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Is he too damaged for a real relationship???

Tagged as: Dating, Troubled relationships, Trust issues<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (31 August 2007) 20 Answers - (Newest, 3 January 2011)
A female United States age 41-50, *itt__1 writes:

I am confused about a friendship with a newly divorced man. Need to know how to interpret mixed signals and if we can/should make our friendship a real relationship.

A couple of months ago I met a man through mutual friends. At his request our mutual friend gave me his number. She told me that he was a good guy, liked by children and puppies, respectful, responsible, employed, home owner…all the stuff that a single girl puts on the list of “things I want in a man”. I was also told that he was in the process of getting divorced. He was truly heart broken over his wife leaving him and had spent a year trying to reconcile. My response was to loose his number.

Eventually he got my number and after a few phone calls he asked me to meet him for a drink. The following week we got together again and things seemed to be progressing. Although no one was passing out any good night kisses, the phone calls were now coming in daily. We went out several more times, shared our personal stories – even the dark yucky stuff and I started to feel an attraction. One night after a very late movie at his place he asked me to stay over. I agreed - but with a very clear no sex stipulation. We slept in the same bed and he was a complete gentleman.

A week later he announced that he felt emotionally empty and didn’t know if he would ever be able to date again. In my head I thought – “What the hell do you think that we have been doing for the last month?” But out loud I said – “You have been through a lot and feeling that way is understandable, it just takes as long as it takes to get over it.” We talked for a long time that night and he ended up sleeping over – again no sex. The next week he seemed very depressed. I asked if he was still in love with his wife.

The answer: Yes.

In my head the lights and sirens were screaming. He is not ready, not interested, not dating you. RUN! RUN! RUN! So I down shifted my feelings, put him in the friend drawer and moved on. A week later he invited me to dinner. He cooked, served wine, lit candles and declared himself ready for a realtionship. In my opinion one week does not a changed man make and so after dinner when the moment came and a kiss was eminent – I pulled back and it didn’t happen.

We still spent the night together this time with only a little spooning and week later he was back to being emotionally empty. I wanted to feel like I had dodged a bullet; but what I did feel was disappointed that things hadn’t moved on to a relationship type place. I spent time redirecting my feelings back to “just friends” and trying not to want it to be more. We still talked often and hung out, he continued to waver back and forth between wanting to be able to be in love again and feeling emotionally broken – all of which he would share with me unsolicited.

As the weeks went on we continue to follow the same pattern. We get together he tells me where he is emotionally and then we sleepover without kissing or sex. Three weeks ago he announced that he was finally content with his life the way it was. He didn’t want a relationship, but was not opposed to a little no-strings-attached sex. I responded by saying that he could probably pay someone for that if he wanted. I was getting the picture that he was trying to size up my interest in increasing our physical connection from bed buddies to f***buddies. I am not going for it, and I ignore the statements. I

keep reminding myself that he just wants to be friends and try to not read anything into the fact that he feels like he should call and tell me when his work schedule changes, or wants to get my input on how to decorate his house. Last week he was out of town on business – I received a photo text of a picture perfect view with a line that read “wish you were here”. All of this from a man who doesn't want to be in a realationship.

It has been 4 months and while we have spent a dozen nights sleeping in the same bed, there has never been any physical contact other than cuddling. Not even good night kisses on the cheek.

Is there anyway to salvage this and take it to the real relationship place? Is he too damaged? Have I ruined any chance at getting him to pursue me by sharing a bed with him? Will he ever come around? Should I just run for the hills? Is he a lost cause?

View related questions: depressed, divorce, kissing, text

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (3 January 2011):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question

I am writing to post an update as requested by Cutestuff who seems to be in a similar boat to the one that I was in three years ago when I first posted this message.

