Is a guy off limits if my friend liked him first?
There’s a limited number of eligible males in my church, but all of them are great, godly men. My best friend likes one of these guys a lot, and though he has given no clear indication of returning these feelings, she has declared that none of us other women are allowed to like him. The first time she said this, none of us had any inclination toward this particular man. Now, it appears that he may in fact be interested in me, and I am interested enough in him to give him a chance if he were to step forward and make a move.
My dilemma is this: How much do I sacrifice for the sake of a friend? Is it fair to this man to turn him down based solely on the fact that my friend has unreciprocated feelings for him? That just feels wrong.
Furthermore, after years of praying for a husband and having never dated as of yet (I’m 21), I don’t see the reason in slamming the door shut on my first opportunity to develop a relationship with a man who likes me when he’s seen my good moments and not so good moments.
This whole thing seems childish, and though I have no desire to hurt my friend, I also have no desire to be deceitful or dishonest in any way.
What will most hurt your friend, in the long run, is if you play by her childish rules. I wonder what makes a woman (or man for that matter) think she can make the rules for who dates whom. And not only that, but who has feelings for whom. And yet, frustratingly, we’ve all had friends like her (maybe some of us have been her): women who respond to a perceived shortage of good men with a hoarding mentality.
She’s missing the bigger picture. I’ll try to sketch it out in a few brush strokes.
Brush stroke one: Biblically, it’s the woman’s job to respond — either positively or negatively — to a man’s initiation. If this young man were in the process of pursuing her, and they were, in fact, a couple, your friend would be doing the rest of the women a favor by letting them know that she and said man are dating now. I was spared more than one embarrassing moment with a man I found attractive when I learned he was already dating someone else. But in your scenario, he’s not. She’s staking a claim that isn’t rightfully hers. What’s more, she has no control over how any of you other gals feel about him.
Brush stroke two: Her efforts to control the situation will likely have the opposite effect of what she desires. Saying something is off limits often makes it suddenly attractive. Your letter proves it. You weren’t attracted to this man before she made him off limits. Now you are. By trying to say no one else can have him, she’s actually set up the circumstances for a healthy competition.
Brush stroke three: If he is interested in her, she has nothing to fear. If she’s the one he wants to pursue, there’s no need to try and control all the other women around him (that would be both impossible and exhausting) and doing so would only jeopardize their potential relationship.
Brush stroke four: If the man is not interested in her and he gets wind of what she’s up to (things like this always have a way of getting around), he’s likely to pull away from her even more. Forget about a potential romance — if they have a budding friendship, she could lose even that.
So what do you do about it? I’d start by being prepared to ask questions. Rather than agree to her terms, or lie and say you won’t date him (when you’re hoping he’ll ask you out) shift the focus. Help her see how unreasonable and unwarranted her demands are. When she says, “He’s mine” (or something similar), ask her if he’s showing interest in her. Has he asked her out? Is he giving her reasons to hope? Or better, “Has he asked you to tell us this?” I’d even go so far as to ask how she thinks he’d feel about her statements of “right to first position.”
It’s never a good idea to say things in someone’s absence that you wouldn’t say if they were part of the conversation. I love the imagery Solomon used to capture this phenomenon. He wrote, “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say” (Ecclesiastes 10:20).
You’re right that this feels childish. It reminds me of junior high. But it’s also a good opportunity for you to grow in your prayer life. Pray for your friend. Pray that God would bless her with the ability to trust in Him, rather than in her own strength and ability to manipulate the situation.
And pray that He will give you wisdom to know how to proceed both with her and the young man. Pray for mentors who can help the singles in your group grow in their faith and maturity.
Finally, pray for a healthy, mature group of friends with whom you can walk through this single season, preferably composed of people who are cheering each other on toward strong marriages and families for God’s glory.
For more ideas about responding to such friends, please check out the Inbox on last Friday’s podcast, which begins at around 41:30.
May God guide you.
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.