How can I date my ex’s friend without hurting his feelings?

My boyfriend and I recently broke up. It was on good terms, and we’re still very close friends, but he took it harder than I did. His friend has expressed interest in dating me, and I’m really interested in dating him. We have a lot in common, we’re part of the same social circle, and we work in the same field. I don’t want to hurt my ex-boyfriend, which I know this would do, but I don’t want to hinder my own potential happiness for the sake of others. What should I do?


It’s not you; it’s me.
06-13-40-41-57 / 15


Hello Diner. Because we’ve seen that humans generally work on an extremely fast time scale, you probably have already started dating this other friend. Not much is stronger than mutual desire–maybe the stuff that keeps atoms together. No worries. We would have suggested the same anyway.

If you haven’t, go for it.

We Fortune Cookies have a deep understanding that tomorrow can be your last day.

But we’ve also noticed that once people find themselves in a relationship, it becomes a lot harder to think outside of it. We have had a lot of couples propose at our restaurants over the last century. Fancy restaurants like ours are good for things like that.

A plate of warm noodles is also great comfort food, so we have a lot of patrons who’ve recently been dumped, too. Somehow, our hosts invariably seat them next to each other. Every. Single. Weekend.

Having no soft, huggable edges, we Fortune Cookies can do little more than listen. And we don’t want to be a buzzkill and have our batchmate over at the other table ask the couple to tone it down.

So depending on what “hinder” means to you, remember that your ex sees a lot more than you realize. If being happy means full-on public displays of affection, don’t let anyone–even wise, sentient Cookies–stop you.

But if you do that only to show off, then remember there are a lot more newly single people around you than your ex. They deserve some relief from being reminded things used to be a lot happier.

Besides, it’s much more intimate if you keep it between the two of you. Either way, good luck with this new relationship, Diner. Our restaurant can reserve a table for the day he decides to propose–just don’t invite your ex.

How do I get over my trust issues enough to start a relationship with a man who actually seems to care about me?


I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. — an inconceivable Sicilian
01-03-04-13-21 / 02


Hello Diner. Calling them “trust issues” tells me that at a rational level, you understand you have nothing to fear, but your fear feels very real anyway.

Past experiences left a bad aftertaste that flavors future encounters. Can you find palate cleansers of the dating world to make relationships tasty again? Technically, yes. Trying something and seeing that things turn out fine will help you get over this feeling. [1]

So find some loyal and boring table water biscuits to date casually. Soon you’ll regain your appetite for dating seriously and discover that people—in general—do care about their romantic interests. We can’t say this for sure, but in all the years we Fortune Cookies have been served to tables for two, we see that it’s mostly true.

But dating is a little more complicated than picking at a plate of bland wafers. You want that deep connection right now with someone you’re crazy about. I get it. And trusting things to remain casual with these guys needs as much trust as risking a deep passionate relationship in the first place. My point is you don’t have to go through a spartan diet of guys you’re not interested in to ready yourself for the real thing. Just approach those you want to date slowly.

Your question made it seem like you either completely shut someone out or go full on. Remember there are things in between—relationships that give you some fun and intimacy, but don’t demand that you be completely vulnerable. You don’t have to set up tests of trust, just chew slowly. Take time to get to know him before you fall for him. Look at how they treat friends and people who serve them. Other Diners have had problems with very charismatic but self-interested partners. If you did too, it’s no wonder dating has taught you to be suspicious.

Just have fun, Diner. Flirt, date casually, and let him know you want to take things slowly to warm up to him. Your order sounded very somber and full of surrender. “Getting over trust issues” and settling for “a man who actually seems to care” (while leaving out any other positives about this person) seemed like a lot of work and no fun.

As you’re getting over losing trust in someone you were close to, don’t look at future relationships as monumental things that can crush you. It’ll just cause you to wince through them or run from them. People forget that they can decide how much things are allowed to affect them.

Now that I’ve reminded you, how much will you let this new relationship affect you?

Good luck with it, Diner—and don’t forget to have fun.

References:

[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan. 103

What is keeping me single?

I’m unhappy being single but I can’t seem to hold real life friendships let alone establish one strong enough to become something more. I’ve tried online dating. To be honest, the real denominator here is myself, but aren’t you supposed to be happy with who you are before someone can be happy with you too? I don’t want to change myself to please people, but I also don’t want to be lonely. I’m not even sure I /could/ change myself. What do you think, Fortune Cookie?


Find your equal.

