“Just Friends” With Boyfriend Hurts

Dear Neil: For six months I have been dating a man. At month two, we agreed we were both interested in pursuing a relationship with each other. However, for the past two months he’s been less physically affectionate. He now says he doesn’t know what he wants, but he still wants to be “friends.”

I’ve always felt that hanging on to being “friends” will keep me from being open to creating another relationship. What do men want, anyway?

Denver, Colorado

Dear Denver: I don’t know what your man wants, but I feel moderately confident in telling you that he doesn’t want you.

Anyone who says that he’d like to stay “friends” with someone he’s previously been romantically involved with, is essentially saying that he is not committing to a romantic relationship with you for the future.

If the two of you genuinely like each other, I don’t think you risk anything by being friends with him. Just be cautious that “friendship” doesn’t include romance, sex, or talk of a possible romantic future with each other. That’s what is most likely to keep you from being available for another relationship with someone else.

Dear Neil: Concerning your recent article on flirting, you recommended people—either married or single—flirt more. If you’re not married, I can agree with your advice 100% However, I strongly believe married people should not be encouraged to try your techniques out.

Surely you know the many times a marriage can be tested. “Flirting” on the side is like fuel to a flame. Shame on you.

London, Ontario

Dear London: Who said anything about flirting on the side? Could you imagine being happily married, committed and faithful to your spouse, and still flirting, wooing, complimenting and seducing each other? That was the spirit of my recommendation. Try it sometime.

Dear Neil: I have been married over twenty-five years to a man who can’t stop his habit of looking at and lusting over other women. On top of this, he is very moody and speaks to me often as if I am absolutely worthless.

Have you any suggestions how I can hang in there when I dread each day? I have lost all confidence in myself, and feel deeply hurt. I’ve been so lacking in confidence over the years that I haven’t been able to work. I’m fifty years of age, and dread being left alone.

Wellington, New Zealand

Dear Wellington: There are several problems you’re describing. The first is that your husband isn’t treating you as if he values you and is happy to be with you. The second is that he’s openly seductive with other women.

The third is about your low self-esteem, which has been affected by your husband’s behavior but not caused by it.

The fourth is that you’re not doing anything about your situation to change it or make it better.

Get help for your low self-esteem. Nothing is going to change for you until you do. Also, let your husband know you feel really hurt by his attentions to other women, and ask him to alter his behavior. Are there any consequences you could give your husband that would put teeth to your request, and that you would be strong enough to enforce?

You need a vision for your future that will motivate you to look forward to each day. Challenge the assumption that you lack the confidence to work by going out and forcing yourself to function effectively outside your house.

In order to change your predicament, you’re going to have to change yourself first.

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