“Why would a person say they want to be friends with someone if they don’t actually mean it?”
I’ve actually asked myself this question many times since I began dating. It’s a familiar scenario. You go on a few dates with somebody and maybe you think you’ve connected on some level, or maybe that disinterested feeling is mutual. In any case, someone always ends up uttering the words, “Let’s just be friends.”
Some people can see right through it the moment they hear those words. But if you’re like me, you’re actually naive enough to believe that they really do want to be friends. When you finally get the hint after being ignored and avoided, you frustratingly ask yourself why anyone would offer up their friendship in the first place.
If you were to ask anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of this statement, they would tell you that nobody anywhere ever wants to be friends. Ever. Sure, there are actually a few people who have maintained friendships with former lovers, but the majority of people don’t remain in contact with each other after the fling is over.
So, why do people say it, then? If you don’t plan on speaking to that person ever again anyway, why get their hopes up for a friendship? Well, there maybe a lot of different reasons why. Maybe a person is selfish and they want a way to have easy access to you without having to work for a relationship. Or maybe they didn’t want to deal the awkwardness of actually breaking up, so they said what they thought you would want to hear.
But beyond being a selfish excuse or easy way out, the “let’s just be friends” excuse is more damaging to friendships and trust. Using friendships as a fall-back for relationships that aren’t working out just ends up cheapening friendships.
Friendships are their own special relationship. I often hear people discuss friendships as if they’re somehow less special because there’s no sex (“Oh, we’re just friends.”). This seems to be the main complaint of some people when they bemoan being “friendzoned;” instead of wanting to forge a friendship, these individuals seem to mourn what they perceive as a lack of sex.
Despite all of the jokes made about being “friendzoned,” friendships actually require require a huge amount of devotion and work. Although people may seem to connect as friends, their relationship might not last unless both people take the time to work toward it. I have known my good friend, Crystal, for ten years. Our relationship didn’t come easy–at one point, we hated each other–but despite living in two different states, we still have a close relationship because we work for it. So, using friendships as an excuse to get away from a person, debases them. It reduces them to a lesser type of relationship, like a consolation prize for failing at dating, and friendships are so much more than that.
Whatever their reason, having someone reject your relationship in such a way feels like an outright rejection of you as a person. Whether or not this is their intent, dangling an offer of friendship in front of your partner just to make it easier to break up with them still stings.
Recently, I went out with a guy whom I had a crush on for years. We had a wonderful time and I thought that we really hit it off. Then, after ignoring me for a couple of weeks, he texted me to say that not only was he seeing someone else, but he hoped that we could remain friends. Promptly after his offer of “friendship” he dropped from the face of the Earth. I can’t speak for his intentions, but I do know how it made me feel. I felt disappointed, annoyed, hurt, but I also felt a strong lack of confidence. The whole situation made me feel as if I wasn’t even worthy of honesty and a “proper rejection.” The most I could hope for is an excuse and a ghosting.
You see, telling someone that you just want to be friends is only an easy way out for yourself. It doesn’t keep someone else from having hurt feelings and it doesn’t make them any less confused and upset. All it does is give you an escape hatch so that you can move on to the next best thing while leaving someone else to deal with the mess.
If you’re going to reject somebody, reject them. Tell them that it’s not working out. Tell them that you’re personalities don’t mesh. Tell them that they smell. But don’t ever tell them that you just want to be friends. Because that’s shitty and it makes you a shitty person.