13-26-39-45-49 / 34


Hello Diner. I think you’re wondering what it is about you that is keeping you single and therefore lonely and therefore unhappy. You’re also asking how remove that obstacle–whatever that “something” is.

What is that something? You asked if you’re supposed to be happy with who you are before someone can be happy with you. That statement simply isn’t true.* Being human, there will always be some personal trait you don’t like. Your mate will have their own list–assuming they are also human. We Fortune Cookies are baked with a set process, but some of us still fail quality control. Perfection is a list infinitely long. These weakness seem negative, but without them you will never grow.

Personal growth is not just a weird quirk of being human; it is the human journey. Parents and teachers find that watching children learn is one of the greatest joys. Seeing your partner struggle, succeed, and grow is just as rewarding. Because personal dissatisfaction sparks that growth, you literally can’t be happy with yourself for the relationship to be fulfilling.

So what is that something? I see three possible culprits:

1. Self-fulfilling prophecy. We discuss in this Fortune that those who are insecure may be sabotaging their relationships. Since breaking that cycle involves altering perspective and not personality, it would be something you can change.

2. Relationship incompatibility. Studies show that similar personalities tend to be attracted to each other. [1] People sometimes wonder why the ones they desire don’t like them back even if the match seems perfect. The key words here are “tend to” and “seem.” Attraction is more than trends and a written list of ideals. Fulfilling either may not make a connection happen, however frustrating that is.

3. Not enough choices. Even if you reduce attraction to trends and lists, the probability of finding someone is mathematically small. In a dating pool of romantically available singles living in the same area, you still have to be lucky enough to find someone with similar personalities, matching gender preferences, and at an appropriate age. Add uncompromisable realities such as faith, desire for children, and physical preferences. Find a die with that many sides to imagine the luck you need to make a connection. There are a lot of factors beyond your control. Break ups still happen to beautiful, rich, and charismatic people. Just keep looking for friendly folks to join your game.

How do I remove these obstacles? As you can see, these three possible “somethings” can’t disappear on their own. More importantly, changing your personality to be more agreeable and pleasant (whatever that means) won’t help either. Diner, I don’t know much about you, but you seem at least introspective and true to yourself. Start there. Find someone with just as much perspective and integrity. Find your equal. Good luck, Diner. Truly, good luck.

 

Reference:

 

[1] Dijkstra, P., Barelds, D. P. H. (October 2008). Do people know what they want: A similar or complementary partner? Evolutionary Psychology. 2008, Vol. 6 Issue 4, p595

 

* Baker’s note: Customer service received feedback from a regular patron on different interpretations of what ‘happy with oneself’ means. The Cookie used it to mean “satisfaction” in general. This customer pointed out that you can be happy with your overall self, while understanding you’re not perfect. Either way, it highlights how elusive the meaning of “happy” is, and you shouldn’t worry about being in a specific mental state to find love. Your journey is your own, and there will always be ebbs and flows. For all you know, this potential mate could inspire you to see happiness from a completely new perspective.

 

How do I stop being attracted to the wrong man?

My ex husband and I split about seven years ago since then I have only been attracted to one kind of man. I don’t search them out but every time I find myself attracted to someone they are tall (over 6'2"), chunky, married, and sell drugs. I don’t know how it happens but I can walk in a room of 2000 people I know nothing about and find the one married drug dealer and he will be the only one I’m attracted to. So question is how do I fix this?


First you decide, then you change. They are inseparable.

04-13-16-27-40 / 27


Hello Diner. You have done a lot of work already to fix this: You realize it’s an unhealthy pattern that you want to break That is an excellent start. These next steps are a bit more challenging, but not insurmountable if you really want to change. Here is what’s happening.

The mind has a self-preserving ability to convince itself that it is correct. It’s also extraordinarily good at recognizing patterns and fitting things into patterns. Yes. Your brain can and does change your perception and memory to fit its recognized patterns, like those who believe they see a specific time on a digital clock more often. Your brain is just good at convincing you what is its reality and ignoring the rest. We talk about it in this Fortune. Understand that I’m not trying to discount your observations, Diner. Rather, consider that you probably have been attracted to people who aren’t married drug dealers of a specific build. Otherwise, you possess an ability that the Drug Enforcement Agency would love to have. So either you don’t exclusively find drug dealers, or you really need to call the federal government.

