What if you knew what men secretly wanted but they could never tell you

It’s simpler than you think and I’m here to tell you how.

He Led Me On and Now Wants To Be Friends – 9 Experts Share Their Best Tips + Insights

by Jennifer Rubolino – EdD, LMHC, Elizabeth Miller – LISW, Christina Grudzinski – LMFT, MS, Rachel Armstrong – Psy.D., Lori D’Elia – MA, LMFT, CPC, Dana Hall – LCPC, MA, TF-CBT, Sally LeBoy – MFT, Monica Burton – MS, LMFT, Carrie McCrudden – PsyD

He Led Me On and Now Wants To Be Friends

“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”

~ Mandy Hale

Mandy Hale Standards Quote
Carrie McCrudden

#1. When someone is really into you, it isn’t a mystery

When someone is really into you, they tend to be clear about it, especially with their actions. They show you they want to be with you by spending time together, they show you that you are special to them by taking an interest in your life, they show you they think you are important by remembering your conversations, likes and dislikes. They show up for more than just sexy time.

#2. Listen to the verbal and nonverbal communication this man is sending you

For too long, I have watched women try to coax men into a relationship, instead of listening to the signs that a man isn’t actually interested in anything serious. Man saying one thing and doing another? Don’t make excuses for him or decide that he “didn’t really mean it” when he said he wasn’t looking for something serious. Let his words and his actions speak for themselves.

#3. Friends with benefits is often not all that friendly

Good friends look out for each other’s best interests. Oftentimes friends with benefits happens when one person is hoping that the other person will eventually change their minds and want to date. Make sure any friendship(with or without benefits) is a mutual one. Decide if this person is someone worth your time as a friend. If he treated you badly in relationship, why be friends?

#4. Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end

Sometimes we don’t want something to end, so we settle for something like a friendship when what we really need to do is say goodbye. It’s ok! Everything has a beginning, middle and end. Look closely at if this is actually a friendship you want to pursue or if this is a great time to say goodbye. One easy way to tell the answer? Do you feel better or worse about yourself after you spend time with him? If you often find yourself down on yourself or feeling worse after being together, that’s a great indicator to put an end to the connection.

Dr. Carrie McCrudden, PsyD – www.coloradotherapycare.com

Dana Hall

Dating is about finding out who someone is as well as learning about yourself.

Sometimes what we learn is that we are not on the same page, which can be devastating. Your feelings are valid. It may take time to sort through where you stand in each other’s lives. However, if you have felt taken advantage of this is not a good place to start a friendship. 

Instead, take some time to consider what is in your best interest and heal. 

Also, remember it is not mean or rude to tell them you’re not interested in a friendship. You set the standards for the relationships in your life and you do not need to apologize for that one bit.

Some things to consider moving forward:

Be realistic going in.

When we date there are only a few potential outcomes which means more often than not rejection or breakups will happen. The alternative can be that we find a different kind of connection- friendship. This does not have to be seen as a consolation prize, finding a genuine connection with someone is rare no matter what form it takes. Also being single can have its own benefits, it is not a failure not to be in a relationship.

Are you giving too much?

Sometimes someone will stay because they are getting their physical and/or emotional needs met without giving much in return. If this is the case, it can leave one feeling used when the other reveals they don’t want a romantic relationship. 

Make sure even early on that you are seeing a mutual effort. 

Speak up and ask for what you need, we can teach people what our standards are and build a mutual dynamic. By requiring more from our relationships we can see early on if this is the right fit or not.

Don’t question your worth.

When we feel rejected and/or taken advantage of it is not uncommon to think ‘what’s wrong with me.’ Instead, reassess your values and reinvest in yourself. Learn from the situation and remember that finding out this one relationship wasn’t right for you is a step towards connections that are healthier. 

Make sure you have a good support system and reassess the balance in your life. 

When you are at your best you will continue to attract people into your life that elevate you and you will be less likely to settle for subpar treatment. How you love yourself is the foundational example of how others will learn to treat you. Get right with you!

Dana Hall, LCPC, MA, TF-CBT – www.DanaLHall.com

Sally LeBoy

I would be very interested in his definition of “friends”. 

In my definition, friends don’t lead each other on. Friendship involves, among other things, trust. To me he is immediately disqualified as it sounds like he lied to you.

It’s important that you evaluate your own definition of “friends”. 

I wonder if you might be selling yourself short, that you feel that in some way you are not worthy of good friends? 

  • Are your friends trustworthy? 
  • Can you confide in your friends and know that they will keep your confidence? 
  • Do you feel valued by your friends? 

Of course, you want your friends to be fun, to share some common interests and values. But without trust, none of that matters.

Maybe this man was fun, exciting and attractive, and that makes it difficult to totally give up on him. But he is selfish. Expecting that you would want to be friends with someone who ran roughshod over your feelings really takes a lot of nerve!

Now, I have to ask, could you have led yourself on? 

Could you have wanted him enough that you convinced yourself that he was more interested in you than he was actually indicating? We’ve probably all done this at some time or another, so no judgment. But it could be worth at least taking that self-inventory.