So here is the rest of the story. My last update was from March of 2008. By June of 2008 I was really lost and confused by this man. I still liked him and was looking for ways to help us feel more emotionally connected so that we could move past the F*** Buddies and on to the relationship that I was totally craving. We took a day trip out of town and I used the opportunity to share some very personal stuff that I don't tell anyone about. It was my way of opening up to him, being emotionally avaialble. Hoping that he would see how much I trusted him, liked him, wanted more from him. On the trip he got several calls and text messages from a girl that he had known for sometime. He talked about her like she annoyed him while we were on the drive. When he dropped me off at home that was it. I did not hear from him again for weeks. I heard from a mutual friend that he and annoying girl were an official couple. I was crushed. Both because I had been so open with him - it was just childhood trama stuff, nothing that would scare a person away - and because I had hopped that when he was ready to call someone his girlfriend than that someone would be me.

Fastforward 3 months and he and Miss Annoying break up and within hours he is texting me. We talk on the phone. I pout about his disapearing act. We start hanging out again. We start having sex again. We are still not in a realationship. He is not offering me anything but a few laughs and a nice roll in the hay. I am right back where I started. By now it is December 2008. I am growing weary.

Then on January 6th I meet a guy that I have known for a few years for a friendly dinner. There are sparks and fireworks and magic. By dessert I am in love. We start dating that week. He is my Boyfriend by the end of the Month. I am so wrapped up in the love bubble that I had completely forgotten to worry about old whatshisname and the trama of the last year and a half. When he finally got around to calling me in late January I had to tell him I was in a realtionship. He was happy for me and suggested that we stay friends.

I never called him again.

It is now 2 years later, I am still with Mr. Wonderful and he makes me happy. We do have our trials and stuggles and joys and laughs, but we are a team and we work together. It is nice.

So, what have I learned from all of this.

1. No relationship is easy

2. Men mean what they say. (Not what we try to hear, but what they really say)

3. If a man is not committing to you, he is not going to commit to you.

4. It hurts to give up

5. It hurts to stay

6. Hurt fades

7. Let your hear break a little

8. Don't miss the right guy because you are fighting to keep the wrong one.

Good luck.

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A female reader, Cutestuff Canada +, writes (3 January 2011):

Cutestuff agony auntSeeing as it's been quite some time since you posted on this I am curious as to how the outcome of that relationship ended or continued??? I am in a very scary simular situation right now.. and like you not overly comfortable with it.

He was very honest and upfront with his feelings also cares for me.. is very attached etc etc. but not emotionally ready.. at first I took everything he said at face value and believed him and we decided to be just friends.. well that lasted about a month and got shot into FWb territory and at first i was alright with it.. but now it feels an awful lot like a constant emotionally hang over , i had called him to ask him if he didnt want to hang out anymore that it was too much, he said he did and that he was honest about wanting to spend time with me.. but he acts very distant on occasion and other times caring and attentive..

I know what my head is telling me to do , my heart is taking over.. he also was married , going through a divorce and his wife left him.. he is honest about her and tells me when she's going over etc etc.. i have noticed lately I have been distancing myself , i really like him but i'm not so sure liking him is enough at this point..

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A male reader, Danielepew Mexico +, writes (14 March 2008):

Danielepew agony auntIt seems like he is comfortable with things as they are now and would never want them to change. So I think you will never have a full relationship with this man. He might keep you in this same situation forever.

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (13 March 2008):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Okay I am back again with another little update to the long and never ending saga. I already know what the right thing to do is. I am pretty sure that I already know what is going to happen, but since I have kept you in the loop this far I figure that you deserve to know how it is going.

