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Friend holds my hand but doesn't act like she's interested


MaterialBook77
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So I (now 22m) had a crush on a girl (now 21f) from school a few years ago, talked to her about it and got rejected. However, we promised each other to stay friends. After that, we didn't see each other very often for about two years (starting college, traveling, etc.) but stayed in contact. 

When the pandemic started, our group of friends started meeting up again regularly, so I got to see her more often. We get along very well, but nothing more than friends, but she started getting closer to me. Nothing major, but things like sitting very close to each other, playing footsies, and one time she gave me a kiss goodbye on the cheek. Other than that, she didn't really act much different than usual around others or me. Also, she's generally bubbly and a bit naive, so most of the time I don't try to overthink things and just let her be.

I didn't really want to develop feelings for her again, but after she kissed me goodbye, I later asked her to take on dancing lessons (we both danced in the past, but separately), to which she said yes. This has been going on for a few months now and we enjoy our time dancing, but sometimes she acts a bit cold or distracted. She has no problem dancing with me, but between lessons, when I sit or stand a bit too close to her, she moves away a bit. I took that as a sign that she had no interest, which would be no big deal for me. But when our group met up in a pub a few weeks ago to celebrate my birthday, she acted differently. She gave me a small present (which isn't unusual), but later that evening she came very close to me, practically cuddling. We also started holding hands under the table for the whole night. Other than that, she didn't acknowledge it, but I didn't either. I brushed it off because we were a bit drunk, but the same thing happened a few days later. 

Now I don't know how to feel anymore. Sometimes she acts really cuddly with me, and other times she's very quiet and doesn't really talk much to me. Also, she practically never texts me, but always answers when I text her back. However, she generally doesn't text much with anyone. I always think that no matter how naive you are, holding hands under the table for a whole evening or cuddling isn't something someone with no feelings would do. But on the other hand, I feel like she would show her feelings more, except for those few subtle ways. Now I don't know if she's disappointed because I didn't pursue her as much as she may have wanted or if it's the other way around. I don't want to be the guy that gets too close to her and makes her uncomfortable. For example, when walking back, I take her by the arm and walk her to the train station, but she doesn't react. But she also doesn't push me away, which could also just be out of niceness. I also know that she's been very stressed out the last few weeks, so maybe that's why she never really hits me up or anything.

I know this could be resolved simply by speaking to her, but I don't want to talk to her a second time only to get rejected again. I also don't think that she does this to get attention, because that doesn't fit her personality at all, but maybe I'm just not thinking straight. Leaving her alone almost seems like the best thing to do to me. This sounds like a problem straight out of middle school. But I'm still a bit overwhelmed and overall inexperienced, so I could use some advice. I just don't want her to feel bad because of me.

Thanks for reading!

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IMO, is good to even be able to be 'friends' with someone who's decent & you've known a while.

But, there comes a time where you need to figure things out.. Can YOU accept her as only a 'friend'?  Or is it affecting you in a negative now? As sometimes, our emotions get caught up in it all.

Yes, is common for someone to 'act out' differently, when they're under the influence.. but, you said she did it again?  Then, is maybe time to learn some healthy boundaries.. Either she's that into you or she's just a cuddly-type person?

IMO, she's not being clear. yet she's aware, I'm sure, that you do ( or did) have some feelings for her.

In ways, I feel you should just bring it up again, so you can see things clearer and get it done with, so you can either progress to next level or just be put in the right place and make your own choice on whether you want to continue 'hanging' with her like this from now on.

IF not, then is maybe time to be respectful and NOT accept her ways of reaching out, taking hands, etc, like she does.. As I said, healthy boundaries. Same goes for you contacting her ( texting.. that can stop as well.. is it necessary?).

We can be friends with people and not have to hold their hands ( or tease) that way.

 

Edited by SooSad33
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1 hour ago, MaterialBook77 said:

Now I don't know if she's disappointed because I didn't pursue her as much as she may have wanted or if it's the other way around. I don't want to be the guy that gets too close to her and makes her uncomfortable.

I sounds like two things at play here.

