Q. I just broke up with a guy I had been dating for nine months. We got along well on many levels, but realized that we couldn’t be “life partners.” So much of the relationship was good, but the arguing made it bad. While I’m willing to give up the sex and the hope for a future together, I don’t want to give up our friendship. We enjoy many of the same things and I would miss sharing them with him. Can’t we be “just friends” while I search for the guy who will be “Mr. Right?” Allyson
A. Maintaining a platonic relationship with someone you used to date is frequently the source of confusion and frustration. So much of your energy had been invested in this person, which makes severing only some of it very tricky. But if you really want to create a life partner relationship with someone who meets all of your needs, then I suggest it is best NOT to be friends with your “ex.”
Trying to maintain a friendship with someone with whom you had been physically intimate is especially challenging. That’s because sex is like “superglue” – it’s easy to get stuck, but extremely difficult to get unstuck.
Couples who have expressed their physical feelings with one another can easily succumb to the emotional triggers that sparked the intimacy to start with.
I suggest that you sever yourself from this failed relationship completely. Doing so will free up all of your energies – emotional, physical and intellectual – and allow you to explore a new relationship’s potential. Avoiding a “friendship” with your ex will prevent him (and your residual feelings for him) from distracting you from attaining your goal of attaining as gratifying relationship with Mr. Right.
Q. I recently met a guy at the gym. We both have been going for over a year, but only just *found* each other and began talking about two weeks ago. First just a minute of small talk, which expanded to on and off small talk each time we’d see each other (sometimes 2-3 times during the course of a workout). During the second week, we began to talk a lot more, usually between sets. He is always looking at me, and when I catch him, he looks away quickly, which makes me think that he likes me. One night we walked out together and talked for about 20 minutes by the locker rooms. The conversation seemed to go really well, but when there was a meaningful lull, I said, “Okay, well, I better go now” and he said, “If I don’t see you tomorrow, have a good weekend.” I know he was going away for the weekend, but still, I cannot imagine why he didn’t ask me out or for my phone number. I have made it clear that I like him, touching him when we talk, smiling, looking at him, etc. A mutual friend told me he’s not a player and takes it slowly with women because he’s a bit nervous. I can’t tell if he’s interested in me as more than a friend, and don’t know if I should ask him out. Can you help me with this? Tilly
A. I wish that I could tell you that this man is interested in you as more than a friend, but I can’t. All I have to go on is what you told me, and it does seem “promising.” However, if this guy does indeed have fears, then you risk making it worse by being direct and asking him out. And truthfully, I believe that the “laws of nature” dictate that men need to pursue women (which I wrote about previously). So, rather than asking him out yourself, you should instead find ways to make it easier for him to get to know you outside of the gym, and see that you’d be responsive to being pursued.
One time-tested idea is to invite him to a small party at your apartment with other, perhaps mutual, friends. Since you share an interest in being physically active, perhaps you could suggest some other exercise or sports-related activities that are done with a group, such as hiking, running or biking events that your gym, or other groups, might organize.
I also suggest that you consider utilizing your mutual friend to find out what his interest and intentions are. I believe that a third party can be a valuable resource and ally. She can subtlety let him know of your interest, and find out if it is mutual.
It may turn out that this man is not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with you and would prefer to be “just friends.” This is when you can model what that would look like. For example, you could say “Since my goal is to find a long-term, committed relationship, then I guess we’ll only be seeing each other at the gym.” And then you’ll need to make sure that your conversations between sets are brief so that don’t get distracted from attaining your goal of a fit body, and a committed relationship. Good luck!
Janice D. Bennett, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and personal coach living in New York City with her husband and three children. Known as “DoctorLoveCoach,” Janice helps singles navigate the journey toward attaining gratifying and committed relationships. She has been quoted in Cosmopolitan Magazine, featured in the New York Jewish Week, has a free bi-weekly e-newsletter, and gives teleclasses, lectures and workshops. For more information you may visit her website at www.DoctorLoveCoach.com.
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