So I am a complete moron. I make bad choices when it comes to this man and I can't seem to stop. After my last post I managed to keep the relationship that had turned physical from going there again. We were friends. We didn't talk about the sex and just went on like it hadn't happend. I stopped taking his every call and managed not to call back every now and again. He would mention the names of other women from time to time and I assumed that he had new interests. I went out with girlfriends and kept and eye out for a new mr. right. The time we did spend together was always great, but the air was different. The feeling of possiblity was gone. Two weeks ago we got together for dinner on a whim. I hadn't seen him for more than a week and it was nice to catch up. Over dinner he told me that he had allowed a friend to set him up on a blind date. He let me know that he was really not interested in the girl and wanted some advice on how to let her down easily. My answer was to be kind but to be 100% honest. I told him that I think that people sometimes try to protect other people with little white lies that in end the end are more damaging than the truth would have been. We had cocktails with dinner and then ended up back at his place for a movie (I know you can see where this is going) and eventually, yes, I caved again and spent the night. It was great! But in the days afterwards I was plagued by the moral hangover. I saw him at a party and felt like not one person in the room would have been able to guess that we had ever been intimate based on the way we interacted with one another. That made me feel worse. He called several days after the party and I didn't answer the phone. I didn't call back. He called the next day - this time I did call back. I needed to air my feelings, get things off my chest. I needed to talk to him. When I called back he invited me over for dinner and a movie (see the pattern) and I agreed. I thought that is I saw him I could talk to him and it would be better face to face. I arrived. He was cooking. We fell into that easy happy conversation thing we do. We caught up. He told me that this was the week he was going to honestly tell the girl from our earlier conversation that he really did not want to continue to be friends with her. I gave him a hard time for letting it go on for so long. He told me that he belived that she was pretty mad at him at this point anyway. When I asked why, he told me that she had called earlier wanting to get together. He told her that he had plans with me. Apparently she asked if he and I had ever had sex and when he told her yes she was very upset. My response was "Thank you very much for using me to make another girl jealous that is just great!" He said that was not his intention and that I had been pushing for honestly and he was honest.

After dinner and the movie he offered to let me stay the night if I wanted. I told him it was not really a good idea. His response: "because we will have sex?" My answer: "Yes" I confessed that I liked having sex with him, what I don't like is the way I feel later. I don't like the moral hangover and all the fallout. Then he made a big speech. "I don't think of you as just a F**K Buddy. Don't feel like I look at you that way. I do think about commiting to you. You are not like any girl that I hae ever been with before. I just really want to feel like me again before I get into a realtionship. I want to get to a place where I am good with in myself before I start somthing with someone else."

I can appriciate all of that and I told him that I understood, I told him that I had no idea how we even got to this place and that we really should stop. And on that very deffinitive note I followed him to bed and had sex again.

So now I sit heavy with the Moral Hangover I so wanted to avoid. I know that he cares about me, but he doesn't love me. He isn't going to love me. If I was the right girl for him the whole "I want to be okay within myself" thing would just happen. If I was the girl that he really wanted to be with he would suddenly feel that he was "right within himself" and come after me like he ment it. Not invite me over, ply me with beer, spend the night together and then not call for 3 days.

Am I right? I should ignore the "I think about committing to you, and I really care about you" statements and decide that the real problem is that regardless of how much fun we have together or how great the sex is that we are just not right for eachother on some level and that is why this whole thing os so damn hard. Right?

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A reader, anonymous, writes (30 December 2007):

Kitt, you need to make a decision, but you must know what you can count on - and I refer to you - are you hesitating to have a relationship with him - limited by these restraints, because you WERE TAUGHT to believe a relationship has to be complete from the beginning and offer you everything (in this case the idea is a prejudice) - OR YOU taught yourself to believe so? It's important as you must know if you fight against this man and the prejudices OR you fight against him (his order) and yours (not preestablished, not induced by other people or their order.) I certainly don't want to say it's rigth or wrong to accept this relationship, limited as it is (at least for now.)

But there surely are cases when the other person tells you he will offer you everything, but the promise remains... a promise - which he knew from the start it will not be fulfilled - I am generally speaking. In your case, he tells you from the start to what extent he is emotionally available, and the "teasing" is going on since August! - quite for some months.

Tell us, can you suspect why he wouldn't accept a complete relationship - only based on your qualities? - communication is apparently not lacking - as you are talking of what bothers you and not, age difference is probably not the inconvenience either, what could it be, related to you?