1) Maybe you are a quieter sensitive type and not as aggressive as she would like.  (don't worry about this, and don't try to be something you are not)
2) You have some history and let's call them false starts  (friendzone kind of vibe)

Are you comfortable with being a little more forward with her?, so she isn't on the fence if you guys will just be good friends or something more.

I think she likes you and can see something more, but she can't steer the ship and wants you to.

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1 hour ago, MaterialBook77 said:

I know this could be resolved simply by speaking to her, but I don't want to talk to her a second time only to get rejected again.

Mixed signals but overall she seems flirty and giggly but somehow acts like this is the friendzone. You're right to stand back and not get rejected. She doesn't seem to know what she wants.

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When I was very young and still immature (say, 18 or 19) I would sometimes cozy up to guys who I knew liked me but who I wasn't really interested in dating. A few times I made out with guys. Another time I cuddled with a guy on his bed (fully clothed and on top of the covers) even though I didn't like him "that way". It was because I wanted attention and I liked the idea of these guys liking me. 

Now that I'm older I would never do something like that. But at the time I was really kind of starved for a guy to like me, so I behaved in misleading ways. It became awkward after, when I had to back off and let the guys know I didn't really like them back.

The only way you're going to know is if you ask. Ask her if she sees you as someone she'd like to date. Yes, you would be taking a chance but that's how romance always is...taking that leap not knowing if it's going to work out. Sometimes it does.

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These sort of awkward moments are maddening, but there is only one way to know ask her and be ready for the worst.

Bolt might be on to something with her being in need of attention, the question you have to ask is are you OK with it just being this false start confusion. I have had very cuddly female friends, though not making out with them, but this was their admitted nature and they were upfront about it not playing coy.

In this circumstance it would almost be better to end the friendship by being rejected, than go through the what if trauma.Regardless it's time for a resolution to this situation., otherwise you won't be able to move on and find someone who values you.

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Thank you very much for the answers! You've given me some things to think about, which I am very grateful for. I sometimes feel like I can't think straight, but that doesn't help with trying to understand, what's happening. But you've all helped me very much with your advice!

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Sometimes when we like somebody, we give importance to a signs that arent there. OK, holding hands is big but it can be interpreted as just her wanting you to feel good for your birthday. Kissing in cheek is standard friends stuff here and means nothing. I think that, if she liked you, she would probably show it in some other way. For example messages. She is young, she probably messages all the times. Just not to you first. 

But, I am also against getting stucked on somebody more then you have too. It prevents us from moving on. You obviously need an answer before you do that, so call her for a drinks alone. Be flirty, maybe even hold her hand if she wants that, and see how she reacts. If she doesnt want to, makes excuses or is cold during it, there is your answer and you can move on. 

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She is far from shy. And she most likely knows you're into her, even if those words haven't come out of your mouth this time around. After several months of this, a woman who is not shy, after several months, wouldn't certainly addressed the topic of dating if she was truly interested.

Just because you don't believe she wants attention, doesn't mean that's the case. You're grasping for straws when looking for signals she's into you, and only wanting to see the best in your crush. 

People who run hot and cold just aren't into you. Hold out for the one who is crystal clear. That's where you'll find relationship success.

And as said by another poster, don't continue with this touchy -feely stuff. That prevents you from bonding with a better prospect, and also scare prospects away who see you engaging in this behavior with another woman. Don't do one-on-one stuff with her anymore, and if you can't start thinking of her as just another buddy in the group, lessen your group activities and do stuff with your guy friends without her.

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10 hours ago, boltnrun said:

When I was very young and still immature (say, 18 or 19) I would sometimes cozy up to guys who I knew liked me but who I wasn't really interested in dating. A few times I made out with guys. Another time I cuddled with a guy on his bed (fully clothed and on top of the covers) even though I didn't like him "that way". It was because I wanted attention and I liked the idea of these guys liking me. 

Yes, I was about to say the same. I can remember being young and immautre and basking in attention of guys I knew liked me - even if I wasn't that into them. 

That's what I think is going on here, OP. She likes that you like her and enjoys your affection and attention but isn't otherwise interested. I would put a stop to this before you get hurt again. 