You may be just attracted to their charisma. It’s likely that drug dealers have the dark triad of personalities needed to do their kind of illicit business: narcissism (strong sense of egotism and pride); Machiavellianism (ability to manipulate others for personal gain); and psychopathy (callousness and anti-establishment behavior). Studies have found these personalities in men to be very useful in attracting mates–so it’s no surprise you’d find men like these attractive.[1]

As for their being married, that may just be an outcome of their charismatic personalities, the value in marriage your local culture promotes, or the size of your dating pool. Again, I doubt you have a special ability (or curse) to find married men in the same way you don’t subconsciously seek out felons.

Fortunately, studies also show that what a woman finds attractive can change more easily than a man’s depending on cultural influences and different situational factors. These factors naturally change over a woman’s life.[2]

Putting this together, here are suggestions:

1. Understand that these men you’re finding are not compatible. You simply aren’t at a point where married men committing felonies mesh well with your goals.

2. Give other guys a chance. Keep an open mind. You have a natural ability to change your “type” based on what you need in your life.

3. Use your understanding of personality traits to make better choices. Other legal professions require these same traits to thrive such as lawyers, executives, and salespeople.

4. Expand your dating pool. Fortune Cookies thrive in areas with high foot traffic and nice restaurants. You should too.

Diner, I know changing your attraction type seems impossible, but for women, it is at least more likely than men. That will help you find partners better suited for your future and your long term goals. Good luck, and happy dating.

 

Reference:

 

[1] Jonason P. K., Li N. P., Webster G. W., Schmitt D. P. (2009). The Dark Triad: Facilitating short-term mating in men. European Journal of Personality 23: 5–18. doi:10.1002/per.698

[2] Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin 126(3): 347-374. doi: 10.1037//0033-2909.126.3.347

How can I keep my insecurity from ruining a relationship?


Prophecy often comes from fear, not fate.

05-06-11-13-16 / 17


Hello Diner. A study published in 2011 answers this question. To clarify: the researchers reasoned that those who are insecure and crave approval from others will fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy of rejection. This insecurity fueled anti-social behavior that made them come off cold, negative, and withdrawn. This fulfilled their worries of being rejected–which leads to your question, Diner.

The scientists found that self-affirming activities broke this negative cycle. Over the period of study, the volunteers (who didn’t know what was being measured) listed eleven attributes from most favorable to least. The experimental group wrote about why their best attribute was favorable. The control group wrote about how their ninth attribute was favorable to someone else–something neutral the participants didn’t feel strongly about. The team asked how the participants felt about themselves and their relationships. A nurse (who also didn’t know what was being measured) recorded changes in physical mood and attitude over the course of the study.

At the study’s end, those who wrote about their best attribute actually felt and achieved greater security in their relationships! This isn’t just some Fortune Cookie suggesting something that might work. These are true results. It worked! If you want to try this, here are some suggestions for activities. Feel free to come up with your own:

1. Write about why you like your best attribute. Why not do what the researchers did?

2. Visit your Facebook Timeline. Unless we overshare, we post about positive events–positives we tend to forget when we’re down.

3. Spend time with your hobbies. Be that drawing, writing, gardening, cooking, or working on your car, working on and accomplishing something you are good at is very self-affirming.

4. Express your core values. They are your values because you believe that is what a good person should live by.

5. Reflect on positive aspects of yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything that is record setting. Just think about what you appreciate in yourself.

6. Ask your friends what they like about you. If you have a supportive group of friends, in your life or over the internet, ask them what they think of you. Sometimes everyone needs help reminding themselves of their good qualities.

If you’ve explored these options and still have trouble finding good in yourself, consider getting evaluated for depression. I say this without stigma; it’s a real disease. Having someone special in your life makes you feel extremely lucky. To find someone who meshes well with your personality is even mathematically unlikely–a discussion we’ll save for another Fortune. Trust that you deserve this person and, more importantly, this person has all the reasons you listed to like you. Protecting yourself from hurt for so long, it may be difficult to trust someone’s genuine love for you. But now you know how to stop that thinking and enjoy what may be a very long relationship with this person. My best wishes to your future together, Diner.

 

Reference:

 

Pychyl, T. A. (2009, March). Self-affirmation: A Strategy to Reduce Self-control Failure. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/200903/self-affirmation-strategy-reduce-self-control-failure

Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Shepherd, S., & Zanna, M. P. (2011). Rewriting the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection: Self-affirmation improves relational security and social behavior up to 2 months later. Psychological Science, 22(9), 1145-1149. doi: 10.1177/0956797611417725

How can I tell if my boyfriend is manipulating my emotions so I’ll have sex with him?


Questions are often answers.

