“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
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
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
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
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:
Being ignored or not having regular contact
Publicly cold or distant and privately warm and connecting
Flaking out on plans at the last minute
You feel confused about the relationship
Trust your GUT! If something feels off, pay attention.
Christina Grudzinski, LMFT, MS – www.unitycounselingtexas.com
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