[Q&A – Dating] What does it really mean when she (or he) says “we should just be friends?”

The Q: From a guy, about a girl: “At first she seemed very interested. Then somehow, she got scared or had second thoughts or something. I must have come on too strong. … If she says she wants to be ‘just friends’ right now, does that mean I have to not talk to her any more?” -Michael*

The A: There are two versions of my answer to this question. First, the long one: One of my favorite quotes, from George Bernard Shaw, says “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

My hunch is that’s what’s happened here.

This reminds me of the time I let a guy take me out twice and after date two, I knew: I couldn’t be more than his friend. Afraid to hurt his feelings, I dropped a gentle hint or two, intending to imply the following:

I definitely don’t want to date you.

He didn’t pick up what I tried to put down. And that I expected him to is absurd, because people can’t read minds. But the point is this: explicit communication is key. We can’t assume somebody knows exactly what we mean if we haven’t told them exactly what we mean.

And this is not to say Michael’s girl doesn’t want to date him. It’s to say that as far as Michael’s concerned, she hasn’t told him exactly what she means.

And since I’m not her, I can’t say for sure whether “I want to be ‘just friends’ right now” means she doesn’t want to hear from him. Which is why this is my short answer:

Ask her the same question.

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Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, email me at arleenwrites@gmail.com or leave it in the comments. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question).

*Real person, fake name.

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