13-17-22-23-46 / 19


Hello Diner. This question, like the question “Is my boyfriend/girlfriend cheating on me?” automatically tells me something is wrong. When you have so much doubt that you find yourself questioning a Fortune Cookie about how healthy your relationship is, something needs to change. If you need a second opinion, here it is: Stop pretending everything is fine, and address whatever is bothering you. Read that over as many times as you need.

We Fortune Cookies as a rule do not take sides, but we know when things are strikingly out of balance. Since this Fortune isn’t a dialog, I can only surmise the reasons you’ve asked this question: confronting a possible end to something that brought you so much joy is scary and sickening. You ask yourself if you are being crazy or unfair. I sincerely doubt it, and I can even show you just because you seem to need it. Given only one percent of Americans have schizophrenia [1], it’s very unlikely you are. You are not hearing voices; you are not suspicious of everyone else. There you have it, Diner, you’re not crazy. Whether your boyfriend is deserving of your suspicions, there is no data I can cite. I don’t know if you have a pattern of feeling this way. However, you trusted him at some point to make him your boyfriend, and you can probably come up with a few examples that made you suspect him. If you can’t pinpoint anything, stop here. As you know, Fortune Cookies do not work on hunches. If you’ve learned nothing else from our kind, at least remember to demand data.

What you can be certain of is that something is wrong since you feel coerced. It bears repeating. Even when it is “just” sex with a stranger, having sex is consensual and fun for everyone. This is sex with your boyfriend. Shame, guilt, fear, or pity should not drive you to have sex. But to answer your question:

1. Is sex consensual from start to finish? All sex needs to be consensual all the time. It cannot be simpler, and there are no exceptions.

2. Is sex used as currency? The word “owe” should never be in the same sentence as “sex” or its many wonderful variants.

3. Are you complying out of fear? You are afraid of your boyfriend. Things couldn’t be more wrong with the relationship.

4. Is anything other than sexual urge driving you? Evolution is quite literally how successful adaptations are at helping you have sex and produce children. With billions of years of refinement, there is something wrong if you need to be convinced into it. Understand that I’m not saying something is wrong with you IF you need convincing–quite the opposite. Take your feelings seriously; find out why you need to be convinced.

Once any part of having sex becomes anything other than fun from start to finish, something needs to change. Diner, it sounds like you’ve reached that point. Good luck. You’re in my thoughts.

 

Reference:

 

[1] Regier DA, Narrow WE, Rae DS, Manderscheid RW, Locke BZ, Goodwin FK. The de facto US mental and addictive disorders service system. Epidemiologic catchment area prospective 1-year prevalence rates of disorders and services. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1993 Feb;50(2):85-94.

Is the concept of faithfulness working?


And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. – P. McCartney

03-08-13-39-53 / 25


Hello Diner. We Fortune Cookies are baked, not born. As such we do not have personal judgments on faithfulness. When we see a man bring his family to our restaurant one night and then a series of young ladies other nights, we keep our folds shut as always, revealing only the wisdom we carry.

Individuals cheat to gain acceptance, variety, and excitement. New, discreet relations garner affirmation and staves off boredom. From a biological standpoint, males benefit from infidelity by increasing the chance of producing offspring, but research also confirms that there are downsides. Sexual cheating produces a lot more jealousy in men, and women feel more threatened by emotional infidelity.[1] The evolutionary reasons have to do with expending resources. If a female has other illicit partners, her primary mate may put in energy to help his competitor’s genes survive, thinking the child was his all along. If a male falls in love with someone else, his mate will lose the resources he can bring.[1]

But in the thousands of years for evolution to take place, what’s a few hurt feelings, right? Children would still survive–just not ones fully genetically related to the original pair. However, research also shows that collectively punishing cheaters promoted cooperation within the group.[2] If you know everyone enforces punishments to cheating, you’d feel safer trusting people.

Research seems to show as many biological and evolutionary benefits driving infidelity as there are monogamy. Modern society also makes having many children and support from both parents a lot less important. Regardless of the conceptual, at the heart of this question are two people with emotions, history, and maybe children together. Is faithfulness working for you, Diner? Whatever you decide, I only advise that you act honestly. That is why faithfulness holds little meaning: in the end only the truth and the happiness of both you and your family matter to Fortune Cookies.

