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Ask Sara: ‘Why Am I Always a Friend or a Fling?’

Dear Sara:

Throughout my (unsuccessful) years of trying to find “the one”—or at least someone—there has been a clear pattern. It’s one of two scenarios: 1) I’m friends with a guy and I have a crush, but he does not reciprocate, so we end up as friends. Or, 2) I have a fling and I would like to continue it and am a bit interested, but he’s not, end of story.

So the essence is that I always end up as either a friend or a fling, but I never seem to cause any romantic feelings in a guy.

I do think that part of the reason I end up as a friend is because I grew up with two older brothers, and I’m sort of used to the whole being-around-guys thing. And I guess I have some so-called “male characteristics” in that I enjoy critical conversation, and I am not afraid to have an opinion. I would also say that I’m self-confident, and I can keep up with most of the guys when it comes to drinking. My theory is that guys feel intimidated by me, so the girlfriend-thing is not really an option, but seemingly they still think I’m hot enough for a one-night stand.

I have no idea how to change that. How do I always give the vibes “don’t be my boyfriend, just sleep with me,” even though that’s not what I want!? – L

Dear L.:

My advice is going to sound very boilerplate expert-lady, but bear with me for a bit.

I suggest you stop having flings. I’m not suggesting this for any moral reasons. This has nothing to do with what your grandmother would or would not approve of. I’m also not suggesting you stop having flings for any dumb market-based reasons—you know, you set yourself up as a precious commodity and therefore drive up your worth in the men of the world’s eyes. You’re not a commodity; you’re a person, and what you do behind closed doors is nobody’s business but your own.

I’m suggesting this because, ultimately, having flings isn’t making you happy. Yes, they are great in the moment, and maybe even the potential future anxiety and heartbreak seems worth it sometimes. I get it. Sometimes you just want to take whatever bit of goodness life throws you, however fleeting. Resisting that temptation can be very hard. I know. I’ve been there.

But I think it’s worth it.

If you stop having flings, then you will never again be in the position you often find yourself in—feeling rejected after a one- (or two- or three-) night stand. Instead, you’re making clear to your friend/flirt that you’re interested in a real relationship, so it’s on him to prove he’s worthy of physical intimacy.

You say you’re smart, confident and opinionated—good. Keep that.

Any dude who can’t handle a woman who speaks her mind (which, by the way, I don’t see as a particularly “male” trait) isn’t worth the bother, as far I’m concerned.

So don’t worry about changing your inner essence, or trying to fashion yourself into the type of woman you think men want. Be the smart, confident, opinionated woman who doesn’t let men push her around. Be the smart, confident, opinionated woman who says “Sorry, I’m going to need more information before I invite you upstairs.”  

Will this magically make men decide you’re someone they want to shower with romance? I don’t know, but that’s not the point. This isn’t about playing games or manipulating men. It’s about taking control. It’s about keeping your head clear of the men who aren’t worth your affection, so that you can be present for the one who is.

Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.