If it's not related to you precisely, do you think a man who was abandoned by his wife (does he talk of his marriage or generally is into meditative topics one can learn from? - to me, observing this detail makes me forsee the other's reliability, therefore, how trustworthy is he or appears to be? Are you a good observer of people?... ) -CAN AFFORD to risk being heartbroken once again by putting his heart at anybody's feet? Would he be willing to develop this into a more serious relationship once it proves to be functional? Honey, have you discussed all these? Are you doubtful because of the prejudices, I begin again? What is attractive about him? How is your friendship, what have you learned of him until now? Tell me, do you think it would be more convenient (for both of you) to "get involved" to only then discover you're not compatible in bed for reasons that don't depend of either of you - biological, pertaining to sex rhythms and etc. I don't want to influence your decision, but I can surely tell people can choose to be cautious nowadays, cautiosu of their feelings, - but nevertheless still care about the other and not be indifferent, and in the fortunate cases, "you have a case. " It's possible. Quite some months have passed. You have to decide what you want instead of... waiting for the other person to... be sufficiently impressive to... replace your order. It's yours, you make it. You said in your last message you "gave in." But you wanted to give in! You must decide. And you will calculate by also taking into account your other alternatives, current and future,... and according to your estimations, to be loyal to your order, to what YOU feel is right, not what it is said to be right. Again, if you decide to go further, analyse your possibilities and don't consider it a sacrifice! If it is a sacrifice, you will regret it. Message me if you wish. All the best.

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A male reader, Roosevelt United States +, writes (30 December 2007):

I have rad this with wonder and amazement. Such self restraint and control. You have held to your requirements.

Don't think of last night as a failure. You both have/had physical needs, and maybe after last night. Both of you can relax a bit and move forward with your emotional relationship.

Please remember us guys don't have a clue what we really need most of the time. Even knowing what we want can dumbfound us. So if your getting him to come to terms with his real needs vrs his wants/desires, you can move into better relationship.

But if what he needs/wants is not what you need from him. Then move on.

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A male reader, Danielepew Mexico +, writes (29 December 2007):

Danielepew agony auntI think you will have to wait and see. I have an opinion about this, but I will not say a word. I will wait and see, too.

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (28 December 2007):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Another Update. Okay, not to beat a dead horse, but this seems to be the story that won't end. So he called. about two months ago just before my birthday he called. "I have learned that if I hold my breath and wait for you to call me my lips turn blue" he says. Charming, endering, eternally frustrating. So here we are. We are talking again. We never really addressed what happend, why we stopped talking, how we felt now that there had been a big long break. Nothing. We just settled into this painfully plutonic friendship with no slumber parties, cuddling, flirting, nothing. Just polite conversation and occassional visits that all ended at rational times in normal ways. Until last night. Last night he called, we talked he rented a movie and come over. I opened a bottle of wine, we drank a bottle of wine. He asked if he could stay over.

"I could stay on the coach." he offered.

"That is weird to me" I responded.

"Why?" he wanted to know.

"Because, you generally don't stay on my coach when you stay over." I stupidly respond.

"I can stay in your bed, I am okay with that." he tries.

"We have already been to that movie and we know how it ends - we can't go back there." I stand my ground.

"back were" he wants to know.

"back to slumberparties that don't go anywhere."

And with that I did it. I opened up the can of worms. We talked about our feelings. He cares for me, might even love me, definatly is attracted to me and wants a physical realtionship with me. I want to matter, I want to be in a realtionship before there is anything more physical happening. I have already been the FWB and it never works out. He is not ready to get into a realtionship. I say I know that and that is why I had always stopped things from moving forward. Even though I admit that it has been very hard to do. We agree that the whole thing is screwed up. That conseting adults don't sleep together, not have sex and call it good. He understands my position, I understand his and we are at odds so nothing should happen.

Accept then something did happen. He kissed me. I kissed back and we were off and running. Hello physical realtionship. Damnit!

So now I am at work trying to sort all of this out. As far as I know neither one of us has changed our position, I just simply gave in. Total human weakness on both our parts.

So now what?

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (9 December 2007):

Well it may be a bit untimely at this point to add a response here, but...

There are so many smart people out there with great advice ala Dr.Phil responses. As if its all so simple or something. I am jealous of all those happy people who fell off a log and into the good relationship they have, maybe they even worked at it and got some results for the effort (thats awesome, I just got more resistance but good for you). Just understand that for alot of the rest of us, it just isnt that easy. And most of us have the common sense to know when its bad and should quit, but just want to love and be loved so much we dont quit. When your alone and lonely and getting older and uglier every day, it just gets a lot harder to play the choosy one and quitting gets alot harder each year. Dying alone scares a lot of people (me). Those simple suggestions just havent worked for everyone, there is a reason why so many people are just lonely and scared and working at a dead end the only end they have.

