self-esteem and ego but I didn’t want to risk the “NO” or “HELL, NO”.

    On top of all that, I never really learned how to let a girl know of my intentions when she wasn’t obviously interested. I lucked into my wife, thank goodness, she was basically in the same boat as I was.

  6. Peter says:

    I don’t think that LBJFing is used to dump men as often as reject them.

    I had been using the terms more or less interchangeably. You are right, however; LJBF’ing stops relationships from developing in the first place, rather than terminating existing ones.

    I have also heard from enough places, though, that it’s often an attempt to diffuse the guy. To make sure that he doesn’t seek retribution or go crazy on her.

    Women are sorely mistaken. An LJBF’ing is more likely to infuriate a man than is a simple “no.”

  7. trumwill says:

    You’re right. “Maybe, Possibly, could be…” does feel great at first. It was a big deal when I got my first ambivalent (as opposed to flatly negative) response. The newness of that wore off, and before long I was stammering “Do you not or do you do? Make up your mind, woman!”

    Whether it’s actually in a woman’s best interest to attempt diffusal through hedging I wouldn’t know. It probably depends a lot on the guy. I’m not sure how much difference it makes. It seems that half the time a woman hedges, she has to eventually come out and explicitly say “no”. And half the time she says “no”, he browbeats her to the point that she says something like “I’m not saying never, but {insert hedge here}.” Rejecting someone, as with dumping them, is really a no-win situation.

  8. Transplanted Lawyer says:

    I presume you’ve all seen this already. It contains an important lesson — at some point, a guy has to get over his fear of rejection and ask the girl out pointblank. When I finally did that — it took me a shamefully long time of putting up with LJBF’ing around — I achieved greater levels of success romantically.

    What’s infuriating is encountering some of the LBJF’ers later in life and having them say that they would have enjoyed dating me way back when. It’s infuriating because it was either true or it was not — if it wasn’t true, why did you say it; and if it was true, was I so obtuse that I didn’t ever see the signal?

  9. trumwill says:

    That’s brilliant, TL! Something Positive also has a series of good cartoons on the subject.

    I think I’ve figured out what some of the stuff you’re referring to is about. I think sometimes a person likes the idea of dating another person, but the mental transition from the idea to the action is difficult for some reason or another. Often because they’re a little too fixated on someone else or they come to the conclusion that a relationship with you might be more serious than they are looking for. Something like that.

    I think that one of the advantages of being upfront is that it forces them to confront whatever that block is. Accepting a position on the shelf lets them keep you around indefinitely.

  10. Brandon Berg says:

    The thing that bugs me about that XKCD comic is that it portrays the beta’s actions as sneaky and devious, as if he’s trying to put one over on her. The reality is that men are constantly being fed the message that romance should grow smoothly out of friendships, not only by the media, but by women themselves. He’s not plotting anything devious—this is how he really thinks romance is supposed to work.

    Moreover, there’s not a word about the way she’s taking advantage of his attraction to her to use him for the emotional support her sex partners aren’t giving her, and when she finally does realize that he’s the one for her, it’s cast as him taking advantage of her vulnerability. How do we know that she doesn’t really end up happy with him? Because that wouldn’t fit into the beta-bashing narrative.

    The strategy outlined here is stategically bad, but the villain-and-victim narrative is BS. In reality, both sides share responsibility for any negative (or positive) outcome.

  11. trumwill says:


    Society tells us that there are numerous ways with which to win a woman over. One is that love may blossom out of friendship, but more common is the notion of sweeping her off her feet. At the end of the day, though, whether you succeed or not has as much to do with who you are as with how you go about it. An undesirable man that tries to sweep her off her feet is harassing while a desirable one is romantic. An undesirable man that attempts to Friend his way to romance is sneaky, while a desirable man that does the same is sweet.

    The issue here, though, is not so much that he is attempting to be her friend, but rather why. It’s out of fear. It’s not about trying to get to know her better (which is the ostensible reason for Friends First) but rather because he’s scared of being hurt. He is not doing nice things to her because he cares about her (indeed, it does not appear that he wants to date her because he cares about her — more on that later), but because he wants to date her. To some degree this is something that everybody does, of course, but it’s something different as a long-term arrangement as it is in the comic.

    As to the point of whether or not the girl will be happy, I think the issue here is not that she will not be happy, but that he doesn’t care if she is not. He accepts the fact that she won’t, actually, and decides that’s okay because he has what he wants.

    On the last point, though, I actually agree. She is not purely the victim. If she doesn’t realize that he likes her, she has a degree of culpability for being so oblivious to the feelings of others. If she does, then she using him the same way that a guy uses a girl for sex while sidestepping the relationship that she obviously wants in return. Is he the villain? Not on the basis of what’s shown here. He is definitely not the hero, though, that he half imagines himself to be.

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