If this is on him, don’t set yourself up for more hurt. You absolutely deserve it!

Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

Elizabeth Miller

So, you have been led on by a man and now you are hurt and embarrassed.  

To make sure you were led on and not just a hopeful follower, ask yourself these questions. 

  • Did he say he was interested in dating or did you interpret his behaviors as interest you wanted to see?
  • When socializing, did he focus solely on you – more attention, more adoration, more conversation than with others? Or did you only pay attention to the focus he gave to you with the hopes that it meant something special was happening?
  • Was he direct with his thoughts and feelings? (I enjoy being with you. I am developing feelings for you.) Or did you practice your own brand of interpretation because you wanted desperately to believe you both were feeling the same?

I am not here to dismantle your potential romance by suggesting it was all in your imagination. I am here for a reality check. 

If you were unable to determine with clarity the answers to the above questions, it may be time to check in with your fantasy meter.  However, if you are certain he was clear and this was a real case of being led on, let’s look at why a man might do that.

I believe a man will lead a woman on for these reasons: 

  • He is confused

It is as simple as, sometimes we think we know what we want until we have it. I wish it were more complex than that, to somehow make up for the pain, but often it is not. He may have led you on because he thought he was catching feelings for you but sadly, they did not materialize. Women are as guilty as men at pursuing someone whom they ultimately lose interest in. It is a phenomenon most do not understand but many have experienced. 

  • He is getting something from you

This is the old cow and milk question. Seriously, it could be as simple as he was getting attention from you but when you asked about the future of the relationship, poof! He disappeared. 

Maybe friends with benefits was fun at first but then you developed feelings and poof again, disappeared. Whatever the reason, as soon as you ask for more from him or the relationship, he hits the ground running. The moral of this story is to know your worth from the beginning so not to give away what should be earned.

  • He is manipulative

The purpose of a manipulator is to exploit the recipient’s trust to garner whatever benefits they are seeking. He will literally tell you whatever you need to hear to get from you what he wants. 

Beware!  Narcissists and such.  Promises, lying, gas lighting, compliments, fancy dates, you name it, it’s on the table. If this is who led you on and left you, be happy with this outcome. You saved yourself many hours of pain and tears.

Elizabeth Miller, LISW – www.elizabethmcounseling.com

Rachel Armstrong

It is no surprise that movies and tv shows are often built around a plot line of someone being “friend zoned.” 

It feels so familiar to us as viewers to see someone experiencing unrequited love with someone who sees us as just a friend. 

The movies often have romantic turnarounds when the person comes around and returns those feelings and they go off into the sunset. Unfortunately, in real life it doesn’t often go this way.

If you meet someone new and think that you are forming a romantic connection, it is inevitable that you would be disappointed if they declared that they just wanted to be friends. How do you handle this? 

For starters, be honest with yourself about how you feel. 

Too many women play along and say they are fine with it too, or maybe they deny their true feelings. This won’t get you anywhere. Embrace the disappointment and sadness. 

Share with your love interest that you felt misled and hurt. 

Maybe you feel comfortable asking him if he can see why you were confused about his intentions. See if he takes any responsibility for your confusion. If he does, this may be a good sign that he is being sincere that his feelings just changed. If he denies it, you may likely feel as though you’ve been gaslighted.

Either way, engaging in a friendship when you have other goals is rarely going to be healthy for you. 

  • Do you find yourself prioritizing this friend over real friends that are mutual and restorative? 
  • Do you find yourself putting him ahead of new experiences and new dating opportunities? 

This just traps you in a relationship that does not meet any of your long term goals of finding a partner. 

I recommend being honest and telling him your true feelings and then walking away from the relationship. 

This is not a friendship, it is just unrequited love. And we all know that in the rare instance he truly thinks he made a mistake and he does have feelings for you, he will let you know. Either way, you are left being honest with yourself, him, and you have your self-respect. Move on to dating those who are interested in you romantically. You will find your person.

Rachel Armstrong, Psy.D. – www.rachelarmstrongpsyd.com

Monica Burton

Have you ever met someone who felt similar attraction to each other, went out a few times, talked or texted over the phone, became Facebook friends and even became intimate all to find out the person you have been with isn’t on the same page as you?

There can be times in the dating world when we are misled or even lied too and it hurts.  

When this happens, it is important to pause and try to stop the negative thinking you might be experiencing. 

There are a few key points to remember or ask yourself.

  1. Did you show up authentically? 
  2. Were you clear on what you wanted or what was important to you? 
  3. What are your dating boundaries? 
  4. Remember that when someone isn’t honest or leads you on, it is not about you!!!! It is their inability to communicate clearly and that is definitely not someone you want to be in a relationship with. 
  5. What can you do to care for yourself during your time of hurt instead of beating yourself up? 

These are just a few questions to ask and answer for your own reflections and to help you grow.  

They are also questions that are in your control.  When we are hurting, we try to “control” things and try to make sense of things that are never going to make sense, nor can we control.  