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BF without benefits/cuddle buddy=kiss of death. She's emotionally attached, but not romantically interested. Her moving away/being cold is her way of setting a boundary of "don't go there, it's not what you think". She likes the security and some affection, but we all know that is stepping over the line...and it's causing confusion. My advice...cut it out, and cut her out. 

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The only way you’d know for sure is by asking her out again. You may risk rejection but it’s not as big a deal as you’re making it out to be.

Look, if she says no, you have your answer. If she says yes, enjoy her company. This isn’t forever and a match made in heaven. It’s a person you know whom you like or have a crush on. If this ends the world will not end. 

Try and manage the anxiety a little more and nip it in the bud. Find out straight from her whether she’s interested OR forget pursuing her if she’s not worth the trouble. It’s up to you.

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It never occurred to me when I was playing around with those guys who liked me, that any of them might have actually been upset or hurt by my behavior. I was being selfish and immature but not maliciously trying to damage people.

I would ask her what I suggested before. And if she says no, she only sees you as a friend, then let her know the hand holding and cheek kissing is going to have to stop. But...if she says yes ask her out and enjoy!

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My advice is that you should take her at her word. 

You sound like a nice guy, and I'm sorry things are so confusing for you right now. 

On 2/9/2022 at 12:53 PM, MaterialBook77 said:

I'm still a bit overwhelmed and overall inexperienced

She is, too.

At 21 and 22, both of you are just starting to dip your toes into adulthood. You have to learn to manage many new external pressures, and some familiar external pressures that have gotten heavier. She is still learning the ropes, just like you are. And her experience is probably a bit different from yours, so it's hard to compare notes just yet.

Speaking from my own experience, a young woman gets a lot of attention from men of all ages. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially because the male sex drive is a bit more direct and intense than ours. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it means there's a lot of pressure on young women to...er...mate... pretty much all the time and from many different directions. Not to mention that as a young woman, you know that society will gleefully label you as a tease, an attention whre, and/or a gold digger if you don't give (some) guys the attention they expect or think they deserve. It's can be a lot to manage coming out of the gate, and also a bit of a drag. 

On the other hand, the attention means that young women have options. And smart girls will thoroughly explore those options, haters be damned. The guys who thought I was a tease/attention whre/gold digger/whatever showed themselves the door. I hung out with the guys who were willing to get to know me, and I took my time getting to know them. What they were going through, I have no idea. Probably some of them were going through what you are going through now.

So, I will tell you this: I didn't trouble myself about what their secret hidden emotions might be. I assumed that we were on a level with each other. If a guy liked me as more than a friend, I expected him to say something. I didn't just 'drift' into relationships with people. If I told a guy that I didn't like him back, I expected him to take me at my word. If he didn't, that's his foolishness not mine. I'm not responsible for grown men. If he still hung around, I assumed he accepted the situation as it was. I didn't modify my behavior to cater to his possible crush. This means that I might hold his hand or let him put his arm around me. But that didn't mean I was his. I expected him to know that because we'd already talked about it and I was clear. I mean what I say, and there's no reason that anyone should think otherwise. And that's that. 

You are a man who is capable of respecting her words, managing your emotions, and making your own decisions. Do what's best for you (I think you should bail), and be respectful of her.

Sometimes these things work out over time. For example, my boyfriend and I have been together now for almost 10 years. As far as we are both concerned, we are in our forever relationship. We're both in our mid 40s and have known each other since we were kids. When we were in our early 20s, we had a friendship sort of like yours. Although, we didn't dance... instead, we grappled lol. What can I say, we both liked martial arts. And it was an excuse to be physical with each other without crossing that relationship line.

We never crossed that line in our 20s. We drifted apart and pursued other relationships. Then we reconnected in our mid 30s and BOY were we happy that we got years of relationship nonsense out of our system prior to that!! We occasionally compare notes about the experiences of our teens and 20s (including our experience with each other) and it is always highly entertaining.

So, do what's best for you but don't bomb the whole town. You never know what the future holds.

Edited by Jibralta
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