Maybe we just cant all be lucky. maybe my relationships have to suck so you lucky ones will have something to compare yourselves to and feel even better. maybe I just suck and deserve to be miserable. Just a little food for thought.


Hope you do get to feel better sometimes lady. I dont have any advice for you other than do what you want and maybe you will get lucky.


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A female reader, penta United States +, writes (29 October 2007):

penta agony auntYou've made a nice clean break. Keep it that way. If he had wanted you, he would have called you "in about a week" like you requested in your text message. IMHO, he definitely missed out on a true chance at a wonderful relationship. His loss. Move on, and find the guy who is worth your attention. Good luck hon.

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (26 October 2007):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question

So I wanted to stop by and pass along an update in hopes of getting a little feed back. My last update was about the final conversation I had with him. A conversation in which I left feeling that in not so many words he had told me that he liked me but was not ready for more of an emotional attachment (the it's not you it's me speech)and that he wanted everything to stay just how it was. Two days after that conversation I found that I had a missed call from him. I couldn't bring myself to call him back and instead I behaved like a 12-year-old and sent a text message that said this:

Trying to call you back, can't do it, heart hurts, need some time to get over these feelings, try me next week, sorry, just a dumb girl.

His Response:

Your not dumb - I understand.

And that was it. It has been nearly seven weeks and we have not spoken. I had hopped that he would call me and he hasn't. I want to call him but I don't know if I should. I know that there are reasons that things happend the way that they did, I just don't know that I did the right thing. I don't want to end-up right back where I was and maybe letting things lie is better. If he realized that he lost something good and actually wanted me he would call, right? I don't know what to do now....any advice would be helpful.


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A female reader, penta United States +, writes (11 September 2007):

penta agony auntI think you did exactly the right thing, and yes, I think you should walk away now.

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (11 September 2007):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Well, we finally talked about everything. After a relatively fun evening of dinner and a rented DVD we sat on the porch and I told him that I was confused. That I needed to know what was going on and what had happened. We talked for what felt like a long time. The bottom line was that he admitted having feelings for me, told me that he cares about me so much and didn't want to ruin what we have. He told me that he thinks about me a lot - but that he also thinks about his ex-wife and didn't think that it was fair to me to take things to the next level when he still had so many feelings for her. I told him that I knew he had been conflicted, that I had held back because I didn't want to be an additional confusion for him. I told him that I was afraid that if I fell for him he wouldn't be there to catch me.

I told him that I thought that we had created a friendship that would not survive either one of us having a realationship with anyone else. Told me that if I started dating someone else he would be sad about it, but that he would still be there for me. I didn't say that if he started dating someone else I would be gone.

It got late and he asked me if I was going to stay the night. I told him that it didn't seem like a very good idea and that I was going home. He seemed a little disapointed, but I know he understood. He walked me to the car and we had a long warm hug goodbye. It felt almost like breaking up.

I still can't help but wish he would have kissed me - or that I had kissed him. I wish that it was not so complicated.

Should I have told him that it was okay that he still had feelings for his ex-wife - that he probablly always would but that didn't mean that we couldn't at least try? Do I really have to walk away now?

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A female reader, penta United States +, writes (10 September 2007):

penta agony auntIf you can't get him to be clear, then it's time to stop the slumber party. No more heading to bed; it's a tease for both of you (him because he thinks he might get lucky, you because you think it might lead to a relationship).

I like very much that you stood up for yourself. I think you have your head squarely on your shoulders and not many can say that.

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (10 September 2007):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question


Well things have come to a head - sort of. On Friday I feel into the same old pattern of getting together, having him tell me that he was really fine not being in a realtionship and then we headed off to bed. This time as I was driffting off to sleep he began to play with my hair, touch my ears, rub my arm. Finally I just said: "Stop it! You cannot tell me that you are not interested in being in a relationship and then touch me like this. I can't handle it." To which he responeded "What are we doing?" This spurred a conversation that I would have thought might bring everything to light and start us on the road to another stage in the relationship. Only it didn't. I told him that I couldn't be the "Friend with Benefits" and that I wanted to be the girl that "Gets to Matter". He basiclly said that he really loved the way we were when we were together, that he thought about me when we were apart and that he wanted more physiclly from me. He has been just as confused by our slumber party arrangment as I have and apparently has been having long conversations with his therapist about it. In the end we didn't get to any kind of resolution, I am no clearer today on what is going on between us than I was a week ago and now that the moment has passed I can't get him to talk to me about it. What do I do?

