In Which We String Them Along For Years

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to


I have had a long-time platonic friendship with a guy I will call Bernard. When we met we were both in relationships with other people and we supported each other and gave advice. Over Christmas Bernard informed me that he has feelings for me.

I don’t want to lose Bernard as a friend and although I am not technically in a relationship right now, I may be soon and I want it see where it goes.

What can I say to Bernard without losing his friendship?

Kayla I.

Dear Kayla,

If you really reciprocated Bernard’s feelings, you would be open to what he is bringing up. The fact that you are looking for a way out indicates that this move failed miserably from Bernard’s perspective. He probably had this in mind from the moment he met you. He waited for you to become single and he prayed you had not put him in the friendzone. 

Bernard played his cards absolutely wrong, and he will suffer for his choice from a jury of his peers. If you really want to keep this guy hanging on, you will have to lie. Tell him that you’re confused about what you feel and make sure he knows that you’re involved with someone else right now but you don’t know what is going to happen. He will cling to these vague promises of hope and you will be able to control him for upwards of another year. If he presses you on what you’re feeling, explain that the timing is wrong. With this meager validation, he will probably be subdued off for a period. 

Keeping him around long term will be more difficult. You will have to back him off a bit by claiming your new boyfriend knows there has been feelings between you two. After this distance occurs, he will be overjoyed to be brought back into the fold as a friend, since the alternative has been made perfectly clear: he was almost dismissed from your life entirely. 

See what kind of interest he would have in potentially picking up your dry cleaning.


Since I was dumped by my girlfriend over Thanksgiving, I have tried to launch myself back into the world of online dating. The women I meet seem really flighty and it is clear they have many options. It’s most important to me to find a genuine, loyal human being who I can spend the rest of my life with. We’ll grow into old age with one another, travel around the world and enjoy each other’s company. Are there better places to meet someone new than this disgusting online situation?

Trent S.


Dear Trent,

Despite your proclamations that all you want is something serious with the right person, I am sure you are not open to this with every woman you meet. For a relationship to work, both parties have to believe that they are the lucky ones: in other words, that each has selected a fantastic partner that they are lucky to be with. 

In order for you to receive that feeling from someone else, she cannot be too interested: otherwise it would be clear that she is the lucky one and you are just a good thing happening to someone else. Men who believe women are inattentive to their positive qualities are usually very judgmental about the same qualities when looking for someone else. You’re not going to find a replica of your last relationship, at least not right away, and the fact that you haven’t taken any time for yourself indicates you are probably not ready for what you say you desire.

It really doesn’t matter where you meet someone you love.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

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