Every so often I have to put the word out: if you want me to keep doing Friday Night Date Place, I need folks to suggest some topics for me. So, from the suggestion bag, I got this: how do you love your brothers in Christ without giving them false hope of you wanting something more?

This is an all too common occurrence, an unintended consequence of folks trying to let other folks down gently. We know the deal, because we’ve been there before: a person puts themselves out on a limb, making themselves vulnerable, only to be turned down (or the relationship cut much shorter than they had hoped). So wanting to let them down is both commendable and loving. Unfortunately, sometimes the trying to be “just friends” is misinterpreted as them still having hope of being in the game.

So what if they don’t get the hint?

First off, let’s examine if you’ve done anything to confuse the issue. Being “just friends” aside, you don’t want to send mixed messages by still going out with them, accepting their gifts, or ramming your tongue down their throats (the whole “friends with benefits” being a topic for another day).

If you aren’t sending mixed signals you may have to have another, more firm, talk with them. The first go around you have license to pad your talk with crap. But if you’ve already gone down that road once before with the “but speeches” (“I really like you but …” or “You have so much going on for you, but ..”), then it’s time to “woman up” (read: put your big girl panties on) and be more blunt. I understand that you may worry about being perceived as not nice and, again, that’s commendable. You still need to be honest with the fact that things really aren’t going anywhere. If you have to, put the ball back in their court: where exactly did you see this going? Or flat out admit that being “just friends” isn’t working – and then cut all ties. The two things you want to continue to strive for is honesty and being loving. It’s about getting the truth across plainly while doing your best to spare someone’s dignity.

After that, play time is over. If someone is so desperate for attention, for any scrap that might prove “she likes me!” then don’t answer their phone calls, e-mails, any communication, ignore the smoke signals and hope they take the hint and go away. We’d hate for things to degenerate to the point of reducing you to humiliating tactics like finding excuses putting off time together (come on, how often can you spend evenings doing your hair?) or coming up with lies like wearing a ring to announce your recent “engagement”. On the flip side, this is the age of stalkers and restraining orders.

If you have made it CLEAR that you aren’t interested and they still pursue you, that’s on them. You can’t be responsible for what other people feel. It’s sad to see things get to a point where you feel like you can’t even be nice to folks or that they don’t understand anything but outright being ignored; however, sometimes folks just aren’t meant to be “just friends”.

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