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A female reader, Kitt__1 United States +, writes (5 September 2007):

Kitt__1 is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Thanks so much for all of the good advice. I am still not quite ready to run for the hills as it were. After all, he is a the very least a good friend. I guess I just wish I could tell whether certin behavior is just him being friendly or him trying to reach out for more, but because he is so wounded it is hard for him to do.

To answer the question from Dr. John he was Married for 3 years, but was seperated for one year of it and is now four months into the divorce process. Not sure that this info will change anyones position - but at least dit might help to clarify things some.

I guess you never can tell what a day will bring, but I will try to update you if things change one way or the other. Thanks again.

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A male reader, Dr. John United States +, writes (1 September 2007):

Dr. John agony auntYou don't say how long he was married.

He is going to have a gaping emotional wound that is going to take time to heal. The longer he was with his wife, the larger that wound will be thus the longer it will take for it to heal. Even when healed there will always be a scar left which by then is at least manageable.

If you really care for this guy my advice is give him time to heal and realize that he will try to guard that wound till it is healed.

The good thing I see here is that in your favor, sex with more than one woman sounds like it is out of his character and he may be in denial about the devorce still yet.

Fret not though. In my opinion he will gradually come around and your patience should not be fruitless.

In any case, I hope things go well for you. Doc.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (31 August 2007):

Quite simply - run a mile. I've been there and done that (for two years) and in the end you realise you've been fighting a losing battle. Remember what you want from a relationship - your mutual friend called him 'responsible'. That is wrong, he is acting very irresponsibly. He wants the comfort because he doesn't want to be on his own, and yet says he is happy with his life as it is. Don't waste another second of your precious life on him. You're not desperate for this kind of attention so send him a text telling him you don't want to be messed around anymore so would rather stay friends, then lose his number and don't bother with him anymore. You ask the question 'Is he a lost cause?' The answer is yes. Excellent answer from Danielpew - my sentiments exactly - put him in the 'not for me' box and don't waste another minute on him.

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A female reader, penta United States +, writes (31 August 2007):

penta agony auntI think it's time to be frank with him. Tell him the reason that you haven't wanted any kind of physical relationship with him is that you're not interested in that kind of relationship with a man who is unavailable. You enjoy his friendship, but "Friendship with Benefits" is not on the table.

Ask him straight out if a committed, monogamous relationship with you is what he wants.

Tell him that you're interested in nothing less. Let him know that you're happy to remain just friends (with no physical contact), or that you're willing to wait for him to come to a consistent decision (no waffling) about that "committed, monogamous relationship" with you. But that physical contact is off the table until you have an agreement.

Then listen to what he says. Let him think about it. What happens next will let you know whether you should run from him. An important part of any relationship is communication, and this is a good opportunity to test that part out.

Good luck!

And BTW, good for you for sticking to your no-physical contact ideals. It actually makes things much clearer at this point, and is much healthier for you.

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A male reader, Danielepew Mexico +, writes (31 August 2007):

Danielepew agony auntIf I were you, I would run to the hills and put him not on the "friends" drawer but on the "failed relationships" one. I doubt he will ever commit to you. He said it straight: he is happy with things the way they are now, and a little sex would be the icing of the cake. In other words, he is not interested in a relationship with you.

Sending mixed messages is something you can understand, but not accept. As a responsible man, you either say YES or NO; you can't give a "YES-NO" or a "NO-YES". I wonder if you get my point. You have given him enough time. And he's keeping you in an emotional rollercoaster: first he's up, but not quite, and then he's down, but not quite, either.

I don't understand these guys! Let him do the spooning with Loneliness on odd days and Sadness on even days. You, on the other hand, go out and be happy. You deserve much better.

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