Wrong Attention Feels Better Than No Attention

A disgruntled couple in the middle of a fight
One of the first Boundless articles I read was Suzanne’s “Not Your Buddy.” At the time I had decided to move on from a confusing friendlationship with a guy I had met through small group. From random invitations to “grab dinner and hang out” to serving alongside each other in a high school ministry and seeing how well we worked together as a team, he was exactly the kind of guy I wanted to date. But as best I could tell, he only saw me as a cool girl to hang out with but not the girl he wanted to date. Our friendship naturally started to fade, and I knew I had to move on. As I read Suzanne’s article, I resolved I would never do the friendlationship thing again. Until I did.

It was a guy from yet another small group, and it started innocently enough – an unexpected Facebook friend request, followed by almost daily Messenger chats. Soon enough he was inviting me to get-togethers at his house and asking me to lunch. But as far as I could tell, even though we were often eating and meeting alone he didn’t consider these events dates. They sure felt like dates to me, but he never initiated anything that clued me in that he saw me as more than a friend. In fact, when we would see each other at small group or end up at the same party, I felt like one of the many girls in his life, which was confusing since we had spent an hour texting back and forth the day before. We had even both asked a mutual friend about the other, but I finally had to admit he was never going to act on his interest and ask me out on a proper date.

And I blamed myself for that. It’s true I wanted a guy who was willing to risk rejection and have enough respect for me to make his intentions clear. But having a foundation of a friendship can make for a strong relationship, and I told myself I was creating space for our friendship to grow. But after months and months and several non-dates later, I had to admit he probably wasn’t going to wake up one day and realize he should date me. After my best friend and her husband both expressed concern about him, I realized I had to move on. I was caught in the friendlationship web again.

So why was I okay with the imitation relationship? Sometimes even the wrong attention (or frustrating, unfulfilling attention) is better than no attention. I was willing to settle for feeling annoyed and confused because a pseudo-boyfriend was better than no boyfriend at all.

Ultimately, this relationship revealed a lot of my own insecurities. I doubted he would commit to me if I forced him to “DTR” (define the relationship), so I didn’t ask for more. But even worse, I didn’t think God would ever answer my prayer for a spouse. That doubt, that lack of faith, was my own issue. It manifested itself in my acceptance of a substitute relationship that only brought chaos and self-doubt.

It’s easy to write about a friendlationship and only admonish the guys to treat the women in their lives with more respect. But at any time I could’ve asked him for clarification. I could’ve said no to lunch dates and I could’ve ignored his flirty texts. But I didn’t. And that is all on me. I am responsible for my attachments, and I can’t blame anyone else for not setting up healthy boundaries for my heart.

If I could have a do-over, I’d go back and tell myself that it’s okay to be protective of my emotions once it goes beyond a friendship. But I’d also say if you have to wonder about a man’s interest, he’s probably just not that into you. So move on.

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