It’s important to remember to ask yourself, what is in my control and how can I be kind to myself in my time of hurt. 

Monica Burton, MS, LMFT – www.monicaburtonlmft.com

Lori D'Elia

One of the most important questions you should ask yourself is, do you want to be HIS friend? 

Women should look at interactions, friendships, relationships with men, as equal and therefore they are entitled to an equal say. He may have led you on.

Flirted with you aggressively, made false promises, acted in a manner to make you believe he was interested in more than a friendship and then, for one reason or another, decided he just wanted to be friends.

Maybe his situation changed, and while having good intentions, still misled you. Maybe he is one to mislead for sport and never intended on being more than friends. 

In either scenario, it is still up to you whether or not you want to be his friend or move on with your life.

Ask yourself if you can be his friend. What does that look like? What would that entail? Is it emotionally beneficial for you?

When we talk about empowering women, the hope is for women to realize that they have power. In this situation, the power is to make a decision that would benefit them and either accept or reject the invitation to be friends.

You don’t have to be their friend just because he wants to be friends with you. 

If you wanted to be in a relationship and/or more than just friends, and now that is off the table, feel free to politely decline and move on with your life. However, if you see a friendship as emotionally beneficial to you, despite them leading you on, by all means, decide for yourself and live your life with an additional friend in it!

Lori D’Elia, MA, LMFT, CPC – www.deliafamilysolutions.com

Jennifer Rubolino

I regularly support and counsel women who have been involved intimately with men who may have good intentions initially, but then reach a point in the relationship where they communicate that they just want to be “just friends.” 

This assertion of wanting to be “just friends” after having been quite intimate and vulnerable may leave women feeling shocked, angry, and rageful.

At times during our work together, I hear the women desperate to change their former partners minds. They may feel hurt and abandoned, as well as rejected. Women may agree to be “just friends” with their former partners in hopes that their former partners may change their minds and want to reconcile with them.

While my practice focuses primarily on helping women understand their feelings better, and less on giving direct advice, here are some tips that have come out of working with such situations over the years:

1. Feel free to ask for more information if your partner has a change of heart and says “I just want to be friends.”

I want women to feel empowered to seek information. A woman has the right to understand what has happened within the relationship. 

While a woman may not be able to change her partner’s mind about being “just friends,” she can certainly try and gain insight and information about his need to suddenly back out of the relationship. 

If her former partner has some degree of insight, he may be able to give her the explanation she is looking for, which can help with a grieving/ healing process that is necessary for moving forward. Often women struggle the most with not knowing why a man has suddenly changed his mind.

2. Remember it is not always about you.

One of the hardest things for women to do after a man changes his mind and wants to be “just friends” is to not personalize his decision. It is quite normal to personalize, and/ or look at one’s part in a situation. 

However, often men assert they want to be “just friends” or lead a woman on if they have fear of intimacy. 

A woman may most likely personalize a situation in which her former partner shuts down after telling her he just wants to be friends, ghosts her, or lacks the insight to report on this change of feelings. She will need information to help with moving forward.

3. Consider asking yourself how it would feel to remain friends and if it is in your best interest.

After processing the loss of the relationship, it will be important for a woman to take time and consider asking herself if it truly is in her best interest to remain friends with her ex. A silver lining to any break up can be the transformation in one’s self worth. 

A woman can learn to nurture herself more and not allow herself to be emotionally used and taken for granted. 

She can become her own best friend and consult with her innermost feelings as to whether it adds anything to her life to remain friends with her former partner.

Jennifer Rubolino, EdD, LMHC – www.drjenniferrubolino.com

Christina Grudzinski

One of the most important elements of relationships is authenticity and communication.  

When we first meet someone who interests us, we will need to get to know them and have space to explore the possibility for a relationship.  I know many men and women who have friendly and outgoing personalities that get accused of this kind of thing without much merit.  

Unfortunately, leading someone on implies intentional deception rather than mutual exploration.  

What a shock to learn that someone who seemed like a potential partner just wants to be friends.  When someone hears that it can be hurtful and make us question ourselves.  What are we doing?  Why are they wasting my time?  

Getting more information is key, hold back your reaction.  

Think about the specific things that person did to lead you on.  Typically, there are things that y’all said or did together that you wouldn’t typically expect from just a friend.  Also consider if you would want to continue a friendship with this person.  

Either way it’s okay to own what happened and communicate that.  

“I appreciate your friendship.  I was under the impression that this was becoming more than a friendship, but I made a mistake.  I hope you understand that we will not be able to continue our friendship in the same way.”  

Warning signs you are being led on:

  1. Being ignored or not having regular contact

  2. Publicly cold or distant and privately warm and connecting 

  3. Flaking out on plans at the last minute

  4. You feel confused about the relationship

  5. Trust your GUT!  If something feels off, pay attention. 

Christina Grudzinski, LMFT, MS – www.unitycounselingtexas.com

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If you’re frustrated with your man going cold, losing interest, or pulling away, then this video is a must watch.

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