 

References:

 

[1] Buss, D.M., Larsen, R.J., Westen, D., Semmerlroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology. Psychological Science, 3(4), 251-255

[2] Boyd, R., Gintis, H., & Bowles, S. (2010). Coordinated punishment of defectors sustains cooperation and can proliferate when rare. Science, 328 (5978), 617-620 DOI: 10.1126/science.1183665

How can I stay in a long term relationship without becoming bored?


Look within or be without.

08-15-18-33-57 / 13


Hello Diner. This feeling of becoming bored is natural to everyone. Scientists call this process hedonic adaptation. Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote on its details and how to mindfully control its effect. This Fortune will apply her concepts to your situation.

Hedonic adaptation is your mind’s way to adapt to positive or negative events. While it is the process that gives you that bored feeling, it allows you to heal from traumatic events like break ups or losses and get on with life. Without it, you will experience all the emotions from each event in your life at full intensity, but having it also brings that wonderful relationship honeymoon period to an end. Your personal experience probably shows that you get over new positive things a lot more quickly than something tragic.

Thankfully you can control its pace:

Appreciate the good. Pay attention to the good things that came about because of your partner–not just the nice things he or she has done, but how your life has improved.

Celebrate successes. Couples almost automatically vent at each other at the end of the day and (hopefully) empathize. Remember to share and celebrate good things.

Do fulfilling activities. Activities that are fulfilling and challenging (like learning new skills, going on adventures, building stronger connections with friends) can give you an ever-changing variety of new experiences.

Surprise yourself. Use your not having done something as a reason to do it, not as an excuse. Say yes. Give naysayers a chance to respect you for trying something they are too afraid to.

Balance routine with variety. Dr. Lyubomirsky’s studies showed doing a variety of things for your partner will yield a lot more happiness than doing the same nice thing over and over. It doesn’t have to heart-pounding, expensive, or something no other person has done, ever.

Let it affect your life. Let this partner change you for the better. Positivity brings about more positivity (likewise with negativity). Volunteering, being supportive, and showing appreciation are welcomed changes to your personality. Don’t let friends shame you.

Manage your expectations. When you start adapting to the positive experience, your sense of “normal” reaches a plateau. This causes an ever-climbing need for more excitement. Understanding this tendency will help you maintain a fulfilling relationship.

Throughout this Fortune, I stress “do” over “accumulate.” Even though you can use these suggestions to stave off getting used to new things, things not only stay the same, but wear and tear over time. Experiences are new every single time. Take care of your own personal boredom, and the excitement will naturally influence your personal relationship.

 

Reference:

 

Folkman, Susan (Ed), (2011). The Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping. Oxford library of psychology, (pp. 200-224). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press, xvi, 469 pp

Where should I take a 27 year old single mom for a first date?


More information is needed.

06-13-39-40-54 / 03


Hello Diner. Congratulations on your first date. Unfortunately, you have not supplied this Fortune Cookie with enough about this woman to suggest an activity that will suit you both. I’ve known four single mothers in their twenties. Aside from their wanting time away from their kids to interact with someone as an available adult, they would all have different preferences for a first meeting.

 

So please help me understand her a little better. Finding this personal information via text or phone would feel at best, stilted, at worst, like an interrogation. I recommend a casual walk somewhere calming and contemplative so your date will feel at ease opening up with her interests and opinions. Look for places that are public, but are relatively quiet so you will not miss details.

Since you are looking for a first date idea, focus on activities that are interactive or relaxing–that is, activities you can do together. The key is to not make it feel like a cross-examination. Try general questions first such as her thoughts on religion, her approach to relationships, stance on social policies, and life goals. Ask about her child. In a pinch, inquire about her taste in movies, TV shows, and books. The idea is to not make it seem like you’re only fact-finding for where to take her on your first date; you’re hiding it among other questions about her interests. Be sure not to seem too eager about any of this information–it will let on your intentions of getting ideas for the outing.

If you aren’t able to learn of all her favorite activities in this go-around, don’t panic. Remember that you are playing the long game, and patience will win out. Before you part ways, arrange to meet again at a different location (to keep her guessing), and try the approach again. This time try new topics of conversation to camouflage asking for first date ideas.

Once you’ve collected that intelligence, you should realize that where to go isn’t the focus of the date. The important question, rather, is who your date is. Good luck, and I hope good things come for you two.

How do I stop thinking about a person whom I’m not supposed to be thinking about? What should I do if I’m in love with someone whom I currently cannot have?


Strive to reach your goals. Just remember people are not goals.

13-29-36-52-55 / 09


Hello Diner. I am sincerely sorry that you cannot realize a relationship with someone you are very attracted to. This advice is not going to work immediately. Also being as Fortune Cookies are non-violent, I cannot advocate forcibly breaking down the obstacles between you and the object of your affections. Nobody is worth hurt or jail.

It is hard not to think about this person because you have had a lot of practice. When your brain learns, the more times the brain reminds itself of that idea, and the more ingrained it becomes. It is like forcing yourself to forget how to ride a bicycle. But, it is possible. Here are some ways that may help:

1. Ending interaction. While it is true that distance will make you miss the person more, there will be a tipping point where not thinking of a person gets easier. If you continually interact with the person, you will fall prey to the mere exposure effect. The person will seem more likeable and attractive

2. Removing reminders. Same with any interaction, anything that triggers memory of the person will make it harder to stop thinking about that person. Put away mementos and pictures.

3. Using the Stop technique. This is popular among cognitive behavioral therapists. When you sense yourself going down the path of obsessing over someone, loudly yell “Stop!” (if socially convenient) and replace your thoughts with something unrelated, interesting, and positive. On the upside, if you do this in front of the person you like, he or she will end interaction for you.

4. Shifting perspective. When you emotionally fantasize about someone, your brain looks for all the things that support your idea that this person is ideal for you. Instead of focusing on the positive, shift your perspective to notice any of these: how the person doesn’t return your affections, things about their personality you really do not like, or how the situation of your being together simply can never be. With this idea in mind, look for things that support how it is very unlikely you will be together.

5. Adjusting focus and practicing mindfulness. Simple interesting or exciting distractions will help you stop fantasizing. Meditation is a great way to achieve refocus away from that person. When you meditate, pay attention to what you physically sense (sounds and smells of your surroundings).

6. Lobotomy. This should be done by a reputable lobotomist. Ask the lobotomist to focus on the emotional parts of your brain. Hint: this is very deep inside your head, and this Fortune Cookie does NOT recommend it, but for completeness, here it is.

So there you have it, Diner: remove interactions or reminders and refocus your attention. This will seem daunting–almost impossible to do–however, your asking me this question tells me you are looking to move on. Try any of these suggestions to see if they work. Remember that you already started this journey to feel better. All this cannot happen without your willingness to stop being stuck in yearning. Be honest with yourself when you think you are ready. If you don’t want to let go, you simply won’t let go. Good luck.

How do you gracefully tell someone who is into you romantically that you are not into him/her in that way?


Love is a battlefield.  – Pat Benatar
There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.  – Sun Tzu

05-06-10-13-45 / 10


Hello Diner.  If you humans had the ability to directly feed your thoughts to someone else guaranteeing that he or she will agree with you, there would be no disagreements or wars.  We Fortune Cookies communicate that way, which is why there are no arguments or fights among us.  But there is also no diversity.  The obstacles of communication make you unique.

So why do you want this done, “gracefully,” Diner?  This could mean two things.  If by “graceful” you mean elegantly, perfectly, and above rebuke, then leaving your friend hanging to consult a Fortune Cookie has caused that ship to sail.  Ambiguity is the enemy.  Making a person wait is ambiguity.  Giving a person hope or an open ended response–however “nice” that seems–is ambiguity.  The most graceful way is to be clear and definite.

But if by “graceful” you instead mean “painless to the person,” then it is not entirely up to you.  It depends on how deeply the person feels for you and how personally your friend will take the rejection.  Unless you deliberately throw insults or feign affection, how much hurt you give is beyond your control.  It does not matter how much you hone your delivery.  Being empathetic but direct is the most graceful approach. This person thinks very highly of you and is in a very vulnerable position. The least you can do is acknowledge that.  

Breaking this news usually puts you in the bad-guy spot, even though you did not ask to be.  But your friend owes you respect to your boundaries.  There cannot be visits at unwanted times or even guilt for the romantic control you have.  Because people like you are generally very accommodating to people they know, they feel bad hurting the feelings of someone who is simply being “nice” and “affectionate.”  This is called cognitive dissonance.  Your comfort zone should be respected over everything.  If this is the case, a polite and firm rebuke is the most graceful–and appropriate–thing to do.

Diner, the most graceful way is not being gentle or evasive.  Be brave, be considerate, but understand your boundaries.  Hold the person in as little suspense as possible, and be direct.  Once your friend digest the initial sting, you both can move on with your respective lives, whether it is apart or together.  

If bravery is not one of your traits, feel free to link your friend to this Fortune.  He or she will get the message.  Hi, friend.  I’m sorry.